Sunday, February 25, 2007

Experiencing Northern Nevada

RENO, Nev-- As I've posted over on my comjexchange blog, I'm in Reno, Nevada today finishing up a four-day visit to the nothern part of the silver state.

This photo hardly tells the story.

More later.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

George Curry heads to Tuscalooosa

After being here in Tuscaloosa for four years, I am finally going to meet one of the town’s most well-known native sons.

George Curry, editor of the now-defunct Emerge magazine, is coming back to speak at the University of Alabama on Monday.

I’ll say this particular visit is one I had hoped we would have years ago when George and I exchanged e-mails right after I moved here from the University of Georgia.

Curry was candid about the history of Tuscaloosa and the lines that in the past have sometimes divided its residents.

His insight gave me a context to understand the recent debates over the location of the new Central High School.

In many ways, Curry and I have had similar paths—not just as journalists or black men who’ve lived (and I assumed loved) being in the nation’s capital. And, not JUST because we both have the same first name.

Back in his days at the St. Louis Post Dispatch, Curry was instrumental in reaching back to high schools. He was the founding director of the St. Louis Minority Journalism Workshop. He subsequently started a similar workshop in Washington, DC.

I frequently sing the praises of these Dow Jones Newspaper Fund workshops because of what I know they do for diversity in the newsroom and specifically for the role one played in my own life.

Of course, just yesterday, I commented on the recent court decision involving the Dow Jones Fund’s use of name “minority” in those workshop names.

Curry realized as I have that as African-American journalists, we have a responsibility that goes far beyond getting the story or putting out a newspaper or television show.

He remembers the role journalists can and should have in making a difference—a lasting difference.

Just ask one of my home girls, Kemba Smith, whose minor role in a drug ring while at Hampton University landed her in prison because of the federal government’s “mandatory minimum” drug policy. With a brother at Hampton University, this story was one in which I had a lot invested. The Smiths were a big part of our community in Richmond.

I could go on and on about why George Curry is one of the best in the business.
In the pre-Viacom days when Black Entertainment Television was owned and run by Bob Johnson, there was a program called “Lead Story,” that featured African-American journalists talking about issues in the news for the week.

Seeing Curry, who now runs the National Newspaper Publishers Association and, on that show was how I got to know this native of Tuscaloosa.

After Black Entertainment Television became part of Viacom, it was not long before the public affairs programs like Lead Story were canceled.

Richard Prince’s JOURNAL-ISMS recounts more about what happened.

Curry, in fact, commented on the decision to kill not only Lead Story, but also two other public affairs programs in a story on his NNPA News Service.

“An African-American company gains a considerable amount of capital when it sells out to a powerful conglomerate,” said Curry, who was a panelist on “Lead Story” for more than seven years. “But it also loses something important. Regardless of how BET tries to spin it, the loss of these important programs represents a major setback for the Black community.”

Curry has tried to resurrect Emerge magazine, which went under in 2000. I hope on Monday we’ll learn more about those efforts and what he’s doing at

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fed Court: Open up minority journalism workshops

It is official: if you’re white and can prove that your race is the only reason you’re not being allowed to take part in a summer journalism program at an academic institution, you can sue and force the institution to admit you.

Yes, the way I’ve stated this is a little inflammatory. But, for good reason. Fortunately, civil rights laws don’t allow discrimination based on one’s race in any scenario.

Last summer, Virginia Commonwealth University clearly erred in disinviting a white student who had been admitted to its Urban Journalism Workshop allegedly because the workshop organizers learned she was not a minority student. Read more about the case in this story from the Commonwealth Times.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that ”the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund agreed to cease operating summer journalism programs solely for minority students.”

Since when has Dow Jones been operating any programs solely for minority students?
While focused on increasing the presence of racial minorities in the nation’s newsrooms, the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund has never PROHIBITED a non-minority student from taking part in the workshops it funds.

Up until now, as a private organization, it could encourage those organizing the 10-day or two-week summer programs often held on public university campuses, to do targeted recruitment aimed at students of historically under-represented racial groups.

According to The Chronicle, “Dow Jones agreed to open up its programs to
members of any racial or ethnic group and to rename the programs to drop
references to minority members.”

The language (i.e. “open up) used in this story assumes that the programs had been closed or exclusionary. It even listed my institution among those that were “involved in the race-exclusive Dow Jones programs last summer.”

If you click here, you will see the photos of some of our students in the 2006 workshop at the University of Alabama . I remember getting to know Nick Persac as we sat together at the opening night banquet as the legendary Merv Aubespin socialized this group of outstanding young journalists into the intensive experience of a Dow Jones workshop.

Nick ended up enrolling here at Alabama for a semester. But, he was not part of a “race-exclusive program.” We don’t run such programs here at the University of Alabama.

Here at the University of Alabama, we renamed our workshop, which is now in its 24th year, several years ago. Since 2003, when we began calling our program the Multicultural Journalism Workshop, we’ve had several outstanding white students like Nick to apply and be admitted to our program.

I know this much because as a co-director of the 2004 workshop, I made the visits to high schools inviting students of all races to come and experience journalism for two weeks at one of the nation’s premiere journalism schools.

I feel a special connection to this whole Dow Jones controversy because I credit the Urban Journalism Workshop at Virginia Commonwealth University with being the SINGLE turning point in my decision to pursue a journalism career. I have to wonder if a white person had sued to force his or her admission into the 1986, would I as an African-American male have had a chance to get turned on to journalism?

I think the answer is “YES.” I had been diligent enough during my freshman and sophomore years in working on my high school newspaper and yearbook and was a strong enough student academically that I would have been admitted regardless of whether white students were in my program.

The point is—this is not about keeping students from any racial group out of a summer journalism experience like the Dow Jones workshop. It’s about how far some will go to push their political agenda under the guise of “Individual Rights.”

The real issue is not one person’s individual rights, it’s the effort to the nation still needs to make to go out of its way to diversify our nation’s newsrooms. The latest figures from the American Society of Newspaper Editors the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms is still only 13.87 percent.

Organizations like the Center for Individual Rights don’t seem to be concerned about that.

“Today's [Feb. 15] settlement saves the taxpayers significant legal expense and
ensures that this summer's programs will be open to all, regardless of
race," said Terence J. Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights.

Thanks Center for Individual Rights for reinforcing what many Dow Jones Newspaper Fund workshops already do. Now, what about that 13.87 percent of minorities in newspaper newsrooms? How do we increase that number now?

Assuming, everyone has a RIGHT to participate in a Dow Jones Newspaper Fund workshop, where are the funds to increase the number of seats so that the Dow Jones program can have at least equal the impact it has had on the industry during the last quarter century?

The struggle continues!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

AJC editor: Blogs don't offer "core knowledge"

The irony in this web log is sometimes the postings speak against the very medium that I am now using to disseminate information, the web log.

The number-two man at one of the nation’s largest newspapers questions the public’s reliance on what we say on Web logs.

Hank Klibanoff, managing editor of The Atlanta Journal Constitution, was in Tuscaloosa Tuesday to sign copies of his new book, The Race Beat: The Press, The Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation. Here's a review of the book.

Along with calling for journalism professors like myself to focus on teaching the core values of the news-producing medium, Klibanoff questioned just how much stock the public puts in what it reads in the so-called blogosphere or what people read on web logs like this.

“The American people will not accept that as core knowledge they need to make decisions,” Klibanoff said.

It was an interesting take on the role of journalists today, which Klibanoff said must be produced by journalists who “write what they see” and aren’t afraid to hold those in government accountable and to “challenge the obvious.”

Klibanoff’s book signing coincided with the opening of a new exhibit at the W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library on the University of Alabama Campus.

“They Came.. They Saw.. They Reported: Images from the World Press Coverage of Segregation’s Last Stand” focuses on the storytellers of the 1963 event for which Governor George Wallace is most remembered.

The photos were taken by UA Professor Emerita Camille Elebash, who witnessed Autherine Lucy’s attempt to role in the University in 1956. Elebash’s photos were published in The Graphic, “Tuscaloosa’s County’s Home Newspaper”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

From occasional blogger to Power blogger?

I've lost an hour (time I was supposed to working something else) reading through and digesting a posting on another blog about the so-called "Power blogger."

Thanks to fellow blogger and journalism professor Anthony Moretti for the tip.

How is a power blogger defined? And, what makes one blog better than another?

In this article, 12 Posts a day was mentioned-- posting constantly and finding a particular niche.

Last year, I was good if I made 12 posts in a few months' time.

Guess I haven't fully embraced the technology. In order to make a dozen posts in one day, one really has to be almost a full-time blogger like Romanesko whose multiple posts are read by dozens of journalists.

In the process of reading about Power blogging, I just learned that Mark Whitaker has moved from the role of editor-in-chief of Newsweek to the chief of new ventures for The Washington Post.

It's all one big company (Washington Post Company), but this clearly appears to be a real future-looking transition for Whitaker.

He was interviewed by BEET TV at the recent Always On conference.

"The future of journalism whether it's in print or online is everybody figuring out where they add value," said Whitaker.

Based on this statement, I have to ADD value when I'm blogging if this is part of that forward-looking journalism that I'm trying to teach in my classes.

Whitaker described the fact that so many news organizations in the U.S. report the same stuff and thus, add little to the public's overall understanding of an issue or event.

Power blogger? No, not anywhere close. But, adding value-- now THAT's something I think I can do.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bush visits my home state

It was kind of neat to know that the President of the United States was in my home state today-- not that the White House is that far from Virginia.

I'm looking forward to returning to Richmond for spring break in a little over a month from now. Trouble is, I'll miss all the political fun that those who like to watch the political scene get to engage in when in the former capital of the Confederacy.

During our winter break, we got to read about, be close to the political changeover in Congress.

I miss a lot that working here in the deep South. Alabama has it's own quirks and qualities, but there's no place like the Old Dominion. I miss it and can't wait to get back next month.

Oh yeh, this posting was supposed to be about President Bush visiting Williamsburg. I just read the Associated Press story on the Virginian Pilot's Web site.

Guess I'll have to tune in to C-SPAN to see what else happened in Williamsburg today.

Terry Moran vs. a talking head

My latest analysis of Terry Moran's Web log actually brings to mind a point about the difference between what are often called "talking heads" and a working journalist like Mr. Moran.

If you look at the postings on Moran's web log, you can see serious commentary as he is drawing on his experiences as a journalist, not just spouting off his opinion (as I guess I'm doing on this blog).

In fact, Moran is very careful to leave his opinion OUT Of his web log. Instead, providing just enough depthy (an academic term that says more than "deep") analysis to provoke a reader's response.

This week I've been struck by the discourse on the two black Super Bowl coaches and in particular, the programs on some of the cable networks.

Originally, I was going to do a follow-up posting on that subject, which I addressed a few days ago. But, when I downloaded the transcripts of some of these shows and really read through them, I was unimpressed.

Earlier this week, I had a chance to chat with a recruiter/instructor from the Columbia School of Journalism. She was lamenting the idea of talking about blogs when she's read so many uninspiring blog postings of some of her students. We were chatting about whether blogging ought to be incorporated in our journalism instruction.

I've based my own enthusiasm for this medium on the great things I've read on journalists' blogs and opportunities I've had to report on things I've witnessed, often on events the local media won't cover.

That said, I see that often these talking heads on the cable network shows have very elaborate Websites promoting their books, media appearances and on-air ventures. But, their postings and on-air comments are uninformed, superficial and often not worth my time.

I guess I should just turn the channel right? Well, it's not that easy.

If the discussion is on a subject about which I care a great deal, I want to see people engaging on the subject who have done the research and are well-informed on the subject.. not just there to debate the other side and then go home.

I suppose the reality here is that those talk shows are designed primarily to showcase the extremes in a debate, not provide substantive insight on key issues of the day. For that, I have to go to my fellow journalists, who instead of telling us what to think, tell us what IS and WHY it IS. Then, the rest is up to us.

Before we as journalists (working and semi-working) and journalism professors totally embrace Web logs as a news medium, we have to take a more critical look at what's being offered online. I think that's what I tried to do with Moran's blog.

Perhaps this process goes without saying.

I think it might be worth a mention.

Update on Terry Moran's blog

Well, after a couple of weeks, ABC News' Terry Moran’s online musings are growing on me.

The web blog is called PUSHBACK and it's giving ABC viewers and interested parties additional access to thoughts of this network news anchor/reporter.

Based on previous experiences with ABC News, I was quite skeptical of Moran's move into the blogosphere in an earlier posting.

While he is not engaging with every individual posting, he is reading the feedback and using that as a springboard for further postings.

That’s the challenge with this blogging thing-- what do you write about every day? It’s no different than having a regularly-published newspaper column.

During the month of January 2007, I’ve been posting more to this web log than I did all of last year (2006).

What did I learn from reading back through Terry’s postings today? Well, for one, I picked up on a story I missed about a New York Times reporter who was reprimanded.

That’s definitely an example I’ll use in my journalism class this week. I learned a lot more about War Correspondent Ernie Pyle, about whom I previously knew very little. (Yes, I’ve heard for Ernie Pyle before and been to Ernie Pyle Hall, home of the Indiana University School of Journalism).

So, I think Terry’s pricked my curiosity enough to keep reading his blog and adding to my own.

I’ll admit I didn’t watch ABC Nightline at all last week. Ultimately, that’s why the news networks are encouraging their staffers to enter into the blogosphere. They want to drag interested parties back in front of the TV to watch their shows. It’s a strategy that certainly works on me.

So, Terry Moran, in case you’re reading this—I like the blog, so far!