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Long-Running "Like It Is" Chronicled Black Experience

Gil Noble, the legendary chronicler of the African diaspora in New York, the nation and the world as host of the long-running WABC-TV show "Like It is," died Thursday.


He was recovering from a stroke he suffered last year. Dave J. Davis, general manager of WABC-TV, told "Journal-isms" that Noble died peacefully about 12:30 p.m. in a hospice in Wayne, N.J., with his family beside him. He was 80.

"Noble is a throwback to an earlier time when TV news had less time and fewer yuks," Newsday columnist Les Payne wrote in 1996. "After refusing to clown and chitchat on-air years ago, the stately anchor was eased out of his spot on the evening news programs. Landing in his briar patch of public service TV and documentaries, Noble has produced some of this station's most riveting programs over the years."

"Brother Gil Noble has had me on 'Like It Is,' several times," Milton Allimadi, publisher and editor-in chief of the Black Star News wrote after Noble's stroke forced an end to the long run of "Like It Is."


"Now, often, when I enter an MTA bus, drivers refuse to accept my fare, saying they are happy to drive someone who has been on 'Like It Is.' Countless people have stopped me on the streets of Harlem just to shake my hand. Young ladies on the subway have asked permission to leave their seats and come sit next to me — all because of my appearances on 'Like It Is.' This is how much Gil Noble and 'Like It Is,' are admired and loved."

Noble was also a pioneer in a business sense. In 2008, he secured the copyright to all of the "Like it Is" shows from the 1960s onward. He wanted them used to educate schoolchildren and interested adults.

The shows now belong to the Noble Family Trust, and the New York-based National Black Archives of Film and Broadcasting Inc. was created to make them available.


"This is something I've not seen done," Noble's lawyer, Joseph Fleming, told Journal-isms on Wednesday. "[For] an employee of a local TV station to be able to get ownership of the show is quite remarkable."

The station's obituary said, "Debuting amid the nation’s racial turmoil in the 1960s, Like It Is created the largest body of programs and documentaries on African-Americans in the country. Noble dedicated long hours of research and investigation to ensure a consistently high quality for the program. He often said he learned as much doing the show as his viewers did watching it. Noble felt it was his mission to reunite African-Americans with the untold stories of their history, and he believed 'Like It Is' offered a rare opportunity for viewers of all races to look at events through an African-American perspective."

The dust jacket of his 1981 memoir, "Black Is the Color of My TV Tube," gives this short bio:

"His weekly series, 'Like It Is,' has featured interviews with almost every leading Black personality ranging from Joshua Nkomo to Harry Belafonte.


"His documentaries on Paul Robeson and Malcolm X, among others, have gained wide recognition for their research and presentation.

"Gil Noble was born and raised in Harlem, where he began his broadcasting career. It started, almost by accident, in 1962 when he joined New York's radio station WLIB as a part-time announcer. During this time he also had a professional music combo, the Gil Noble Trio, which was playing the local nightclub circuit.

"In 1967, Noble joined WABC-TV as an 'Eyewitness News' correspondent. He also became co-host of 'Like It Is.' He was named managing editor and then producer of the series in 1975."


WABC listed these Noble interviews:

Heads of state: Nelson Mandela (South Africa), Sekou Toure (Guinea), Robert Mugabe (Zimbabwe), Julius Nyerere (Tanzania), Michael Manley and P.J. Patterson (Jamaica), Maurice Bishop (Grenada), Sam Nujoma (Namibia), Kenneth Kaunda (Zambia) and Thomas Sankara (Burkina-Faso).

Entertainment: Bill Cosby, Harry Belafonte, Erroll Garner, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy Davis, Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, Carmen McRae, Aretha Franklin, Nancy Wilson, Sidney Poitier, Nipsey Russell, Lena Horne, Wynton Marsalis, Milt Jackson and Jackie McLean.


Sports: Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Arthur Ashe and Jim Brown.

Politics/Leaders: Jesse Jackson, David Dinkins, Harold Washington, Louis Farrakhan, Andrew Young, Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture), Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and Bruce Wright.

Documentaries: W.E.B. Du Bois, Malcolm X, Paul Robeson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Ella Baker,Martin Luther King Jr., Adam Clayton Powell Jr., Jack Johnson, Charlie Parker, "Decade of Struggle," "Essay on Drugs."  


Fleming said Noble's interview of Bob Marley was one of Noble's favorites. 

The station added: "The family will announce plans for a funeral service when arrangements are confirmed. They ask that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the [National Black Archives of Film and Broadcasting, Inc.], P.O. Box 43138, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043. Proceeds will be used to preserve the archives so that Noble’s mission of educating the community about its culture and history will continue."


Disproportionate Loss of Journalists of Color

ASNE: "Loss in Minority Newsroom Positions Was 5.7%"

The loss of journalists of color in newspaper and online newsrooms outstripped the decline of journalists overall in 2011, according to the annual diversity census of the American Society of News Editors, released on Wednesday. 


"The total newsroom employment at daily newspapers declined by 2.4 percent in 2011, while the loss in minority newsroom positions was 5.7 percent," ASNE said. Ronnie Agnew, who co-chairs ASNE's Diversity Committee, said in announcing the results, "It's not just the numbers that are going down, there's a nuance that's going to be missed . . . with the shortage of people" lost to "this wonderful, wonderful profession."

Agnew pointed to the killing of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed Florida teenager, as an example.

"African American people are having to go to alternative media sources to get the news coverage they are looking for. It's a content issue," said Agnew, executive director of Mississippi Public Broadcasting and former executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss.


Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute, who attended the briefing, added the case of Jeremy Lin, the Asian American phenom for the NBA's New York Knicks. The Asian American Journalists Association published guidelines on how to report on Lin after a spate of incidents involving racially charged language at such outlets as ESPN and Fox.

"Clearly, we have work to do," Agnew said at the annual ASNE convention in Washington. "We have to reenergize the CEOs of the various journalism organizations to let them know this is a business imperative."

Although the report showed the decline in the number of journalists at newspapers has stabilized, the proportion of journalists of color has declined as their percentage of the general population has increased.


The 2012 survey counted 40,600 journalists in the newspaper and online workforces, and 5,000 journalists of color, representing 12.3 percent.

In the 2011 survey, there were 41,600 total journalists and 5,300 journalists of color, 12.7 percent.

Among Asian Americans, the count showed 1,166, a decline of 117 over 10 years.

Among black journalists, 1,886, down 993 over 10 years.

Among Hispanics, the count showed 1,650 journalists at dailies, a decline of 443 over 10 years.


Among American Indians, the figure was 132, down 175 over 10 years.

A total of 150 people checked the new "multiracial" category.

"Despite this year's loss in newsroom positions, the decline in jobs that began in 2006-07 appears to be stabilizing," ASNE said in a news release. "The loss this year is not as drastic as the losses between 2007 and 2010.


"The decline in minority newsroom employment also appears to be stabilizing. Following a decline of approximately 800 minority newsroom positions in both 2008 and 2009, the total loss over the last two years was 500 jobs. There were slight decreases in the percentage of employees in each minority category in 2011, although the census was revised this year to add a category of 'multi-racial.' "

This year, the Center for Advanced Social Research (CASR) at the Missouri School of Journalism, a unit of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at Missouri, collected and analyzed the data along with ASNE. This is also the first year the census was conducted online, producing a response rate of 71.7 percent. The previous record was 65 percent under the postcard-and-phone call method, according to Richard Karpel, ASNE's executive director.

Since 1978, ASNE has had a goal of matching the percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms to the percentage of people of color in the population. "According to the U.S. Census, the percentage of minorities in the total U.S. population is nearing 50 percent," ASNE noted.


Agnew maintained that journalists and journalism students have a reason for optimism despite the gloomy numbers. "There will be a business model" that works, he said. "I tell the students, 'You won't have the same career that I have.' " It will be different, but "they're going to be fine."

Debra Adams Simmons, editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, who also attended the briefing, said, "I see a lot of optimism and commitment in my newsroom. We have to continue to develop the young journalists of color."


Obama, Romney Favor Campaign Themes Over Media Issues

President Obama urged journalists Tuesday to resist the impulse to "suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle."

On Wednesday, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the Republican front runner, told the same audience of editors and publishers, "Frankly, in some of the new media, I find myself missing the presence of editors to exercise quality control. I miss the days of two or more sources for a story — when at least one source was actually named."


Despite those media references, each came before members of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press and the Newspaper Association of America, convening in Washington, primarily to lay out philosophical differences with the other party.

Molly Ball, writing Wednesday for the Atlantic, observed, "Neither man made more than glib and passing reference to his audience — executives from an industry both crucial to democracy and mired in a long-running business crisis.

". . . when it came to the changes roiling media, Romney conspicuously punted: 'How your industry will change, I cannot predict,' he said. 'But I do know this: You will continue to find ways to provide the American people with reliable information that is vital to our lives and to our nation. And I am confident that the press will remain free.'


"This sort of fatuous, feel-good optimism will be cold comfort to the thousands of reporters who have been laid off in recent years, or the bosses who have had to make the cuts — presiding over drastic downsizings and in some cases seeing news organizations disappear entirely. But at least Romney bothered to mention the state of the industry. Obama didn't even do that."

In laying out his differences with Republicans over the budget, Obama said, "I guess another way of thinking about this is — and this bears on your reporting. I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if the two parties are disagreeing, then they're equally at fault and the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented — which reinforces I think people's cynicism about Washington generally.

"This is not one of those situations where there's an equivalence. I've got some of the most liberal Democrats in Congress who were prepared to make significant changes to entitlements that go against their political interests, and who said they were willing to do it.


After Obama's speech Tuesday, at a discussion comparing the reporting that led to the Watergate disclosures of 40 years ago with the reporting climate today, Carl Bernstein challenged audience members to answer "the real question of whether what he said is the truth."

In the Washington Post, the paper where Bernstein broke the Watergate stories with fellow reporter Bob Woodward, Glenn Kessler devoted his "The Fact Checker" column to Obama's speech. On Wednesday, Calvin Woodward of the Associated Press dissected both candidates' remarks.

Disappointed with New York University's list of "The 100 Outstanding Journalists in the U.S. in the Last 100 Years," released Monday, Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., on Tuesday produced its own seed list of those "whose inclusion in NYU’s list would have better represented the full diversity of our country, our industry and the past century."


Mitchell Stephens, the NYU professor who coordinated the project, told Journal-isms he welcomed Unity's contribution.

 "Our list, as I said at our 100th anniversary party last night, was intended to begin rather than end a conversation," Stephens said by email. "Unity's more diverse 'seed list' of impressive journalists is an interesting and important contribution to that conversation. I plan to link to it on our website, and I would hope we can find occasions — perhaps here at NYU — to discuss further with them the issues raised by their list and our list and their reaction to it."

The NYU journalism program celebrated its 100th anniversary on Tuesday. 

The NYU list contained some names better known for their literary work, and included no Latinos, Asian Americans or Native Americans. Robert C. Maynard, namesake of the Maynard Institute, did not make NYU's list but was part of Unity's.


Joanna Hernandez, president of Unity, said in a news release, "We do not believe the number of top journalists can be limited to 100, so

This image was lost some time after publication.

we have created a seed list. This list is by no means comprehensive, but we hope it will inspire our current and next generation of journalists.


"Here is UNITY’s seed list, from Leroy Aarons to Helen Zia."

Aarons, who died in 2004, was an executive editor of the Oakland Tribune, co-founder of the Maynard Institute and founder of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. 

Zia is an author, a former executive editor of Ms. magazine and a feminist. The Asian American Journalists Association honored her in 2001 for the impact of her 2001 book, "Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People," which documents Asian American struggles from the 17th century to the 20th century.


Media Taking on Police-Like Role in Trayvon Case

"The news media are taking on an increasingly police-like role in the Trayvon Martin slaying by using modern forensic techniques to analyze evidence, an approach some legal experts say can lead to a distorted view of the case because a lot of the key evidence is still under wraps," Curt Anderson wrote Tuesday for the Associated Press.

"The public has been whipsawed back and forth as new revelations emerge, appearing to support one version or the other.


". . . Legal and forensic experts cautioned that none of the media-led investigations, which are done in many high-profile cases, has been conclusive."

NBC Apologizes for Edit of Zimmerman's 911 Call

"NBC News has apologized for editing the 911 call that Trayvon Martin shooter George Zimmerman made to police on the night of Martin's death, saying it deeply regrets airing the altered version of the tape," Tim Kenneally reported Tuesday for


"NBC News said that it realized that it was in error following its investigation of the broadcast.

" 'During our investigation it became evident that there was an error made in the production process that we deeply regret,' the network said in a statement provided to TheWrap. 'We will be taking the necessary steps to prevent this from happening in the future and apologize to our viewers.' "

The statement did not say where in the production process the error occurred.

" 'Today' aired the tape on March 27, altering it in such a way that could suggest Zimmerman — a neighborhood watch member in his Florida neighborhood — was racially motivated in the shooting."


Conservative groups, such as Media Research Center, led by Brent Bozell, cited the episode as an example of liberal media bias.

"Nearly four decades after the United States government mandated the use of the terms 'Hispanic' or 'Latino' to categorize Americans who trace their roots to Spanish-speaking countries, a new nationwide survey of Hispanic adults finds that these terms still haven't been fully embraced by Hispanics themselves," Paul Taylor, Mark Hugo Lopez, Jessica Hamar Martínez and Gabriel Velasco reported Wednesday for the Pew Hispanic Center.


"A majority (51%) say they most often identify themselves by their family's country of origin; just 24% say they prefer a pan-ethnic label.

"Moreover, by a ratio of more than two-to-one (69% versus 29%), survey respondents say that the more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S. have many different cultures rather than a common culture. Respondents do, however, express a strong, shared connection to the Spanish language. More than eight-in-ten (82%) Latino adults say they speak Spanish, and nearly all (95%) say it is important for future generations to continue to do so."

Magazine Editors Chief Calls Gender Bias Complaints "Silly"

"Sid Holt, the chief executive of the American Society of Magazine Editors, says criticisms about how few women were named as finalists for this year’s National Magazine Awards are 'kind of silly,' " Andrew Beaujon wrote Thursday for the Poynter Institute.


". . . Lots of magazines and writers didn’t become finalists, Holt says. 'It's not because that work doesn’t deserve recognition, and it's not because there's a secret cabal making the decisions. It's because magazine journalists and journalism educators from around the country, organized into 20 different committees composed of 11 to 15 judges, decided that these five stories were the best stories submitted in, say, Personal Service or Reporting. ASME respects those decisions.' " |

"NPR is being honored by the 71st Annual George Foster Peabody Awards for an investigation into inequalities in the South Dakota foster care system for Native Americans, powerful coverage of the Arab Spring, and remembrances of 9/11 collected by StoryCorps and broadcast on Morning Edition, it was announced today," NPR said Wednesday in a news release.


"Receiving Peabody Awards are the NPR News Investigation 'Native Foster Care: Lost Children, Shattered Families,' reported by correspondent Laura Sullivan and producer Amy Walters; and NPR’s foreign desk, namely Jerusalem Correspondent Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, for extraordinary coverage of the Arab Spring in 2011."

". . . The unflinching series 'Native Foster Care,' which aired in three parts on All Things Considered in October 2011, examined how lack of knowledge about Native culture and traditions and federal financial funding all influence the decision to remove so many Native-American children from homes in South Dakota."

TVNewser noted, "Al Jazeera English won a Peabody for its coverage of the Arab Spring uprisings, and the BBC won two awards, one for a documentary examining Somalia and a second for"


Other winners included the HBO series "Treme" and the PBS "American Experience" series, which included "Freedom Riders," a documentary based on what the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times' Eric Deggans described as a landmark book by Ray Arsenault, a University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor.

Health Care Arguments Hurt Image of Court, Law

"While most Americans say last week's Supreme Court hearings on the 2010 health care law did not change their views of the law or of the Court, they did more harm than good to the image of both," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported on Monday.


"In the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press and The Washington Post, conducted March 29-April 1, 2012 among 1,000 adults, nearly two-thirds (63%) say what they saw and heard about the hearings did not change their opinion of the health care law, while 23% say they now have a less favorable opinion and just 7% a more favorable opinion of it. Similarly, 65% say their view of the Supreme Court remains unchanged after the hearings, but the number who say their view of the Court has grown more negative is three times the number who say it has grown more positive (21% vs. 7%).

"These more critical reactions have a decidedly partisan cast."


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