Was Hillary Clinton Asked the Right Questions at the NABJ-NAHJ Convention?

Hillary Clinton responds to a question from Telemundo’s Lori Montenegro about whether she is taking Latinos for granted.
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Hillary Clinton addressed the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Friday after not holding a full-fledged news conference in more than seven months.

Do the Democrats take Latinos for granted? Here is part of @HillaryClinton's answer at #NABJNAHJ16 pic.twitter.com/FOaD5k8MXC

— Julio Ricardo Varela (@julito77) August 5, 2016

The seven questions—including four from members of Clinton's traveling campaign press—left some black journalists complaining that too few questions were about the black community.

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"It was clear to me that the people and the issues that pertain to us were not in the minds of the NABJ," Hazel Trice Edney, founder of the Trice Edney Wire and a champion of the black press, told Journal-isms after the presentation ended.

"Is she committed to putting a black female on the Supreme Court?" asked Barbara Ciara, a past NABJ president who is also host and managing editor at WTKR-TV in Norfolk, Va., asked, giving an example of the "fodder" that Ciara said would have made the questioning more NABJ-friendly.

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Writing Saturday on The Root, Jason Johnson added, "Speaking to the largest gathering of minority journalists in the United States, Clinton had the opportunity to influence the next 90 days of stories, op-eds and think pieces. At the same time, the NABJ/NAHJ had the crucial opportunity to ask some tough probing questions of Clinton who has avoided a lot of tough questions from people of color as [Donald] Trump sucks up most of the press attention. Did either side accomplish its goal? In the end I believe both the NABJ/NAHJ conference and Clinton weren’t up to the challenge. . . ."

The Clinton event, a convention highlight that saw long lines of attendees queuing up in Washington's Marriott Wardman Park Hotel Friday morning, came as overall paid registration totaled 3,501 people by 2 p.m. Thursday, NABJ's executive consultant Drew Berry said.

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NAHJ Executive Director Alberto Mendoza said on Tuesday that 587 NAHJ members had registered before the convention and that he expected the number of NAHJ registrants to hit 750 to 800. On Friday, Mendoza said he had nothing to add to those figures.

Questions asked of Clinton were dominated by inquiries about gaining the trust of the electorate, the ongoing controversy over her emails and about immigration reform. The choices raised questions about the role of journalists who work for mainstream news organizations but who are at a gathering where many have race-specific interests.

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Questions about emails made the most news in the mainstream. Yamiche Alcindor and Amy Chozick wrote Friday for the New York Times, "Hillary Clinton on Friday sought to explain her recent mischaracterization of the F.B.I. investigation into her private email server, saying she 'may have short-circuited' in her remarks during a television interview on Sunday when she asserted that the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, had called her statements about her private email servers 'truthful.' ”

"Mrs. Clinton made the remarks while taking her most extensive questions from journalists in months — after going more than 200 days without holding a formal news conference.

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"She has been under fire from Republicans and others since her remarks Sunday on Fox News about her use of a private email server as secretary of state and the resulting F.B.I. investigation. While Mr. Comey did not recommend charges in the case, he said Mrs. Clinton had been 'extremely careless' in her use of a private email server and contradicted statements she made about her handling of her email. . . ."

Others noted her comments about the news media.

In his "Reliable Sources" email newsletter, Brian Stelter of CNN Money wrote, "Was that a press conference? Hillary Clinton came to the NABJ/NAHJ convention in DC this afternoon, presented herself as a much more press-friendly candidate than Donald Trump, and took some questions from the journalists in the room. USA Today says it was only a 'halfway press conference' because 'fielding a few pre-selected questions doesn't really count.' Media calls for a full-fledged presser continue to get louder.

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"As for her message today, Clinton acknowledged the importance of media diversity; said journos 'have a special responsibility to our democracy at a time like this;' and said it's a 'badge of honor' when news orgs get 'banned for reporting' what Trump says…

"Real talk: 'Keep holding ALL of us accountable,' Clinton said, gesturing toward herself. Even if she doesn't mean it, even if she hates the coverage sometimes, she says what politicians are supposed to say. She's showing at least a smidge of respect for the fourth estate…"

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Clinton opened her talk with mentions of Ethel Payne and Ruben Salazar, both journalistic heroes of color, and a quote from "the late great Bob Maynard" about inclusion.

"Someone that I had the privilege of knowing, the late, great Bob Maynard, former owner of the Oakland Tribune, once said — and I quote Bob — ‘It is in seeing ourselves whole that we can begin to see ways of working out our differences of understanding our similarities,’ and becoming a more cohesive nation," the candidate said.

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"And that is what you do every day, helping us to see ourselves as whole. You help us see ourselves whole," she said.

Clinton also praised Univision anchor Jorge Ramos.

"It’s a badge of honor when Jorge Ramos gets thrown out of a press conference for challenging Donald Trump. Or when another news organization gets banned for reporting what he says. As Jorge said, the best journalism happens when you take a stand, when you denounce injustice."

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Answering a question about African Americans in her circle, Clinton mentioned "my friend Peggy Lewis," her assistant chief of staff as first lady. Clinton said Lewis has just been promoted to director of communications at Trinity Washington University.

Those references were incidental to her main message, however.

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The original plan was for the social media audience to be able to submit questions.

"Before fielding selected questions from the journalists in attendance, Clinton discussed how to expand economic opportunity for blacks and Latinos across America, Torrance Latham reported for the student convention news organ, a joint publication of the NABJ Monitor and Latino Reporter. "With members of the country’s two largest minority journalists organizations in the crowd, Clinton addressed the economy’s effect on minorities — a topic that she acknowledged is challenging and doesn’t get enough attention on the campaign trail."

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The 50-minute Clinton event, held before about 1,600 attendees, began about 35 minutes late and followed a panel discussion by NABJ and NAHJ members on politics.

Kristen Welker of NBC News and Lori Montenegro, a national correspondent for Telemundo, were the designated "moderators" who were to lead a discussion with Clinton. But not all went as planned, limiting the ability to put some of the race-specific questions on the table, according to NABJ President Sarah Glover.

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Among the impediments was the lack of an IFB (interruptible fold back) line, which transmits a signal that allows a producer to communicate with reporters on stage during an event.

In addition, while the organizers "thought we'd have an hour" for questions that would have included feedback from social media and the audience, Glover said, Clinton campaign operatives had cut the duration to 30 minutes the previous day.

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Meanwhile, Clinton's overall lack of accessibility to reporters forced members of her traveling campaign corps to use the NABJ-NAHJ occasion to ask questions that in other circumstances might have been asked in other venues. Reporters had not been able to elicit a response to remarks that Clinton made this week on "Fox News Sunday" about emails, for example.

Asking a question from the audience, the Washington Post's Ed O'Keefe told Clinton, "We encourage you to do this more often with reporters across the country, especially those news organizations that travel the country with you wherever you go." He then asked how she would lead a nation in which a majority of people mistrust her.

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Montenegro asked about immigration policy, of specific concern to her Telemundo audience, but the moderators did not coordinate their questions to ensure that those of specific concern to African Americans were raised. As the news conference was telecast live on MSNBC, the audience for Welker's questions went far beyond those at the convention.

Alcindor, an NABJ member at the New York Times who was on the political panel, asked what it said about the electorate that Trump has gained such support.

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Also from the audience, political panel member Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of ESPN's the Undefeated, covering race, sports and culture, asked "What was the most meaningful conversation you've had with an African American?"

That gave Clinton the opportunity to name top black aides, such as Minyon Moore, Cheryl Mills and Maggie Williams, the latter two former chiefs of staff. These women "supported me, challenged me, tried to expand my musical tastes," Clinton said. Ultimately, she concluded that she couldn't pick any one conversation as most meaningful. "I am going to respect the code of friendship silence," she added.

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To a question from Montenegro about whether Clinton was taking Latinos for granted, the candidate recounted growing up in the Chicago area and babysitting Latino children when she was 11 or 12. "It was my first real lesson in how much we have in common," she said.

Glover told Journal-isms that allowing the journalists to ask what they wanted was as it should be. "I don't believe you outline restrictions" on what journalists can ask once they are chosen," she said.

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Sandra Long Weaver, an NABJ founder and longtime Philadelphia Inquirer journalist, said she was "excited about the questions. Who would have known that she babysat Latino kids in the Chicago area?" she said. "The questions encapsulated issues" that affect the black community without specifically framing them as such, the founder said.

Cassie M. Chew, alldigitocracy.org: Journalists of color wanted ‘black and brown’ answers from Hillary Clinton

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Hannah Fraser-Chanpong, CBS News: Clinton says she "short-circuited" explanation on e-mails

Victoria M. Massie, vox.com: Hillary Clinton to journalists of color: “I want you to hold me accountable”

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Marco Revuelta, NABJ Monitor/Latino Reporter: Journalists Turned Away from Hillary Event After Registration Mixup

James Warren, Poynter Institute: Journalists grill Hillary Clinton at NABJ/NAHJ conference

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Convention attendees withstood long security lines to see Hillary Clinton on Friday. (Credit: Eli Hiller / NABJ Monitor/Latino Reporter)

‘NABJ Turns a Corner’ on Its Finances

"NABJ has turned a corner" from a financial crisis that led to emergency measures after projecting a 2015 deficit of nearly $380,000, an auditor told the National Association of Black Journalists Friday. But the same vigilance must continue in 2017 so that the association "can afford to catch a cold," Arnold Williams said.

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Gregory H. Lee Jr., finance committee chairman, said NABJ would likely meet its goal of a deficit-free end to 2016.

As Sean Hurd noted in the student convention news organ, the NABJ Monitor and the Latino Reporter, NABJ President Sarah Glover made righting NABJ's financial affairs her first priority and received praise for accomplishing that goal.

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Another part of that success is the joint NABJ/NAHJ convention. Executive consultant Drew Berry said the convention job fair, which filled three rooms and included 172 spaces, was sold out two weeks in advance. It exceeded projections by $86,000, he said.

Berry attributed the success to a confluence of factors that included a location easily accessible to members, having in Glover an NABJ president who gave him "room to do the job and participated in the effort herself" and having the right people in place.

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Lee reported that NABJ has exceeded budget projections in total sponsorship revenue, convention sponsorship and convention registration. Overall paid registration hit 3,501 people by 2 p.m. Thursday, Berry said.

Glover noted In other business at the NABJ business meeting that a little-noticed section of a 2015 state report on Ferguson, Mo., after the death in police custody of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown called for anti-bias training for the news media.

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Glover said NABJ planned to look into that. The recommendation from "Forward Through Ferguson: A Path Toward Racial Equity" urged: "Develop statewide training, best practices and accountability measures for broadcasters, print and digital media outlets in the areas of Trauma Informed Newsrooms (Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma), bias and systemic context with specific focus on impoverished communities, people of color, and boys and men of color."

Gabriel Arana, Huffington Post: Why The Country’s Largest Minority-Journalism Group May Close (Dec. 7, 2015)

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HuffPost Rebuffs NABJ Request to Correct Finances Story (Dec. 9, 2015)

Honoree Praises ‘Mass Mobilization Warriors’

Hugo Balta, immediate past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, was among inductees into the NAHJ Hall of Fame Friday at the joint convention of NAHJ and the National Association of Black Journalists.

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"Happy to announce @espn will be collaborating with @NAHJ on scholarships for the association's student members," Balta wrote on Facebook in advance of his induction. Other inductees were Zita Arocha, Robert Montemayor and Veronica Villafañe. President's awards were to go to Geraldo Rivera, Miguel Almaguer, Julian Rodriguez and Aminda Marques Gonzalez.

Hugo Balta is NAHJ's immediate past president.
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"Not much has changed since I began my career some 25 years ago," Balta told the gathering. "We are not telling our stories…they are.

"We are discriminated.

"We are stereotyped.

"We are patronized.

"We are discounted. . . ."

Simultaneously, NABJ held its Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony elsewhere in the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Among its inductees were Austin Long-Scott, a journalist for the Associated Press, the Washington Post and others for 29 years and a teacher for 20 years at San Francisco State University.

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Long-Scott paid tribute to "urban warriors" who made it possible for the hiring of black journalists in the 1960s.

Here are his remarks:

I want to thank everyone in the long history of NABJ who made this magnificent honor possible. And I want to thank my kids who are here in the audience for putting up with my extensive travels when they were kids. But I also want to thank the mass mobilization warriors who forced so much desegregation of America and its journalism. My generation of black reporters desegregating mainstream newsrooms would have been pretty powerless without them.

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I'm not talking about the people we usually celebrate. I want to thank all those urban warriors — the media called them rioters at the time — who poured into big city streets during those long hot summers in the 1960s from Roxbury to Watts to show that they were mad as hell and not gonna take it any more. I want to thank the Deacons for Defense and Justice who were prepared for armed struggle in the Deep South.

I want to thank the mothers in the National Welfare Rights Organization who blockaded and sat in at New York City welfare offices and the poor folks who came to live in Dr. Martin Luther King's Resurrection City encampment on the national mall, and the people who vented their rage in 110 cities when Dr. King was murdered, and the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, and the similar Young Lords Organizations in Chicago and New York, and the people in the prisoners' rights movement in the 1970s, and the strikers on the picket lines holding out for better working conditions, and the grape strike and boycott that grew out of Filipino farm workers in Delano, and the interracial coalition of blacks and Latinos and others who made Harold Washington the first African American mayor of Chicago, and the Latinos and their allies who launched massive demonstrations in cities and towns across the country in support of immigrant rights, and so many others who in the words of the late, great Fannie Lou Hamer, kept on keepin' on to bring us to where we are today.

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I was privileged to report on so many cases where people got fed up with how things were and decided to try to do something about it. They taught me that you can't depend on establishment leaders of any color to do the right thing, especially when it's risky. That's especially true now that corporations ARE people and money IS politics and gentrification has become a key method of social control and class segregation, and neither of the major political parties gives a damn about what's happening to working people.

Austin Long-Scott
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To paraphrase Michelle Alexander, this nation was founded on — and has never abandoned — the principle that MANY lives DON'T matter. It takes direct action, kickass movements, people in the streets, to force the changes that benefit people whose lives don't matter to those in power. It's likely that none of us would be here now if those warriors hadn't been there then.

I became a journalist when America was in a major convulsion. The social sands were shifting under everybody's feet as America struggled to become what it had never been before. We're in another major convulsion now. This time it's the economic sands that are shifting as America struggles to decide what to do with all the workers it is automating out of jobs. The journalistic challenge today is to recognize ALL the lives that DON'T matter in today's world, and to cover those.

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I want to quote Juan Gonzalez, the Democracy Now co-host and New York Daily News columnist who was mentored by the late Chuck Stone, the 1st president of NABJ. Juan Gonzalez said to the NAHJ on his 2008 induction into their Hall of Fame that ". . .

The greatest injustices in the world are committed under the cover of the law, not in violation of it." He said that for 30 years he had tried to devote his reporting and his writing to: "Those abuses that may be technically legal but are morally reprehensible because they take advantage of people who don't have power, don't have connections, and don't have the ability to have their stories told."

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Other NABJ inductees were Tony Brown, Monica Kaufman Pearson, Dorothy Leavell, Jacqueline Trescott and John H. White.

Posthumous inductees were C. Gerald Fraser, Dori J. Maynard, Acel Moore, Gil Noble, Stuart Scott, Morrie Turner and L. Alex Wilson.

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Scott's daughters, Taelor and Sydni, said they had become student NABJ members and want to follow in their father's footsteps.

Brown, who has been an author, television producer and journalism dean, said his views on self-help and black empowerment had not changed. "I don't know what white people owe us, but I know one thing, they're not going to pay us," he said.

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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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