Some to Boycott Meeting With Holder

It's also unclear whether journalists of color will be at the off-the-record session, where the attorney general will address outrage over the Justice Department's leak investigations.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. is following up on his promise to meet with news media representatives Thursday and Friday in the wake of outrage over the Justice Department’s leak investigations, but it’s an open question whether journalists of color will be present.

Holder “is expected to meet this week with the Washington bureau chiefs of several major media outlets to discuss the Justice Department’s guidelines for dealing with journalists in leak investigations,” Michael Calderone reported Wednesday for Huffington Post.

Ken Strickland, Washington bureau chief of NBC News and a black journalist, was expected to be among the bureau chiefs, but with word that the Justice Department wants the session to be off the record, “We’re still discussing whether we plan to attend,” NBC spokeswoman Liz Fischer told Journal-isms by email.

CNN said Thursday morning that it will join the New York Times, the Associated Press and the Huffington Post in refusing the off-the-record invitation, Jack Mirkinson reported Thursday for the Huffington Post. Politico will attend but McClatchy will not, Mackenzie Weinger reported for Politico. Later Thursday, Calderone added Reuters to the list of those not going.

Jeffrey W. Schneider, spokesman for ABC News, told Journal-isms on Thursday, “Yes we will attend and press for the meeting to be on the record.”

Sonya McNair, a spokeswoman for CBS News, told Journal-isms on Thursday, “CBS News does not plan to participate in the off-the-record meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder. We would be willing to consider an on-the-record discussion.”

The original Justice Department announcement said a week ago, “The Attorney General will consult a diverse and representative group of media organizations. In the coming days, he looks forward to meaningful engagement with these media representatives as well as other experts inside and outside government. . . .”

However, Univision spokesman Jose Zamora said Thursday his network was told it was not invited because it does not have a permanent presence at the Justice Department. “Univision does cover the DOJ, but we do not have a full time DOJ reporter,” Zamora told Journal-isms.

George Curry, who runs the Washington-based National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, representing the nation’s black community newspapers, was asked whether he was invited. “Of course not,” Curry replied by email.

Gregory Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists; Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists; and Walt Swanston, interim executive director of Unity: Journalists for Diversity, said that to their knowledge, their groups had not been asked.

Each group issued statements of alarm about the Justice Department’s acknowledgement that it had secretly obtained telephone records of Associated Press reporters and editors. Holder opened NABJ’s 2011 convention in Philadelphia, telling the audience that he was once better known as “Ricky from Queens” and that he considered journalists “essential partners in the administration and achievement of justice.”

President Obama ordered a review last week of the Justice Department’s procedures for legal investigations involving reporters, “acknowledging that he was ‘troubled’ that multiple inquiries into national security leaks could chill investigative reporting,” as Mark Landler reported then for the New York Times.

However, the Justice Department’s condition that the meetings be off the record proved a stumbling block almost as soon as plans for the first meetings were reported on Wednesday.

Ron Fournier of the National Journal tweeted, “Re Holder convening bureau chiefs on leak probes: He may ask that meeting be off record. Chiefs should decline, record and report.”

Jill Abramson, executive editor of the New York Times, said flatly, “It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time,” the Huffington Post’s Calderone and the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple each reported.

The Associated Press gave Journal-isms this statement: “We believe the meeting should be on the record and we have said that to the Attorney General’s office. If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter. We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings between the Attorney General’s office and media lawyers on the legal specifics.”

Wemple added, “And Ryan Grim, the Washington bureau chief of the Huffington Post, said, ‘Off-the-record would not fly. … I don’t need to go in there with a tape recorder and wiretap the meeting. But I imagine I’m free to talk about what’s said in there.’ “

However, Martin Baron, executive editor of the Washington Post, said he would attend. He told Wemple, “I prefer that any meeting be on the record. That said, journalists routinely participate in off-the-record sessions, whether they prefer those conditions or not, and then continue to report on events. I am going to this meeting in order to represent our interests as journalists and to raise our concerns. I’ll also listen to what the Attorney General has to say. I trust that our journalists will report on this as vigorously as they would any other subject.”

Adora Andy, Justice Department press secretary, did not respond to an inquiry from Journal-isms. But Wemple reported that a Justice Department official, “asked why on earth the meeting about media stuff between media people and the government would be off the record,” responded on the condition that the official not be named: “This format will best facilitate the candid, free-flowing discussions we hope to have in order to bring about meaningful engagement.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Easley reported Tuesday for the Hill that the House Judiciary Committee is investigating whether Holder “lied under oath during his May 15 testimony on the Justice Department’s (DOJ) surveillance of reporters. . . .”

In addition, Calderone reported that “Associated Press president and chief executive Gary Pruitt told staff at a Wednesday town hall meeting that the phone records obtained by the government included ‘thousands and thousands’ of calls in and out of the news organization, according to a staffer who attended. . . .” [Updated May 30]

Joyner Says Smiley Should Blame Low Ratings, Not Obama

Tom Joyner, host of radio’s  syndicated “Tom Joyner Morning Show,” isn’t buying a statement from Tavis Smiley, his former show partner, that members of the Obama administration, whom Smiley didn’t identify, have pressured sponsors to drop their support of his projects.

Instead, Michael H. Cottman reported for Joyner’s Black America Web, Joyner contends that Smiley’s ratings are low and advertisers are jumping ship.

” ‘Tavis here’s the problem: Your sponsors are pulling out because you don’t have numbers,’ Joyner told his listeners on Tuesday’s show. ‘That’s your problem. You don’t have a platform. You’re losing affiliates; you’re losing sponsors, not because someone is plotting against you.’ “

Asked for specifics, Smiley spokeswoman Leshelle V. Sargent told Journal-isms by email on Friday, “After 10 years and 2,000 shows on PBS, Mr. Smiley appreciates all of his underwriters. We are uninterested in subjecting former, present or future supporters to further scrutiny.”

NBCUniversal Pays Its College Interns

NBCUniversal has begun paying its college interns, Kathy Kelly-Brown, a spokeswoman for NBCUniversal, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

The move, which began with the spring interns, addresses a long-held contention that requiring interns to work only for the experience or for college credit amounts to favoring students with well-to-do parents. Others disagree, saying the college credit or the experience justifies the lack of salary.

“Not just NBC News – across NBCU,” Kelly-Brown said by email. However, she could not say how many interns are affected or what the salaries are.

The NBC action comes with renewed focus on such internships. “In the past few years, unpaid interns have filed three class-action lawsuits against companies alleging the companies owe interns back pay, because the interns performed the same duties as employees,” Blair Hickman and Jeremy B. Merrill reported for ProPublica this month.

They wrote, “In April 2010, the Department of Labor [called attention to] a six-point test to help determine whether an internship in the for-profit sector qualifies to be unpaid under federal law. One of the key criteria is that the position must be of more benefit to the intern than of benefit to the company. Companies can’t just use interns to replace regular employees. . . .”

Rebecca Greenfield wrote May 9 for the Atlantic, “A judge may have thrown out class-action status for the lawsuit against Hearst for using unpaid interns at its magazines, but the disgruntled former coffee-fetchers will continue the fight. ‘The case of the named plaintiffs and the people who opted into the case will go forward,’ said Junot Turner, the Outten and Golden lawyer handling the case. That includes the ‘Norma Rae’ of unpaid interns Diana Wang, who interned for Harper’s Bazaar, Erin Spencer, a former Cosmopolitan intern, and six others. . . .”

While paid internships are more common at newspapers, they are not necessarily the norm at magazines and in broadcasting.

Until now, NBC News in general has not paid its interns, but ABC News and CNN have. CBS News and Fox News have arrangements for the college to offer course credit.

On Tuesday, England’s Guardian newspaper ran a piece by David Dennis, a recent graduate of at Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications, that gained traction on social media. Dennis asked, “does your, that gained traction on social media. Dennis asked, “does your publication use unpaid interns as the prevalent mode of determining full-time jobs? If so, then I’m sorry to inform you that your publication is perpetuating a privilege-based upward mobility, and it’s ruining journalism. . . .”

Chuck Collins, American Prospect: The Wealthy Kids Are All Right

Diversity Efforts Ebb Not Just in News Business

As a partner and chief diversity officer at Thompson & Knight, Pauline Higgins was not afraid to press the issue of hiring minorities at the 126-year-old Texas law firm,” Nelson D. Schwartz and Michael Cooper wrote Monday for the New York Times. “But when she left in 2008, she was replaced by an associate with less influence.

“Now, current and former partners say, the diversity committee meets less often, and the firm has fewer black lawyers than before. It is a trajectory familiar in many elite realms of American professional life. Even as racial barriers continue to fall, progress for African-Americans [overall] has remained slow — and in some cases appears to be stalling.

” ‘You don’t want to be a diversity officer who only buys tables at events and seats people,’ Ms. Higgins said recently. ‘It’s about recruiting and inclusion and training and development, with substantive work assignments.’

“Nearly a half-century after a Texan, President Lyndon B. Johnson, helped usher in the era of affirmative action, the Supreme Court is poised to rule as early as this week on whether the University of Texas can continue to consider race as one of many factors in its admissions policy. It is a case that could have a profound impact on race-based affirmative action programs across the nation, and it has reignited a discussion of how much progress minorities, blacks in particular, have made in integrating into some of the most sought-after professions, especially since the recession.

“Only a little more than 1 percent of the nation’s Fortune 500 companies have black chief executives, although there are some prominent exceptions, like Kenneth I. Chenault of American Express and Ursula M. Burns of Xerox. At the nation’s biggest companies, about 3.2 percent of senior executive positions are held by African-Americans, according to an estimate by the Executive Leadership Council, an organization of current and former black senior executives.

“While about 12 percent of the nation’s working-age population is black, about 5 percent of physicians and dentists in the United States are black — a share that has not grown since 1990, according to an analysis of census data that was prepared for The New York Times by sociologists at Queens College of the City University of New York. The analysis found that 3 percent of American architects are black, another field where the share has not increased in more than two decades. . . . “

In the news business, African Americans in the newsroom workforce fell from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent, according to the 2012 report from the American Society of News Editors, the National Association of Black Journalists reported then.

Kat Chow, NPR: The Questions People Get Asked About Their Race

Jesse Washington, Associated Press: ‘I’m not racist’: Common claim after racial slurs