• For Decades, a Go-to Person on Inclusion Efforts
  • Visiting Press Groups Alarmed by Climate in U.S.
  • Washington Post Sets Out to Find ‘What Unites Us’
  • Post-Gazette Won’t Run Dissents From Newsroom
  • ‘Is This Norway?’ Asks Member of the Twitterverse About Axios
  • In U.S., Supremacists Are the Extremists to Watch
  • Short Takes
Walterene “Walt” Swanston-NuevaEspana in July 2014 at a Journal-isms Roundtable in Washington. (Jason Miccolo Johnson)

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For Decades, a Go-to Person on Inclusion Efforts

Walterene Swanston-NuevaEspana, a decades-long champion of diversity in the news media as a former print and broadcast journalist and journalism association executive, died Friday at a Fairfax County, Va., hospital in the Washington, D.C., suburbs. She was 74 and suffered a massive heart attack a week ago, said friend and fellow journalist Wanda Lloyd.

“Walt was one of the sweetest, most gentle souls, and someone who was dedicated to the success of every organization for which she worked, every project she led and every young journalist who needed her help,” messaged Lloyd.

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“Over the years I traveled with Walt around the country and across the ocean, attending conferences for NABJ, AAJA, NAHJ and to many other meetings where we shared our passion for journalism. Now she is gone and journalism has lost one of its most dedicated professionals.”

The references are to the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

She had worked with all of them, as well as with Unity: Journalists for Diversity, the collaboration that consists of AAJA, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. She was Unity’s interim executive director from 2012 to 2014, having previously been executive director of Unity: Journalists of Color, which included AAJA, NABJ, NAHJ and NAJA, and spearheaded the Unity ‘94 and Unity ‘99 conventions. She had also been director of diversity management at NPR, a consultant for the American Society of News Editors and from 1993 to 1995, executive director of NABJ.

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In addition, she worked for the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation, directing the organization’s diversity, educational and international programs; for the Newspaper Association of America Foundation, where she directed diversity programs; and for Knight-Ridder Inc., where she was a consultant.

NPR host Michel Martin remembers Swanston’s time at that network. “From the minute I set foot in the door at NPR, Walt was a source of friendship and wise counsel,” Martin said by email. “And I don’t think I’ve ever met a person with a more diverse network of friends, colleagues, and mentees. Diversity was something she did, it was what she was, a way of life. She was a walking, talking example of how it can and should be done.”

Keith Woods, who succeeded her as diversity executive at NPR, said by email Saturday, “Walt was one of the most resilient, persistent, and, above all, empathetic people I’ve known. She believed deeply in the work of diversity, and so many of us who have done this work found themselves at one time or another following in her path. Walt was a true champion, and journalism is particularly poorer with her passing.

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“I knew Walt for more than 20 years. She had a rough time at NPR and struggled to make progress in the newsroom. Still, she strongly encouraged me to follow in her footsteps and offered herself as a coach because, above all, the work she did was out of love and passion. No organization or obstacle ever beat her. I’m heartbroken to have lost her.”

NuevaEspana was known mostly to fellow journalists as Walt Swanston before she remarried in 2015, after the 2006 death of her first husband, public relations executive David Swanston.

She was hospitalized on Jan. 12 and died in the early hours of Jan. 19, according to her daughter, Rachel Swanston Breegle.

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The former Walterene Jackson was born in Clinton, La., and attended segregated schools there before she, her sister Bettye Jackson and brothers Raphael “Ray” Jackson and Ruffin Lane “Buzz” Jackson were put on trains for Oakland, Calif., where they lived with an aunt and uncle so they could attend integrated schools.

When presented with the Ida B. Wells Award from NABJ in 2011, she thanked her parents for enabling her and her siblings to leave Louisiana. “None of the children ever went home to live there again,” she told the NABJ audience. Still, she regretted that the move broke up her family.

At her alma mater, San Francisco State University, she met David Swanston, and as a young journalist, worked at the San Francisco Examiner and the old Washington Star. Later she was a copy editor and contributor to the Washington Post’s Style, weeklies and real estate sections; a reporter and producer at Washington public television station WETA and executive editor at WUSA-TV, the Gannett-owned CBS affiliate.

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But it was as a diversity champion that she was best known. For more than 25 years, she worked with newspapers and television and radio stations to recruit, promote, train and retain people of color and women.

In accepting the Wells Award in 2011, she said, “I have left behind a number of people in news operations around the country whose voices have been heard for the first time.”

She was a member of the strategy committee for Journal-isms Inc., the nonprofit organization created to nurture Journal-isms, and successfully nominated this columnist for the Wells Award two years after she had won it herself.

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Since 1999, she had been one of four organizers of the Journal-isms Roundtable, a monthly gathering of Washington journalists who discuss issues of race and journalism. The others are Paul Delaney, Betty Anne Williams and this columnist.

Swanston NuevaEspana lived in Fairfax County and in addition to her daughter, is survived by a son, Matthew Swanston, four grandchildren and her sister, Bettye Snowden, of California. Her husband, Ray NuevaEspana, died in 2016.The family is asking for privacy over the next few days. A memorial service will be planned in a few weeks, to give friends and family time to make travel arrangements, Breegle said.

Debbie Elliott, NPR: Before Desegregation: The Education Migration: In Difficult Choice, Children Sent Away to Integrated Schools (Dec. 9, 2003)

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YouTube: 2011 NABJ Ida B. Wells Award Winner Walterene Swanston Video Profile with Michel Martin, Alicia Shepard and Keith Woods (video)

Members of the St. Louis County Police tactical team take a pair of journalists into custody on Aug. 19, 2014. Journalists Lukas Hermsmeier, left, a reporter for Bild, a German newspaper, and Ryan Devereaux, a reporter for theintercept.com, were in the area when police arrived. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Visiting Press Groups Alarmed by Climate in U.S.

An already adverse environment for journalists in the Midwestern United States has worsened in the year since President Trump’s inauguration, an international group of media watchdogs concluded after traveling to the state of Missouri. The group also met with journalists from Illinois and Wisconsin,” the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

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“The fact-finding mission this week concluded in St. Louis, where journalists were indiscriminately arrested in 2014 and 2017 during protests in response to police shootings in the city and its suburb, Ferguson. The group also met with journalists from the city of Columbia and the capital, Jefferson City, as well as representatives of the Missouri Press Association and national media groups headquartered at the Missouri School of Journalism.

“The group, which included leaders of the Committee to Protect Journalists, IFEX, ARTICLE 19, and the International Press Institute, found that local public officials have embraced Trump’s rhetoric toward the media and bypassed the press in favor of social media. A Wisconsin sheriff used expletives to deny an interview. Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has called the media ‘fake news,’ refused interviews, and directed his staff to use software that immediately erases mobile chats. . . .”

“Brett LeSueur, 56, of Memphis, Tenn., says he is ‘honored and blessed’ to live in America,” the Washington Post reported. “Completely blind since 1998, he stays connected to his fellow Americans by following the news and ‘hearing the whole country. I really enjoy all the great stories, the human interest stories, but also follow the real news … in California, Hawaii, Alaska. I enjoy listening to different people and how they talk.’ ” (Matt Clain/Washington Post)

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Washington Post Sets Out to Find ‘What Unites Us’

In the year since President Trump’s inauguration, Washington Post photographers set out to explore what unites Americans, through portraiture and audio interviews,” the Post wrote on Wednesday.

“What values and beliefs are shared in a country often described as polarized? In 102 conversations, two in each of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., we asked people to contemplate what it means to be American in this time of upheaval and rapid change.

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“Together, their interviews reflect the core beliefs and values that connect Americans to their fellow countrymen and women. And they reveal commonalities and convictions that bridge geography, gender, occupation, race or religion — an indication that perhaps what unites Americans to one another is as powerful as what divides them. There were seven unifying themes reflected most prominently. They represent a provocative and surprising atlas of the country’s values — one that paints a complex picture of what it means to be American at this moment in history. . . . “

The Post also wrote, “We are a nation of immigrants and are united by our pride in that fact. Fifty people . . . talked about the concept of America as a melting pot and beacon of hope. They embrace people’s disparate backgrounds and experiences and believe most Americans value that variety. Eleven said the country’s diversity is the most important bond between its people — and its chief source of strength . . . Immigrants, many said, bring an economic and cultural vitality to America that keeps it strong. . . .”

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Post-Gazette Won’t Run Dissents From Newsroom

Earlier this week, two letters to the editor were sent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Colin Deppen wrote Thursday for the Incline, sibling site of Billy Penn in Philadelphia.

“Both included forceful and intimate condemnations of an editorial that ran in the paper Monday.

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“Neither will appear in the more than 100,000 copies of the paper sold throughout the city today or any day, for that matter.

“That’s because Publisher and Editor-in-Chief John R. Block won’t allow it.

“ ‘It’s simply that the editor-in-chief (Block) declined to publish them. He didn’t provide an explanation. He just said “no.” I’m not privy to the decision-making process on that,’ John Allison, editor of the Post-Gazette’s editorial page and a member of its editorial board, told The Incline on Wednesday.

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“Block’s decision not to run the letters to the editor, one submitted by the union representing more than 150 of the paper’s current newsroom employees and one submitted by more than two dozen former Post-Gazette employees, marked the latest chapter in an ongoing and increasingly public rift between the paper’s ownership and the paper’s staff.

“Both letters to the editor were highly critical of Block’s decision to run an editorial on Martin Luther King Jr. Day titled ‘Reason as racism…’ The editorial compared racism to McCarthyism and included the line, ‘We need to confine the word “racist” to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof.’ . . .”

On Thursday, the Star-Tribune in Minneapolis published the Post-Gazette editorial as well as a rebuttal from the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh.

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Indira Lakshmanan, Poynter Institute: “Abomination:” Pittsburgh publisher’s editorial inflames newsroom, readers

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: MLK’s message today — resistance with loving defiance

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‘Is This Norway?’ Asks Member of the Twitterverse About Axios

This first-anniversary tweet from the media startup Axios, founded by Politico co-founder Jim VandeHeiwith plans to upend the way news organizations deliver stories and advertising,” as the Wall Street Journal wrote in November, was greeted Thursday by the Twitter equivalent of catcalls.

“Is this Norway?” asked the Orla Hutchinson account. “Norway has more brown skin than that...” replied the Kevin Sinclair account. “Maybe it’s Mar-A-Lago,” suggested Sjarif Goldstein’s account. The account of activist Deray McKesson tweeted Friday, “I found the one black person. Can you?”

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The “About” page of the Axios site indicates there is more diversity than appears in the photograph, but the site did not respond Friday to an emailed question sent to the designated “news” address.

“Media diversity is a worthy goal, and can be achieved if organizations work consciously towards it,” HuffPost’s Jamil Smith tweeted. “But we can’t wait for them to get it. Every time I see a photo like this, I’m reminded that we need our own platforms.”

Anti-Defamation League

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In U.S., Supremacists Are the Extremists to Watch

The number of white supremacist murders in the United States more than doubled in 2017 compared to the previous year, far surpassing murders committed by domestic Islamic extremists and making 2017 the fifth deadliest year on record for extremist violence since 1970,” the Anti-Defamation League reported on Wednesday.

“In its annual assessment of extremist-related killings, the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism found white supremacists and other far-right extremists were responsible for 59 percent of all extremist-related fatalities in the U.S. in 2017, up dramatically from 20 percent in 2016.

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“White supremacists were directly responsible for 18 of the total 34 extremist-related murders in 2017, according to the new ADL report, Murder and Extremism in the United States in 2017. A total of nine deaths were linked to Islamic extremists.

“The most recent ADL data shows that over the last decade a total of 71 percent of all fatalities have been linked to domestic right-wing extremists, while 26 percent of the killings were committed by Islamic extremists. The other 3 percent of deaths were carried out by extremists not falling into either category. . . .”

Short Takes

The Jan. 15 New Yorker cover depicting Martin Luther King Jr. linking arms with athlete-activists Colin Kaepernick and Michael Bennett elicited strong responses. See third item, below.

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Organizers of the memorial service for civil rights journalist Simeon Booker (shown left) scheduled for Jan. 29 at 10 a.m. at Washington’s National Cathedral, are asking men to wear bow ties as a tribute to Booker. He died Dec. 10 at 99.

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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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Journal-isms is originally published on journal-isms.com. Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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