NABJ Airs Frustrations Over Coverage

NABJ will reach out to elected officials as it seeks allies to reverse diversity setbacks, NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said.

Panel Airs Frustrations Over Coverage, Diversity Setbacks

The National Association of Black Journalists, frustrated by job losses in its membership, setbacks in diversity efforts and a perceived decline in news that benefits African American communities, will reach out to elected officials as it seeks allies to reverse these trends, NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. said on Friday.

“NABJ’s mission is to connect with the black community. The community involves pastors, school teachers, lawyers and yes even politicians,” Lee told Journal-isms by email.

Lee was asked to comment on a statement by former NBCUniversal diversity executive Paula Madison at an NABJ panel discussion Thursday at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference in Washington.

“There has to be an alliance between journalists and the community,” Madison said from the audience. “Journalism is supposed to reflect the interests of the community. That’s not what’s happening.” She said she had stopped watching local news because the dominance of coverage of fires and shootings had little constructive relevance to residents.

“Where is the news agenda? Where is the relevance? she added. ” . . . Will journalists come out of the shadows and align themselves with communities and elected officials in order to protect their interests?”

“Paula’s statement speaks for itself,” Lee said later in agreement.

Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., who was active in the Black Panther Party and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, was also on the panel. “Learn what a congressman does,” Rush told the audience. “In my 18 years (in Congress), I know what black power is, and I’m sure that . . . members of Congress have that. . . . I sit on the Telecommunications Subcommittee (of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce). I want you all to give me the questions. All I know is the power I have. We have 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus, the largest caucus in the Congress and the largest ever.”

NABJ used the occasion to distribute its “2011 NABJ Diversity Census: An Examination of Television Newsroom Management,” first released at its August convention.

Authored by Bob Butler, NABJ’s vice president for broadcast, it said, “According to the 2010 United States Census, non-Whites comprise nearly 35% of the United States population but the study finds that people of color fill only 12% of the newsroom management positions at stations owned by ABC, Belo, CBS, Cox, Fox, Gannett, Hearst, [LIN] Media, Media General, Meredith, NBC, Nexstar, E.W. Scripps, Post-Newsweek and Tribune.