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Diversity Aids Coverage of Sikh Killings

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August 6, 2012

Ed Brud, Journal Sentinel visual editor, the main designer of the paper's A-sectBlack editors helped frame questions in Milwaukee; journalists of color part of "undercover" database; after small Unity conference, a debate over its future; . . . what we have right now is largely unworkable; . . . the words "journalists of color" made a statement; Terry Baquet to lead Times-Picayune print operation; Christina Norman reassigned at Huffington Post; news director out over remark on homeless Indian; British papers choose between Bolt, Murray (8/6/12)

Light posting this week; returning Aug. 13

Black Editors Helped Frame Questions in Milwaukee

Journalists of Color Part of "Undercover" Database

"New York University has launched a database chronicling undercover journalism dating back to the 1800s," the university announced on Monday.

"The archive, 'Undercover Reporting,' includes an array of stories, ranging from the slave trade in 1850s to efforts to boycott Jewish-owned businesses in the U.S. in the late 1930s to treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the 21st century."

Charlie LeDuff's "The database, www.undercoverreporting.org, is a joint endeavor of Professor Brooke Kroeger of NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and the university's Division of Libraries . . . "

Kroeger provided Journal-isms with this sampling of material in the project by or about people of color:

The CNN booth last week at the Unity '12 convention job fair in Las Vegas. The c

After Small Unity Conference, a Debate Over Its Future

The fifth and smallest Unity convention concluded Saturday, but the absence of the National Association of Black Journalists, the inclusion of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and assertions that the two were related helped to reignite a discussion about Unity's future.

"Claims of black homophobia split UNITY minority journalist convention" was the headline on a piece by Tim Curran, a member of NLGJA, on the SiriusXM OutQ News Blog. "Is it time for UNITY to go?" asked Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal, a member of the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mark Fogarty, an associate, or non-Native member of the Native American Journalists Association, praised the students who covered the Unity convention.

Steven Thrasher, who is black and gay, and affiliated with both NABJ and NLGJA , interviewed NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. for "On the NABJ/UNITY Split, Money, and NLGJA" in the Village Voice. Rafael Olmeda, a former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and of Unity, proposed on his blog that Unity meet again in 2014.

Here are two views, from Yang, who told Journal-isms that his piece had generated "a fair amount" of comment on Twitter and on the Unity convention site on Facebook, and from Vanessa Williams of the Washington Post, president of NABJ from 1997 to 1999.

. . . What We Have Right Now Is Largely Unworkable

By Jeff Yang

Given that UNITY as a standing organization has Jeff Yangunfortunately turned into a trigger for political and economic dissent among its members, the basic purpose for its existence has been badly damaged.

The results were clear in this year's conference. Even setting aside the painful and obvious absence of NABJ from the proceedings, the event felt like the product of a divided and distracted partnership. In an ideal scenario, UNITY's staff would have recognized that the blunt controversies of the schism required both a strong focus on integration and social intermixing (to reemphasize the "unity" part of UNITY) and an active, transparent and open discussion of the concerns members had about the loss of NABJ and the future of the organization.

Neither of these needs was fulfilled. Instead, despite diverse and interesting programming at the panel level, the conference overall felt more disjointed and "separate" than any UNITY I've attended, and I've been to all of them. And because the "elephant in the room" topic of NABJ was never really engaged, it felt like the convention was trying to avoid it — not a good look.

Especially with NABJ having a huge stand-alone gathering in New Orleans in June, and with UNITY not being able to secure either of the presidential candidates to attend, despite both [presidential candidate Mitt] Romney and [Vice President] Joe Biden being in Vegas during the convention.

So my feeling is we need to clean house and clear out the structures that are scar tissue preventing healing. That would first and foremost mean dissolving UNITY as a stand-alone organization, and converting the conference into one that is essentially planned on an ad hoc basis, in a format similar to the Olympics.

"Vision teams" would partner with professional conference planning/association management agencies (like www.kellencompany.com or www.smithbucklin.com) and bid competitively to win the right to develop, plan and stage UNITY on a quadrennial basis on behalf of participating organizations.

These would include any like-minded groups that represent underrepresented communities in journalism . . . so long as they contractually commit to take on the risk and responsibility of being a "sponsoring group," which would entail guaranteeing recruitment of a certain number of attendees and/or securing a certain amount of corporate funds.

Sponsoring groups would keep a fixed percentage of the revenues they deliver, ensuring that no group feels like it is being taken advantage of; groups that exceed their commitments would get a greater percentage of the net proceeds.

And groups would not be obligated to commit for more than one conference at a time.

The competitive bidding would generate greater innovation and engagement on the part of the planning teams, and reduce costs (which would be lower anyway without the overhead of a permanent staff and standing administrative expenses). Participating organizations would be free of the distraction of revenue splits and representation, because both of these would be directly proportional to what they commit to bringing to the table and what they ultimately deliver.

Maybe there are reasons this would be unworkable. Forming a new coalition every four years is hard.

But it's hard not to feel like what we have right now is largely unworkable too — especially if we can't resolve UNITY's split with NABJ.

. . . The Words "Journalists of Color" Made a Statement

By Vanessa Williams

Vanessa WilliamsOne evening, way back when I was president of the National Association of Black Journalists, I and the three other Unity presidents were having dinner at a restaurant. The waiter, a white man, asked what brought us to town and we told him about Unity and our associations. He quipped: "Well, is there an association for white journalists?"

Why is it that some white people are uncomfortable with or threatened by people of color affirming their racial or ethnic identity?

NABJ member LZ Granderson was quoted in a New York Times article last week as saying NABJ's refusal to rejoin Unity after the name change risks making us look "intolerant and maybe even a bit dated."

I respect his opinion. Here's mine: The threat by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association that its members — the majority of whom are white men — would not attend the convention unless Unity dropped the reference to race/ethnicity from its name makes that organization look insensitive and entitled.

The outgoing NLGJA president, David Steinberg, was quoted as saying, "The mission of Unity has always been the mission of NLGJA." Then why demand that an organization founded by people of color give up that reference to its history? Did NLGJA not trust Unity: Journalists of Color to advocate for its members, and was the name change some kind of loyalty oath?

The Unity board overwhelmingly approved it, so clearly it didn't bother most. After all, it's just a couple of words. But words have power. The words "Journalists of Color" made a statement, caught people's attention and made some, like the waiter, ask why the need for such a group. (Not to worry, we schooled him.)

Is the argument that those who opposed the name change are simply homophobic? But it's wrong to ask NLGJA why in the nearly 20 years that it has been pushing to join Unity, the percentage of journalists of color in its membership is less than 20 percent?

Michelle Johnson was quoted in the article as saying, "there are white guys in the organization who have also faced discrimination in the newsroom." No doubt. There are also some old, straight white guys, and certainly women, who could probably rightly claim age discrimination. Should Unity invite them to join as well?

If everybody who can stake a claim of discrimination can join, then what's the point of having a second all-purpose journalism organization? Would the fight for diversity be more effective if we all just joined the Society of Professional Journalists? (I think our waiter would endorse this idea.)

I'm not trying to be snarky here. These are the kinds of questions — and they are legitimate questions — as well as important issues involving finances and governance, that led me, as a member of the NABJ commission to examine reunification, to vote against it at this time. To all y'all who are clamoring for us to go back, my question is: "Go back to what?"

I don't believe that we should close the door on reunification. But I also don't believe we should go racing through the door without knowing what's on the other side. Right now everybody is tired and stressed — from trying to pull off the conventions and from the fresh round of coverage and social media discussion of the split. But next year we — meaning the Asian American Journalists Association, NABJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and NLGJA — should find a way to have a discussion about the past and where we go from here.

Stealing a quote from the excellent unconscious bias workshop at the NABJ conference in New Orleans: This is not rocket science; it's harder than rocket science.

Terry Baquet to Lead Times-Picayune Print Operation

The print operation of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, scaled back to Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays as the operation emphasizes an online presence, will be directed by Terry Baquet, the paper's page one editor since 2000, the Times-Picayune announced on Sunday.

Baquet will also supervise the special New Orleans Saints section planned after each Saints game. The new arrangement begins Oct. 1.

Terry Baquet

Jim Amoss, the newspaper's editor since 1990, will lead both the digital news gathering and print production teams.

The Times-Picayune reported in June that 84 of 173 people in the newsroom were laid off, a loss of 48.5 percent. "According to a list I assembled (based on conversations with multiple people in the newsroom) 14 of 26 African-Americans in the newsroom lost their jobs — a 53.8 percent cut," Steve Myers of the Poynter Institute reported then.

Baquet is the younger brother of Dean Baquet, managing editor of the New York Times. They come from a family of restaurateurs in New Orleans.

"I'm sad to see my friends and colleagues lose their jobs," Baquet told Journal-isms by email. "But I love this paper. When I took this position, I was assured by the Newhouses, my new publisher Ricky Mathews and my editor Jim Amoss that this company remains committed to journalism — in print and on line. And I think this is the model that will keep The Times-Picayune strong."

Christina Norman Reassigned at Huffington Post

Christina Norman, chosen by Arianna Huffington a year ago to edit a revamped and renamed HuffPost BlackVoices after Norman was ousted as CEO of Oprah Winfrey's struggling OWN cable channel, has been reassigned from executive editor to editor-at-large, Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson told Journal-isms on Monday.

Christina Norman"As with our other editors-at-large like Rita Wilson, Michelangelo Signorile, Nico Pitney, and Lynn de Rothschild (HuffPost UK), Christina will be contributing blogs and helping set the overall direction for Black Voices, but not managing editorial on a day-to-day basis," Alderson said by email. "Miguel Ferrer remains managing editor for Black Voices and Latino Voices."

Norman left MTV in 2008 after nearly two decades. She was president of the MTV Networks flagship and before that, president of MTV's sister network VH1.

When Norman joined Huffington, she was to be responsible for creating new video programming across AOL, was expected to help lead two new women's sites within the Huffington Post Media Group and also to manage video.

After interviewing Huffington, David Kaplan wrote then for paidContent.org, "Huffington also explained Norman's hire as a personal one that is intended to send a message about the new HuffPo Women’s values.

"Norman will kick off her new role with an essay about the circumstances of departing as CEO of OWN. 'It's a great lesson for women, that when one door closes, another one opens,' Huffington said. 'There is enormous pressure on high-profile women to succeed, to constantly prove themselves. I met Christina in Los Angeles when she was the head of OWN. After she left, I asked her if she wanted to do something completely different.' "

News Director Out Over Remark on Homeless Indian

"The news director for Duluth television station Fox 21 resigned Monday after objections to what was called a racist Facebook post he made last week," Mike Creger reported early Tuesday for the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune.

" 'Fox 21 general manager Jackie Bruenjes issued a statement Monday night saying she accepted Jason Vincent's resignation. 'Jason has elected to take a new job assignment,' she said.

"Attempts by the News Tribune to reach Vincent and Bruenjes were unsuccessful. It wasn't clear whether Vincent resigned from his position or if he also left the company, Red River Broadcast Co., based in Fargo, N.D."

". . . Bruenjes previously issued a statement Friday as word spread via social media about comments Vincent made on Facebook about a stranger he found in his yard Wednesday night: 'Add drunk, homeless, Native American man to the list of animals that have wandered into my yard.' "

British Papers Choose Between Bolt, Murray

In Britain, "With the London Olympics drowning out Syria's civil war and the continuing euro crisis, editors have been shouting for attention with front pages based entirely on celebrating Team GB's victory . . . until today," Roy Greenslade wrote for his blog on the Guardian website.

British newspapers made a choice.

"This time, national newspapers are split. Some prefer to highlight the success of Jamaica's wonder sprinter, Usain Bolt, for his record 100 metres success rather than Andy Murray's terrific gold-winning defeat of Roger Federer."

Meanwhile, "China's state media launched attacks Thursday on what it said were arrogant and [prejudiced] views of the country's athletes at the London Olympics," the Associated Press reported.

"After several days where Chinese competitors have been in the spotlight for winning golds, and drawing questions about doping and ethics, the official Xinhua News Agency and the People's Daily both accused the 'Western media' of making up stories."

"By doing so, the Western writers have demonstrated an arrogance and prejudice against Chinese athletes that has ignited widespread criticism from all around the world," Xinhua said in a commentary.

In the United States, many in cyberspace were focused on hair. "Black women's hair was already a hot topic on blogs and talk shows before Gabby Douglas vaulted onto the world stage at the London Olympics," Vanessa Williams wrote Friday for the Washington Post. "Then the rhetoric really started to sizzle, like a straightening comb on the back of your neck.

"After some viewers complained on Twitter that Douglas's hair looked unkempt, social media and the blogosphere erupted with incredulous condemnation of those shallow enough to focus on the 16-year-old’s coiffure vs. her graceful jumps and powerful twists."

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