CNN's top executive has all but said that the on-air journalists of color it employs are not ready for prime time, and deployed Mark Whitaker, the former Newsweek editor who recently became a CNN news executive, to talk with the National Association of Black Journalists about finding more suitable ones.

In a statement protesting CNN's new fall prime-time lineup that was announced Wednesday and includes no journalists of color, NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said she had raised the issue with Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide.

"NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Bob Butler and I talked with President Walton late Thursday, and he told us the network continues to seek and develop a candidate who has the image and substance to carry a prime-time show," she wrote. "I invited Walton to mount an innovative search during the NABJ national convention next month in Philadelphia. It will be packed with outstanding African American talent."

Times told Journal-isms, "He told me to talk to Mark Whitaker about the search."

Whitaker, who is African American, said, "I will be at NABJ and am talking to Kathy next week."

CNN on Wednesday canceled the political talk show "In the Arena" with Eliot Spitzer, filling his 8 p.m. time slot with Anderson Cooper's "AC360" and unveiling a fall lineup that includes a new general news program with Erin Burnett, formerly of CNBC.

As Times pointed out in her statement, the move came just 17 days after "I sent network news executives an open letter about the deplorable lack of diversity in their prime-time schedules . . . this is not the first time CNN has had an opportunity and failed to diversify its nighttime lineup. During the past two years alone, CNN has made several changes after the departures of Lou Dobbs, Larry King, and Campbell Brown. With each of those changes came an opportunity for diversity; yet in each instance, CNN went in another direction."

"Currently, there are no African American hosts or anchors on any national news show, cable or broadcast network, from the hours of 5PM-11PM," the NAACP said. "The NAACP is especially troubled because these prime time slots are among the most influential in daily news. Prime time hosts in cable often have the most latitude to express their opinions, and evening news anchors are traditionally seen as the most credible voices in weekday news broadcasts.

Its release continued, " 'The NAACP Hollywood Bureau will be setting up meetings with the presidents of the news divisions to address this issue,' stated NAACP Hollywood Bureau Executive Director Vic Bulluck. 'Throughout the morning hours and during daytime programming, African American journalists such as Robin Roberts, Al Roker, Roland Martin and Tamron Hall have anchor and commentator chairs; however, no African American occupies that space in the prime time evening news cycle.

"We recognize and appreciate that MSNBC often has guest hosts like the Reverend Al Sharpton, and CNN, CBS and NBC have weekend anchors like TJ Holmes, Don Lemon, Russ Mitchell and Lester Holt. Nonetheless, we encourage all networks to acknowledge the talent that exists and to increase the diversity among their prime time anchors and hosts."

Only a few years ago, CNN received some of NABJ's highest honors.

In 2007, NABJ awarded CNN its "Best Practices" award. "NABJ recognized the network’s journalists for their exemplary work in covering issues of significance to the black community and the African diaspora and the news organization as a whole for its efforts to increase diversity on air and behind the scenes," CNN said at the time.

Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw — a black journalist who did his best-known work as a prime-time anchor — was presented NABJ's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The next year, Johnita P. Due, then senior counsel and chair of CNN's Diversity Council, received the Ida B. Wells Award, given to a media executive who has demonstrated a commitment to newsroom diversity and improving coverage of communities of color. 

Media Consolidation Loses, Diversity Gains in Ruling

"It's not every day that you can celebrate a win for the public over big media. But on Thursday a federal appeals court threw out an attempt by the FCC and industry titans to gut media ownership limits," Timothy Karr of the advocacy group Free Press wrote Thursday on the Huffington Post.

"The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit threw out a 2007 FCC rule change that would have allowed a single company to own a daily newspaper and several broadcast stations in one local market.

"Such a change could have opened the floodgates to media mergers, leading to further layoffs in newsrooms while leeching diverse perspectives from local media.

"The court also upheld the FCC's decision to retain its other local broadcast ownership restrictions, and instructed the agency to better consider how its rules affect broadcast ownership by people of color."

In deciding the case, Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC, ". . . the court also blasted the FCC for repeated failures to consider the impact of media consolidation on broadcast license ownership by people of color.

"Free Press research from 2007 exposed the FCC's failure to foster minority ownership of radio and television stations: racial or ethnic minorities own just 7.7 percent of all full-power commercial broadcast radio stations and just 3.26 percent of all TV stations, though they account for 33 percent of the U.S. population. 

Harry A. Jessell, TVNewsCheck: Court Rejects Relaxed Crossownership Rule  

Lynne Marek, Crain's Chicago Business: Ruling may force Tribune Co. to shed assets

"Jill Tubman" Gives White House B+ on Tweeter Town Hall

"I had a great time at the White House yesterday. I somehow had the luck to get seated in the front row and right after the townhall ended, I finally got to shake the President’s hand," Cheryl Contee, aka Jill Tubman of jackandjillpolitics.com, wrote on Thursday. "My moms was watching on either CNN or MSNBC and texted me: 'Super Proud Mom.' Folks asked me over twitter what I said to him that made him smile so big. I said simply:

"I’ve done my best to try and help you.

"He said warmly:

"It’s nice to see you…"

Ben Feller and Julie Pace wrote for the Associated Press, "President Barack Obama got an avalanche of questions Wednesday at a town hall forum through Twitter, the popular social media service. Of the many thousands that streamed in, he answered 18 in a familiar, spoken explanatory style that well-exceeded the limited length of a tweet."

Contee continued, ". . . Final stats: 169,395 #AskObama Tweets. Hottest topics were Jobs (23%) Budget (18%) Taxes (18%) & Education (11%). I’d give Twitter an A+ on their end.

"I’d have to give the White House a B+. There was a good group in the room…a young group that certainly represented the digerati, eager to live tweet the event and be part of history. Yet there was no WiFi offered in the East Room (?!): people were cool about it and a grassroots energy rose up with people helping each other use personal hotspots, figure out which network — ATT, VZ or T-Mobile worked better on which device etc. Also the chairs were so close together, it was tough to tweet – no elbow room, son. So…that was an unexpected and unusual challenge. Evidently the East Room’s usual participants either just sit there traditionally or take notes on a steno pad or something. Times, they are a-changing. Gotta keep up." 

Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Can Obama Be Blamed for Black Joblessness?  

Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting: Questioning Obama: The Pros vs. the Tweeters  

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Secret Debt Ceiling 'Ace' up President Obama's Sleeve?  

Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News: Deficit-reduction will be a booby-hatched plan  

Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Here’s why health care “rationing” is old news

. . . Columnists Say Disrespect Is in the Air

Columnists found fodder this week in Mark Halperin's calling President Obama a vulgar name on MSNBC, for which the Time magazine journalist has been suspended, and in a recent blog by radio jock Tom Joyner blaming Halperin's remark on a climate created by talk-show host Tavis Smiley and Smiley's fellow Obama critic, academician Cornel West. 

Bob Butler, Maynard Institute: The Age of Disrespect  

Jonathan Hicks, New York Amsterdam News: The sad lack of civility toward a commander in chief

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Verbal attacks on Obama go too far

David Squires, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.: Attack on Obama is insult to all

Linn Washington Jr., This Can't Be Happening: Family Feud: Blacks Battle Blacks over Criticism of Obama

No Tears Shed Here for Demise of News of the World

Eugene Robinson "The late, unlamented News of the World was a tabloid’s tabloid — meaning that it made the New York Post look formal and stuffy. When I lived in London 20 years ago, you could always count on News of the World to come up with the juiciest, most lurid tidbits of information about the big story of the week. You could love the paper or hate it, but you couldn’t ignore it," Eugene Robinson said in a Washington Post blog on Thursday.

"We now know how the News was getting much of that inside skinny. It was bad enough to learn that the paper had paid private investigators to hack into the mobile phones of celebrities, athletes and members of the royal family. Now it turns out that the News also orchestrated such illicit snooping into the lives of the relatives of slain British servicemen, the families of terrorist-bombing victims and even a kidnapped — and later slain — 13-year-old girl. Even by the swashbuckling standards of Fleet Street, this is obscene.

"In a totally unexpected move, media mogul Rupert Murdoch sentenced what was said to be one of his favorite newspapers to the death penalty: It was announced Thursday that this Sunday’s edition of the 168-year-old paper will be the last.

". . . For years now, not a single newspaper has been headquartered on Fleet Street. The romance is long gone — and now the News of the World is going, too. After Sunday, only the stench will remain."

Lionel Morrison, a veteran black journalist in Britain who is active in the National Union of Journalists of Britain and Ireland and founded its Black Members Council, told Journal-isms that he expected that many of the black journalists — and others who worked at News of the World — would transfer to Murdoch's sister paper the Sun. The News of the World was popular with blacks and other working-class Britons, he said.

Archie Bland, Columbia Journalism Review: This Is How the World ends…

Roy Greenslade, the Guardian, England: News of the World closure: what the US papers say...

Alison Bethel McKenzie and Naomi Hunt, International Press Institute: News of the World: What Suffers is the Fight for Press Freedom

CPJ: Targeting of Cuba's Independent Journalists Continues

In Cuba, "As President Raúl Castro’s government seeks greater international engagement, it has freed in the last year more than 20 imprisoned independent journalists and numerous other political detainees who had been held since the notorious Black Spring crackdown of 2003," Karen Phillips said Wednesday in a special report from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Government officials talk of political and economic reform, pointing to a plan to introduce high-speed Internet service to the island this summer. But though the government has changed tactics in suppressing independent news and opinion, it has not abandoned repressive practices intended to stifle the free flow of information.

"A CPJ investigation has found that the government persists in aggressively persecuting critical journalists with methods that include arbitrary arrests, short-term detentions, beatings, smear campaigns, surveillance, and social sanctions. Today’s tactics have yet to attract widespread international attention because they are lower in profile than the Black Spring crackdown, but the government’s oppressive actions are ongoing and significant."

Prison Researchers Give Racist Cops and Courts a Break

"Shocking instances of racism still come to light in the justice system. But racist cops and courts are not the primary reason for racial disparities in incarceration," according to Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, and David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.

They wrote in the Washington Post: "Consider increased penalties for drug offenses in school zones. Though not racially motivated, these laws disproportionately affect minorities, who more often live in densely populated urban areas with many nearby schools. In New Jersey, for example, 96 percent of people incarcerated under such laws in 2005 were African American or Latino. Judges didn’t necessarily want to sentence these defendants to more prison time than those convicted outside school zones, but under the law, they had to.

"Where we spend money also contributes to the problem. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 appropriated $9.7 billion for prisons and $13.6 billion for law enforcement, but only $6.1 billion for crime prevention. Politicians eager to be seen as tough on crime too often find ways to fund new prison cells, even though they know that minorities will predominantly fill them. This isn’t the fault of racist individuals. It’s the fault of a system that fails to take the promise of equality seriously."

Their words appeared June 19 in the Washington Post print edition, as they presented "5 Myths about Americans in Prison."

The five: 1. Crime has fallen because incarceration has risen. 2. The prison population is rising because more people are being sentenced to prison. 3. Helping prisoners rejoin society will substantially reduce the prison population. 4. There’s a link between race and crime. 5. Racial disparities in incarceration reflect police and judges’ racial prejudice.

Short Takes

Gwen Thompkins, East Africa correspondent for NPR, "decided to Gwen Thompkinsmove back to New Orleans and to leave NPR" after completing a Nieman fellowship at Harvard University, NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher confirmed this week. Thompkins could not be reached for comment, but she did a piece for "Weekend Edition Saturday" last week, "Welcomed Home By Pontchartrain's Frogs."

In Syria, "As the four-month-old protest movement continues to grow, the government is cracking down harder than ever on the civilian population," Reporters Without Borders reported on Thursday. "While fewer journalists are currently in prison than in previous months, they continue to be a priority target for the authorities, who are still trying to suppress news and information about the repression."

Félix F. Gutiérrez, professor of journalism, communication and Félix F. GutiérrezAmerican Studies and Ethnicity at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, is to receive the 2011 Lionel C. Barrow Jr. Award for Distinguished Achievement in Diversity Research and Education by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication on Aug. 12. The Barrow Award recognizes outstanding accomplishment and leadership in diversity efforts for underrepresented groups by race and ethnicity, the Annenberg School announced on Friday.

Simon K.C. Li, editor and leadership consultant and vice chairman of the board, International Press Institute, a former editor at the Los Angeles Times, is to be awarded the Leadership in Diversity Award by the Asian American Journalists Association at the AAJA convention on Aug. 13 in Detroit, the association announced on Wednesday. Frank Blethen, publisher of the Seattle Times and president of Blethen Corp. is to receive AAJA's Special Recognition Award.

One reason the National Association of Black Journalists and Unity: Journalists of Color parted company this year was that "the right people who should have been brought in to work out the problems were not utilized," Sidmel Estes, who helped to produce the first Unity convention in 1994 in her town of Atlanta, wrote last week on her blog. "One of the joys I have from the Unity experience is that I developed long-lasting relationships and friendships with fellow journalists from all ethnicities. . . . If the resources of these sage journalists were tapped and they were involved in the process, things would have worked out and there would have been no need for NABJ to pull out. But many of these leaders have been 'put out to pasture' by all of the organizations and their valuable experiences are lost."

Discovery en Español, the Spanish-language branch of the Discovery Channel, announced its best second quarter yet in the primetime Nielsen ratings, maintaining its second-place position behind Univision-owned Galavision, Bridget Carey reported Wednesday in the Miami Herald.

Jo Ling Kent, who is Chinese American, and Shawna Thomas, who is African American, are among eight "embed reporters" who will hit the road to cover the 2012 election, an NBC spokeswoman said. "They have just been through a rigorous selection process, will begin a comprehensive training program next week, and will then jump on the campaign trail armed with the sharpest political savvy, most cutting-edge technology, and deepest network of support of any class yet," according to an internal memo from Steve Capus, president of NBC News.

Radhika Jones, who has been with Time magazine three years as of Friday, was named one of three executive editors Friday, and a candidate to ascend to the top job. There appear to be no black editors in the pipeline, but Bobby Ghosh, an Indian American, oversees Time's world coverage. "As always, diversity remains an important priority," spokeswoman Ali Zelenko told Journal-isms.

Veteran journalists Janelle Wang, a Bay Area native who has worked in San Francisco television news for the past eight years, and Jon Kelley, formerly at Fox Sports Network and WMAQ-TV in Chicago, are joining the NBC Bay Area news team later this month, NBC-owned KNTV announced on Thursday. "Wang will anchor 'NBC Bay Area News at 5,' with co-anchor Raj Mathai, and Kelley will join Laura Garcia-Cannon as co-anchor of the weekday morning news program, 'Today In The Bay.' "

"Tribune Co.'s Hartford Courant plans to eliminate jobs as Tribune centralizes copy editing and page design in Chicago," the Associated Press reported Friday. "The Connecticut paper cites an email . . . saying some of the positions being eliminated include those in the newsroom as well as production and administration departments."

Stacey Tisdale is to receive the 2011 Community Service Award from the National Association of Black Journalists at its convention on Aug. 4, NABJ announced on Wednesday. "Tisdale is being honored for what began as a six-year study of financial behavior. She found that social messages from advertisers and the media, stereotypes about race and gender, as well as early role modeling are among the primary determinants of financial habits. This methodology serves as the basis for Winning Play$ – a financial education program for high school students."

"The family of former Los Angeles Times columnist Ruben Salazar has donated his archives to the USC Libraries, where they will be made available for public review," the Times reported on Wednesday. "The collection includes 10 bins of photographs, letters, draft manuscripts of articles and personal items such as the newsman's briefcase."

Satcha Pretto, formerly host of Univision’s weekend newsmagazine “Primer Impacto Extra" (First Impact Extra), and Félix De Bedout, an award-winning journalist with an extensive career in television and radio in Colombia, will join the news desk of Univision's flagship morning show "Despierta América" (Wake Up America), the network announced on Thursday.

"HBO will team with Major League Baseball Productions to develop a one-hour documentary chronicling New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter's run toward 3,000 career hits," R. Thomas Umstead reported Tuesday for Multichannel News. " 'Derek Jeter 3K' . . . will take viewers behind the scenes both at and away from the ballpark as the popular player moves toward the esteemed baseball mark, according to HBO officials."

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.