Obama Tells BET Viewers That Race Relations Will Improve Gradually

President Barack Obama during interview with BET network that aired Dec. 8, 2014.
YouTube Screenshot
President Barack Obama during interview with BET network that aired Dec. 8, 2014.
YouTube Screenshot

Younger African Americans Hear Message of Racial Progress

"President Obama is delivering a pointed message to younger African Americans that the nation has made progress on race relations, urging patience and resolve in the wake of new protests in New York and elsewhere," David Nakamura and Vanessa Williams wrote Monday in a front-page story for the Washington Post.


In an interview (video) that aired Monday, "Obama acknowledged that the distrust between minority communities and law enforcement is 'deeply rooted in our history' and cautioned that it 'will not be solved overnight.' But in his first extended remarks on the subject since a New York grand jury decided last week not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed African American man in July, the president also sought to remind his audience that life has improved for black Americans over recent generations.

" 'It's important to recognize that as painful as these incidents are, we can't equate what is happening now to what happened 50 years ago,' Obama said in an excerpt of the interview released by BET Networks. 'If you talk to your parents, your grandparents, they'll tell you things are better. Not good, in some cases, but better. The reason it's important to understand that progress has been made is that it then gives us hope we can make even more progress.' . . ."

Neither the White House nor BET would respond to inquiries from Journal-isms about why Obama chose BET to deliver its message. After Obama's election in 2009, CEO Debra L. Lee said the change in Washington had made her reconsider her legacy and provide more responsible fare, but its efforts at news programming have been sporadic.

Still, the Post's Nia-Malika Henderson reported Monday that press secretary Josh Earnest had this to say about Obama's choice of BET:

"We have seen a lot of young people, particularly young of color, have been pretty outspoken in their concerns about the lack of trust that exists between many local communities and the local law enforcement officials in the community sworn to serve and protect them. The president wanted to communicate to them a few things … The president wanted them to know the issues were legitimate to raise and are issues the president takes very seriously."

Henderson began her story, "If you want to reach black America, make an appearance on Black Entertainment Television (BET)."

"Four Lessons From Media's Conflicted Coverage of Race"

"Now more than ever, America needs productive conversations about race, stereotyping, police, crime and social justice," Eric Deggans wrote Saturday for NPR's "Code Switch." "And too often, our national media [continue] to fall short.


"After many years of dissecting how race works in media, I was both disappointed and but, sadly, not surprised by much of the coverage so far. It repeats many of the same mistakes we've seen for years in how we talk about race-fueled controversies in America.

"We don't have the right conversations.

"There are two central threads in the [Michael] Brown and [Eric] Garner cases: concerns about the particular facts surrounding their killings, and the broader questions about how unarmed black people are treated by police.


"Many of those who agree that Brown put himself in a life-threatening position—by stealing from a convenience store, and then arguing with a police officer—are still dismayed by how authorities handled the investigation and the grand jury proceeding. I'm in that camp, and those questions deserve to be taken seriously. But guest spots by former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani offer a good example of how those questions get ignored and this debate gets twisted. . . .

"Trying to talk about systemic racial issues during a crisis is always much harder.


"Real progress on racial issues happens when people thoughtfully consider perspectives different from their own — and that's much tougher in a crisis. . . .

"Cable news has sped up the path from news reporting to punditry with disastrous results. . . .


"Each cable news channel fine-tunes its coverage for its target audience, including how that target audience sees racial issues.  . . ."

Deggans tweeted to his followers Monday, "This story got 600 comments on NPR’s website."


Few Blacks, Whites See Police-Minority Relations Improving

"The public has very different reactions to the recent grand jury decisions in two police-related deaths that have sparked protests in cities across the country, according to a new national survey by the Pew Research Center and USA TODAY," the Pew Research Center said in a news release on Monday.


"By 50% to 37%, Americans say a grand jury made the right decision not to charge former Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.

"By contrast, a majority (57%) says a grand jury in New York City made the wrong decision in not charging a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. Just 22% viewed that as the right decision.


"The survey, conducted Dec. 3-7 among 1,507 adults, finds that blacks and whites have starkly different views of the decisions in the Brown and Garner cases, and blacks are far more likely than whites to say that race was a major factor in both rulings.

"Fully 80% of blacks say the grand jury made the wrong decision in not charging Wilson in Brown's death; 90% say the grand jury erred in not bringing changes against a police officer in Garner’s death. By a wide margin (64% to 23%), whites say the grand jury made the right decision in Brown's death. However, just 28% of whites say the grand jury made the right decision in not charging a police officer in Garner's death; nearly half (47%) say the grand jury made the wrong decision.


"Most blacks say race was a major factor in the Brown (64%) and Garner decisions (62%). Among whites, just 16% say race played a major role in the decision not to charge Darren Wilson, and 18% say it was a major factor in the Garner decision. . . ."

Among other findings, "Few blacks or whites see relations between police, minorities improving. About half of blacks (52%) expect relations between local and police to get worse over the next year, while just 16% see relations improving; 31% expect them to stay about the same. Among whites, 34% say relations will worsen, and 21% say they will get better, while 43% expect them to stay about the same.


"Barack Obama's job rating for handling race relations has declined since August. Currently, 40% approve of Obama's handling of race relations, while 50% disapprove. In August, shortly after Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, 48% approved of his handling of race relations, and 42% disapproved.

"There is broad support across racial lines for body cameras. Fully 87%, including 90% of blacks and 85% of whites, think it is a good idea for police officers to wear body cameras to record their interactions. . . ."


St. Louis Paper to Turn Off Reader Comments to Editorials

"For the next two months, we are turning off the comment function on all editorials, columns and letters in the opinion section," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote in an editorial on Monday.




"Last Sunday, we challenged our region to have the serious discussion on race that it has been avoiding for decades. Such difficult discussions are made more challenging when, just to present a thoughtful point of view, you have to endure vile and racist comments, shouting and personal attacks.


"If you've watched many of the talking heads on cable television try to discuss the shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, you know what we're talking about. Unfortunately, sometimes comments on newspaper stories and columns have a similar effect. . . ."

It also said, "Recently, the news service Reuters decided to get rid of comments on its stories. The online startup Vox doesn't allow commenting.


"We intend to use our opinion pages to help the St. Louis region have a meaningful discussion about race. So we are going to turn off the comments in the editorial section for a while, and see what we learn from it. (Comment will continue on news articles). . . ."

Chris Ariens, TVNewser: George Stephanopoulos Hosts Town Hall on Race and Justice


Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Another black eye for the boys in blue. 

Charles M. Blow., New York Times: A New Age of Activism

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: When the chokehold was considered by the Supreme Court


Mark Joyella, TVNewser: Guest Walks Out During Live Garner Interview on Al Jazeera America's 'Inside Story' 

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang, NBC News: Eric Garner Case Resonates Among Asian Americans


Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: In fatal incidents, black police officers don't receive same benefit of the doubt

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Tamir Rice's death is far more than a story about a boy with a pellet gun


Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Reporting the News Like Black Lives Don't Matter

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Cop cams: A good tool, not a cure 

Stacey Patton and David J Leonard, BBC: Why Eric Garner was blamed for dying

Chuck Raasch, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Obama's role in Ferguson is complicated

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: We must talk to black girls about dangers, too 


Dwanna L. Robertson, Indian Country Today Media Network: No Surprise, But We All Should Matter

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Despite progress on racism, the uncomfortable truth is that work remains


María Carla Sánchez, HuffPost LatinoVoices: The American Stories That Cannot Be Untold

A D.C. Anchor Says Another One Saved Her Job

A "sisterhood is powerful" moment took place on Thursday at an awards presentation by the Capital Press Club, for many years the African American counterpart to the National Press Club: 39-year anchor J.C. Hayward told the packed house that nearly 20 years ago Maureen Bunyan, a fellow anchor at WUSA-TV, saved Hayward's job.


Bunyan, herself a Washington institution who now anchors at ABC affiliate WJLA-TV, introduced Hayward as one of nine honorees as the club celebrated its 70th birthday.

Hayward hugged and heaped praise on Bunyan at the ceremony and explained by email on Monday what had happened in 1995.


"At the time, WUSA was in turmoil. The new General Manager and News Director wanted to do away with everything. I was told that I had no talent and never should have been an anchor. I was told that management was going to take Maureen off the 6 and 11 newscasts and put her on the 5pm…. The show that I anchored. Maureen immediately resigned!

"Because she had the conviction of heart, strong character, and belief in her abilities, Maureen saved my position at the station because they could not fire me after she walked away. The city was up in arms about Maureen leaving. Everyone loved her."


Asked whether the behind-the-scenes WUSA episode had been written about at the time, Hayward replied, "No, few people know the truth."

Bunyan, also a co-founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, said she had nothing to add to Hayward's account. After leaving WUSA in 1995, she became chief correspondent for Religion & Ethics Newsweekly from 1997 to 1999, when she joined WJLA-TV as an anchor.


Journal-isms asked Bob Sullivan, then the WUSA general manager, about Hayward's statement that Bunyan saved her job. Reached in Phoenix, where he is vice president for content at the E.W. Scripps Co., Sullivan said by telephone, "I have no idea what she meant by that. I don't even remember what I had for breakfast, much less that long ago."

Hayward has been off the air since last year, when she became a defendant in a case involving allegations of a multimillion-dollar self-dealing scheme at a District of Columbia charter school. Hayward's lawyer told the court "there is nothing in the Complaint to even suggest that she herself participated in misdeeds or received any of the alleged ill-gotten gains." The broadcaster told the crowd that Thursday's honor came as a bright spot in a difficult year.


The Capital Press Club was founded in 1944 during the 47 years in which the National Press Club refused to accept black members. At Thursday's event, held in the National Press Building and attended by more than 300 people, National Press Club President Myron Belkind acknowledged the wrongness of the club's segregated past. With Capital Press Club President Hazel Trice Edney, Belkind announced a joint 2015 forum to discuss media coverage of race issues in America. "This is the greatest honor of my year," Belkind said, referring to the ties between the two groups.

Also at the event was activist Dick Gregory, who at 82, was a contemporary of Bill Cosby as both rose as comedians with "crossover" appeal in the 1960s. Asked what he thought about the current wave of rape allegations against Cosby, 77, Gregory invoked the shooting death of Cosby's son, Ennis, 27, in 1997.


"It's the same thing that happened to Ennis," Gregory said of the rape allegations. Gregory linked Ennis' death to his father's efforts in the early 1990s to buy NBC. Gregory said "the government" was behind both Ennis' death and the rape allegations.

Honorees were Simeon Booker, a retired reporter and editor at Jet magazine who is now 96; Barbara Reynolds, a founding editor of USA Today; Hayward; Roy Lewis, veteran black-press photographer; Paul Brock, a longtime D.C. communications mover and shaker; Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer; April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks; Joe Madison, talk-show host for SiriusXM; and this columnist, who was called "a journalist's journalist."


Don Baker, Don Baker Photography Group: Capital Press Club 2014 Awards (photos)

"If a Reporter Calls for Comment, Stall"

The Los Angeles Times Sunday began a four-part series that found "that thousands of laborers at Mexico's mega-farms endure harsh conditions and exploitation while supplying produce for American consumers."


In a sidebar, Times reporter Richard Marosi wrote that when the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas learned that the Times was preparing this series, "the trade group sent its members 'sample talking points' for responding to inquiries from customers and the media.

"Among the public relations pointers:

" 'Never speak badly about another company or competitor.'

" 'Do talk about your own operations and tell the truth about what you know.'

"If a reporter calls for comment, stall. 'Tell the reporter that you are busy. Schedule an appointment to talk after you have researched the reporter, reviewed your message platform and considered the two key points you want to communicate during the interview."


"The Times obtained the communications from a grower. . . ."

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Getting it wrong on immigrants


African American Film Critics Name "Selma" Best Film

"Selma, the first studio film to center around Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is the big winner among the critics representing the African-American Film Critics Association (AAFCA)," the association announced on Monday.


"The Paramount film earned multiple awards from AAFCA for Best Director, (Ava DuVernay); Best Actor for David Oyelowo and Best Song for its John Legend/Common theme song, 'Glory'. AAFCA will hold its annual award ceremony and dinner on Wednesday, February 4, 2015 at 7:00pm the Taglyan Complex in Hollywood, CA. . . ."

The winners:

"Best Actor David Oyelowo, Selma (Paramount)

"Best Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Belle (Fox Searchlight)

"Best Supporting Actress Octavia Spencer, Black and White ([Relativity])

"Best Supporting Actor Tyler Perry, Gone Girl (Fox) /J.K. Simmons, Whiplash ([Sony Pictures Classic])


"Best World Cinema, Timbuktu (Les Films du Worso)

"Breakout Performance, Tessa Thompson, Dear White People [Roadshow Attraction])

"Best Director Ava [DuVernay], Selma (Paramount)

"Best Screenplay Gina Prince-Bythewood, Beyond the Lights ([Relativity])

"Best Music John Legend/Common, 'Glory' (Selma soundtrack)

"Best Ensemble Get On Up (Universal)

"Best Independent Film Dear White People ([Roadside Attractions])

"Best Animation The Boxtrolls (Focus)

"Best Documentary Life Itself (Magnolia) . . ."

Press-Freedom Group Focuses on Jailed Journalists

"Reporters Without Borders (RWB), the Paris-based press freedom watchdog, has launched a fund-raising campaign based around the plight of jailed journalists in Eritrea, China and Saudi Arabia," Roy Greenslade reported Monday for Britain's Guardian newspaper.


"The Eritrean prisoner is Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned without trial for 13 years after being arrested along with other newspaper editors in 2001.

"Isaak is reported to be dying slowly in a prison camp where detainees are tortured by being shut inside steel containers during periods of intense heat. And RWB has used that image of a container to publicise its campaign. . . ."


Short Takes

"Journalists around the world are confronting a hostage-taking epidemic of record proportions, punctuated by the death Saturday of freelance journalist Luke Somers alongside South African teacher Pierre Korkie," Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote Monday. Simon called President Obama's review of U.S. hostage policy welcome and necessary. Among other points, Simon said, "The US government should revise its current practice of advising families to 'blackout' news of the kidnapping . . ."


"After a 25-year career at La Opinión, Pilar Marrero has resigned from L.A.'s Spanish-language daily," Veronica Villafañe reported Monday for her Media Moves site. "Today is her last day at the paper. She has accepted a job as Director of Communications for L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solís. She starts the new job on January 7. . . ."

Visitation and memorial services for sports columnist Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch are scheduled this week at Schrader Funeral Homes, 14960 Manchester Road, Ballwin, Mo., 63011, according to Mark J. Spears, chairman of the National Association of Black Journalists Sports Task Force. Visitation is from 3 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, and a memorial service is set for 11:30 a.m. Thursday. Burwell died Dec. 4 after a short battle with cancer. He was 59. "Bryan's family says flowers are a welcome observance as Bryan loved flowers," according to Spears. "However, in lieu of flowers donations are welcome to the Barnes-Jewish Siteman Cancer Center in care of Dr. Gerald Linette."


"When President Obama laid out his vision for strict regulation of Internet access last month, he was voicing views thought to be held by many at the most liberal end of the Democratic Party," Edward Wyatt reported Sunday for the New York Times. "A few days later, however, the N.A.A.C.P., the National Urban League and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition sent representatives, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, to tell Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, that they thought Mr. Obama's call to regulate broadband Internet service as a utility would harm minority communities by stifling investment in underserved areas and entrenching already dominant Internet companies. Their displeasure should not be read as a sign that most civil rights organizations were unhappy with Mr. Obama's plan, however. When it comes to the details of Internet regulation, groups that otherwise have much common ground simply don't see eye to eye. . . ."

"The National Association of Broadcasters announced that Shonda Rhimes, creator and executive producer of 'Grey’s Anatomy' and 'Scandal' will be inducted into the NAB Broadcasting Hall of Fame, Deborah D. McAdams wrote Friday for tvtechnology.com.