afamonlinesummit_group1
Courtesy of the White House

President Obama stopped by a "black online summit" at the White House Monday as part of an outreach to African American journalists and bloggers before the midterm elections, an effort that includes the Democratic National Committee spending what it calls an unprecedented $3 million to reach the most loyal part of Obama's base, African American voters.

"I thought the meeting was great in that it showed that President Obama and his administration are taking black new media and our growing influence seriously," David A. Wilson, managing editor of theGrio.com, told Journal-isms via e-mail.

"They outlined how the administration's policies have had a positive effect on the African-American community and they invited us to make suggestions on how they could work better with us and provide us with more access to the White House.

"I also thought the summit provided a great opportunity for all of us leading the charge in [the] black new media movement to get together in a way that I haven't seen since we started theGrio last year."

However, Leutisha Stills, who blogs at Jack & Jill Politics, cautioned, "The summit was a good one and very comprehensive, but we made it known that if we really have 'influence,' we are going to test drive it and see how many more invites we get from the White House."

The Columbus Day session lasted from 9:15 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett present along with specialists from various parts of the administration, including the first lady's office. Among the 20 African Americans working on the Web were representatives of theRoot.com, Black Entertainment Television, Essence, Jack & Jill Politics, City Limits, Concrete Loop, AOL Black Voices, Black America Web and even the gossipy MediaTakeOut.

Monday's session is to be followed Friday by a presidential meeting with 10 members of the Trotter Group of African American columnists. Moreover, six or seven African American bloggers were credentialed for Obama's rally in Philadelphia last Sunday, although invitations were extended to about 20.

"As Obama has steadily increased his outreach to African American voters over the past month, with interviews and campaign stops targeted at the black community — 'our community,' as the president likes to say — he has sent a clear signal that this election is about him and his record," Carol E. Lee and Abby Phillip wrote for Politico.

Derrick L. Plummer, regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, told Journal-isms via e-mail, "Between now and Nov. 2nd the Democratic Party and the President will continue to speak with and engage the African American community about why this election [is] so important and the clear choice we face."

Referring to Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Plummer said, "Chairman Kaine will continue to speak with AfAm media print, online national radio outlets/hosts."

Obama has appeared on six or seven radio shows that target African Americans, including those hosted by Warren Ballentine, Russ Parr, Doug Parks, Joe Madison and Tom Joyner.

"The DNC’s $3 million AfAm paid advertising investment in a midterm election is unprecedented. In addition to AfAm paid advertising, we’ll make a significant investment in Latino advertising and continue our contributions to coordinated campaigns in every key state — most of the work of which is devoted to base voters," Plummer said.

"In addition, the DNC this morning started running a radio ad nationally and regionally featuring civil rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery in which he calls upon young people of all ages to vote because in '2008 we changed the guard…this year, we must guard the change.'

"Since Labor Day the DNC has been running radio and/or print and online advertising — the earliest we have ever done so — and will continue to run ads through Election Day.

"Because of record fundraising the DNC, is looking into the possibility of television advertisements as well."

Kevin S. Lewis, director, African American media for the White House, told Journal-isms via e-mail, "The online summit provided a space for an in-depth, off-the-record dialogue with new media professionals on how the Obama Administration is approaching pressing issues like jobs, the economy, health care, education, and community investment, through the 'New Foundation' platform. The summit also served as a space to discuss how we can build on our efforts to further engage the online community."

It was Lewis' first official day on the job. Lewis, 27, was a press assistant in the White House press office and worked in that role during the presidential campaign. He succeeds Corey A. Ealons, who joined a Washington public relations firm last month.

"Everything that was said was either on background or totally off the record, so I can't reveal as much as I'd like," Cord Jefferson, a writer with theRoot.com, told Journal-isms, "but I think it was quite productive. In my estimation, any time the media sits down and talks with an administration — as long as neither side is guaranteeing anything to the other — is time well spent.

"I'll also say that just bringing together black web outlets to the White House, just sitting them down and saying, 'We respect your mission,' is a huge step. We met President Obama today. It's difficult to imagine a black web summit even taking place in the Bush White House, let alone a black web summit that would have seen President Bush stop by. It's not like we saw any major reforms take place in that room today, but we did see progress."

Merlene Davis, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader:  Churches take the lead in voter education

Jarvis DeBerry, New Orleans Times-Picayune: Voting your values? Do you know what they are?

Joel Dreyfuss, theRoot.com: Obama Reaches Out to African-American Voters

Bob Herbert, New York Times: The Campaign Disconnect

Carol E. Lee and Abby Phillip, Politico: With black voters, Barack Obama gets personal

Stephen Miller, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Report finds little FOIA improvement under Obama

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Commission should clear up Wall Street meltdown

Edward Schumacher-Matos, Miami Herald: 'Obamacare' wrong choice for headline

Leutisha Stills ("The Christian Progressive Liberal"), Jack & Jill Politics: African-American Online Summit at the White House

Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Obamacare does not violate the US Constitution

Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Voters dislike "government," like what it does

Ousted CNN anchor Rick Sanchez said Monday that in his now-notorious comments to a satellite radio station, "I argued inartfully that all of us are capable of being prejudiced whether we are Jewish, African American, Asian or Hispanic."

Some media reports called his original statement anti-Semitic or asserted that Sanchez claimed that Jews "control" or "run" the media. Asked in a Washington Post online chat whether the media's coverage of his comments was fair, Sanchez replied, "I can't control what people write or say. All I can do is make myself available to anyone who wants to talk to me and hear my message because I have absolutely nothing to hide."

He also said, "I am flattered by the number of calls that my representatives have received about my future employment. Then I will sit down with my representatives and comb through any of those possibilities."

In a Sept. 30 interview for a satellite radio show promoting a new book, Sanchez excoriated late-night comedian Jon Stewart for hailing from a middle-class background that Sanchez said made Stewart unable to "relate to a guy like me." Sanchez went on to answer a question about whether Stewart, as a Jew, shouldn't also be considered a member of an oppressed minority group.

His response was: "I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah.' "

NBC News correspondent Ron Allen, just back from Sierra Leone, writes that in African countries he is "constantly reminded of the fact that, even though I'm black, I stick out like a sore thumb.

"While in Sierra Leone for example, often when driving through the streets, we would hear people yell out the local term for 'white people,' even though our entire team was black. Clearly, the way we looked represented something to them, that went much deeper than skin color.

"On the other hand, there have been times when blackness helped me blend in. In Somalia, where I spent months and months during the U.S. led invasion in the 1990's, many were convinced I was a Somali because of my features and skin tone," Allen wrote for theGrio.com

"There also was the time in Rwanda, when I was mistaken for being a local member of the Tutsi tribe. Very unfortunate, because Tutsis, you'll remember, were the target of the country's genocide. Fortunately, I happened to be in an armored United Nations vehicle. The soldiers slammed the door shut at the checkpoint, and drove off under a hail of rocks, insults and a few bullets.

"Overall, over the years, I've felt very deeply for many of the people I've met, enduring poverty and deprivation so much more extreme than in America. I always will remember a famine victim in Sudan, a man who had become a skin and bones skeleton of a person. He was an English teacher, who was able to tell us very clearly how he and his fellow villagers had arrived in this circumstance, victims of the country's epic civil war, making their way to a U.N. food center desperate for something to eat. I've been deeply moved by so many people we've met caught up in war, not the soldiers, the residents. I think a lot of people don't realize the fact that, war rarely happens on distant battlefields. It usually happens in neighborhoods, villages, right where families live, and innocents often die.

"Do I feel more deeply, because I'm African-American and so many of the victims are black like me? Perhaps. But I've met, and told stories about people in desperate circumstances all around the world that also were deeply moving. The wars in Bosnia and across the Balkans were especially horrible for civilians. I certainly do wish we, the media, paid more attention to Africa, and the developing world in general."traight. (Video)

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: Like “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms” on Facebook.

Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.