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Activists for the independence of the Western Sahara during an annual protest in November 2013

Dani Pozo/Getty Images

Members of the black press who took an expenses-paid trip to Morocco last week were pawns in a politically motivated move by the Moroccan government in its dispute with the Morocco-occupied Western Sahara, a representative of the occupied region asserted to Journal-isms on Wednesday.

The occupied residents, known as Saharawis, have called themselves "the last colony in Africa."

As reported Monday, a 14-person delegation from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the nation's black press, spent a week in the North African country as "part of series of no-strings attached government-sponsored trips by African American organizations to Morocco to give them a first-hand look at the country," as Cloves C. Campbell Jr., chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Arizona Informant in Phoenix, told Journal-isms by email.

"No limitations have been placed on what we can write or discuss and we're under no obligation to write anything. This is the outgrowth of a trip Jesse Jackson took to Morocco in August during which he urged Moroccan leaders to reach out to Black organizations so that they can gain a better understanding of the country and the challenges it faces."

However, Morocco has been in a decades-long dispute in Western Sahara, a mainly desert territory whose residents are of mixed Berber, Arab and black African descent.

"By the 1300's, the Arabs ruled the region, causing conflict with the Berbers until the end of the 1600's," according to a history by the Joshua Project, a religious ministry. "The Saharawi are descendants of these two groups and their slaves. Until 1904 when Spain gained control, the Saharawi were threatened by Morocco's desire to annex the Western Sahara region. Since Spain's withdrawal in 1976, many Saharawi have fled to Algerian refugee camps, returned to the deserts, or joined the Polisario, which continues to demand independence."

The brief history also says, "There is a long-standing conflict between Morocco and the Saharawi Polisario Front. Morocco claims the Western Sahara, but Algeria sides with the Polisario, hoping to later negotiate for an outlet to the ocean. Sovereignty in the area currently remains unresolved. . . ."

The United Nations has been seeking a settlement in Western Sahara since Spain's withdrawal and the ensuing fighting between Morocco, which had "reintegrated" the territory, and the Polisario Front, supported by Algeria. The secretary general named a personal envoy for Western Sahara, Christopher Ross, to work on the dispute.

In an email to Journal-isms from Africa, Ahmed Boukhari, the Polisario's representative to the U.N., told Journal-isms that Morocco's bankrolling of the black-press trip had ulterior motives.

"In my opinion [it] is a trip politically motivated and with political objectives related to Western Sahara. Morocco's credibility has been stained these last years as a consequence of human rights violations in Western Sahara," he said. "Journalists who are not well informed about what is going on in Western Sahara and sensitive to a good reception could be used as a propaganda tool. In any case, any journalist of this group could and in my opinion must be authorized by Morocco to enter into contact with Saharawi human rights defenders."

Told that the National Bar Association, a black organization, plans to travel next to the country, Boukhari was asked whether its members, too, should seek to meet with the Saharawis. "Of course for the black lawyers. They should be in a position to get in touch with the population under Morocco occupation," Boukhari wrote. The black lawyers group plans to pay its own way to Morocco as about 130 members stage their annual midwinter meeting.

Leading mainstream news organizations prohibit employees from accepting free trips from governments or other potential sources, but the black press, with its advocacy tradition, does not always follow the rules of mainstream journalism.

In September, Campbell said at a forum on coverage of Africa that his publications want to increase their coverage of the continent. He did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday night.

Rob King, a onetime newspaper graphic artist and cartoonist who moved to ESPN 10 years ago, was named Tuesday to "assume control of SportsCenter and ESPN’s news operations," ESPN President John Skipper announced.

King told Journal-isms that it was too early to discuss the significance of the move, but colleagues hailed it as a major milestone for King, who has spent time in nearly all aspects of ESPN's operation.

"It's a tremendous statement for Rob," Keith Clinkscales, who left ESPN in 2011 as senior vice president, told Journal-isms by telephone, and a "culmination of all the skills" King has amassed. "Rob will do well. He's willing to listen. He has the respect of his colleagues. Rob brings a maturity to the table. He's able to speak up about all issues, whether they involve race, gender, human. He's a good guy," and "SportsCenter" can only get better.

"SportsCenter," the jewel in ESPN's operation, is the network's most important and most-viewed programming. In the next year, ESPN plans to relaunch "SportsCenter" in DC2, its digital center, a major and expensive undertaking. King will be in charge of that.

Skipper said in his announcement that King, "SVP SportsCenter and News, will transition from the digital and print arena to oversee all of SportsCenter and our newsgathering operations. In his time with ESPN, Rob has brought his many talents to all of our editorial platforms, and is well suited to lead the future efforts of our company’s biggest sub-brand.

"Vince Doria, SVP, Director of News, who has notified us that he plans to retire in early 2015, will now report to Rob and will begin to transition his newsgathering responsibilities to Craig Bengtson, VP, Director of News, who is currently quite busy with bringing SportsCenter to Digital Center 2 later this year. Vince has elevated us immensely each day of his time with us, and his contributions deserve more time and consideration than a passing reference in a note such as this. . . stay tuned. Patrick Stiegman, VP, Editorial Digital & Print Media, will assume Rob’s previous responsibilities overseeing digital and print editorial operations reporting to John Kosner, EVP, Digital and Print Media. . . ."

King was a graphic artist and cartoonist for the Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, N.J., from 1987 to 1992 before becoming presentation editor there and then deputy managing editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Arriving at ESPN in 2004, King has been senior coordinating producer; editor-in-chief of ESPN.com; vice president and editor-in-chief of ESPN digital media; senior vice president, ESPN digital and print media; and senior vice president, editorial, print and digital media. He is the son of Colbert I. King, a columnist at the Washington Post who won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for commentary

"Broadcast nightly news shows completely ignored the day's landmark court ruling striking down federal net neutrality regulations, an omission that deals a huge disservice to the public audience and a boon to the news outlets' parent corporations," Emily Arrowood wrote Tuesday for Media Matters for America.

"Net neutrality — the principle that corporate internet providers should provide equal access to content for subscribers — was dealt a serious blow the morning of January 14 when the D.C. Court of Appeals invalidated the Federal Communications Commission's requirement that providers offer equal access to online information, regardless of the source. Prior to the ruling, the FCC prevented internet providers from blocking (or slowing down access to) content in order to benefit their own business interests.

"That evening, neither NBC, CBS, nor ABC acknowledged the ruling in their evening news broadcasts.

"Here's why that's important — NBC is owned by Comcast Corporation, which bills itself as the nation's largest high-speed Internet provider. CBS' parent company is CBS Corporation, which also owns multiple sports networks and Showtime, while ABC is part of The Walt Disney Company empire, also the owner of ESPN.

"This is a huge conflict of interest for the broadcast news channels, as their parent corporations all have a vested interest in striking down net neutrality laws and promoting their own content at the expense of competitors that lack an advantage in size or Internet service. . . ."

On her alldigitocracy.org site, Tracie Powell added, "Why journalists and journalism organizations should care: For independent or small-scale content owners, this means it will be that much harder to reach the consumers you’re targeting. For news organizations, already strapped for cash, this means now having to pay to play on the super-information highways in order to reach consumers, or worse, having your content blocked altogether because the internet service provider favors another company over yours. Advocates argue it will also stifle innovation. . . ."

Anick Jesdanun, Associated Press: Major change unlikely despite open-Internet ruling

Connor Land, Media Matters for America: WSJ Spins Net Neutrality Standards As A "False Equity"

Chris O'Brien, Salvador Rodriguez and Jim Puzzanghera, Chicago Tribune: 'Net neutrality' ruling could be costly for consumers, advocates say

Gabe Rottman, American Civil Liberties Union: FCC, Heal Thyself

Tim Wu, the New Yorker: Closing Time for the Open Internet

BET Networks and HuffPost BlackVoices recorded the greatest number of unique visitors among traditional African American-oriented websites for 2013, according to figures prepared by the comScore, Inc., research company for Journal-isms.

However, both were topped by WorldStarHipHop.com, a video site that on Tuesday was a topic on "HuffPost Live!"

That show said of its subject, "WorldStarHipHop.com and other 'hood sites' are popular for their links to videos of typical neighborhood brawls. Large loyal audiences might be clicking to see who is going to win the next slap battle. But, do these sites glorify black violence?"

WorldStarHipHop.com recorded 54,138,000 U.S. unique visitors for 2013, according to comScore, followed by BET Networks at 44,551,000, and HuffPost BlackVoices at 37,341,000.

The company supplied figures for a list of sites submitted by Journal-isms.

WorldStarHipHop.com, BET Networks and HuffPost BlackVoices were followed by:

 4. MediaTakeOut.com, 33,105,000
 5. Bossip.com, 27,396,000
 6. MadameNoire.com, 24,007,000
 7. The Grio, 18,494,000
 8. The Root, 12,732,000
 9. NewsOne.com, 10,293,000
10. Essence.com, 10,253,000
11. BlackPlanet.com, 8,042,000
12. HelloBeautiful.com, 7,830,000
13. TheYBF.com, 7,646,000
14. EURWeb.com, 3,962,000
15. BlackAmericaWeb.com, 3,693,000
16. BlackEnterprise.com, 3,055,000
17. ClutchMagOnline.com, 2,941,000
18. Ebony.com, 2,711,000
19. ConcreteLoop.com, 1,485,000

BET.com focuses on entertainment and celebrity news, with more serious fare deep inside the site, while HuffPost BlackVoices offers a more general mix.

In an email, Editor Danielle Cadet, named to the post in November 2012, gave these reasons for HuffPost BlackVoices' success:

"The Black Voices team has worked hard to create content that interests our readers and promotes engagement within our community. We carve out original angles on stories that both capture the national attention — such as the Trayvon Martin case and the death of Nelson Mandela — as well as those that have slipped under the media's radar, such as diversity in fashion and our ongoing spotlight on the entrepreneurs who are changing what it means to be a black business owner. This past year, we made a major effort to listen to our audience, monitor what was happening on social networks and respond quickly to the conversation. Multicultural sites can sometimes have a tendency to stick to the same formula year after year, but we took chances and tried new things, which ultimately proved to be successful.

"Beyond our original editorial team, our bloggers also delivered incredible perspectives and stories last year, such as Olivia Cole's powerful post on the way black females are portrayed in the media, or Tiya Miles' great post on interracial dating. We look forward to highlighting even more insightful views from our audience this year.

"In 2014, the team is looking to expand our community even further on social networks, strengthen our coverage, and find innovative ways to tell new stories. We plan to use the wealth of resources we have at The Huffington Post, such as our streaming video network, HuffPost Live, and our growing international editions, to improve our user experience and create an engaging digital environment that both caters to our current audience and attracts new readers."

"There also has been little short-term change in opinions about Christie: 60% say their opinion of Christie has not changed in recent days, while 16% now view him less favorably and 6% more favorably.

"The national survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Jan. 9-12 among 1,006 adults, finds that just 18% paid very close attention to Christie's apology on Jan. 9 for the highway lane closures ordered by his aides. By contrast, 44% very closely followed news about the cold winter weather that gripped much of the U.S. and 28% tracked news about the economy. . . ."

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: So long, tough guy — Christie exposed

Cora Frazier, the New Yorker: Olivia Pope Fixes Chris Christie

Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Wait — Chris Christie Might Be a Vindictive Bully?!

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Chris Christie's 'West Wing' Moment

DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Christie fails to live up to Rodman, Ford

"Nanjala [Nyabola] recently caused a bit of a stir with her Al Jazeera article, 'Why do Western media get Africa wrong?' Patrick Gathara, wrote from Kenya on Jan. 8 for Al Jazeera. "Reading through the piece, which was both interesting and informative, I couldn't help but wonder: Just who gets Africa right?

"Is there even such a thing as getting Africa right? From the outset, let me state that I agree with many of Nanjala's criticisms of media coverage of events on the continent.

"As she says, much of it is devoid of nuance and context and seem oblivious to what Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes as the 'danger of a single story' [video] — the reductio ad absurdum of the tale of a continent of over a billion people and 54 countries, their existence, history and stories compressed into one simple, superficial, easily regurgitated cliche: 'The hopeless continent.' 'Africa rising.' 'Magical Africa.'

"However, it is not just Western media (itself a rather obtuse concept) that are guilty of reporting in this manner. African media commit many of the same sins though, given the fact that most only broadcast to discrete home audiences, it is easy for them to escape censure.

"While Africans in almost every country on the continent have the opportunity to be regularly appalled by their portrayal on CNN, Al Jazeera and BBC, it is rare that Kenyans will flip the channel to check what Nigerian journalists are reporting about them.

"This is because few African media houses are actually trying to cover the continent for the continent. Many have their hands full reporting (or not reporting) news at home and do not think of Africa so much as a story that needs to be covered, but as part of the rest of the world and take their cue on reporting it from the Western outlets.

"As South African photojournalist and film-maker Greg Marinovich notes, 'Most African media stories on Africa are from international wires.' Few have bureaus or send reporters outside their home countries, choosing to rely on the same Western reporters they delight in bashing. . . .' "

"We could use your help with expressing solidarity — with a simple click — for an award-winning female Ethiopian journalist who is languishing in prison since 2011," Mohamed Keita, Africa advocacy coordinator for the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote Journal-isms on Tuesday.

Referring to Reeyot Alemu, Keita said, "Her birthday is next Tuesday and CPJ, International Women's Media Foundation and Safe World for Women are trying to rally international solidarity and attention that day as she weathers harsh prison conditions (she's been denied access to adequate medical attention following a breast tumor surgery and since September, she's [been] denied visits from her fiancé, sister, relatives and friends) and pursues an international legal battle to appeal her conviction. Her case is pretty well-documented and not the least controversial.

"We are asking people to click to support our Thunderclap 'A Birthday Wish for Reeyot.

"Thunderclap is a crowd-speaking platform that helps people be heard by saying something together. If enough people support it, Thunderclap will blast out a timed Facebook post or Tweet from all your supporters, creating a wave of attention. We have already gotten 100 people to support the Thunderclap. We would like to reach 250 and possibly 500 supporters by next Tuesday. . . . "

"The U.S. Justice Department and the Tobacco-Free Kids Action Fund have reached an agreement with the four major tobacco companies that requires them to spend more than $30 million advertising with the three major television networks and run full-page ads in 35 White and Hispanic newspapers as well as purchasing space on their respective websites but not make a single purchase from a Black print or broadcast media company. . .," George E. Curry reported Tuesday for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service.

The funeral for Amiri Baraka, the famed Newark poet who died last week, will be held at Newark Symphony Hall on Saturday at 10 a.m., according to a family spokeswoman, David Giambusso reported for the Star-Ledger in Newark. "Metropolitan Baptist Church will host a viewing for Baraka on Friday, from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. the spokeswoman said." Meanwhile, more pieces about Baraka appeared from Greg Tate in Ebony, Jelani Cobb in the New Yorker, James Braxton Peterson on the Grio, Hilton Als in the New Yorker and D.L. Chandler on NewsOne.

"As 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson returns from his brief 'hiatus,' he'll do so to the cheers of some surprising supporters — southern blacks," Yolanda Young wrote Tuesday for CNN. "Robertson was suspended from the A&E hit show for calling homosexuality a sin and equating it to bestiality in a GQ profile. . . ."

Joe Johns, celebrating his 10th year with CNN this month, has been promoted to CNN's senior Washington correspondent, the network announced on Wednesday. 

In Memphis, Deputy Metro Editor Jacinthia Jones has been promoted to metro editor of the Commercial Appeal, the newspaper announced on Monday. "She has been in charge of the newspaper’s suburban coverage since she became an editor six years ago."

The Missouri School of Journalism is seeking applications for a "cross-cultural journalism professor," a tenure-track or tenured position at the assistant or associate professor level beginning in August. "This is not a new position nor a new course," Earnest Perry, Journalism Studies chair and lead instructor of cross cultural journalism, told Journal-isms Wednesday by email. "In fact, we were one of the first programs in the country to create a required course that not only addresses the theoretical concepts of diversity, but begins the process of applying them to all facets of journalism (print, digital, convergence, strategic communication, etc.). Cross Cultural Journalism is more than just a course, it is infused into much of our curriculum. . . ."

"California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), Florida International University, Hispanicize Wire and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ) are teaming up to launch a survey geared at uncovering Hispanic journalists' beliefs about their careers and their use of social media and technology," Veronica Villafañe reported Tuesday for her Media Moves column. She also wrote, "The 5-minute national survey will target U.S. Latino and Puerto Rico-based journalists who produce content for Hispanic and non-Hispanic media outlets. . . ."

"The exploitation, prejudice, stereotyping, and betrayal of Native Americans by the US government and many other Americans is encoded in the term Redskins, however much it has grown to mean something different on the football field," the Boston Globe editorialized Saturday, noting that "the team now known as the Washington Redskins was in Boston from 1932 to 1936. . . ."

"MacArthur, a supporter of independently produced film and video for more than 30 years, today announced 18 grants totaling $2 million for documentary film projects," the MacArthur Foundation announced Wednesday. "The documentaries address a range of important issues, including immigration, wrongful convictions, and the aftermath of genocide." Most of the grants target African American, Latino, Asian American or Native Hawaiian issues.

Jean Lee, Associated Press bureau chief in Seoul, South Korea, was among 14 journalists awarded an Alicia Patterson Foundation grant, American journalism’s oldest writing fellowship, the foundation announced on Friday.

"CNN’s 'New Day' hit a new viewership low Monday, delivering just 142,000 total viewers and 21,000 in the A25-54 demographic during the 7-8amET hour," Merrill Knox reported on Tuesday for TVNewser. "It was the show’s lowest-rated 7amET hour since 'New Day' launched in June. . . ."

According to Nielsen, Sunday's "Reliable Sources" media-analysis program on CNN averaged just 341,000 total viewers and 61,000 adults 25-54 — "down 42% week-to-week in the key news demo to the second-lowest average in the nearly four years since the program moved to a new Sunday 11 a.m. ET timeslot," Rick Kissell reported Tuesday for Variety.

Politico media writer Dylan Byers, who was criticized in the blogosphere of color for his all-white list of "10 journalists to watch in 2014," engaged last week in a back-and-forth with Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic blogger, after Coates asserted that MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry was "America's foremost public intellectual. "What I said was: I do not believe Harris-Perry is 'America's foremost public intellectual,' meaning that of all the public intellectuals in this country, she is not the most influential or important," Byers wrote. "What I suggested was that stating as much called one's own intellectual credibility into question, because it would take leaps and bounds to come to the conclusion that Harris-Perry occupies a more significant place in American intellectual thought than the towering figures who wear that title. That those figures are all white men is certainly an unfortunate result of America's troubled history. . . ."

"There are many points that need to be made about a poorly reported Associated Press article claiming that several Spanish speakers are up in arms about how the government's CuidadoDeSalud.gov page was a computer-generated translation riddled with linguistic errors and 'Spanglish,' " Julio Ricardo Varela wrote Tuesday for Latino Rebels, "but before diving into that, let me make one thing clear: not having a fully functioning Spanish site ready in October when HealthCare.gov rolled out in English was a story that many outlets (NBC Latino, Fox News Latino and Boston’s NPR) covered. In October." AP spokeswoman Erin Madigan White told Journal-isms that the news service stands by the Jan. 13 story, written by Kelli Kennedy and Russell Contreras.

A study by a class of undergraduates led by a Vicki Mayer, a Tulane communications professor, "provides solid support for the idea that digital platforms — even from the same news organization — require, or at least incentivize, softer, less-well-sourced, poorer quality news," Dean Starkman reported Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review. The class studied changes since 2012, when the New Orleans Times-Picayune cut back its printed editions to three days a week and shifted to a digitally centered model, known as nola.com. "Nola, for its part, says the study's methodology is hopelessly flawed and in no way accepts its conclusions. . . ."

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