"The importance of diversity in the media — as in other sectors of society — is not about scoring points in some imaginary scale of civic virtue," Howard W. French wrote Wednesday in a 5,700-word essay in Britain's Guardian.
"It has nothing to do with the granting of favours — or even concessions — by a white majority. It is akin to restoring vision to a creature with impaired sight, making it whole and allowing it to function at the full limits of its perceptive and analytical capacity. The majority cannot understand this — cannot realise that it is partly blind — because its own provincialism has persisted uninterrupted for so long. . . ."
French, a veteran journalist and associate professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, made the observations in part based on his own experiences as a reporter and correspondent for the New York Times. The essay was headlined, "The enduring whiteness of the American media: What three decades in journalism has taught me about the persistence of racism in the US."
He wrote, "With [Donald] Trump all but certain to be the Republican nominee, all signs point towards a tense and extraordinarily racialised campaign — and one that will pose a severe test for American journalism, which has been as beset by the crisis of race as the society it claims to rigorously examine." Yet, French notes, at the Times, "In a year of open and often shrill racism on the campaign trail, there is only one black reporter, newly hired, covering the presidential elections — and similar circumstances can be found at other top newspapers."
French also said, "The intersection between America’s age-old race problem and the crisis of race in journalism takes two forms.
"The first is a simple failure of integration: the news organisations that have traditionally comprised 'mainstream' journalism have done little to welcome or encourage African-Americans, who are substantially underrepresented by comparison to their numbers in the overall population.
"This problem is obvious to anyone who cares to look — and it has become sufficiently embarrassing for a number of publications to make sporadic but ultimately ineffectual efforts to redress it.
"As soon as one or two hires are made, attention inevitably shifts elsewhere, much as the focus of the press drifted away from racial bias in the criminal justice system once a whiff of the campaign season could be sensed in the air.
"But the second and more subtle issue is a persistent problem of typecasting — a deeply embedded view that regards certain topics as 'black' and the rest as 'white'. Those black people who make their way into the business are heavily concentrated in stereotypical roles. This has meant sport, entertainment and especially what is euphemistically called urban affairs, often meaning reporting on black people.
"By contrast, there are very few black journalists writing about politics and national security, international news, big business, culture (as opposed to entertainment) or science and technology — they are essentially absent from large swaths of coverage, and even more sparsely represented among the ranks of editors.
"This is not a trivial matter, or a subject of concern solely to journalists: the overwhelming whiteness of the media strongly but silently conditions how Americans understand their own country and the rest of the world.
"These problems are not new, and they are not unknown: they have been confirmed by survey after survey measuring diversity in the country’s newsrooms and on its airwaves, but this is not how I discovered them. The lessons I received in the matter all came through direct experience, inside what many consider America’s foremost news organisation.
French also writes, "As a black reporter, one had little choice but to get used to lots of little insults; many of them came from unexpected places. From my earliest days as the New York Times bureau chief in Tokyo, I struggled with a veteran Japanese office manager in late middle age, who had almost immediately begun to defy me at every turn. I learned from his fellow Japanese office employees, for example, that they should run by him all my requests for research on stories, before doing anything to assist me.
"Little by little I learned that he resented that the Times had sent a black man with an African wife to cover Japan, interrupting an endless line of white bureau chiefs, many of whom had Ivy League educations and academic backgrounds in Asian affairs. He took it as a sort of implicit downgrade of his country. . . ."
The remedy? "The tokenism of various kinds that still represents the media’s best efforts at diversity remains a sort of mockery of the term. Going beyond this requires more than hiring non-white reporters and editors — though that is necessary. Meaningful diversity, of a sort that changes how news organisations see the world, requires boosting the number of non-white figures in positions of editorial decision-making from top to bottom. . . ."
'Disheartened' Linda Williams Retires in Raleigh
Linda Darnell Williams, senior editor/front page at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., is retiring Friday after 43 years in the news business. "The paper was going through another round of downsizing, so I opted to take a buyout and retire a little early," she told Journal-isms by email on Tuesday.
"I feel a little like one of the last men standing. So many of my generation left daily journalism long ago."
Williams later messaged, "I'm leaving with great anxiety about the continuing cost-cutting in newsrooms. People are working very hard and are still doing amazing work, but the bloodletting doubtlessly has hurt our ability to do a good job in covering some important issues.
"I'm also disheartened by the slow progress of diversity in newsrooms. After 43 years in the business, I expected to see much more progress. I've seen some reports that the losses of minority journalists is about proportionate to the overall reduction in newsrooms. But, I think you have to look beyond the numbers at who was lost. A lot of experienced and very talented minority journalists prematurely left the industry.
"It's been my observation that the economic strain has hurt the chances of minority journalists getting jobs. In cases when a job is available, I've seen managers rush to fill it for fear that the position will disappear from a tight budget. That hurts minority candidates because they are less likely to already be on someone's radar."
Meanwhile, the New York Times announced Wednesday that it will offer voluntary buyout packages to members of the newsroom and several business departments at the end of the month, Katie Rogers reported for the Times. "The announcement on Wednesday did not specify the number of buyouts that would be offered, but it said packages would be distributed electronically to all eligible employees on May 31, who would then have until mid-July to consider the offer," Rogers wrote.
Cosby Deposition Discusses Deal With Tabloid
"More than a decade after he was first accused of sexual misconduct, Bill Cosby will go to trial," Brian Vitagliano, Holly Yan and Kristina Sgueglia reported Wednesday for CNN.
"A Pennsylvania judge found enough evidence during a hearing Tuesday to proceed with a criminal trial. . . ."
Maryclaire Dale reported Sunday for the Associated Press that "the following exchanges between Cosby and Andrea Constand's lawyer Dolores Troiani took place in 2005 and 2006 .. . .
"Cosby was asked by Constand's lawyer about granting an exclusive interview to the National Enquirer in 2005 in exchange for the tabloid agreeing not to publish a story about accuser Beth Ferrier, who has gone public as another accuser attached to Constand's lawsuit:
"Q: What is your understanding of the agreement that you had with the National Enquirer?
"A: I would give them an exclusive story, my words.
"Q: What would they give you in return?
"A: They would not print … Beth's story.
"Q: Did you ever think that if Beth Ferrier's story was printed in the National Enquirer that would make the public believe that maybe Andrea (Constand) was also telling the truth?
"Q: So that you knew when (your) article was printed … that you had to make the public believe that Andrea was not telling the truth?
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: In 2000, 'America's Dad,' Bill Cosby was 62, married and consorting with a teenager
Ruling Could Mean More Minority Ownership
A federal appeals court Wednesday vacated an FCC prohibition against companies controlling two or more TV stations in the same local market by using a single advertising sales staff. The decision, a victory for broadcasters, prompted Armstrong Williams, the entrepreneur and commentator, to declare that he planned to buy 10 more television stations in the next year.
"This will do more for minority broadcasters going forward than the FCC has done in three years," Williams told Journal-isms by telephone. Williams' Howard Stirks Holdings, owns seven stations and had entered into joint sales agreements with Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc. There are fewer than a handful of African American owners of full-power television stations [PDF].
Similarly, Pluria Marshall Jr. obtained KPEJ-TV in Odessa, Texas, and KMSS-TV in Shreveport, La., from Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc., which is allowed to handle advertising sales for 15 percent of the stations' programming.
A JSA, or joint sales agreement, is one between two stations in the same market in which one station is authorized to sell advertising time on the other.
"FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler argued broadcasters use joint sales agreements to get around the FCC's limit on owning more than one full-power TV station in the same local market," Gautham Nagesh wrote for the Wall Street Journal after the 2014 FCC decision. "The agreements 'have been used, skirting the existing rules, to create market power that stacks the deck against small companies seeking to enter the broadcast business,' Mr. Wheeler said," Nagesh's story continued.
After passing its prohibition, the FCC added language designed to encourage waivers for joint sales agreements that encourage diversity in media ownership, Nagesh continued. "Three of the four full-power TV stations in the U.S. owned by African-Americans are party to such agreements, and would be likely to secure waivers. . . ."
Unlike Williams, Marshall told Journal-isms that he was not sure the court decision would make much difference. "I still think there are some missing pieces that are probably not showing up," he said by telephone from Los Angeles.
In fact, Wheeler said the commission could restore the joint sales agreement prohibition. "The court didn't say the JSA rule doesn't make sense," said Wheeler, John Eggerton reported for Broadcasting & Cable. " 'They said it needs to be based on rules that themselves haven't been reviewed. So, you review those rules [which he said will be completed, at least in draft form, by June 30] and that sets up a predicate on any decision on JSAs.' "
The court, ruling unanimously, made it clear that the reason the rule was vacated was that the FCC had not completed a quadrennial review of ownership rules first to establish the need for changes.
That pleased the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council, known as MMTC. "The FCC has promised studies on minority and female ownership for more than two decades, and the Court directed the Commission to finally take action, stating that if the FCC 'needs more data' to find a definition that will improve minority ownership, 'it must get it,' ” MMTC said in a statement.
"The Court also extracted from the FCC a promise to address 24 MMTC minority ownership proposals. The Court expects the FCC to circulate an order ruling on these proposals in June. Some of MMTC’s proposals have been pending before the FCC for over a decade.
“ 'Justice delayed is not justice denied. After 12 years of FCC delay, at last a definition that would advance minority broadcast ownership appears to be within reach,' stated MMTC President and CEO Kim Keenan. . . ."
The National Association of Broadcasters also was pleased. "JSAs are clearly in the public interest — as Congress has decided — and allow free and local broadcasters a chance to compete against national pay TV conglomerates,” Dennis Wharton, NAB executive vice president of communications, said in a statement.
Lauren Victoria Burke, National Newspaper Publishers Association: CBC Members Worry Proposed FCC Rule Could Hurt Black Media Companies
Lauren Lynch Flick, commLawCenter: Prometheus Court Vacates FCC’s JSA Ban; Asks FCC for New Ownership Rules by Year-End
Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council: MMTC and Nine Other Civil Rights Organizations Stress Negative Impact of FCC’s Set-Top Box Proceeding; Urge Commission to Conduct Evidentiary Studies
In Poll, Low Trust in Press Varies Slightly by Race
Fewer than 10 percent of Americans polled say they have "a great deal of confidence" in the press, with the figures varying slightly by race.
The survey by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research was conducted Feb. 18 through March 6, with overall results released last month.
Researchers provided a racial breakdown for Journal-isms this week.
Pollsters asked, "I am going to name some institutions in this country. As far as the people running these institutions are concerned, would you say you have a great deal of confidence, only some confidence, or hardly any confidence at all in them?"
For the press, the response was:
White: 42% hardly any confidence at all, 51% only some confidence, and 5% a great deal of confidence
African American: 33% hardly any confidence at all, 58% only some confidence, and 9% a great deal of confidence
Hispanic: 43% hardly any confidence at all, 50% only some confidence, and 7% a great deal of confidence
"None of the other racial/ethnic differences are statistically significant," researcher David Sterrett said.
The survey, completed by 2,014 people and funded by the American Press Institute, included a sample size 65 percent white, 12 percent African American, 16 percent Hispanic, and 8 percent other. The overall margin of sampling error is +/‑ 2.9 percentage points.
Univision Anchor Maria Elena Salinas Booed, Heckled
"A Monday article published by OC Weekly and written by Cal State Fullerton graduating senior Denise De La Cruz gave a firsthand account of a commencement speech by Univision news anchor María Elena Salinas, where Salinas was booed and heckled by some audience members for speaking Spanish and discussing Donald Trump," Julio Ricardo Varela reported Wednesday for latinousa.org.
"At the time of that OC Weekly story, a video of Salinas’ remarks at the university’s College of Communications ceremony was not available, although her keynote address to the entire graduating class was.
"On Tuesday, The Washington Post published a video of that specific speech to the College of Communications . . . and also published Salinas’ reaction to her speech, which included shouts of 'No!' when the award-winning journalist asked to speak in Spanish and 'Get off the stage!' near the end of her appearance. This is what Salinas said on Tuesday: 'It’s really sad. And it’s a testament to what has happened in our country. Our country is really divided.'
"At an earlier point in The Washington Post video, Salinas mentioned Trump: 'They blame us so much for so many things, that now they’re even blaming us, the media, for creating Donald Trump. Imagine that. Isn’t that terrible? But we didn’t, right? Who did it? I don’t know. Who did it? But they’re to blame.' During those comments, shouts and boos can be heard.
In the OC Weekly, De La Cruz wrote, "Salinas' speech was well-received until it became a little too Latino-centric for some and blatantly anti-Trump. The Univision broadcaster began specifically congratulating Latino journalism graduates for what seemed like a large chunk of her speech. She then began speaking in Spanish. . . . This left non-journalism grads and non-Latinos/non-Spanish speakers feeling excluded. Parents in the audience and even students in the ceremony began demanding Salinas switch to a more inclusive tone by shouting phrases such as, 'What about us?!' "
Varela added, "According to the Post, Salinas also said that 'University leaders had encouraged her to say a few words in Spanish.' Forty percent of Cal State Fullerton’s student body is Latino. . . ."
Prospect of Trump Alarms Press Advocates
"Around the globe, public figures and political leaders who lob insults at the media and vilify journalists may score political points, but they also create a divisive environment ripe for attacks on press freedom, CPJ research shows," Alexandra Ellerbeck wrote May 18 for the Committee to Protect Journalists under the headline, "Why Trump's insults of journalists must be taken seriously."
"To be sure, the Trump camp's sporadic bullying is at the minor end of a spectrum compared with, for example, Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan's efforts to imprison and intimidate the critical media using insult and anti-terror laws," Ellerbeck wrote of GOP presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump. "Trump is a candidate, not an official, and even if he were to become president, U.S. free speech protections would stave off any Erdogan-style censorship campaign, experts say.
"But in countries where leaders use their platforms to launch vicious ad hominem attacks on journalists, they have encouraged self-censorship and exposed journalists to unnecessary risk. Furthermore, stirring up antagonism toward the press can be a prelude to introducing restrictive media legislation — all reasons that Trump's behavior warrants close public scrutiny. . . ."
Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: What’s the ‘most dangerous place on Earth’?
Alan Rappeport, New York Times: More Than 400 Writers Sign Petition Protesting Donald Trump
Albor Ruiz, Al Día, Philadelphia: Trump’s sickening demagoguery is catching up with him
Returning, Ifill to Interview Obama, Host Town Hall
"PBS NewsHour co-anchor and managing editor Gwen Ifill will sit down for an exclusive interview with President Barack Obama on Wednesday, June 1 in Elkhart, Indiana," PBS announced on Wednesday.
"It will follow with a town hall, produced by PBS NewsHour, during which local residents will ask questions of the President. The one hour primetime special will air at 8pm EDT on PBS stations across the country. An excerpt will air earlier that evening on the PBS NewsHour. . . ."
Ifill informed her audience on April 7 that she would be on leave for the next few weeks. PBS said she was taking the brief hiatus to address ongoing health issues and would be back around Memorial Day.
Sullivan Scores Obama Team as Secretive, Punitive
In her second column as media critic at the Washington Post, Margaret Sullivan wrote Wednesday that "Some things just aren’t cool. One of those, according to our no-drama president, is ignorance.
“ 'It’s not cool to not know what you’re talking about,' President Obama said during his recent Rutgers University commencement address. It was a swipe clearly intended for he-who-didn’t-need-to-be-named: Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee for president.
"Okay, no argument there," continued Sullivan, who most recently was public editor at the New York Times.
"But the Obama administration itself has been part of a different know-nothing problem. It has kept the news media — and therefore the public — in the dark far too much over the past 7 1/2 years.
"After early promises to be the most transparent administration in history, this has been one of the most secretive. And in certain ways, one of the most elusive. It’s also been one of the most punitive toward whistleblowers and leakers who want to bring light to wrongdoing they have observed from inside powerful institutions. . . ."
Sullivan also wrote, "His on-the-record interviews with hard-news, government reporters have been relatively rare — and, rather than being wide-ranging, often limited to a single subject, such as the economy.
"Remarkably, Post news reporters haven’t been able to interview the president since late 2009. Think about that. The Post is, after all, perhaps the leading news outlet on national government and politics, with no in-depth, on-the-record access to the president of the United States for almost all of his two terms. . . ."
In Multiple Shootings, Most Victims Are Black
"In some cities, law enforcement officials say a growing share of shootings involve more than one victim, possibly driven by increased violence between street gangs," Sharon LaFraniere, Daniela Porat and Agustin Armendariz reported Sunday for the New York Times. "But data are scarce.
"Seeking deeper insight into the phenomenon, The New York Times identified and analyzed . . . 358 shootings [last year] with four or more casualties, drawing on two databases assembled from news reports and citizen contributors, and then verifying details with law enforcement agencies. . . .
"Most of the shootings occurred in economically downtrodden neighborhoods. These shootings, by and large, are not a middle-class phenomenon.
"The divide is racial as well. Among the cases examined by The Times were 39 domestic violence shootings, and they largely involved white attackers and victims.
So did many of the high-profile massacres, including a wild shootout between Texas biker gangs that left nine people dead and 18 wounded.
"Over all, though, nearly three-fourths of victims and suspected assailants whose race could be identified were black. Some experts suggest that helps explain why the drumbeat of dead and wounded does not inspire more outrage.
“ 'Clearly, if it’s black-on-black, we don’t get the same attention because most people don’t identify with that. Most Americans are white,' said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology at Northeastern University in Boston. 'People think, "That’s not my world. That’s not going to happen to me." ' . . . ."
Jackson (Miss.) Free Press: Preventing Violence: Solutions for Creating a Safer Jackson
Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: A mother's quest to understand the murder of her sons, and how she could have saved them
Japanese Media Self-Censor After Gov't Pressure
"Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will take world leaders, including President Obama, into the beloved Ise Grand Shrine on Thursday morning at the start of the Group of Seven summit," Anna Fifield reported Tuesday for the Washington Post. "The pictures will undoubtedly occupy the front pages of Japanese newspapers and the top of the TV news bulletins.
"Abe’s government has been hard at work for months, trying to whip up excitement about the summit in the local and foreign media alike, and over the next few days, he will get plenty of good press. That’s exactly what he wants before the election season here.
"But many analysts say that Abe’s government, which has been struggling with its main promise to revive the economy, has also found other ways to make sure it gets favorable coverage by creating an environment in which media companies have learned to 'read the air,' as the Japanese saying goes, and refrain from critical reporting.
“ 'The pressure isn’t direct — the media is censoring itself,' said Shiro Segawa, a professor of journalism at Waseda University. 'The idea that they must obey the rules prevails in all Japanese companies, including media companies, and that leads to a mind-set in which media think they should not be making any trouble.' . . . ”
“Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement,” a documentary that aired on BET Thursday, "is television that matters," David Zurawik wrote in the Baltimore Sun. He also wrote, "The words of the talking heads are skillfully shaped into an illuminating discussion of how race, policing, social protest, new media and generational change came together to rock the status quo of business as usual in urban America in recent years."
"The United States is on the verge of creating a law with the potential to curb one of the great injustices faced by journalists across the world: impunity," Roy Greenslade reported Wednesday for Britain's Guardian. He also wrote, "The bill, which was passed by the Senate last year, has just been approved by the House of Representatives’ foreign affairs committee. If passed by the House itself, it will go to President Barack Obama to be signed into law. It would allow the US government to take action against non-Americans who are deemed to have grossly violated human rights by freezing their assets and banning visas. . . ."
"Errol Barnett has joined CBS News as a correspondent based in Washington, D.C.," Lisa de Moraes reported for Deadline Hollywood. "Barnett starts next month and will report for all CBS News broadcasts and platforms. Barnett has been an anchor and reporter for CNN International, based in Atlanta; among news stories he covered were the attacks in Paris, protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the death of Nelson Mandela. . . ."
"KUSA weekend anchor Vicente Arenas joined KUSA-Channel 9 in February after 11 years at KHOU in Houston (Dan Rather’s old station) and a couple of years crisscrossing the country as a CBS News correspondent based in Miami," Joanne Ostrow reported Tuesday for the Denver Post. She also wrote, " 'I grew up in the barrio,' the newcomer to Denver said over coffee recently. His Mexican grandfather illegally walked across the border; Arenas, 51, grew up in Kenedy, Texas, about an hour’s drive from San Antonio. Arenas is the only one in his large, extended family to attend college. He was an altar boy, intending to become a priest. . . ."
"The KTNV-TV, Channel 13 anchor who was arrested last week on suspicion of drunken driving has been placed on leave, according to the station’s general manager," Rachel Crosby reported Tuesday for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Rikki Cheese, whose legal name is Lynn Cheese, was arrested last Thursday in front of her northwest valley home on the 5900 block of Filmore Avenue, south of Ann Road and Jones Boulevard, according to an impaired driving report obtained from the Metropolitan Police Department. . . ." Review-Journal columnist Doug Elfman wrote Monday, "I think the worst thing you can do to employees with nonviolent offenses and DUIs that don’t hurt people, and the communities they live in, is to make them immediately jobless. . . . " [Update: Cheese has been fired.]
In Ohio, "A recording recently surfaced implicating two detectives from the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office using derogatory and racist slurs against African American people," Debra Tobin reported on April 9 for the Logan Daily News. "The recording was taped without the knowledge of the two detectives, Edwin Downs and former detective Pat Allison[,] and was in reference to the Trayvon Martin fatal shooting of 2012." Tobin also wrote, "The Logan Daily News received a copy of the recording this week. Throughout the recording, Allison is heard spewing racial slurs such as 'thug' and using the 'n-word' numerous times. . . .” The Huffington Post independently obtained a copy of the audio this week, Michael McLaughlin reported on Tuesday.
"We are delighted to announce the hiring of Megan H. Chan as our new Director of Digital Operations," the Washington Post announced on Thursday. "Megan joins us from Politico, where she has been Director of Digital Products. . . ." [Added May 26]
James Wagner, who joined the Washington Post in 2010 as a high school sports reporter and in 2012 moved to the Washington Nationals beat, is leaving the Post for the New York Times, where he will cover the New York Mets, Richard Horgan reported Wednesday for FishbowlNY. While at the University of Virginia in 2006, Wagner, who is Hispanic, was a member of the 24th class of the Sports Journalism Institute, a diversity-focused, nine-week training and internship program for college students interested in sports journalism careers. Jorge Castillo, who covers the Washington Wizards NBA team, succeeds Wagner on the Nationals beat.
Despite a Washington Post poll of Native Americans showing that 90 percent were not offended by the Washington Redskins' name, Sports Illustrated's Peter King wrote Tuesday that he still will avoid it. "If somewhere between 10 and 21 percent of Native American are offended by the team name or find it disrespectful, then why continue to use it?" King wrote. Roger Chesley, writing in the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, concluded Tuesday, "The poll results, though, are too stark to ignore. The Post informed the public by surveying the people most affected by 'Redskins.' . . .”
"A federal judge has ruled that the gender and age discrimination lawsuit filed by former FS1 reporter Colleen Dominguez against the sports network can go forward," Dave McKenna reported Tuesday for Deadspin. "Dominguez sued FS1 in December 2015, alleging higher-ups there had conspired to thwart her career beginning shortly after she came over from ESPN in March 2014. The complaint she filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California said her bosses began taking her off choice assignments — including interviews she’d scheduled with Madison Bumgarner and Rory McIlroy — and kept her away from the 2015 Super Bowl while sending dozens of less experienced staffers to that game. . . ."
"Two Colombian TV journalists may have been kidnapped in Colombia's dangerous northeast Catatumbo region, their employer said today," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Tuesday. "Reporter Diego D'Pablos and camera operator Carlos Melo, of Bogotá's RCN TV station, were investigating the disappearance of Salud Hernández-Mora, a Spanish-Colombian journalist who was last seen Saturday afternoon in the village of El Tarra, according to her employer. . . ."
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.
Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be notified of new columns, contact email@example.com and tell us who you are.