Journalists Attend the White House US-Africa Leaders Summit Dinner as Guests

President Boni Yayi of Benin laughs with President Barack Obama as they arrive at “Session 3: Governing the Next Generation” at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2014.
Jim Watson/Getty Images
President Boni Yayi of Benin laughs with President Barack Obama as they arrive at “Session 3: Governing the Next Generation” at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C., Aug. 6, 2014.
Jim Watson/Getty Images

8 From Fourth Estate Join 400 Honoring African Leaders

Members of the media are accustomed to being on the outside looking in when the White House hosts social events, but at least eight were invited guests when the president entertained African heads of state Tuesday night.


"I'm way more used to being with the [White House] press pool, cordoned off on one side of the room, for events like this," Helene Cooper of the New York Times told Journal-isms by email. "I kept gravitating back towards them, knowing that's where I belonged."

April D. Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks said she didn't mind being on the inside at all. "It was magical. It was beautiful," she said by telephone on Wednesday. "You wouldn't think that you were at the White House. Everybody was sitting with some head of state."


Other journalists among the 400 guests were Vanessa Bush, editor-in-chief of Essence magazine; Tatsha Robertson, formerly of Essence and People magazines; Michelle Miller of CBS News; Paula Madison, businesswoman and retired NBCUniversal executive; CNN anchor Isha Sesay, and DeWayne Wickham, USA Today columnist and dean, Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism & Communication. Robertson said she was there as a guest, not as a journalist.

The dinner was part of a three-day U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit aimed to strengthen ties between the United States and the continent. It was the first event of its kind. Prominent Africans in other fields joined the heads of state and business leaders.

"I was pleasantly surprised to see friends there," Madison said by email, "DeWayne, Michelle Miller and Marc Morial and Vanessa Bush. And the woman responsible for me becoming a journalist — LaFleur Paysour — was my guest. My very first White House dinner included POTUS and FLOTUS out on the dance floor!!!

"My fellow Chinese Jamaican and Heather Foster of the White House Office on Africa made sure I was in attendance and our network, The Africa Channel, is covering the African summit from beginning to end. It was a dream come true!"


Paysour works in media relations and public affairs at the Smithsonian Institution; Miller is a reporter for CBS News and Morial, her husband, is president of the National Urban League.

Robertson left People, where she was a senior editor, a month ago and is working on two books. She said she found the White House event "both jarring and incredibly thrilling."


Robertson said by email, "I've been to the White House on several occasions but mainly as a journalist, mostly as the deputy editor at Essence. (At People magazine, I was the crime editor). Being there last night as a guest was quite different. I have to admit it was both jarring and incredibly thrilling to walk into the doors of the White House and see a large room packed with with people of color, mostly of African descent. You couldn't help but notice it. They were politicians, civilians, journalists, Presidents and leaders of 50 countries.

"We sat one table away from President Obama, First Lady Michelle, former President Jimmy Carter, Robert De Niro and the list goes on. Because I've worked for big publications, I don't get star struck easy. But I was awestruck by the two African women, both in their twenties, who sat at our table (along with the President of Chad and his wife). The young ladies were so incredibly poised, brilliant, and driven. They were on some sort of fellowship to work in Western countries. They planned to return to Africa and share what they've learned. I couldn't help but think: Dang, I wasn't anything like that at their age. They were so happy to talk with us (Essence editor Vanessa Bush and myself), but honestly we felt it was an honor to be near them."


Accompanying the visiting heads of state were African journalists. American White House correspondents gave them a briefing.

"April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks and I did a little talk," Todd J. Gillman, Washington bureau chief of the Dallas Morning News and board member of the White House Corrrespondents' Association, told Journal-isms by email. "She left the WHCA board last month. I joined it last month.


"The White House press office asked for the WHCA to help brief visiting African journalists on how things work in covering the White House. The particular emphasis was on the 'pool' system they would be facing at this week's Africa Summit. It's an alien concept to most American journalists outside Washington and it clearly was an odd concept to these folks. We did our best to explain. There were about 2 dozen, representing about 20 countries' media (print, TV, radio).

"April and I, and press staff from the White House and State, and one guy from the National Security Council, spent an hour or so with them in the White House Briefing Room. That was the evening of Tuesday 7/29.


"The briefing was off the record but it was hardly any sort of state secret. Just a couple of White House reporters welcoming visitors and trying to show them the ropes a bit."

Abena Agyeman-Fisher, senior editor at NewsOne, the New York-based network affiliated with Radio One, is Ghanaian and Ugandan, covered the conference and filed a pool report on Wednesday's "First Ladies' Summit" with Laura Bush and Michelle Obama. Agyeman-Fisher said she was surprised by comments from Mo Ibrahim, a British-Sudanese telecom billionaire.


"I enjoyed watching Mo Ibrahim demand that just as the U.S. is supposedly transparent and follows the rules" with itself, it "should make sure it does so with Africa," Agyeman-Fisher said by email. 'Also was surprised to see how excited Michael Bloomberg is about Africa. Had no idea it was on his radar. During his interview with the press, he kept repeating, 'Africa's time is now!' Pretty hilarious!"

. . . "Pool" Report Gives Press Corps Lowdown on the Dinner

Dan Friedman, Washington correspondent for the Daily News in New York, filed the "pool" report on the dinner Tuesday night.  "Pool" reporters represent the entire press corps and share their information with the rest of the media. His report:

President Obama opened the dinner with a toast to "the new Africa."

Guests at the event total around 400, according to the guest list.

Obama's remarks ran just under five minutes. Here are some highlights:

"Never before have we hosted a dinner at the White House like this, with so many presidents."


"So we are grateful to all the leaders who are in attendance. We are grateful to the spouses. I think the men will agree that the woman outshine us tonight, in the beautiful colors of Africa."

"Tonight we are making history, and it's an honor to have all of you here. I stand before you as the President of the United States, a proud American. I also stand before you as the son of a man from Africa," Obama said drawing applause.


"The blood of Africa runs through our family, so for us, the bonds between our countries, our continents are deeply personal."

"We are grateful for the ties of family," Obama continued, describing his memories of bringing Michelle and his daughters to his father's hometown in Kenya.


Obama referenced the slave trade. "We've walked the steps of a painful past in Ghana," Senegal and elsewhere, he said,  "standing with our daughters in those wards of no return, where so many Africans passed in chains."

He mentioned bringing his daughters to Nelson Mandela's jail cell in South [Africa].


"We've been inspired by Africans, ordinary Africans doing extraordinary things."

He said he and Michelle "stand in awe of the extraordinary young Africans that we've met."


He then described several archetypes of ordinary Africans, including "farmers boosting their yields" and "health workers saving lives from HIV, AIDS."

"These are the tides of history and the tides of family that bring us together this week. These are the citizens who look to us to build a future worthy of their dreams — especially those who dream of giving their children a future without war or injustice, without poverty or disease. They are in our prayers tonight."


"And also with us are the words of a song, 'New Africa,' " Obama said, noting he and Michelle first heard it last year in Senegal during his trip to the continent.

"Come together new Africa," Obama said. "Work together. Keep on working for Africa."


"So I propose a toast to the new Africa. The Africa that is rising and so full of promise. To our shared task to keep on working for the peace and prosperity and justice that all our people seek, that all our people so richly deserve. Cheers. Enjoy your dinner everybody."

The White House has repeatedly called this week's summit unprecedented. That view got an endorsement Tuesday from Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), not always a White House booster, who, as he left the bar, told your pooler: "This is one of most exciting things I've ever seen."


"To think that the son of an African man is hosting this event in a house built by African slaves," Rangel said, trailing off.

[Continuing the pool report]

Below, from the White House, is a list of those seated that the head table with President Obama. Note the presence of actor Robert De Niro and his wife, Grace, as well as former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose Bloomberg Philanthropies, with the Commerce Department, is hosting this week’s summit.


The current Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, also attended the dinner. He and his wife are seated at a table toward the back of the tent.

President Ali Bongo Ondimba — Gabonese Republic; Sylvia Bongo Ondimba — Gabonese Republic; Michael Bloomberg,  Diana Taylor, Jacob Zuma — President of South Africa; Nompumelelo Zuma — South Africa; Grace De Niro; Robert De Niro; Navinchandra Ramgoolam — Prime Minister of Mauritius; Strive Masiyiwa; Tsitsi Masiyiwa; Uzo Aduba; Nonyem Aduba; Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz — President of Mauritania; Mariam Ahmed Dit Tekber — Mauritiania; President Jimmy Carter;  Boni Yayi — President of Benin; Wanja Muguongo; Lorna DiasYordanos Asgedom; Meb Keflezighi; Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini Zuma — Chairperson of the African Union Commission.


Friedman also filed a pool report on entertainer Lionel Richie's performance [video].

Helena Andrews, Washington Post: Heat, hair and hankies: the best red-carpet moments from the White House's Africa summit dinner


Reid Cherlin, Rolling Stone: The Presidency and the Press

Ezra Klein, The irony of Barack Obama's presidency in one sentence

Erin C.J. Robertson, The Root: PHOTOS: Obamas Host African Leaders at a Dinner Soiree


Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: 'Hate' not too strong a word to describe Obama detractors

After Corporate Split, Some Gannett Staffers Must Reapply

"The splintering of print and television companies in the media industry continued unabated on Tuesday when the Gannett Company announced that it would spin off its newspaper division, which includes USA Today, into a separate company next year," Christine Haughney and Michael J. De La Merced reported Tuesday for the New York Times.


"It was the latest in a series of reorganizations at media companies that highlight the widening profit gap between television stations and other properties and the newspapers that drag on their performance. In a conference call to discuss the spinoff, analysts peppered Gannett's top executives with questions about its far more lucrative television division and digital assets like CareerBuilder and the newly acquired; the future of the company’s 81 newspapers, once a cornerstone of the business, almost seemed like an afterthought. . . ."

Meanwhile, Sam Kirkland reported for the Poynter Institute, "The Tennessean isn't the only Gannett newspaper embarking on 'a newsroom of the future' with fewer managers, more nimble reporters and a smaller overall staff in the 24 hours after the company announced it was spinning off its publishing business.


"Letters to readers similar to the one posted by the Tennessean's vice president and executive editor, Stefanie Murray, have been published to the sites of:

"The Asbury Park (New Jersey) Press

"The Greenville (South Carolina) News

"The Pensacola (Florida) News Journal

"The Asheville (North Carolina) Citizen-Times

"In one of the less sweepingly positive of the five letters, Asheville Citizen-Times executive editor [Josh] Awtry acknowledges impending layoffs . . ."


Hillel Aron, LA Weekly: L.A. Times Reporters Continue Exodus as Newspaper Group Is Spun Off

Price Colman, TVNewsCheck: Gannett Split Indicative Of New Media Order

Ken Doctor, Nieman Journalism Lab: 10 takeaways from Gannett's blockbuster announcements


Jim Romenesko blog: Tennessean: 'We're Starting From Square One With a New Approach and a New Set of Jobs'

Jim Romenesko blog: [Updated] More Gannett Journalists Are Told They Have to Reapply for Their Jobs


Indian Country Publication Sorry for "Rate That Genocide"

Indian Country Today Media Network Wednesday took down a short article headlined, "Rate That Genocide: Which Was Worse, Slavery or Treatment of Native Americans?" after the Native American Journalists Association complained of the editors' "irresponsible editorial judgment."


Mary Hudetz, NAJA president, wrote of the article, a comment on a "60 Minutes/Vanity Fair Poll, "Genocide is real and should never be compared or rated with other crimes against humanity.  It should never be used to stir attention or generate social-media shares."

In "A Note to ICTMN Readers," the media network said, "We found the question and pie-chart illustration to be problematic, and our intent was to expose this by isolating the offensive premise of Vanity Fair's piece in an absurd way.


"But intent is useless if the execution is shoddy. And clearly it was. The headline had an element of satire to it but didn't identify the target of its satire (which was Vanity Fair, not genocide or slavery). The body text of the article was not satirical at all. The graphic from the Vanity Fair site, presented at face value, only muddled things further. Our piece ended up offending readers in the same way the Vanity Fair piece had offended us. To those readers who were troubled by the headline and article, we say: We're sorry.

"We have removed the article from our website and are presently discussing what went wrong and how to do better. . . ."


Hudetz wrote Wednesday night on her Facebook page, "While we can all wish the headline didn't happen, it's time to move forward. Owning up to a bad decision or poor choices takes a lot of class. I especially commend Chris Napolitano for his leadership today. . . ." Napolitano is the creative director of Indian Country Today Media Network.

Job Seekers of Color Still Have Harder Time

"Minority graduates were hit particularly hard by the recession of 2007, and they continue to find it more difficult to find a job than do graduates who are not members of racial or ethnic minority groups," Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad and Holly Anne Simpson of the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication reported Wednesday in the "2013 Survey of Journalism & Mass Communication Graduates [PDF].


"The minority graduates also are less likely to be able to find a job in the field for which they studied."

The University of Georgia authors also said, "Once again in 2013, journalism and mass communication bachelor's degree recipients who were members of racial and ethnic minority groups reported lower full-time employment rates than did bachelor's degree recipients who were not classified as minorities. The gap was dramatic.


"What is clear from the pattern shown in Chart 15 is that minority students suffered more in the job market collapse of 2009 than did nonminority graduates and the market continues to be more difficult for the minority graduates as the very modest recovery progresses. The chart shows only those graduates who have been in the market. When those graduates who returned to school are included, the picture remains the same.

"Similarly, Chart 16 shows that minority bachelor's degree recipients continue to find it necessary to take jobs outside of the field of communication at a rate that is higher than for nonminority graduates. . . ."


Cody C. Delistraty, the Atlantic: Who Wins in the Name Game? (July 30)

Nexstar Selling Indiana TV Station to Black Broadcaster

Black-owned Bayou City Broadcasting, LLC, the work of Houston-based broadcaster DuJuan McCoy, is buying WEVV-TV, a CBS affiliate in Evansville, Ind., for $18.6 million, Nexstar Broadcasting Group, Inc., announced on Monday.


The move adds to the infinitesimal stock of black-owned television stations and is the second time in two months that Nexstar has agreed to sell a station to an African American. In June, Nexstar agreed to sell television stations in Shreveport, La., Odessa, Texas, and Davenport, Iowa, to media entrepreneur Pluria Marshall Jr., who is also based in Houston.

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters expressed its approval in a statement Wednesday.


"It is the first independent purchase of a television station by an African American owned company in several years. Unlike several recent transactions in which African American owners have purchased stations connected with larger media companies through joint sales agreements (JSAs) and/or shared services agreements (SSAs), the Bayou transaction is a completely independent transaction. Bayou will have no JSA or SSA agreements, and it has obtained its financing independently with no loan guarantees from a major broadcaster.

"NABOB is also pleased because this transaction brings DuJuan McCoy, the owner and operator of Bayou, back into television station ownership. Mr. McCoy worked in television for many years before forming Bayou and buying seven television stations in 2008. Mr. McCoy sold those stations in 2012 with the personal commitment to use the proceeds to return to television station ownership.


"Mr. McCoy said, 'I am excited to be back in the ownership ranks and operating TV stations again, particularly in my home state of Indiana. WEVV is a great opportunity for me and will serve as a platform for acquisition of additional properties in the very near future.' Mr. McCoy added, 'My sincere gratitude goes out to Mr. Perry Sook for making a concerted effort to promote diversity in media ownership by agreeing to sell WEVV to Bayou City Broadcasting Evansville. His efforts should be commended.”

Nexstar noted,"FCC data indicates that African-American ownership of television stations is exceptionally low, with African-Americans controlling only 0.7% of all television broadcast stations."


National Hispanic Media Coalition: NHMC to FCC: Protect and Expand Opportunities for People of Color to Own Broadcast Stations

How Sacramento Morning Anchor's Life Turned Sour

"Life was better than good earlier this summer for Fox40 morning-show reporter and anchor Sabrina Rodriguezbefore she was facing shoplifting and conspiracy charges," Nick Miller wrote Tuesday for the Sacramento News & Review.


"Or before her fiancé Nicholas Gray was facing years in prison for the manufacture of illegal marijuana concentrates, arson, drug dealing and battery.

"Just weeks ago, the duo was a glamorous couple, attending award shows — and Rodriguez was winning Emmys. On June 14, for instance, she accepted two NorCal Emmys in San Francisco.


"Her speech, however, caught the audience off guard: She talked about the 'biggest emotional roller coaster' of her life, 'every reporter's worst nightmare': On May 4, Gray proposed and the couple got engaged. That's the good stuff. But two days later, on May 6, . . . bad news: the couple's south Sacramento rental home 'literally exploded and burnt down in a fire,' she told the crowd.

"She then held up a flattened gray slab of metal: 'This is what's left of my [other] Emmy.' . . .


"Sacramento law enforcement has a different story. They say that the 2:40 a.m. fire was a result of an explosion caused by the illegal manufacture of butane-hash-oil, or concentrated marijuana.

"Gray was arrested last week for the fire and other charges. He previously was arrested in May for shoplifting and conspiracy. And he also has a prior felony conviction for possession and sale of marijuana, dating back to 2003, and a burglary conviction.


"Rodriguez isn't facing charges for the fire, but she turned herself in last week for an outstanding shoplifting warrant from 2013, the same charges as her fiancé. This morning, she resigned from Fox 40.. . ."

Sam Stanton, Sacramento Bee: Fox40 anchor resigns from station in light of theft charge


Walker, Formerly of McClatchy-Tribune, Lands at Scripps

Harry Walker, who lost his job as director of McClatchy-Tribune Photo Service in Washington after Tribune Publishing assumed full ownership of the news and information business, joins the Naples (Fla.) Daily News next month as director of visuals, Daily News Editor Manny Garcia announced to staff members on Tuesday.


"During his career, he has coordinated coverage or photographed numerous national and international events, including the Gulf War, presidential inaugurations, and political conventions, Olympics, Super Bowls, the NCAA Final Four and more," the announcement said.

"Harry is unselfish with his time and talent and is focused on leading our terrific visuals team to even greater successes. He's a cheerleader, teacher, forward- thinking, colleague and mentor.


"He often works with the Poynter Institute, Visual Edge, National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) Best of Photo Journalism Contest, National Association of Black [Journalists] and Ohio News [Photographers] Association (ONPA). Harry and his teams have received numerous honors, including the White House News Photographers Association and NPPA Best of Photojournalism contest. . . ."

The announcement quoted Kenny Irby, Poynter Institute senior faculty, visual journalism and diversity and director of community relations: "He's a visionary leader who will help the entire company excel to the next level of journalistic quality and service."


Walker was features and weekend photo editor at the Kansas City Star. He started his photojournalism career as a staff photographer for the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch.

Garcia told Journal-isms that the E.W. Scripps Co., owner of the Naples Daily News, reached out to Walker after learning of the threat to his job in Journal-isms.


Short Takes

Eight hundred people have registered for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in San Antonio, which opens Thursday, according to tweets from the convention. One thousand are expected.


Renowned jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins wasn't amused by the New Yorker magazine's purported interview with him by Django Gold of the satirical publication the Onion. In a Google Hangout interview with Bret Pimack posted Monday on YouTube, Rollins said, the article "hurt me" because some young musicians thought the New Yorker interview was factual. The magazine posted an editor's note, "This article, which is part of our Shouts & Murmurs humor blog, is a work of satire."

Jose Antonio Vargas, journalist turned immigration activist, and actor Maulik Pancholy, best known for the NBC-TV comedy "30 Rock," are scheduled to headline the Asian American Journalists Association's Scholarship & Awards Gala in Washington on Aug. 16.


In Cincinnati, "'Fox 19 Morning News' anchor Jacki Jing left WXIX-TV Tuesday after only nine months," John Kiesewetter reported on Tuesday for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

"The Washington Post's 'Storyline' project has posted a bruising editor's note on a story about black men and HIV," Erik Wemple reported Tuesday for the Post. The note said, " Several passages have been removed from this story because the source of those passages, Mickyel Bradford, has admitted to fabricating them." Wemple said "A 2,000-word chunk of the story fell away with the revelations. . . ." The story was the subject of an item in Monday's Journal-isms.


The International Federation of Journalists said Wednesday it condemns the attack on Bangladeshi journalist Nasrul Anwar on Aug. 2. "Anwar, a staff reporter for the Bangla-language daily Kaler Kantho, was attacked by an unidentified person at his home in Bazitpur, in the Kishoregunj district of Dhaka. According to his family members, the man entered the residence during the early morning and hit Nasrul with a harpoon causing serious injury to his right arm. . . ." The journalist "claimed that the attack was a result of his reporting on corruption against some influential people in the area. . . . "

"Starz is making inroads on its efforts to reach out to underserved audiences on premium TV through its original series," R. Thomas Umstead reported July 30 for Multichannel News. "The network's freshman series Power, which follows the life of an African-American club owner who doubles as a New York City drug kingpin, is generating the largest concentration of black viewers for a scripted premium series over the past several years, according to the network. Only HBO's Game Of Thrones and True Blood [draw] a larger number of African-American viewers of any premium series currently running. . . ."


"In 2000, then-editor Wes Pruden of the Washington Times blasted Dan Snyder's efforts to control the flow of information about the Redskins as 'chickenshit' tactics," Dave McKenna wrote Tuesday for Deadspin. "Last week, the same newspaper agreed to give that same owner unprecedented control over that same flow of information about the same team. And all parties celebrated the deal. . . ."

"Betty Jordan always regarded melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, as a white person's disease," began a story Monday in the Washington Post by Marlene Cimons. Because dark-skinned people "often assume they are not at risk, their cancers tend to be diagnosed at a more advanced stage, and patients often face a bleaker outcome," Cimons wrote.


"The Moroccan authorities expelled Wednesday a three journalists from the Basque region, Spain, from the occupied city of Smara, who were on a visit to find out the situation in the city under siege, according to the Ministry of the Occupied Territories and Community Abroad, " the Sahara Press Service reported Wednesday.

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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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