Networks ‘Never Seem to Find That Person of Color’

Despite progress, black journalists say television executives need to do a better job with diversity.

Gwen Ifill will begin her new role as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour in September. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
Gwen Ifill will begin her new role as co-anchor of PBS NewsHour in September. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

PBS and Al Jazeera America are shaking up the status quo by hiring a diverse group of journalists for key on-air positions. The moves reflect the networks’ conscious effort to become more multicultural in their approach, executives tell TheWrap,” Sara Morrison wrote Sunday for The Wrap.

“When Gwen Ifill. . . and Judy Woodruff were named the co-anchors of PBS [NewsHour] on Tuesday, it was hailed as a historic advancement for both women and minorities in TV news, where both have been largely underrepresented.

“Along with Ifill and Woodruff, Indian-American Hari Sreenivasan became the show’s senior correspondent, adding to his upcoming responsibilities as the anchor of the show’s new weekend edition. Behind the camera, Linda Winslow serves as the show’s executive producer. Previously Ifill and Woodruff rotated hosting duties on the program long anchored by Jim Lehrer and Robert MacNeil. . . .”

Enumerating further progress, Morrison’s story continued, “But it’s hardly enough for Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists.

” ‘I’ve been in the business quite a while and I have watched with chagrin as the cable companies and the broadcast networks never seem to find that person of color to be an anchor,’ Butler told TheWrap.

“Butler said the NABJ has met with networks several times over the years about the issue, often to hear that they’re just looking for the ‘right person,’ so he or she will have every chance to succeed. But, he said, ‘it is 2013 and you’d think that there’d be some kind of movement.’

“Ifill agreed: ‘We haven’t come as far as we should. The fact that it’s news in 2013 that Judy and I are doing a broadcast together shows that.’ . . . “

Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: Al Jazeera America In Discussions With Time Warner Cable

Gwen Ifill, PBS: Gwen’s Take: Making History | Turning A Page At The PBS NewsHour

Ben Mook, Yet another puzzle for public TV fundraisers: Donors who give the most watch the least, study shows

Roger Yu, USA Today: Al Jazeera America: Will U.S. viewers buy it?

Judge Rules Policy Singled Out Blacks, Hispanics

The “stop and frisk” policy that a federal judge in New York ruled Monday unconstitutionally singled out blacks and Hispanics was opposed by the New York Times and the black weekly New York Amsterdam News but supported editorially by the city’s tabloids, the Daily News and the New York Post, and by the Fox television station, WNYW-TV.

Outside of New York, the policy was portrayed as of a piece with the racial profiling that some say led to the Trayvon Martin shooting death in Florida and countless other profiling incidents around the country.

“For those who doubt scholarship matters, the ruling that found Stop and Frisk unconstitutional specifically referenced Michelle Alexander’s book ‘The New Jim Crow,’ ” William Jelani Cobb, the historian, professor and author, wrote his Facebook friends. “It’s also worth noting that the ruling included a block quote from [President] Obama’s speech regarding the [George] Zimmerman verdict and a footnote referencing Charles Blow’s column on Trayvon Martin’s death,” wrote Cobb, an associate professor of history and director of the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Connecticut.

As Colleen Long reported Monday for the Associated Press, “The nation’s largest police department illegally and systematically singled out large numbers of blacks and Hispanics under its controversial stop-and-frisk policy, a federal judge ruled Monday while appointing an independent monitor to oversee major changes, including body cameras on some officers.

“Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he would appeal the ruling, which was a stinging rebuke to a policy he and the New York Police Department have defended as a life-saving, crime-fighting tool that helped lead the city to historic crime lows. The legal outcome could affect how and whether other cities employ the tactic.

” ‘The city’s highest officials have turned a blind eye to the evidence that officers are conducting stops in a racially discriminatory manner,’ U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin wrote in her ruling. ‘In their zeal to defend a policy that they believe to be effective, they have willfully ignored overwhelming proof that the policy of targeting “the right people” is racially discriminatory.’

“Stop-and-frisk has been around for decades in some form, but recorded stops increased dramatically under the Bloomberg administration to an all-time high in 2011 of 684,330, mostly of black and Hispanic men. The lawsuit was filed in 2004 by four men, all minorities, and became a class-action case. . . .”

Overall, “the news coverage has been positive,” Dorothee Benz, a spokeswoman for one of the plaintiffs, the Center for Constitutional Rights, told Journal-isms by telephone. By “positive,” Benz said she meant “giving credence to the voice of New Yorkers who are testifying over and over again to the experience of being stopped for no other reason than they’re black or brown in ways clearly unconstitutional.”

The New York Times was “very supportive,” she said.

Last year, the Times website featured “The Scars of Stop-and-Frisk,” a short documentary by freelance contributors Julie Dressner and Edwin Martinez that focused on Tyquan Brehon, a young man in Brooklyn who said he had been stopped by police more than 60 times before age 18. The Times called the piece an “Op-Doc.”

The Amsterdam News had written, “Black and Brown New Yorkers deserve to be treated better. We are all members of this community that we call New York, and for the majority of stops to be of people of color is unjust. What do we tell our children as they leave the house each day? How do we explain to them why they saw their father, brother, uncle or friend spread-eagled against a wall as they were patted down just because they were ‘walking while Black’?”

The gay community also weighed in. “In an editorial for Gay City News headlined, ‘Why Stop and Frisk Is a Queer Issue,’ editor-in-chief Paul Schindler sheds light on the plight of the transgender community, the slice of the ‘LGBT’ acronym that’s perhaps the most vulnerable to police profiling, as we have noted,” Jennifer Cheng wrote last year for, a project of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

Quoting Schindler, she wrote: “Police too often assume that any transgender woman they see is a sex worker. Joo-Hyun Kang, the coordinator of Communities United for Police Reform, said trans women, often fearful when approached by police, are ‘tricked’ into agreeing to a search that stems from their gender nonconformity. Things can turn ugly fast if the woman is carrying condoms. . . .”

Defenders of stop-and-frisk have argued that the practice saves lives and effectively fights crime. The New York Post last year called the program “one of the city’s most valuable crime-fighting tools: stopping suspicious individuals, questioning them — and, when appropriate, frisking them for weapons.

The brickbats have been relentless — even though, as Mayor Bloomberg says, the practice has removed some thousands of illegal guns from city streets in the past eight years and helped save the lives of some 5,600 New Yorkers (mostly minority males),” the Post editorialized.

On WNYW-TV, like the Post owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., Lew Leone, vice president and general manager, contended, “The bullets are flying in Chicago. In 2012 the Windy City suffered over 500 murders. That’s well more than New York City, where the murder rate is at an all-time low. Why is New York safer while Chicago is slowly turning into a war zone? There is strong evidence that the NYPD’s practice of stop and frisk is a major component of New York’s success. I have a hard time understanding why this program is so controversial. . . .”

To others, stop and frisk is a continuation of surveillance tactics used against blacks since the days of slavery.

David A. Love wrote in June for the Grio, “The slave patrols, consisting of white slaveholding and non-slaveholding men, were designed to prevent slave rebellions. The patrols were ordered to stop the slaves they found on the road, compel the slaves to produce a pass, and have them prove they were not breaking the law. . . .” 

Love took readers through the decades, concluding, “Finally, African-Americans and Latinos are monitored through stop-and-frisk policies that civil rights groups say are unfair and based on race. . . .” 

Michael Bloomberg, New York Post: Frisks save lives (Aug. 13)

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Ending Michael Bloomberg’s Racist Profiling Campaign

Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: A mother channels pain into action on Oakland killings (Aug. 5)

Editorial, Daily News: City at risk (Aug. 13)

Editorial, New York Post: Death wish, the sequel (Aug. 13)

Editorial, New York Times: Racial Discrimination in Stop-and-Frisk

Editorial, Wall Street Journal: Stopping and Frisking the Cops

John W. Fountain, Chicago Sun-Times: Don’t run from cops, don’t smart off

Trymaine Lee, Ruling confirms what many New Yorkers already knew of ‘stop-and-frisk’

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: I’m trying to go to jail – so prisoners will know I care

Adam Serwer, Judge in ‘stop-and-frisk’ case cites Trayvon Martin’s death

Rev. Al Sharpton, HuffPost BlackVoices: Bloomberg Must Cease and Desist ‘Stop and Frisk’

Michele Norris, Husband Host Vacationing Obamas

NPR correspondent Michele Norris and her husband, Broderick Johnson, hosted President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama for cocktails Monday as the first family vacationed on Martha’s Vineyard.

Johnson was a 2012 Obama campaign adviser. Norris took a leave from co-hosting “All Things Considered” in October 2011 when her husband joined the Obama campaign. She never returned to the co-hosting job, instead becoming an NPR host and special correspondent who produces in-depth profiles, interviews and series, and guest hosts NPR News programs. Norris also leads “The Race Card Project,” an initiative to foster a wider conversation about race in America.

In a pool report for the White House press corps, Carol Lee of the Wall Street Journal wrote, “Motorcade was on the move again at 5:46 pm. About 10 minutes later POTUS arrived at a cocktail party at the home of Broderick Johnson, who was an adviser on the Obama 2012 campaign, and his wife, Michele Norris Johnson. FLOTUS is also at the cocktail party.

“No sighting of the first couple. Pool vans pulled off on side of the road while the rest of the motorcade turned onto Nat’s Farm Lane.

“Holding in vans nearby.

“Motorcade left the Johnson residence at 7:27 pm and arrived at POTUS’s vacation spot at 7:34 pm. Uneventful ride back. No POTUS sighting.”

When Johnson joined the Obama campaign, Edward Wycliff Williams wrote for The Root, “Johnson — who will work alongside David Axelrod, Obama’s senior strategist and longtime adviser, and Jim Messina, the 2012 campaign manager — is a seasoned political operative. He served in senior roles in the Clinton White House, acting as the president’s principal liaison to the House of Representatives. He was an adviser to John Kerry’s 2004 campaign for the White House and was a partner at Bryan Cave, a prominent national law firm. . . .”

Mark Landler, New York Times: The First Couple’s Chance to Put Themselves First

Why Won’t Fashion Industry Recognize Its Race Problem?

Has outrage over the lack of diversity and racial insensitivity within the fashion industry reached its peak?Julee Wilson asked Friday in HuffPost BlackVoices. “If not, Thursday’s New York Times article entitled ‘Fashion’s Blind Spot‘ will certainly ring the alarm.

“The powerful feature, written by NYT editor Eric Wilson, explores the blatant whitewashing of fashion runways, ads and companies, ultimately begging the question: why doesn’t the industry recognize it has a race problem? Wilson makes a strong argument that despite efforts to combat the issue, the industry is still in denial and ‘nothing has changed.’

“That sentiment is shared by Bethann Hardison, a former model and modeling agency owner, as well as supermodel-turned-mogul Iman. These two ladies are leading the charge to inject some much needed diversity into fashion.

“Hardison, who founded the advocacy group Black Girls Coalition in 1989, told the Times that part of the problem is that ‘no one in power slaps these designers around.’

“Taking it a step further, Iman suggested that a boycott might be in order. ‘It feels to me like the times need a real hard line drawn like in the 1960s, by saying if you don’t use black models, then we boycott,’ Iman said. ‘If you engage the social media, trust me, it will hurt them in their pockets. If you take it out there, they will feel the uproar.’ . . .”

Yoonj Kim, Slate: GQ’s Hottest Women List Separates Out the Indian and Asian Chicks (Jan. 23)

NPR, Ombudsman Differ on Indian Foster Care Series

After an extensive investigation lasting well over a year, NPR’s ombudsman has concluded the network’s series on South Dakota’s efforts to put Native [Americans] in foster care was fundamentally flawed,” David Folkenflik reported Monday for NPR.

“The network and the ombudsman, Edward Schumacher-Matos, who is paid to critique NPR’s news coverage, have split sharply over his findings.

“The series, which appeared in October 2011 on All Things Considered and was published on, alleged that the state of South Dakota took Native American children and separated them from their families and tribes at an alarming rate. The series won national awards and helped inspire federal and state reviews of such policies. . . . “