Gwen Ifill took some ribbing Monday night about the age of the audience for "Washington Week," the Friday night PBS show for which she is moderator and managing editor, and the daily "PBS NewsHour," of which she is managing editor and co-anchors with Judy Woodruff. The occasion was the 20th annual roast of the American News Women's Club, held at the National Press Club.
ABC correspondent Martha Raddatz pronounced herself and Ifill "girlfriends all the way," calling herself a "61-year-old grandmother, just like Gwen's target audience."
John Harwood of the New York Times, a frequent "Washington Week" panelist, called Ifill "the Queen Latifah of political journalism."
John Dickerson, another "Washington Week" guest, noted that he had to tread carefully. "You don't want to be so funny at somebody's expense that they don't invite you back on "Washington Week." He described how the show's fans often tell him how wonderful Ifill is and give him a crocheted hat to pass along to her.
"That's true," Ifill said as she sat on the dais.
Ray Suarez, who left the "NewsHour" this year for Al Jazeera America, related how viewers who spotted the two together on the street would say, "Hey, you're that other guy. Could you take me and Gwen's picture?" Suarez said that a book of the "NewsHour's" history would be the first book ever published only in a large-print edition.
At news meetings, the two "supplied most of the melanin in the room," Suarez said.
When it was her turn, Ifill shot back at Suarez and his new employer, saying to a surprised"oooo" from the audience, "by the way, we have an older audience, but we have an audience."
Other roasters included Dorothy Gilliam, retired Washington Post columnist and board member and co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and Eleanor Clift, longtime Newsweek correspondent who now covers politics for the Daily Beast.
In more serious comments, Gilliam called Ifill "one of the most successful newswomen in American history," and Ifill took note that "in these days when we talk about work and women and journalism, we know that there are people who are just getting on with the work and doing it."
Karen James Cody, co-chair of the event, said 125 people were in attendance.
The Republican Party's strategy for gaining more black votes includes calling out black journalists and black publications in an effort to get its side of the story told, according to McKay Coppins, writing Sunday for BuzzFeed.
Coppins wrote that the strategy has not been cohesive, but cited two examples: Responding to a Twitter feed from Jamilah Lemieux, an Ebony.com editor who misidentified a black RNC staffer as white, and the RNC calling out MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry"after guests on her show made fun of a Romney family photo featuring Mitt's black adopted grandson.
"RNC Communications Director Sean Spicer later said their decision to escalate the flap with Ebony was meant to show black voters that Republicans took their votes seriously," Coppins wrote. "'This was not meant to be provocative,' Spicer told BuzzFeed. 'What this was really about was letting the readers of a very prominent African-American magazine know the Republican Party is fighting for their vote.' The message may have been lost in translation: In the days immediately following Ebony's apology, more than 20,000 tweets were posted by Lemieux's supporters carrying the hashtag #StandWithJamilah."
Coppins also wrote, "When MSNBC tweeted a crack earlier this year about how 'the rightwing' would hate a commercial featuring a biracial family, [RNC Chairman Reince] Priebus announced that the RNC would boycott the network until they apologized. By the end of the day, MSNBC’s CEO had fired the staffer responsible for the tweet, and asked the party for its forgiveness. . . .
"Spicer said part of the purpose of all this goading is to illustrate how the political biases of community gatekeepers often prevent Republicans from reaching voters of color.
"'If you open certain publications, you might say, "I never see anything about Republicans,"' Spicer said. 'Well, in a lot of cases, it's not for lack of trying. It's because they don't want to highlight the work we're doing. The ultimate win for us is that we create a dialogue where readers of that publication see more conservative thought and opinion and ideas and understand how many people in their community share those ideas.' . . ."
Greg Carr, chair of Howard University's Afro-American studies department, is quoted saying the strategy is wrongheaded.
"As with any American political party apparatus, the RNC is in the business of winning elections and advancing their political agenda," Carr said in the story. "I think asking Ebony magazine or a black host on MSNBC to apologize would resonate with their party base long before it would do anything other than reinforce their image as a party hostile to non-whites. . . ."
Joshua Green, BloombergBusinessweek: The Tea Party Gets Into the News Biz(May 8)
Alan Greenblatt, NPR "Code Switch": Race Alone Doesn't Explain Hatred Of Obama, But It's Part Of The Mix(May 13)
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: The cloud of Benghazi(May 7)
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Republicans' political theater on Benghazi(May 12)
Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Benghazi seems to be Republicans’ only fallback position(May 14)
The Association of Opinion Journalists, formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers, annually grants a Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship — actually an award — "in recognition of an educator's outstanding efforts to encourage minority students in the field of journalism." The educator should be at the college level.
Nominations, now being accepted for the 2014 award, should consist of a statement about why you believe your nominee is deserving.
The final selection will be made by the AOJ Foundation board and announced in time for the Sept. 21-23 convention in Mobile, Ala., where the presentation will be made.
Since 2000, the recipient has been awarded an honorarium of $1,000 to be used to "further work in progress or begin a new project."
Past winners include James Hawkins, Florida A&M University (1990); Larry Kaggwa, Howard University (1992); Ben Holman, University of Maryland (1996); Linda Jones, Roosevelt University, Chicago (1998); Ramon Chavez, University of Colorado, Boulder (1999); Erna Smith, San Francisco State (2000); Joseph Selden, Penn State (2001); Cheryl Smith, Paul Quinn College (2002); Rose Richard, Marquette University (2003); Leara D. Rhodes, University of Georgia (2004); Denny McAuliffe, University of Montana (2005); Pearl Stewart, Black College Wire (2006); Valerie White, Florida A&M University (2007); Phillip Dixon, Howard University (2008); Bruce DePyssler, North Carolina Central University (2009); Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University (2010); Yvonne Latty, New York University (2011); Michelle Johnson, Boston University (2012); and Vanessa Shelton, University of Iowa (2013).
Nominations may be emailed to Richard Prince, AOJ Diversity Committee chair, richardprince (at) hotmail.com. The deadline is May 23. Please use that address only for AOJ matters.