Fired From TV for Explaining Black Hair?

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Meteorologist Responded to Critic of Her Short Afro

A black female meteorologist has been fired from the ABC affiliate in Shreveport, La., she told Journal-isms, because she responded to a racial remark posted by a viewer on the station's Facebook page.


KTBS-TV's action against Rhonda Lee followed a previous response by Lee to a viewer who questioned whether she should wear her short Afro, suggesting she put on a wig or grow more hair.

Lee messaged Journal-isms on Saturday, "I had a meeting with my ND [news director] and GM [general manager] Friday trying to get my job back. They told me the policy I violated isn't written down, but was mentioned in a newsroom meeting about a month-and-a-half prior. A meeting I didn't attend. So when I asked what rule did I break there isn't anything to point to.


"The week I was brought in to discuss [the] last post, I was told by my ND that there were a few unclear things in the policy and that we were going to have a meeting with George Sirven, the GM about it. I was instead fired the next week — no discussion had. Sirven claims that even if a policy isn't on paper we as employees are responsible for abiding by them. There isn't anything in our employee manual talking about social media dos and don'ts. I was accountable for a rule that essentially isn't in existence."

Sirven told Journal-isms by email, "We do not comment on personnel issues out of respect for the employee and the station."

Lee provided Journal-isms with copies of the relevant Facebook postings to the station's website.

On Oct. 1, a viewer identified as Emmitt Vascocu wrote, "the black lady that does the news is a very nice lady.the only thing is she needs to wear a wig or grow some more hair. im not sure if she is a cancer patient. but still its not something myself that i think looks good on tv. what about letting someone a male have waist long hair do the news.what about that (cq)."


Lee replied the same day, "Hello Emmitt—I am the 'black lady' to which you are referring. I'm sorry you don't like my ethnic hair. And no I don't have cancer. I'm a non-smoking, 5'3, 121 lbs, 25 mile a week running, 37.5 year old woman, and I'm in perfectly healthy physical condition.

"I am very proud of my African-American ancestry which includes my hair. For your edification: traditionally our hair doesn't grow downward. It grows upward. Many Black women use strong straightening agents in order to achieve a more European grade of hair and that is their choice. However in my case I don't find it necessary. I'm very proud of who I am and the standard of beauty I display. Women come in all shapes, sizes, nationalities, and levels of beauty. Showing little girls that being comfortable in the skin and HAIR God gave me is my contribution to society. Little girls (and boys for that matter) need to see that what you look like isn't a reason to not achieve their goals.


"Conforming to one standard isn't what being American is about and I hope you can embrace that.

"Thank you for your comment and have a great weekend and thank for watching."

Vascocu replied that Lee was right to be proud of who she is and that he is not a racist, but ". . . this world has . . . certain standerd (cq). if youve come from a world of being poor are you going to dress in rags?. . ."


In a Nov. 14 post, viewer Kenny Moreland wrote, "Not to start any trouble, because I think that the annual 'Three Minute Smile' is a great function and I love to see kids so happy. Am I the only one that has noticed that this year, all the kids, lets say, are people of color? This is Channel 3, not KSLA, the 'Project Pride' network, that might as well be part of the BET Channel. Did KTBS slip up on a news story, and owe S'port's criminal mayor Cedric, a favor? Seems like some racism going on to me. Just saying….."

Lee replied the next day, "I'm not sure I understand your comment, '…this is Channel 3 not KSLA…' What are you trying to say?


"The children are picked at random. So there goes your theory that they are selected for their color. I would like to think it doesn't matter who the child is. If you truly just want to see the kids happy your message had a funny way of showing it.

"Happy holidays.—Met. Rhonda Lee"

Referring to that exchange, Lee messaged Journal-isms, "I was the one who brought it to their attention after they let it fester on the page for 6 days, but was then chastised for responding at all. I sent a screen grab to my boss via e-mail telling them that I'm ok with the anti-Rhonda commentary sometimes, but what has been posted at the time was . . . racist, and I asked them to please support me in removing the ones that didn't encourage thoughtful, respectful and civil discourse on our FB page. I never got a reply, only punished. To this day the posts are still there."


Gary Dinges reported in May for the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman that Lee filed a discrimination suit against her former Austin employer, NBC affiliate KXAN. Lee said in the suit that she was "repeatedly subjected to crude and insensitive remarks about her race." She joined the Shreveport station 11 months ago.

Lee told Journal-isms, ". . . Race has been the issue with me since I started. That much is VERY true. Weather is an older white boy business and arms have been less than open for a young black girl — a polar opposite. As reported I've had more problems here in the south than I have anywhere else in my 25+ years in the business. Perhaps there is a pattern, but I am a glutton for punishment (ha, ha), and I want what I deserve as any professional would so if I have to fight for it I will."


NLGJA Leader Opts Against "Journalists of Color"

The president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association announced on Facebook Monday that he is voting for the proposed new name for Unity Journalists that does not include the phrase "Journalists of Color" - and hopes others do, too.


The coalition changed its name to "Unity Journalists" in April after it admitted NLGJA, which warned that its members might boycott Unity's summer convention if the words "Journalists of Color" were not dropped from the coalition's name.

However, the name change prompted a backlash from many who said Unity was veering from its history and purpose and that members of the associations had not had a chance to weigh in. Among those who reacted negatively were many members of the National Association of Black Journalists, which left the coalition last year over governance and financial issues, and which Unity is trying to woo back.


The remaining original members of the coalition are the national associations of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists.

Last month, a UNITY Name Task Force came up with three choices for a new name, each including the phrase "journalists of color."


Then, last week, the task force revised the choices to create a new third option, "UNITY: Journalists for Diversity," after association members said some white lesbian and gay journalists were uncomfortable with "of Color."

Michael Triplett, president of NLGJA, announced, "I voted for Unity: Journalists for Diversity and I encourage you to vote the same way. The name reflects the reality of the organization, allows for additional changes to the alliance, and welcomes UNITY's newest partner," NLGJA.


Paul Cheung, incoming national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, "liked" Triplett's posting, but did not respond when Journal-isms messaged to ask whether that meant that Cheung agreed with Triplett. George Kiriyama, an outgoing AAJA representative to the Unity board, wrote that he supported "Unity: Journalists for Diversity."

Doris Truong, current national AAJA president, told Journal-isms by email, "I will vote with the majority of AAJA members, as that is my responsibility to the organization."


Rhonda LeValdo, president of NAJA, agreed, "I will go with how our NAJA membership votes."

Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said by email, "I haven't shared w members how I voted (UNITY name) and would want to first tell them before anyone else…not trying to be secretive, just haven't had a chance."


Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of NABJ, messaged, "NABJ is no longer a member of UNITY. NABJ's position remains that our association left UNITY because of finances and governance. not any name change. We will wish them well on their vote."

However, others in NABJ have called the name and mission of Unity of great importance. "We never envisioned a coalition of associations focused on anything but journalists of color," Will Sutton, credited as a co-founder of the Unity idea, said in April.


The same month, DeWayne Wickham, who in 1988 convened the first joint meeting of boards of the NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA, said of the change to "Unity Journalists," "I think it amounts to a final divorce decree. . . . "

Juan Gonzalez of NAHJ, credited with Sutton as a co-originator of the Unity idea, wrote in June that by rapidly incorporating NLGJA, "UNITY leaders effectively discarded the core mission that made the group such a powerful voice in American journalism since its founding conference in Atlanta in 1994. They revealed, moreover, little understanding of the sacrifices and struggles made by so many journalists of color who preceded us."


According to a Unity notice, "Members will vote through their alliance associations. Members will have 10 days to vote, ending 11:59 p.m. EST Friday, Dec. 14. No write-ins will be considered.

"After the votes are counted, each association will submit the full results disclosing how many votes each name received to UNITY's Interim Executive Director Walt Swanston. She will inform the Task Force, which will convene to discuss the results and prepare a recommendation to UNITY's board members. Ballots will then be prepared for UNITY board members to vote. (UNITY board members are expected to vote how their organizations voted and respect the wishes of their members.)"


Death of Mexican Superstar Catches Some Short

"The media requests for me to opine on the death of Mexican regional superstar (and Long Beach) gal Jenni Rivera are already coming in, and I expect them to only increase as the American media trips over themselves to cover the story," Gustavo Arellano, editor of the OC Weekly and author of its syndicated "Ask a Mexican" column, wrote Monday.


"After all, I'm America's Mexican, right? I'm more than happy to take them, if only to help the MSM correct their pathetic record on reporting on a mega-superstar that operated in plain sight under a media that, like usual, didn't bother to pay attention while she was alive because she was a Mexican and popular mostly to Mexicans - and they never matter unless you can get a diversity grant to cover them.

"Now that she's dead? Look everyone: we cover Mexicans!

"No media outlet is the bigger sinner, however, than the Los Angeles Times, the perpetual pendejos [stupid, ignorant people] when covering Latinos in Southern California. A look through the Proquest archives show that they never did a single full profile on Rivera - not once. . . . "


Lawrence Downes, New York Times: Jenni Rivera, American Diva

Dana King Bids Farewell to KPIX After 15 Years

"After watching the final newscast involving Dana King on Friday night, I'm reminded as to why station execs are weary of allowing talent to bid viewers a farewell," Rich Lieberman wrote Saturday for his Rich Lieberman report.


"King of course is leaving KPIX to pursue a second career in art. Her move to embrace sculpture was accelerated by management who let King go with another year left on her high-dollar contract. She'd been at KPIX, (CBS5), since 1997.

"Friday's 11 PM newscast was sprinkled with banter between King and co-anchor Ken Bastida and sports anchor, Dennis O'Donnell, who provided dual acts of unintended hilarity on an otherwise compelling bit of local TV news history. The newscast itself with King talking between stories about her passion for art, was fine and perfectly apt and suitable until O'Donnell's hijinks kidnapped an otherwise acceptable broadcast.


"O'Donnell spoke about past stories involving King and himself. He recalled a bet with King involving the Raiders and him being subjected to a haircut performed by King. It was semi-poignant. Then out of nowhere, O'Donnell lost it. Fighting back tears, he implored the cameraman to cut immediately to commercials. Then toward the end of the broadcast, the sports anchor inexplicably popped a bottle of champagne toward the desk and suddenly, everything was kooky and out of place and over the top. Or, to put it more succinctly, this was hardly the kind of show befitting the departure of a beloved anchor. . . ."

KPIX-TV: Dana King Announces Departure From CBS 5 (Dec. 5)

Rich Lieberman, Rich Lieberman Report: King was Forced Out; CBS '08 Directive was First Handwriting on Wall (Dec. 6)


Rich Lieberman, Rich Lieberman Report: Flash: Dana King leaving KPIX; Update (Dec. 5)

"Who Is Black in America?" Said to Hit a Nerve

Soledad O'Brien said Monday, "We've hit a nerve and in some ways hit a home run" with the CNN "Black in America" special she hosted Sunday night, "Who Is Black in America?"


O'Brien made the comment in a Google+ Hangout discussion [video] with Wendy Wilson, Essence magazine news editor. The show's topic was "colorism" in the black community and how those of mixed race choose to identify themselves. Seventy percent of the comments she had observed about the show since it aired showed people were interested in the discussion, O'Brien said.

That was certainly the case on social media.

"The more things change, the more they stay the same," Julianne Malveaux, the columnist and economist, wrote on Facebook. "Soledad O'Brien's documentary on colorism could have been produced any time between 1830 and today. Too many of us are still playing 'straight and nappy', 'the blacker the berry', 'light is right' and the rest of that cultural silliness. If we, African American people, can't get past this while others claim they are 'post racial' what does that say? What does it mean? Thanks Soledad for raising the question. Now we have to deal with answers."


Bev Smith, a talk-show host on black radio, wrote on Facebook, "Last night during the CNN special I received a call from a dear friend. He is Italian and likes to refer to himself as a Liberal. He has worked with me on many human and civil rights [issues]. He was confused he told me because he feels not enough attention was given to the progress made between Blacks and Whites. He said the young people of today don't face the same kind of racism evident when we were young. I'm sorry I could not agree with him . . . "

Eric Deggans, media writer for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, wrote Friday that he wanted the multiracial O'Brien, who identifies as black, to discuss more of her own situation. ". . . I can't wait to see the documentary about how a nerdy kid who was told non-white people weren't pretty became a top anchor at CNN eventually named to People magazine's list of 50 Most Beautiful People," Deggans wrote.


Meanwhile, O'Brien, who hosts the CNN morning show, "Starting Point With Soledad O'Brien," told Gail Shister of TVNewser Friday that when she heard that Jeff Zucker - also her old boss - had been named president of CNN Worldwide, "I thought, 'Yes!' He knows news. He knows winning. He knows morning TV."

But Richard Johnson of the New York Post reported Monday, ". .  Zucker is looking at Erin Burnett to revive the cabler's moribund morning ratings . . . "


Among the reasons that installing Burnett would be a bad idea, Deggans wrote, "the move would . . . make CNN's already diversity-challenged anchor lineup look even whiter."

"Who Is Black in America?" will repeat on Saturday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. EST and Sunday at 2 a.m. EST.


Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer: CNN series cuts to the core of black identity

Jeanine Poggi, Zucker's CNN Will Be About More Than News (Dec. 3)

African Journalist Says Susan Rice Enables Despots

"On Sept. 2, Ambassador Susan E. Rice delivered a eulogy for a man she called 'a true friend to me,' " Salem Solomon, an Eritrean-American journalist, wrote Monday in a New York Times op-ed. "Before thousands of mourners and more than 20 African heads of state in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ms. Rice, the United States' representative to the United Nations, lauded the country's late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. She called him 'brilliant' — 'a son of Ethiopia and a father to its rebirth.'


"Few eulogies give a nuanced account of the decedent's life, but the speech was part of a disturbing pattern for an official who could become President Obama's next secretary of state. During her career, she has shown a surprising and unsettling sympathy for Africa's despots.

"This record dates from Ms. Rice's service as assistant secretary of state for African affairs under President Bill Clinton, who in 1998 celebrated a 'new generation' of African leaders, many of whom were ex-rebel commanders; among these leaders were Mr. Meles, Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, Jerry J. Rawlings of Ghana, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Yoweri K. Museveni of Uganda. . . ."


Solomon runs Africa Talks, a news and opinion Web site covering Africa and the global African diaspora.

Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: The GOP's unusual campaign against Susan Rice (Nov. 27)


Helene Cooper, New York Times: U.N. Ambassador Questioned on U.S. Role in Congo Violence

Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report: A Second Wave of Genocide Looms in Congo, with Susan Rice on Point (Nov. 28)


Aaron David Miller, Chicago Tribune: What it takes to be a great secretary of state

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Dr. Susan Rice: Don't Hate the Playa, Hate the Game


Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post News Media Services: The Susan Rice whirlwind

Adam Serwer and Dana Liebelson, Mother Jones: Rice vs Rice: Charting Congress' Treatment of Condi and Susan


Zimmerman Seen Having Easy Time Proving Libel by NBC

"The just-filed suit by George Zimmerman against NBC Universal and three employees furnishes some flaming legal invective," Eric Wemple wrote Thursday for the Washington Post. "It claims that NBC News, via its repeated mis-editing of a 911 audiotape, portrayed Zimmerman as a 'racist and predatory villain.' The motivation behind such a portrayal, charges the suit, was to gin up 'topics' for the network's 'failing news programs.'


"Tough-sounding stuff.

"The goods to back up the suit's central allegations are all out there on video feeds across the Internet. NBC News editing of that 911 audiotape gave viewers the impression that Zimmerman had volunteered that Trayvon Martin was black, when in fact the 911 dispatcher asked him about the young man's racial appearance.


"For the purposes of a libel case, then, Zimmerman should have little trouble proving that NBC News broadcast false and defamatory material about him. The stiff legal challenge for Zimmerman & Co. lies in another phase of the proceedings, and that is proving damages from NBC's treatment.

"Just why should that be so difficult? Because of media saturation. . . . "

Michael Martinez, CNN: George Zimmerman sues NBC Universal over edited 911 call (Dec. 7)


Brian Stelter, New York Times: Man Charged in Trayvon Martin's Death Sues NBC for Defamation (Dec. 6)

Univision to Carry Bounce TV on Some Subchannels

"Univision Communications Inc., the leading media company serving Hispanic America, and Bounce TV, the nation's first-ever broadcast television network for African Americans, today jointly announced a distribution agreement in which Univision Television Group, which owns and/or operates 62 television stations in major U.S. Hispanic markets and Puerto Rico, will carry Bounce TV as a multicast channel of their stations in San Francisco, Boston, Miami, Denver, Sacramento, Raleigh and Tampa," the two companies announced on Monday.


". . . Bounce TV targets African Americans primarily between the ages of 25-54 with a programming mix of theatrical motion pictures, live sports, original and off-net series, documentaries, specials, and inspirational faith-based programs. . . ."

A multicast channel is a subchannel on a station's signal.

Short Takes

Summer Reese, interim executive director of the Pacifica Foundation, owner of Washington's WPFW-FM, said Friday that none of the programs WPFW planned to import from NPR or Public Radio International will air. The listener-sponsored community station planned to broadcast "Tell Me More" from NPR and "Smiley and West" and "The Takeaway" from PRI. Reese told listeners of the "Manager's Mailbox" that she prefers that if shows are imported, they come from among Pacifica's five stations. The station has scheduled a town hall meeting Tuesday night at the Howard University School of Architecture.


In Oakland, Calif., "A KRON television reporter covering a town-hall meeting Wednesday, where the key topic being discussed was crime, returned to his news station's car and found $9,000 worth of equipment stolen," Harry Harris reported for the Oakland Tribune. "Among items taken were a laptop computer and a camera belonging to the station." On Monday, Brandon Mercer, a news director and Region 2 director for California, Nevada, and Hawaii in the Radio Television Digital News Association, wrote for members, "Grand Theft Camera: Is Your Newsroom As Safe As it Can Be?"

Anna Lopez Buck, interim executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, "is now officially our executive director," NAHJ President Hugo Balta told members on Monday, reporting on a weekend board meeting in San Antonio. "The board voted to make her position permanent."


In Detroit, Al Allen ended his nearly 50-year career in broadcast journalism by celebrating his last day at WJBK-TV, B.J. Hammerstein reported Friday for the Detroit Free Press. 

Pamala Silas, most recently CEO of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society in Albuquerque, N.M., has been chosen executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, NAJA announced on Friday.


"Former WESH-Channel 2 anchor Wendy Chioji is coming back to Orlando television in a big way later this month," Hal Boedeker reported Thursday for the Orlando Sentinel. "She will start co-anchoring a series of specials on WKMG-Channel 6 that pay tribute to survivors of health crises and personal battles."

"Charles Bassett, formerly with D-FW's CW33, has joined the growing number of reporters opting for public relations positions," Ed Bark reported Thursday for his Dallas-Fort Worth television blog. ". . . His new position, starting on Dec. 17th, will be senior public relations manager in the Dallas offices of AT&T."


In the nation's capital on Thursday, WUSA-TV aired investigative reporter Russ Ptacek's "ambush-style story on cab drivers who decline to drive black customers to the Southeast area," Eddie Scarry reported for FishbowlDC. " . . . two WUSA9 male staffers, one black, one white, attempt to hail cabs that will drive them to Alabama Ave. in Southeast. The black subject is turned down. The driver's reason: The last time he took someone Southeast, he was stiffed. Less than a block up the street, the white subject asks the same driver to be taken to roughly the same area. The driver agrees."

In a Nov. 30 letter, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists told FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski that it is "troubled that the Federal Communications Commission is currently considering relaxing our nation's cross-ownership rules without first addressing the impact of any rule change on broadcast ownership by women and people of color." The National Urban League, National Council of La Raza, the Asian American Justice Center and the NAACP separately said they did not support the relaxation of the newspaper/broadcast cross-media ownership rule.


A New York judge dismissed a libel lawsuit by a Brooklyn judge against the New York Daily News and its former columnist Errol Louis, now with NY1, Monika Fidler of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported Friday. Judge Martin Shulman said the plaintiff, Brooklyn judge Larry Martin, failed to show "clear and convincing evidence that defendants acted with actual malice in publishing the falsehoods."

The Native American Journalists Association's 2013 calendar offers a collection of images that celebrate the diversity of Indian Country as seen through the lenses of American Indian photographers, the association announced.


South Asian Journalists Association members re-elected five incumbents and added two new members to the board for next year. Ten candidates ran for seven open seats. "Those elected at the annual meeting on Dec. 4 were Sree Sreenivasan, Jigar Mehta, Amita Parashar, Sharaf Mowjood, Raakhee Mirchandani, Shefali Kulkarni and Aarti Virani," the association announced Wednesday.

"As a way to develop better social media engagement strategies, journalists should treat Twitter and other outlets as an extension of their interaction with people in their personal life rather than as a separate entity, said Mark Luckie, manager of journalism and news at Twitter, in a conference call with Forbes writers from New York this week," TalkingBizNews reported. ". . . 'Facebook is for people you know and Twitter is for the people who you want to know.' "


"ABC News correspondent Ron Claiborne filed a story this week for 'ABC World News' about 'micro-sleeping,' and driving while being sleep-deprived," Alex Weprin reported Saturday for TVNewser.

In Chicago, "Cortney Hall, morning news anchor and reporter at WKMG-TV in Orlando, Florida, has been hired as morning news anchor at CLTV, the Tribune Co.-owned news channel," Robert Feder reported for TimeOut Chicago. "Starting December 17, she will succeed Tonya Francisco, who shifted to Trib-owned WGN-Channel 9."


"A Nashville television station is offering a $10,000 reward for information in the robbery and shooting of one of its news reporters," the Associated Press reported Saturday. "Nashville Police say in a statement that WZTV is offering the reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person who wounded reporter Erika Lathon late Thursday after she withdrew cash from a Bank of America ATM near downtown."

MALDEF, the Mexican American legal defense and education fund, "settled its lawsuit against Sheriff Lee Baca and the County of Los Angeles challenging the Sheriff's attempt to withhold unredacted records regarding the 1970 killing of prominent journalist, Rubén Salazar," MALDEF reported. "MALDEF represents Phillip Rodriguez, a noted documentary filmmaker, who requested the documents as part of his research for the documentary film that tells the story of the life and mysterious death of the prominent civil rights era journalist."


Kenneth Irby, senior faculty, visual journalism and diversity, and director of community relations for the Poynter Institute, defended independent photographer R. Umar Abbas on Monday. Abbas took the photograph Dec. 3 of Ki-Suck Han, of Queens, N.Y., who was pushed into the path of an oncoming subway train. The photo ended up on the front page of the New York Post. ". . . I see a photographer that will suffer for many days with post-traumatic stress. A man that will be, for many days to come, the topic of ridicule and scorn even. . . . A man that at the end of his day, was trying to do his job the best way that he knew how. . . . "

For an Editor & Publisher article Monday on "How to Get More Women and Minorities in Executive Roles," Joseph H. Zerbey IV, 70, president/general manager of the Blade in Toledo, Ohio, told reporter Nu Yang, "being dedicated to that goal" is key. "One has to get past the criticism of hiring them at the 'expense' of Caucasian males equally or better qualified. You have to make a conscious decision to look for and hire talented people — that must include women and minorities without excluding anyone. In other words, build the talent pool for the position needed, and be certain women and minorities are represented for the interview process. If there is a measure of equiponderance apparent, then don't hesitate to choose the woman or minority. It's not unethical. It's not illegal. It is the right thing to do for the newspaper and for the people it serves."


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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