Obama in Africa: Money Well Spent

Critics say his trip was too costly, but U.S. interests in the continent mean there is a lot at stake.

President Obama walks through the Door of No Return at Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal. (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)
President Obama walks through the Door of No Return at Goree Island in Dakar, Senegal. (Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

At the end of this month, President Obama will begin his trip to Africa, visiting South Africa, Senegal (in West Africa) and Tanzania (in East Africa),” Jonathan Berman wrote Monday for Harvard Business Review. “The trip will be expensive, and The Washington Post has highlighted the large cost at a time of budget tightening. However, even the myopia of the U.S. budget process cannot obscure reality in this case — this is money well spent.

“Putting aside security, global health, and other national issues, US commercial interests alone make Africa an important destination for our President. There is a lot at stake.

“Africa ranks second — behind emerging Asia — as the fastest growing region of the world. The IMF forecasts that Sub-Saharan Africa will grow at a rate of 5.4% this year, about 50% faster than Latin America, and infinitely more than Europe, which is currently expected to grow not at all or even contract.

“Also, Africa’s growth is not from a small base. Africa today is a $2 trillion economy, roughly the same as Brazil or India (where few would say a presidential visit is wasted). Of course, Africa is not one country — its many individual nations mean the growth, risks and opportunities vary widely. However, few would deny that West Africa, East Africa and South Africa each hold significant growth opportunities for US companies. It’s wise of the White House to have the President visit all three, drawing guests from the whole region and not just the host countries. . . .”

Though Rare, African War Photographers Shape Opinions

When conflict photographers gather in hotspots to rekindle camaraderies in dimly-lit hotels to the accompaniment of throbbing generators, few Africans are among them,” Greg Marinovich wrote for South Africa’s Daily Maverick in a piece dated Thursday. “The glaring exception is South Africans. With all the conflicts in Africa, one would expect more than the few war photographers who have emerged.

“Why? If the causes are not compelling enough to warrant the risk and commitment, then surely the lure of hard currency, excitement, booze on expense accounts and sex-and-drugs-and-rock-‘n-roll are reason enough; if one is to believe the rather crass filmic fantasies of the lives of photojournalists.

“Rwandan journalist Shyaka Kanuma writes about Africa’s journalistic environment: ‘In many parts of Africa, those who set out to become journalists with the independent press [had] better be prepared to work with media organisations whose operations are hobbled in various ways… these news organisations operate in an environment in which active hostility from government and others is the norm.’

“Kanuma regards much African press to be state- or business-friendly, propaganda arms for their masters, or, if maintaining independence, then likely to face extreme danger: ‘Many of the continent’s regimes are highly undemocratic; a good number of them are led by people who shot their way to power after ruinous rebel wars. Others ‘inherited’ power and, occasionally, a leader might legitimately win an election. What almost all of these leaders have in common is that once they are in power they entrench themselves at the expense of everything else. They rig elections, and they divert the constitution or rewrite it to contain provisions for a lifetime presidency. They deal with political opponents or dissidents by locking them up indefinitely in degrading conditions. They also legislate draconian press laws to muzzle the inquisitive, critical elements of the press.’

“The hurdles for photojournalists or war photographers working in Africa are even greater — the person with the camera is so easily to identify, either to target or to prevent them working.

“Despite this, there are some scenarios across the continent where war photography has played a role in determining how society and history view a conflict, perhaps even how that conflict has played out. More recently, there is a case to be made for the definition of conflict photography to be extended to include documenting a war of ideas playing itself out across the continent. . . .”

John Allen, allAfrica.com: Africa: Obama’s Coming — So’s the Navy & the Air Force 

Nedra Pickler, Associated Press: Obama promotes gay rights in Africa, praises court (June 27)

April D. Ryan, American Urban Radio Networks: Photos from presidential trip

Joel Simon, Committee to Protect Journalists: Obama should urge promotion of free press in Tanzania

Swimming Against the Demographics

ASNE Diversity Figures at Odds With Population Trends

Journalists of color represent a declining percentage of employees in newspaper and online newsrooms while the percentage of people of color in the general population continues to increase, the American Society of News Editors showed Tuesday in its annual diversity census.

Still, there is no shortage of ideas for improving the diversity of staffing and content. As has become traditional at its annual convention, ASNE offered ideas and attempted to showcase what has worked. Unity: Journalists for Diversity offered suggestions, the National Association of Black Journalists again said it was available and the Asian American Journalists Association pointed to a $100,000 grant it had received to help communities and news organizations build closer ties.

The organization elected diversity advocate Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, to a two-year term on its board, and Mizell Stewart III, chief content officer of the newspaper division of the E.W. Scripps Co., Cincinnati, another black journalist, was elected treasurer, on the ladder to becoming ASNE president at its 2016 meeting.

The latest census figures show that of 38,000 newsroom employees, 12.37 are journalists of color, down from a high of 13.87 percent in the 2006 survey but up from 12.32 last year.

The racial breakdown is 141 American Indians, or 0.4 percent, up from 0.3 percent; 1,165 Asian Amerians, or 3.1 percent, up from 2.9 percent; 1,791 blacks, or 4.7 percent, up from 4.6 percent; 1,518 Hispanics, or 4 percent, down from 4.1 percent; 100 multiracial, or 0.3 percent, down from 0.4 percent; and 33,267 whites, or 87.6 percent, down from 87.7 percent.

Since 1978, ASNE has had a goal of matching the percentage of journalists of color in newsrooms to the percentage of people of color in the population. Currently, minorities make up 37.02 percent of the U.S. population; that number will increase to 42.39 percent by 2025, the organization said in a news release, citing the U.S. Census Bureau.

The disappointing figures for journalists of color indicate that many in the news industry still fail to see the connection between diversifying staffs and the business imperative of relating to changing demographics. Two years ago, ASNE emphasized that point as it convened “Leadership in Diversity: New Models for Growing Audience, Talent and Revenue,” two all-day sessions aimed at kickstarting interest in diversity.

The figures also come amid a backdrop of continuing shrinkage of newsroom jobs. Total newsroom employment declined by 6.4 percent in 2012, the survey found. “There are about 38,000 full-time daily newspaper journalists at nearly 1,400 newspapers in the United States. That’s a 2,600-person decrease from last year’s 40,600. . . .”

“The people who were making the noise, many of them have been leaving the newsroom,” Alfredo Carbajal, managing editor of Al Día, an offshoot of Dallas Morning News and co-chair of the ASNE Diversity Committee, told a session on diversity.

However, Carbajal pointed to a day-and-a-half program for increasing newsroom managers of color as one initiative. The Minority Leadership Institute “provides leadership and management training to 16 mid-level editors and business executives from news organizations around the country.” It was conducted at last year’s Unity convention, again at this year’s ASNE convention and is to be repeated Aug. 1-2 at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Orlando and Aug. 23-24 at the Excellence in Journalism 2013 conference in Anaheim, Calif. There, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Radio Television Digital News Association plan to convene jointly.

“The ASNE Diversity Committee also is creating a partnership with Journalism That Matters, an evolving collaboration of individuals supporting the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecosystem. The partnership aims to optimize the talents of both organizations to develop new ways for journalists to engage diverse communities and meet evolving news and information needs,” a news release said.

At the convention’s diversity session, Keith Woods, vice president, diversity in news and operations at NPR, described its “Code Switch” project, which is integrating stories about race into the overall NPR programming. “NPR has not been known to play in this sandbox,” Woods said of race, noting also the project’s six-person multicultural staff. “Staffing begets content, but content begets staffing, too,” Woods said. In addition, “Content begets the audience. Content is a retention issue.”

[By happenstance, American Public Media’s “Marketplace” produced a story later in the day on the resurgence of the African American hairstyle known as a hi-top fade, without once mentioning race.] Woods recommended that hiring editors pass along to colleagues the names of promising journalists of color they are unable to hire.

Paul Cheung, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, volunteered his organization’s assistance. “I would love to help newspapers set up more meetings with communities,” Cheung told the group from the audience. “Use us to connect you with the community and jump-start the conversation.”

AAJA announced last week it had received a $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation to fund six free media access trainings and an education forum on structural racism at the 2013 AAJA National Convention. Chenug said the grant would also be used to train community members in writing op-ed pieces as a way of diversifying newspaper content.

Unity: Journalists for Diversity suggested “three focused areas where news leaders can make strategic investments in 2013 that will have a lasting impact.

In a statement, it urged ASNE “to seek other opportunities to develop minority leaders in digital news, where hiring remains stronger than elsewhere in newsrooms.” 

It added, “Newsroom employment is decreasing, falling 6.4 percent from 2012 to 2013, ASNE reports. Depending solely on new hiring to increase diversity of coverage will not work in this new reality. We urge news editors to lead in diversifying coverage with existing staff, which will win new subscribers. This year, the National Lesbian [&] Gay Journalists Association and the Asian American Journalists Association partnered on the Diversity in the Heartland project, traveling to newsrooms in Alabama and Nebraska to encourage more inclusive coverage of these two minority groups in markets where they aren’t often covered. . . .”

The coalition applauded ASNE’s partnership with Journalism That Matters, described by ASNE as “an evolving collaboration of individuals supporting the pioneers who are shaping the emerging news and information ecosystem. The partnership aims to optimize the talents of both organizations to develop new ways for journalists to engage diverse communities and meet evolving news and information needs.” Unity said, “We urge this partnership to go a step further and tap the expertise and network of our alliance partners.”

NABJ said in its statement, “In the coming days, NABJ also will reach out to newspapers experiencing significant diversity deficiencies in an effort to assist them with a more effective approach to finding and retaining talented black journalists.

Not everyone is on board, as Rick Edmonds noted for the Poynter Institute. “For several years ASNE has accepted online-only news organizations as members and invited them to participate in the survey. But response has been spotty, leaving ASNE with too little information to estimate how many of the lost newspaper jobs may have been made up by growth in the digital sector,” Edmonds wrote.

“Also this year, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times and a number of other large papers didn’t compete surveys. And as the industry delivers content on a number of platforms and many large chains consolidate copy editing and design at remote centers, an accurate count of jobs becomes more difficult.

“By my reading, besides the L.A. Times, the list of the missing includes The Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant, Sun-Sentinel (of Fort Lauderdale) and Newport News Daily Press — five of the eight Tribune Co. papers.

“Historically Gannett has been a very strong supporter of ASNE’s diversity initiative. But besides the absence of USA Today, several other large Gannett metros — The Arizona Republic, Indianapolis Star and Cincinnati Enquirer — didn’t report results. . . .”

“Other prominent papers not reporting include Poynter’s Tampa Bay Times, The Miami Herald, The Times-Picayune, the New York Post and The Richmond Times-Dispatch.”

Andrew Beaujon, Poynter Institute: Minority employment in newsrooms held steady in 2012

Ryan Chittum, Columbia Journalism Review: The newspaper plunge slows

Emily Guskin, Pew Research Center: Newspaper newsrooms suffer large staffing decreases

Rem Rieder, USA Today: One newspaper cuts to survive; another invests to thrive

Coverage Helped Speed Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage

The Supreme Court’s historic rulings on same-sex marriage Wednesday were preceded by news media coverage that” provided a strong sense of momentum” toward legalization, according to the Pew Research Center.

“Stories with more statements supporting same-sex marriage outweighed those with more statements opposing it by a margin of roughly 5-to-1,” Paul Hitlin, Amy Mitchell and Mark Jurkowitz reported for the research center on June 17. “In the coverage studied, the central argument among proponents of same-sex marriage was one of civil rights. Arguments against were more varied, but most often voiced the idea that same-sex marriage would hurt society and the institution of traditional marriage. . . .”

Robert Barnes reported for the Washington Post, “The Supreme Court’s first rulings on same-sex marriage produced historic gains for gay rights Wednesday: full federal recognition of legally married gay couples and an opening for such unions to resume in the nation’s most-populous state.

“The divided court stopped short of a more sweeping ruling that the fundamental right to marry must be extended to gay couples no matter where they live. . . .

Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Was CNN Too Cautious in Reporting Rulings? Gavin Newsom Thinks So

Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: In landmark rulings, Supreme Court redefines equality

Andrew Beaujon, Poynter Institute: NBC News supplements Supreme Court coverage with one-glance site

Columbia Journalism Review: Video: CJR’s panel discussion on coverage of gay marriage (June 15)

National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association: NLGJA Members Respond to the U.S. Supreme Court Rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Before ‘Being Gay’ Was a Movement (June 5)

Noah Rothman, Mediaite: Gay Marriage Rulings Make MSNBC’s Harris-Perry Sad Because They Gut ‘Power Of Federal Government’ 

Rev. Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou, HuffPost BlackVoices: Dear Marriage Equality Advocates: I Can Not Celebrate With You, Today

Alex Weprin, TVNewser: President Obama Calls Prop 8 Plaintiffs During Live MSNBC Interview