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Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2013

December 30, 2013

ESPN analyst Chris Broussard's mistake was offering "personal comments,"   accordA year in the quest for news media that look like America: Growing intolerance of intolerance, insensitivity;  . . ESPN lists additional steps on cultural sensitivity; Unity is dead, co-founders say; a resilient Roland Martin; White House press corps fades to white; Essence editor speaks out after firing; media consolidation erodes minority ownership; the numbers; Al Jazeera America, Fusion, ABC, MSNBC are bright spots; passing of diversity heroes; FAMU, Grambling, Morgan State put spotlight on HBCU journalism; most popular "Journal-isms" columns of 2013 (12/30/13) 

A year in the quest for news media that look like America

1. Growing Intolerance of Intolerance, Insensitivity

Comedian Yannis Pappas, left; Univision reporter Mariana Atencio and Globo jour

8. Al Jazeera America, Fusion, ABC, MSNBC Are Bright Spots

When Al Jazeera announced in January that it had bought Current TV, which later would be rebranded as Al Jazeera America, hopes were high for job-seeking journalists of all colors. As with its siblings Al Jazeera and Al Jazeera English, the new channel would be a serious one that would eschew fluff and crowd-pleasing but insubstantial features.

The network delivered, hiring Kim Bondy, an ex-CNN producer; former CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien; former "PBS NewsHour" correspondent Ray Suarez; veteran CBS reporter Randall Pinkston; Julio Ricardo Varela, founder of the site Latino Rebels; veteran sports journalist Neal Scarbrough, senior executive producer for sports programming; sports anchor Michael Eaves and sports anchor/reporters John Henry Smith and Ross Shimabuku, among others.

But viewers did not follow. "The ratings are so low, they are considered a 'scratch' and aren't reported by Nielsen," the New York Post's Claire Atkinson reported in November. But as Alex Kantrowitz reported in December for BuzzFeed, "With the deep pockets of Qatar providing financial support, commercial success is not a primary concern for the network."

Meanwhile, Fusion, a joint project of ABC News and Univision, targeted millennials with hard news, news satire, sports and commentary in English. It, too, meant jobs. "In applying for a $3.5 million job-creation grant last year from Miami-Dade County," Fusion "promised to create 346 new jobs over the next five years — 201 in 2013 — in addition to retaining 137 jobs in the county,"Veronica Villafañe recalled in March for TVNewsCheck. "The new jobs would have an average salary of $81,000."David Ford, a spokesman for the network, told Journal-isms on Monday that Fusion has a staff of approximately 200, with the majority based in Miami. It also uses staffers from its parent companies.

Still, Jordan Charitonreported in November for MediaBistro that Fusion was not in enough homes to be publicly rated by Nielsen.

Moreover, its Oct. 28 launch was marred by the absence of dark-skinned Latinos, which earned it a reminder from Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, for "all media (especially networks [that] solely focus on the Latino community) to be inclusive and reflective of all Latinos."

On the broadcast networks, Byron Pittsjumped from CBS News to ABC News in April as an anchor and its chief national correspondent, praising ABC as a network where "diversity is as important as it is to me" and leaving one, he told Journal-isms, that has lost half the number of black correspondents it had when he arrived 16 years ago.

Among the cable news networks, MSNBC grew its African American audience by 60.5 percent in 2012 for the Monday-through-Sunday 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. period, Tommy Christopher reported in January for Mediaite.

MSNBC last week called itself the most diverse cable news channel. Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., 30 percent of MSNBC’s 25-54 audience was African American and 7 percent was Hispanic for the year. "2013 is the fourth consecutive year MSNBC primetime is #1 among cable news nets among African-American viewers with both A25-54 and Total viewers," a news release announced.

"MSNBC maintained the most diverse anchor lineup among the big three cable news channels, focusing its coverage on issues of concern to non-white viewers, including the killing of Trayvon Martin and the spread of changes to voting laws that would disproportionally affect people of color,"Eric Deggans, television critic for NPR, told Journal-isms by email.

"By giving prime opportunities to commentators such as Toure, Al Sharpton, Melissa Harris-Perry, Tamron Hall, Eugene Robinson and Joy-Ann Reid, the channel gave visibility to some of the sharpest black pundits in cable TV news. The channel's prime time lineup remains devoid of an anchor of color, but MSNBC reflects the nation's growing diversity much better than its competitors CNN and Fox News Channel."

9. Passing of Diversity Heroes

John Dotson Jr.

Allen H. Neuharth, who led the newspaper industry in championing diversity as founder of USA Today and leader of the Gannett Co.; John Dotson Jr., a former publisher of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal and co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; and Roger Ebert, the Chicago Sun-Times critic who encouraged inclusiveness in film, were among the diversity heroes who died in 2013.

Noteworthy deaths included:

10. FAMU, Grambling, Morgan State Put Spotlight on HBCU Journalism

"Though they granted only 6.9% of the total undergraduate degrees in journalism and mass communication in academic year 2000-2001, the Historically Black Colleges and Universities and the members of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities granted 31.4% of the degrees to African-Americans and 31.1% of the degrees to Hispanics," according to the Grady College of Journalism & Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The figures might be more than a decade old, but the importance of HBCUs to the diversity pipeline remains. That's more than enough reason for the attention paid to press freedom issues at Florida A&M and Grambling State universities and the Oct. 3 opening of the new School of Global Journalism and Communication at Morgan State University.

At FAMU, the student newspaper the Famuan reappeared in January after the school administration ordered a "delay" in publication in mid-month while students received additional training. Such organizations as the Society of Professional Journalists and the Student Press Law Center were critical of the delay, asking why the Famuan could not have continued publication while the students received the training.

Two student editors were suspended at the Gramblinite in October after one circulated a photo of mildewed facilities at the school that illustrated physical deterioration that led to student protests. "It's disturbing if non-student Grambling employees are firing or suspending student journalists for what they decide to publish, particularly on social media," Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center, told Journal-isms at the time.

The National Association of Black Journalists announced Oct. 22 that it would convene a Student Media Council "to further examine the relationship between student journalists and administrators, explore how to increase independence and improve the state of student media and continue to raise awareness on these issues."

NABJ President Bob Butler told Journal-isms on Monday, "There is still interest in creating the student council and we hope to get it established in 2014."

In a more upbeat development, Morgan State University's School of Global Journalism and Communication, led by DeWayne Wickham, USA Today columnist, held its grand opening, describing itself as "the nation's only historically black school or college with its primary mission to train the next generation of journalists and mass communicators to compete in a global environment." In November, the school launched "Morgan Global Journalism Review," "a quarterly e-magazine that examines media, communication and information technology on the international stage."

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