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Eric Holder at the Department of Justice, May 29, 2013 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. told visiting journalists of color Monday that if the Justice Department had to conduct its recent leak investigations over again, it would give news organizations notice "so as not to give the impression that journalists were feeling criminalized and the target of the investigation," according to Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Balta attended the meeting with Holder and his aides along with Anna Lopez Buck, executive director of NAHJ, and Walt Swanston, interim executive director of Unity: Journalists for Diversity.

The hour-long meeting at the Justice Department took place without the National Association of Black Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, all of which declined an invitation because it was billed as off the record.

On social media, some of these groups' members derided the meeting as a publicity stunt or "photo op" intended to help Holder "cover his ass" in light of the criticism he received from members of the media. (A Justice Department spokeswoman said no photos had been taken.)

However, Balta told Journal-isms by telephone after the meeting, Holder quickly agreed that the session could be on the record. "It was a very positive, constructive meeting," Balta said.

"He felt the perception was that his team was going after the reporters when he was really going after the leakers, and he did not want to give the impression that his office feels journalists were a target."

Balta said that he suggested that in the name of inclusion, any Justice Department materials provided the news media be available in Spanish for Spanish-language media, and that Holder "was open to that," Balta said. 

Moreover, the NAHJ president invited Holder to NAHJ's summer convention, adding that he would create a means for NAHJ members to make comments directly to the Justice Department as it reviews its guidelines for leak investigations. The NAHJ convention will be part of the annual Excellence in Journalism Conference Aug. 24-26 in Anaheim, Calif., which is staged with the Radio Television Digital News Association and the Society of Professional Journalists.

Journalists, media organizations and others were alarmed when the Associated Press disclosed on May 13 that the Justice Department had seized records for 20 separate phone lines over a two-month period as part of a leak investigation.

Also at issue is the Justice Department's monitoring of James Rosen, a Fox News reporter based in Washington. Rosen allegedly spoke to Stephen Jin-Woo Kim, a State Department contractor, for a story about North Korea's nuclear program.

The Justice Department charged Kim with violating the Espionage Act for his contact with Rosen, whose reporting disclosed that the United States had a source in the Korean leadership. In order to justify its search warrants for Rosen's private correspondence, the Justice Department labeled Rosen a "co-conspirator" with Kim because he made an arrangement with him about how to get him information, the Washington Post reported.

However, as PBS' Gwen Ifill noted on ABC's "This Week" Sunday, no journalist has been prosecuted.

On May 23, President Obama ordered a review of the Justice Department's procedures for legal investigations involving reporters, acknowledging that he was "troubled" that multiple inquiries into national security leaks could chill investigative reporting, as Mark Landler reported then for the New York Times.

Later that day, the Justice Department announced that "As part of that review, the Attorney General will consult a diverse and representative group of media organizations. . . ."

Holder's message on Monday appeared to track with what he told representatives of news organizations at meetings last week, when a number of news outlets similarly boycotted in protest of the off-the-record stipulation.

Charlie Savage wrote for the New York Times after the first meetingThursday:

Savage quoted an unnamed adviser familiar with the deliberations as saying the early discussions "had focused on whether to tighten the rule about giving advance notice to news organizations before their records are subpoenaed, allowing them to negotiate over its scope or challenge it in court.

"The current rule for calling log subpoenas says that prior notice and negotiations 'shall be pursued in all cases' where a high-level official 'determines that such negotiations would not pose a substantial threat to the integrity of the investigation.' It is ambiguous whether that means prior notification is the general presumption or the exception.

"There are signs that the government has been lately interpreting the rule to avoid notifying journalists, including subpoenas for call logs of The A.P. and Fox News reporters that came to light this month," Savage wrote. "For example, the investigation into an The A.P. article about a foiled bomb plot in Yemen was public knowledge, and the records were held by a phone company, so it is not clear how advance notice to The A.P. could have posed a threat. . . ."

Holder told Monday's guests that he had found the three days of sessions with the news media, which are to continue, very useful in educating him about how news is gathered.

Balta said that it was "definitely well worth taking the invitation. I certainly understand and respect" the organizations that declined, but that he believed, "It's important for us to be at the table if we want to effect positive change."

Peter BakerCharlie Savage and Jonathan Weisman, New York Times: Seeking a Fresh Start, Holder Finds a Fresh Set of Troubles

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Targeting Eric Holder

Editorial, Los Angeles Times: Shielding journalists, by law 

Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Yes, Barack Obama has made mistakes (May 31)

Bill Keller, New York Times: Secrets and Leaks

Alex Lazar and Jordy Yager, the Hill: AP, Fox News not isolated First Amendment controversies for DOJ

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Criminalizing journalism (May 29)

Brendan Nyhan, Columbia Journalism Review: No, the scandals aren’t dragging down Obama's ratings (yet) 

The new Soul of the South television network, debuted on Memorial Day, plans daily coverage of the trial of neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman for second-degree-murder in the shooting of African American teenager Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla., in February 2012.

Tom Jacobs, national news director of the African American-oriented network, said the coverage will begin on June 17, proceeding from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Central time. It will be anchored by Vickie Newton, a fixture in St. Louis for more than a decade when she left KMOV-TV last year to be closer to family in Arkansas. Soul of the South is headquartered in Little Rock.

Others on the news team are Willy Walker, national managing editor; Ray Metoyer, national planning director/coordinator; and Roy Hobbs, anchor. All are veterans, with more than 200 years' experience among them, Jacobs said.

Jacobs spoke on a conference call Monday with the other team members and offered the Zimmerman trial as an example of how the network would be different from others. "I don't know that the case has been covered as much as commented on," Jacobs said, adding that the network would bring a perspective without becoming advocates.

"There are so many stories of people who are making a difference," Metoyer added. "There are stories that are not being told that need to be told." Speaking of existing programming, Newton said, "The African American narrative is not just negative, yet that's what we've come to expect. What I've discovered is that African Americans appreciate good storytelling. All of that can be found at Soul of the South."

Jacobs said the network would include other people of color when appropriate. "We are primarily African American, but I don't want to ignore issues affecting Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans. If there are stories that intersect with what we are doing, we'll certainly report on that."

The network is still hiring journalists; Jacobs said job-hunters should check its website. The daily newscast, which is to air at 7 p.m. Central time, begins in mid-July. The Washington-based "Capital Eye" show, on political issues, is scheduled to start about Labor Day and "Morning Call," a two-hour morning show that will at first originate in Little Rock, then move to Washington, starts in mid-September. Newton is to be one of its co-anchors.

"Newspaper people make decisions about what to cover and what to emphasize every day," Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, wrote for Sunday's print edition. "They have finite resources -- only so much space in the paper, only so many reporters -- and they have to choose. In this context, one question I've been thinking about for several months is this: How well does The Times cover those who live in poverty and the news that affects them?

Sullivan continued, "Based on reading, interviewing and simply paying more attention, I've made some observations.

"First, when The Times does write about poverty -- whether in a special series or a long feature article -- it usually does so with depth and intelligence. The amount and intensity of the coverage, however, may not be in proportion to the size of the problem. One in six Americans live in poverty, and it's worse for children: one in five. In New York City, it is commonplace to see men and women sleeping on the street. Among the city's 8 million residents, 1.5 million don't have enough to eat; a third of those are children.

"Occasional coverage -- no matter how excellent -- doesn't get the job done.

"The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism found that in 52 major mainstream news outlets, including The Times, combined coverage of poverty amounted to far less than 1 percent of all front-page articles. The Times may do better than some, but given New York City's high poverty rate and The Times's special responsibility as the nation's dominant paper, with the most plentiful resources, there should be more. . . ."

D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center: Americans' Views about Poverty and Economic Well-Being (Sept. 12, 2012)

 

 

"It's not all altruism. The destruction MSNBC also wants to avoid is the havoc such news has been wreaking on its competitive standing.

"In May, MSNBC, which generally runs second to the dominant leader, Fox News, among cable news channels, plunged all the way to fourth place, dropping behind not only its closest rival, CNN, but also that network's sister channel, HLN (formerly Headline News).

"At a time of intensely high interest in news, MSNBC's ratings declined from the same period a year ago by about 20 percent. The explanation, in the network's own analysis, comes down to this: breaking news is not really what MSNBC does.

" 'We're not the place for that,' said Phil Griffin, the channel's president, in reference to covering breaking events as CNN does. 'Our brand is not that.'

"The brand, one MSNBC has cultivated with success, is defined by its tagline, 'The Place for Politics,' and a skew toward left-wing, progressive political talk, the opposite of the conservative-based approach that has worked well for Fox News. . . ."

In January, Tommy Christopher reported for Mediaite that MSNBC had more African American viewers than CNN and Fox News combined.

They are "recipients of a national scholarship program targeted at college students whose innovative projects exemplify the new journalist in the digital media age. The Online News Association, the world's largest membership organization of digital journalists, administers the program," an announcement said. It added, "A key goal is to promote geographic, gender and ethnic diversity and identify and support creative new talent and work in the field."

The four are Adam AllevatoNilkanth Patel, Nonny de la Peña and Erik Reyna.

Allevato, 20, "is a junior in Mechanical Engineering at Colorado State University (CSU) in Fort Collins, Colo., the Webmaster for Rocky Mountain Student Media Corporation, the student voice at CSU, and has helped transition the organization to an online-first, demand-driven newsroom. Adam's project is a deeply-integrated news platform built on WordPress that is being designed with requirements determined by user experience and consumer needs."

Patel, 24, "is an Editorial Production Associate for The New Yorker, where he helps put together the magazine's print and digital editions. He'll begin a two-year dual M.S. degree program at Columbia University this fall, where he'll study Journalism and Computer Science, focusing on the impact of data visualization in the newsroom. His project will focus on making interactive news a more pervasive component of reporting by creating tools to make data visualization quicker and easier for budding journalists.

De la Peña "is an Annenberg Fellow doctoral candidate in the Interdivisional Media Arts Program at the USC's School of Cinematic Arts. Her focus is on pioneering Immersive Journalism, a groundbreaking way for [first-person] experiences of the news using virtual reality and gaming platforms. A graduate of Harvard University, she is a former correspondent for Newsweek Magazine, her award-winning documentary films have screened in more than 50 cities globally and she also co-founded the Knight News Challenge winner Stroome.

"Reyna, 25, is a graduate student at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism studying New Media. His project will focus on developing a website to assist non-programmer journalists in the creation of news package templates through the use of code snippets."

Veronica Villafañe, editor and publisher of the Media Moves website and columnist for Poder Hispanic magazine, is joining impreMedia Digital as web editor, West Division.

"I will be in charge of the front pages for the online pubs of La Opinion, El Mensajero and Rumbo (LaOpinion.com, ElMensajero.com and RumboTx.com) and help develop strategy to improve readership/traffic of the sites," Villafañe told Journal-isms by email.

A past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Villafañe is a former anchor and reporter for the San Jose Mercury News "convergence" arrangement with the local NBC affiliate.

"I will continue Media Moves!" she said. "I'll be pulling double duty, as well as continuing my column on Poder magazine."

The New York Times "Retro Report" Monday examined the case of Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old African-American girl from the New York area, whose claims to have been abducted and repeatedly raped by six white men were found to be a hoax. Al Sharpton, activist and now MSNBC host, was Brawley's spokesman. "Last week, Retro Report interviewed Mr. Sharpton and asked whether, 25 years later, he felt that any crime had occurred at all," according to the story by Michael Winerip. " 'Whatever happened,' he answered, 'you're dealing with a minor who was missing four days. So it's clear that something wrong happened.' Not exactly contrite."

Gil Robertson, a freelance writer who most recently edited "Where Did Our Love Go: Essays on Love & Relationships in the African American Community," highly recommends books as a way for professional writers to make a living. He told Tomika Anderson of Black Enterprise magazine Friday, "you might be looking at anywhere between $15,000 to $25,000 for a healthy advance. What you don't want to do, however, is have your advance be so high that you don't earn out, because if you don't earn out then the book is looked at as being a failure. . . . Essentially a book proposal is a business proposal, and, essentially, your publisher is your chief investor. Based on the proposal, Publisher A says, 'Ok, fine I will invest in that. In exchange for that -- after you've fulfilled my initial investment -- I will pay you a royalty.' " Writers can build on that income with speaking engagements, he said.

The Atlantic Wire plans to increase its staff as its audience continues to grow, from 11 people now to about 15 in the fall, David Taintor reported Friday for adweek. "I want to do original-original reporting," Editor Gabriel Snyder explained. "I want to do original reporting that people haven't done 15 times before. . . ." The Atlantic Wire features such writers as Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Fallows.

"A new poll released Tuesday by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Harvard School of Public Health found that the overwhelming majority of black people (86 percent) said they were satisfied with their lives. Nearly 60 percent said they would eventually achieve the American dream of financial security and home ownership," Gene Demby reported for NPR's Code Switch project. One surprise, "men were much more likely to say that they were looking for a long-term relationship (43 percent) than were women (25 percent)."  [Added Jan. 4]

"African-American teens are more likely to use Twitter, more likely to be Facebook friends with celebrities, athletes, or musicians, and more likely to use a fake name on social media when compared to white teens,Jenny Xie wrote for PBS MediaShift, reporting on a Pew Research Center study of teens and social media. Researcher danah boyd explained, "I found that black youth are more likely to be interested in engaging in public spaces, although they’re also more likely to want to be pseudonymous in those public spaces; Pew's data suggests that this is a common practice. I also found that black youth are more likely to be engaged in and with pop culture; Pew's finding that teens engage with celebrities affirms what I've been seeing. These norms and practices are rooted in broader cultural patterns and practices. Social media is simply making visible cultural divisions that have existed for a long time. . . . "

"Thousands of protesters have demonstrated in the Ethiopian capital to demand the release of jailed journalists and activists," the BBC reported Sunday. "It is the first major demonstration on the streets of Addis Ababa since 2005 when hundreds of protesters were killed in violence. . . ." Reuters added, "More than 10 journalists have been charged under the anti-terrorism law, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, which says Ethiopia has the highest number of exiled journalists in the world. . . ."

"Shabelle Media is Somalia's largest news outlet -- and a very dangerous place to workGregory Warnerreported Monday for NPR. "Of the 12 journalists gunned down in the country last year, four were reporting for Shabelle." A number of the reporters are teenagers, some as young as 15, and sometimes they are ordered to slander people. Mohammed Garane, a journalist living in exile who is on the executive board of the National Union of Somali Journalists, "says that for the killings of journalists to cease, the country needs a better legal system, or the targets of slander will always be driven to street justice. 'There is no court that a person can go to report his anger,' he says. 'So he takes a pistol, and he kills the journalist.' " 

As a follow up to a March discussion of the Philadelphia magazine article, "Being White in Philly," the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists held a discussion last week called "Being Other in Philly," "where we gathered editors from the city's leading ethnic publications Black, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish and representing the LGBT community to discuss the importance of diversity through the media in heavily majority-minority Philadelphia," said Johann Calhoun, president of the association. Coverage of the discussion is in PABJ PRISM magazine, a multimedia portal crafted by the chapter's multimedia team. 

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