The Republican National Committee and the putative GOP standard-bearer, Mitt Romney, have ceded the National Association of Black Journalists convention to the Democrats, rejecting invitations to send speakers or panelists that the Democrats eagerly accepted.
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. addressed the convention Wednesday on its opening night, delivering his campaign's talking points. A Friday afternoon session, "A Working Journalist's Guide: Obama Administration Insiders You Need to Know," featured four press contacts in the Obama administration. Additionally, at least three representatives from the Obama reelection campaign were available to discuss the state of the campaign, also on Friday afternoon.
"We reached out consistently and vigorously to the Romney campaign asking that he appear," Sonya Ross, a Washington editor at the Associated Press who chairs the NABJ's Political Journalism Task Force, told Journal-isms.
"We also made overtures to the Republican National Committee. We wanted to make sure we reached both political parties to ask them to participate. The DNC," she said, referring to the Democratic National Committee, "came to us and asked us, 'Can we be there?' . . . We got no such overtures from the Republican National Committee.
"If the Republican National Committee wants to come tonight or Saturday or Sunday, we would love to see them."
The absence of Republican representatives, even as audience members, was evident in a Friday morning session, "Covering Race in the 2012 Elections," moderated by Jesse Washington, Associated Press writer on race and ethnicity. Panelists were Kevin Merida, national editor at the Washington Post, and Michelle Jaconi, executive producer of CNN's Cross Platform Programming Unit.
No one was present to articulate Romney or Republican views after Les Payne, a retired Newsday editor and columnist, asked whether in light of the media coverage of President Obama's ties to his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, journalists should be exploring Romney's views about Mormon tenets on race.
"Mitt Romney has not been pushed to do that," Washington told Payne. Merida agreed that the media have a responsibility to explore the issue. "You want to try to explain these people," Merida said of the candidates, "and give people everything that might help in their decision making." Audience members agreed, but none was the Republican operative who would have been expected to monitor such a panel had the party been at the convention.
The Mormon church has historically excluded African Americans, changing its policy only in recent decades. Early Mormon leader Brigham Young believed that Native Americans were cursed and said in an 1863 sermon, "Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain, the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so."
In April, a Wisconsin voter took issue with Romney's faith in a campaign event.
"I guess a lot of people say that, you know, your Mormon faith may not be a concern in the election. But I think, it might be," Bret Hatch, a 28-year-old from Green Bay who is unemployed, told Romney then, Sara Murray reported in the Wall Street Journal.
"He began reading a verse he said was from Mormon scripture, prompting Mr. Romney to cut him off," Murray continued.
" 'I'm sorry, we're just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view, but if you have a question, I'll be happy to answer your question,' Mr. Romney said.
" 'I guess my question is, do you believe it's a sin for a white man to marry and procreate with a black?' Mr. Hatch said.
" 'No,' Mr. Romney said tersely, 'Next question.' "
Jack White, a contributor to theRoot.com and former Time magazine correspondent, asked at the NABJ forum, "How much do you think people know about what Mormons believe now? I haven't seen these stories. I don't think people understand what Mormonism is. We know about Obama's relationship with his white girlfriend" in his college days, White said in a reference to the new book "Barack Obama: The Story" by David Maraniss.
Jaconi said on the panel that the Mormon church "doesn't have the same values of transparency that other religions have and that journalists have," and that CNN's Belief Blog had just received access to the church for a documentary on Romney's Mormonism. "We'd been trying for over a year," Jaconi said.
Republicans have captured the white vote in every presidential election since 1972, and during the recent primary season, GOP candidates were criticized for their failure to reach out to African Americans.
Still, some GOP hopefuls have courted African Americans if only to appeal to white independents who believe that a president should be accessible to all segments of society.
And while the campaign turned down NABJ, it announced that the candidate would address the NAACP convention in Houston, which runs July 7-12.
Nevertheless, the NAACP is different from an organization of questioning journalists.
At the Unity convention in 2008, then-Sen. Obama made a last minute Sunday appearance after returning from an eight-day trip to the Mideast and Europe. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., then the presumed Republican nominee, skipped Unity for Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, to appear at Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Summit and Livestrong Presidential Town Hall on Cancer.
Tara Wall, who was hired in May as a senior communications adviser to the Romney campaign to handle outreach to African Americans, has not responded to emails and telephone calls from Journal-isms.
Time magazine received the 2012 Thumbs Down Award from the National Association of Black Journalists Friday "for its lack of diversity within its reporting corps," NABJ announced at its convention in New Orleans.
"TIME Magazine once boasted a number of black correspondents, including Wallace Terry, Jack White, Janice Simpson, Sylvester Monroe," NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said in a statement.
"However the publication currently does not have a full-time black correspondent. Additionally, the magazine has eliminated blacks from major news coverage, including a special commemorative issue on the 10th anniversary of the [Sept. 11, 2001] terrorist attacks that depicted no African Americans. Also, the magazine recently lost its only black correspondent. We feel that TIME Magazine can do more to champion diversity, this is why we are bringing attention to TIME Magazine."
"That's why I'm here," Howard Chua-Eoan, news director of Time's magazine and website, told Journal-isms at the convention. Chua-Eoan said he was available to meet with potential hires, though he did not have a recruiting booth because Time decided to skip the NABJ career fair in favor of the Unity convention Aug. 1-4 in Las Vegas.
The Thumbs Down award is given annually for reporting, commentary or other content found to be racially insensitive, or for practices at odds with the mission of NABJ.
When Time published its 9/11 issue with no blacks depicted and was asked about the omission, Time spokeswoman Kerri Chyka said by email: "TIME is declining to comment at this time."
When Steven Gray left the Washington bureau in December as Time's only black correspondent, spokeswoman Ali Zelenko did not respond to requests for comment. When other staff changes were announced and no African Americans were included, however, Zelenko insisted, "diversity remains an important priority."
Joseph Williams, an African American reporter at Politico, was suspended after he suggested on television that Mitt Romney was comfortable only around white people and a conservative website published old tweets in which Williams ridiculed Romney.
"On MSNBC today, Williams made a remark suggesting Mitt Romney was only comfortable around white people," Dylan Byers wrote Thursday for Politico. "The video was first flagged by conservative website Washington Free Beacon. Breitbart.com ran the video and also flagged a series of tweets Williams had written that made fun of the Republican candidate, particularly in regard to his wealth.
" 'Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams's public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment to this responsibility,' POLITICO's founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to the staff. 'His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way.' "
". . . POLITICO journalists have a clear and inflexible responsibility to cover politics fairly and free of partisan bias. This expectation extends to all of the public platforms in which we and our reporting and analysis appears, including cable TV and social media platforms like Twitter."
Ironically, in reporting on Romney's vice presidential prospects, VandeHei and Politico writer Mike Allen reported in May, "One Republican official familiar with the campaign's thinking said it will be designed to produce a pick who is safe and, by design, unexciting — a deliberate anti-Palin. The prized pick, said this official: an 'incredibly boring white guy.' "
Williams emailed Byers on Friday evening:
"I regret that this happened. I understand and respect John Harris' point of view — that I've compromised Politico's objectivity, and my own. At this point my suspension without pay is still indefinite, and I don't know what management has in mind as an appropriate sanction, so I can't object or appeal. Politico still employs me, but the review process hasn't started in earnest so my future remains unclear.
"Having covered the Shirley Sherrod firing and seen the fallout from James O'Keefe's brand of journalism, I'm not surprised a small group with internet access and an ambitious agenda can affect reporting and distort analysis of political news. It's quite unfortunate and incredibly frustrating, however, that I landed in the crosshairs this time, calling Politico's integrity into question and jeopardizing a job and a career that I love."
One tweet showed Williams commenting on this tweet: "Dad straps 4 kids to car hood and drives away, police say." Williams wrote, "told officers they were driving 'romney style.' "
In another, a message read, "Romney: 'Nothing particularly surprising that I've had the occasion to eat.' Williams retweeted it with the comment, "Jeeves knows my taste."
A third message read, "Either Ann Romney meant Mitt is flaccid or that when we 'unzip him' we'll find he's a dick." Williams retweeted it, adding, "Or both."
Harris did not respond to a request for comment. Williams emailed Journal-isms in response to a question, "Politico to my knowledge doesn't have written standards" for tweets or television appearances.
John Nolte, breitbart.com: Politico Reporter Tweets Ann Romney Penis Joke
As can be expected, the Miami Herald and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland had vastly different front pages Friday after LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals Thursday night. James was voted most valuable player.
The Plain Dealer played the game in the second most visible position under the headline, "LeBron: 3-time MVP now a champion."
In New Orleans for the convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, Debra Adams Simmons, editor of the Plain Dealer, told Journal-isms that the national perception that Northeast Ohio monolithically hates James for deserting the Cleveland Cavaliers is false.
Adams Simmons spoke Friday night at a reception sponsored by Hampton University.
"If you're young, black and you tweet, you didn't care," she said of James' decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat. "Young people in Northeast Ohio, Akron people in Northeast Ohio and black people in Northeast Ohio tend to be Heat supporters. Many of these people wanted to see LeBron get his ring. The majority of African Americans wanted him to get his ring.
"The national media fell down on the job by presenting a singular reaction to the outcome. As the mother of 12- and 14-year-old boys who moved to Akron in 2003 [I saw that] my own sons wanted the Heat to win.
"The Plain Dealer has written that story."
Adams Simmons looked around the room. "What's disconcerting is the number of people in the room who drank the Kool-Aid that ESPN fed them," she said.
Dan Le Batard, Miami Herald: Burden finally lifted for Pat Riley, LeBron James and Miami Heat
Tom Reed, Plain Dealer: LeBron James' title unburdens him … and Cleveland Cavaliers fans
DeWayne Wickham, the USA Today and Gannett News Service columnist who is interim chair of the North Carolina A&T Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, is leaving to establish a school of communication at Morgan State University, Wickham said in a letter Thursday to Dr. Goldie Byrd, dean of the College of Arts and Science.
At Morgan State, concentrations in literature and language, creative writing and language arts, and minors in journalism or in film and digital storytelling now come under the English Department.
"Next month, I will take on the responsibility of establishing a school of communication at Morgan State University," Wickham wrote. "This new school was approved by Morgan's board in 2008, and the university is now moving to bring it into existence. Morgan has given me the honor of conceptualizing this school and serving as its founding dean. . . . "
Morgan State officials did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment.
"Ann Curry is reportedly being phased out of her co-anchor position at 'Today,' but a group of fans is trying to turn back the tide and persuade NBC otherwise with an online petition," Tim Kenneally wrote Friday for theWrap.com.
"The petition, posted on Change.org on Friday, has so far attracted 500 signatures from Curry loyalists intent on keeping her face on the morning airwaves.
" 'Dear Today Show at NBC,' the petition reads. 'We Love Ann Curry! Ann Curry Loves us and the Today Show!'
"The petition was launched by Phoenix. Ariz. resident Stephen Crowley, an Iraq war veteran who says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that Curry's presence on the 'Today' show has had a steadying influence on him."
Jenna Goudreau, Forbes: Ann Curry's Exit: Behind The Scenes Of A Public Demotion
Keach Hagey and Christopher S. Stewart, Wall Street Journal: 'Today' Is Just Part of Slip In the Stature of NBC News
Tom Huang, Poynter Institute: How race factors into the conversation about Ann Curry’s possible ouster from 'Today' Show
Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: Ann Curry: 'Am I Not Good Enough?'
James Poniewozik, Time: Why Didn't Morning TV Love Ann Curry?
Brian Stelter, New York Times: NBC Prepares to Replace Ann Curry on 'Today'
"African-Americans were disproportionately hit in last week's layoffs at The Times-Picayune, meaning the newspaper serving the majority-black city will become less diverse unless the difference is made up with new hires," Steve Myers wrote Wednesday for the Poynter Institute.
". . . The Times-Picayune reported that 84 of 173 people in the newsroom were laid off, a loss of 48.5 percent. According to a list I assembled (based on conversations with multiple people in the newsroom) 14 of 26 African-Americans in the newsroom lost their jobs — a 53.8 percent cut. That includes editors, reporters and administrative personnel.
"A 5.3 percentage-point difference may not appear to be much, but it erodes the newspaper's diversity. The Times-Picayune didn't participate in the latest ASNE census, but according to the list I assembled, the newsroom would have been 15 percent African-American before the layoffs. If no African-Americans are hired into the new operation, it would be 13.5 percent."
Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, editor of the Fox News Latino website, is leaving at the end of the month for Rome, where his wife, author Jhumpa Lahiri, has been offered a residency this coming academic year, he has told colleagues.
". . . after mulling it over, we have decided that it is an opportunity too good to let pass," he said in a message.
Before being named to the new site in 2010, Vourvoulias-Bush had been corporate executive editor of impreMedia, overseeing such news products as El Diario/La Prensa and La Opinion. He had previously worked at Time magazine's Latin American edition, and was a research associate on Latin America for the Council of Foreign Relations.
Fox News Latino, a predominantly English-language website targeting Latinos, has developed an identity separate from the conservative Fox News Channel and website.
"The National Newspaper Publishers Association has announced the appointment of William Tompkins to the post of President and CEO of the 69 year-old trade organization. The appointment was made today during the NNPA's annual convention in Atlanta," Target Market News reported on Wednesday.
"The selection of Tompkins culminates a nine-month search conducted by Carrington & Carrington, Ltd. According to criteria that circulated throughout the industry, the new president will be charged with developing a new vision for the organization and implementing strategic plans and programs that serve the needs of the more than 200 Black community newspapers represented by NNPA. The trade group is commonly referred to as The Black Press of America."
"Tompkins, 55, currently heads his own consultancy firm, Williams Tompkins Associates, in Los Angeles. Before starting his company, Tompkins held positions at Eastman Kodak, including General Manager and Vice President of the Motion Picture Film Group and Chief Marketing Officer for the company's Entertainment Imaging division.
"Prior to joining Kodak, Tompkins spent 19 years at The Washington Post, last serving as Vice President of Marketing."
Yvette Walker, night news director at the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Media Ethics at the University of Central Oklahoma, is filing reports for Journal-isms on the International Press Institute's World Congress that begins Sunday in Trinidad.
By Yvette Walker
Telling people you are going to Port of Spain can be confusing. No, I'm not headed to Spain, I'm going to Trinidad. The International Press Institute is holding its World Congress there beginning Sunday, and I'll be on a panel about Ethics and Social Media.
So, off to Port of Spain, Trinidad. I'm leaving a few days early to take advantage of a little sun and fun, and who wouldn't? Over the next few days, I'll be blogging about the country and the conference.
Trinidad and its sister island, Tobago, is just north of the northern tip of South America in the North Atlantic Ocean. It's closer to Venezuela than to Jamaica or even Puerto Rico, but it's still considered part of the Caribbean. Its working press are members of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers.
Its proximity to South America is important because certain South American countries are repressive in press freedom rights. Venezuela is ranked 117th of 179 countries on the press freedom index. Honduras, one of the worst countries for press freedom, is 136th.
By comparison, the United States is ranked 47th (dropping after responses to the Occupy protests). Finland is at the top of the list.
Wesley Gibbings, president of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, said the World Congress will help the group shine a light on its work.
"Though we have generally escaped the worst impacts of impunity, violence and official aggression, Caribbean social communicators and journalists have not eluded the potentially muting impacts of self-censorship, unenlightened regulation and challenging economic, social and political circumstances," he said.
The IPI has defended press freedom for more than 60 years. It holds a World Congress every year. Alison Bethel McKenzie, executive director of the IPI, said in a statement: "The three-day IPI World Congress will examine the many challenges, concerns and opportunities facing the media not only in the Caribbean, but also in the rest of the Americas and around the globe."
Upon arriving in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Wednesday night after 13 hours of travel, I was happy to arrive at the Hyatt Regency, check in and go to bed. But at check-in, Alison Bethel McKenzie, International Press Institute executive director, came and embraced me. Alison and I have known each other for years and worked together at the Detroit News many years ago. I sat with her and CNN International's Jim Clancy on the hotel veranda to chat about the upcoming World Congress.
Alison said the Congress is being held in the Caribbean at the overwhelming request of its delegations, especially that from Nigeria, one of its larger contingents. "The president of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, Wesley Gibbings, is based here, and we have a strategic partnership with ACM. Plus they have a vibrant media, a free media, and the government was receptive. And so, that's why we chose Trinidad and Tobago," McKenzie said.
As I mentioned earlier, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago are just north of Venezuela, in South America. While the ACM boasts a free press, Venezuela's is not so free. That dichotomy isn't lost on McKenzie and the IPI.
"Usually the IPI Congress is only conducted in English; this year we're having translation into Spanish, and we have quite a representation from Latin America. We have Colombia, Argentina, Chile; we have quite a delegation from Venezuela. And a lot of our topics . . . one of our panel sessions, for example, focuses on the big three — Venezuela, Chile and Cuba, and their impact on the region at large."
McKenzie said the most dangerous places for journalists are in Latin America, led by Mexico and Honduras. "This is a perfect time to have it here, have a chance to engage the Caribbean, which is often ignored when you talk about press freedom and journalism ethics."
Clancy said of the decision to convene in Port of Spain, "This is an opportunity to come together with journalists, like myself, who are concerned about press freedom around the world. It's a unique opportunity . . . It's a very important time for us to discuss the challenges we face and the opportunities here in the Caribbean."
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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.