MSNBC Ready to Hire Sharpton

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Activist Would Host at 6 p.m. on Cable Network

"After giving a nearly six-month tryout for the Internet talk show host Cenk Uygur, the cable news channel MSNBC is preparing to instead hand its 6 p.m. time slot to the Rev. Al Sharpton," Brian Stelter reported Thursday for the New York Times.


Such a move would respond to complaints from the NAACP that "Currently, there are no African American hosts or anchors on any national news show, cable or broadcast network, from the hours of 5 p.m. to 11 p.m."

But it is less likely to satisfy black journalists, who have continually criticized the networks for their failure to place journalists of color in these key prime-time slots.

When rumors surfaced this week that Sharpton was under consideration for the MSNBC job, one NABJ member told colleagues without challenge, "This would still be just another non-journalist media 'celebrity' receiving a TV show based upon their name recognition, not their years of experience, training, ability and talent."

Another listed five African Americans who have had their own cable news shows, and noted that unlike their white counterparts, all but one have been nonjournalists: Alan Keyes, prime time, MSNBC; Carlos Watson, weekend, MSNBC; the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, weekend, CNN; Arthel Neville, Talkback Live/daytime, CNN; D.L. Hughley, weekend, CNN. Only Neville has a journalism background.


Moreover, as David Zurawik noted Thursday in the Baltimore Sun, "While the TV industry defines the hours of 8 to 11 p.m. weeknights as prime time, the NAACP appears to be expanding the definition. That matters, because Sharpton would be the first African-American prime-time cable host, according to the NAACP's definition."

MSNBC has not commented on the reports that Sharpton is under consideration, and that did not change on Thursday morning. "No comment from us on this," spokesman Jeremy Gaines told Journal-isms.


But Stelter reported that "Mr. Sharpton's imminent hiring . . . was acknowledged by three people at the channel on condition of anonymity because the contract had not been signed."

Sharpton, a civil rights activist and radio host once viewed as outside the mainstream, has been guest hosting in the 6 p.m. time slot for the last three weeks.


His politics would fit with MSNBC's "progressive" political posture. Sharpton says on the website of the National Action Network, which he leads, "Rev. Al Sharpton uses 'Activism TV' to confront the Tea Party. As daily guest host on MSNBC from 6-7p.m. EST, Rev. Sharpton has shed light on GOP hypocrisy."

Stelter continued, "There had been uncertainty about the 6 p.m. slot ever since the channel's marquee anchor, Keith Olbermann, departed in January, prompting Ed Schultz to be moved to 10 p.m. from 6," Stelter wrote. "Suddenly Mr. Uygur, who had been made a paid contributor to MSNBC months earlier, was handed 6 p.m., a big coup given that he had earlier campaigned to have his progressive Web show 'The Young Turks' picked up by MSNBC.


"He earned solid but not stand-out ratings; in late June the channel's president, Phil Griffin, decided to try out Mr. Sharpton, and offered Mr. Uygur a new contract that included a weekend show, but not a higher-profile weekday show.

"Mr. Uygur, who by most accounts was well liked within MSNBC, said in an interview that he turned down the new contract because he felt Mr. Griffin had been the recipient of political pressure."


Joy-Ann Reid Succeeds David Wilson as Grio's M.E.

Joy-Ann Reid, a freelance columnist for the Miami Herald and editor of the political blog The Reid Report, has been named managing editor of NBC's African American oriented website, NBC announced on Thursday. She succeeds founder David Wilson, who will oversee business operations and growth strategy as executive editor.


"David's transition to Executive Editor represents a huge milestone for the theGrio," NBC's announcement said. " 'Since founding the site in June 2009, David has built the organization and grown to be the leading place for news and information for the African-American community,' said Michael Chen, President of the Strategic Initiatives Group at NBC News. 'We look forward to David and Joy-Ann taking to new heights in the months to come.'

"Reporting to Wilson, Reid will oversee the editorial operations of theGrio. Her responsibilities include leading editorial coverage and strategy for the site, as well as managing all of theGrio's correspondents and contributors. Reid will also contribute on-air for MSNBC."


NBC News and Three Part Media LLC, of which Wilson is a founding member, launched the Grio in 2009 as "a video-centric news site devoted to stories and perspectives that appeal to the African American community."

Wilson, a television producer, had produced "Meeting David Wilson" in 2008 for NBC News, the story of how Wilson, who is black, met his namesake, a white Southerner. The white David Wilson was the descendant of the family that owned the black David Wilson's ancestors as slaves. The program aired on MSNBC.


Wilson said in the release, "With Joy-Ann leading the editorial strategy for the site, we are able to devote more time and resources to advancing the business strategy of our growing franchise."

The June figures from the comScore measurement company show theGrio with 1,231,000 unique visitors. For other black-oriented websites, the figures were 3,128,000 for; 3,036,000 for BET Networks; 2,215,000 for Black Voices, now part of Huffington Post; 2,121,000 for; 1,686,000 for; 1,194,000 for; 935,000 for; 771,000 for; NewsOne with 756,000 and 652,000 for


Reid is a former talk radio producer and host for Radio One, and was previously an online news editor for the NBC affiliate WTVJ in Miramar, Fla., the release said. "During the 2004 presidential campaign, Reid served as the Florida deputy communications director for the 527 'America Coming Together' initiative, and was a press aide in the final stretch of President Barack Obama's Florida campaign in 2008."

Scandal Encourages Opponents of Media Consolidation

"Progressive activists and public interest groups have long blasted Rupert Murdoch and his News Corporation for political biases. But in recent weeks they have seized on a new and more tangible reason to call for the revocation of his TV licenses and the breakup of his company: the British hacking scandal," Brian Stelter reported Tuesday in the New York Times.


"The scandal, they say, is an opportunity to raise awareness of — and, they hope, objection to — media consolidation at a time when the American government is reviewing the rules that govern how much companies like News Corporation, Comcast and the Walt Disney Company can own.

" 'For those of us who've been warning about the dangers of too much media power concentrated in too few corporate hands, this scandal is a godsend,' said Jeff Cohen, the founding director of the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College.


"The scandal is also giving Democratic lawmakers an opportunity to call for more attention to the practices of such companies.

"Representative Bobby Rush, a Democrat of Illinois and a past critic of Mr. Murdoch, questioned in an interview whether the media mogul had been allowed to amass too much media power. 'We can't forget the fundamental tenet of media ownership in the United States. It's not a right, it's a privilege. And it's a privilege based on trust and responsibility,' he said."


Journalist of color organizations have opposed further media consolidation because it squeezes out opportunities for smaller potential owners of color, among other reasons.

As the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism noted in its 2009 report, "The State of the News Media," "Black ownership of television still has some considerable distance to go.


"Advertising Age reported in April that out of 1,379 commercial TV stations, only eight stations are owned by African Americans. . . .

"One study, by Free Press, a non-profit that promotes diversity in media ownership, found that African Americans comprised 13% of the U.S. population but only owned 1.3% of its TV stations in 2006. Furthermore, the study found that there had been no improvement in the level of minority ownership in television since 1998."


In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday that the number of news operations owned by Murdoch's companies had made them too powerful.

"Giving his most detailed thoughts so far on the future of media regulation, Cameron said media ownership rules could be changed to avoid any organisation holding too much sway," the Guardian newspaper reported. "He said: 'We need competition policy properly enforced. We need a sensible look at the relevance of plurality and cross-media ownership.


" 'Above all we need to ensure that no one voice, not News Corporation, not the BBC, becomes too powerful.'"

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Cornel West, the high-profile Princeton University professor, plan to revisit their widely publicized disagreement over President Obama's commitment to African American concerns, this time at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, which takes place in Philadelphia in two weeks.


Sharpton and West are to be part of the W.E.B. Du Bois lecture plenary, 'Black Out or Black In?" appearing with Michael Steele, former Republican national chairman, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed.

The session is scheduled Thursday, Aug. 4, from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m.

"President Barack Obama is facing a tough re-election campaign in 2012. He enjoys huge support for African Americans, yet critics – even some of his ardent supporters – say he has not done enough to help those who look like him. Hear what our panelists have to say about elections 2012," reads the convention announcement from NABJ.


West and Sharpton clashed on an April 10 MSNBC special, "A Stronger America: The Black Agenda," hosted by Ed Schultz. They had a less contentious discussion on June 24 at the National Newspaper Publishers Association convention in Chicago, moderated by veteran journalist George E. Curry.

Among public figures, West carries one of the most misspelled first names. He was named after the actor Cornel Wilde, not the university.


NABJ announced previously that Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group, would appear Thursday morning in an opening plenary moderated by Lester Holt, anchor of the weekend edition of "NBC Nightly News" and co-anchor of the weekend "Today."

Hispanic Births Outpace Arrivals by Immigration

"Births have surpassed immigration as the main driver of the dynamic growth in the U.S. Hispanic population. This new trend is especially evident among the largest of all Hispanic groups — Mexican-Americans, according to a new analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center," the Hispanic Center said last week.


"In the decade from 2000 to 2010, the Mexican-American population grew by 7.2 million as a result of births and 4.2 million as a result of new immigrant arrivals. This is a change from the previous two decades when the number of new immigrants either matched or exceeded the number of births.

"The current surge in births among Mexican-Americans is largely attributable to the immigration wave that has brought more than 10 million immigrants to the United States from Mexico since 1970. Between 2006 and 2010 alone, more than half (53%) of all Mexican-American births were to Mexican immigrant parents. As a group, these immigrants are more likely than U.S.-born Americans to be in their prime child-bearing years. They also have much higher fertility."


Short Takes


NABJ Picks New Orleans for 2012; Will Precede Unity

The National Association of Black Journalists has chosen New Orleans as the site for its 2012 convention, the first stand-alone NABJ conference to be held in a year when Unity: Journalists of Color is meeting.


The Unity convention is scheduled from Aug. 1-4 in Las Vegas. NABJ's will be June 20-24.

"NABJ had selected New Orleans to host its 2014 convention. The board's convention search committee reviewed proposals from other cities and decided it was more beneficial to move up the New Orleans convention to 2012," a news release said.


"NABJ is excited about going to New Orleans next year. It is a fabulous city with the right mixture of a prime location, hotel price, convention space, and leisure activity to make a great convention for our members," NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said in the release. "NABJ has not been to New Orleans since 1983. We look forward to our return, and partnering with a city rich in culture and tradition."

The release continued, "New Orleans is still rebuilding from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The New Orleans Association of Black Journalists (NOABJ) has also been rebuilding since the chapter was decimated by the disaster."


NABJ voted in April to withdraw from Unity: Journalists of Color, the coalition of the journalist-of-color associations, because "as a business model, UNITY no longer is the most financially prudent for NABJ and its membership." Remaining are the national associations of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists.

It remains to be seen whether Unity and NABJ will be competing for sponsors or whether sponsors will choose to support both.


Maurice Foster, NABJ's executive director, has not responded to questions about how much sponsorship NABJ has lined up for 2012.

Onica N. Makwakwa, executive director of Unity, told Journal-isms on Monday, "We typically will announce commitments when agreements have been signed by all parties involved. That said, we are in the middle of sponsorship presentations and negotiations and plan to announce on a rolling basis as . . . agreements are executed."


It may be too early for media companies to have made such decisions.

Peter Tira, communications director of the McClatchy Co., said Thursday, "McClatchy has sponsored and participated in every NABJ convention and every UNITY convention for many, many years. We don't expect that to change next year — although as of now we aren't officially 'committed' or inked to any specific contracts or proposals, etc."


Virgil L. Smith, vice president/talent acquisition and diversity for Gannett Co., Inc., told Journal-isms last week, "We are hopeful that UNITY and NABJ will work things out for the 2012 UNITY Conference. If NABJ decides to not go to UNITY we will evaluate and make a decision as to the course of action we will take giving consideration to our employees and our longstanding commitment to diversity."

At NBC News, spokeswoman Meghan Pianta said last week, "As you know, NBC News has a history of supporting diversity conventions and we anticipate continuing to do so. We're excited about our plans for the 2011 NABJ convention next month, and will plan our sponsorships for 2012 as it gets closer."


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