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Columnist William Raspberry Dies at 76

July 17, 2012

Cancer claims pioneer among mainstream pundits (7/17/12); NAHJ candidate quits Contreras ticket; race has no obvious role in Obama's foreign policy; South Asian journalists joke that they test parents' expectations; Ebony pulls Genarlow Wilson story — plans sex-abuse series; Greensboro paper defends blurring N-word in photo; media take Drudge seriously on Condi Rice rumor; Will Sutton to head P.R. at Grambling State; too many black men comfortable in prisons (7/16/12)


Cancer Claims Pioneer Among Mainstream Pundits

NAHJ Candidate Quits Contreras Ticket

Race Has No Obvious Role in Obama's Foreign Policy

South Asian Journalists Joke That They Test Parents' Expectations

Ebony Pulls Genarlow Wilson Story, Plans Sex-Abuse Series

Greensboro Paper Defends Blurring N-Word in Photo

Media Take Drudge Seriously on Condi Rice Rumor

NAHJ Candidate Quits Contreras Ticket

July 16, 2012

"I Don't Want to Be Caught in the Middle of Negative Campaigning"

Nick Valencia, president of the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and a candidate for vice president/broadcast of the national organization, has quit the HalftimeInNAHJ ticket formed by Russell Contreras, NAHJ vice president/print and chief financial officer.

"I don't want to be caught in the middle of negative campaigning," Valencia told Journal-isms.

Valencia, 28, said in a statement on Monday, the first day of early voting in the election: "After much consideration I have decided to drop off the 'HalftimeinNAHJ' ticket. As President of NAHJ Atlanta, our board and I believe it would be best for NAHJ if I ran as an independent. I wish all candidates the best of luck. I will work with and alongside whomever our membership elects to preside over the board. I look forward to seeing you all at the convention. Pa'lante [Forward]."

Nick Valencia Also running independently for vice president/broadcast is Mekahlo Medina, a tech/social reporter at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles and an NAHJ delegate to the Unity Journalists board of directors.

"I respect Mekahlo and what he stands for, and I respect what we stand for," Valencia said, referring to NAHJ. He said he had informed Contreras of his decision.

Medina has also questioned the practices of the incumbent NAHJ board. "Let's be honest: we all knew tough decisions had to be made two years ago," Medina said on his campaign page. "Members knew things would be tough, too, but we were excited to help, to rebuild and to move forward. Instead, some members feel shut down, ignored and, in some cases, ridiculed for asking questions."

He messaged Journal-isms about Valencia's decision: "I am [shocked] and surprised, but then again who would want to run on a negative campaign. It accomplishes nothing for our organization or our members. I'm trying to help rebuild NAHJ not tear down my opponent. Our members deserve better, they have been through enough.

"I appreciate Nick realized the negative way is not the right way. I've always appreciated his commitment to NAHJ and his work with the Atlanta chapter. This race, for me, has never been about slates or candidates. It is about members, ideas and rebuilding an organization that has given me and many others so much."

Contreras said in a statement, ". . . I am grateful for the time Nick was part of our slate and I will continue to work to make sure he is elected, because even if he runs independently, I think he would be a good NAHJ VP for Broadcast and I look forward to working with him.

"Some will take this as a mark against me and my campaign, but I don't see it that way. . . . " [Full statement in Comments section.]

Contreras' opponent, Hugo Balta, welcomed Valencia's withdrawal from the slate.

"I respect Nick's decision," Balta said. "It takes courage to admit making a wrong decision (in joining [HalftimeInNAHJ] party). I support Nick not wanting to be associated with [Contreras'] negative campaign. We have agreed  to work together for the good of NAHJ and its members should we be elected."

According to Valencia's campaign posting while he was part of the slate, "Nick is part of a team of two-time Peabody Award Winning journalists at CNN where he has worked since 2006 and has spent time reporting extensively on the drug war in places like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. He is currently a National Desk Editor and Reporter and has been in the middle of CNN's newsgathering for the biggest breaking news stories in the last few years.

". . . He has been the NAHJ Atlanta President since 2010 and is one of the founding members of the chapter. Under his leadership, NAHJ Atlanta has maintained a mission of 'unity and inclusion.' He has expanded Atlanta's membership not only in terms of numbers, but diversity to include people of various ethnic backgrounds who are dedicated to the advancement of Latinos in the news industry." The Atlanta chapter has more than 60 members, he told Journal-isms.

The tone of the NAHJ race became contentious even when Contreras was the only presidential candidate.

Mekahlo Medina

On May 16, Contreras posted a video declaring his candidacy. The same day, an anonymous poster published a YouTube video that began in the same way as Contreras' video. But the opening line, "Dear Family, I know we've been apart," was interrupted by a voice that said, "apart because Russell Contreras disrespects members." It continued, "Russell doesn't care if you're disrespected. . . . It's Russell's way or no way. That is not leadership. That is not NAHJ. Anyone but Russell. Anyone!"

Balta, a coordinating producer at ESPN who would challenge Contreras in the race, said then that he had nothing to do with the countervideo but agreed with it.

On June 13, Contreras and Balta agreed that "personal attacks have no place in the campaign nor do anonymously produced and posted videos," NAHJ President Michele Salcedo said in a statement posted the next day on the association's website.

Three weeks later, a video promoting Contreras characterized Balta as one who has "missed half of his meetings while on the board" and who represents gambling away the organization's future.

Contreras insisted it was not a personal attack and that he was simply comparing records. Balta, who had been vice president/broadcast, replied that the absences came after he had lost his job and that he had discussed whether to remain on the board with then-NAHJ president O. Ricardo Pimentel. Without naming Balta, Contreras then posted a message on his campaign Facebook page saying that if he were ever laid off, he would resign from the NAHJ board.

Remaining members of the HalftimeInNAHJ slate are Contreras, candidate for president; Francisco Cortes, vice president for online; Erin Ailworth, vice president/print; Blanca Torres, financial officer; Chris Ramirez, secretary; and Elizabeth Alvarez, at-large.

Manny De La Rosa, NAHJ's vice president for broadcast who endorsed Valencia last week, told Journal-isms on Monday, "My endorsement remains the same. Nick has a lot of potential and I believe he will be a great leader in NAHJ," he said in an email. "Slates normally don't work in NAHJ elections. Voters vote for people."

President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden share a humorous moment with Palest

Race Has No Obvious Role in Obama's Foreign Policy

When he went to Ireland last year, President Obama made it a point to connect Ireland with abolitionist journalist Frederick Douglass and the slave trade.

In a visit to Colombia in April, Obama witnessed a land title handover to black Colombians.

Still, according to two journalists or former journalists who have just written about aspects of Obama's foreign policy, race has played little if any role in the conduct of the first black president's statecraft, though it might have affected the expectations of some abroad.

In a 6,925-word piece in the Washington Post on Sunday, Scott Wilson examined Obama's handling of the Mideast conflict and found it wanting, yet representative:

"The way Obama managed the Israeli-Palestinian issue exhibited many of the hallmarks that have defined his first term," Wilson, who has covered The Washington Post's Scott Wilson cites suspicions of Obama's religion.both the White House and the Middle East, wrote. "It began with a bid for historic change. But it foundered ultimately on his political and tactical misjudgments, on a lack of trusted relationships and on an outdated view of a conflict that many of his closest advisers imparted to him. And those advisers — veterans of the Middle East peace issue — clashed among themselves over tactics and turf."

Wilson also wrote that Obama's relationship with his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, might have affected how he was perceived by American Jewish leaders.

"Obama's Muslim middle name, former anti-Zionist pastor in Chicago and past friendships with prominent Palestinians had shadowed his presidential campaign," Wilson wrote in his narrative. "He wanted to restore the United States' reputation as a credible mediator. To do so, he believed that he needed to regain Arab trust — and talk tough to Israel, publicly and privately."

Wilson told Journal-isms by email: ". . . no, I didn't find that his race played a role. Suspicions about his religion did, at least early on, but race does not seem to have been a factor — unless you count the Rev. Jeremiah Wright factor, and his anti-Zionist message not that uncommon (I believe) in the black church (or at least political ones.) Being associated with Wright made him have to convince Israel supporters he was on their side — something he never quite pulled off. But that's not directly related to his race."

James Mann is a former newspaper reporter, foreign correspondent and columnist who wrote for more than 20 years for the Los Angeles Times and before that for the Washington Post. He is now an author-in-residence at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

James MannIn Mann's latest book, "The Obamians: The Struggle Inside the White House to Define American Power," he draws upon 125 interviews to write "with shrewdness and insight about the evolution of the president's thinking, tensions among his staff (over issues like humanitarian intervention and the use of military force), and contrasts and continuities between his conduct of foreign policy and that of the previous two presidents," Michiko Kakutani wrote last week in the New York Times.

"In general, I found that race rarely if ever played a role in his foreign-policy decisions — but that it was sometimes a factor in the reactions to them, particularly overseas," Mann told Journal-isms by email.

"It's hard to see race as a factor in any of his decisions on major issues like Afghanistan, drones, bin Laden, Pakistan, Iran, China, Russia, arms control, climate change, etc.

"But from his very first weeks in office, I've noticed that the foreign reactions to Obama sometimes drew inferences about his foreign policy based on race or color. I remember, soon after he took office, a British television reporter asking to interview me about the idea that Obama would somehow think differently about Europe or somehow be distant from it, because he was the first American president who didn't have 'European roots.' The very premise was silly — Obama's mother's family, the Dunhams, were English, I believe. And George W. Bush, who did of course have entirely European roots, did more to alienate America from Europe than any president since the 1920s.

"At first, I took this as an odd query from just one idiosyncratic reporter. But at some point in Obama's first or second year, it was clear that this bizarre theory stretched high up in the British government: Sir David Manning, the former British ambassador to Washington, aired in public this theory of Obama's foreign policy reflecting the fact that he did not have British roots. (My own take is that Obama, having been educated at an American prep school, Columbia and Harvard Law School, has an elite background and training not too different from FDR, JFK, Bill Clinton or the Bushes).

"I don't mean to single out the British on this — they're just a good example, because they're our closest allies and certainly don't think of themselves as influenced by racial considerations. But people in other countries, too, have shown similar expectations: other Europeans, the Israelis, have exhibited occasional nervousness about Obama because he is not white. And correspondingly, I think that, particularly in Obama's first year, some Arab leaders expected too much from Obama because they thought his color would make a difference in his foreign policy."

[David E. Sanger of the New York Times, author of "Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power," said by email on July 18: "In my reporting for Confront and Conceal I found no evidence of the kind you ask about."]

Ali Velshi of CNN said Saturday at the South Asian Journalists Association gala, 'The most important thing you do is bear witness' (Credit: Jigar Mehta/SAJA)

South Asian Journalists Joke That They Test Parents' Expectations

A running joke developed at the annual gala of the South Asian Journalists Association at the National Press Club Saturday night, the first for the New York-based group to be held in Washington.

"My dad still asks me, 'When are you going to law school?" Aditi Kinkhabwala of the NFL Network, the emcee, said. Then Amita Parashar of NPR's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin said, "My mom still asks if I'm going to medical school."

When Joya Dass, business anchor for NY1 and CNN, reached the stage to present the award for "Outstanding Business Story on South Asia, or the Worldwide South Asian Diaspora," she quipped, "My parents have moved past career development. They just want me to marry somebody — anybody."

About 200 people attended the affair, sponsored by a journalist of color group that receives less attention than some others. Yet with 750 dues-paying members, it is larger than the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, which has about 600 members, and the Native American Journalists Association, which had 237 members as of its convention last year.

SAJA differs from the other journalism associations in that its charge is primarily networking and helping one another, rather than advocacy. It has no paid staff or headquarters, it is not a member of Unity Journalists and many of its members hold relatively high-ranking positions in the profession. Others are distinctly entrepreneurial. The treasurer, John Laxmi, is an investment banker, not a journalist.

At such occasions, many members wear traditional dress, saris for women and sherwanis for men. And many of their parents did not have journalism in mind for their children. Indian Americans, the Pew Research Center reported in June, are thinking beyond journalism's relatively meager salaries. They have a median household income of $88,000.

On that last point, Jigar Mehta, a digital entrepreneur, former New York Times video journalist and immediate past president of SAJA, said by email, ". . . I think this is similar with other immigrant groups as well. It also reflects how journalism is valued in society (and how journalist pay stacks up).... However it is changing, reflected in the amount of students there, esp for south asians as we now have so many more SA on tv, on the radio, in the leading papers and at the top of their fields....

"This was the case for me in a minor way, because i went and got a engineering degree before becoming a journalist!"

The current president, Anusha Shrivastava, foreign exchange reporter for Dow Jones Newswires and the Wall Street Journal, agrees.

". . . in general, South Asian parents are more inclined to want their offspring to study medicine, engineering or law or become professors or bankers rather than journalists," Shrivastava told Journal-isms by email. "That said, we've heard over and over again that once the children pick journalism as their path, the parents are extremely supportive. That's been my experience, too. My parents would have liked me to study medicine but when I didn't, they thought I'd teach since I got a doctorate in International Relations. I did get hooked to journalism early in life and once they saw me on-air in a BBC World program called 'India Business Report' in the early 90s, and later, on the front page of The Wall Street Journal, they couldn't have been more pleased.

"We now have South Asian journalists reporting on business, sports, fashion, science, politics and technology in newsrooms of every size. Clearly, parents who worry about their children's future in journalism should take heart from this development."

S. Mitra Kalita, senior special writer at the Wall Street Journal, had some news: As of Wednesday, she will leave the Journal to join the Atlantic Monthly as commentary editor of its new free digital product about the global economy, Quartz. Kalita told Journal-isms she was looking for voices to display in the section.

In introducing the night's speaker, Kalita mentioned the "joke about how everybody's parents wanted them to be Sanjay Gupta. But the question we get when we go home is, 'How come you're not Ali Velshi?' "

After scolding Washington lawmakers for their paralysis, Velshi, anchor and chief business correspondent at CNN, recalled that when he told his father that he was going to be a journalist, "All my dad would say was, 'I had a journalist as a tenant once, and he never paid his rent.' "

Yet, Velshi said, "All I ever wanted to do is write for a newspaper. I didn't think anyone on TV was very smart."

He told the journalists that "the most important thing you do is bear witness" and that the public counts on journalists to offer "some sense of analysis."

SAJA awarded $50,000 in scholarships this year, and Velshi said he contributed $2,000 to challenge other broadcasters to create a counterpart to the print-based SAJA Editors Challenge, which this year raised more than $20,000.

It's important that SAJA urges other South Asians to be journalists, Velshi said. "Just go and tell the truth. Don't kill yourself over ratings. Don't decide that you want to be a TV star. Go out and be a journalist."

Ebony Pulls Genarlow Wilson Story, Plans Sex-Abuse Series

Ebony.com has pulled its interview with Genarlow Wilson, who was convicted on child molestation charges at age 17 in 2005, and is planning "a three-part editorial series to educate Black America about these issues and to provide a platform for the powerful voices of women who have been affected by rape and sexual molestation," Johnson Publishing Co. has announced.

Some readers were outraged by the headline on the website's July 9 interview, "Notorious to Glorious: Genarlow Wilson is No Child Molester and Never Was."

Genarlow Wilson

Crystal Howard, director of communications for Johnson Publishing Co., told Journal-isms by email on Sunday, "We pulled the original story because we felt that it was clouding Ebony's core mission to uplift and advocate for all members of the [African American] community. It is of paramount importance to us that our readers be able to trust all platforms that bear the Ebony [name] for clear and accurate reporting on the issues that affect Black America the most."

The publication posted a new statement on Saturday on ebony.com:

"Our controversial story on Genarlow Wilson, a young man who was convicted of child molestation at age 17, raised a myriad of issues of pressing importance to the Black community. As a result of Wilson's conviction, debates opened up surrounding the topics of both sexual consent for minors and harsh sentencing laws for Black men. For the past 66 years, Ebony has advocated for the well-being of all members of the African-American community, and has been at the forefront of these necessary conversations.

"Your response to our story has further illuminated for us the importance of engaging around issues of sexual violence, of supporting victims, and of empowering our community with relevant knowledge and resources. We deeply regret that the perception of the article about Wilson (published on EBONY.com on July 9, 2012) led some readers to believe that we are less than sensitive to the plight of young women in sexual assault cases.

"We want you to know that we are now, and have always been committed to confronting sexual assault in our community. At present we have many articles on our site that challenge America's rape culture. In addition, we are developing a three-part editorial series to educate Black America about these issues and to provide a platform for the powerful voices of women who have been affected by rape and sexual molestation. We encourage everyone to join this conversation."

School officials in Rockingham County, N.C., found this banner hanging at the sc

Greensboro Paper Defends Blurring N-Word in Photo

The News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., blurred the N-word in a photo of a banner hanging at a school district's office that "included 21 words printed . . . in red and black ink, a racial epithet, a reference to the Ku Klux Klan and a pledge to 'get our monument back,' in the words of the News & Record's Thursday story.

Editor Jeff Gauger told Journal-isms by email Monday that the word was blurred because "doing so best reflected the taste boundaries of our community."

Gauger wrote:

"As you know, editing is one part knowing and reflecting the taste expectations of your community, and one part leading your community toward its better self.

"We blurred the N-word because, after discussion among a half-dozen editors, I decided that doing so best reflected the taste boundaries of our community. The editors' opinions were not unanimous. The decision was mine alone.

"In deciding, I thought of rape victims, whom newspapers almost uniformly do not identify. In a more perfect world, we would routinely identify them because there is no shame in being a victim. The taste boundaries of most communities do not permit us to.

"As rendered, the published photo left no question as to what the word was, even with the blurring. It matched our expression of the word in text, as 'N-----.' Our published report was both complete and respectful of our community's sense of itself.

"We have received no response since publishing the story and photo, no response either positive or negative."

Media Take Drudge Seriously on Condi Rice Rumor

"When Matt Drudge released his report yesterday that Condoleezza Rice was the new top contender for the GOP vice presidential nomination, pretty much everyone saw it for what it was — an attempt to distract the press from the mounting controversy over Mitt Romney's departure date from Bain Capital," Eric Boehlert and Simon Maloy wrote Friday for Media Matters for America.

"It was so transparent and so improbable that even conservatives like Erick Erickson, while appreciative of the intent, were calling it 'silly.' But it worked: major newspapers and the network morning shows jumped on the Drudge rumor."

Will Sutton to Head P.R. at Grambling State

"Will Sutton, a 2012 Reynolds Center Visiting Professor, will join Grambling State University as acting Director of Public Relations and Communications," Kelly Carr reported for the center, based at Arizona State University, on Monday.

"Since January, Sutton taught a business journalism class at Grambling as Will Suttonpart of the Reynolds Center's Visiting Professor Program, which pairs veteran journalists with academic institutions to encourage stronger financial training. Sutton, whose career included leading award-winning teams at various media outlets, was one of four visiting professors funded by a $1.67 million grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.

"In his new role, Sutton will handle Grambling's public relations and communications. He will also advise journalism students as they embark on professional careers. . . ."

Sutton is a former deputy managing editor of the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and former Scripps Howard Endowed Professor/Visiting Professor at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at his alma mater, Hampton University. He was editor of the Post-Tribune in Gary, Ind., from 1993 to 1996.

Too Many Black Men Comfortable in Prisons

Curtis Bunn is a best-selling novelist and national award-winning sports journalist who has worked at the Washington Times, New York Curtis BunnNewsday, the Daily News in New York and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, according to the brief bio at the end of his essay.

"Earlier this week, I was arrested and placed in the Atlanta City Jail," Bunn wrote Sunday for the Atlanta Black Star. "Mug shot. Finger-printed. 'Random' stop. My crime: Traffic violation. From 1996. In New Jersey. This is not written in error.

"In the process of suffering through this ordeal, I stumbled upon some disturbing scenes — scenes that will stick in my head for a long, long time. The view from inside the jail was not pretty; what I saw was a troubling comfort and familiarity too many black men have with the insides of our prisons. For many of them, getting sent back there was like going home. . . ."

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