Silicon Valley Confronted on Diversity
With unemployment rates much higher for blacks and Latinos, diversity in hiring has become a hot-button issue in Silicon Valley.
"Saying the Silicon Valley tech industry needs to do a better job of hiring native-born blacks, Latinos and some other minority groups, minority leaders picketed Google's Mountain View headquarters [Thursday], asking the Internet giant and other large valley companies to disclose their workplace diversity data," Mike Swift reported Friday for the San Jose Mercury News.
"The protest, organized by the Black Economic Council, the Latino Business Chamber of Greater Los Angeles, and the National Asian American Coalition was sparked by a series of reports in the Mercury News last year.
"Hispanics and blacks, the newspaper found, made up a smaller share of the valley's computer workers in 2008 than they did in 2000, even as their share grew across the nation."
Jorge Corralejo, chairman of the Latino Business Chamber of Greater LA, told Journal-isms that the group had met with members of Congress and with U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and intended to continue to press their case in those quarters.
Faith Bautista, president and CEO of the National Asian American Coalition, said in a news release, "On the surface, everything is well for Asian Americans at Silicon Valley since up to 50 percent of their employees are listed as Asian Americans. Sadly, up to 90 percent are improperly classified as Asian Americans but, are in fact, H-1B visa workers from abroad."
The Mercury News story continued, "The protest drew about two dozen people to the Googleplex, as minority leaders criticized Google, Apple and 20 other Silicon Valley tech companies that refused to share their workforce diversity data with them. The leaders called on the federal government to review the H-1B work visa program that tech companies use to hire engineers from abroad, unless the companies comply.
"The groups are filing a complaint with the federal government, saying of 34 Silicon Valley tech companies from which they requested workforce data, just 12 agreed to share it. The groups are asking the government to force the companies to disclose their data. They said they singled out Google for Thursday's protest because of its growth and visibility."
As reported last year, the American Society of News Editors, recognizing that Internet companies are increasingly hiring journalists, added "online-only newspapers" to its annual diversity census of print newspapers. A Yahoo spokeswoman later told Journal-isms flatly, "We do not release our diversity statistics."
The nondisclosers are not all in Silicon Valley. Huffington Post did not participate, and neither did AOL, MinnPost.com, Salon.com, Talking Points Memo (TPM Media LLC), the Daily Beast, Bloomberg or Politico. All but MinnPost.com are based on the East Coast.
In its news release announcing the demonstration, the groups said, "The available data demonstrates that no industry may have a worse record in California in the hiring of Blacks, Latinos, Southeast Asian Americans and women than Google, Apple and Oracle. Based on data from the 12 Silicon Valley companies that [publicly] released their EEO-1 data, the minority groups' expert states that Google's Black employees, for example, could be at just one percent, Latinos at two percent and women at the 20 percent level. In contrast, Stanford, located in the heart of Silicon Valley, has an entering freshman class that has 17.2 percent Latinos and 11.1 percent Blacks.
"Len Canty, Chairman of the Black Economic Council, said, 'Any Silicon Valley company with less than five percent Black employees should be denied H-1B visa workers until the problem is resolved since the Black unemployment rate is 80 percent higher than that for whites.'
"Since up to half of some Silicon Valley companies overall employees are H-1B visa programs despite high domestic unemployment rates, the complaint urges the President's new Job Czar, GE's CEO Jeffrey Immelt, to provide a report to the President within 15 days as to the impact of the H-1B visa program on unemployed Americans.
"The complaint also requests that the Department of Justice secure from the US Labor Department the release of all employment data from the 22 Silicon Valley companies, led by Google and Apple, that have refused to provide data."
Dana Lengkeek, a spokeswoman for Yahoo, told Journal-isms that the company would not comment on the protest but added, "We are committed to equal opportunity. We believe in hiring the best people, based on merit, potential, skill and qualifications. We comply with all applicable laws and regulations."
Likewise, "In a written statement, Google said it strongly values diversity, pointing to its support of internships and scholarships with groups such as Historically Black Colleges & Universities," Swift reported.
David Louie, KGO-TV, San Francisco: Silicon Valley companies face minority hiring complaints
Shirley Sherrod, the former Agriculture Department official who was asked to resign last year after a video was edited to make her appear bigoted against whites, made good on her promise to sue conservative gadfly Andrew Breitbart Friday, filing suit against the blogger in District of Columbia Superior Court.
Sherrod sued for "defamation, false light and intentional infliction of emotional distress" and also named Larry O'Connor, who posted the misleadingly edited video segment, and "John Doe, an individual whose identity has been concealed by the other Defendants and who, according to Defendant Breitbart, was involved in the deceptive editing of the video clip and encouraged its publication with the intent to defame Mrs. Sherrod," the suit said.
Breitbart, the owner of several conservative Web sites, was served with the lawsuit in Washington Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was attended by prospective Republican presidential contenders, the New York Times reported.
"Breitbart's media machine is doing its best to reframe Sherrod's complaint in the most favorable terms possible," Peter Finocchiaro wrote Monday for salon.com. "One of his websites, BigGovernment.com, posted an article, titled 'New Media Entrepreneur declares that his voice will not be suppressed,' shortly after Breitbart was served. The piece referred to the complaint as the 'Pigford Lawsuit' — a nod to Breitbart's newest 'obsession' and would-be vehicle for dragging Sherrod's name through the mud. Not surprisingly, the meme does not appear to have caught on."
Pigford is the name given the government's billion-dollar settlement to resolve charges by thousands of black farmers who say that for decades the Agriculture Department discriminated against them in loan programs.
In a statement issued through her lawyer, Thomas A. Clare of Kirkland & Ellis, Sherrod said,
"This lawsuit is not about politics or race. It is not about Right versus Left, the NAACP, or the Tea Party. It is about how quickly, in today’s internet media environment, a person’s good name can become 'collateral damage' in an overheated political debate. I strongly believe in a free press and a full discussion of public issues, but not in deliberate distortions of the truth. Mr. Breitbart has never apologized for what he did to me and continues — to this day — to make the same slurs about my character."
The suit asks for a jury trial and says Sherrod "has suffered enduring damage to her reputation, as well as emotional distress and financial damages from the loss of her employment at the USDA. Mrs. Sherrod has been further damaged by having her integrity, impartiality and motivations questioned, making it difficult (if not impossible) for her to continue her life's work assisting poor farmers in rural areas."
At least one other station aired footage of a North Carolina bank robber being shot dead by police after a hostage situation, and questions arose about whether a similar shooting recently in the Maryland suburbs outside Washington was also shown on the air.
Dennis Smith, news director of WLBT-TV in Jackson, Miss., said he believed his station ran the footage of the police shooting of Devon Mitchell, 19, of Cary, N.C., on Thursday. It "showed the guy going down. There was no blood," Smith told Journal-isms. "We don't run gratuitous violence, but in this case, I don't see anything wrong with it. It was a long shot. You couldn't even see the guy's face."
Guidelines of the Radio-Television Digital News Association ask, "When covering live events that could turn graphic quickly, have you taken sufficient precautions to prevent inappropriate pictures and sound from airing? Is there someone else available to help collaborate on the decision? Have you considered instructing field crews to stay wide on live camera shots?"
Stations in North Carolina cut away from the scene Thursday when it appeared it might end violently. But WTVD said that when it returned, it accidentally showed a replay that included footage of the shooting.
"We had no intention of showing a man being shot, and certainly we didn't want to do that, and we regret that we did," News Director Rob Elmore told the Raleigh News & Observer.
Police disclosed Sunday that Mitchell was not armed. "Despite what the 911 reported, despite what he said to the hostages, despite what he told our hostage negotiator, despite what we all thought we saw when he came out of the bank with something pointed at one of the hostages' head, we now know there was no gun," Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore said at a news conference, according to Thomasi McDonald, reporting in the News & Observer.
A similar hostage situation ended in death on Jan. 28 in the Takoma Park, Md., suburb of Washington. Dead was Carlos Rudolfo Espinoza Arcia, 43. "His death was captured by a television camera and broadcast nationwide," Dan Morse reported Jan. 31 in the Washington Post.
However, a CNN spokeswoman told Journal-isms, "We faded to black before he was shot in the head." Two local news executives said privately that their stations did not show the shooting, which took place after 9:30 a.m., according to Montgomery County, Md., police. [Since his station did not air it live, "we had time to freeze it" before showing the scene at the 10 a.m. hour, Bill Lord, general manager of the ABC affiliate, WJLA-TV, said on Tuesday. He said he did not believe any local stations showed the shooting.] Other local news executives and network spokesmen did not respond to inquiries.
The footage was shot from a helicopter operated by Local News Service, a consortium of four Washington television stations.
In Nicaragua, home country of the shooting victim, the website of El Nuevo Diario still shows the video of the entire incident, and reports, in Spanish, that "The entire operation was videotaped by the Police . . . (and) broadcast to the world."
Newspapers, too, have wrestled recently with such questions of taste. In the Plain Dealer of Cleveland on Sunday, public editor Ted Diadiun wrote that a few readers complained about a color photo of blood drops in the snow, the residue of "a horrific attack at an after-hours party on Feb. 6, when two men indiscriminately sprayed bullets into the house, leaving one man dead and 11 people wounded, police say.
". . . Plain Dealer Editor Debra Adams Simmons called the photo 'an appropriate reflection of the scene of the crime,' but acknowledged a sense of responsibility for the concerns that some readers have," Diudiun wrote.
Doug Richards, Live Apartment Fire blog: Photo withheld
"Many political analysts say the coup which ousted [Egypt's] president Hosni Mubarak could never have happened if it weren't for a new breed of Arab journalists," Elizabeth Jackson reported Sunday for the Australian Broadcasting Co.
"Since the arrival of Al Jazeera in 1996 journalism has slowly but significantly changed in the Middle East.
"Former CBS correspondent Lawrence Pintak, who also taught journalism until recently at the American University in Cairo, has just published a book called The New Arab Journalist.
"Lawrence Pintak told me that journalists in the Middle East are on a mission.
" 'Arab journalists in general are activists. We did a survey a couple of years ago and we found 75 per cent of them said that they saw the main mission of Arab journalism to be driving political and social change.
" 'So they come at . . . a story like this in a very different way than the foreign journalists. And in some cases individuals will say, alright, enough of this journalism. I got a message from one of my former students who is a reporter there and I said, you know, are you out there, are you covering the story? And she said, no, you know, I thought about it and I decided that I can't even begin to be objective about this story so I've joined the protesters, I'm not reporting.' "
Separately, Joyce M. Davis, one of the few African Americans in mainstream journalism who has specialized in Islamic countries, returned from a conference in Qatar and told Journal-isms she was pleased by American coverage of the Egyptian uprising. "It is rare that we actually see a realistic eye trained on the Arab Middle East," she said. "We saw people we could identify with. . . . Normally we hear only from the militants," she said, seeing people in the Middle East through our own cultural prisms.
Asked what advice she would give American reporters, she said they should watch the role of the Muslim Brotherhood. Also, it will be a challenge to see whether the American media can "accurately and fairly report" on the process of forming a new government without imposing U.S. notions about what kind of democracy is best for the Egyptians.
"I started reporting on the Middle East before the '80s," she said. "There's a real progression but there's still a ways to go."
Davis has founded the World Affairs Council of Harrisburg, Pa., while she looks for a new job in her field. She has been associate director of broadcasting for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, a foreign editor in the Knight Ridder Washington bureau and senior foreign editor for NPR. She is author of "Martyrs: Innocence, Vengeance and Despair in the Middle East" (2003) and "Between Jihad and Salaam: Profiles in Islam" (1997).
David Bauder, Associated Press: Egyptian crisis leads viewers to sample CNN
David Bauder, Associated Press: Egypt Events Create Memorable Daytime TV
Frederick Cosby, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Black Leaders Hail Egyptians' Successful Uprising
Matthew Flamm, Crain's New York: Mubarak resignation drives Web traffic
Bob Herbert, New York Times: When Democracy Weakens
Solomon Jones, Philadelphia Daily News: In Egyptian protests, the kind of love that doesn't die
Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: From Selma to Cairo: The People Drive Freedom
Deborah Mathis, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Egypt Shows People Can Create Their Future
Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Revolution in Egypt shows courage, unity
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Nelson Mandela's lesson for Egypt
Shamara Riley, theGrio.com: Will Egypt's revolution have a domino effect in Africa?
Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer-Press: Oakdale family ready to return to Egypt and witness history
Alessandra Stanley, New York Times: Mubarak’s Fall Prompts Double Takes by Anchors
Brian Stelter, New York Times: Twitter Feed Evolves Into a News Wire About Egypt
Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: A GOP split on Egypt
Gary Younge, the Guardian, Britain: The west can no longer claim to be an honest broker in the search for peace
Early in January 1811, along the Mississippi riverbank toward New Orleans, "a small army of Louisiana slaves had briefly faced a small army of slaveholders. It was, as described in 'American Uprising,' Daniel Rasmussen’s chilling and suspenseful account, the culmination of a signal episode in the history of American race relations," Adam Goodheart wrote Feb. 4 in the New York Times Book Review.
Though the slaves did not gain their freedom, they struck such fear into the planters that the severed heads of those captured were placed on posts for 40 miles outside New Orleans as a warning to others.
The subtitle of Rasmussen's book is "The Untold Story of America’s Largest Slave Revolt." A tale from the Louisiana Territory of a revolt inspired by the successful Haitian slave uprising of 1791-1803, it was forgotten in much of American history.
Unsurprisingly, the newspapers of the day had a role in that.
Rasmussen, a 23-year-old who researched the book as a Harvard undergraduate, referred Journal-isms to a 1992 account by Thomas Marshall Thompson for elaboration, summarized here by Chris Lipp and Amy McCall [PDF]:
"Even though New Orleans at the time of the revolt was considered to be one of the largest cities in the U.S., there were very few towns near it that had newspapers. Additionally, there was no telephone or even telegram communication, meaning that word of the revolt spread by letter or word of mouth via ships on the Mississippi River or from travelers going town to town. Some newspapers, even after receiving the news, refused or delayed to report news of the revolt.
"Newspapers in Charleston, South Carolina; Milledgeville, Georgia; St. Louis, Missouri, and more either delayed, suppressed, or even changed the facts of the revolt in their reports to tailor to their respective communities. For example, the Virginia Gazette falsely reported that 'many whites have been murdered and many plantations burnt' when in reality only two white people were murdered and three plantations damaged. These southern newspapers used the Deslondes Revolution to incite fear that other slave revolutions might take place. As a result, many southern states passed stricter slave-control laws and strengthened local militias in case another slave revolution were to take place.
"In direct contrast to some Southern newspapers, publications in areas like Ohio used the revolt to make some of the first strong statements against slavery and how the revolt was put down. These newspapers took an abolitionist stance and claimed that the methods in which the rebellion were quelled were inhumane and that the slaves would never have wanted to rebel if their masters treated them fairly. Some Northern newspapers even used the revolt to support their belief that Louisiana was 'savage territory' and should not be allowed . . . statehood. The differences in how the news of the rebellion was reported clearly showed a division that already existed between North and South — well before the Civil War. While Northern papers focused on the horrible violence of the slave owners, Southern papers either lied about the story or simply excluded it from publication. This division in beliefs would only solidify over the years to come, and consolidate into one of the tensions behind the Civil War."
Littice Bacon-Blood, New Orleans Times-Picayune: Fight for Freedom
Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: The Past Ain't Even The Past
Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: For progress, U.S. needs another Little Rock Nine
Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: Black Wall Street paves way to success
Dwight Lewis, Nashville Tennessean: Forrest honor would be step back for Mississippi
Judy Lubin, Tavis Smiley blog: Whitewashing American History
Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: 30 game-changing Black filmmakers for Black History Month
Maria Niles, BlogHer: Black History Month: Living American History Through My Family Tree (including William and Ellen Craft and William Monroe Trotter)
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post: Rebel slaves, silenced
Believe it or not, a town in Iowa was an oasis for racial harmony in the 1920s, in an era when segregation was the common practice.
That's the peg for the public television documentary "Searching for Buxton," premiering on Thursday (check local listings).
The program is narrated by opera star Simon Estes, an African American Iowan whose father was a coal miner.
"Black miners who traveled to Buxton from the south, and immigrant miners who emigrated there from Europe were paid equal wages for a day’s work, and blacks in Buxton flourished for approximately a quarter century. But the town was abandoned in 1925 when the coal ran out. Only then did some of the town’s African-Americans encounter racism, and discover segregation when they had to move to other cities and towns across Iowa and across the country," according to the show's publicity material.
"Today, virtually nothing remains of the town of Buxton, and there are few survivors."
For viewers and the show's producers, therein lies the problem. There are precious few documents or memorabilia with which to fill the half-hour, only tales passed down through the generations. "Searching for Buxton" is a production of Communication Research Institute of William Penn University and Iowa Public Television for New York stations WLIW21 and WNET.
"With President Obama’s release on Monday of a budget for next year and House action this week on a Republican plan for immediate deep spending cuts, the nation is getting its clearest view since the president took office of the parties’ competing visions of the role of government, the urgency of addressing the deficit and the best path to long-term economic success," Jackie Calmes reported Monday for the New York Times.
The Pew Research Center, meanwhile, reported that "the public’s views about federal spending are beginning to change. Across a range of federal programs, Americans are no longer calling for increased spending, as they have for many years. For the most part, however, there is not a great deal of support for cutting spending, though in a few cases support for reductions has grown noticeably. The survey also shows that the public is reluctant to cut spending — or raise taxes — to balance state budgets.
"Since June 2009, there have been double-digit declines in the proportions favoring increased federal spending for health care (by 20 percentage points), government assistance for the unemployed (17 points), Medicare (13 points) and veterans’ benefits and services (12 points). Fewer Americans also favor increased spending on military defense (down nine points) and environmental protection (seven points)."
Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Repeal, Restrict and Repress
George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Recession has Expanded Racial Economic Gap
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: New EPA rules will create jobs
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Make nice, but stand firm
Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: Socked by the economy, it's time for blacks to wise up
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Business can do business with Obama
"As a Puerto Rican born and raised on the island, this is not the first time I’ve noticed the lack of attention in American media toward Puerto Rico," Laura Gonzalez wrote Monday in the Yale Daily News.
"Even though it has been an American territory for over 100 years, I still get asked if I need a visa to work in this country (which, by the way, I don’t). Puerto Rico — an island nation of 4 million people under the direct control of the United States — is not generally a subject of instruction in American schools. I have learned to live with this reality, but as my island implodes amid rampant government abuse, widespread crime, political violence and social disruption, I wonder why we are not on the front page of the New York Times… or even on the back page.
"Since early last year, the University of Puerto Rico has played host to widespread student protests against substantial tuition hikes and increased political control over the curriculum and administration.
". . . In response to the students’ organized strikes and demonstrations, the government has responded with excessive force. SWAT teams and riot squads have permanently occupied the university premises, and they have banned public protests and the distribution of leaflets — a clear violation of freedom of speech. They have attacked students with pepper spray, tasers and clubs. Hundreds have been arrested for exercising their constitutional rights, and many have been physically injured for it. Imagine New Haven Police responding to a peaceful protest in front of Sterling Memorial Library by throwing pepper spray bombs and beating students against the ground, and then arresting the students and barring them from receiving medical attention. This is exactly what is happening at the University of Puerto Rico on a daily basis. Imagine walking to class as a sniper watches your every move from the top of Harkness Tower. Imagine being called a 'terrorist' for exercising your right to free speech and affordable public education, and imagine [President] Obama threatening to fire your professors — even the tenured ones — for supporting you. This is happening at the University of Puerto Rico. . . . "