The Correspondents’ Dinner Displayed the Vast Whiteness of the White House Media

  • Speaking of the Optics of the Annual Dinner . . .
  • Another Study Says Fear of Change Elected Trump
  • 9 Journalists Killed in Afghanistan Bombings
  • JSK, Michigan Fellowships Pick Diverse Next Classes
  • Reid Issues Mea Culpa for Homophobic Remarks
  • Review Finds 1,480 Wrongful Deportation Arrests
  • N.Y. Times Names Four of Color to Politics Team
  • Nathan Conyers, Milwaukee Publisher, Dies at 72
  • Short Takes
A black man (second from left, rear) is spotted at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
Photo: Courtesy of Cheriss May (Ndemay Media Group)

Speaking of the Optics of the Annual Dinner . . .

In an oft-repeated theme criticizing Saturday night’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, Margaret Sullivan wrote Sunday in the Washington Post:


Trust in the mainstream media is low, a new populism has caught fire all over the Western world, and President Trump constantly pounds the news media as a bunch of out-of-touch elites who don’t represent the interests of real Americans.

“The annual dinner — or at least the optics of the dinner — seems to back him up.”


Sullivan meant that journalists “don their fanciest clothes and cozy up to the people they cover, alongside Hollywood celebrities who have ventured to wonky Washington to join the fun.”

But the optics also screamed “out-of-touch elites” in another way. The event seemed almost blindingly white.


To be sure, there were some people of color among the 3,000 or so attendees. With Barack and Michelle Obama gone, and whatever black attendees they might have attracted, the gala seemed whiter than usual this year. Journal-isms asked some who attended if they perceived it that way, and was told they did not. “To me, it’s always heavily white, so not sure I noticed a difference this year,” said one. “It’s always overwhelmingly white and so are the majority of those covering the President,” said another.

In 2010, Hispanics or Latinos were 16.3 percent of the U.S. population; blacks or African Americans were 12.6 percent; Asians 4.8 percent; Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders 0.2 percent; and Native Americans or Alaska Natives 0.9 percent. The census counted 6.2 percent as “some other race” and 2.9 percent as two or more races. The nation is on course to become “majority-minority” in 2044.


Looking at images of a press corps, their bosses and their guests that doesn’t look like America, what must viewers be thinking?


A Trump supporter tweets about the diversity on view.

The current leaders of the White House Correspondents’ Association were unavailable on Monday, but Jeff Mason of Reuters, 2016-17 president, was asked last year about the scant diversity in the White House press corps. He put the onus on the newsrooms from which the correspondents come. Newsroom managers must show leadership in diversifying the newsroom, he told the Journal-isms Roundtable. “Having diversity in the White House press corps is a reflection of that.”


The association is helping to address the issue through its scholarship and mentoring program, which expanded this year to include Grambling State University, a historically black institution, along with Arizona State University and Iowa State University. Howard University, another historically black college or university (HBCU), was already a participant.

The issue of inclusion in the White House press corps is more than a question of optics.


Three journalists of color — April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, who is African American, and Jim Acosta of CNN and Jorge Ramos of Univision, both Hispanic — have been disrespected by Trump. Each has indicated that if they were not at the press briefings to ask questions relating to their communities, most likely those questions wouldn’t be asked.

In an observation that no doubt holds true today, Paul Farhi wrote for the Washington Post in 2013:

Of the 53 correspondents who regularly report from the White House, seven are African American or Asian American, according to head counts by a dozen White House correspondents, journalism organizations and other sources (figures on other minorities aren’t available). ‘There are just so few,’ said Martha Joynt Kumar, a Towson University political scientist who has kept detailed tallies on participants in White House news conferences for decades.


“The numbers haven’t budged over decades, and may in fact have declined over time, according to George Condon, a National Journal reporter who has been researching the history of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA), a group that represents reporters in coverage-related issues with the administration. One measure of the group’s minimal diversity: Only three African Americans have ever served on the WHCA’s board during its 99-year history, Condon said. . . .”

Ryan served on the board from 2011 to 2014.

When Ryan was elected to the WHCA board in 2011, Sonya Ross of the Associated Press explained the significance and urged a course of action for black journalists and the editors who help mold their careers:

“The WHCA is 97 years old. [It is now 104.] Its board was all white and male for most of that time,” Ross wrote in an email. “There were no black [board] members until Bob [Ellison] was elected president for the 1990-91 term. I was elected in 1999 and served until 2003. No black correspondents have served for nearly a decade. April ran for election twice, I think, before winning this time.


“Thank God she kept trying.

Martin Luther King Jr. was born, raised, educated, defeated Jim Crow and died in less time than it took to integrate this board, which sets the terms under which presidencies get covered.


“One big reason why the pace of this integration is so slow is because black reporters are notoriously missing from the White House beat. It’s hard for us to get that job, and even harder for us to cultivate the respect necessary to win votes in such a virtually all-white environment. By contrast, some white journalists have served on that board more than once. Doug Mills, who was just elected with April, also served with me.

“While we’re challenging the networks to put black anchors in prime time, we also need to press all media to cultivate black political reporters, assign them to this prime beat and run them for that board while they’re on that job. Can’t stress enough how important that is. “


Wayne Bennett, Field Negro: Misguided outrage over a comedian.

Esther Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: Help fight fake news by subscribing to the real thing


Masha Gessen, New Yorker: How Michelle Wolf Blasted Open the Fictions of Journalism in the Age of Trump

Cristiano Lima, Politico: How to fix the White House Correspondents’ Dinner? Keep it ‘boring,’ journalists say


Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: In a world of choices, here’s a good one to pass along

Troy Patterson, New Yorker: Michelle Wolf and the Pseudo-Event of the White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner


Jay Rosen, New York Review of Books: Why Trump Is Winning and the Press Is Losing

Another Study Says Fear of Change Elected Trump

Ever since Donald J. Trump began his improbable political rise, many pundits have credited his appeal among white, Christian and male voters to ‘economic anxiety,’ Niraj Chokshi reported April 24 for the New York Times. “Hobbled by unemployment and locked out of the recovery, those voters turned out in force to send Mr. Trump, and a message, to Washington.


“Or so that narrative goes.

“A study published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences questions that explanation, the latest to suggest that Trump voters weren’t driven by anger over the past, but rather fear of what may come. White, Christian and male voters, the study suggests, turned to Mr. Trump because they felt their status was at risk.


“ ‘It’s much more of a symbolic threat that people feel,’ said Diana C. Mutz, the author of the study and a political science and communications professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where she directs the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics. ‘It’s not a threat to their own economic well-being; it’s a threat to their group’s dominance in our country over all.’ . . . ”

9 Journalists Killed in Afghanistan Bombings

Twin bombings in Kabul on Monday killed at least 25 people, including nine journalists. It was the deadliest single attack involving journalists in Afghanistan since at least 2002, and one of the most lethal ever worldwide, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists,” Mujib Mashal and Fahim Abed reported Monday for the New York Times.


“A 10th journalist, from the BBC’s Afghan service, was shot and killed in a separate attack on Monday outside Kabul.

“The bombings were the latest spasm of a conflict that began more than a decade and a half ago and shows no sign of ebbing.


“In a two-stage attack, bombers detonated a first device during the morning rush and a second roughly 40 minutes later, killing emergency workers and journalists who had by then reached the site, officials said.

“A branch of the Islamic State later claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came just eight days after the group took responsibility for another explosion that killed 57 people lining up to wer to vote.


“A spokesman for the Afghan police, Hashmat Stanikzai, said the attacks in Kabul on Monday had killed at least 25 people, including four police officers, and wounded 49, but officials and witnesses at the scene said the final casualty figures were likely to be higher.

“At least nine journalists died, including the chief photographer in Afghanistan for Agence France-Presse, Shah Marai, who had covered his war-torn homeland for 20 years. . . .”


Mashal and Abed also wrote, “Mr. Marai, the photographer, had previously written of his pride at often being among the first journalists to reach a bomb site.

“After a colleague was unable to immediately reach the scene of the first bombing on Monday, Mr. Marai sent a message of reassurance, saying he was already at work at the site.


“ ‘No worry man, I am here,’ he said by WhatsApp, in a message later published by AFP.

“Moments later, the second bomb exploded. . . .”

Photo: JSK Fellows

JSK, Michigan Fellowships Pick Diverse Next Classes

The John S. Knight and Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship programs Monday announced diverse classes for 2018-19, with journalists of color representing as many as nine of the 23 Americans. They join a diverse group of 12 international participants.


“If you are speaking more broadly than American then all kinds of diversity,” Lynette Clemetson, director of the Knight-Wallace program at the University of Michigan, said by email.

“Our Brazilian Fellow is Japanese Brazilian, for instance.”

Knight-Wallace Fellows “spend an academic year at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor to pursue individual study plans and to engage in collaborative learning through fellowship seminars, training workshops and travel . . .” the program explains. They “receive a stipend of $75,000 for the eight-month academic year plus full tuition and health insurance.”


JSK Fellows, who study at Stanford University, receive a $85,000 stipend and the cost of Stanford tuition and Stanford health care.

The American JSK fellows include:

Marina Walker Guevara, deputy director, International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, Washington


Akilah Johnson, reporter, Boston Globe

Geraldine Moriba, president and executive producer, Moriba Media, New York

Ronny Rojas, data editor, Univision News, Miami

The American Michigan fellows and their topics of study include:

Arnessa Garrett, assistant business editor, Dallas Morning News. Rebuilding trust with local audiences through digital strategy and engagement


Seema Mehta, political reporter, Los Angeles Times. How automation will impact the economy and the 2020 presidential election

Luis Trelles, reporter and producer, Radio Ambulante, San Juan, Puerto Rico. The politics of reconstruction in U.S. territories devastated by natural disasters


AJ Vicens, reporter, Mother Jones, Washington. How artificial intelligence, cyber security and data shape modern society

Neda Ulaby, correspondent, NPR, Los Angeles. Cultural history of the veil in world religions

Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellows

Reid Issues Mea Culpa for Homophobic Remarks

Joy Reid opened her show on MSNBC Saturday with a mea culpa about past homophobic remarks and admitted cybersecurity experts haven’t been able to prove her former blog was hacked,” Jackie Wattles and Tom Kludt reported for CNNMoney.


“Reid reiterated claims that she was not the author of homophobic posts that were recently surfaced from a blog she ran in the 2000s. But she acknowledged making past comments that have been described as homophobic.

Joy Reid

“ ‘Many of you have seen these blog posts circulating online and on social media. Many of them are homophobic, discriminatory and outright weird and hateful,’ she said at the open of her weekend show, ‘AM Joy.’

“ ‘I spent a lot of time trying to make sense of these posts. I hired cybersecurity experts to see if somebody had manipulated my words or my former blog, and the reality is they have not been able to prove it.’


“She added: ‘I genuinely do not believe I wrote those hateful things because they are completely alien to me. But I can definitely understand based on things I have tweeted and have written in the past why some people don’t believe me. . . .’ “

Conor Friedersdorf, the Atlantic: The Opportunity Costs of Covering Joy Reid

Davino Watson, a U.S. citizen, was wrongfully held in immigration detention centers for more than three years while he sought to prove his citizenship.
Photo: Carolyn Cole (the Los Angeles Times)

Review Finds 1,480 Wrongful Deportation Arrests

Immigration officers in the United States operate under a cardinal rule: Keep your hands off Americans,” Paige St. John and Joel Rubin reported Friday for the Los Angeles Times.


“But Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents repeatedly target U.S. citizens for deportation by mistake, making wrongful arrests based on incomplete government records, bad data and lax investigations, according to a Times review of federal lawsuits, internal ICE documents and interviews.

“Since 2012, ICE has released from its custody more than 1,480 people after investigating their citizenship claims, according to agency figures. And a Times review of Department of Justice records and interviews with immigration attorneys uncovered hundreds of additional cases in the country’s immigration courts in which people were forced to prove they are Americans and sometimes spent months or even years in detention.


“Victims include a landscaper snatched in a Home Depot parking lot in Rialto and held for days despite his son’s attempts to show agents the man’s U.S. passport; a New York resident locked up for more than three years fighting deportation efforts after a federal agent mistook his father for someone who wasn’t a U.S. citizen; and a Rhode Island housekeeper mistakenly targeted twice, resulting in her spending a night in prison the second time even though her husband had brought her U.S. passport to a court hearing.

“They and others described the panic and feeling of powerlessness that set in as agents took them into custody without explanation and ignored their claims of citizenship. . . .”


Aura Bogado, Reveal News, Center for Investigative Reporting: ICE isn’t following its own handbook on how to deport kids

Dina Radtke, Media Matters for America: ICE is wrongly designating immigrants as gang members to deport them — and conservatives are thrilled


Hannah Dreier, ProPublica: Were Henry’s Civil Rights Violated?

A New York Times from 1865 declaring “Slavery Forever Dead in United States” is a candidate for the proposed Times gallery on African American contributions.

N.Y. Times Names Four of Color to Politics Team

The New York Times Monday named three journalists of color to editing and reporting positions on its politics team for 2018, working under politics editor Patrick Healy. Three editors, 13 reporters and a news assistant were named overall.


Joining the team are Haeyoun Park, “a brilliantly inventive editor in Graphics” who is Asian American and “will be a senior politics editor focused on news, projects and visuals”; and African American reporters Caitlin Dickerson, “an outstanding National reporter and immigration writer, and a member of the ‘Overlooked’ series team and contributor to ‘The Daily’ [podcast]”; Astead W. Herndon, “a rising star at The Boston Globe covering national politics, who is joining The Times in early May.”

In addition, “Isabella Grullón Paz, a sharp young student journalist who is graduating from Ithaca College in May, will be the politics news assistant.” She is Hispanic.


Separately, the Times is planning in its New York headquarters “an exhibit about significant milestones of black contributions to The Times,” Adrian J. Hopkins, co-chair of the African-American employee resource group, told Journal-isms by email on Monday. “The Times Gallery will be a new permanent space in our building,” said Hopkins, who is program manager, mentorships. The gallery is scheduled to open in the fall.

In January, Jaweed Kaleem updated readers of Nieman Reports on changes in the Times’ race coverage.


Kaleem wrote that staffers credit Executive Editor Dean Baquetfor mandating changes to race coverage that helped break down departmental walls and incorporate new ways of storytelling.

“In 2016, he encouraged editors to think of ways to ‘beef up our coverage of race but do it in a way that was not a series,’ says national editor Marc Lacey. Now, every week, dozens of New York Times editors and reporters join or dial into a meeting at the paper’s Manhattan building where an array of section representatives brainstorm stories related to race.


“The resulting coverage includes a Facebook Live series, where reporters and editors talk via webcam about racial issues in the news, and the Race/Related newsletter, which has gained more than 100,000 subscribers since its launch in April 2016. . . .”

Kaleem also wrote, “Incorporating reader submissions has been a key part of changes in race coverage at the Times, according to Lacey: ‘We decided right from the beginning that we would not focus on the print newspaper but on our digital audience. We vowed we would do a lot of callouts. We also decided we’d be less defensive as journalists than we often are when covering contentious, delicate topics like race. We knew if we fessed up right from the beginning that there will be times that you disagree with us, and that we want to hear from you, it would only help.”


“Sometimes, staffers unwittingly hit upon explosive ideas. . . .”

Nathan Conyers, Milwaukee Publisher, Dies at 72

Nathan Conyers

Nathan Conyers, “whose keen news sense, Christian spirit, and community concern [led] to the founding of The Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper,” died Friday at age 72, Jacquelyn D. Heath wrote in an obituary furnished by the newspaper.

He died of heart failure, his wife, Lynda, told Journal-isms Monday.

“In 1981, Conyers joined forces with [community activist Louvenia Johnson; local [R]ealtor Luther Golden; and Lynda Jackson, to establish a bi-weekly newspaper devoted to church news within the city’s African American faith community dubbed . . . the Christian Times. Within its first year of publication, the paper grew in appeal to cover more general community news and was renamed The Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper, with The Christian Times remaining as a standing feature section to this day.”


The paper has a circulation of 20,000, Lynda Conyers, formerly Lynda Jackson, said.

“In 1985, the Milwaukee Times publishing team launched the annual Black Excellence Awards program as a way to pay tribute to the good works of ordinary people from Milwaukee’s black community who were accomplishing extraordinary things, yet going unnoticed. To date, nearly 1,000 black Milwaukeeans have been introduced to the community from various professional and community endeavors as Black Excellence Awards honorees. . . .”


Heath also wrote, “In 1991, the newspaper also sponsored The Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper High School Journalism Workshop, an internship program which operated for three years and gave area students hands-on, paid experience in news writing, editing, photojournalism, printing and publishing skills. . . .”

Short Takes

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.


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