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Soul of the South advertisement (Soul of the South)

A new African American-oriented television network has posted a video preview of its plans for an unprecedented five hours of daily news programming, which the network's primary creator, Edwin Avent, said he hopes to have on the air on Labor Day weekend.

Avent, former publisher of Heart & Soul magazine, told Journal-isms on Friday that as of this week, Soul of the South will be in 25 markets and that he hopes to reach 55 markets by year's end. The largest markets include Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta. The network will be broadcast-based, but will also be picked up by some cable networks.

The only journalist named in the video is Roy Hobbs, a veteran journalist and a former weekend television anchor in Birmingham, Ala., but the news director is said to be Tom Jacobs, a veteran broadcaster based in Cleveland. Matthew L. Mixon, a Los Angeles-based producer who has a background in sales, programming and production, is said to have a programming role.

The video promises a daily hourlong evening newscast, a two-hour morning news show,  "Morning Call," and "Capital Eye," a nightly half-hour program "from each of our Southern capitals," based at WHUT-TV at Howard University.

Hobbs' involvement with the network represents a personal milestone. He was busted on drug charges in April 2010. Although he was never convicted, his name was splashed across local news media. "I was trying to commit suicide," Hobbs told Journal-isms later. Hobbs entered a recovery program and hoped he would not be blacklisted in the television industry.

"I haven't worked in two years," Hobbs said by telephone Friday. "I was mopping floors for $8 an hour with no benefits, just so I could buy food and keep the lights on. But my faith is strong, and I know that if I keep doing the right thing, the universe has a way of balancing things out.

"If I was a white guy, I'd be working," he added, pointing to the case of veteran Chicago anchorman Mark Suppelsa. On May 4, Suppelsa surprised friends and colleagues with the announcement that he was entering an alcohol recovery program, and was to return Thursday to the 5 and 9 p.m. newscasts he anchors for WGN-TV, as Robert Feder reported Wednesday for his Time Out blog.

"The great thing is, finally we can look out for ourselves," Hobbs said of the new network. "There's so much I can do for communities across the country because I have been there," he said. "I can give back.

"I'm thrilled that somebody looks at the needs of our community besides just entertainment. The local news doesn't do it. The national news doesn't. The cable news doesn't. The numbers of black reporters has shrunk. . . . It's sad that we haven't had the opportunities that other groups have had," mentioning networks that broadcast news to immigrants.

"When we look at the news director that we have, Tom Jacobs, we will put on a product that we not only can be proud of, but will show ourselves in a way that will help educate us, provide information for us. He will do what hasn't been done before."

While others have announced new African American-oriented television networks, such as Bounce TV or "Earvin 'Magic' Johnson's ASPiRE, which was scheduled to launch this month, none has emphasized news.

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Friday night appointed two top prosecutors to lead a probe into recent leaks about classified national-security operations, Evan Perez reported Friday for the Wall Street Journal, as Dean Baquet, managing editor of the New York Times, defended his paper's national security coverage.

"Ronald Machen, U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia, and Rod Rosenstein, U.S. attorney for Maryland, will head the probe, Mr. Holder said Friday," according to Perez's story.

"That's our job," Baquet said. "That's our primary job, to report things that should be part of the national discussion."

Calderone's story continued, "The controversy stems from two front-page Times stories last week.

"On May 29, reporters Jo Becker and Scott Shane wrote a 6,000-word piece delving into [President] Obama's hands-on role in counterterrorism operations, which was based on conversations with three dozen advisers and included details such as the existence of a set of 'baseball cards' containing information about suspected terrorists.

"Three days later, the paper ran a piece by David Sanger about how Obama had stepped up cyberattacks on Iran, an excerpt from his new book, 'Confront and Conceal: Obama's Secret Wars and Surprising Use of American Power.'

" 'I reject the notion that they were leaks,' Baquet said, arguing that 'leaks' come with 'the implication they were access journalism and someone in the White House called up and said, "Let me give you something that makes the president look good."

"[Baquet] said that Sanger's piece 'had been in the works for 18 months,' while the Shane/Becker piece was reported over several months."

Sanger echoed Baquet's position Friday on "The Diane Rehm Show" on Washington's WAMU-FM, which is transmitted to other NPR stations.

"Lawmakers of both parties held a news conference Thursday calling for legislation to restrict the flow of leaks," Perez reported.

"With The Times-Picayune set to reduce its print schedule to three days a week, The Lens took a look at readers' rituals on Monday and Tuesday, two of the days that the paper will drop sometime in the fall," Bevil Knapp wrote in the Lens, which describes itself as "the New Orleans area's first nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest newsroom, dedicated to unique in-depth reporting projects, as well as exclusive daily stories."

"Photographer Bevil Knapp set out across the metro area this week and provides this photo essay of scenes that will soon be a thing of the past early in the week." The photo essay was titled, "A look at a disappearing daily ritual for many."

 

How does the online world stack up against traditional media in racial and gender diversity?

"One yearlong look at the home pages of popular sites Huffington Post, the Daily Beast, Slate and Salon (Nieman Reports, Fall/11) described a dispiritingly familiar world in which African-Americans are usually celebrities or athletes, Latinos appear primarily in sporadic immigration stories, and Native Americans and Asian-Americans go missing," Janine Jackson reported for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.

". . . without explicit recognition of how sponsors and owners narrow the range of acceptable content (in ways and for reasons that can, in fact, be racist), and without honest reckoning with the differing definitions we all carry about what news matters, covering 'stories of importance' to underrepresented communities will remain an 'on paper' priority."

Jackson questioned special sites dedicated to people of color. "Even done well, the 'special section' model invites questions. Are they places for those generally marginalized to speak authentically, without filter? Or do they unnaturally barricade perspectives, like the Women's Pages of old, with their implication that the rest of the paper, the 'real' news, concerns only men? . . .

"The answer might be that spaces created by and for people of color, or women, or any community can be a vital part of a healthy, varied media landscape, but are not a substitute for forums where these perspectives intersect and interact, as they do in life. . . . most people don't want to talk only to themselves, or to never be challenged. They do want to participate in arenas where they, and the issues they care about, are respected, not devalued or erased."

". . . The Internet is filled with poorly edited opinion pieces by writers who are burning to express themselves and are not going away," this columnist wrote Friday for the Association of Opinion Journalists, formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers.

"When the Columbia Journalism Review recently asked about demographic diversity on op-ed pages for a late May article, I thought not only about op-ed pages, but about young writers on the Internet. The two need each other.

". . . It's sometimes said that news organizations had more of an opportunity to diversify when the economy was stronger and newspapers weren't competing with more modern technologies. These days, 'doing more with less' seems to be the rule.

"AOJ can do the next best thing, however: It can give the gift of editing.

". . . We might not be able to hire, but there are other ways to make our products more inclusive. Let's think about what we can do with freelancers.

"And let's give the gift of editing!"

 

"Employees of The Daily News apparently could use a brush-up on world flags," Christine Haughney reported Thursday for the New York Times.

"In Thursday's paper, the newspaper, which is a sponsor of this weekend's Puerto Rican Day Parade, published an ad promoting the parade that shows the New York Giants football player Victor Cruz smiling and standing underneath the Cuban flag.

" 'Talk about an oops. That is one big oops,' wrote the Web site Latino Rebels. 'We just called the newspaper and they told us that they will be printing a correction tomorrow, but that no statement has been issued.'

"A spokesman for The Daily News issued an apology by Thursday afternoon.

" 'As the presenting media sponsor, the Daily News apologizes to the Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Latino communities as well as parade sponsors who were offended by our honest mistake,' the spokesman said. 'It will be rectified in tomorrow’s paper.' "

"That's a 49 percent increase from the Magic-Celtics Game six in 2010."

The series stumped at least one commentator. ESPN Boston reported, "After flip-flopping between writing the Celtics off (before the conference finals) and then conversely [calling] the series 'over' for Miami prior to Game 6, ESPN NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith has officially thrown his hands in the air when asked for his prediction for Saturday night's Game 7.

" 'I'm taking the fifth,' Smith says in the SportsCenter video above. 'I've been wrong this entire series. I have nothing to say, I plead the fifth. I don't know what they're going to do, I just know I'll be there.' "

*William C. Rhoden, New York Times: Video: A Superhero That Doesn't Exist (May 31)

*Deron Snyder, Washington Times: In three games, Spurs exposed as a tired team

*Jason Whitlock, foxsports.com: NBA refs have been biggest flop

 

The Sports Journalism Institute graduated its 20th class Friday in Columbia, Mo. A group of seven men and four women (seven African Americans, two Asian Americans and two Latinos) were in residence at the University of Missouri School of Journalism from June 1 to 9, after which students move on to internships around the country. They are placed at Associated Press Sports Editors member newspapers, ESPN.com, MLB.com and the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, 12 students, including 11 of color, were to graduate Saturday from the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute's 11-day Multimedia Scholars Program. Schools represented in the program at the John Seigenthaler Center at Vanderbilt University are Bennett, Grambling, Hampton, Howard, Louisiana Tech, Michigan State, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, Northern Alabama, Northwest Missouri State and Xavier (La.). Eleven of the 12 are to intern for eight weeks at six newspapers owned by Schurz Communications Inc.

"About 56 percent of the nine million Americans who live in neighborhoods within three kilometers of large commercial hazardous waste facilities are people of color, according to a landmark, 2007 environmental justice report by the United Church of Christ," Jane Kay and Cheryl Katz wrote Monday for Environmental Health News. "In California, it's 81 percent. Poverty rates in these neighborhoods are 1.5 times higher than elsewhere. Those numbers, however, reflect a [minuscule] portion of the threats faced by nonwhite and low-income families. Thousands of additional towns are near other major sources of pollution, including refineries, chemical plants, freeways and ports."

Univision Communications Thursday announced "a partnership with the Stanford University Graduate Program on Journalism establishing a new fellowship program in journalism. As part of the program, graduates from Stanford University will be hired by Univision for an initial six-month period at Univision's Miami, Los Angeles, New York, or Washington D.C. offices, and will be assigned to one of Univision News's units: Documentary, Investigative, and New Media."

"The young aide to President Bashar al-Assad of Syria who received an endorsement from the longtime television correspondent Barbara Walters  was accepted into a prestigious graduate program at Columbia University, the university said on Thursday," Amy Chozick reported Thursday for the New York Times.

"A cartoon drawn by Rob Tornoe in Sunday's Sports section depicted Phillies pitcher Cliff Lee doing housework while a black/brown player with the word 'Offense' written on his T-shirt slept on a couch," Chris Murray, vice president-print of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists wrote to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists submits that this cartoon is racially insensitive. African American and Latino men are often stereotyped as being lazy and not wanting to work hard. The cartoon may suggest to readers that male athletes of color are lazy." (Larger cartoon image)

". . . A few years ago, I stepped out on faith and decided to write hilarious columns that would explore the fun side of family and fatherhood, and to write action-packed books that were clean enough to take into schools," Solomon Jones wrote on his website. "Then the Philadelphia Daily News was sold, the new editor discontinued my column, and a few months later, my book sales slipped. I was devastated. . . . Sometimes, when you take a stand for what's right, the results are neither immediate nor apparent. But knowing that the people whose lives I've impacted are now impacting others has not only shown me that I was right to take a stand. It's shown me that I have to keep on standing. How do I know? Because things have also turned around for me."

"A coalition of broadcasters is working to extend the FCC rule that requires cable operators to carry must-carry signals in an analog format so viewers with old TV sets can continue to watch them," reads the blurb above an opinion piece that Harry A. Jessell wrote Friday for TVNewsCheck. Jessell argued that the rule fosters diversity. "This will be an interesting test of Mignon Clyburn, the Democratic commissioner who has served as a handy rubber stamp for just about everything that [FCC Chairman Julius] Genachowski has wanted to do," he wrote. ". . . But Clyburn has made diversity in programming and ownership her issue. Here's her chance to show that she is more than just talk. . ." On Wednesday, a group of black church leaders marched in support of the broadcasters' position.

The work of Odell Mitchell Jr., a St. Louis Post-Dispatch staffer for 24 years and now a photography teacher, is the subject of an artistic retrospective that was to open Friday at the Sheldon Art Galleries in St. Louis, Joe Holleman reported Thursday in the Post-Dispatch.

In Washington, "ABC's Diane Sawyer took some time during the 'World News' tease on WJLA last night to recognize the one-year anniversary of Alison Starling and Leon Harris anchoring the 5 p.m. newscast," Merrill Knox reported Friday for TVSpy, posting the video. " 'I just think sometimes you have to pay attention to an anniversary,' Sawyer said, as boxes of cupcakes appeared on the anchor desk. 'Eat and be merry, and we celebrate you.' "

"The FCC came under some fire Thursday in a Senate committee for the impact of Universal Service Fund reforms on carriers serving Native lands, which are being implemented beginning July 1," John Eggerton reported Thursday for Broadcasting & Cable. ". . . Various legislators weighed in with their concerns that the reforms would cut off $600,000 in annual support to some companies supplying communications services in high-cost Native areas as the FCC migrates support from phone to broadband." Senate Indian Affairs Committee Chair Daniel Kahikina Akaka, D-Hawaii, "suggested that could actually be a setback for Native American Broadband Connectivity."

Angela Rye, executive director and general counsel of the Congressional Black Caucus, is interviewed on C-SPAN's "Q&A" airing Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern time.

 

Free Speech TV is carrying the annual Netroots Nation conference, held through Saturday in Providence, R.I., on DISH Network channel 9415, DIRECTV channel 348 and online at freespeech.org. "Netroots Nation 2012 brings the top names in the progressive movement," Free Speech Executive Director Don Rojas said in an announcement.

 

Chris Haynes, entering his second season with Comcast SportsNet, has signed three-year contract with Comcast SportsNet Northwest, the network announced on Friday. Referring to the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers, the network said Haynes "will continue to expand the role he began during the 2011-2012 Trail Blazers season on the network and on CSNNW.com breaking news and providing reliable inside information alongside CSNNW.com's senior editor Dwight Jaynes."

Jim Bettinger, director of the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program at Stanford University, joined 150-plus African American bloggers at the fifth "Blogging While Brown" conference in Philadelphia last week, Bettinger wrote on Wednesday. "I was there to learn, which I did, and to spread the word about the Knight Fellowships and its desire to include all manner of journalists in its fold. I did that, too. Finally, I was reminded again that it's valuable for me — an Anglo male in a position of authority and prestige — to be a white face in a sea of faces of color. Much of the world doesn't look like me, and the Knight Fellowships needs to reflect that (and in fact, seven of our 13 U.S. Fellows next year are journalists of color)."

"One thing that became clear to me during the first part of my Knight Fellowship here at Stanford is that all the doom and gloom about the media industry really only applies to Western media and U.S. media in particular," Emad Mekay wrote on a new Web page devoted to essays by the Knight fellows. "Media in other parts of the world are still thriving and could even make major leaps later on." In the Mideast, "Individual journalists having a hard time getting jobs here could offer expertise as consultants or even as new hires for the expanding media empires in the Arab countries."

"Recent attacks by Islamic sect Boko Haram are vexing the free operation of media in northern Nigeria," Adegboye Ishiaka wrote from Lagos, Nigeria, Friday for Radio Netherlands Worldwide. "Their lives now on the line, many journalists are leaving — if not altogether avoiding — the volatile region."

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Thursday in an open letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, "We are writing in advance of the third India-U.S. Strategic Dialogue coming up on June 13, which you will co-chair in Washington, D.C., with Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. India is host to a vital and thriving news media, but CPJ has documented several violations against Indian journalists that are undermining the country's tradition of a free press. . . . We hope that during the strategic dialogue, you and members of your staff will raise the plight of imprisoned journalists and impunity for attacks against the press in India."

Referring to Uganda, Hillary Heuler wrote Wednesday for the Voice of America, "Harassment of journalists is on the rise in this East African nation, and freedom of speech is under threat, according to a recent report by Amnesty International." Amnesty's Michelle Kagari "is concerned that in repressing the media and opposition, African leaders have failed to learn an important lesson from the so-called Arab Spring: that if you do not allow your people to speak out peacefully, they will find other, more violent ways to express themselves."

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