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Spectators follow 2012 election results in MSNBC store. (Getty Images)

To Succeed, "We Had to Reflect the Country"

MSNBC ". . . enjoyed significant (around 20%) ratings increases across the board" in 2012, "but made astonishing gains with their already-large African American audience, growing that audience by 60.5% for the Mon-Sun 8pm-11pm period," Tommy Christopher reported Monday for Mediaite.

"MSNBC President Phil Griffin told me, in a phone interview, that he is 'thrilled' with that result, and that it 'says a lot about what we've been doing over the last few years.'

"In that same time period, CNN grew its black audience by 23.7% (from 131,000 in 2011 to 162,000 in 2012, 23.9% of their total audience), while Fox News' declined by 23.7% (38,000 in 2011 to 29,000 in 2012, 1.4% of their total audience), but MSNBC had more black viewers than both of those nets combined (from 177,000 in 2011 to 284,000 in 2012, 31.4% of their total audience).

"What's more impressive is that MSNBC attained 60% growth after being number one in that demographic last year, and the year before.

" 'This has been steady growth for us for some time,' Griffin noted. 'I think we made a commitment, we decided, that in order for this channel to succeed, that we had to reflect the country. This meant that we had to be part of the country in ways that the other channels weren't.'

"Part of that commitment, according to Griffin, is the 'look' of the channel. 'We have a diverse on-air group of people,' Griffin said, 'because that matters, and people want to know that we reflect their world. And it's not just a single show - [it's] across the board. You look at the guests every hour and we make sure that we have women, African Americans, everything, and I think to spend a day watching MSNBC is to see America as we have seen it.'

"That diverse array of talent, including hosts like Tamron Hall, Touré, Melissa Harris-Perry, and Rev. Al Sharpton, and ubiquitous contributors like Joy Reid, Goldie Taylor, Karen Finney, Prof. Michael Eric Dyson, [former Republican National Committee] Chairman Michael Steele, Eugene Robinson, and Jonathan Capehart, is an organic result of the network's editorial philosophy, rather than an end unto itself, says Griffin.

" 'It wasn't like we said "Oh, we have to have a diverse person on here and there," ' he said. 'We made a decision. We made a commitment in ideas, issues and everything - the audience followed, and that goes back to four or five years ago. As we grew, we recognized that it was the right thing to do. It's giving a voice to people in these kinds of programs who don't always get a voice. Our look is as diverse as any on mainstream TV. I'm incredibly proud of it. It's not like we decided 'We're going to increase our African American viewership by 60%,' but I'm thrilled that it happened, and it says a lot about what we've been doing over the last few years.' . . . "

An MSNBC spokeswoman was unable to provide figures for Hispanic and Asian viewership.

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: MSNBC OR BET?

Rob Parker's 30-day suspension for comments he made on ESPN's "First Take" has become permanent, ESPN announced Tuesday.

"Rob Parker's contract expired at year's end. Evaluating our needs and his work, including his recent RGIII comments, we decided not to renew his deal," spokesman Josh Krulewitz said.

The announcement was made after Parker defended his comments once again on Detroit television Sunday, but Krulewitz told Journal-isms that the ESPN decision was based on his earlier "First Take" remarks.

In a story posted on the ESPN website, the network noted that during a Dec. 13 episode of "First Take" on ESPN2, Parker was discussing Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III's answer to a question about Griffin's role as an African American quarterback. "In questioning Griffin's 'blackness,' Parker cited that Griffin has a white fiancée and is rumored to be Republican."

Parker had said, "My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is ... is he a 'brother,' or is he a cornball 'brother'? He's not really ... he's black, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really like the guy you'd want to hang out with. I just want to find out about him. I don't know, because I keep hearing these things. . . ."

At first, ESPN said it was "conducting a full review." Then, on Dec. 20, the network said it had decided to suspend Parker for 30 days, tighten editorial oversight of the "First Take" show and was taking "appropriate disciplinary measures" against employees who played a role in allowing Parker's remarks on the air.

Richard Deitsch reported for Sports Illustrated on Tuesday that a "First Take" producer was suspended for a week. "Sources said other First Take behind the scenes staffers were disciplined," Deitsch wrote.

"With criticism of the show putting the network in a bad light, ESPN began enhanced editorial oversight on the program last week. Asked specifically what that oversight consisted of with the program, an ESPN spokesperson told SI.com on Tuesday that it meant active participation of ESPN's news desk in show planning meetings."

Parker did not keep silent during the suspension. He continued to work as a contributor to "Sports Final Edition," which airs Sunday nights on WDIV-TV, News Director Kim Voet told Journal-isms. He has been on the show since 1993.

James Jahnke reported in the Detroit Free Press Monday, "Asked on WDIV whether he could believe the force of the backlash, which resulted in a 30-day suspension, Parker said: "I can't believe it. Looking back on some of the comments, I can see where people could take it out of context and run with it. But the response and what happened over the past 30 days is just shocking."

"Parker said his comments were never meant to 'condemn the young man. RGIII is a great young man with a bright future. It was more about concerns, not condemning him.

" 'The one thing that I'm proud about being on that show, "First Take," for the last six years is that we are willing to tackle a lot of stuff that most shows won't even touch. I think it's important. I think we've done it in a really good way, and this is the first time, really, we've been in hot water.'

"Parker went on to say that 'you can't be afraid to talk about race. I haven't been my whole life ... that's what I bring to the table. I don't want to be a guy that's going to turn his back or run away from issues.' "

Parker could not be reached for comment after Tuesday's announcement that his ESPN contract was not renewed.

"It appears that the NWU has a settlement with the publishers of Heart & Soul magazine (H&S)," Barry Hock announced Wednesday for the National Writers Union. However, Larry Goldbetter, the union president, cautioned that nothing has been signed.

"We expect to have something signed by the end of the week," Goldbetter told Journal-isms by telephone.

Hock wrote, "NWU first got involved in this fight in October 2011. H&S focuses on health and wellness issues for black women -- unless, that is, you are one of the unpaid black women writers and editors who works there.

"H&S will sign a confession of judgment and pay the writers in six installments. The first payment was wired to an NWU member owed half the total amount and facing imminent foreclosure. As a result, she will keep her home. Another payment next week will keep another NWU member in her home.

"This is a big win and a good start to the New Year. It was made possible by the H&S writers themselves, who stuck together and kept organizing more writers to join the fight; the persistence of the NWU; and the UAW Legal Dept. closing the deal. As one writer said, 'Thanks [to] the whole NWU team! Your work is invaluable. I'm renewing my membership.' "

Journalist George Curry and his partners in Brown Curry Detry Taylor & Associates, LLC of Silver Spring, Md., announced in January 2012 that they had bought the 18-year-old publication from Edwin V. Avent, a Baltimore-based businessman who now heads a nascent cable network, Soul of the South.

The new Heart & Soul owners promised to compensate a group of angry writers who said they were owed more than $200,000 in back pay. Goldbetter told Journal-isms Wednesday that the figure now is 15 people owed $156,000.

Curry said in November that he had resigned as executive vice president/content and editorial director. Clarence I. Brown, president and CEO, and Patrick H. Detry, executive vice president, advertising, could not be reached Wednesday for comment.

Publication of the student newspaper at Florida A&M University, considered one of the best among historically black colleges and universities, is being "delayed" until Jan. 30, according to new Dean Ann Kimbrough of the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication, while she implements training for staff members.

"I did not do anything out of line," Kimbrough told Journal-isms by telephone on Wednesday. "There is nothing that I did that is not in keeping with our students' rights and privileges." She said "there had been neglect on the part of our administration" to ensure that students were sufficiently protected.

Students will continue working on the Famuan even though it will not be published, Kimbrough said.

Karl Etters, the student editor of the Famuan, had a different view. "I'm really hurt by it," he said of the delay. "This is my senior semester. Everyone is really excited to get started. It took the wind out of our sails. . . . We're being almost forced into opposing the administration." Etters noted that the delay would take place during President Obama's second inauguration and that some student journalists plan to be on buses to Washington.

Etters said he had talked with the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center, which advocates for student media.

"I'm frightened," Adam Goldstein, an attorney-advocate at the center, said of the development. "It really sounds like the dean is taking the position that the school can suspend publication for a month for no reason," he told Journal-isms by telephone. His organization issued a "news flash" on the development.

The publication delay is indirectly related to accreditation issues and to drum major Robert Champion's well-publicized hazing death in November 2011. "Investigations revealed many band members were not enrolled in the music course as required. Since then all student organizations on campus have come under more strict requirements," Jennifer Portman reported Wednesday in the Tallahassee Democrat.

Portman's story continued, "The publication postponement comes amid an ongoing review of the journalism school's student media outlets and associated student organizations, which revealed more than 20 of the roughly 100 various group members failed to meet grade-point and enrollment requirements last fall.

"Kimbrough, who came to FAMU as dean of the journalism school in August, said such requirements were in place but learned they weren't being followed after she ordered a check of student group member records from fall 2011 to fall 2012." She told Journal-isms that students are applying for the student newspaper positions because not all who were interested had a chance to do so.

". . . Such institutional control issues were among those flagged by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools last month when the accreditation body placed FAMU on a year's probation. State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan also recently pointed to the failure of FAMU personnel to enforce existing policies as contributing to deep-rooted problems at the university."

Moreover, "A Dec. 2, 2011, article in the student newspaper incorrectly stated senior Keon Hollis was one of four drum majors suspended in connection with Champion's death. Three days later, The Famuan posted a revised article on its website omitting Hollis' name and noting the fourth suspended student could not be identified. On Feb. 14, 2012, The Famuan published a correction, but the lawsuit noted it failed to say Hollis had nothing to do with Champion's death or the crime of hazing.

"Hollis' lawsuit, filed in Leon County Dec. 3 against the newspaper, university and its board of trustees, alleges the student newspaper failed to 'exercise ordinary care,' lacked a credible source for its information and failed to investigate what amounted to 'nothing more than unverified and unsubstantiated rumor and gossip.' The complaint contends Hollis' reputation was damaged by the implication he played a role in the hazing that killed Champion. No court dates have been set."

Andrew J. Skerritt, a veteran journalist who teaches journalism at FAMU, is no longer advising the Famuan, Kimbrough said. The change is "still a personnel issue" that took place "in another administration," she said, adding, "He's a stand-up guy."

Etters said he was "very, very upset" by Skerritt's departure as adviser. "Professor Skerritt has been my mentor since I've been at FAMU," he said. Skerritt has not responded to requests for comment.

"But his Jan. 7 Times obituary plays up another aspect of his life of which I was previously unaware. It was Shapiro, then an editor at the New York Times Magazine, who assigned Martin Luther King Jr. to write his 1963 'Letter From Birmingham Jail,' [also called "Letter from Birmingham City Jail"] which today ranks as one of the preeminent literary-historical documents of the 20th century.

"The assignment would have assured Shapiro a place in magazine-editor heaven if the Times Magazine had published the result. But it didn't. Rejected, the letter ended up (under the headline, 'The Negro Is Your Brother') in the Atlantic."

". . . The Times, S. Jonathan Bass reports in Blessed Are The Peacemakers: Martin Luther King, Eight White Religious Leaders, and the 'Letter From Birmingham Jail,' initially scheduled the letter for publication in late May. But first it wanted (in the recollection of King adviser Stanley Levison) a 'little introduction setting forth the circumstances of the piece.' Then it decided, no, what it really wanted was for King to 'write a feature article based on the letter.' Or, possibly, it wanted both. Before King had a chance to jump through these hoops, the New York Post (in those distant days a plausible rival to the Times) got a copy of the letter and published unauthorized excerpts, killing the Times's interest. . . ."

Addressing black journalists in 1984, King lieutenant Andrew Young used King's jailhouse letter to illustrate the power of the written word. He said at a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists in Atlanta:

"We give a lot of credit to the demonstrations in the civil rights movement. But those demonstrations wouldn't have meant a thing in Birmingham had it not been for the letter from a Birmingham jail," Young said. "It was the articulation of the ideas coming from that black community in an eloquent written statement by Martin Luther King, a statement that he wrote around the ridges of the New York Times. They wouldn't let him have any paper to write on, but they would bring the newspapers, so every day he would write on the margins of the newspaper and would get it out, and when he got through with that, he would write on the toilet paper that was left.

"And the secretary that transcribed it didn't have sense enough to keep it, because we are not appreciative of the written word. We don't understand that the pen is as powerful - more powerful - than the sword, still in this day and time."

A reporter who stayed in Haiti for more than a year after its devastating January 2010 earthquake estimates that of the $2.43 billion spent on ostensible humanitarian relief by the end of 2010, a mere 7 percent actually made its way to Haiti, Justin Peters reported Wednesday in Columbia Journalism Review.

Peters reviews Jonathan Katz's "The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left a Disaster."

". . . Katz, a former AP correspondent, was the only full-time American reporter stationed in Haiti when the quake hit; he stayed for more than a year thereafter, reporting on the charitable aftershocks - as small donations were mishandled by ngos [non-governmental organizations], as big donations never materialized, and as the world gradually lost interest and left Haiti to fend for itself.

"The book is both a primer on how and why reconstructions fail, and an indictment of the benign paternalism that motivates donors, developers, and other do-gooders to impose their will on distraught places that they pity but don't bother to understand.

". . . Throughout, Katz questions the wisdom of entrusting the reconstruction to people who didn't live in Haiti, weren't personally affected by the earthquake, and would be on the first plane out when telegenic tragedy struck elsewhere.

". . . The Big Truck That Went By is, among other things, a testament to the value of journalists who are actually familiar with the countries they cover; of [searchers] like Jonathan Katz, who reject the oversimplified narratives that characterize so much of crisis journalism, and know that the more time you spend in a troubled place, the harder it becomes to understand. Shortly after the earthquake, he writes, foreign journalists played a game in which they attempted to describe Haiti in a single word. 'Diseased' was one entry. 'Violent' was another. Katz's response was different. 'I took the paper and wrote: HERE.' "

"The next time Notah Begay is inside the ropes on the PGA Tour, he'll be holding a microphone instead of a golf club," Doug Ferguson reported for the Associated Press Wednesday from Kapalua, Hawaii.

"Begay starts a new line of work this week at the Sony Open as a full-time member of the broadcast team for NBC Sports and Golf Channel. He will be a walking course reporter at Waialae Country Club.

"An opening was created when Dottie Pepper, who joined the board of the PGA of America, retired from NBC last year to pursue programs geared toward junior golf.

"Begay is a Navajo, the only full-blooded American Indian to play on the PGA Tour. He won four times on the Tour until his career was slowed by back injuries.

". . . A former teammate of Tiger Woods at Stanford, Begay has been devoting much of his time to his foundation that he established in 2005, providing health and wellness education for Indian youth. He hosts the annual NB3 Challenge at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in New York, which attracts Woods and other top players. . . ."

"Teresita 'Tita' Dioso Gillespie, a longtime editor at 'Newsweek' magazine, died on December 18 at the Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Maryland, after suffering several complications following a heart attack a few weeks ago," GMA News Online, which calls itself "The Go-To Site for Filipinos Everywhere," reported on Tuesday.

"She was 70 and is survived by her husband of 42 years, Brette Gillespie, a retired Navy officer.

"Ms. Gillespie was a trailblazer for Asian women - and Filipino women in particular - in the field of magazine editing. In its June 2000 issue, 'Filipinas' magazine gave Gillespie an Achievement Award for being the first Filipina to serve as 'Newsweek's' general editor, noting 'Gillespie belongs to a short list of top-caliber Filipino journalists who have increasing influence in the international print media.'

"She took her role as a pioneering Filipina editor in the U.S. seriously, speaking about her experiences at seminars and mentoring several Asian American journalists, including her nephew, John Dioso, who went on to become a managing editor of 'Rolling Stone,' 'Martha Stewart Living' and 'Us Weekly.' . . . "

"Django Unchained" and "Lincoln," two films addressing slavery, won multiple Academy Award nominations, Philip Yu reported Thursday for Yahoo News. "Django Unchained" was nominated for best picture, best supporting actor (Christoph Waltz), best original screenplay, best cinematography and best sound editing. "Lincoln" led with 12 nominations: best picture, best actor (Daniel Day-Lewis), best supporting actress (Sally Field); best supporting actor (Tommy Lee Jones), best director (Steven Spielberg), best adapted screenplay, best cinematography, best costume design, best film editing, best original score, best production design and best sound mixing. Denzel Washington was nominated for best actor for "Flight." [Added Jan. 10]

  . . When Bridgette Lacy lost her state government job, she created a new career for herself [audio], writing an unemployment column for the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina," Dick Gordon reported Tuesday for "Jobs in America," a series he began on his "The Story" radio program on American Public Media. Lacy has been a reporter in Binghamton, N.Y., and Raleigh, N.C., and has written fiction and battled a brain tumor.

Two weeks ago, the Journal-News published the names and addresses of handgun permit holders -- a total of 33,614 -- in the two suburban New York counties in which it circulates, Westchester and Rockland, and put maps of their locations online, Christine Haughney reported Sunday in the New York Times. Since then, "Personal information about editors and writers at the paper has been posted online, including their home addresses and information about where their children attended school; some reporters have received notes saying they would be shot on the way to their cars; bloggers have encouraged people to steal credit card information of Journal News employees; and two packages containing white powder have been sent to the newsroom and a third to a reporter's home (all were tested by the police and proved to be harmless). . . . "

Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy tied the "bad karma" that accompanies the name of the Washington Redskins NFL team to the team's playoff loss Sunday. "So, Washington football fans, how's that offensive team name and demeaning sports mascot working out?" Milloy wrote Tuesday. "Whooping and hollering as RGIII goes on a 'Redskins' warpath only to leave a trail of tears when his wounded knee gets buried at FedEx Field," he continued in a reference to quarterback Robert Griffin III. Meanwhile, D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray suggested that any deal to move the stadium within city limits would require a name change, or at least discussion of one, the Post's Mike DeBonis reported.

" 'Reportero,' which debuted Monday night on POV on PBS, follows a veteran reporter and his colleagues at Zeta, a Tijuana-based independent newsweekly, 'as they stubbornly ply their trade in one of the deadliest places in the world for members of the media,' " Kevin Roderick noted Tuesday for LAObserved. ". . . Watch the trailer below or stream the entire 55-minute film online until February 6."

In Pittsburgh, NewsGuild, also known as The Newspaper Guild-CWA, denounced Pittsburgh police Wednesday over an incident in which Jonathan Silver and Liz Navratil of the Post-Gazette "wrote a polite, professional email to the department's public information officer about a New Years' homicide/suicide and the police response to it. The email described what the reporters knew about the incident, followed by a detailed series of questions. Their response came via press release sent to 200 reporters: The chief's office would be making no statement about the investigation. Instead, police attached the full transcript of Silver and Navratil's email and all of their questions, revealing the extent of the reporters' own investigation." Diane Richard, the department's public information officer who was identified as having sent out the press release, did not respond to an email from Journal-isms.

"The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today has called on the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) to mobilize and address the security of journalists after the arrests and detention in communicado of a journalist in The Gambia," the federation said on Tuesday. "Authorities in The Gambia must reveal the whereabouts of journalist Abdoulie John and release him immediately. This journalist was literally kidnapped yesterday by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He is in grave danger since he has been undertaking never ending questionings at the NIA all these last two weeks."

The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA)-Swaziland Wednesday condemned the violent assault of Swazi Observer journalist Eugene Dube on Friday while he was covering a funeral in an area where the chieftancy was in dispute. When a deputy sheriff stopped the funeral, the mob began "meting out mob justice" to the deputy, then turned on the journalist, who was taking pictures. Soldiers came to his rescue.

"At least five independent bloggers were sentenced today to harsh jail terms in Vietnam, according to local and international news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday. The committee condemned the sentences and called on Vietnamese authorities to reverse the charges on appeal and release the bloggers.

"A radio journalist in Tanzania's western region of Kigoma was found dead on Tuesday with medical reports showing that he was hanged by unknown assailants," the Xinhua News Agency reported. "Police identified the journalist as 45-year-old Issa Ngumba working with an independent radio station called Radio Kwizera. . . . Observers in Kakonko said Ngumba's death might be connected to his report about a pastoralist, Imani Paulo, who was reported to have eaten parts of his shepherd's body."

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