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Screenshot of the Sept. 23 edition of the New Yorker

With so much distressing news about news-media backsliding on diversity, it was refreshing to come across the cover of the Sept. 23 edition of the New Yorker showing a white boy and a black girl holding hands as they navigate New York.

It was even more remarkable to hear the New Yorker's art director, Paris-born Françoise Mouly, explain that the images were deliberate.

"It's cartoon language for diversity," Mouly told Journal-isms Friday by telephone. "We think of our town as one of many different ethnic backgrounds." Showing the couple was "one of the ways you can represent diversity. It stands for different languages, different ethnic backgrounds. That was the most efficient way. When we do images, we want to make sure that what the cartoon represents is inclusive."

New York, she continued, "is not just white characters. It's not the reality that we live every day in New York.

"I think it's important," Mouly continued. "Yes, you have to be aware of it when you're making images: Every little element counts."

The 2010 Census Bureau found New York to be 44 percent "white alone"; 25.5 percent "black or African American alone"; 0.7 percent "American Indian and Alaska Native alone"; 12.7 percent "Asian alone"; 0.1 percent "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone", 4 percent two or more races; 28.6 percent Hispanic or Latino; and 33.3 percent "white alone, not Hispanic or Latino."

Meanwhile, Jennifer Vanasco, writing in Columbia Journalism Review, wrote that 20 years after the death of her father, Robert C. Maynard, Dori J. Maynard is troubled by what she sees as a decrease in attention paid to diversity in newsrooms."

The last 10 years have been " 'somewhat of a challenge when it comes to the issue of diversity in journalism,' Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, said in an interview. 'As one industry leader said a few years ago, "When it comes to diversity, it's not only on the backburner — it's not even in the kitchen.' "

David Balzer, Random House Canada: Françoise Mouly is the Talk of the Town (May 19)

NABJ Members Start Website "To Help With Transparency"nabjboardwatch.org, says. "It should also be a part of our job within NABJ. We should ask questions such as: Are board members upholding campaign pledges? Are their actions in the best interests of members? Are their decisions made openly and responsibly? The NABJ Board Watch web site exists solely to ensure that board members are following the NABJ constitution and bylaws and communicating actions with members. It also exists to highlight success. . . . "

Vocal and influential members of the National Association of Black Journalists who challenged the direction of the organization at last month's national convention in Orlando — including five former NABJ presidents — have created a website that they say is designed to keep the association's leaders transparent and accountable.

"Journalists hold elected officials accountable as part of the job," the website,

NABJ President Bob Butler, asked whether the existence of the site was a good thing, told Journal-isms, "No. Much of the information on the site is false and/or taken out of context." Asked for examples, he said, "The part about a flagrant violation and my 'refusal to post the governance report despite the wishes of board members.' "

The site says at the top of the home page, "Flagrant Violation: [Executive Director Maurice] Foster refuses to honor commitment to post NABJ paid board expenses. Pres. Butler and Treasurer [Keith] Reed [ignore] wishes of other board members to make the postings public on NABJ.org . .  . "

The August election pitted Butler and other incumbents who supported Foster against allies of outgoing President Gregory H. Lee Jr. and challengers who said the association was headed in the wrong direction with Foster as executive director. Butler and nearly all incumbents won.

Among the detractors was NABJ's Finance Committee, chaired by former NABJ President Condace Pressley. Pressley and former NABJ presidents Vanessa Williams, Barbara Ciara, Will Sutton and Sidmel Estes, along with longtime members Sheila Brooks and Paula Madison, are among the charter members of the NABJ Coalition for Transparency & Accountability, as the website's backers are called.

Another is Drew Berry, a former television general manager and news director who is a past chairman of NABJ's Finance Committee and former NABJ interim executive director.

The site "started a couple of weeks after the convention because a group of us are very concerned about the constant cycle of surprises especially regarding NABJ finances," Berry said by email. "Motions passed at the business meeting typically go in a hole somewhere and are not acted on; there is little follow through.

"Additionally, communications are not good on many matters; sometimes deliberate and sometimes just because people get too busy to share information.

"People should not be surprised about the financial vitality of the organization and they should know if their leaders are doing what they promised to do in their campaigns or board meetings.

"That said, in the best interest of NABJ, the website was created to help with transparency and accountability while attempting to communicate with members relevant information that may not normally be found on NABJ's website.

"IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE THAT THE SITE IS NOT DESIGNED TO BE ADVERSARIAL, THOUGH A COUPLE OF BOARD MEMBERS NOT WANTING THE SPOTLIGHT ON THEM HAVE POSITIONED IT AS SUCH. Most board members are communicating with us in a very positive spirit in spite of the leadership requesting they limit their conversations. . . ."

Membership in NABJ, the largest of the journalist of color organizations, stood at 2,986 in July.

The NABJ Journal, the organization's magazine, covered board activities when it was a newspaper during the 1990s. Those reports now are delivered only at convention time by the student convention newspaper. However, Butler told Journal-isms, "I have nothing against someone covering the board meetings."

While "Americans are stubbornly confounded about the health-care law known to many as Obamacare," according to a new Washington Post/ABC News survey, polling also shows that "A stunning 91 percent of the black Americans who responded said they approved of Obamacare while only 29 percent of whites did," Maxwell Strachan reported Monday for the Huffington Post.

Strachan cited a new Pew Research survey of 1,506 people conducted with USA Today.

The health care law roared back into the headlines as "House Republicans muscled through a stopgap bill Friday that would fund the government only if all spending for President Obama's health care law is eliminated," Jonathan Weisman reported for the New York Times. "Senate Democrats and President Obama quickly made it clear they had no intention of going along, putting the government on a course toward a shutdown unless one side relents.

"The 230-to-189 party-line vote in a bitterly divided House set in motion a fiscal confrontation with significant implications — politically and economically — but with an uncertain ending. Without a resolution, large parts of the government could shut down Oct. 1, and a first-ever default on federal debt could follow weeks later. . . ."

A failure to perceive the racial differences in support for the Affordable Care Act has led some commentators to assert that the law is generally unpopular.

Strachan continued, "The black community's high level of support for Obamacare now more closely mirrors its approval of President Barack Obama overall. The president registered an average approval rating of 89 percent among black Americans between 2009-2013, Gallup reported in August. . . ."

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: No food for you. Invisible in North Carolina.

Edward Schumacher-Matos, NPR: What We Hear When NPR Refers To 'Obamacare' (Sept. 6)

Whites have a more negative view of the news media than do nonwhites, according to a new Gallup Poll.

Only 39 percent of whites said they had a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media "when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately and fairly," but 56 percent of nonwhites said so.

By contrast, 60 percent of whites answered "not very much" or "none at all," Gallup said in responses broken out for Journal-isms. Only 44 percent of nonwhites answered that way.

Overall, "Americans' confidence in the accuracy of the mass media has improved slightly after falling to an all-time low last year," Elizabeth Mendes reported Thursday for Gallup. "Now, 44% say they have a great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in the mass media, identical to 2011 but up from 40% in 2012, the lowest reading since Gallup regularly began tracking the question in 1997."

Mendes also wrote, "Perceptions of a liberal media bias are particularly strong among Republicans and conservatives, with 74% and 73%, respectively, saying the media are too liberal. However, half of independents also call it too liberal, while most Democrats call it 'just about right.' . . ."

The survey included 300 nonwhite respondents. The poll was based on telephone interviews conducted Sept. 5-8, with a random sample of 1,510 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A spokeswoman said the nonwhite sample size was too small to refine further.

Dr. Vanessa Shelton, a longtime University of Iowa journalism instructor who founded summer journalism workshops for high school students that attracted large numbers of students of color in the overwhelmingly white state, has won the Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship, the Association of Opinion Journalists Foundation told Shelton on Friday.

Journal-isms readers sent in nominations for the award, which is given to an educator who encourages students of color in the field of journalism. The award is to be presented at the Association of Opinion Journalists convention Oct. 13-15 in Newport, R.I. Recipients receive a $1,000 award to help them continue their work with students of color.

One nominating letter for Shelton began:

"In April 2013 the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication held its annual Fourth Estate Banquet, a dinner and ceremony to honor the best students from the academic year with scholarships. Each student stood individually to be recognized. A short biography was read. One student, [an] African-American woman, stood to these words: 'She says her interest in journalism began at a journalism camp she attended in elementary school.'

"The camp was the Iowa Summer Journalism Academies, a program founded by longtime University of Iowa SJMC instructor Dr. Vanessa Shelton. Now in its 15th year, the Academies have operated with the mission to bring journalism education to culturally diverse urban centers in Iowa. More than 1,000 elementary students have come through the program. Hundreds stuck with it, eventually joining their high school publications, and dozens have gone on to attend college on scholarships to study journalism. It all began with Shelton's vision.

"In 2003, the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication honored the Academies nationally by naming it the top Innovative Outreach Program. That award, technically, went to the University of Iowa. Now it is time to honor the true innovator, Dr. Shelton, who was the driving force behind the program.

"Demographically, the Academies are usually 50 percent comprised by students of minority status, which might not sound significant until one realizes that Shelton's state, Iowa, is 93 percent white, among the least diverse states in the country.

"Dr. Shelton's contributions to minorities in journalism only begin with the Academies. In her previous position as director of the University of Iowa Summer Journalism Workshops, Shelton was the chief writer of a grant that provided scholarships to minority students. The grant has now been awarded annually for more than a decade, a sign of the program's success. Additionally, Dr. Shelton serves as a consultant to the University of Iowa McCormick Scholar program, which brings 12-20 culturally and socially diverse Chicago high school students to Iowa City each summer on a full scholarship to attend the University of Iowa Summer Journalism Workshops.

"Dr. Shelton also serves as campus sponsor for the local chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists. Since 2007, she has been executive director of Quill & Scroll, the international honor society for high school journalism. . . ."

"A major stake in a South African newspaper group might seem an unusual acquisition for Chinese state television, but it was no mystery to anyone who has watched the rapid expansion of China's media empire across Africa.

"From newspapers and magazines to satellite television and radio stations, China is investing heavily in African media. It's part of a long-term campaign to bolster Beijing's 'soft power' – not just through diplomacy, but also through foreign aid, business links, scholarships, training programs, academic institutes and the media.

"Its investments have allowed China to promote its own media agenda in Africa, using a formula of upbeat business and cultural stories and a deferential pro-government tone, while ignoring human-rights issues and the backlash against China's own growing power.

"The formula is a familiar one used widely in China's domestic media. It leads to a tightly controlled pro-China message, according to journalists and ex-journalists at the Africa branch of CCTV, the Chinese state television monopoly that owns China International Television and launched a new headquarters in Nairobi last year.

"It was 'our way or the highway,' recalls a journalist who worked in Ethiopia for CCTV. . . ."

Greater use of social media, stronger ties between African youth and their American counterparts and an increase in instruction about Africa in the U.S. educational system were among suggestions made Thursday in a 90-minute discussion of strategies to improve the media image of Africa.

Other ideas proffered by the media and Africa experts included greater attention to media diversity at American news organizations (one of this columnist's suggestions), more effective skills training for African journalists, a continentwide cable television network similar to Al Jazeera and more support for a free press on the continent, too often looked at as one country instead of 54.

The conferees at the 90-minute session, held at World Bank headquarters in Washington and organized by Julia A. Wilson, CEO and founder of Wilson Global Communications, agreed that the media image of Africa has improved in recent years. Headlines in the Economist magazine, for example, went from "Hopeless Africa" in 2000 to "Africa rising" in 2011.

But Hazel Trice Edney, founder and editor-in-chief of the Trice Edney News Wire and former editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, said that on her first trip to Africa, she was "afraid a lion was going to jump out" at her. Instead, she saw modern office buildings.

Similarly, a Howard University student said that when she planned a return trip to Nigeria, "somebody asked me to bring back a lion head."

Cloves Campbell Jr., chairman of the NNPA, the trade group of U.S. black newspaper publishers, said his publications want to increase their coverage of Africa and recalled when correspondents such as the Final Call's Askia Muhammad filed stories for the black press from abroad. Edney said she discovered that an effective way to engage African American readers was to emphasize injustice in stories where that was a factor. Readers relate to Martin Luther King Jr.'s quotation, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere," she said.

Social media can be used to circumvent the international media's focus on disease, corruption and war, participants said. "I don't yet see an international African cable TV that can be repeated online and on mobile devices," one observed.

African governments were another piece of the puzzle, according to Amare Aregawi, executive director of the Horn of Africa Press Institute. Referring to the African Union, he said, "Ask the AU what have you done for African media for the last 50 years." Said another, "Let the African countries respect the agreements they have signed" regarding a free press.

Graham Peebles, CounterPunch: Ethiopian Regime Repression

"Ann Curry's interview with [Iranian] president Hassan Rouhani was undoubtedly the biggest moment in her career since she was ousted from the 'Today' show in 2012," Jack Mirkinson reported Thursday for the Huffington Post.

"The interview was the first Rouhani has given to any Western journalist since he was elected. Speaking to Andrea Mitchell, Curry said it was his first interview of any kind for years. Moreover, Curry stole the limelight from CNN's Christiane Amanpour, who had trumpeted her upcoming talk with Rouhani the week before. Curry, it seems, got there first.

"In her interview, Mitchell praised her colleague. 'Quite the coup,' she told Curry.

"The interview later made the front page of the New York Times, among other outlets."

Thomas Erdbrink reported for the Times, "A series of good-will gestures and hints of new diplomatic flexibility from Iran's ruling establishment was capped on Wednesday by the highest-level statement yet that the country's new leaders are pushing for a compromise in negotiations over their disputed nuclear program."

He also reported, "Mr. Rouhani, asked in the NBC News interview if he thought [President] Obama looked weak when he backed off from a threat to conduct a missile strike against Syria over a deadly chemical weapons attack outside Damascus on Aug. 21, replied: 'We consider war a weakness. Any government or administration that decides to wage a war, we consider a weakness. And any government that decides on peace, we look on it with respect to peace.' . . . "

Eric Boehlert, Media Matters for America: Syria And The Beltway Media Crackup

"Veteran sportswriter Rick Reilly, the 11-time National Sportswriter of the Year, chimed in on the Redskins name debate yesterday, and in football terms he's been sacked for a loss by his fellow sports pundits," the Indian Country Today Media Network reported on Thursday. "Reilly's column, titled 'Have the People Spoken?', cites anecdotal evidence from his father-in-law; references Native high school teams who play as the Redskins; digs up an old, hugely flawed poll of Indians; and ends with a laborious and offensive comparison of the name debate to an Indian reservation. . . . "

"In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, Fox News' Ailes Apprentice Program will present its annual Hispanic Heritage interview series beginning tomorrow," Merrill Knox reported Thursday for TVNewser. "The series, hosted by Fox News correspondent Alicia Acuna and produced by the Ailes Apprentice Program, will profile influential Hispanic Americans on 'Fox & Friends' for the next four Fridays. . . ."

"The financial stranglehold on Pacifica is taking down Free Speech Radio News, a progressive news show that relied on the five-station network for the bulk of its operating costs," Ben Mook reported Friday for Current.org. "The show, airing weekdays on 100 stations, will close production Sept. 27 and lay off its staff, a core of part-timers and an international network of nearly 100 stringers. Owed nearly $200,000 in back payments by the California-based Pacifica Foundation, FSRN's board of directors decided Sept. 13 to shutter the program, holding out hope that FSRN could be revived under a different production model. . . ."

"NBCU continues to build up its Hispanic executive ranks with the appointment of Marlene Sanchez Dooner to the newly created position of Executive VP, Hispanic Enterprises & Content (HEC)," Anna Marie de la Fuente reported Thursday for Variety. "Dooner will report to HEC chairman Joe Uva, former Univision prexy and CEO, who joined NBCU in April. His purview includes NBCU's Spanish-language network Telemundo, which has been chipping away at the lead of Univision. . . ."

Gwen Thompkins, who reported from East Africa for NPR, is "back in New Orleans with a new gig," Mike Janssen reported Wednesday for Current.org. "She hosts Music Inside Out with Gwen Thompkins, a weekly show about Louisiana music. The program airs on WWNO in New Orleans, but Thompkins is angling to build the show’s carriage on stations around the country. . . . "

The Pittsburgh Black Media Federation was preparing to commemorate two milestones Friday: its 40th anniversary and the 30th anniversary of its Frank Bolden Urban Journalism Workshop for high school students, the New Pittsburgh Courier reported Thursday. "Bolden workshop alumnus Keith Alexander, a Washington Post reporter, will serve as the master of ceremonies. He and workshop alumna Sharon Epperson, a correspondent with CNBC, will discuss the state of journalism diversity during 'A Conversation with Sharon Epperson.' . . ."

Volunteer programmer JR Valrey has been "separated" from Pacifica station KPFA-FM in Berkeley, Calif., Dr. Willie Ratcliff reported Wednesday for San Francisco Bay View. "The transformation of JR from valued broadcaster to terrorist took only six days and came with no warning. He had never even been told why he was suspended, but it may have been his mention on air during his Feb. 6 show of the White Citizens Council, referring to the handful of paid staff who constitute both management and union leadership at KPFA," Ratcliff wrote. 

"Harvard University announced Wednesday it will use a $15-million donation to launch the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research," Matt Rocheleau reported Wednesday for the Boston Globe. He also wrote, "Henry Louis 'Skip' Gates Jr., who has directed the Du Bois Institute since he arrived at Harvard in 1991, will be the founding director of the Hutchins Center, the statement said. The center is named in honor of a $15-million gift from the Hutchins Family Foundation, which was endowed by Glenn Hutchins, who co-founded technology investment company [Silver] Lake. . . . " 

"A month after its much-ballyhooed launch, Fox Sports 1 is proving itself to be a much more attractive advertising environment than its predecessor," Anthony Crupi reported Friday for AdWeek. Crupi also wrote, "While it's not going to lay a glove on The Worldwide Leader in Sports any time soon — thanks in large part to Monday Night Football and a robust slate of college football, ESPN owns the fourth quarter; last week, the net averaged 4.26 million viewers in prime — FS1 is dominating the rest of the field. In its first month on the air, FS1 topped NBCSN 24 out of 30 nights among men 18-49. . . ." 

A memorial service for Teshima L. Walker, the executive producer of NPR's "Tell Me More" who died Aug. 16 at age 44 after a battle with colon cancer, is scheduled at NPR headquarters on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. The headquarters are at 1111 N. Capitol Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20002. A reception at NPR immediately follows the memorial service. For additional information, contact Jennifer Longmire-Wright at jlwright@npr.org or 202-513-2108.

The C-SPAN networks tentatively plan to televise speeches by President Obama and former president Bill Clinton Saturday at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Awards Dinner from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, as well as the National Book Festival on the National Mall. Former journalist James McBride, author of the novel "The Good Lord Bird," featuring the abolitionist John Brown, is scheduled from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. Saturday. Alfredo Corchado, Mexico City bureau chief for the Dallas Morning News and author of "Midnight in Mexico," is also scheduled.

"This week's Latino USA examines questions of authority: who abuses it? How do you get it? And how do you maintain it? We'll hear the stories of veterans and law enforcement. We’ll also hear from a New York councilman, discuss authority in media with journalism students, and chat with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos. And two authorities in acting, Eugenio Derbez and Rita Moreno, shed some light on their stardom," the NPR program announces. Segments are online as podcasts.