Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Link Between Domestic Oil and Shield Law?

Well, it was debated on the floor of the U.S. yesterday. But, to date, there is no Federal Shield Law.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists Web site, the Senators vote to proceed with S. 2035, the Senate version of the Free Flow of Information Act, only received 51 votes. 60 votes were needed.

The 43 U.S. Senators who voted against it, including the two from the Staet of Aalbama, we're told voted "NO" because they wanted to amend the bill for increased domestic oil and gas production.

A federal shield law would give journalists the right to refuse to reveal information and sources obtained during the newsgathering process with a few notable exceptions, including where national security is at issue.

We've got to continue to push for this. I guess I'll go online and contact my two U.S. Senators.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

More Progress in Diversity with NBC Appointment

What a great way to start my day-- with news of NBC's choice to succeed the late Tim Russert-- Mark Theis Whitaker, formerly of Newsweek Magazine, will be assuming the role of NBC Washington Bureau Chief.

The news was actually announced yesterday by officials at the Peacock network. It landed in my e-mailbox this morning in a message from Broadcasting & Cable Magazine.

What is particulary rewarding are the kind of qualities that Mark's superiors see in him, as were outlined in their statement. Here's what NBC President Steve Capus had to say about Mark Whitaker:

"the truth is, he is the ideal candidate for the job, and that was evident the minute we took stock of potential replacements. Mark's got all of the components that will assure his success -- a commitment to journalistic integrity, political savvy, a keen eye for the future and a management style that is inclusive and fair. He is exactly what the bureau needs."

Like many others (including on-air talent) who wear two hats in these lean, mean economic times in our industry, Whitaker will continue as senior vice president at NBC even as he assumes day-to-day management of Russert's beloved Meet the Press and election coverage.

In facts, holding both jobs is probably not a bad idea at all.

The timing of this announcement is uncanny, purely coincidental nonetheless. It came a day after the conclusion of the UNITY Journalists Convention days after results of a survey of 61 network-owned stations was released by National Association of Black Journalists.

Whitaker (at least at one time) was a member of the National Association of Black Journalists. I'm not sure if he still is. (Full disclosure: I am a member of NABJ)

According to the NABJ study, "Among 58 news directors, 17% were non-white: eight were African American, 1 was Hispanic and 1 was Asian. All the news directors of color worked for NBC or Fox."

Let's be clear-- we're talking about LOCAL STATION management and Whitaker will be a network manager. But, there's a related/key point here about diversity in those with decision-making authority-- those calling the shots, doing the hiring and firing.

Last week, the UNITY alliance of minority journalism organizations also launched its "Ten by 2010: Transforming Journalism Through Diversity Leadership" initiative.

The goal of "Ten by 2010" is to have 10 media companies commit to selecting at least one high-potential manager of color and to promote that employee to a senior management position by midyear 2010. Participants will receive customized training to help prepare them for specific senior level positions.

The first two companies to sign on were reportedly Gannett and The New York Times Company.

Technically, Whitaker has been at NBC in senior-level position since 2007. So he would not be counted in this new initiative.

In fact, were it not for Whitaker, NBC might not have committed to a most aggressive weeklong series of reports last November airing on its top-rated NIghtly News program, African American Women: Where They Stand.

While Whitaker certainly was not the only one responsible for a decision about the series, it certainly didn't hurt that he was a part of the discussion.

Value-Added Beyond Skin Color

Caution: This does not mean that just because a news manager is African-American that he or she will automatically push African-American issues.

The real value in Whitaker's ascension to the coveted leadership role at NBC's Washington Bureau is that in an historic election like we'll have this year with an African-American as a likely candidate from a major political party, there will be another African-American heading up the coverage at the nation's top television network.

But, Whitaker's multimedia background is also a value to add. As he described in a 2002 blog posting, Whitaker spent much of his career on the print side as the editor at Newsweek Magazine from 1998 to 2006.

Before joining NBC in 2007, he was VP and editor-in-chief of new ventures at Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. The graduate of Harvard College, who worked on the famous Harvard Crimson, made history last decade as the first African American editor of major newsweekly in the U.S.

Not only does Whitaker bring this new media, digital ventures background, he also has been tried and tested through some pretty heated fires.

Many will remember the 2005 controversy where Newsweek ran an item in its Periscope section, based on a single anonymous source. The story said the U.S. military had desecrated the Quran in front of Muslim detainees in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba

Whitaker was the one who had to defend his journalists' decision in a barrage of media interviews. But, he got through that experience, landed on his feet.

It's that kind of experience that not a lot of journalists of color in high-profile positions have had. The journalists at NBC will, no doubt, be in the spotlight as they cover this campaign. Whitaker knows how to handle the attention.

Hopefully now you see why this week's announcement at NBC is that much more gratifying and inspiring for other black journalists like myself.

Having worked at two NBC affiliates producing local news programmed around Meet the Press, I considered Tim Russert a colleague. I even got a chance to meet him when he and his son, Luke, came to our Atlanta station, WXIA-TV, to do an edition of Meet the Press a few years ago. So, I was hit REALLY hard by his sudden death in May.

But, the bitterness of Russert's loss is little less painful now knowing that Russert's successor at the NBC Washington Bureau is such a seasoned journalist, who just happens to be an African-American brother.

Already one of at least two African-American VPs at NBC (Lyne Pitts heads up the network's strategic partnerships and production operation), Whitaker won't be the only African-American key manager at the NBC Washington bureau, which shares a building with its top-rated owned-and-operated station, WRC-TV. As I noted in a previous posting last week, Camille Edwards is the vice president of news for WRC-TV.

That's progress!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

UNITY Presidential Forum-- What Really Happened

Since my last posting, I had a chance to view in its entirety a tape recording of today's presidential forum at the UNITY Journalists convention. You sometimes get a completely different view of event after it has concluded than you get if you're reporting -- live blogging or posting as I was during or minutes after it is over.

You know, after watching this 43-minute affair, I've got to return to the same concerns I raised in my earlier posting two weeks ago about the value of an event like this for UNITY Journalists of Color.

During my live blogging this morning, I wondered if the four minority journalists groups were purposely rotating in asking questions. When it ended somewhat abruptly at 43 minutes after the hour, it was quite apparent why.

There was ONLY time for four questions from the audience. When you look at the tape and hear Suzanne Malveaux "tease" he topics of some of the four audience questions, it's quite clear that this was a carefully choregraphed, highly-produced forum, exactly the kind of event that many have criticized when it comes for live, made-for-TV campaign events.

Listening to some of the Barack Obama's answers, it was quite clear he was playing to the cameras, which took his message to the American voters instead of giving frank answers that he would have given in a closed-door, off-the-record session.

Presidential candidates don't have time to do off-the-record sessions, especially not after coming off a whirlwind trip to Europe and the Middle East. I doubt Obama would have bothered to show up if he was not going to be on in a live, televised event.

So, besides asking why John McCain did not agree to partipate, we have to ask what does UNITY Journalists of Color, Inc. get out of this?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, one of the four minority journalist groups participated in this alliance.

We can answer that question by looking at the topics that were addressed by the "questioners" (designated representatives of NABJ, NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA)

Based on Brian Bull's question, we got one presidential candidate to articulate his position on reparations and apologies to minority groups.

Leonard Pitts' question forced Obama to clarify some of his positions on Muslims in the U.S.

It looks like at least one major newspaper has turned a story based on Pitts' question.

John Yang shined the spotlight on affirmative action and the presidential candidates' differeing positions on anti-affirmative action ballot initiatives.

And, Diane Solis' question about whether we should have more immigration allowed Obama to reiterate his position on immigration policy.

Besides these topics, many of which the hosts also asked follow-up questions, did we learn anything new?

Or, was that even the purpose of this gathering at the UNITY Convention? I'm trying to think if I had gone to the convention, would I have hung around to this forum on the last day of the conference and eventually come away feeling cheated?

The reality is most likely (and I have not spoken with officials at UNITY), CNN, by providing what it called "exclusive" live airing of this event, was in the driver's seat.

In reviewing the videotape, I noticed that Wolf Blitzer, host of the Sunday talk show, Late Edition (in which this program aired) had just enough time to do a quick "round-Robin" with his panel of reporters in the final 10-12 minutes of the hour. The show ended nice and neatly at 1 p.m.

As a TV producer, I am keenly aware of the timing necessary for a news broadcast.

But was that timing the BEST thing for the 6000 journalists of color? Our goal as journalists of color should not be to just ask the same questions that our colleagues ask, harp on the same issues over and over that our colleagues of the lighter hue address.

There's plenty of time for that. We've heard endless debates about immigration and the War in Iraq. The question about apologies for Native Americans began to go into NEW issues, which have received little or no coverage during the campaign.

Will there be a time for this kind of exchange?

Beyond the minority journalists' gathering, many of the American people are asking for more frank and honest exchanges between the candidates rather than made-for-TV network events (i.e. televised debate) that carefully orchestrated to only cover certain issues and, hopefully, win ratings.

Black in America- Obama-style

Now that the much-talked about and anticipated presidential forum at the UNITY Journalists convention is over, we have to ask ourselves, what did we learn?

Well, at first, my response would be-- NOT MUCH.

Perhaps it was naive of me to think that the black, Hispanic, Native American and Asian-American journalists, who reportedly numbered 6000, at the UNITY Convention would plow some new ground today.

They stuck with the same basic questions any journalist would ask after a candidate returns from an overseas trip. (This I will address more in a separate posting later)

Instead, what we got was a reminder of what it means to be Black in America and run for political office.

There have been blacks in political office since the Reconstruction period. But, never before have we seen a high-profile political campaign involving an African American candidate as we do now with Senator Barack Obama.

That's why I noticed at three (3) times in this morning's questioning the Illinois Senator in answering questions fired back "why am I being asked that question" (Implying that his opponent was not asked that)

It's the whole concept of the double-standard where a candidate is treated differently from his opponent. Obama clearly believed the questions about his shifting positions on Iraq, his overseas trip and constant false reports of his being Muslim were questions that his opponent, Senator John McCain did not receive.

I am not saying that those questions were not fair questions-- but the fact that the candidate suggested he was being asked questions his opponent was not (being asked) raises the issue of how one's racial background influences the direction of a political campaign.

The "unknown" factor plays prominently in the debate about Obama's supposed shifting positions, the crowds and media interest in his trip to Europe and the Middle East and the discussions about his religious affiliation.

When a candidate of color tries to break the racial barrier, he or she can expect the "unknown" factor to bring with it a double standard in how his/her campaign is covered.

The questions by the journalists may be fair questions, but they are being asked because the candidate is different and that exposes the double standard-- treating a candidate differently.

It's just one key observation one can make as a result of today's forum at the UNITY Journalists Convention.

43 minutes later-- it's over

Well, I thought this would last at least an hour. But, it's appparently over. Malveaux thanks Obama for taking the journalists' questions. And that's it.

Was this over-sold? Maybe CNN oversold it. I was expecting more.

11:40 Obama says "he's too black"

Suzanne Malveaux asks about an encounter he had with NABJ last summer on whether he's "black enough"

Now Obama jokes that he's "too black"

11:38 On affirmative action

The last question from the audience-- a member of the Asian American Journalists Association, John Yang (NBC News) asks Obama to respond on an affirmative action ballot issue..

On affirmative action...

Obama says: "It is not just a quota." It is acknowledging and taking into account some of the difficulties communities of color have had to deal with.

Affirmative action is not going to resolve the problems with Race in America.
There have been times when people have viewed affirmative action as a shortcut.
The Ward Connelley initiatives are designed to drive a wedge between people.

(He's an opportunity for aome additional reporting-- research)

11:33 Pitts' first question

It looks like there is a rotation-- Leonard Pitts from the National Association of Black Journalists queries Obama about his distancing himself from Muslims in order to dispel rumors that he himself is a Muslim.

Obama says:
"This is a classic example of a No Win situation. I try to correct something that is false and people say why"

Obama responds:
"I just don't like the idea of somebody falsely identifying my religion. I suspect you wouldn't appreciate that either. If you were a Muslim and people sais you were a Christian, I suspect you would want to have that corrected too."

EXAMPLE #3- Double Standard. "I just ask that I am treated like other candidates"
when it comes to my religion

11:30 NAHJ gets the next question

Wonder did UNITY plan the questions so that each of the four groups gets a chance to ask a question, in rotation. THe first question came from a NAJA member. The second from the an NAHJ member.

NAHJ member asks about immigration.

11:25 Should U.S. apologize to Native Americans?

Wisconsin Public Radio journalist gets the first question. The question of apologies for past wrongdoings to minorities starts things off?

This questioner asked about apologies to Native Americans. This is particularly interesting given the ongoing debate about reparations for African-Americans.

Obama wants to meet regularly with tribal leaders. Obama throws in a statement about Native Americans -- for action, deeds.

"I'm more concerned about concerned about delivering a better life"

Suzanne takes a step further and brings in the reparations discussion.

Obama says schools in inner city and jobs for the poor is best reparations.

Obama: "Dealing with the legacy of discrimination will cost millions of dollars." All Americans need to be invested. How do we get every child to learn (applause)

11:20-- the first segment

Looks like the moderators (not sure who the male co-moderator is) have focused primary attention on the foreign trip. They're planning to take questions from the audience now. IT will be interesting to see where the first audience (of journalists) questions fall in terms of topics.

11:18 a.m. CDT

First commercial break-- We have the live feed-- on, let's see what happens off-air.

11:16 a.m. Double Standard?

OK-- from the first few answers, I hear a theme-- something that has come up twice in his answers. Obama's responding to questions about his foreign trip, questions about his remaining steadfast in his position on Iraq-- Why were those same questions asked of Obama? (on position on Iraq) McCain visited the same places after securing the GOP nomination. Obama acknowledges that he did his trip WELL. Audience applause.

11:10 Foreign policy credibility

The ultimate question from the week-- does this trip make an impact on the perceptions of Obama's foreign policy expertise. It seems that's taken the focus in these first few minutes. Obama's statement that he knows what he's doing draws applause.

11:07 LONG Answer

He's been speaking for almost 10 minutes just to answer the first question. Perhaps this long-form type of q-and-a is the way things will go.

11:05 What he's wearing

Is it me, or have Obama moved away from the dark suit and red or blue tie with his appearances? I have seen more and more video of him wearing different colored suits this summer. During the debates (in the primary campaign), he used to wear the same colored suits.

A superficial question, perhaps, but one worth noting. He's wearing a tan suit and burgundy tie today.

11:02 Polite applause, a few cheers

At least from the way he was received when he took the stage, it doesn't look like this is a pep rally. The first question is asking Obama to reflect on the trip.

10:59 a.m. CDT Malveaux to moderate

We're minutes away from the start of the forum at UNITY. A familiar face in the presidential campaign, Suzanne MAlveaux (formerly of NBC) will be moderating the forum. She's doing a microphone check even as she hits air.

Obama Speaks At Unity- a Live Blogging Event

The Timing of today's forum at the UNITY Convention presents an opportunity for storytelling in a format that is more and more common in Web journalism.

It's called live blogging. Instead of waiting until after an event has concluded, the blogger provides commentary as the event is happening.

The goal is not to digest it all, think and then post. Instead, the immediate reactions are sent like text messages. The short entries include time stamps and can provide an interesting reading experience after-the-fact for those who attended the event or those who missed it.

Today we will be live blogging as a viewer of the Obama event at the UNITY Convention.

You will be able to follow the postings as they will have the graphic that appears in this posting.

As the UNITY Journalists' media release indicated, this is one of the first national appearances Obama is making following his whirlwind trip to Europe and Middle East last week.

Obama as Jackie Robinson of our era?

It's an Unusual Sunday morning for me. I'm on vacation and not in church as I would normally be heading at this hour-- Sunday School to be exact.

But today I will be watching the live transmission of Barack Obama's forum at the UNITY Journalists convention. What was originally billed as a forum with both presidential candidates has turned out to be an appearance by one of the candidates as the one of the culminating events of the convention.

I commented earlier on the concept of having a live televised forum versus an off-the-record session with minority journalists.

Now, the Associated Press this morning has moved an interesting advancer on the ethical dilemma facing minority journalists-- do we cheer or remain dispassionate, objective observers?

The article posted on Editor & Publisher's Web site quotes Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts (who was honored this week by the National Association of Black Journalists) as saying the following in the A.P. story:

"Barack Obama is the Jackie Robinson of our era," said Pitts, the columnist. "There's no getting around that, there's no asking people not to respond to that. ... Journalists are recruited from the human race. And as long as they're recruited from the human race they're going to have emotions, and they're going to have feelings."

Yes, I know who Jackie Robinson- the baseball player is. But, does the fact that an African-American making history allow us as journalists to step out of our role as reporters and writers, fair and balanced as we cover one of the biggest stories of 2008 or our lifetime?

I say NO, even for those of us who are not working in daily journalists. While some of my professor colleagues- at the university have actively campaigned for one of the presidential candidates, as a journalist teaching students how to objectively cover the news, I can't afford to be a groupie or a political advocate.

I would suggest my colleagues at the UNITY convention, even if they are not turning (or publishing) a story on today's Obama forum, will be wearing their professional journalists hats at today's forum. It's not a pep rally for Obama.

But the issue of race once again has introduced an interesting dilemma for journalists of color-- who might personally carry some pride in seeing a black candidate make it this far while at the same time recognizing the candidate deserves the same objective vetting as any political candidate to be the leader of the free world.

We'll see what happens today.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

What We Saw About Blacks in America

Part 2 of the CNN landmark documentary, Blacks in America, took a different approach than part 1. But, the end result was same-- a more complete picture of an aspect of society that often is uncovered.

Almost the entire first hour of tonight's installment focused on two African-American men who were attending Little Rock Arkansas' Central High at the same time as the school was being integrated.

For those of who did not live during the Civil Rights era, we often think of those figures from that era as being mythic and near-perfect because of their place in history.

What we saw in part two were two men who had the greatest intentions of achieving in spite of the color of the skin. Both eventually have achieved great things, but they are not without their imperfections.

Sometimes in television news, we want to focus on the extremes-- all good or all bad. In these brothers' stories on CNN's "Black in America" documentary we saw the good can also be sprinkled with the bad when the reality of raising a family in an imperfect world hits.

I could see myself in so many of the stories in this second installment. I vividly remember having a very heated discussion with my sisters at Howard University about the possibility of marrying outside of one's race. That issue came front-and-center in the experiences of one of the families features in the second installment.

Multimedia Journalism Milestone on CNN

Those of us who research, teach, follow closely the area of media diversity have been eagerly awaiting what happened Wednesday night on CNN.

Black in America,a two-part documentary hit the airwaves and broadcast journalism with a slam.

I'm not usually one to lavish a media outlet with praise. But I think CNN's producers and photographers, the entire documentary staff deserve the pat on the back when you look at the breadth and depth reflected in Part I of this journalism effort.

According to Soledad O'Brien (who was interviewed on My Urban Report), the idea for the documentary was the brainchild of her bosses, Mark Nelson (Vice President and Senior Executive Producer of CNN Productions) and Jon Klein (CNN President).

I show those guys pictures because an important ingredient in a major effort like this is the commitment of management of staffing resources, man (or to be more politically correct "person" (hours) for months of reporting.

According to O'Brien the CNN Management felt that African-Americans were featured in coverage that was too shallow.

I agree. That's a problem with coverage of most racial minorities in this country.

The important thing to recognize, as it was indicated in CNN's promotions, this was not a show for African-Americans to see themselves.

It was a production for ALL Americans to see what their fellow citizens experience every day.

The sheer number of stories that were told in the two hours was unprecedented. And, the tensions and troubles that were unearthed in the interviews was exactly what was needed to tell the "full story."

My favorite story was one about the biracial couple-- The Rasmussens (I'm not sure I spelled their name correctly) who had a biracial son who identified with his white father, who told him he is actually both black and white.

The Rasmussens' struggle over the racial identity question is one that our entire nation will struggle with if, in fact, a man from biracial parents is elected to the White House.

While the over-the-air documentary was GREAT journalism-- the multimedia presentation of this story on CNN's Web site is worthy of note. The entire series of iReports from several historically black colleges is worth looking at.

After the special aired on Wednesday, I must have spent a couple of hours looking at the Web-only reports, extended interviews and the feedback.

That's after I watched the preview for the two-day documentary on iTunes last (Tuesday) night.

CNN has set the bar pretty high for part two.

We'll see what happens.

Monday, July 21, 2008

RTNDA: More Minority TV News Managers

In what's become a mid-summer tradition for those of us concerned about diversity in the electronic news arena, RTNDA is out today with the latest snapshot of racial minorities in our nation's television and radio newsrooms.

The news looks pretty good-- 23.6 percent of local television news staffs are classified as "minority." That's up from just 21.5 percent in 2006.

Last year, African-Americans were the only racial group that saw an increase.

This year, the other racial minority groups showed progress with increases among Asian American, Native American and Hispanic Journalist in the electronic media.

The 2008 RTNDA/Hofstra University Annual Survey also showed the percentage of minority television news directors reached an all-time high of 15.5 percent, up from 10.9 percent in 2006.

This news is exemplified by several high-profile promotions for African-American news managers in major markets.

In Washington, DC, Camille Edwards, an African-American, was recently named VP/News at NBC owned-and-operated station, WRC-TV. She succeeds another African-American,
Vickie Burns (shown at the right), who moved to the nation's number-one Television Mrrket.

Burns is now Vice President of News & Content for WNBC as of March 2008. Burns leads the station's news initiatives and manages the distribution of that content across multiple platforms.

While I don't know either of these sisters. I have to give them props for making their way to top of the decision-making ladder in local news in their top-rated stations.

One African-American woman television manager I do know-- from a previous life as a news producer, Allison Hunter, has recently moved to the nation's number-two media market (from the number-three market, Chicago at WGN-TV) as the interim news director at KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.

Individual accomplishments aside, these recent managerial appointments demonstrate that NBC-Universal (owner of WRC and WNBC) and Tribune (owner of KTLA and WGN) have a pipeline going -- where they are able to maintain diversity in their top level newsroom management.

This is NOT to say that all newsrooms should have minority news directors. But, when you look around the table at that morning meeting-- you should see a diversity of faces that reflects the diversity of those whose stories will be told in the stations' newscasts.

Today's release of the latest RTNDA data suggests great progress. But, there's still a lot more to make.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Hate to See Brothers Acting Like This

What a sad day for African-American men all over-- to see one of our leaders all over the airwaves having to apologize for disparaging remarks made about another brother.

Yes, I'm casting this in terms of race and gender.

Rev. "Keep Hope Alive" " I Am Somebody" Jesse Louis Jackson (I learned his full name in elementary school) apparently was caught talking privately about Senator Barack Obama when he thought his microphone at Fox News Channel was off, he reportedly made references to wanting to cut off part of the Senator's anatomy.

Conservatives bloggers like Ken Shepherd at NewsBusters have had a field day with this -- as have many of the tabloids.

I watched with interest as NBC first reported this story last night as a developing story (with NO VIDEO) on Nightly News. By the time the Today Show hit the air this morning, they had the sub-titled video so we could hear the remarks for ourselves.

Yes, it is a good story and had I been producing the morning news (as I did for more than five years) I would have prominently played it in my newscast as well. But, that's beside the point. The media are simply doing their job.

This report by Lee Cowan, updates the controversy.

Strictly from the perspective of another black man-- I'm just of the opinion that you don't talk about another brother -- who you supposedly support-- behind his back.

As men, we have to be willing to confront our brothers when we think he's/they're wrong-- and deal with the issue.

I think Rev. Jackson handled this the wrong way-- choosing to gossip about it with yet another man of color in a public place.

I'm all for free speech. But, if you have a beef with a brother confront him on it-- debate him on it-- publicly, even. Then, let it go.

There's a policy difference here between Rev. Jackson and Senator Obama on individual responsibility vs. government accountability.

Should the government (i.e. through faith-based initiatives) be pouring money into churches to solve problems or should be problems be settled from within the communities where they occur?

His political motives aside, Obama's call on Father's day for men to be better fathers was a timely message. His acknowledgement at a predominantly black church that too many fathers are AWOL is the truth. Just look at the number of single moms in our churches today.

But, that's old news. Obama's speech is old news. Even the reactions to his Father's Day speech by people like Dr. Marc Lamont Hill (Temple University American Studies professor)are old news.

"What I don't want Barack to do is let the government off the hook." Hill said in an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor on the Fox News Channel.

Hill tried to articulate the position that Jackson has -- noting the "structural and societal issues" and "draconian child support policies" that might explain absentee fathers.

I applaud him for bringing out those issues while trying to see Obama's points about individual responsibility.

This is the way that black men ought to be handling their business. Use the public square-- bring the issues front-and-center.

Don't relegate them to disparaging remarks in private.

I understand why Rev Jackson had to apologize. I'm glad Obama's campaign accepted the apology.

What happened this week reflects poorly on all African-American men. Yes, I know those from other races also bad-mouth, demean and criticize others behind their back.

But, when there are so few of us out here in the spotlight, it behooves us to take the higher road.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

CNN a Hindrance at UNITY?

Just read that CNN is going to broadcast the Presidential Candidates' session at the UNITY Journalists gathering in Chicago this month live.

No, it's not breaking news! That information was provided in a June 4th press release. But, what happens if we take time to think about this for a moment.

For those who don't know, every four years, the National Association of Black Journalists (of which I'm a member), the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and the Asian American Journalists Association meet simultaneously. That allows them to hold some "joint sessions" at times during their respective annual conventions.

Each of the four journalist groups has its own schedule for the week of July 23-27.

This will be the four such gathering of the alliance callled UNITY Journalists, Inc. The practice began in 1994. The organization's Web site has more about previous UNITY gatherings.

In the past, the presidential candidates or sitting presidents have made it point to address these groups of journalists.

But, 2008 is different. We've never had so many presidential debates during a primary season. The candidates ran the risk of "overexposure," if that was possible during that period this past spring.

After watching (and often videotaping for personal playback later) 80% of the debates during Democratic and Republican Party nomination processes -- the primary season-- I'm just wondering how productive an exchange journalists will have if it's a "made for TV event."

While we may not see CNN's Wolf Blitzer moderating, and pauses for photojournalists to get their photos, bringing in the live cameras for wall-to-wall coverage introduces a dynamic that may not allow for the most frank exchange with the two men who want to succeed G.W. Bush in the White House.

The presence of live cameras totally changes the environment for how reporters relate to high-profile sources like presidential candidates.

It would be naive of me to think that an "off-the-record" session with journalists would be useful or even possible at this stage of the presidential race.

The candidates probably only agreed knowing that there would be an audience of millions watching and that they would be in the presence of a highly-intelligent, keen mostly minority group.

I suppose there is benefit in showcasing UNITY to millions of Americans.

But, I'm a big fan of journalists being able to get insights on "background only" sessions. Is that even feasible with such a large group of journalists at once?

So, is CNN a hindrance or a help to what UNITY is trying to accomplish?

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Black Blogger's Manifesto

Accepting the fact that web logs (e.g. blogz) are not a passing fad but a viable medium for the exchange of ideas, where does the element of race or ethnicity play in these exchanges?

Ever since the early 1800s, the black press has been portraying alternative images of African American life, setting the issues of African Americans on the public's agenda and operating as a catalyst for change. These news outlets were the medium of exchange of ideas.

Even as hundreds of these newspapers still play this role today, the World Wide Web is a 21st century medium of exchange of ideas. Free of charge and easy to launch, Web logs have become one of the most democratic means of exchange on the World WIde Web.

Often these exchanges are over ideas that directly involve, impact or influence African-Americans. What, then, does the African-American participant in these exchanges offer that is DIFFERENT from what might be found elsewhere.

I suggest TEN (10) such things that black bloggers can and should bring to the table in their involvement in the blogosphere:

1. Black Bloggers bring a perspective colored by their own experience as a member of a historically under-represented group.

2. Black Bloggers challenge the stereotypes about the "black" point of view.

3. Black Bloggers set the stage for a rational exchange of ideas.

4. Black Bloggers promote the under-promoted within our communities.

5. Black Bloggers position the issues of the day in the context of history and offer depth where it might not otherwise exist.

6. Black Bloggers strive for the utmost in accuracy in anything they post.

7. Black Bloggers reflect the fairness of those who acknowledge multiple sides of an issue or experience while championing their own posittion.

8. Black Bloggers exercise restraint when passing along information not properly vetted or verified for its legitimacy.

9. Black Bloggers carry the spirit of black Press whenever they post.

10. Black Bloggers see the educational role they play as paramount to their practice.

DEVELOPED by Dr. George L. Daniels
July 5, 2008

Premature Panic on Minority Jobs?

This week the National Association of Black Journalists, of which I am a member, issued a strongly worded statement -- an open letter to those in the newspaper industry.

"Let this serve as an open letter to the entire industry: NABJ will hold you accountable if you do not consider diversity in your hiring and, particularly, firing practices," the statement read.

Issued the day before the 4th of July holiday, the statement probably has yet to be read by many who have been away for the holiday.

But, will it make a REAL difference? So what the NABJ will hold you accountable.

What about my fellow colleagues in the electronic media? Any day now, the Radio-Television News Directors Association will release its annual diversity census.

A year ago, that census showed overall minority employment in radio and television newsrooms had dropped back to 21.5 percent (from 22.2 percent the year before).

But, the number of black journalists in radio and TV increased.

Will we see the same thing this year? Is the crisis just far worse for newspapers and that's why the NABJ hit the panic button, sounded the alarm or whatever other cliche we want to use?

It seems to me that the NABJ and other sister organizations in the UNITY group-- NAHJ, AAJA and NAJA-- should get a fuller picture of the industry before sounding such an alarm. The strategies used to get the attention of those at the nation's newspapers may have to change. Perhaps this is a topic that will be discussed at the upcomign UNITY Journalists Quadrennial convention in Chicago.

Perhaps it's the organizations' memberships that will have to change. Maybe more of the newspaper/print journalists will have re-tool or re-make themselves to be more multimedia in this multimedia age. I realize this is an ongoing discussion. But, I just have to believe that change from WITHIN may be just as important as change outside of minority journalism groups.

It's a different day, a different time. The tools we use to diversify the media industry have to be different as well.

The Four Pillars of the NAACP

I thought the way the president-elect of the NAACP articulated the organization was particularly interesting.

He says the NAACP is a house with FOUR Pillars-- the Black Church, the Black Press, the Black businss community and the membership of the civil rights group itself.

Himself a black journalist who once headed the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Benjamin Jealous, presented this picture of the NAACP at last month's NNPA Merit Awards dinner in Louisville, KY.

It seems to me that if the Black press are, in fact, collectively acting as a pillar of the NAACP, then these mostly weekly newspapers, radio stations, and a handful of television stations and cable networks won't be going away any time soon.

Can we define "press" as multimedia in 2008? We should. But, I'm sure there are some who see the "black press" as exclusively newspapers, just as it has been in historical terms.

Increasingly, the online dialogue in places like, blackpressusa, is really an extension of the Black Press.

Many of these black-oriented newspapers have yet to step full force into the World Wide Web. Yet, they are not reach an audience that goes online to debate, dialogue and get up-to-speed on what's happening to others who look like them.

So, we have to define "black press" more broadly-- and if we link that to Mr. Jealous' definition of the NAACP, these outlets are by definition integrated into the civil rights movement of 2008.

As an NAACP member, a black journalist and a Christian very involved in a predominantly black church, I stand on three of the four pillars.

This latest news from Mr. Jealous certainly further explicates a point he made and I commented on in an earlier posting on the day after his appointment to the top job at the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization.

We'll likely hear more from Mr. Jealous later this month as the NAACP starts its own convention in my old stomping ground, Cincinnati, Ohio.