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Covering a Racially Polarized Electorate

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October 26, 2012

AP poll: 51% express explicit anti-black attitudes; did debate commission "play" the journalist groups?; Stephen A. Smith denies uttering N-word on air; BET, Bossip, Madame Noire rise among black sites; NAHJ says use of "illegal" can lead to violence; Paul DeMain isn't joining tributes to Russell Means; Special Olympics athlete responds to Ann Coulter slur (10/26/12)

Updated Oct. 27

AP Poll: 51% Express Explicit Anti-Black Attitudes

Did Debate Commission "Play" the Journalist Groups?

Were the journalist of color associations "played" by the Commission on Presidential Debates?

After journalists of color were shut out of the debate questioning of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Anna Lopez Buck, NAHJ interim executive director, met in Washington Aug. 23 with Michael D. McCurry, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

McCurry, press secretary to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1998, accepted Balta's suggestion that the commission receive questions from the journalists of color and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for presentation to the moderators. McCurry acknowledged "that it would be very difficult (for the moderators) not to take advantage of such an offer," Balta wrote at the time.

But it appeared that none of the questions were asked, despite an Oct. 1 statement from the commission's Nancy Henrietta that "All questions submitted to the CPD have been forwarded to the moderators."

The moderators and their network spokesmen have been reluctant to comment on whether they received the questions, but Edie Emery, a spokeswoman for CNN, spoke Friday on behalf of Candy Crowley, who moderated the second presidential debate. Emery told Journal-isms by email, "Candy moderated the Presidential town hall debate. All of the questions came from the town hall participants. Candy did not receive any questions from the CPD."

Balta previously expressed his disappointment: ". . . Regardless of the outcome, NAHJ is committed to working with the CPD and media companies in ensuring that the list of experienced Latino candidates in 2016 is more robust than what it has been in 2012," he said.

On Friday, Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists, responded by email:

"It is disappointing that the commission disregarded the work of NABJ and the Unity alliance. Perhaps we should not be surprised at these developments when considering the lack of ethnic diversity among the moderators was a path the commission chose to take. When you examine that there were no questions taken from journalists of color and there were no journalists of color as moderators, they missed an opportunity to be more inclusive."

McCurry could not be reached for comment.


Stephen A. Smith insists that he did not really utter the N-word, that as a New Yorker he speaks quickly and his language can be misunderstood. Dahntay Jones of the Dallas Mavericks is at right. In this video, viewers can judge for themselves.

Stephen A. Smith Denies Uttering N-Word on Air

"This morning Stephen A. Smith was in a 'First Take' debate about whether or not Kobe Bryant would play in the season opener," Clay Travis wrote Thursday for outkickthecoverage.com.

"That's par for the first take course, a 'debate' that no one really cares about and that has no lasting significance, delivered with stereo sound histrionics and Bay of Pigs level crisis threat. Ordinarily no one would have noticed. Except on this particular morning Smith dropped a 'Nigga, please,' to cement his point. He did not follow it up by saying, 'you ain't signing no checks like these,' in which case he could just claim he was quoting a popular Jay-Z song.

"Later ESPN dropped the phrase from a reairing . . . [ESPN's] official response: 'Stephen A. Smith vehemently denies using any inappropriate language. We didn't leave it on the re-air as we didn't want to create more confusion if people misunderstood him.'"

Under the headline, "Memo to ESPN, Stephen A.: Enough BS," fellow black sports commentator Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports took Smith and "First Take" to task on Friday.

". . . I'm not going to waste a lot of time breaking down the weakness of Smith's latest denial," Whitlock wrote. "He dropped the N-word. The audio and video speak for themselves. Smith's laughable denial — saying he's from New York and sometimes speaks too 'fastly' — doesn’t even attempt to explain what he said if not 'n---a, please.'

"Nope. The discussion today should focus on First Take, and why this particular show can't avoid sprinkling the N-word into its discourse.

". . . This is a horrendous look for black journalists. Where are the standards? How will we have any credibility the next time a white broadcaster says anything remotely racist if we sit quiet while Smith gets away with this?

"Smith owes us an apology and a few days off work to think about how to properly and respectfully use the immense broadcasting talents he's been blessed with."

BET, Bossip, Madame Noire Rise Among Black Sites

The BET, Bossip and Madame Noire websites recorded increases in unique visitors compared with June numbers, but HuffPost BlackVoices, the Grio and Essence sustained significant declines, according to September figures from the comScore research company.

BET.com was No. 1 among 17 African American-oriented websites for which Journal-isms requested ratings Friday. BET drew 3,191,000 unique visitors in September, compared with 2,851,000 in June. Second was MediaTakeOut, a site specializing in lurid celebrity gossip that for a time had been the top-viewed black-oriented website, with 2,564,000 unique visitors, compared with 2,256,000 in June.

Third was Bossip, a gossip site that last year ran photos of the miscarried fetus of rapper Joe Budden and model Esther Baxter. It drew 2,087,000 unique visitors in September, compared with 1,692,000 in June.

Fourth was HuffPost BlackVoices, which fell from 3,874,000 unique visitors in June to 1,791,000 in September, according to comScore.

"Like every news site, HuffPost Black Voices' statistics fluctuate from month to month based on the nature of the stories," Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson told Journal-isms Friday by email. "Pageviews were actually 35% higher in September compared to February even though UVs were lower. We are extremely happy with the performance of HuffPost Black Voices in the 15 months since its launch." Alderson was asked about a comparison with February figures.

Madame Noire, which calls itself "a sophisticated lifestyle publication that gives African-American women the latest in fashion trends, black entertainment news, parenting tips and beauty secrets that are specifically for black women," was fifth with 1,276,000 unique visitors, up from 815,000 in June.

The Grio, a black-oriented NBC News property, was sixth with 1,129,000 unique visitors, down from 1,646,000 in June.

Others were the Root, 1,106,000, down from 1,697,000 in June; Black Planet, 672,000, up from 581,000 in June; Essence, 652,000, down from 986,000 in June; Black America Web, 476,000, up from 294,000 in June; and EURWeb, 398,000, down from 529,000.

Lee Bailey of EURWeb said comScore does not have tracking code installed on his website and so cannot calculate visits properly. "Our internal (Google) Analytics show us averaging between 900k to 1 million unique per month over the last six months," he said by email. ". . . it seems to me that based on our 900k plus average, the comScore should be no lower than 700k or 600k at the MOST."

Traffic for other sites: Concrete Loop, 201,000, down from 248,000 in June; Clutch magazine, 152,000, up from 127,000 in June; Ebony, 115,000, up from 42,000; Hello Beautiful, 978,000, down from 996,000 in June; NewsOne, 910,000, down from 988,000 in June; and the YBF, 594,000.

NAHJ Says Use of "Illegal" Can Lead to Violence

". . . NAHJ continues to condemn the use of the term 'illegal immigrants,' 'illegal aliens' and 'illegals' in describing people who are in this country without proper documentation," Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote Thursday for Fox News Latino.

Hugo Balta

This month, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan endorsed the newspaper's policy of using "illegal immigrant," and Tom Kent, deputy managing editor for standards and production at the Associated Press, defended AP's use of the term, though he added, "The first thing to note is that 'illegal immigrant' is not the only term we use."

Balta continued, ". . . Those demeaning titles are not only inaccurate and disrespectful, but a propaganda tool used to dehumanize a group of people and instill fear in the general population in order to establish policy.

". . . It's easy for someone to preach from behind an office desk about the proper meaning of words like illegal immigrant. It is irresponsible for them to think that those decisions do not have consequences; sometimes violent."

Balta also quoted Fatma Marouf, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Nevada William C. Boyd School of Law, who said ". . . the term 'illegal immigrants' erroneously suggests that anyone in the United States without legal status is a criminal. Unlawful presence in the United States is not — and never has been — a crime."

Balta also said, "NAHJ has historically asked the media to use the term undocumented immigrants or undocumented worker. To use any other term when describing this group is an attempt to discredit them, question their motives for being in this country and silence their voice from the controversial immigration debate. . . ."

Paul DeMain Isn't Joining Tributes to Russell Means

Paul DeMain, CEO of Indian Country Communications and editor of News From Indian Country, is not joining the outpouring of tributes to Russell Means, the American Indian Movement activist and actor who died on Monday at 72.

Russell Means

For more than 10 years, DeMain has investigated the case of Leonard Peltier and other Native activists. In 1977, Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first-degree murder in the shooting of two FBI agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier's supporters say he is innocent.

DeMain, a former president of the Native American Journalists Association and of Unity: Journalists of Color, does not agree. At the 2011 NAJA convention, he led a session on the 1975 kidnapping, torture and killing of Native activist Annie Mae Pictou Aquash, in which he questioned the actions of Means and AIM co-founder Dennis Banks.

Paul DeMaine

DeMain told Journal-isms by email, ". . . . how is it that mainstream media puts Means, Banks and Peltier on such a pedestal aside from the work that Native journalists did to expose the lies about Peltier being an innocent man." He said that several informants, such as Pictou, Johnny Moore, Buddy LaMont and a black civil rights worker, Perry Ray Robinson, were murdered, and that the AIM leaders "have used their hollywood notoriety to be turned into spokespeople for the Native community when there [are] much more legitimate people to advise the media.

"It is a failure of the media as far as I can see. They no longer want to dwell or work on hard stories, especially when it is easier to quote some radical pretty Indian looking stereotype guy that has something cute to say all the time about anything you ask them about. AIM, Russ and Dennis have become the mascot and logos of Indian Country they fight against."

Special Olympics Athlete Responds to Ann Coulter Slur

"John Franklin Stephens is a Special Olympics athlete who has written a letter that we hope all Americans will read," the Chicago Tribune editorialized on Friday.

"He wrote it earlier this week to conservative political pundit Ann Coulter after she used the word 'retard' to refer to President Barack Obama. Coulter's disgraceful tweet came during the debate Monday between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney: 'I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard,' alluding to Romney's strategy of not directly attacking Obama.

"The casual use of the word is repugnant to people who have learning or developmental disabilities, and to the people who love them.

"Stephens called Coulter on it and reminded Americans why the word hurts. . . . "

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