Where Did All the Black Journalists Go?

Illustration for article titled Where Did All the Black Journalists Go?

Was It a "Reverse Migration"?

American daily newspapers lost 13,500 newsroom jobs from 2007 to 2010, according to the American Society of News Editors. In 2008 alone, employment for nearly 400 black journalists vanished.


The next year, newsroom jobs held by black journalists were slashed by an unprecedented 19.2 percent, nearly 6 percentage points higher than the previous year.

Where did all those journalists go? Many took public relations jobs or positions with nonprofits, some went into academia and others sought out such companies as AOL and ESPN, which expanded with the Internet. Some remain unemployed.


In a piece for the Columbia Journalism Review, Pamela Newkirk homes in on one outcome, a "reverse migration" from the mainstream media to the black press.

"Whatever the reasons, with increasing frequency, African-American journalists are reversing the once common trajectory from the black press to the mainstream," Newkirk wrote.

" … On the one hand, this reverse migration has brought new luster and talent to black-oriented media. On the other, it is further draining mainstream media of diverse perspectives, raising the specter of a retreat to the days of all-but-segregated newsrooms."

While it is true that many black journalists formerly in the mainstream media have produced work for black-oriented Web and print publications, not all of those quoted in the piece have stayed there. Others are "contributors" without the regularity of a mainstream-style paycheck. Observers have hailed black journalists' "return" to the black press at least since George E. Curry left the Chicago Tribune to edit the late Emerge magazine in 1993.


Milton Coleman, senior editor at the Washington Post, who just completed a term as president of the American Society of News Editors, makes a larger point in the piece:

"Coleman points out that while resources are more plentiful in mainstream media, they have little value if you can't use them to pursue what you think is important. 'What good does it do you to be in a newsroom with a lot of resources if you can't do what you're there to do?' "


Quiet Issue: Naming the Maid in DSK Case

Geneva Overholser sparked a national debate over the ethics of naming rape victims in 1991 when a Des Moines Register reporter won a Pulitzer Prize for a five-part series describing the ordeal of Nancy Ziegenmeyer, a rape victim from Grinnell, Iowa, who wanted to tell her story.


Overholser was the Register's editor, and she ran the woman's name, arguing that withholding identities only further stigmatizes rape victims. By providing the identities, she said, rape becomes like any other crime in which accuser and accused are both in the spotlight.

Today, Overholser is director of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Journalism. In the wake of the resignation of Dominique Strauss-Kahn as director of the International Monetary Fund after an accusation of attempted rape, Journal-isms asked Overholser whether she still maintains her position that the accusers in such cases should be named.


"Yep. I feel even more strongly, now that the Web has made the question all but obsolete," she said by email. "But mostly I am stunned that we would think we are in a position, as journalists, to decide who the victim is (the one deserving protection) in a case that has yet to go to trial."

Most of the attention in the case has focused on Strauss-Kahn, who had been considered a leading candidate for the French presidency. When the woman was mentioned, at least initially, she was unnamed. In a story from the Associated Press on Wednesday, she was still referred to as "the 32-year-old West African immigrant."


Likewise, feminist petitioners demanding that the woman's rights be protected also left her unnamed as they declared that she was already the subject of lies, malicious gossip and spin.

"We … share French feminist indignation at the deliberate and opportunistic confusion of seduction and sexual violence," the petition says, "from Strauss-Kahn's declaration that he 'loves women,' to the journalists and politicians who rally behind this 'Great Seducer.' It is outrageous that the allegation of attempted rape during the course of a housekeeper's work day raises issues about any woman's life story and sexual history. And portraying powerful Strauss-Kahn as 'too civilized' to commit a violent crime plays upon colonial and racist stereotypes vis-à-vis an African immigrant woman."


In France, where the story continues to be bigger than in the United States, the woman is freely named. On Wednesday, Le Figaro ran a story about her Bronx, N.Y., neighborhood.

American news outlets have also denied the woman anonymity. Last weekend, MediaTakeOut.com, the celebrity gossip site that garners the most eyeballs among sites catering to African Americans, ran what is purported to be the woman's photo. The photograph and her name are easily accessed on the Internet. Even Phillyburbs.com, a website reporting on the Philadelphia suburbs, published a letter Wednesday naming her.


Keith Spicer, a former editor of the Ottawa Citizen who lives in Paris, argued in the Citizen Saturday that the media glare does not fall on each party equally:

" … few dwell on the alleged victim … " Spicer wrote. "A poor, hard-working 32-year-old African immigrant, she and her terrified teenage daughter remain in hiding from the same relentless media as DSK. Like him, [the woman] is traumatized. But she's not living in a fancy Manhattan apartment, and never will.


"That's the dimension of class, power — and by extension race — in this squalid affair. DSK faces his 'heroic' Greek tragedy. [The hotel maid] faces a tragedy, too. But with nobody likely to elevate her tears to mythic grandeur."

* Daily Mail, England: Chambermaid 'agreed to sex and then tried to blackmail me, Strauss-Kahn will tell court'


* William Niba, Radio France Internationale: French weekly magazines review

* Foster Kamer, New York Observer: A List of Adjectives and French Puns Used by NYC Tabloids Regarding Dominique Strauss-Kahn


* Betsy Rothstein, FishbowlDC: Really Bad Timing for Washingtonian

* Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: IMF sexual assault case a win for American values


"Black Heritage Network" Plans December Start

"A group of investors including former FCC Commissioner Tyrone Brown, TIAA-CREF CEO Roger Ferguson, syndicated columnist Clarence Page and former GE and NBC exec Paul Besson, are backing the launch of a new nonfiction programming based African American-targeted cable and satellite net, the Black Heritage Network," John Eggerton reported Tuesday for Broadcasting & Cable.


"I am proud and excited to be a member of the new channel's advisory board," Page told Journal-isms. "I have long felt there's a vast underserved market for serious African American history and culture and a treasure trove of stories that, as Bill Cosby once famously said, have been 'lost, stolen or strayed.' I think that lost history can make great television."

Eggerton wrote, "According to former WUSA-TV GM Richard Reingold, who will be CEO of the new net, BHN is in 'serious' talks with the major distributors and expects to have about seven million [subscriptions] at launch, which is targeted for December of this year.


" … The network will combine original programs with updated 'classic material,' all of it reality and/or history programming rather than scripted - it will have some 'classic movies' with 'cultural relevance.' Reingold describes it as a mix of Discovery and History Channel targeted at a 'slightly older, educated, affluent audience' than its competition.' He calls its target the upper end of the 25-54 African demo and 50-plus, which he says is where the money is.

" … Unlike the just-launched Bounce TV, the network will [be] targeted at cable and satellite operators rather than digital multicast channels, says Reingold."


In D.C., Black Politicians Help Relaunch Politic365 Website

About 250 people attended a Capitol Hill reception Tuesday to celebrate the relaunch of a website about politics and public policy headed by Democrat Kendrick B. Meek, the former Florida congressman and member of the Congressional Black Caucus who ran for the U.S. Senate last November.


"Over the past year, I became very impressed with what Politic365 was doing. They followed me on the campaign trail, and remained ever-vigilant in seeking out the need to know stories about decision leaders of color," Meek, who chairs the editorial board, said in prepared remarks. "They have a good recipe going, and I'm here to help stir the pot and take things to the next level."

The site's editor-in-chief is Kristal Lauren High, a lawyer who has worked as a research analyst for the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies' Media & Technology Institute.


"The site is currently funded by a combination of angel funds from a group of private investors and advertising," she told Journal-isms. It originally launched on March 12, 2010. High said the site averages 30,000 unique visitors a month.

* Kyle Munzenrieder, Miami New Times: Kendrick Meek's Post Politics Gig: Journalism


* Politic365.com: Kendrick Meek Tapped to Chair Politic365 Editorial Board

NPR's Blakley Wins Nieman in Lean Year for Blacks

Jonathan Blakley, a foreign desk producer at NPR, has been chosen for the Nieman Fellowship class of 2012, the program announced on Tuesday in what turned out to be a lean year for African Americans seeking the major journalism fellowships.


Four Asian Americans, two Latinos and two African Americans have chosen by the three major fellowship programs.

Blakley was the only U.S. journalist of color picked for the Nieman. The number of African American applicants fell from 16 last year to six this year, from 15 Hispanics to seven, and from two Native Americans to one, curator Bob Giles told Journal-isms. Five Asian Americans applied this year compared with four for the 2011 class.


James Bettinger, director of the Knight Fellowship program at Stanford, has said that his program for 2012 will include three journalists of color — two Latinos and a journalist of Indian descent — but for the second year in a row, no African Americans.

"We are indeed concerned that there are no African Americans among our U.S. Fellows," Bettinger said. "Diversity remains a core value of the Knight Fellowships program, and we will be expanding our recruiting for African Americans beyond the sources that have traditionally provided most of our fellows of color."


The Knight-Wallace Fellows program at the University of Michigan will include four journalists of color — an African American and three Asian Americans, according to program director Charles Eisendrath.

Last summer, Blakley and NPR's West Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, reported on a 500-mile voyage they took down the Congo River, the life's blood of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.


At Harvard, Blakley plans to study history, politics and social media in sub-Saharan Africa. He also hopes to examine the domestic media environment in the United States on the cusp of the 2012 presidential election. "Grants are awarded to accomplished professionals who come to Harvard for a year of study, seminars and other special events," the Nieman material says.

Giles provided these figures for the Nieman class of 2012:

"In the U.S. applicant pool there were 6 African Americans; 7 Hispanics; 5 Asian Americans and 1 Native [American].


"Among the 34 US finalists interviewed, there were 2 African Americans; 3 Hispanics; 1 Asian American.

"The total U.S. pool was 111 and the international application pool numbered 179.


"The new class has 7 journalists of color —- 6 internationals and 1 U.S."

Oprah's Farewell Show Eschews Celebrity Onslaught

"Airing Wednesday morning in Chicago, the end of her 25 years in national daytime TV brought us Oprah Winfrey in full teacher mode, trying to share the lessons the show and its audience taught her," Steve Johnson wrote for the Chicago Tribune. "Instead of glasses on a chain around her neck, however, she wore a vibrant pink dress and looked straight into the camera to deliver what she called a 'love letter' to her audience.


"Gone was the full-scale celebrity onslaught we saw Monday and Tuesday, in farewell-party shows derived from last week's United Center extravaganza. Even Winfrey, no shrinker from the spotlight, seemed to think that was a bit much, although it didn't stop her from beaming beatifically while accepting praise for all the good she had done from the parade of movie and music superstars."

* Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: For Oprah's last show: My best story about meeting the Queen of All Media


* Chris O'Shea, FishbowlNY: O, The Oprah Magazine Publishing Commemorative Bookazine

* Brian Stelter, New York Times: Gathering for Thanks and Farewell

Humberto Lopez, Latino Broadcasting Pioneer, Dies at 73

"Humberto Lozano Lopez, a founder of Lopez broadcasting and several South Texas Spanish radio and television stations, died Monday. He was 73," Steven Alford wrote Monday for the Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller- Times.


"Lopez was a pioneer in Spanish entertainment who founded Majic 104.9 FM in Corpus Christi, Majic 95.9 FM in Victoria, KLMO 98.9 FM in San Antonio and the Tejano Music Video Network, KTMV.

"He began his career with a 15-minute radio program called the American GI Forum with Dr. Hector P. Garcia. From there, Lopez built his name and empire in America and Mexico, founding radio stations of his own.


"Lopez, a longtime Robstown resident, founded one of the first national Spanish television shows, broadcasting across the country, a predecessor to current Spanish networks.

"He also brought many English movies to Hispanic audiences, recording much of the voice-over work himself, most famously as the voice of Bruce Lee in his action films and of George Patton in 'Patton.' "


Black Classic Press Acquires Howard U. Press Selection

"After 39 years of distinguished scholarly publishing focused on African-American life and history around the world, the Howard University Press is closing its doors," Calvin Reid wrote Tuesday for Publishers Weekly. "The university has reached an agreement with Baltimore-based Black Classic Press, an African-American independent press and print-on-demand vendor, to acquire a selection of the press's backlist of more than 175 scholarly titles with plans to reissue most of them in new editions under BCP's new line of Howard University Classic Editions.


"W. Paul Coates, president of Black Classic Press, is a former Howard University librarian and a former street book vendor who began his publishing career selling books on the streets in front of Cramton Auditorium on the Howard campus." He is also the father of journalist and blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates.

" … 'There will be an opportunity for Howard University students to intern at BCP to provide experience in print and an increasingly digital world. Students can grow as we grow in this sector,' Coates said."


Short Takes

* "Patch Media Inc. will send four summer interns to train at the Dow Jones News Fund's multimedia internship residency at Western Kentucky University, Bowling Green, in June. The students bring the number of 2011 DJNF summer interns to 86," the Dow Jones News Fund announced on Tuesday.


* Veteran financial journalist Matthew Scott has been named editor of Corporate Secretary, a 10,000-circulation publication targeting corporate secretaries and governance professionals. "Scott, who has more than 20 years of experience in journalism, joins Corporate Secretary from AOL DailyFinance, where he covered markets and investing news. Before that, he spent two years covering corporate finance, corporate governance and corporate real estate news for Crain's Financial Week. While at Crain's, he helped Financial Week win several Jesse H. Neal Awards for excellence in business journalism. He also helped Black Enterprise earn a 1997 Folio Award for Editorial Excellence while serving as its managing editor," an announcement said on Tuesday.

* Karl Turner, the Plain Dealer's metro's online representative for about four years, has been named the Cleveland newspaper's new metro editor, "the man charged with launching the news operation far into the future of online journalism," the current Metro editor, Chris Quinn, told staffers on Tuesday. "As we said earlier this year, the metro editor's position is changing with Karl's appointment. The job will be focused online. Karl's job is to put metro at the forefront, through innovation, imagination and collaboration."


* "The popularity of right-wing radio shows - including Rush Limbaugh's and Sean Hannity's afternoon programs — has declined steeply in recent months, according to a new report from Arbitron," Emma Bazilian wrote Tuesday for AdWeek. "Limbaugh's and Hannity's WABC shows have been stuck in a ratings slump since last year's midterm elections, with Limbaugh's ratings dropping 33 percent from October, and Hannity's falling 28 percent from its fall peak. Ratings for fellow conservative Mark Levin experienced a similar decline."

* An updated version of Juan Gonzalez's 2000 book, "Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America," will be released by Penguin Books on May 31, the New York Daily News columnist said Wednesday on Pacifica's "Democracy Now!," which he co-hosts. "I felt that it was necessary not only to update the figures, but to re-emphasize the enormous transformation that is occurring in the United States," Gonzalez said. " … there were only a few million Latinos in the 1970s, representing about 4 percent of the population, and now you're talking about, by 2100, more than 50 percent of the entire nation."


* "CNN's T.J. Holmes is more familiar with the city of Joplin, MO than many other TV news correspondents. He lived there, when he was fresh out of college and starting out in TV news at NBC affiliate KSNF," Alex Weprin reported Tuesday for TVNewser. " … Holmes and his crew drove to his old apartment building and found nothing but rubble" from Sunday's tornado.

* "Tom Taylor, in his Wednesday afternoon TRI radio biz newsletter, tells us that Alfred Liggins, CEO of Lanham-based urban radio giant Radio One, banked $2.1 million in salary and bonus last year," Dave Hughes reported on his DCRTV site. "The company's SEC filing discloses that, if you add in stock awards and option awards, Liggins had total compensation of $4.2 million for 2010. His mother, Radio One founder and chairperson Cathy Hughes, made just over $1 million in salary and bonus, and total compensation of $1.8 million … "


* Charles Robinson III, a reporter for Maryland Public Television and board member of the National Association of Black Journalists, is substitute host this week for public radio's "The Michael Eric Dyson Show." At least two fellow board members, Bob Butler and Greg Lee, have been scheduled as guests.

* One man's opinion: "Essence Magazine used to be the preeminent magazine for Black women in the U.S.," Raynard Jackson wrote for Thursday on his Thy Black Man site. "They, like many Black publications, have lost their relevance; and in the process become an embarrassment to the very group they claim to target … Now, Essence is just another Hollywood rag (focused on Black women), sprinkled with a few substantive, positive stories; but, that is no longer their focus! I looked at the cover picture for the past year and each cover featured an entertainer … When I went on Essence Music Festival's website and looked at the speakers listed under 'Empowerment' I was stunned and quite embarrassed!"


* Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner is writing a monthly column for Ebony magazine. "Joyner joins the publication at its most exciting time in years, writing once a month through the end of 2011," Tonya Pendleton wrote Wednesday for Joyner's BlackAmericaWeb.com. "His first column, appearing in June's Music Issue, which features Scott on the cover, is a bird's-eye view of the ever-popular Fantastic Voyage cruise, which set sail from Galveston, Texas this past April."

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter

Facebook users: Sign up for the "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" fan page.

Share This Story

Get our newsletter