News to Use: The Browning of America
New U.S. Census figures showing that white births are no longer a majority in the United States have implications for the news media as well as for the rest of society.
The same figures pegged the "minority" population at 37 percent, a far cry from the 12.3 percent counted in newsrooms in the 2012 survey of the American Society of News Editors, which included newspapers and online outlets. While the U.S. population of people of color is rising, the number in newsrooms is sliding, down from 12.7 percent the previous year.
ASNE has a goal of having the proportion of journalists of color in newsrooms match those in the general population by 2025.
In local television, the figures are better, but not so for local radio. The Radio-Television Digital News Association put the TV workforce at 20.5 percent people of color and for radio, 7.1 percent [PDF].
If the attention that media outlets paid to the new census figures is an indication of how much they understand their significance, then not all news organizations get it.
The story led the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Dallas Morning News and the South Florida SunSentinel, among others. It was on the front page of such papers as the Denver Post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Courier-Journal in Louisville and the Salt Lake Tribune. But it was missing from the front pages of the majority of newspapers, according to an informal survey of Thursday's front pages displayed by the Newseum.
Howard Saltz, editor of the SunSentinel, was surprised to hear that it wasn't on more front pages. "Anytime you get something that's going to be unexpected by the reader, it's a strong story for the front page or our lead position," he told Journal-isms by telephone, explaining why the story led Friday's editions.
The census showed that as of July 1, 2011, 50.4 percent of the nation's population age 1 or under was either Hispanic or a race other than white. "That is a surprising percentage. In our case it's 70 percent" in Broward County. "That's even moreso," Saltz continued. "Secondly, I really like stories that say things about us as a culture or as a society. This speaks volumes about that. Twenty years from now you'll look back [at this.] There's that historical notion as well . . . as a community of South Florida and as a country. That's strong stuff."
Keith Woods, NPR's vice president, diversity in news and operations, told Tracie Powell, writing for the Poynter Institute, that NPR was paying attention. "Our desire, organizationally, is to grow our audience among people of color in a country where the future news consumer will look like those census numbers we are looking at today," Woods told Powell on Thursday. "At this moment NPR doesn't do that, so our work remains ahead of us."
The news organizations that did recognize the story's significance delved into the implications for their immediate area or teased out other ways to make the figures meaningful.
"Majority of U.S. Babies Are Now Minorities — but in Utah, Only 28 Percent Are," read the headline in the Salt Lake Tribune.
"Latinos will soon be California's largest ethnic group, Census says," said the Sacramento Bee.
"Census shows blacks moving to Macomb as more leave Detroit, Wayne County," Mike Wilkinson wrote in the Detroit News.
On the Internet, Jay Smooth, host of New York’s long-running "Underground Railroad," a hip-hop show on WBAI-FM, produced a video intended to reassure whites.
Colleen Curry of ABC News reported: "The number of radical hate groups and militias has exploded in recent years in reaction to the changing makeup of America, and new census figures showing the majority of babies born in 2011 were non-white could fuel those simmering tensions, experts who track hate groups warned."
Writing for Phyllis Schlafly's Eagle Forum, "Roger" said of the new figures, "It is not a good thing. The immigrants do not share American values, so it is a good bet that they will not be voting Republican when they start voting in large numbers."
On examiner.com, "Political Buzz" columnist Ryan Witt was more blunt: "Simply put, Republicans will find it impossible to win any national election in the future if the current percentages stay the same."
Columnist Colbert I. King, writing for Saturday's Washington Post, wondered whether Mitt Romney gets it. Recalling the putative GOP presidential nominee's speech at Liberty University last week, King wrote, "Missing in his Liberty offering, as with some other Romney speeches, is any recognition — not praises, mind you, but simple acknowledgment — that 21st-century America is more than a white, middle-class country."
A census provides a story for everyone. Iranian-Americans wrote about why their numbers seemed to dwindle.
NPR's "Talk of the Nation" looked at the larger picture, "how this trend will affect policy in the country, particularly with regard to education and social programs."
Jennifer Wheary of the progressive think tank Demos, where longtime New York Times op-ed columnist Bob Herbert took up residence, answered the traditional "so-what" question with more urgency than detachment:
"So here's the 'So What?,' Wheary wrote. "When we look at who has access to financial security, or who has hope for a stable economic future, African-Americans and Hispanics are in worse shape than whites.
"That means that the 1 out of 2 children born in 2011 to African-American and Hispanic families will face additional challenges to achieving that stability.
"African-American and Hispanic families are each twice as likely as white families to be living in poverty. . . . The stats are equally dismaying if we consider access to quality schooling, high school and college graduation rates, savings rates, employment rates, value of home equity, value of assets, etc. — unfortunately, etc.
"We have a problem on our hands when the groups that have the least access to economic opportunity are becoming the majority. Creating opportunity for Americans was already a priority, but our demographic future makes it an immediate imperative."
Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: So America is going off-white, and "extremely literate conservative African American" needed.
Ronald Campbell, Orange County Register: Tipping point for California: New census data shows Hispanics will outnumber whites sometime in 2013.
Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: Chill, America — a shift in demographics is what we do
Jeneba Ghatt, Politic365.com: Minorities Take Over, (Some) White People Head For the Hills
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: America's Non-White Majority Won't Remake the GOP Anytime Soon
Carol Morello and Ted Mellnik, Washington Post: Census: Minority babies are now majority in United States
Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times (via Orlando Sentinel): More minority births signal major shifts ahead for Florida
Doris Nhan, National Journal: Census: Minorities Constitute 37 Percent of U.S. Population
David Olson, Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.: CENSUS: Almost all Inland growth thanks to Latinos, Asians
Brian Palmer, Slate: Are There Really Just Five Racial Groups?
Jeffrey Passel, Gretchen Livingston and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center: Explaining Why Minority Births Now Outnumber White Births
Allie Shah, Star Tribune, Minneapolis: The changing face of Minnesota
"The Los Angeles Times will use a $1-million grant from the Ford Foundation to expand its coverage of key beats, including immigration and ethnic communities in Southern California, the southwest U.S. border and the emerging economic powerhouse of Brazil," James Rainey reported for the Times.
"Times Editor Davan Maharaj announced the gift Thursday, calling it 'great news' that will bolster coverage of subjects vitally important to readers.
"A Ford Foundation spokesman said that, as media organizations face challenges funding reporting through advertising and traditional revenue streams, 'we and many other funders are experimenting with new approaches to preserve and advance high-quality journalism.'
"The Times plans to use the two-year grant to hire journalists who will focus on the Vietnamese, Korean and other immigrant communities, the California prison system, the border region and Brazil. Maharaj said that although The Times already covered those beats, the reporting was typically done by journalists who also had other responsibilities. The five new reporters will provide more robust coverage of those topics."
". . . Ford Foundation spokesman Joe Voeller said the nation's second-largest foundation would consider extending the grant beyond two years. The Foundation and Times editors said the money comes with no strings attached and the newspaper will have complete editorial control over the new reporters and their coverage."
The surprising death of pop star Donna Summer, who rode the 1970s disco wave to prominence, was worldwide news. But the hometown paper can provide a perspective that no one else can, and so it is with the editorial in the Boston Globe for Saturday, "Donna Summer’s powerful voice was the soul of Dorchester." Editorial Page Editor Peter Canellos told Journal-isms it was the result of a "combination of all of the ideas" in Friday's editorial meeting, attended by six staff members.
"Every dance track on the radio today, every wedding that ends with the anthem 'Last Dance,' owes a debt to Donna Summer, the Dorchester-born singer and songwriter who died this week at 63," the editorial began. "Summer's big, smooth, confident voice, honed through years of singing gospel as a child at Grant AME Church in the South End, helped catapult her to stardom. As a singer and a lyricist, Summer channeled emotion and empathy. To generations of young people in dance clubs, her songs represented power, sensuality, and freedom.
"Summer also represented Boston, though that wasn't always known to the larger world. To many people outside New England, the image of the Boston music scene is bound up with white artists such as Aerosmith, the Cars, or New Kids on the Block. Summer was as much a product of her hometown, if not more so: a symbol of the many urban children who grow up singing, and never stop. She visited her old church over the years and sang at the 2004 World Series. As recently as 2010, she raised money for Action for Boston Community Development, the antipoverty agency that provided her with services as a child. In 2008, Summer told the Globe that Boston 'is a part of me.' The opposite is just as true, and always will be."
Mesfin Fekadu, Associated Press: Donna Summer, Queen of Disco, dies at 63
Patrice Gaines, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Honoring Disco's Pioneer
Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald: Boston gal Donna Summer became disco 'Hot Stuff'
Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer: Donna Summer, a disco diva who defined an era
Jeremy Kinser, the Advocate: Donna Summer: The Music Legend Dies At 63
Bob Lefsetz, Lefsetz Letter: Donna Summer
Frances Martel, mediaite.com: Touré On Donna Summer: Anti-Disco Movement Pushed People To 'Get Back In The Closet'
Peter Ogburn, FishbowlDC: POTUS Mourns Donna Summer
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Last dance for Donna Summer and Chuck Brown
Marc Schneider, Billboard: Rock Hall Blames Voters for Donna Summer Snub, Calls Omission an 'Error'
Rob Sheffield, Rolling Stone: Dim All the Lights for Donna Summer
Tavis Smiley, "Tavis Smiley Show," Public Radio International: Donna Summer (audio)
Jacqueline Trescott, Washington Post: Donna Summer: Intimate and Untouchable, Trying To Cool Her Image (April 3, 1978)
In 2005, the Carnegie Foundation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation created a national initiative led by five of America's leading research universities. The goal was to advance the U.S. news business by helping to revitalize schools of journalism.
"This was before Facebook got big," Eric Newton, senior adviser to the president at Knight Foundation, explained in a May 11 speech before a conference of journalism educators. "Before Twitter, Instagram, Groupon or Pinterest. Before the iPhone or the iPad. Before the largest collapse in American newsroom history, with vanishing local journalism jobs totaling more than 15,000," Borderzine reported.
"Radical change requires radical reform," Newton said at the "Journalism Education in the Digital Age" conference at Middle Tennessee State University. "The digital age is turning journalism and communication upside down and inside out. It should be doing the same to journalism and communication education. You tell me: Is it? Has your program turned upside down and inside out?
"In my opinion it should, if you want to ride the four transformational trends demonstrated by Carnegie-Knight schools, and all top tier schools. To be relevant in the future, here’s what universities should do:
"1. Expand their role as community content providers. University hospitals save lives. University law clinics take cases to the Supreme Court. University news labs can reveal truths that help us right wrongs. Based on the teaching hospital model, they can provide the news people need to run their communities and their lives.
"2. Innovate. No longer must you be the caboose on the train of American media. You can be an engine of change. You can create both new uses of software and new software itself. Anyone can create the future of news and information. Anyone includes us.
"3. Teach open, collaborative methods. No longer must students be lone wolf reporters or cogs in a company wheel. In small, integrated teams of designers, entrepreneurs, programmers and journalists, students learned to rapidly prototype news projects and ideas.
"4. Connect to the whole university. This can mean team-teaching a science journalism class with actual scientists. Or creating centers with engineers or entrepreneurs. Or diving so deeply into topic expertise our colleagues at Harvard call it, as they did for Carnegie-Knight, 'knowledge journalism.' "
The initiative is formally called the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.
The Capital Press Club, founded in 1944 in the nation's capital when the National Press Club did not accept black journalists as members, lately has been an organization of marketing, public relations and other "communications professionals." But Hazel Trice Edney, its new president, told Journal-isms this week, "The strongest aspect of my vision is to return the historical Capital Press Club to its original mission and purpose."
". . . the CPC was initially founded by journalists. As stated in the original history, there is still 'very important unfinished business of American democracy — civil rights and equal opportunity.' "
Edney was elected by the press club board April 19 and took office on May 1. She is president and CEO of Trice Edney Communications, editor-in-chief of Trice Edney News Wire, former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service and Blackpressusa.com and former interim executive director of the NNPA Foundation.
"Although we will continue to include strong membership and networking opportunities for all disciplines in the media/communications field, we are currently working to draw professional journalists back to the organization in order to re-establish the balance," she told Journal-isms by email.
"We are also discussing a long-range vision of expanding nationally. I have already reached out to Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Denise Rolark Barnes and other journalists . . . who I hope will serve as advisors on some of these matters. I also intend to form a group of CPC journalists who will specialize in interviewing high-level government officials, etc., such as President Obama — breaking barriers that have either never moved or seem to have been reset by forces of habit or antiquated policies."
According to a news release, "The new leadership team also includes First Vice President Robyn Wilkes, Director of Communications, Greater Washington Urban League; Second Vice President Sherrie Edwards-[Lassiter], Senior Account Manager, Campbell and Company; Treasurer Joan Davion of The Davion Group; Immediate Past President Nyree Wright, Senior Vice President, MSLGROUP Americas; and [Derrick] Kenny, who is also Digital Media Manager, Montgomery County Office of Cable and Broadband Services." Kenny is press club president emeritus and owner of Bold American Marketing.
"The Obama administration Friday morning continued its headlong attack on the right of reporters to protect their confidential sources in leak investigations," Michael Calderone and Dan Froomkin reported for the Huffington Post.
"Before a panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, a Department of Justice lawyer argued that New York Times reporter James Risen should be forced to testify in the trial of former CIA agent Jeffrey Sterling, who is charged with leaking classified information to Risen about a botched plot against the Iranian government.
"Rather than arguing the specifics of the case, DOJ appellate lawyer Robert A. Parker asserted that there is no reporter's privilege when a journalist receives an illegal leak of national security secrets."
"One of the moments in the 2012 presidential race that we all know was coming arrived this week: the Obama campaign launched its first round of attacks on Mitt Romney [video] over his tenure at Bain Capital," Jay Jones reported Friday for Columbia Journalism Review.
"Unsurprisingly, there was a swing-state emphasis to the offensive. In addition to new TV commercials and a website targeting 'Romney economics,' the President's people organized news conferences in three battleground states — Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio — using labor leaders and prominent Democrats to attack the record of the presumptive Republican nominee. Their focus was Stage Stores, a chain of clothing stores that filed for bankruptcy and reportedly shed 6,000 jobs after Bain sold most of its interest in the company at a huge profit in the late 1990s.
"The Obama campaign's strategy also posed a challenge for reporters at local media outlets: Would they take the story served up on a silver platter, or get deeper into the complexities and provide the necessary balance? A look at some of the coverage shows a mixed response."
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Mitt Romney failed to man up on bullying
Allen Johnson blog, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: Romney and Ricketts and racial politics
Jonathan Martin and James Hohmann, Politico: Race issues return with Rev. Jeremiah Wright
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: The fight for Hispanic votes
Sophia Nelson, USA Today: Why Romney should pursue black voters
Wendy Weiser, Nieman Watchdog: The mean-spirited, massive drive to cut down the vote, state by state
"Louisiana is the world's prison capital," Cindy Chang wrote Sunday for the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, beginning an eight-part series.
"The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's.
"The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash. A majority of Louisiana inmates are housed in for-profit facilities, which must be supplied with a constant influx of human beings or a $182 million industry will go bankrupt.
"Several homegrown private prison companies command a slice of the market. But in a uniquely Louisiana twist, most prison entrepreneurs are rural sheriffs, who hold tremendous sway in remote parishes like Madison, Avoyelles, East Carroll and Concordia. A good portion of Louisiana law enforcement is financed with dollars legally skimmed off the top of prison operations. . . .
"Meanwhile, inmates subsist in bare-bones conditions with few programs to give them a better shot at becoming productive citizens. Each inmate is worth $24.39 a day in state money, and sheriffs trade them like horses, unloading a few extras on a colleague who has openings. A prison system that leased its convicts as plantation labor in the 1800s has come full circle and is again a nexus for profit.
"In the past two decades, Louisiana's prison population has doubled, costing taxpayers billions while New Orleans continues to lead the nation in homicides.
"One in 86 adult Louisianians is doing time, nearly double the national average. Among black men from New Orleans, one in 14 is behind bars; one in seven is either in prison, on parole or on probation. Crime rates in Louisiana are relatively high, but that does not begin to explain the state's No. 1 ranking, year after year, in the percentage of residents it locks up."
"Congratulations, Mandalit del Barco, correspondent, national desk, NPR West. Our very important competition has determined yours to be the singular Best Name In Public Radio," blogger Mike Keliher wrote Thursday. "You must have a lot of Facebook friends or something because you turned in a handy whooping against your colleague Yuki Noguchi." Del Barco replied, ". . . Btw, Mandalit comes from one of the love songs in the musical work 'Carmina Burana' (13th century lyrics put to music in the 20th century by composer Carl Orff). My parents were culturally astute and really original and loved the dramatic sound. del Barco is Peruvian."
"A project exploring diversity and accessibility of media within the greater Los Angeles area is underway at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism," the school announced Thursday. "Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the study is using a national panel of experts to discover new approaches to measuring participation and diversity in communication and media."
In Philadelphia, "Fox 29 has hired Weather Channel morning anchor Scott Williams as its new chief meteorologist, finally installing a permanent replacement for John Bolaris who left the station in January," Dan Gross reported Thursday for the Philadelphia Daily News.
Chris Broussard, sports analyst for ESPN, and gospel performer Fred Hammond are spokesmen for Ties Never Broken, a campaign by Fathers Incorporated, a New York not-for-profit organization committed to eliminating fatherlessness and increasing the commitment of men to become mentors, Oretha Winston wrote May 5 for elev8.com.
"Spanish-language television anchor and producer Frank Cairo was charged Thursday with grand theft after he allegedly stole a set of chairs and a carpet from a neighbor in Doral," Alfonso Chardy reported Thursday for the Miami Herald. ". . . According to Cairo's website, he began his television career in 1982 with Telemiami's Juventud Miami Show (Youth Miami Show). He later worked at Telemundo, Univision and Mega TV, and most recently at TV Azteca."
"According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, 55 percent of black voters in North Carolina 'believe same-sex couples should either be allowed to marry or form civil unions' — an 11-point jump from the last poll conducted on May 6 before the Tar Heel State's primaries," Gene Demby wrote Thursday for HuffPost BlackVoices. "Just a day before President Obama made his statement" endorsing same-sex marriage, "voters in North Carolina went to the polls to approve a constitutional ban on same sex marriage there. Two-thirds of the black voters cast votes in favor of the ban, according to Politico."
"Yesterday, Adult Swim uploaded a graphic announcing that there will indeed be a season four of The Boondocks," Michael Arceneaux wrote Friday for theGrio.com, referring to Aaron McGruder's newspaper-comic-turned-cartoon- series. Arceneaux said the third season was a disappointment. "Still, at this point even a weaker Boondocks is far more interesting to watch than a bunch of one-dimensional black characters hugging their way through a mundane issue in a fashion eerily similar to episodes of sitcoms that aired 20 years ago. . . ."
Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News columnist, was not impressed with plans announced Monday by Jay-Z, the rapper and entrepreneur, to come to her city on Labor Day. "Not to sound like an old fogy, but hits of his such as '99 Problems' may be catchy, but I can't get with all the b-words and other misogynistic lyrics in Jay-Z's music," she wrote Wednesday. "It felt bizarre to me to see the performer of such awful songs as 'Big Pimpin' ' and 'Girls, Girls, Girls' standing with Mayor [Michael] Nutter acting like some kind of hero. As I watched, I couldn't help wondering whether Nutter and the city officials who arranged the photo op had ever stopped and really listened to Jay-Z's lyrics. A big festival coming to Philadelphia may well be an economic generator, but it still amazes me how people can just let all the other stuff go."
Referring to events in Syria, Reporters Without Borders said it was "shocked to learn of the death sentence passed today on the citizen journalist Mohammed Abdelmawla al-Hariri for 'high treason and contacts with foreign parties'. He was arrested on 16 April just after giving an interview to the television station Al-Jazeera about the situation in his hometown of Deraa."
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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.