Drawing Attention to New York’s Diversity

With so much talk about media backsliding on diversity, it was refreshing to see the cover of the Sept. 23 edition of the New Yorker.

Screenshot of the Sept. 23 edition of the New Yorker
Screenshot of the Sept. 23 edition of the New Yorker

New Yorker Cover Depicts “What We Live Every Day”

With so much distressing news about news-media backsliding on diversity, it was refreshing to come across the cover of the Sept. 23 edition of the New Yorker showing a white boy and a black girl holding hands as they navigate New York.

It was even more remarkable to hear the New Yorker’s art director, Paris-born Françoise Mouly, explain that the images were deliberate.

“It’s cartoon language for diversity,” Mouly told Journal-isms Friday by telephone. “We think of our town as one of many different ethnic backgrounds.” Showing the couple was “one of the ways you can represent diversity. It stands for different languages, different ethnic backgrounds. That was the most efficient way. When we do images, we want to make sure that what the cartoon represents is inclusive.”

New York, she continued, “is not just white characters. It’s not the reality that we live every day in New York.

“I think it’s important,” Mouly continued. “Yes, you have to be aware of it when you’re making images: Every little element counts.”

The 2010 Census Bureau found New York to be 44 percent “white alone”; 25.5 percent “black or African American alone”; 0.7 percent “American Indian and Alaska Native alone”; 12.7 percent “Asian alone”; 0.1 percent “Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone”, 4 percent two or more races; 28.6 percent Hispanic or Latino; and 33.3 percent “white alone, not Hispanic or Latino.”

Meanwhile, Jennifer Vanasco, writing in Columbia Journalism Review, wrote that 20 years after the death of her father, Robert C. Maynard, Dori J. Maynard is troubled by what she sees as a decrease in attention paid to diversity in newsrooms.”

The last 10 years have been ” ‘somewhat of a challenge when it comes to the issue of diversity in journalism,’ Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said in an interview. ‘As one industry leader said a few years ago, “When it comes to diversity, it’s not only on the backburner — it’s not even in the kitchen.’ “

David Balzer, Random House Canada: Françoise Mouly is the Talk of the Town (May 19)

NABJ Members Start Website “To Help With Transparency”nabjboardwatch.org, says. “It should also be a part of our job within NABJ. We should ask questions such as: Are board members upholding campaign pledges? Are their actions in the best interests of members? Are their decisions made openly and responsibly? The NABJ Board Watch web site exists solely to ensure that board members are following the NABJ constitution and bylaws and communicating actions with members. It also exists to highlight success. . . . “

Vocal and influential members of the National Association of Black Journalists who challenged the direction of the organization at last month’s national convention in Orlando — including five former NABJ presidents — have created a website that they say is designed to keep the association’s leaders transparent and accountable.

“Journalists hold elected officials accountable as part of the job,” the website,

NABJ President Bob Butler, asked whether the existence of the site was a good thing, told Journal-isms, “No. Much of the information on the site is false and/or taken out of context.” Asked for examples, he said, “The part about a flagrant violation and my ‘refusal to post the governance report despite the wishes of board members.’ “

The site says at the top of the home page, “Flagrant Violation: [Executive Director Maurice] Foster refuses to honor commitment to post NABJ paid board expenses. Pres. Butler and Treasurer [Keith] Reed [ignore] wishes of other board members to make the postings public on NABJ.org . .  . “

The August election pitted Butler and other incumbents who supported Foster against allies of outgoing President Gregory H. Lee Jr. and challengers who said the association was headed in the wrong direction with Foster as executive director. Butler and nearly all incumbents won.

Among the detractors was NABJ’s Finance Committee, chaired by former NABJ President Condace Pressley. Pressley and former NABJ presidents Vanessa Williams, Barbara Ciara, Will Sutton and Sidmel Estes, along with longtime members Sheila Brooks and Paula Madison, are among the charter members of the NABJ Coalition for Transparency & Accountability, as the website’s backers are called.

Another is Drew Berry, a former television general manager and news director who is a past chairman of NABJ’s Finance Committee and former NABJ interim executive director.

The site “started a couple of weeks after the convention because a group of us are very concerned about the constant cycle of surprises especially regarding NABJ finances,” Berry said by email. “Motions passed at the business meeting typically go in a hole somewhere and are not acted on; there is little follow through.

“Additionally, communications are not good on many matters; sometimes deliberate and sometimes just because people get too busy to share information.

“People should not be surprised about the financial vitality of the organization and they should know if their leaders are doing what they promised to do in their campaigns or board meetings.

“That said, in the best interest of NABJ, the website was created to help with transparency and accountability while attempting to communicate with members relevant information that may not normally be found on NABJ’s website.

“IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE SITE IS NOT DESIGNED TO BE ADVERSARIAL, THOUGH A COUPLE OF BOARD MEMBERS NOT WANTING THE SPOTLIGHT ON THEM HAVE POSITIONED IT AS SUCH. Most board members are communicating with us in a very positive spirit in spite of the leadership requesting they limit their conversations. . . .”

Membership in NABJ, the largest of the journalist of color organizations, stood at 2,986 in July.

The NABJ Journal, the organization’s magazine, covered board activities when it was a newspaper during the 1990s. Those reports now are delivered only at convention time by the student convention newspaper. However, Butler told Journal-isms, “I have nothing against someone covering the board meetings.”

Blacks Favor Health-Care Law 3 Times as Much as Whites

While “Americans are stubbornly confounded about the health-care law known to many as Obamacare,” according to a new Washington Post/ABC News survey, polling also shows that “A stunning 91 percent of the black Americans who responded said they approved of Obamacare while only 29 percent of whites did,” Maxwell Strachan reported Monday for the Huffington Post.

Strachan cited a new Pew Research survey of 1,506 people conducted with USA Today.

The health care law roared back into the headlines as “House Republicans muscled through a stopgap bill Friday that would fund the government only if all spending for President Obama’s health care law is eliminated,” Jonathan Weisman reported for the New York Times. “Senate Democrats and President Obama quickly made it clear they had no intention of going along, putting the government on a course toward a shutdown unless one side relents.

“The 230-to-189 party-line vote in a bitterly divided House set in motion a fiscal confrontation with significant implications — politically and economically — but with an uncertain ending. Without a resolution, large parts of the government could shut down Oct. 1, and a first-ever default on federal debt could follow weeks later. . . .”

A failure to perceive the racial differences in support for the Affordable Care Act has led some commentators to assert that the law is generally unpopular.

Strachan continued, “The black community’s high level of support for Obamacare now more closely mirrors its approval of President Barack Obama overall. The president registered an average approval rating of 89 percent among black Americans between 2009-2013, Gallup reported in August. . . .”

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: No food for you. Invisible in North Carolina.

Imara Jones, ColorLines: What Obamacare’s Onset Means for Racial Justice

Edward Schumacher-Matos, NPR: What We Hear When NPR Refers To ‘Obamacare’ (Sept. 6)

More Nonwhites Trust Media Than Whites, Gallup Says

Whites have a more negative view of the news media than do nonwhites, according to a new Gallup Poll.

Only 39 percent of whites said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media “when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly,” but 56 percent of nonwhites said so.

By contrast, 60 percent of whites answered “not very much” or “none at all,” Gallup said in responses broken out for Journal-isms. Only 44 percent of nonwhites answered that way.

Overall, “Americans’ confidence in the accuracy of the mass media has improved slightly after falling to an all-time low last year,” Elizabeth Mendes reported Thursday for Gallup. “Now, 44% say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media, identical to 2011 but up from 40% in 2012, the lowest reading since Gallup regularly began tracking the question in 1997.”

Mendes also wrote, “Perceptions of a liberal media bias are particularly strong among Republicans and conservatives, with 74% and 73%, respectively, saying the media are too liberal. However, half of independents also call it too liberal, while most Democrats call it ‘just about right.’ . . .”

The survey included 300 nonwhite respondents. The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 5-8, with a random sample of 1,510 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A spokeswoman said the nonwhite sample size was too small to refine further.

In Diversity-Challenged Iowa, This Instructor Stands Out

Dr. Vanessa Shelton, a longtime University of Iowa journalism instructor who founded summer journalism workshops for high school students that attracted large numbers of students of color in the overwhelmingly white state, has won the Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship, the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation told Shelton on Friday.

Journal-isms readers sent in nominations for the award, which is given to an educator who encourages students of color in the field of journalism. The award is to be presented at the Association of Opinion Journalists convention Oct. 13-15 in Newport, R.I. Recipients receive a $1,000 award to help them continue their work with students of color.

One nominating letter for Shelton began:

“In April 2013 the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication held its annual Fourth Estate Banquet, a dinner and ceremony to honor the best students from the academic year with scholarships. Each student stood individually to be recognized. A short biography was read. One student, [an] African-American woman, stood to these words: ‘She says her interest in journalism began at a journalism camp she attended in elementary school.’

“The camp was the Iowa Summer Journalism Academies, a program founded by longtime University of Iowa SJMC instructor Dr. Vanessa Shelton. Now in its 15th year, the Academies have operated with the mission to bring journalism education to culturally diverse urban centers in Iowa. More than 1,000 elementary students have come through the program. Hundreds stuck with it, eventually joining their high school publications, and dozens have gone on to attend college on scholarships to study journalism. It all began with Shelton’s vision.

“In 2003, the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication honored the Academies nationally by naming it the top Innovative Outreach Program. That award, technically, went to the University of Iowa. Now it is time to honor the true innovator, Dr. Shelton, who was the driving force behind the program.

“Demographically, the Academies are usually 50 percent comprised by students of minority status, which might not sound significant until one realizes that Shelton’s state, Iowa, is 93 percent white, among the least diverse states in the country.

“Dr. Shelton’s contributions to minorities in journalism only begin with the Academies. In her previous position as director of the University of Iowa Summer Journalism Workshops, Shelton was the chief writer of a grant that provided scholarships to minority students. The grant has now been awarded annually for more than a decade, a sign of the program’s success. Additionally, Dr. Shelton serves as a consultant to the University of Iowa McCormick Scholar program, which brings 12-20 culturally and socially diverse Chicago high school students to Iowa City each summer on a full scholarship to attend the University of Iowa Summer Journalism Workshops.

“Dr. Shelton also serves as campus sponsor for the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. Since 2007, she has been executive director of Quill & Scroll, the international honor society for high school journalism. . . .”