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Ed Brud/Journal Sentinal

Black Editors Helped Frame Questions in Milwaukee

A diverse newsroom leadership team helped deepen the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's coverage of Sunday's killings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, Martin Kaiser, senior vice president and editor, told Journal-isms on Monday.

Wade Michael Page, a 40-year-old Army veteran with white supremacist ties, opened fire before worship services in nearby Oak Creek, Wis., and killed six people before he was killed by police, U.S. Attorney James A. Santelle said Monday.

"The more diversity there is, the more that people ask questions," Kaiser said by telephone. "If everybody grew up together and they all thought alike, I don't think we're going to get the best questions. It's the culture of the newsroom that says, 'how do we explain this to our community?' . . . I love going down the newsroom and asking, 'What have we forgotten?' "

Leading the newsroom when the story broke was Ron Smith, assistant managing editor for production and an African American. Jill Williams, deputy managing editor for features, entertainment and new products, also a black journalist; Sherman Williams, a black journalist who is assistant managing editor for visual journalism; and Berford Gammon III, director of photography and a black journalist as well, were among the newsroom leaders, Kaiser said. "That sensitivity is really important."

The Asian American Journalists Association on Sunday night issued a media advisory with "a few guidelines for organizations reporting on this tragedy," starting with such basics as "The word 'Sikh' is pronounced 'seek.' " It was updated on Monday.

Kaiser, a former president of the American Society of News Editors, said that "one of the first things we did was post a story for our readers to understand the background" on Sikhs. However, "the Sikh community owns a lot of gas stations in town," so they aren't as unknown as they might be, and Journal Sentinel staffers live near the temple. Visual Editor Ed Brud was one who lived nearby, and he shot photos of people at the temple after the incident.

Moreover, Sikhs had been in the news after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when many mistook them for Muslims.

On Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!," Rajdeep Singh, director of law and policy at the Sikh Coalition, a civil rights and advocacy group based in Washington, faulted the news media for insufficient coverage of violence against Sikhs.

"Since the 9/11 attacks, unfortunately, the prevailing stereotype, which has been perpetuated by the media, is that if somebody wears a turban, they are associated with Al Qaeda or other forms of extremism," Singh said. "That is obviously not the case. Unfortunately, ignorance is a breeding ground for bigotry and discrimination and Sikhs have been subjected, not only [to] crimes around the United States, but also to school bullying, job discrimination and racial profiling."

Amardeep Singh who co-founded the Sikh Coalition, said on the same program, "It's been 10 years, and we are 110 percent convinced that the mainstream media has done a woeful job of covering the stories of our community post-9/11."

As with the suspect in the shooting of 70 people in Aurora, Colo., last month, news consumers knew that Sunday's shooter was white before they knew his name.

Satpal Kaleka, wife of the temple's president, Satwant Singh Kaleka, "said the 6-foot-tall bald white man -- who worshippers said they had never before seen at the temple -- seemed like he had a purpose and knew where he was going," the Associated Press reported Monday morning.

Tom Kent, AP deputy managing editor for standards, told Journal-isms by email, "That phrase originally entered our reporting when the shooter hadn't been identified. In such a case, police and witness descriptions of the shooter are sometimes all we have.

"Now that he has been identified as a white supremacist, I imagine race will remain relevant to the story."

Duane Dudek, the Journal Sentinel's television writer, reported Sunday that local television stations covered the shooting "with varying degrees of speed and accuracy. There were conflicting reports of the numbers of victims and gunmen throughout the morning."

Reports of more than two dozen victims were "an example of the way the fog of uncorroborated information can rush to fill a vacuum until official details are released," Dudek wrote.

" . . . As early events developed, WTMJ-TV was still showing NBC's coverage of an Olympic equestrian event. WTMJ-TV eventually switched to all news coverage and moved the Olympics to its digital Channel 4.2.

"While this switch to live coverage of a breaking local news story seems like a no-brainer, it likely was a difficult programming decision for a station that Milwaukee viewers have made the second most-watched NBC affiliate for the first nine days of the Olympics.

"The station returned to the Olympics at 6 p.m. and moved its coverage of the shootings to Channel 4.2."

"The archive, 'Undercover Reporting,' includes an array of stories, ranging from the slave trade in 1850s to efforts to boycott Jewish-owned businesses in the U.S. in the late 1930s to treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the 21st century."

"The database, www.undercoverreporting.org, is a joint endeavor of Professor Brooke Kroeger of NYU's Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute and the university's Division of Libraries . . . "

Kroeger provided Journal-isms with this sampling of material in the project by or about people of color:

Working with Migrants; Shadowing the Undocumented (several stories)

"The Forgotten People" -- Dale Wright -- New York World Telegram & Sun

"The Underpaid and Under-Protected" -- Chester Goolrick and Paul Lieberman -- Atlanta Constitution

"Enrique's Journey" -- Sonia Nazario -- Los Angeles Times

"By a Back Door to the U.S." -- Sandra Ochoa and Ginger Thompson -- New York Times

"Down & Out" -- Neil Henry -- Washington Post

John Howard Griffin's "Black Like Me"

Grace Halsell reportage. Halsell went undercover to report under a number of ethnic and racial guises.

"At a Slaughterhouse, Some Things Never Die" -- Charlie LeDuff -- New York Times

"Blackbirding" -- The Slave System's Just-as-Evil Twin?

The fifth and smallest Unity convention concluded Saturday, but the absence of the National Association of Black Journalists, the inclusion of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and assertions that the two were related helped to reignite a discussion about Unity's future.

"Claims of black homophobia split UNITY minority journalist convention" was the headline on a piece by Tim Curran, a member of NLGJA, on the SiriusXM OutQ News Blog. "Is it time for UNITY to go?" asked Jeff Yang of the Wall Street Journal, a member of the Asian American Journalists Association.

Mark Fogarty, an associate, or non-Native member of the Native American Journalists Association, praised the students who covered the Unity convention.

Steven Thrasher, who is black and gay, and affiliated with both NABJ and NLGJA , interviewed NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. for "On the NABJ/UNITY Split, Money, and NLGJA" in the Village Voice. Rafael Olmeda, a former president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and of Unity, proposed on his blog that Unity meet again in 2014.

Here are two views, from Yang, who told Journal-isms that his piece had generated "a fair amount" of comment on Twitter and on the Unity convention site on Facebook, and from Vanessa Williams of the Washington Post, president of NABJ from 1997 to 1999.

By Jeff Yang

Given that UNITY as a standing organization has unfortunately turned into a trigger for political and economic dissent among its members, the basic purpose for its existence has been badly damaged.

The results were clear in this year's conference. Even setting aside the painful and obvious absence of NABJ from the proceedings, the event felt like the product of a divided and distracted partnership. In an ideal scenario, UNITY's staff would have recognized that the blunt controversies of the schism required both a strong focus on integration and social intermixing (to reemphasize the "unity" part of UNITY) and an active, transparent and open discussion of the concerns members had about the loss of NABJ and the future of the organization.

Neither of these needs was fulfilled. Instead, despite diverse and interesting programming at the panel level, the conference overall felt more disjointed and "separate" than any UNITY I've attended, and I've been to all of them. And because the "elephant in the room" topic of NABJ was never really engaged, it felt like the convention was trying to avoid it -- not a good look.

Especially with NABJ having a huge stand-alone gathering in New Orleans in June, and with UNITY not being able to secure either of the presidential candidates to attend, despite both [presidential candidate Mitt] Romney and [Vice President] Joe Biden being in Vegas during the convention.

So my feeling is we need to clean house and clear out the structures that are scar tissue preventing healing. That would first and foremost mean dissolving UNITY as a stand-alone organization, and converting the conference into one that is essentially planned on an ad hoc basis, in a format similar to the Olympics.

"Vision teams" would partner with professional conference planning/association management agencies (like www.kellencompany.com or www.smithbucklin.com) and bid competitively to win the right to develop, plan and stage UNITY on a quadrennial basis on behalf of participating organizations.

These would include any like-minded groups that represent underrepresented communities in journalism . . . so long as they contractually commit to take on the risk and responsibility of being a "sponsoring group," which would entail guaranteeing recruitment of a certain number of attendees and/or securing a certain amount of corporate funds.

Sponsoring groups would keep a fixed percentage of the revenues they deliver, ensuring that no group feels like it is being taken advantage of; groups that exceed their commitments would get a greater percentage of the net proceeds.

And groups would not be obligated to commit for more than one conference at a time.

The competitive bidding would generate greater innovation and engagement on the part of the planning teams, and reduce costs (which would be lower anyway without the overhead of a permanent staff and standing administrative expenses). Participating organizations would be free of the distraction of revenue splits and representation, because both of these would be directly proportional to what they commit to bringing to the table and what they ultimately deliver.

Maybe there are reasons this would be unworkable. Forming a new coalition every four years is hard.

But it's hard not to feel like what we have right now is largely unworkable too -- especially if we can't resolve UNITY's split with NABJ.

By Vanessa Williams

One evening, way back when I was president of the National Association of Black Journalists, I and the three other Unity presidents were having dinner at a restaurant. The waiter, a white man, asked what brought us to town and we told him about Unity and our associations. He quipped: "Well, is there an association for white journalists?"

Why is it that some white people are uncomfortable with or threatened by people of color affirming their racial or ethnic identity?

NABJ member LZ Granderson was quoted in a New York Times article last week as saying NABJ's refusal to rejoin Unity after the name change risks making us look "intolerant and maybe even a bit dated."

I respect his opinion. Here's mine: The threat by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association that its members -- the majority of whom are white men -- would not attend the convention unless Unity dropped the reference to race/ethnicity from its name makes that organization look insensitive and entitled.

The outgoing NLGJA president, David Steinberg, was quoted as saying, "The mission of Unity has always been the mission of NLGJA." Then why demand that an organization founded by people of color give up that reference to its history? Did NLGJA not trust Unity: Journalists of Color to advocate for its members, and was the name change some kind of loyalty oath?

The Unity board overwhelmingly approved it, so clearly it didn't bother most. After all, it's just a couple of words. But words have power. The words "Journalists of Color" made a statement, caught people's attention and made some, like the waiter, ask why the need for such a group. (Not to worry, we schooled him.)

Is the argument that those who opposed the name change are simply homophobic? But it's wrong to ask NLGJA why in the nearly 20 years that it has been pushing to join Unity, the percentage of journalists of color in its membership is less than 20 percent?

Michelle Johnson was quoted in the article as saying, "there are white guys in the organization who have also faced discrimination in the newsroom." No doubt. There are also some old, straight white guys, and certainly women, who could probably rightly claim age discrimination. Should Unity invite them to join as well?

If everybody who can stake a claim of discrimination can join, then what's the point of having a second all-purpose journalism organization? Would the fight for diversity be more effective if we all just joined the Society of Professional Journalists? (I think our waiter would endorse this idea.)

I'm not trying to be snarky here. These are the kinds of questions -- and they are legitimate questions -- as well as important issues involving finances and governance, that led me, as a member of the NABJ commission to examine reunification, to vote against it at this time. To all y'all who are clamoring for us to go back, my question is: "Go back to what?"

I don't believe that we should close the door on reunification. But I also don't believe we should go racing through the door without knowing what's on the other side. Right now everybody is tired and stressed -- from trying to pull off the conventions and from the fresh round of coverage and social media discussion of the split. But next year we -- meaning the Asian American Journalists Association, NABJ, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and NLGJA -- should find a way to have a discussion about the past and where we go from here.

Stealing a quote from the excellent unconscious bias workshop at the NABJ conference in New Orleans: This is not rocket science; it's harder than rocket science.

The print operation of the Times-Picayune in New Orleans, scaled back to Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays as the operation emphasizes an online presence, will be directed by Terry Baquet, the paper's page one editor since 2000, the Times-Picayune announced on Sunday.

Baquet will also supervise the special New Orleans Saints section planned after each Saints game. The new arrangement begins Oct. 1.

Jim Amoss, the newspaper's editor since 1990, will lead both the digital news gathering and print production teams.

The Times-Picayune reported in June that 84 of 173 people in the newsroom were laid off, a loss of 48.5 percent. "According to a list I assembled (based on conversations with multiple people in the newsroom) 14 of 26 African-Americans in the newsroom lost their jobs -- a 53.8 percent cut," Steve Myers of the Poynter Institute reported then.

Baquet is the younger brother of Dean Baquet, managing editor of the New York Times. They come from a family of restaurateurs in New Orleans.

"I'm sad to see my friends and colleagues lose their jobs," Baquet told Journal-isms by email. "But I love this paper. When I took this position, I was assured by the Newhouses, my new publisher Ricky Mathews and my editor Jim Amoss that this company remains committed to journalism -- in print and on line. And I think this is the model that will keep The Times-Picayune strong."

Christina Norman, chosen by Arianna Huffington a year ago to edit a revamped and renamed HuffPost BlackVoices after Norman was ousted as CEO of Oprah Winfrey's struggling OWN cable channel, has been reassigned from executive editor to editor-at-large, Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson told Journal-isms on Monday.

"As with our other editors-at-large like Rita Wilson, Michelangelo Signorile, Nico Pitney, and Lynn de Rothschild (HuffPost UK), Christina will be contributing blogs and helping set the overall direction for Black Voices, but not managing editorial on a day-to-day basis," Alderson said by email. "Miguel Ferrer remains managing editor for Black Voices and Latino Voices."

Norman left MTV in 2008 after nearly two decades. She was president of the MTV Networks flagship and before that, president of MTV's sister network VH1.

When Norman joined Huffington, she was to be responsible for creating new video programming across AOL, was expected to help lead two new women's sites within the Huffington Post Media Group and also to manage video.

"Norman will kick off her new role with an essay about the circumstances of departing as CEO of OWN. 'It's a great lesson for women, that when one door closes, another one opens,' Huffington said. 'There is enormous pressure on high-profile women to succeed, to constantly prove themselves. I met Christina in Los Angeles when she was the head of OWN. After she left, I asked her if she wanted to do something completely different.' "

"The news director for Duluth television station Fox 21 resigned Monday after objections to what was called a racist Facebook post he made last week," Mike Creger reported early Tuesday for the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune.

" 'Fox 21 general manager Jackie Bruenjes issued a statement Monday night saying she accepted Jason Vincent's resignation. 'Jason has elected to take a new job assignment,' she said.

"Attempts by the News Tribune to reach Vincent and Bruenjes were unsuccessful. It wasn't clear whether Vincent resigned from his position or if he also left the company, Red River Broadcast Co., based in Fargo, N.D."

" . . . Bruenjes previously issued a statement Friday as word spread via social media about comments Vincent made on Facebook about a stranger he found in his yard Wednesday night: 'Add drunk, homeless, Native American man to the list of animals that have wandered into my yard.' "

"This time, national newspapers are split. Some prefer to highlight the success of Jamaica's wonder sprinter, Usain Bolt, for his record 100 metres success rather than Andy Murray's terrific gold-winning defeat of Roger Federer."

"After several days where Chinese competitors have been in the spotlight for winning golds, and drawing questions about doping and ethics, the official Xinhua News Agency and the People's Daily both accused the 'Western media' of making up stories."

"By doing so, the Western writers have demonstrated an arrogance and prejudice against Chinese athletes that has ignited widespread criticism from all around the world," Xinhua said in a commentary.

In the United States, many in cyberspace were focused on hair. "Black women's hair was already a hot topic on blogs and talk shows before Gabby Douglas vaulted onto the world stage at the London Olympics," Vanessa Williams wrote Friday for the Washington Post. "Then the rhetoric really started to sizzle, like a straightening comb on the back of your neck.

"After some viewers complained on Twitter that Douglas's hair looked unkempt, social media and the blogosphere erupted with incredulous condemnation of those shallow enough to focus on the 16-year-old’s coiffure vs. her graceful jumps and powerful twists."

Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: Newsflash: It's not about the hair

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Cut the criticism, cheer Gabrielle Douglas' win

"In a move sure to inspire acrimony on Twitter and myriad comments sections, ESPN columnist Jemele Hill will work the sidelines for college football coverage on the network this season," Sports Media Watch reported Monday. "Hill, who joined ESPN in 2006, will serve as a sideline reporter for Friday night college football games on the network this season alongside Carter Blackburn and Rod Gilmore."

"Every once in a while, TMZ gets a story wrong," Marcus Vanderberg reported Wednesday for FishbowlLA. "Their latest goof was a report last week that Janet Jackson had slapped Paris Jackson during a family confrontation. Turns out it never happened . . ."

"A new national journalism awards program will recognize excellence in reporting on disability issues and people with disabilities," the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University announced Wednesday. "Entries for the new journalism award will be accepted beginning early next year at http://ncdj.org. . . . The first-place winner will receive an award of $5,000 and an invitation to speak at the Cronkite School. A second place award of $1,500 also will be given, and judges additionally may give $500 honorable mention awards."

A "Hispanic-targeted broadcast network is creating 48 new TV news departments at stations across the United States," TV NewsCheck reported over a July 31 story by Diana Marszalek. " 'They all committed to having local news; it's just a matter of time,' says MundoFox SVP of News Jorge Mettey. 'If they want to be successful, they have to have local news.' "

"NBC Connecticut news co-anchor and show host Yvonne Nava is going home," MaryEllen Fillo reported Friday for the Hartford Courant. "Nava, who has been at the West Hartford-based station since 2007, is returning to Texas to be near family."

"Jawn Murray has launched a new entertainment and lifestyle website called AlwaysAList.com," Murray announced last week in a news release. "The veteran entertainment reporter and lifestyle journalist decided to flex his entrepreneurial muscle and launch his own online portal after receiving some encouraging words from Hollywood mogul Tyler Perry."

Bobbi Bowman, veteran journalist and former diversity director of the American Society of News Editors, announced Friday, "Today is the day I retired as editor of McLean Patch," referring to the Washington suburb of McLean, Va. "I have been planning to retire since January when I turned full-retirement age. Thank you. Thank you for one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. First as The McLean Ear and then as McLean Patch, we started publishing March 1, 2010, with one goal: to keep the neighbors informed about what’s going on in our amazing town. . . . "

"Latina bloggers at the BlogHer '12 national conference in New York City, where 5,000 women bloggers from across the country came together, exhorted women in the audience to raise their voices and understand the level at which female points of view are not being heard," Adrian Carrasquillo reported Friday for NBCLatino.com.

Veteran broadcaster Willie Chriesman has taken to kickstarter.com to seek financial support for "a magazine/website project I'm calling U Metro," Chriesman explained in an email. "It's designed as a quarterly glossy lifestyle publication with a companion website targeting an underserved audience of professional African-Americans here in Alabama and, ultimately, across the South. . . . It also happens to come as we are about to lose a daily newspaper presence with the changes announced by Newhouse for its Alabama properties."

"It took the intervention of President Ricardo Martinelli and a chief of the national police to end a blockade of the newspaper La Prensa on Friday by scores of workers from one of Panama’s largest construction companies," Randal C. Archibold reported Friday for the New York Times.

"South African authorities should immediately drop a criminal investigation against three newspaper journalists who have sought to report details on a multi-billion-dollar arms scandal," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on July 30. "The South African Police Service interrogated Nic Dawes, editor-in-chief of the weekly Mail & Guardian, along with Sam Sole and Stefaans Brümmer, investigative reporters with the same paper, at a police station in Pretoria on Thursday, the paper reported."

"Chinese journalists are questioning government propaganda due to conflicting reports of the death toll following Saturday's devastating flooding in Beijing," Madeline Earp reported July 26 for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Like the Wenzhou train crash and the Sichuan earthquake, the tragedy has galvanized mainstream and online journalists -- and the official narrative is crumbling under their scrutiny."

"Morocco adopted a new Constitution last year in which freedom of expression and press freedom featured prominently," Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported Sunday. "But, as our correspondent Ellen van de Bovenkamp knows from personal experience, nothing much has changed. She describes her struggle to work in a country where 'press freedom' is a limited concept."

"A Malian radio presenter was in 'intense pain' in hospital in Gao on Monday after a severe beating by Islamists who control the northern Mali town," RFI, the public service French radio station, reported on Monday. "The beating appeared to be punishment for reporting that local residents had prevented the amputation of a thief's hand on Sunday. The man appointed police chief by the Islamists, Aliou Mahamar, told RFI that Abdoul Malick Maiga had been beaten on his orders and left outside the hospital."

The Liberian government has announced that it is suing Mads Brügger for buying a diplomatic passport that he used to expose institutional corruption in central Africa," Peter Stanners reported Wednesday for the Copenhagen Post. " . . . Brügger used the passport, which was purchased illegally through corrupt officials, to enter the [Central African Republic] under the false premise of setting up a matchstick factory, though his actual goal was to track down so-called 'blood diamonds’' The subsequent documentary, 'The Ambassador', released last year, exposed widespread corruption in west and central Africa."

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