nola_digitaldivide_map403
Digital-divide map (thelensnola.org)

The decision by the owners of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans to offer a printed newspaper only three days a week, delivering the news online the rest of the time, raises a question particularly relevant to communities of color: What about those who don't have access to the Internet?

Matt Davis of the Lens, which calls itself the New Orleans area's first nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest newsroom, reported in March, "Subscribers to high-speed Internet services in New Orleans are generally white and in the higher income brackets, according to a new nationwide study that also found Louisiana lags the rest of the country when it comes to accessing broadband technology."

He cited a joint investigation by the Lens, the Center for Public Integrity and the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University.

Davis noted, ". . . Government officials nationwide have undertaken efforts to remove the financial barriers to broadband access, with the goal of providing a free or low-cost system. Some started then stumbled, some ran into political and philosophical barriers, and some succeeded. Examples of all three situations can be found in Louisiana."

Census figures for 2010 show Orleans Parish, home base of the Times-Picayune, to be 60.2 percent black, 33.0 percent white, 5.2 percent Latino or Hispanic, 2.9 percent Asian and .3 percent American Indian and Alaska Native.

That indicates that a move to more digital delivery of news could deepen the so-called "digital divide" — at least in the news industry.

That's not just a Louisiana problem.

In a January report called, "On the Path to the Digital Beloved Community: A Civil Rights Agenda for the Technological Age," the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council said, "While over 90% of the country has access to broadband, only 68% of the nation has adopted broadband at home. Adoption rates for Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income households are significantly lower than the nationwide average. Without full digital inclusion, these communities remain uninformed on issues regarding education, employment, health care, and civic engagement."

The Times-Picayune publishes in a market where the newspaper is said to be beloved, its market penetration among the highest in the nation. If those without broadband access aren't ready for the Times-Picayune's bold move, some suggest that the newspaper and its owner, Advance Publications, the newspaper arm of the Newhouse publishing family, aren't quite ready either.

Writing for the Newsonomics Web site on Thursday, Ken Doctor said "The New Orleans move looks to be a forced march to digital.

". . . I'd call it a forced march because it doesn't look like the Times-Picayune, or its new successor, the NOLA Media Group, is yet ready for the digital transformation," Doctor continued. "It has been making a digital transition, and there's a big difference between the two. It doesn't have a digital circulation strategy yet in place; though about a fifth of U.S. dailies do. Digital circulation is key to making this work, so that core print readers become more likely to transition with the enterprise — and keep paying their monthly subscription bills. The Times-Picayune did launch an iPad app in [April], though it's clearly in beta, with four of the same stories repeated this morning on the iPad version home page."

Three years ago, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News both cut home delivery. If those papers are any example, the Times-Picayune can expect to lose circulation. The Free Press delivers now on Thursday, Friday and Sunday. The News went to home delivery on Thursday and Friday.

"Since reducing home delivery days in March 2009, the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News have lost more than a combined 122,000 subscribers, according to numbers from the Schaumburg, Ill.-based Audit Bureau of Circulations, which independently verifies circulation numbers," Bill Shea wrote in December for Crain's Detroit Business.

The cutbacks to the Times-Picayune's print editions also come with a reduction in staff. "Individual meetings with Times-Picayune employees, at which they will learn whether they have lost their jobs or will be offered new positions with the new NOLA Media Group, are set to begin in about a week — probably starting Monday, June 4 or Tuesday, June 5, according to sources with knowledge of Advance Publications' plans," Kevin Allman reported Sunday for Gambit, an alternative newspaper in New Orleans.

Staffers at other Newhouse newspapers are nervous. "News that the New Orleans Times-Picayune is going to slash its frequency from daily to three times a week sent shock waves through the Newhouse-owned papers back East, which include the Star-Ledger in Newark, the Times of Trenton, the Jersey Journal in Jersey City and the Staten Island Advance," Keith J. Kelly wrote in the New York Post.

"Despite their wide range of backgrounds, the students are 'a close, tight-knit community,' said SU film professor Owen Shapiro.

"The students are shocked and saddened by the death of Bassel Al Shahade, a film-making graduate student at SU who had returned to his homeland of Syria to film that country's revolution, Shapiro said. Shahade was killed Monday working as a citizen journalist by government forces while filming the attacks by Syrian government forces in the city of Homs.

" 'We're saddened by this, and we're angry that there are governments of the world that kill their citizens for any reasons,' said Shapiro, who taught Shahade in a film class last fall and was his academic adviser. Al Shahade, a native of the Syrian capital of Damascus, was a Fulbright Scholar pursuing a master of fine arts in film degree in the College of Visual and Performing Arts."

* Connie Agius, Australian Broadcasting Corp.: Reporting on Syria: fraught but crucial

* Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy.com: Syria: The Dangers of One-Sided Reporting

* Stephen Dockery, Daily Star, Lebanon: Homs reporter to start news agency in Lebanon

* Tom Fenton, Global Post: Syria's media blackout

* Michael Schwirtz, New York Times: Syracuse University Filmmaker Killed in Syria

Horror stories about race are sometimes so bizarre that they challenge the imagination. Journalists will have the opportunity to tell one such tale when actor Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's film of his life story is completed. Britain's Guardian newspaper related the narrative this month under the headline, "Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje: 'I didn't want to be black. So I joined the skinheads…'"

"The name Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje is not one that slips easily off the tongue but it's worth mastering because we're likely to be hearing a lot more of it in the future," Andrew Anthony wrote. "Followers of the [willfully] perplexing American fantasy series Lost may recall its owner as Mr Eko, the former drug lord turned fake priest who was killed by the Man in Black, otherwise known as the Monster. Or perhaps not.

"Some will know him as Simon Adebisi, the intimidating African convict in the cult HBO prison series Oz; others may recognise his contributions to films such as Congo and The Bourne Identity; and no doubt his role as an American spy in the forthcoming BBC-HBO series Hunted will further raise his profile. But it may well be as the screenwriter and film director of his own life story that Akinnuoye-Agbaje becomes a name to remember."

About the film: "Entitled Farming, it refers to the practice of handing out children to informal fostering that many Nigerian parents followed in 1960s and 1970s Britain. Akinnuoye-Agbaje was one such case. In 1967, when he was six weeks old, his parents — a Nigerian couple studying in London — gave him to a white working-class couple in Tilbury, then a fiercely insular dockside community."

". . . If it was crowded and chaotic within the home, outside the young boy was in constant danger of physical attack from local kids who, encouraged by their parents, nurtured a violent fear of blacks. He learned to feel the same way himself, running away from the black sailors who occasionally visited the docks from far-off locations.

". . . Such was his eagerness to fit in that, although his skin clearly told another tale, he thought of himself as white. And if his sense of self wasn't already damaged enough, he knew nothing of his African parents until one day, when he was eight, they turned up out of the blue and took him back to Nigeria."

". . . his natural parents were not prepared to bring him up" and ". . .  foster parents were ill-prepared." He returned to England as a 9-year-old, where ". . . He became a skinhead.

"He didn't just adopt the haircut and clothes but the racist attitudes too. He fought alongside his new skinhead comrades, who treated him at first like some brutalised pet to be unleashed in battle. 'I was like a little dog that followed them around,' he says. . . ."

Two more black journalists are leaving the Washington Post: Avis Thomas-Lester, a 22-year veteran, is taking a buyout and is becoming executive editor of the Afro-American weekly newspapers in Washington and Baltimore, and Tarik El-Bashir, assigned to the Washington Capitals hockey team, has been hired to cover the NFL's Washington Redskins for ComcastSportsNet.

El-Bashir, 37, told Journal-isms he did not take the Post buyout. "The opportunity came together after the deadline," he said.

A note to the staff Wednesday from Sports Editor Matt Vita and Deputy Sports Editor Matt Rennie said:

". . . Tarik started with us as a high school sports writer in 1999 and took over the Capitals beat in 2005. It just so happened that another rookie named Alex Ovechkin also came to the Capitals that year, and over the ensuing five seasons Tarik was on the scene to document Ovechkin's and the Capitals' exciting rise to prominence in the National Hockey League.

The two most recent seasons, Tarik has been our lead writer on Georgetown men's basketball, one of our most important college beats, and added auto racing to his portfolio. He also served as our resident hockey analyst, joining forces with lead beat writer Katie Carrera to provide an added dimension to our Caps coverage.

"While we will dearly miss Tarik's gregarious nature and good spirit, we wish him well in this new phase of his career."

Thomas-Lester, a general assignment reporter at the Post who specializes in African American affairs and culture, said she was excited by the Afro-American position.

"As some of the major newspapers reduce their staff, the black press is poised for a resurgence," Thomas-Lester told Journal-isms. "As we leave major newspapers, the black papers have a wonderful opportunity to fill the gap. It was like a blessing for me," Thomas-Lester said. "My son went to college this year. I have time to free up and fly. The Post was a wonderful place to be."

The Washington edition of the Afro has an average circulation of 12,363 and the Baltimore edition 7,416, according to March 31 figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

In Philadelphia, "NBC 10's VP of News Chris Blackman is shown the door," less than three months after the station welcomed a new general manager, Tom Petner reported Thursday for the247newsroom.com.

"Here's the memo that he distributed to the staff Wednesday last night:

" 'I have a bit of news. Eric (Lerner) and I have come to the mutual conclusion that it's time for new leadership in the newsroom — time for new ideas and a fresh perspective on what we do.

"So after 11-years at NBC10 I will be moving on to see what other adventures life has to offer. I truly wish you nothing but success under Eric's leadership. You deserve it and I'm confident you will achieve it.

"When I first came to NBC10 in 2001 I honestly thought I'd be lucky to last two-years in this job. Now 11-years on, I just feel lucky — to have had the chance to call you my colleagues and friends. I've had wonderful jobs over my 26-years at NBC, but none that I enjoyed as much as this one. . . ."

In his own note, General Manager Eric Lerner said, ". . . For over a decade, Chris Blackman has been our remarkable Vice President of News. He has led this team with class, courage, and compassion. In a business that can be tough and unforgiving, Chris has been an exception to that rule. He has nurtured and grown top talent. Treated employees with respect and gotten results. And most of all, Chris Blackman is a great guy."

According to his bio, Blackman WCAU in July 2001 as assistant news director and was promoted to news director in January 2002.

"Blackman was born in Ghana, West Africa and grew up in Barbados and New York City.

"Prior to joining NBC 10, he spent 4 ½ years in Asia as Vice President of News Programming for CNBC Asia in Hong Kong and Singapore, where he created several award winning programs.

"Blackman has been with NBC for 23 years, including ten years at the NBC owned station in Chicago where he worked as a news writer, producer and executive producer. While working in Chicago, Blackman earned a number of Emmy and Associated Press Awards. He views his trip to South Africa and the Emmy he won for writing about the apartheid and the release of Nelson Mandela as one of the highlights of his career." [May 31]

"Wolf Blitzer and Donald Trump just had a ridiculous conversation on CNN," Chris Ariens wrote Tuesday for TVNewser. "With each calling the other 'ridiculous,' and Trump also taking a shot at CNN's ratings. The two sparred over the 'birther' controversy during a live interview on 'The Situation Room.'

"TRUMP: Well, a lot of people don't agree with that birth certificate. A lot of people do not think it's authentic.

"BLITZER: But if the state of Hawaii authorizes it, if the state of Hawaii says, this is official, he was born in Hawaii on this date, here it is, why do you deny that?

"TRUMP: A lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.

"BLITZER: How can you say that if the…

"TRUMP: Now, you won't report it, Wolf, but many people do not think it was authentic. His mother was not in the hospital. There are many other things that came out. And, frankly, if you would report it accurately, I think you would probably get better ratings than you're getting, which are pretty small."

Meanwhile, Eric Hananoki reported Tuesday for Media Matters for America, "During today's Squawk Box, CNBC co-anchor Joe Kernen assisted guest Donald Trump's effort to push debunked claims about President Obama's birthplace by citing a supposed quote from Obama in which Obama purportedly suggested that he wasn't born in the United States. The quote is an internet hoax and was never said by Obama, who was born in Hawaii."

"Today's version of the morning show featured an anti-Obama video that resembled propaganda films from 1930's Europe more than it did responsible TV politics of today.

"And the remarkable thing was the witless crew on the couch that serves as hosts for this show had the audacity to present it as journalism and congratulate the producer who put it together."

Alex Weprin of TVNewser reported this statement from Bill Shine, executive vice president of programming for Fox News: "The package that aired on FOX & Friends was created by an associate producer and was not authorized at the senior executive level of the network. This has been addressed with the show's producers."

* George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: A Biblical Reason to Vote Against Mitt Romney

* Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Can journalists and police work out ground rules to avoid arrest during RNC 2012 in Tampa?

* Steven Gray, theRoot.com: Does Romney Get the Other America?

* Ken Knelly, Columbia Journalism Review: What did we learn from coverage of Romney’s Philly school visit?

*Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Mitt Romney and the Psychlo Killers

* Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Romney's pants on fire

* "The good news is that we have seen major improvements in women's op-ed writing in the last 6 years," Taryn Yaeger reported for the OpEd Project Monday, discussing its 2011 byline survey. The effort evaluated more than 7,000 articles in 10 media outlets over 12 weeks, from Sept. 15 to Dec. 7. Erika Fry also examined the topic Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review under the headline, "It's 2012 already: why is opinion writing still mostly male?" * "A humanitarian crisis looms in West Africa and ABC's Bazi Kanani is there reporting from the hunger zone where nearly 15 million people and roughly one million children are at risk — that's roughly the number of children in New York City’s public schools," according to ABC News. "Kanani travels to places where some aid is arriving and others that have received no help at all." One of the stories, "Facing Hunger Crisis in West Africa, Families Pick Leaves, Berries to Survive," was posted Friday. The first report aired Tuesday on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and the rest are to run across all ABC broadcasts and platforms. Kanani joined ABC News last fall from KUSA-TV in Denver. She is now based in Nairobi, Kenya.

* "With smoke rising from a shopping mall and nearby streets closed, people in Doha wanted answers, Joe Grimm wrote for the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute. "They watched the story develop through the lens of a website created by two American journalists who have built a news site there." Nineteen people died, 13 of them children, in a country where "that sort of thing is extremely uncommon." Shabina Khatri and Omar Chatriwala met through the Muslim American Journalists Association, which Khatri helped found, and married in 2007.

* Vincent Thomas, former reporter, contributing columnist and commentator for several newspapers, SLAM Magazine, FOXSports.com and ESPN.com, has become editor-in-chief of New York-based www.theshadowleague.com, a sports and culture web site. "
The Shadow League focuses on the power of culture along with the idea that everything, even the world of sports, encompasses an undeniable cultural element that needs to be discussed," the site's Facebook page says.

* Rhonda LeValdo, a member of the Acoma Pueblo from New Mexico, a media instructor at Haskell Indian Nations University and president of the Native American Journalists Association, and Teresa Trumbly Lamsam, a visiting professor in journalism at the University of Kansas who grew up on an Osage reservation at Pawhuska, Okla., are expanding their project designed to combat diabetes among Native Americans. "Two weeks ago, they launched WellboundStorytellers.com, a website that in its first few days invited Native American journalists to share personal testimonials about their health struggles and successes," Eric Adler reported Monday for the Kansas City Star.

* The Pew Hispanic Center, which recently published "When Labels Don't Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity," invited journalists, scholars and civic leaders to share their views. "Each day for the next two weeks, we will publish one of these commentaries," the center says on its site. The first is by Esther J. Cepeda, Chicago-based columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group.

*
MundoFox, the new News Corp. Spanish-language broadcast channel, will launch this summer "with a single news show, an evening news program anchored by Rolando Nichols of KWHY Los Angeles, a MundoFox affiliate," Alex Weprin reported Tuesday for TVNewser. "There will be two live half-hours produced every weekday, one for the east coast and a second, customized version for the west coast. . . . Noticias MundoFox will hire '40-something' staffers over the next couple of months, in anticipation of an August 13th launch."

* "When my University of Illinois journalism class was preparing to depart for a three-week reporting trip to Turkey, I wondered how my 'African-ness' would come across to Turkish people," Tolu Taiwa wrote Tuesday in the International Herald Tribune. My parents are Nigerian immigrants, which makes me Nigerian-American." In culturally diverse Antioch, in southern Turkey, "one woman pointed to me, to her own arms and face, and then back to my skin in amazement, as if she couldn't believe that a human could be so dark. A little boy on the street stopped to stare at me for two full minutes. I tried to engage in a conversation about his bike with him, but he wasn't having it." Nine journalism students from the University of Illinois are reporting from Turkey under the direction of Professor Nancy Benson and with the advice of the International Herald Tribune's Susanne Fowler.

* Funeral services for Andy Harvey, the Navajo former Phoenix television reporter and board member of the Native American Journalists Association who died last week at 35, are planned for 11 a.m. on Saturday at the World Harvest Center, 1024 North Butler, in Farmington, N.M., NAJA announced.

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