New York Times' Black Women Alums Hail Changes

Past Battles Over Racial, Gender Bias Recalled

The appointment of Jill Abramson and Dean Baquet as the top two news executives at the New York Times was hailed by black women who have worked at the Times Friday as they recalled past battles waged at the paper by women and African Americans.


Eight black women — current and former Times employees — responded to a request from Journal-isms for their reactions to the prospect of a white woman and a black man leading the newsroom.

As African American women as well as New York Times veterans, they are in a unique position to comment on the significance of the changes to both race and gender.


Abramson, a former investigative reporter and Washington bureau chief, will become the paper’s executive editor, and Baquet, the Washington bureau chief, will become the new managing editor, the paper announced on Thursday.

"This is an especially great day for women — and African Americans too (although Dean's position is not unprecedented)," said Angela P. Dodson, a former senior editor/news administration who worked at the paper from 1983 to 1995 and later filed a discrimination lawsuit that was settled out of court.

"It is a major milestone for diversity in journalism and a momentous day in Times history," Dodson continued. "I congratulate the paper and the individuals who have achieved these top two positions. I hope they will use them to further the quests for diversity of coverage and inclusion in staffing and promotions."

Mallary Jean Tenore of the Poynter Institute asked Abramson why a diverse staff matters.


Abramson responded:

"I think it’s important because of the world that we cover, which is a diverse one and if you have a staff of reporters and editors and Web producers and other professionals who come from the same exact background you’re going to miss some important aspects of stories. And people have a diverse way of approaching their reporting, and I think that when you have a diverse staff you get a diverse reaction to news developments and angles on things that have happened that you might not have thought of otherwise."


Here is how other current and former Timeswomen responded to Journal-isms via email:

Dana Canedy, current senior editor:

"I could not be more proud of Arthur's choice of Jill and Dean to lead us in the public trust that is The New York Times," she said, referring to publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. "Jill and Dean will do so with conviction and purpose, compassion and wisdom. And, by the way, [they] only happen to be black and a woman. My heart is full."


Mary C. Curtis, staffer from 1985 to 1994, when she was editor of several sections:

"I arrived at The New York Times in 1985, after pioneers had paved the way, and received good counsel from those who remained. They continued to make progress and fight the good fight. That this announcement — which recognized the accomplishments of deserving candidates for the top jobs — was made with a minimum of fuss showed progress. But it's also important to remember those pioneers."


Charlayne Hunter-Gault, reporter from 1969 to 1978:

"I was happy to hear of Jill Abramson's appointment and listened with interest to her interview on The PBS [NewsHour] Thursday night. As I did, I couldn't help thinking about the time when the Blacks and women at The Times sued the paper in separate lawsuits back in the 70's, aimed at ending discrimination in hiring, pay and promotion. And those lawsuits paved the way for journalists like Abramson, Gerald Boyd, Dean Baquet and others. Maybe not fast enough or soon enough, but let the record reflect the efforts it took to get to where the Times is today."


Gwen Ifill, reporter from 1991 to 1994:

"It's great news that the NYT not only elevated great talent, but also that they went out and recruited it — Jill from the WSJ [Wall Street Journal] and Dean, who'd done one previous stint at the NYT — after he left the LAT [Los Angeles Times]. Diverse leadership does not happen by accident. You have to invest in it. We can only hope others get that message."


Shawn Kennedy, who started as an intern in 1974 and left as an editor in 1998:

"Yesterday's announcement was something to celebrate. The Times management looked past race and gender to name the best people for the jobs. So, as it happens, for the first time the team at the top does not include a white, male. I hope this move sends a signal to news department editors that The Times supports the nurturing and grooming of gifted, young journalists no matter what their color or gender."


The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt, editor at the Sunday Book Review from 1987 to 1992:

"I noted these announcements with a bittersweet pleasure. It's long past time for talents like those of Jill and Dean to be recognized. At the same time, it's hard not to think of the many talented women of color whose gifts and wisdom went unnoticed at the Times. I continue to live in hope that this, too, will change."


Sheila Rule, former senior editor who took a buyout in 2008:

"Jill is a champion of diversity. That will no doubt serve The Times and its readers in ways that we have yet to imagine. As an African-American woman who worked at The Times for more than 30 years — and was hired when it was mired in discrimination lawsuits brought by women and employees of color — I know from hard experience the importance of Jill's promotion."


Now We Know What They Did on Their Stanford Fellowships

"The 2011 Knight Journalism Fellows are concluding a year of exploring, testing and creating innovative approaches to journalism. In short talks, the Fellows will give you a taste of the amazing work they’ve done and a glimpse of the projects they’ve launched that will continue beyond this year," reads the introduction to a website displaying videos of May 26 presentations by participants in the John S. Knight Fellowship Program at Stanford University.


Since 2009, the Knight program has asked applicants to propose a project, to be worked on during their fellowship year, that addresses a journalistic challenge with an emphasis on innovation and entrepreneurship. The project is to result in a business proposal, a progress report or a public conference.

Last week's presentation, "Re-Engineering Journalism: 20 Visions from the 2011 Knight Fellows," was a series of 20 three-minute talks, in which fellows spoke about their projects and what they did during the year.


Among the topics:

Jigar Mehta's "18 Days in Egypt" "is an interactive documentary project to capture and preserve the millions of videos, photos, e-mails and tweets created by Egyptians during the historic 2011 uprising."


Duncan McCue proposed an online tool kit for reporters on covering the aboriginal peoples in Canada.

Phuong Ly plans an "online platform connecting California journalists with nonprofit groups that serve immigrants." Gateway California is to launch this fall."


Madhu Acharya worked on "a web-based content exchange platform that will enhance the diversity of voices and issues by connecting radio stations and listeners in Nepal. Listeners would rate content through a mobile application."

Karelia Vázquez plans to bring Cuban bloggers together "in one interactive digital space to improve communications and debate among them as well as increase their visibility and influence."


Di Pinheiro is creating "a web portal to engage Latino media professionals, bloggers, freelancers, artists and community activists in conversation and exchange of information."

Angelo Izama plans "a free-press effort in collaboration with a Ugandan organization to add tracking of journalist harassment to its monitoring efforts during elections."


Sahar Ghazi intends to create "a space in Pakistan’s mainstream media for young bloggers and online activists through"

Drug War Said to Overshadow Fair Coverage of Mexico

"The number of reporters and photographers murdered in Mexico rose in 2010 for the third straight year, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which said that Mexican authorities 'appear powerless in bringing killers to justice,' the website Zócalo Public Square reported.


"But five reporters with extensive experience covering Mexico agreed that their job is too important to be scared away by such threats, they told a sold-out crowd at a panel discussion held at Los Angeles' Museum of Contemporary Art and co-sponsored by Zócalo Public Square and the Azteca Foundation.

The reporters spoke Wednesday on the theme "Telling Mexico’s Stories," "an exploration of the challenges involved in weaving together the nation’s disparate narrative threads."


Angela Kocherga, Belo TV border bureau chief, was joined by Mexico City-based news producer Susana Seijas, who moderated the panel, plus Alfredo Corchado, Dallas Morning News Mexico City bureau chief; Imagen News host Ana Maria Salazar, host of "Imagen News," the only nationwide radio news program in English broadcast from Mexico; and Reed Johnson, a Los Angeles Times arts and culture reporter  who covered culture in Latin America from 2004 to 2008. Johnson now reports from Los Angeles.

". . . But while the journalists were unanimous in saying that the drug war stands alone as Mexico’s dominant story, they agreed that the mainstream press often does not do a good enough job covering Mexico as a whole.


"Seijas referenced a Wall Street Journal column titled 'The Mexico Paradox,' which explored the seeming contradiction between the idea of the nation as a failed state and statistics that show the economy grew at a healthy 5.5 percent clip in 2010.

"Kocherga said the false stereotype that the entire country has been taken over by drug trafficking and violence is problematic for reporters trying to represent the country fairly. Her station regularly receives calls from Americans asking whether it is safe to hold their weddings in the resort town of Cancun, she said.


" 'Not every part of Mexico is drowning in blood and a lot of these destinations are still perfectly safe,' Kocherga said. Salazar said the major story that goes uncovered in Mexico is individual acts of heroism, a comment that drew a knowing nod from Kocherga. From children who continue to play on traveling soccer teams despite the threat of violence to the teacher who became the star of a viral video showing her leading her kindergarteners in song as gunfire raged outside, Mexicans are brave and perseverant, she said."

John Ralston Saul, Toronto Globe and Mail: The lethal war on Mexico’s journalists


Kanye West Performs at Service for Gil Scott-Heron

"Gil Scott-Heron's daughter proclaimed the revolution will be televised during a moving memorial service Thursday for her musical father that included a surprise performance by rapper Kanye West," Michael J. Feeney reported in the New York Daily News.


"Scott-Heron, a celebrated poet and musician, was remembered by about 300 close friends and family scattered throughout Harlem's historic Riverside Church Thursday. He was 62 when he died last Friday.

" 'It was honoring and celebrating him,' said his daughter, Gia, 31, after the service. 'When we came in, what we wanted to do was honor daddy.'


"And she certainly did.'

". . . West, wearing all black and sporting a pair of dark sunglasses, closed out the tribute by performing his song 'Lost in the World' — which features a portion of Scott-Heron's 'Comment #1.'


"Also in attendance was Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets, the 1970s Harlem group that inspired Scott-Heron and also helped set the stage for hip-hop."

While Thursday's tribute was planned by Gia Scott-Heron and her mother, Brenda Sykes, other family members who were not at Riverside Church are planning a service late this month or early in July, according to Lurma Rackley, an Atlanta-based writer and former journalist and mother of Scott-Heron's son, Rumal Rackley.


A wake by this part of the family took place Friday evening at Manhattan’s Frank E. Campbell Funeral Home, 81st Street and Madison Avenue.

Cover of memorial service program

James Lawrence, Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, N.Y.: Where are the Gil Scott-Heron types? (June 4)


Joshua Ostroff, Toronto Globe and Mail: Gil Scott-Heron will not be memorialized (June 4)

TaRessa Stovall, Gil Scott-Heron at His Peak, in His Prime: Unedited, Uncensored, After the Show (1979 interview)


Tyrone Umrani, Washington Informer: Missing Gil Scott-Heron

Oliver Wang, Los Angeles Times: A poet with soul: The ballads of Gil Scott-Heron

Miami Station Drops Show After Gay, Hispanic Protest

"WSVN-7 in Miami has dropped the Spanish-language talk show, 'Jose Luis Sin Censura', following complaints from national gay activists and an Hispanic media coalition," Steve Rothaus reported Thursday for the Miami Herald.


"AT&T and Time Warner Cable also stopped advertising on the program after the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) and the National Hispanic Media Coalition (NHMC) filed a complaint this year with the FCC.

"Last year, the show broadcast sexual situations and anti-gay and anti-Latin slurs 'never displayed or . . . bleeped out of pre-taped English-language programs. … Many episodes showed the audience standing and shouting anti-gay epithets and profanity at guests,' according to a GLAAD news release.


". . . Executives at Liberman Broadcasting of Burbank, Calif., which distributes 'Jose Luis Sin Censura,' plan to meet with GLAAD and NHMC on June 17.

" 'I'm going to sit down and listen to what they have to say. We want to fix the problem,' said Winter Horton, Liberman's chief operating officer. 'They can lay out their concerns and we can fix them.'


"Horton said WSVN is the only TV station in the Estrella TV Network to drop the program.

"WSVN, which broadcast 'Jose Luis Sin Censura' on its digital channel 7.2 and on Comcast Ch. 220, dumped the show after receiving a May 23 letter from GLAAD and NHMC."

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