Sheila Johnson: BET a 'Squandered' Voice

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Sheila Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, said over the weekend that the network she left behind "reinforces negative stereotypes of young people, African Americans in particular," Brittney M. Walker wrote Monday for


Johnson was the speaker at the "Conversations and Encounters" program at the Carmel Art and Film Festival in Monterey County, Calif., this weekend.

". . . 'I think we squandered a really important cable network, when it really could have been the voice of Black America. We're losing our voice as a race as a result,' she ranted. 'I'm really worried about what our young people are watching. There are so many young people who are using the television as a babysitter. We have parents who are not being parents and not monitoring what their children are watching.' "


Will High Court Matter on Affirmative Action?

Just before the Unity '12 convention in August, Emil Guillermo, a Filipino-American journalist and blogger, wrote, ". . . Considering the Supreme Court in October will take up the biggest threat to affirmative action in years, I'm surprised I'm hearing little discussion about that issue in the pre-convention buzz."

". . . This time around, anti-affirmative action forces are using Asian-Americans as a wedge to end the policy. Even without real advocacy on the issue, more stories about this would surely help inform the public prior to the Supreme Court argument on October 10," Guillermo wrote.

It took a few months, but the discussion of affirmative action is finally taking place. The Supreme Court last week heard arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, in which white student Abigail Fisher says she was denied undergraduate admission to the university in 2008 because of her race.


Among the more provocative assertions in the aftermath is that no matter how the Supreme Court rules, affirmative action will continue.

Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote Monday in his blog for the Atlantic, ". . . The point here is not that there will be zero damage, but that affirmative action, at this point in American history, is not so much a single policy but a broad American value. This is, again, one of the great triumphs of the black freedom struggle. . . ."


Coates was commenting on a Slate piece Friday by Richard Thompson Ford, who wrote, ". . . A sweeping repudiation of affirmative action would forbid universities from considering race, but it would not require them to look only at objective criteria like grades and test scores. They would remain free to consider a host of qualitative factors, such as social disadvantage, unusual life experiences, family wealth, experience with prejudice, neighborhood, etc.

"And the rub is that a lot of these are racially correlated, and some may be hard to disentangle from race itself. . . ."


That could be why, seven years after Washington state passed the anti-affirmative action ballot measure I-200 in November 1998, threatening to disrupt Unity '99, David Sherman, director of student services for the University of Washington's Department of Communication, told Journal-isms that the initiative never affected the journalism program.

"We're committed to having a diverse population and we sort of acted accordingly," Sherman said then. "It didn't affect us and we made sure that it didn't."


Although the Supreme Court case involves college admissions, many journalists of color can relate to the case through their experiences in the workplace.  

Jarvis DeBerry, editorial writer and columnist at the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, wrote Friday, ". . . The Times-Picayune hired me as a full-time reporter in the summer of 1997. Not everybody applauded.


"One of the other interns here who had started with me that summer processed my good fortune as his — and his people's — tough luck. 'What's a white guy got to do to get hired?' he asked.

"You'd think from his question that this newspaper was overrun with black folks. Trust me: It was not. Beyond that, to the best of my knowledge, my fellow intern hadn't even inquired about a position. I was hungry. No way I wanted to return to Holly Springs, Miss., with an expensive college degree and no job.


"During one of my three interviews with editors here, I asked that he take a chance on me. 'I know I've got more potential than experience,' I said.

"So when I heard of the other intern wondering what he could have done for a job, my first thought was, 'I don't know. Ask?' He seemed to think that a job would be bestowed upon him. I didn't have the luxury of thinking that way.


". . . During oral arguments, however, Fisher's attorney took the position that his client need not prove she'd have been admitted if the policy hadn't existed. Instead, that attorney argued, 'the denial of her right to equal treatment is a constitutional injury in and of itself.' "

As columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. of the Washington Post News Media Services wrote of Fisher's argument, "That's loony. But, lucky for Fisher, in America, there is a constituency for looniness."


Ford suggested in his Slate essay not only that affirmative action would continue even if the Supreme Court ruled for Fisher, but that many whites' resentment would remain as well.

"So even if the Supreme Court kills affirmative action, the rancor and frustration surrounding it will live on, in the shape of a restless poltergeist," Ford wrote.


"Some people will continue to complain about affirmative action as long as there is a single black or Latino student in any selective university without perfect grades and test scores. This is true in California, where some applicants still complain that UC-Berkeley and UCLA are secretly considering race — despite the statewide ban on affirmative action — because the number of minority admits has risen slightly in recent years. As in employment, what looks like a nuanced professional judgment to one person looks like a smoke screen for discrimination to another."

Nick Anderson, Washington Post: Affirmative-action case worries D.C. area colleges


LZ Granderson, What's wrong with affirmative action — and why we need it

Gregory Allen Howard, Huffington Post: Old White Males: Pigs at the Affirmative Action Trough


Nick Jimenez, Caller-Times, Corpus Christi, Texas: The so-called level playing field is growing increasingly steep

Joyce Jones, Jesse Jackson Says Banning Affirmative Action in Higher Ed Is Like Ethnic Cleansing


David Leonhardt, New York Times: Race, 'Holistic Admissions' and U.C.L.A.

Carmina Ocampo, Top Five Myths About Asian Americans and Affirmative Action


Annu Subramanian, GW Hatchet, George Washington University: Race above all?

Chris W. Surprenant, Times-Picayune, New Orleans: What is the ultimate goal of today's diversity policies?


Touré, Time: Why We Still Need Affirmative Action

Obama, Romney Seek to Rein in Crowley in Debate

"Something the presidential candidates can agree on: they want their next debate moderator to be more Jim Lehrer than Martha Raddatz," Jordan Zakarin reported Monday for the Hollywood Reporter.


"According to Time's Mark Halperin, both the Obama and Romney campaigns have reached out to the Committee on Presidential Debates in the wake of CNN's Candy Crowley's promise to be actively involved in the discourse of Tuesday night's debate.

"The first woman chosen to be a presidential debate moderator in 20 years — Raddatz officiated and facilitated last week's vice presidential quip-off — Crowley has indicated on multiple occasions that she will use the questions posed by pre-screened undecided voters during the town hall-style debate as a launching point. That, however, would go against the spirit of the agreement to which both candidates previously agreed.


" . . . The agreement — on to which Crowley has not and is not required to sign — states that 'In managing the two-minute comment periods, the moderator will not rephrase the question or open a new topic … The moderator will not ask follow-up questions or comment on either the questions asked by the audience or the answers of the candidates during the debate or otherwise intervene in the debate except to acknowledge the questioners from the audience or enforce the time limits, and invite candidate comments during the two-minute response period.' "

Crowley said she was not caving. "Appearing on 'The Situation Room' on Monday, Crowley made clear to Wolf Blitzer that follow-ups would be happening, whether the campaigns or the CPD liked it or not," Jack Mirkinson reported for the Huffington Post.


Meanwhile, "The last woman to moderate a Presidential debate, Carole Simpson, appeared on MSNBC today to talk about the uproar over the campaigns complaining about CNN's Candy Crowley," Alex Weprin reported Monday for TVNewser.

"Simpson, who moderated the debate [among] Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ross Perot in 1992, did not hold back.


" 'I was very upset that women were reduced to the Vice Presidential debate and to the town hall format, which does not give a woman the chance to ask the questions. The public, the voters that are going to be there tomorrow night asking questions have very basic questions about their neighborhoods and crime and their schools and so on and I'm sure Candy might like to ask, if it doesn't come up, more questions about reproductive rights for women. I was going crazy the other night when Martha [Raddatz] was an hour and 15 minutes into the debate and there were no questions about women’s reproductive rights being perhaps set back. ' "

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post News Media Services: Liberate Big Bird and PBS


Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: Joe Biden, hero of the truth

Jarvis DeBerry,, New Orleans: Voter ID laws show that in politics, nobody wants a fair fight


Charles D. Ellison, Uptown: Obama Needs Some Of What Joe Was Drinking

Charles D. Ellison, Philadelphia Tribune: Did that first debate really matter?

Michael Getler, PBS: Big Bird: Fair or Fowl Play?

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Presidential Debates Ignore Other Big Ticket Items


Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Is Biden's performance enough to stop the slide?

Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Shoring up Obama's support

Paul Kleyman, New America Media: VP Debate Moderator Flubs Social Security, Medicare Question


Nathan McCall, Romney Made Largest Gains Among Whites Without College Degree

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Debate winner? Barack Obama

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: The unemployment rate and GOP's 'War on Reality'


ProPublica: Paul Ryan Reading Guide: The Best Reporting on the VP Candidate

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Romney-Ryan ticket should frighten middle-class Americans


Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: It Ain't Over Til It's Over

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Obama's second chance

Betsy Rothstein, Fishbowl DC: Politico Sends 8 Scribes to Long Island

Anthony Asadullah Samad, Post-Debate Analysis: Trying to Make Sense Out of Nonsense


Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Plucking Big Bird is not the answer to national financial woes

Jay Smooth, Ill Doctrine video: Laughing to Keep from Crying

Chris Tomlinson, Associated Press: Study: Middle-age Hispanics most likely to skip the vote


Touré, Daily News, New York: Don't worry, Obama's still got this

Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today Media Network: Arizona is New Swing State; American Indians, Latinos Will Decide Outcome


Jesse Washington, Associated Press: Do black people support Obama because he's black?

Alex Weprin, TVNewser: Mitt Romney Cancels On 'The View'

Alex Weprin, TVNewser: Here's The Full 'Memo Of Understanding' That The Obama Campaign, Romney Campaign and Commission on Presidential Debates Wanted To Keep Secret


DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Obama, Bill Clinton banking on each other

After Trayvon Killing, Orlando Media Hold Race Forum

"Earlier this month, New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church flung open its doors to the masses," columnist Darryl E. Owens of the Orlando Sentinel wrote Friday.


"Seekers didn't come for Bible study or a spiritual booster shot.

"No, the 200 souls who filled the Sanford sanctuary came for something else: a come-to-Jesus meeting on the devilish problem of race.


"Hosted by the Orlando Sentinel and our news partner, Fox 35, the 'Florida Forward' forum — co-moderated by your friendly neighborhood columnist — was an outgrowth of our occasional series, 'In the Shadow of Race.' (The next installment of the series — sparked by the Trayvon Martin shooting — publishes tomorrow.)

"In a lively 90 minutes, the forum (which can be viewed on, featuring panelists who'd appeared in the series, explored the challenge of overcoming the racism that bubbled in America's primordial ooze and how to clear hurdles that continue to retard maturing race relations.


"Did we resolve the problem of the colorline — something W.E.B. Du Bois in 1903 declared the 'problem of the Twentieth Century' (yet still gives us fits a century later)?

"About as much as did a certain beer summit.

". . . Blacks and whites still see race through different glasses."

Arelis R. Hernández, Orlando Sentinel: Trayvon- Zimmerman tragedy shows labels don't fit when it comes to race, ethnicity


New Brides Editor Sees 5 Staffers Let Go

Less than a month after Keija Minor was named the editor-in-chief of Brides magazine, making her the first person of color to ever hold the title at a Condé Nast Publications magazine, ". . . Brides let go about five staffers on the editorial side, though some have been asked to work part time," Erik Maza wrote Friday for Women's Wear Daily.


"Some have not been informed because they were attending bridal shows taking place this week," Maza continued. "Six employees were dismissed in business."

The Brides layoffs were among roughly 60 companywide, Maza wrote, citing "several sources."


The layoffs began Wednesday morning and continued through Thursday. Chief Executive Officer Charles Townsend sent an internal memo attributing the layoffs to "the challenges of the U.S. economy," Maza said.

Media Called Out for Superficial Cuba Coverage

"Does Cuba really matter?" Brian E. Crowley asked Friday in Columbia Journalism Review.


"If asked that question by a reporter, both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney would likely reply: Yes, absolutely.

"Unfortunately, the question of whether Cuba matters — and how, and to whom — is rarely explored in the media, even as Cuba's role in shaping politics in this key swing state is taken for granted.


". . . South Florida reporters do tend to look much deeper, and they uncover some stories that national reporters might follow to get past well-worn clichés. In a fascinating article, The Miami Herald's Juan O. Tamayo wrote in September about a new wave of Cuban immigrants moving to Tampa to get away from Miami, the historic center of the Cuban-American population.

". . . Why Tampa? To avoid Miami's anti-Castro cauldron, analysts say. But also because the defectors are less likely to be recognized on the streets and because Miami has many knowledgeable FBI agents — and too many Castro spies."


Crowley quotes Anya Laudau French, editor of the Havana Note blog and director of the New America Foundation's U.S.-Cuba Policy Initiative:

". . . President Bush was willing to separate families, while President Obama seems oblivious to the historic changes in Cuba underway today, both because real events and impacts on the island aren't the point. Domestic political advantage is."


Kathy Williams Named News Director in Jacksonville

"After serving since July as Interim News Director at First Coast News WTLV/WJXX, Kathy Williams was named News Director for the station on Friday, the Jacksonville, Fla., station announced.


". . . The Emmy-award winning Williams has experience leading television newsrooms in major markets. She began her career as a reporter, producer and anchor in Lubbock, Texas. From there, she was an anchor in Birmingham, Ala., and then an Executive Producer and Assistant News Director in Chicago (WGN, then WBBM).

"This role led to her first News Director assignment in Cleveland at WJW-TV. Williams then became the News Director at WKYC in Cleveland, a Gannett station. After that, she served as VP/News Director at KRIV-TV in Houston.


" 'I am thrilled to rejoin Gannett in this important role and look forward to serving the Jacksonville television audience with the highest quality journalism we can produce,' Williams said. . . ."

Short Takes

At Harvard University, editors of the Voice student magazine apologized for an anonymously written blog post identifying five types of people someone might encounter at a pre-job interview reception, Amy L. Weiss-Meyer reported Monday in the Harvard Crimson. The post said of Asian interviewees, "They dress in the same way (satin blouse with high waisted pencil skirt for girls, suits with skinny ties for boys), talk in the same sort-of gushy, sort-of whiny manner, and have the same concentrations and sky-high GPAs. They're practically indistinguishable from one another, but it's okay. Soon, they will be looking at the same Excel spreadsheets and spend their lunch talking about their meaningful morning conversations with the help desk of Bloomberg. Uniqueness is overrated when you make six-figure salaries."


Robert Krulwich, co-host of public radio's "Radiolab," apologized Sept. 30 because "I pushed too hard" in interviewing a Hmong veteran and his niece in the Twin Cities. ". . . our subject was President Reagan's 1982 announcement that he believed the Soviets had manufactured chemical weapons and were using them on Hmong people in Laos — and a subsequent announcement by scientists at Harvard and Yale that the President was wrong, that the so-called 'weapons' were not weapons at all, but bees relieving themselves in the forest," Krulwich explained. Bob Collins wrote Sept. 27 for Minnesota Public Radio, ". . . One producer noted — correctly — that the story appeared — at least to Eng Yang and his niece — to invalidate the Hmong loss and suffering in Laos. . . . "

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton defended Warren Brown, the Post's longtime auto industry reporter, columnist and now car reviewer, from readers who complained that Brown inappropriately injected politics into his reviews. "I think his political metaphors are enjoyable and apt. He fully discloses his bias. That's not vitriol; it's a writer's voice," Pexton wrote.


"The City of Atlanta is expected to ask a judge to drop charges against three student photo journalists arrested nearly a year ago during Occupy Atlanta protests at a downtown park," Christopher Seward reported Sunday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed indicated the city's intentions Saturday during a question-and-answer session after speaking to regional members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at a conference in Dunwoody."

"In 1934, Joel Augustus Rogers, a highly regarded journalist in the black press, published a remarkable little book of 51 pages titled 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro With Complete Proof: A Short Cut to the World History of the Negro," Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote Monday on Gates is planning a six-part PBS series, "The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross," covering 500 years and scheduled to air in fall 2013. "I have decided to share some of these 'amazing facts' in a weekly column that we will publish here on The Root over the next year as we run up to the premiere of the PBS series," Gates wrote.


Patricia Smith became a successful performance poet after she resigned from the Boston Globe in 1998 after admitting she had fabricated parts of four columns. On Sunday, Smith and the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra String Quartet performed "Blood Dazzler at the Octoroon Balls," a world premiere that "blends Smith's powerful sequence of poems about Hurricane Katrina with excerpts of a Wynton Marsalis composition exploring the musical history of New Orleans," Peggy McGlone reported Sunday for the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J. "Yesterday I got to watch my brilliant wife, Patricia Smith, perform her poetry accompanied by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra String Quartet, author Bruce DeSilva wrote on Facebook Monday. "For her it was work. For me it was a great wedding anniversary present. — Married nine years ago today!"

Applications are open for the 2013-14 class of John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford University, Dawn Garcia, managing director of the program, announced on Friday. The current fellowship class is more than half journalists of color.


Anchorwoman Anne Trujillo of Denver's KMGH-TV has been diagnosed with alopecia areata, a condition that causes round patches of hair loss and can lead to total hair loss, Joanne Ostrow reported Sunday in the Denver Post. Rather than take time off, as her boss suggested, "Instead, she revealed the diagnosis to her colleagues and went public on social media. 'Bad hair days, we all have them,' Trujillo wrote, 'and now I know this could very well be a perpetual issue for me.' "

Bernie McCain, 75, a radio veteran of more than 45 years, has died, according to Washington radio station WOL, where McCain served as its first program director. "Bernie's career began in Newark, N.J. at WNJR. Bernie worked in Radio and TV in many cities across the U.S., including Cleveland, St. Louis, Richmond, San Francisco, Oakland, Baltimore and Washington, D.C. He has also worked in Europe, South America and Africa. Bernie has held many titles including Music Director, News Director, Program Director, Talk Show Host, General Manager, News Photographer and Cinematographer. He was responsible for assisting in the launch of two stations (WKIE in Richmond & 2DK in Antigua)," the station said Monday.


"The International Press Institute (IPI) today released a final report on its June mission to four Caribbean countries, cautiously welcoming progress in three of them toward the repeal of criminal defamation and insult laws but urging political leaders to remain committed to reform," Scott Griffen wrote Monday for the Institute.

Nigerian journalist Desmond Utomwen, "cruelly brutalized by several policemen" in 2009, has won the largest award for any journalist in Nigeria's 52-year history as an independent nation, Peter Nkanga wrote Friday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. On Oct. 4, a High Court judge Thursday awarded Utomwen, a senior correspondent with TheNews Magazine/PM News, 100 million naira (US$637,000) in special damages from the Nigeria Police Force and Guarantee Trust Bank Plc. The award ". . . sets a clear precedent for the country's beleaguered press," Nkanga wrote.


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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education ( Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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