Why Not Cover Race?

Maria Hinojosa of “Latino USA” moderates a session last week with Secretary of Education John King Jr. at the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Hinojosa said in a podcast Aug. 10, 2016, “if I see a story about a community that I understand, and I know well—oh, my God, I mean, that’s a journalist’s dream.”
Sandra Gonzalez

In a half-hour podcast [audio] recorded Wednesday by the Futuro Media Group, led by public broadcasting's Maria Hinojosa, four journalists of color gave fresh takes on the longstanding question of whether they feel "pigeonholed" by covering race. Their short answer was they're covering today's big story.

They also discussed stories on race that the media are missing and last week's joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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The consensus among Hinojosa; Wesley Lowery, reporter for the Washington Post; Yamiche Alcindor, reporter for the New York Times; and Julio Ricardo Varela, a political editor for the Futuro Media Group, was that at the end of the tenure of the United States' first black president, race is the biggest story of the day and that any journalist should want to cover it, especially if he or she can bring nuance to the story.

"Yes, I don't want to pigeonhole myself; yes, I want to report on anything," said Hinojosa, longtime host of "Latino USA." "But if I see a story about a community that I understand, and I know well — oh, my God, I mean, that's a journalist's dream. And so, it is just about telling a great story."

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Yamiche Alcindor

The first substantial influx of black journalists into the mainstream news media came in response to a report from the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders, known as the Kerner Commission, in 1968.

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"For if the media are to comprehend and then to project the Negro community, they must have the help of Negroes," it said.

"If the media are to report with understanding, wisdom and sympathy on the problems of the cities and the problems of the black man — for the two are increasingly intertwined — they must employ, promote and listen to Negro journalists."

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Still, Alcindor said she, like some other black journalists, had been cautioned by mentors on writing too much about race. But Alcindor said she found that "writing about race in America is just as important as writing about Wall Street, or being a foreign correspondent, and by the way, I'm really passionate about it, and I can come up with stories that are birthed in my soul and end up being stories on the front page in a way that I can't with other topics."

Addressing whether black journalists can be fair in covering race, Alcindor said she was most affected by reporting on the shootings of 20 predominantly white children in Newtown, Conn. On Dec. 14, 2012, Adam Lanza went into Sandy Hook Elementary School and killed six adult and the children before killing himself.

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Alcindor said she sat in her car and cried.

Lowery, part of a Washington Post team that has been assembling data on police shootings, said, "It is important that black voices and brown voices are leading these conversations" and that so many reports on policing and race are by journalists of color.

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"It's now through our eyes that the nation is seeing it," he said of the policing issue. He praised "In the Turmoil Over Race and Policing, Children Pay a Steep Emotional Price," a July story conceived of and written by Alcindor, as "one of the more moving things written this year on that topic."

However, Lowery also said he doubted that the news media would give the necessary sustained attention to the Justice Department's 163-page report, released Tuesday, that confirmed a history of unconstitutional and discriminatory police practices in Baltimore.

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Varela regretted that the media continue to see Latinos through the prism of immigration, pointing to Hillary Clinton's answer Friday to a question at the NABJ/NAHJ convention on whether Democrats take Latinos for granted.

Clinton 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.

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Varela replied, "We have to get past that narrative, that all we care about is immigration and status and all that. . . . It speaks to the issue of white privilege and how the privileged liberal world looks at Latinos, even in 2016, like we're migrant workers going to the field and leaving our babies with white babysitters. . . ."

The panelists expressed their disgust that Fox News host Tucker Carlson, co-hosting the Aug. 6 edition of "Fox and Friends," asked Varela whether it was ironic that Clinton had accused Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, “of racism while speaking to a racially exclusive group.”

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Carlson knew better, they said. The journalist of color organizations are "based on the idea of inclusion," Lowery said. "Look, there are white people all over NABJ conferences and NAHJ conferences, along with people of other races." Of the Fox News critics, Lowery said, "They know they're trying to besmirch us and slander us, and slander the work we're doing."

Denise Clay, BBC: Clinton's speech a missed opportunity

Mary C. Curtis, garnetnews.com: Will Donald Trump Meet With Minority Journalists?

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Theo Dorsey, dleaguers.com: Questions That Needed Answers From NABJ 2016

Michelle Marsh, WJLA-TV, Washington: ABC7's Maureen Bunyan, Sam Ford reflect on helping found NABJ in 1975 (video)

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Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: Presidential candidates offer platitudes but no real plans to help black and Latino voters

Green Party’s Stein to Join Asian American Forum

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein will join former President Bill Clinton and Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson Friday when Asian and Pacific Islander American groups join the Asian American Journalists Association in Las Vegas for a Presidential Election Forum, the groups announced Wednesday.

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Jill Stein

"In addition, discussions are in final stages with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign," an announcement said. Alton Wang, a spokesman for AAPIVote, told Journal-isms by telephone that talks were taking place with the Republican National Committee about sending a GOP representative.

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Trump last week turned down an invitation to appear at the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists, but the two groups have renewed their request to hear from him.

Kathy Chow, AAJA executive director, told Journal-isms by telephone that "close to 800" people had registered for its convention, which began Wednesday. They are to be joined by "thousands of other organizations" at the Las Vegas site and elsewhere for the Friday forum, Wang said.

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The event starts at 2 p.m. local time and ends at 5 p.m., he said. "More than 40 organizations are holding conferences, seminars, and symposiums to discuss issues relevant to their industries, professions, and communities," according to the announcement.

"In addition, over 50 AAPI community Watch Parties will be held across the country, joining this historic event digitally in real-time. . . ."

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The National Association of Asian American Professionals, for example, will already be in Las Vegas for its convention at Caesar's Palace, where AAJA is meeting.

AAPIVote plans to livestream the event on its website, Wang said.

Discussing Stein, Ross Rosenfeld, a contributor to the Hill, wrote Tuesday that "leading a 'Green Revolution' is a large part of her current candidacy: She has promised to transform the United States into a green economy that will invest in renewable energy sources and lead the world in environmental technology, all the while creating millions of new jobs in what she posits will be an expanding sector. . . ."

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Bill Scher wrote Saturday for Politico Magazine, "Remember: The Green Party’s objective is not to spoil for the sake of spoiling; it’s to win at least 5 percent of the popular vote. That threshold would qualify the Green Party for public campaign funds to use in the 2020 presidential campaign that party officials estimate would amount to more than $10 million. With a more reliable funding stream, the Green Party would be more able to retain the far left slice of the electorate, and become a perennial thorn in the Democratic side. . . ."

Coverage by AAJA Voices, student convention publication

Matt Welch, Los Angeles Times: Let Gary Johnson (and Jill Stein) into the debates

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Trump Calls Don Lemon 'Dumb as a Rock'

"Donald Trump on Wednesday called CNN anchor Don Lemon 'dumb as a rock' after a heated segment on the GOP presidential nominee's controversial remarks about Hillary Clinton and supporters of the Second Amendment," Jesse Byrnes reported for the Hill.

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" 'Don Lemon is a lightweight — dumb as a rock,' Trump tweeted, praising former Secret Service agent and Florida Republican congressional candidate Dan Bongino for defending him on the network the previous night.

"Bongino, who said he's backing Trump but is not a 'Trump surrogate,' defended the GOP nominee amid backlash over the businessman's comment that 'Second Amendment people' could stop Clinton, his Democratic rival.

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" 'It's clear he's trying to motivate people to go out and vote based on the potential for an open Supreme Court seat,' Bongino argued during his CNN appearance Tuesday night.

"Bongino then accused Lemon of having a preconceived idea that Trump was calling for violence, saying the CNN anchor 'didn't come into this with a clear and open mind.'

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“ 'What you’re saying right now makes no sense,' Lemon told the guest.

" 'I’m sitting at home, I’m watching Donald Trump. I have two ears and I have two eyes and I can see the reactions of people behind me. We’re not stupid,' Lemon said, referring to CNN analysts on the panel. . . ."

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CBS Entertainment President Defensive on Diversity

"After being hounded with questions about the network's lack of diversity, CBS entertainment president Glenn Geller told critics at the Television Critics Association conference that he's aware they need to do better," Julia Alexander reported Wednesday for polygon.com.

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Glenn Geller (Credit: CBS)

" 'We're very mindful at CBS about the importance of diversity and inclusion,' Geller said. 'We need to do better and we know it. That's it. We know we need to do better.'

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"All 10 of CBS' upcoming pilots this fall feature white men or women as lead characters. Geller said CBS had taken notice of it and tried to increase diversity in other sections — making 11 of the 16 ensemble actors people of color — but was aware that doesn't fix the main problem the network is continuously faced with.

"Geller, who has been asked this question repeatedly, was prepared for the onslaught of questions about the lack of diversity on CBS shows.

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" 'I'm glad this question came up first,' Geller said. ''Those aren't just words. This is real action. I know there's an inclination to look at the screen and say, "What's going on? Why are you less diverse?"'

" 'I do want to point out that in the ensemble casting we are more diverse than last year and that's progress.'

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"Geller added that they were dedicated to increasing diversity in areas that weren't just in front of the camera, too. He said they were pouring more financial resources into their diversity team to hire more diverse writers and directors, but there was another area that the network needed to focus on pretty badly.

"Out of the 10 shows premiering this fall, all 10 showrunners are white men. Geller, who had become visibly defensive over the line of questioning, reiterated that he was aware of the problem, but sometimes there wasn't anything you could do about that.

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"Sometimes the showrunners are diverse, sometimes they're not diverse," Geller said. "We picked up the best shows from the pilots we made. . . . "

Emily Yahr added in the Washington Post, "Another reporter brought up that Geller, who is gay, said during the last press tour earlier this year that he was proof of the network diversifying, and asked about 'sexuality representation' on the network. (His quote in January: 'I’m just a gay guy from Indiana who doesn’t play basketball, but now I’m the entertainment president of CBS.')

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“ 'It’s obviously a very personal topic for me, I think things are definitely shifting,' Geller said, pointing to LGBT characters on 'Code Black,' 'NCIS: New Orleans,' 'The Great Indoors' and new drama 'Bull.' Plus, he added, Laverne Cox stars in the Katherine Heigl-led drama 'Doubt' this season as the first transgender actress to play a transgender series regular on TV. . . ."

The questions about diversity were first asked by Maureen Ryan of Variety and then Eric Deggans of NPR. Excerpts from the transcript are in the Comments section of the journal-isms.com version of this column.

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Maureen Ryan, Variety: CBS Needs Concrete Action, Not Vague Statements, on Diversity

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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