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Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2015

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December 28, 2015

A year in the quest for news media that look like America: Police violence; gun violence; Donald Trump, seriously; fear of Muslims; the numbers; Dori J. Maynard dies at 56; a big year for Ta-Nehisi Coates; Lester Holt named "NBC Nightly News" anchor; NABJ cuts back amid deficit;. AP stories result in freedom for 2,000 slaves; most popular "Journal-isms" columns of 2015 (12/28/15)

1. Police Violence

Lester Holt opened a June "NBC Nightly News" show with a report about the Confederate flag controversy. (video)

8. Lester Holt Named "NBC Nightly News" Anchor

Lester Holt was named permanent anchor of the "NBC Nightly News" in June, the first African American in that role.

"It is thrilling to see that an African-American will for the first time in television history be the solo anchor of an network evening newscast,"Dedrick Russell, vice president-broadcast of the National Association of Black Journalists, said in congratulating him. "Lester's presence will surely inspire the next generation of young journalists to make a commitment to the craft and aim to tell honest, creative, and compelling stories which illuminate the diverse world around them."

Holt was substitute anchor and weekend anchor while Brian Williams was anchor and managing editor of the top-rated "Nightly News," and, as David Bauder of the Associated Press characterized him, "arguably the most prominent television journalist in the country."

But Williams was suspended in February "for falsely claiming he'd been in a helicopter hit by enemy fire during the Iraq War. That led NBC to conduct an investigation, which the network said turned up other inaccurate statements about his reporting, most of them in talk show anecdotes told after the fact," Bauder wrote.

In a telephone interview with Journal-isms after the appointment, Holt was asked, "How do you view your position as a 'first'— the first African American solo network anchor?"

He replied, "Like a lot of African Americans who've been in big positions, we often hear — I'll tell you the same thing — 'We don't necessarily define ourselves by our color.' But you know, it's a big deal.

"To the extent that if only one kid turns on the TV and sees my name at the beginning and says, 'Wow, I could do that' and 'That guy looks like me,' that's a great thing. I'm honored by that, but it's not like there was a big sign that said, 'Black anchors need not apply.'

"The fact is, there are only three of these jobs, and as you and I know, they don't open up very often, they're usually held for a very long time. But the circumstances in this case, you know, allowed it. I feel like for my entire career I've been preparing myself for this moment. It's not what I expected to happen, but that door suddenly swung wide open and I was standing."

Chris Ariens reported for TV Newser last week, "Nightly News has been #1 in total viewers for all 26 weeks Holt has been anchor, and for 31 of the last 34 weeks in the demo," referring to the key 25-54 age demographic.

9. NABJ Cuts Back Amid Deficit

In its 40th anniversary year, the leadership of the National Association of Black Journalists told members in October that "NABJ's projected 2015 deficit will be higher than the previous board reported at the 2015 convention. The projected deficit is likely going to be nearly $380,000."

The association eliminated three positions, including that of Darryl R. Mathews Sr., its executive director of less than two years.

NABJ President Sarah Glover announced austerity measures.

Just weeks earlier, NABJ was abuzz with talk of its Aug. 8 visit to the Paisley Park complex of Prince, "His Purple Highness," outside Minneapolis during NABJ's annual convention, staged under the previous  board. Prince appeared before the group for two minutes.

In December, Gabriel Arana wrote a story for the Huffington Post headlined, "Why The Country's Largest Minority-Journalism Group May Close: The National Association of Black Journalists is grappling with a massive shortfall — and none of its leaders will talk about it."

NABJ leaders stated flatly, "NABJ is not closing," and asked for a formal correction. Huffington Post refused.

The nation's oldest and largest association of journalists of color is preparing for a joint convention with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Washington, Aug. 3-7.

10. AP Stories Result in Freedom for 2,000 Slaves

"A team of four Associated Press reporters disclosed earlier this week that grocery stores and restaurants across the world, including Wal-Mart and Red Lobster, are selling shrimp peeled by slaves," Chris Roush wrote Dec. 18 for Talking Biz News.

"That story has prompted exporters and retailers to promise changes this week in the system of exporting and purchasing fish.

"The story, by Margie Mason, Robin McDowell, Martha Mendoza and Esther Htusan followed stories reported and published earlier this year that disclosed that retailers across the world were selling fish caught by slaves from Myanmar.

"Those stories resulted in more than 2,000 slaves being freed and retailers changing how they purchased fish.

"And they won the gold award in the ninth annual Barlett & Steele Awards for Investigative Business Journalism for their work exposing slavery in the fishing industry in Southeast Asia and connecting the practice to U.S. supermarkets and pet food companies. Those awards are run by the Donald W. Reynolds National Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University. . . ."

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