Mark Whitaker has jumped ship from NBC News, where as vice president he was the highest-ranking person of color, to CNN, where he will hold that same distinction. Whitaker was named to the newly created position of executive vice president and managing editor, reporting directly to Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide, CNN announced on Friday.
Whitaker's switch between two news organizations that have won plaudits for their diversity efforts led to another milestone: Whitaker's deputy at NBC News, Antoine Sanfuentes, was named Washington bureau chief.
"I'm very proud of that," Whitaker told Journal-isms.
Sanfuentes is of Latino background.
"In his new position, Sanfuentes will report to NBC News President Steve Capus, and his daily responsibilities will include the oversight of all bureau management, administration and editorial affairs, working closely with NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd and NBC News executives including Alexandra Wallace and David Verdi," an announcement said.
"In addition, Sanfuentes will have executive oversight of 'Meet the Press.'
Unlike Whitaker, Sanfuentes will not be an NBC News vice president.
Just three years ago, NBC News had two African Americans at that level, Whitaker and Lyne Pitts. Pitts resigned in January 2009 to help her husband, CBS correspondent Byron Pitts, write a memoir, and to move "to the next phase" of her career.
Walton said in CNN's news release, "Our aim is to position a strong managing editor, working closely with the head of each CNN network and Web site, to generate reporting and analysis that consistently stands out, sparks conversation and captures the true meaning and relevance of the events in the news. Mark is a distinguished journalist and news executive who is experienced in leading large enterprises, and I am pleased that he will help direct our long-term editorial approach and strategy."
The release also said, "As managing editor, Whitaker will be responsible for overseeing and integrating news and editorial content across all of CNN’s domestic and international networks and digital platforms, and charting long-term editorial strategy for the organization. Drawing upon CNN’s global newsgathering infrastructure, he will be tasked with leveraging the best of CNN Worldwide’s reporting to create a more powerful and distinctive dialogue about the top news stories of the day."
Whitaker, former editor of Newsweek magazine and then senior vice president of NBC News, became NBC News Washington bureau chief in 2008 after the death of Tim Russert.
"You know, I'm mixed-race. My dad is black. My mother is white," Whitaker told Michel Martin of NPR's "Tell Me More" then. "I grew up in both worlds. I think, as a journalist, that's been a plus in terms of my understanding and I think my feel for issues, both in the black community but also in the white world. But I think my success, such as it is, has been the result, you know, that I've gotten to where I've gotten the way most people do, which is just to sort of go to work and work hard."
After a piece last year by former Newsweek colleague Sylvester Monroe that was critical of Whitaker's diversity efforts at the newsmagazine, Whitaker outlined what he had accomplished at Newsweek and at NBC:
"At NBC, I have promoted former Senior White House Producer Antoine Sanfuentes, who is of Hispanic origin, to be my Deputy Bureau Chief with day-to-day responsibility for managing the Washington bureau. I have pushed to get our Senior Congressional Producer, Ken Strickland, and White House producer Athena Jones, who are both black, on the air as analysts. And I have advocated for awarding MSNBC contributor contracts to Eugene Robinson and Jonathan Capehart from The Washington Post, Maria Teresa Kumar of Voto Latino, among others.
"As I told Michel Martin in our interview, I aspire to be the best possible Washington bureau chief for NBC News I can be, not just the best /black/ bureau chief, and I had the same view of my role at Newsweek. But I have been proud to promote the combination of diversity and excellence in both positions, and I think my record of success speaks for itself."
Whitaker told Journal-isms Friday, "That all still stands, and now Antoine will succeed me as NBC's Washington bureau chief. I'm very proud of that."
Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, says "it's inevitable" that people of color will be hosting prime-time news shows on cable television — but that MSNBC is happy with the evening team it installed after the departure of Keith Olbermann last week in the 8 p.m. Eastern slot.
Olbermann surprised viewers a week ago by saying he had "been told" it was his last "Countdown" after nearly eight years. He had been the highest-rated evening anchor on MSNBC but had butted heads with management over the years.
Journal-isms asked Capus, who was attending the National Association of Black Journalists' Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony Thursday night at the Newseum in Washington, when an evening show would be hosted by a person of color. It was a concern expressed by NABJ and most controversially by former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, who lost his job when he also discussed Jews in making his point.
Capus described MSNBC as a "smart, progressive" operation and named daytime host Tamron Hall, pundit Eugene Robinson, who sits on political roundtables, and theGrio.com, NBC News' African American-oriented website, before saying of prime-time anchors of color, "it's inevitable. It will happen."
But he said that MSNBC had already settled on Lawrence O'Donnell in Olbermann's slot at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times, followed by Rachel Maddow at 9 p.m. and Ed Schultz at 10 p.m. That leaves only a 6 p.m. opening. He also noted that NBC announced in September that Martin Bashir, formerly of ABC's "Nightline," would have an afternoon show on MSNBC.
Capus said he would put NBC News' diversity record "against anyone."
Hall hosted the induction ceremony at the $150-per-person NABJ fundraiser that in the aftermath of a Washington snowstorm drew just over 300 people, including such bold-face names as CNN's Wolf Blitzer; NBC's Andrea Mitchell; Marian Wright Edelman of the Children's Defense Fund; Washington, D.C., Mayor Vincent Gray; Rushern L. Baker III, the county executive of neighboring Prince George's County, Md.; NPR CEO Vivian Schiller; Kevin Klose, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland; Jannette Dates, dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard Univeristy; former NPR "Morning Edition" host Bob Edwards, representing the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists; Al Hunt, Bloomberg Washington Bureau chief; Beth Frerking of Politico; Joanna Hernandez and Onica N. Makwakwa of Unity: Journalists of Color; founders, former presidents and prominent members of NABJ; and fans and associates of the honorees, among others.
White House senior aide Valerie Jarrett read a letter written for the occasion by President Obama, and "Tell Me More" host Michel Martin of NPR, declaring that many diversity-oriented fellowships don't provide a means for the recipients to showcase their work, announced two new fellowships developed by the NABJ founders. They honor Maurice Williams, a 24-year-old black reporter killed in 1977during a takeover of Washington's city hall, and columnist Vernon Jarrett, an NABJ co-founder who had become a Chicago institution before he died in 2004. The fellowships are to be awarded in conjunction with the Phelps Stokes Fund.
Several of the late Ed Bradley's colleagues from CBS' "60 Minutes" watched as Patricia Blanchet, Bradley's widow, accepted his posthumous Hall of Fame honor and said of her husband, "This man had no idea of his iconic stature. He'd be surprised that he is still remembered today as such a beacon." She urged "transferring his life into a living legacy," asking, "Who among you will be the next Ed Bradley?"
Walterene Swanston, the retired director of diversity management at NPR who received the Ida B. Wells Award, noted her long record in the news business and said, "I've left behind a number of people in news operations around the country whose voices have been heard for the first time."
Jack Marsh, president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, spoke for the Newseum, host of the event, and declared, "NABJ and the Freedom Forum have never wavered from their commitment to diversity, and we never will waver. . . . We think of NABJ as extended family."
Ryan Williams, the managing director of the NABJ office who said the day was his last official one with the organization, said of the event, "This is our White House Correspondents Dinner, and you all deserve it."
Amy Alexander, theLoop21.com: MSNBC Has a Lack of Diversity to Go With Lack of Olbermann
Bill Carter and Brian Stelter, New York Times: Olbermann Split Came After Years of Tension
Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: Keith Olbermann's MSNBC legacy: Proving funny + news + liberalism = ratings
Jim Harrington, Oakland Tribune: Longtime Bay Area broadcaster Ray Taliaferro notches another honor
"Even with the Internet and some telecommunications down, many reports are coming out of Cairo that journalists are being targeted among the protestors by police," Kat Stoeffel wrote Friday for the New York Observer.
"Assad Sawey, a BBC journalist, was beaten by Egyptian police and then went on air in his bloodied shirt. When the police saw his camera, he was beaten and electrocuted with steel bars. Although he argued for transportation to a hospital, he said that other foreign journalists were being carted off in trucks to an unknown location.
"The Guardian's Jack Schenker was punched repeatedly by plainclothes state security officers and high-ranking uniformed officers. He was captured with about 40 other protestors and dropped in the middle of the desert. He was only released because he happened to have been captured with a high-profile politician's son who negotiated their release.
". . . AP photographer Nasser Gamil Nasser had his right cheekbone shattered when a policeman saw his camera and hurled a stone at his face.
"Of course the violence is not reserved for international journalists. At least six Al-Masry al-Youm staffers have been roughed up, including Lina Attalah, the managing editor of Al-Masry al-Youm's English edition. 'Four policemen pulled me by my hair and kicked me in my face and back,' Attalah told the [Committee] to Protect Journalists. Al-Jazeera correspondent Mustafa Kafafi was also beaten, CPJ writes. Yesterday the English language weekly Al Ahram had firsthand reports from beaten and detained journalists but the site is down now."
Committee to Protect Journalists: Egypt instigates media blackout, police target journalists
Tom Foremski, ZDNet.com: Have US companies helped in Egypt Internet crackdown?
Roy Greenslade, the Guardian, Britain: BBC protests at police assault on its Cairo correspondent
Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Defining a Dictatorship: The U.S. Role in Egypt
Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: NYT vs. Guardian on Egypt WikiLeaks
Alex Pareene, salon.com: War Room Al Jazeera's Egypt coverage embarrasses U.S. cable news channels
Reporters Without Borders: Journalists targeted by police violence, arrests
A jury in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, has found former WEWS sports anchor Terry Brooks not guilty on all charges of rape and kidnapping, as WEWS' Mike Waterhouse reported Thursday, but the station says that does not mean Brooks can have his job back.
"Terry Brooks resigned from our station last October. The position he left vacant was recently filled," spokesman Dan Coyle told Journal-isms on Friday. "If Terry ever applied for any open position here at NewsChannel 5, he would of course be considered like any other applicant."
Waterhouse reported, "Brooks resigned from his position as weekend sports anchor at WEWS on Oct. 7 after the indictment was announced Aug. 4. Throughout the case, he has maintained he was innocent of the charges.
". . . Brooks embraced his wife, Nicole, after the judge ended the proceedings. Both then spoke with members of the media.
" 'God is good, number one. It’s very unfortunate that I had to endure this, that my wife had to endure this — that these lies even reached this point,' said Terry Brooks. 'Justice was served today. I never had anything to say because once the indictment came down, I knew that this had to go the entire course.'
" 'Through this situation, I supported my husband 100 percent, even when this all came down,' said Nicole Brooks. 'They tried to destroy us; they tried to destroy our marriage. But I knew my husband didn’t do this,' said Nicole Brooks."
The New York Daily News' five-paragraph obituary of David W. Hardy, leader of the successful racial discrimination lawsuit filed by four black journalists at the News in the late 1980s, originally mentioned the lawsuit, but editors deleted it, journalist Ron Howell reported Thursday on his blog.
"In some ways it was even more of a shock to learn Daily News columnist Clem Richardson had written an obit about Hardy, and that the paper had eliminated, totally, the references to Hardy's historic lawsuit against the paper," Howell, who has worked at the News, wrote. Richardson confirmed that he had included the information.
Moreover, Howell reported, "it seems that when Clem first turned in the story, nothing appeared in the following day's paper at all. It was only when Clem began inquiring what the heck had happened that the story finally went all the way through the editing assembly line."
News spokeswoman Jennifer Mauer did not respond to requests for comment.
Hardy, 68, died Jan. 14 after a heart attack. The suit was brought when the News was owned by Tribune Co. "The trial was considered a landmark because it was the first race discrimination suit brought by editorial employees of a large newspaper to go before a jury," Alex S. Jones of the New York Times wrote in 1987.
A Jan. 18 obituary in the Star-Ledger of Newark likewise omitted mention of the lawsuit, after which the News agreed to a financial package of $3.1 million and an affirmative-action effort to be monitored by the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the Times.
Similarly, the Times and other major papers have left Hardy's death unreported.