An essay by Chenjerai Kumanyika, reported in this column Wednesday, complained that "Journalists of various ethnicities, genders and other identity categories intentionally or unintentionally internalize and 'code-switch' to be consistent with culturally dominant 'white' styles of speech and narration."
The essay caught the attention of NPR, which gave him a platform Thursday to discuss the issue.
"Of course, it's not just about what potential journalists face," said Kumanyika, who is African American. "It's also about the audience and the mission of public radio. Different hosts with different voices tell different kinds of stories, and vocal styles communicate important dimensions of human experience. What are we missing out on by not hearing the full range of those voices?
"Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. My wife and I spent some time in Ferguson, Mo., in August and November of 2014. I was standing on the block where Darren Wilson killed Michael Brown and I asked one young man why he thought there had been such an uprising in Ferguson. He reminded me that Michael Brown's body had laid in the street for four-and-a-half hours before being picked up.
"Of course, I had heard this before in the news, but this young brother made me feel it. No one was there to translate. Instead, he carefully told the story his own way. I felt the weight of Michael Brown's body and the weight of so many other young lives in this young man's voice.
"So what do we do? We really have to think about who is the public in public media. The demographics of race and ethnicity are changing in the United States. The sound of public media must reflect that diversity, so get on it. It's time to make moves. . . ."
Those moves should include the seemingly ever-longer underwriting announcements, which a professional actress more often than not delivers in a crisp, upbeat, white-sounding voice. They do little to advance NPR's articulated goal of a network that "sounds like America."
Paul Farhi, Washington Post: Does public radio sound too 'white'? NPR itself tries to find the answer.
- Scott Simon with Gene Demby, NPR "Weekend Edition Saturday": The Infinite Whiteness Of Public Radio Voices (Jan. 31)
"Japan and Jordan scrambled on Friday to find out what had happened to two of their nationals being held by Islamic State, after a deadline passed for the release of a would-be suicide bomber being held on death row in Amman,"Suleiman Al-Khalidi and Elaine Lies reported Friday for Reuters.
"Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said every effort was being made to secure the release of journalist Kenji Goto.
"'We are gathering and analyzing information while asking for cooperation from Jordan and other countries, making every effort to free Kenji Goto,' he told a parliamentary panel. . . ."
The International Federation of Journalists added, "On social media, people across the globe have united in the call for Goto to be freed. The Facebook page I Am Kenji has garnered over 40,000 likes, with photos and messages of support coming in from across the globe. . . ."
Michel du Cille recalled the photographs he took of the crack epidemic when he worked for the Miami Herald. (video)
Michel du Cille, the prize-winning Washington Post photojournalist who died at 58 on Dec. 11 of an apparent heart attack, expressed misgivings about whether his photographs of African Americans were accurate portrayals or merely adding to stereotypes.
Du Cille and other veteran black photographers think aloud about that question in "What Is News? Most Black Men Are Not Criminals!," a 20-minute video by Craig Herndon, a retired Post photographer and former professor of multi-media studies at Howard University.
"It's ready as an educational short or a promo for the larger project," Herndon messaged Journal-isms. "I made it available to photo educators last year, when it won an honorable mention at AEJMC, VISUAL JOURNALISM division," referring to the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
Herndon said he is seeking the views of other veteran African American photographers to add to the project. Those interested may contact him via the Comments section, below, and the message will be forwarded.