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Republicans Spurn NABJ Convention

June 22, 2012

Democrats eagerly accept journalists' invitations; Time magazine given NABJ's Thumbs Down Award; Politico's Joseph Williams suspended after tweets, TV comment; editor says don't believe hype about LeBron haters; Wickham to start communication school at Morgan State; Ann Curry admirers petition to keep her on "Today"; Blacks disproportionately hit at Times-Picayune; Vourvoulias-Bush stepping down at Fox News Latino; black publishers choose William Tompkins as CEO; off to Trinidad to defend press freedom; . . . Day 2: Why press-freedom congress is in Trinidad (6/23/12)

Democrats Eagerly Accept Journalists' Invitations

Time Magazine Given NABJ's Thumbs Down Award

Politico's Williams Suspended After Tweets, TV Comment

Editor Says Don't Believe Hype About LeBron Haters

Wickham to Start Communication School at Morgan State

Ann Curry Admirers Petition to Keep Her on "Today"

Blacks Disproportionately Hit at Times-Picayune

Politico's Williams Suspended After Tweets, TV Comment

Joseph Williams, an African American reporter at Politico, was suspended after he suggested on television that Mitt Romney was comfortable only around white people and a conservative website published old tweets in which Williams ridiculed Romney.Joseph Williams

"On MSNBC today, Williams made a remark suggesting Mitt Romney was only comfortable around white people," Dylan Byers wrote Thursday for Politico. "The video was first flagged by conservative website Washington Free Beacon. Breitbart.com ran the video and also flagged a series of tweets Williams had written that made fun of the Republican candidate, particularly in regard to his wealth.

" 'Regrettably, an unacceptable number of Joe Williams's public statements on cable and Twitter have called into question his commitment to this responsibility,' POLITICO's founding editors John Harris and Jim VandeHei wrote in a memo to the staff. 'His comment about Governor Romney earlier today on MSNBC fell short of our standards for fairness and judgment in an especially unfortunate way.' "

". . . POLITICO journalists have a clear and inflexible responsibility to cover politics fairly and free of partisan bias. This expectation extends to all of the public platforms in which we and our reporting and analysis appears, including cable TV and social media platforms like Twitter."

Ironically, in reporting on Romney's vice presidential prospects, VandeHei and Politico writer Mike Allen reported in May, "One Republican official familiar with the campaign's thinking said it will be designed to produce a pick who is safe and, by design, unexciting — a deliberate anti-Palin. The prized pick, said this official: an 'incredibly boring white guy.' "

Williams emailed Byers on Friday evening:

"I regret that this happened. I understand and respect John Harris' point of view — that I've compromised Politico's objectivity, and my own. At this point my suspension without pay is still indefinite, and I don't know what management has in mind as an appropriate sanction, so I can't object or appeal. Politico still employs me, but the review process hasn't started in earnest so my future remains unclear.

"Having covered the Shirley Sherrod firing and seen the fallout from James O'Keefe's brand of journalism, I'm not surprised a small group with internet access and an ambitious agenda can affect reporting and distort analysis of political news. It's quite unfortunate and incredibly frustrating, however, that I landed in the crosshairs this time, calling Politico's integrity into question and jeopardizing a job and a career that I love."

One tweet showed Williams commenting on this tweet: "Dad straps 4 kids to car hood and drives away, police say." Williams wrote, "told officers they were driving 'romney style.' "

In another, a message read, "Romney: 'Nothing particularly surprising that I've had the occasion to eat.' Williams retweeted it with the comment, "Jeeves knows my taste."

A third message read, "Either Ann Romney meant Mitt is flaccid or that when we 'unzip him' we'll find he's a dick." Williams retweeted it, adding, "Or both."

Harris did not respond to a request for comment. Williams emailed Journal-isms in response to a question, "Politico to my knowledge doesn't have written standards" for tweets or television appearances.


Editor Says Don't Believe Hype About LeBron Haters

As can be expected, the Miami Herald and the Plain Dealer in Cleveland had vastly different front pages Friday after LeBron James and the Miami Heat won the NBA Finals Thursday night. James was voted most valuable player.

The Plain Dealer played the game in the second most visible position under the headline, "LeBron: 3-time MVP now a champion."

In New Orleans for the convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, Debra Adams Simmons, editor of the Plain Dealer, told Journal-isms that the national perception that Northeast Ohio monolithically hates James for deserting the Cleveland Cavaliers is false.

Adams Simmons spoke Friday night at a reception sponsored by Hampton University.

"If you're young, black and you tweet, you didn't care," she said of James' decision to leave Cleveland for the Miami Heat. "Young people in Northeast Ohio, Akron people in Northeast Ohio and black people in Northeast Ohio tend to be Heat supporters. Many of these people wanted to see LeBron get his ring. The majority of African Americans wanted him to get his ring.

"The national media fell down on the job by presenting a singular reaction to the outcome. As the mother of 12- and 14-year-old boys who moved to Akron in 2003 [I saw that] my own sons wanted the Heat to win.

"The Plain Dealer has written that story."

Adams Simmons looked around the room. "What's disconcerting is the number of people in the room who drank the Kool-Aid that ESPN fed them," she said.

Wickham to Start Communication School at Morgan

DeWayne Wickham, the USA Today and Gannett News Service columnist who is interim chair of the North Carolina A&T Department of Journalism and Mass Communication,DeWayne Wickham is leaving to establish a school of communication at Morgan State University, Wickham said in a letter Thursday to Dr. Goldie Byrd, dean of the College of Arts and Science.

At Morgan State, concentrations in literature and language, creative writing and language arts, and minors in journalism or in film and digital storytelling now come under the English Department.

"Next month, I will take on the responsibility of establishing a school of communication at Morgan State University," Wickham wrote. "This new school was approved by Morgan's board in 2008, and the university is now moving to bring it into existence. Morgan has given me the honor of conceptualizing this school and serving as its founding dean. . . . "

Morgan State officials did not respond to an inquiry seeking comment.

Ann Curry Admirers Petition to Keep Her on "Today"

"Ann Curry is reportedly being phased out of her co-anchor position at 'Today,' but a group of fans is trying to turn back the tide and persuade NBC otherwise with an online petition," Tim Kenneally wrote Friday for theWrap.com.

"The petition, posted on Change.org on Friday, has so far attracted 500 signatures from Curry loyalists intent on keeping her face on the morning airwaves.

" 'Dear Today Show at NBC,' the petition reads. 'We Love Ann Curry! Ann Curry Loves us and the Today Show!'

"The petition was launched by Phoenix. Ariz. resident Stephen Crowley, an Iraq war veteran who says he suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and that Curry's presence on the 'Today' show has had a steadying influence on him."

Blacks Disproportionately Hit at Times-Picayune

"African-Americans were disproportionately hit in last week's layoffs at The Times-Picayune, meaning the newspaper serving the majority-black city will become less diverse unless the difference is made up with new hires," Steve Myers wrote Wednesday for the Poynter Institute.

". . . The Times-Picayune reported 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. That includes editors, reporters and administrative personnel.

"A 5.3 percentage-point difference may not appear to be much, but it erodes the newspaper's diversity. The Times-Picayune didn't participate in the latest ASNE census, but according to the list I assembled, the newsroom would have been 15 percent African-American before the layoffs. If no African-Americans are hired into the new operation, it would be 13.5 percent."

Vourvoulias-Bush Stepping Down at Fox News Latino

Alberto Vourvoulias-Bush, editor of the Fox News Latino website, is leaving at the end of the month for Rome, where his wife,Alberto Vourvoulias-Bushauthor Jhumpa Lahiri, has been offered a residency this coming academic year, he has told colleagues.

". . . after mulling it over, we have decided that it is an opportunity too good to let pass," he said in a message.

Before being named to the new site in 2010, Vourvoulias-Bush had been corporate executive editor of impreMedia, overseeing such news products as El Diario/La Prensa and La Opinion. He had previously worked at Time magazine's Latin American edition, and was a research associate on Latin America for the Council of Foreign Relations.

Fox News Latino, a predominantly English-language website targeting Latinos, has developed an identity separate from the conservative Fox News Channel and website.

Black Publishers Choose William Tompkins as CEO

"The National Newspaper Publishers Association has announced the appointment of William Tompkins to the post of President and CEO of the 69 year-old trade organization. The appointment was made today during the NNPA's annual convention in Atlanta," Target Market News reported on Wednesday.

"The selection of Tompkins culminates a nine-month search conducted by Carrington & Carrington, Ltd. According to criteria that circulated throughout the industry, the new president will be charged with developing a new vision for the organization and implementing strategic plans and programs that serve the needs of the more than 200 Black community newspapers represented by NNPA. The trade group is commonly referred to as The Black Press of America."

"Tompkins, 55, currently heads his own consultancy firm, Williams Tompkins Associates, in Los Angeles. Before starting his company, Tompkins held positions at Eastman Kodak, including General Manager and Vice President of the Motion Picture Film Group and Chief Marketing Officer for the company's Entertainment Imaging division.

"Prior to joining Kodak, Tompkins spent 19 years at The Washington Post, last serving as Vice President of Marketing."

Off to Trinidad to Defend Press Freedom

Yvette Walker, night news director at the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Media Ethics at the University of Central Oklahoma, is filing reports for Journal-isms on the International Press Institute's World Congress that begins Sunday in Trinidad.

By Yvette Walker

Telling people you are going to Port of Spain can be confusing. No, I'm not Yvette Walkerheaded to Spain, I'm going to Trinidad. The International Press Institute is holding its World Congress there beginning Sunday, and I'll be on a panel about Ethics and Social Media.

So, off to Port of Spain, Trinidad. I'm leaving a few days early to take advantage of a little sun and fun, and who wouldn't? Over the next few days, I'll be blogging about the country and the conference.

Trinidad and its sister island, Tobago, is just north of the northern tip of South America in the North Atlantic Ocean. It's closer to Venezuela than to Jamaica or even Puerto Rico, but it's still considered part of the Caribbean. Its working press are members of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers.

Its proximity to South America is important because certain South American countries are repressive in press freedom rights. Venezuela is ranked 117th of 179 countries on the press freedom index. Honduras, one of the worst countries for press freedom, is 136th.

By comparison, the United States is ranked 47th (dropping after responses to the Occupy protests). Finland is at the top of the list.

Wesley Gibbings, president of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, said the World Congress will help the group shine a light on its work.

"Though we have generally escaped the worst impacts of impunity, violence and official aggression, Caribbean social communicators and journalists have not eluded the potentially muting impacts of self-censorship, unenlightened regulation and challenging economic, social and political circumstances," he said.

The IPI has defended press freedom for more than 60 years. It holds a World Congress every year. Alison Bethel McKenzie, executive director of the IPI, said in a statement: "The three-day IPI World Congress will examine the many challenges, concerns and opportunities facing the media not only in the Caribbean, but also in the rest of the Americas and around the globe."

. . . Day 2: Why Press-Freedom Congress Is in Trinidad

Upon arriving in Port of Spain, Trinidad, Wednesday night after 13 hours of travel, I was happy to arrive at the Hyatt Regency, check in and go to bed. But at check-in, Alison Bethel McKenzie, International Press Institute executive director, came and embraced me. Alison and I have known each other for years and worked together at the Detroit News many years ago. I sat with her and CNN International's Jim Clancy on the hotel veranda to chat about the upcoming World Congress.

Alison said the Congress is being held in the Caribbean at the overwhelming request of its delegations, especially that from Nigeria, one of its larger contingents. "The president of the Association of Caribbean MediaWorkers, Wesley Gibbings, is based here, and we have a strategic partnership with ACM. Plus they have a vibrant media, a free media, and the government was receptive. And so, that's why we chose Trinidad and Tobago," McKenzie said.

As I mentioned earlier, the islands of Trinidad and Tobago are just north of Venezuela, in South America. While the ACM boasts a free press, Venezuela's is not so free. That dichotomy isn't lost on McKenzie and the IPI.

"Usually the IPI Congress is only conducted in English; this year we're having translation into Spanish, and we have quite a representation from Latin America. We have Colombia, Argentina, Chile; we have quite a delegation from Venezuela. And a lot of our topics . . . one of our panel sessions, for example, focuses on the big three — Venezuela, Chile and Cuba, and their impact on the region at large."

McKenzie said the most dangerous places for journalists are in Latin America, led by Mexico and Honduras. "This is a perfect time to have it here, have a chance to engage the Caribbean, which is often ignored when you talk about press freedom and journalism ethics."

Clancy said of the decision to convene in Port of Spain, "This is an opportunity to come together with journalists, like myself, who are concerned about press freedom around the world. It's a unique opportunity . . . It's a very important time for us to discuss the challenges we face and the opportunities here in the Caribbean."

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