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ABC news anchor Robin Roberts and President Barack Obama

The White House/Getty Images

ABC News, responding to the need to diversify its executive ranks, has completed the first year of a fellowship program in which three journalists of color learned producer skills. Three more are in the program for its second year, and it is preparing for a third, according to a spokeswoman for the program.

The network is satisfied that the on-air ranks are diverse but believes that the executive ranks need work, Sarah J. Hodd, a producer in the network's talent and development operation, told Journal-isms on Wednesday. "Ultimately, these are the people who are green-lighting," Hodd said. "We definitely aim to expand it. We can only see bright things for the future."

Jim Avila, senior national correspondent at ABC News and White House correspondent for Fusion, the ABC/Univision joint venture, noted the network's progress in a forum Monday night at International House in New York, "What's Not Being Covered by the Media . . . and Why?"

"Up to about a year and half ago, you could go into any of those rooms" where decisions are made, Avila said, and "there would be all white males."

A study of network decision-makers released in 2008 by the National Association of Black Journalists found that of the executive producers at ABC, six were white, two were Asian American and none was African American, Native American or Hispanic.

CBS had eight white executive producers, one Hispanic and no African Americans, Asian Americans or Native Americans.

NBC had seven white executive producers, and no African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans or Native Americans at that level.

"The NABJ study showed little diversity among an elite group of managers (executive producers) who oversee news from sunrise until prime time," NABJ said.

Hodd said those in the yearlong ABC News Fellows program rotate among four workplaces at ABC News each year, depending on the individual fellow. The idea is "to give them all the skills they need," she said. Hodd would not name the journalists, saying she did not want the competition to poach them. However, she said that in the first year, one was Latina and two were African American, and that the second-year fellows are an Arab American woman, an African American man and an African American woman. Applications are being accepted for the third year.

"That's where the power is," Avila said of the producer ranks. Of the first three participants, one is now a digital reporter in Washington, a second is on the production staff of "20/20" and a third left the company. They were recent journalism school graduates, Hodd said.

As he has previously, Avila cited "The Faceless Victims of the California Fires," reporting that described the plight of undocumented farmworkers in the path of wildfires that burned thousands of acres around San Diego in October 2007, as an example of what it can mean to have diversity among decision-makers.

For the farmworkers, "It became a fine line they had to walk between staying safe from smoke and flames, keeping their field jobs and steering clear of border patrol while in search of food and safety," the National Association of Hispanic Journalists said in honoring Avila's piece then. Avila said the farmworkers' plight was explored only "because there [was] a Hispanic in the room," referring to himself.

"It's not that they don't want to do these stories, they just don't think of them," Avila said. ABC's coverage went on to win two national Emmy Awards that year.

Avila said at the time that then-ABC News President David Westin and then-Executive Vice President Robert Murphy acknowledged the lack of diversity in the top producer ranks—"largely white and largely male"—at a meeting with the network's journalists of color at the 2008 Unity: Journalists of Color convention. The executives agreed then to set up the mentor program, he said.

In other discussion, Kathy Chow, executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association, said the Heartland Project, a joint initiative led by AAJA, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and the University of Nebraska to increase media coverage of minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual people in Nebraska, called attention to uncovered stories. Chow said 104 languages are spoken in Nebraska, for example, and that elsewhere, Bhutanese sustain high suicide rates. But "in Nebraska, the rates are low. What is Nebraska doing?" she asked.

Chow also said the project was welcomed by a Nebraska newsroom manager whom she did not name. The manager said no one in his newsroom spoke Spanish and thus reporters were reluctant to do stories involving the growing Latino community, she said. "I really need you to push," the manager said. "They're not pushing themselves out of their comfort zone."

Janine Jackson, program director for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, said many social justice stories go uncovered because reporters view them as depressing and because they fear being dismissed as advocates, among other reasons. "The issue is one of framing," Jackson said. Too many such issues are placed in a partisan context, and there is too little emphasis on reporting on solutions when the problem is examined.

Dean Baquet, managing editor of the New York Times, pointed to his paper's recent "Invisible Child" series on Dasani, an 11-year-old homeless girl, to say news organizations can find sophisticated ways to cover poverty that go beyond simply stating that it exists.

Baquet also challenged the notion that Americans don't care about foreign news, citing coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner and the invasion of Crimea as examples.

The event was moderated by Calvin Sims, president of International House, formerly program officer at the Ford Foundation who helped to fund journalism organizations concerned with diversity. Tweets from the event bore the hashtag #ihousemedia.

"In a fundraiser at a Filipino restaurant in Brooklyn, Randy Gener made his first public appearance after his brutal attack in Midtown Manhattan nearly two months ago," Don Tagala of the Philippines' ABS-CBN North America Bureau wrote from Brooklyn on Tuesday. Recovering From Beating, Arts Journalist Sees Hate Crime

'I'm okay, convalescing, recovering,' Gener said. 'It's been about two weeks almost since getting out of the second hospital.'

"The award-winning Filipino-American writer, editor, and artist was found lying on the ground unconscious just a block away from his home. He was left for dead after he was reportedly assaulted by a suspect identified by the police as 24-year-old Leighton [Jennings] of Queens, N.Y.

"Jennings was arrested, arraigned on misdemeanor assault charges and was later released on his own recognizance.

"After undergoing a couple of brain surgeries, the scars on Gener's head are now visible reminders of the severe head trauma he suffered on the reported assault last Jan. 18.

" 'Broke my head, this thing here flew, my brain [swelled],' Gener said. 'They put something back to repair me, sewed me back on, and when I looked at myself in the mirror, I felt like I was a Maori [Aborigine] who could have starred opposite Mel Gibson or be the daughter or son of Tina Turner in Madmax Beyond Thunderdome because that's what I felt like. That's what I look like.'

"While investigators have ruled that the alleged attack on Gener is not a hate crime, Gener believes otherwise.

" 'Why would he do this?' he asked. 'I have no idea. I never worked with him, I never appreciated [what] he's ever written, or whatever he does. It was completely random. I was going home, and next thing you know he attacked me. So hate is the only thing that comes to mind.'

"Gener says his insurance does not cover all of his medical expenses.

"So far, an online campaign has raised more than $71,500 with a goal of raising $85,000 to pay for the rest of Gener’s medical bills. . . ."

"How many reporting jobs have new online news organizations created?," Brian Stelter asked Wednesday on moneyCNN.com.

"Pew Research Center has tried to put a number on it: 5,000.

"The center's annual State of the News Media report, released on Wednesday, includes a first-of-its-kind tally of jobs at 30 big websites, like [BuzzFeed] and The Huffington Post, and 438 smaller startups.

" 'In a significant shift in the editorial ecosystem, most of these jobs have been created in the past half dozen years, and many have materialized within the last year alone,' write the authors of the 2014 report, who credit the startups with bringing 'a level of energy to the news industry not seen for a long time.'

"The Pew report cites hiring sprees at digitally oriented companies like Gawker, Business Insider, First Look Media, Vox Media, and Vice Media. But it emphasizes that 'the growth in new digital full-time journalism jobs seems to have compensated for only a modest percentage of the lost legacy jobs in newspaper newsrooms alone in the past decade.'

" 'The vast majority of bodies producing original reporting still lie within the newspaper industry,' the authors write. 'But those newspaper jobs are far from secure.' While reliable data for 2013 is not yet available, the report says that full-time newsroom employment dipped by 6.4% in 2012, 'with more losses expected for 2013.'

The report noted, "Dramatic changes under way in the makeup of the American population will undoubtedly have an impact on news in the U.S, and in one of the fastest growing demographic groups—Hispanics—we are already seeing shifts." However, Pew said it would address people of color in more detail in separate reports.

Overall, Amy Mitchell wrote in her overview, "In many ways, 2013 and early 2014 brought a level of energy to the news industry not seen for a long time. Even as challenges of the past several years continue and new ones emerge, the activities this year have created a new sense of optimism—or perhaps hope—for the future of American journalism. . . ."

Aboubacar Ndiaye, thebillfold.com: Diversity Hiring and the Concept of 'Fit' 

Paul Raeburn, Knight Science Journalism at MIT:  Nate Silver's new FiveThirtyEight dishes out statistical nonsense on health coverage. (March 18)

Benjamin Wallace-Wells, New York: Why Do We Expect So Much From Nate Silver? (March 18)

Leon Wieseltier, New Republic: The Emptiness of Data Journalism (March 19)

"FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler told federal lawmakers Tuesday that his proposal to crack down on joint sales agreements is likely to result in more minority station ownership in the United States because it will lower the prices of TV stations currently held in JSAs," Doug Halonen reported Tuesday for TVNewsCheck.

Joint sales agreements are arrangements in which one station sells advertising time for another in the same market.

" 'One of the results [of the proposed JSA crackdown] ... will be the opening up of broadcast licenses for minorities, women, small entrepreneurs, because they're currently being sucked off the market,' Wheeler said."

John Eggerton added for Multichannel News, "When commissioner [Ajit] Pai offered up anecdotal evidence of JSA's benefitting the public interest by allowing a station to deliver the only Spanish-language newscast in his home state of Kansas, Wheeler said bad actors had been hiding behind the skirts of good ones, and that nothing in his proposal would prevent that sort of beneficial sharing arrangement.

"Wheeler said that limiting the JSAs would increase diverse ownership opportunities currently being 'sucked off the market' by sharing arrangements, while Pai said it would decrease it. It couldn't decrease it much, however, since there are only four African American-owned TV stations, a point they both concede. . . ."

In the Pew Research Center's "State of the Media 2014" report released Wednesday, Deborah Potter of Newslab and Katerina Eva Matsa of Pew reported on growing media consolidation, a trend opposed by the journalist associations of color, who say it costs newsroom jobs.

"Many of the 290 TV station purchases in 2013 occurred as group acquisitions by some of the largest owners, building their portfolios of stations even more," they wrote. The Tribune Co. emerged from bankruptcy to make the richest single deal, spending $2.73 billion to acquire 19 stations from Local TV Holdings. Gannett completed a $2.2 billion transaction to buy 17 stations from Belo Corp., almost doubling Gannett's TV holdings and giving it national reach. Twelve stations changed hands when Media General merged with New Young Broadcasting.

Potter and Matsa added in a different summary, "More than one out of four U.S. television stations that run local news get it from someone else. But the majority of those stations, 175 from the 2012 analysis, never produced their own news. That list includes stations affiliated with networks like CW and MyNetworkTV, and about 60% of all Fox affiliates that carry local news. If not for shared service agreements, these stations would air no local news. . . ."

"With a four-page letter released late in the day on Monday, Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder has taken his stubborn defense of the team's name to a new level," the Indian Country Today Media Network reported on Tuesday.

"The early reaction from Indian country: We're not buying it.

"The campaign to quell controversy over the name of the Washington Redskins football team has in recent months included photo ops with Navajo code talkers and a highly suspect Native pro-Redskins grassroots campaign. Now Snyder has announced the creation of the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation.

"Snyder's letter begins by affirming that he has no intention of ever changing his team's problematic name, referring to a letter he wrote to fans in the fall: 'I wrote then—and believe even more firmly now—that our team name captures the best of who we are and who we can be, by staying true to our history and honoring the deep and enduring values our name represents.'

"The Redskins owner then describes his campaign of outreach to American Indian communities, and cites facts about poverty, health, and standard of living in Native communities that everyone in Indian country is all too familiar with.

"Snyder's conclusion: Clinging to his team's racial-slur name is a noble gesture, but isn't enough to solve Indian country's problems. Or as he puts it: 'It's not enough to celebrate the values and heritage of Native Americans. We must do more.' . . ."

Meanwhile, the NPR news department reacted to a March 18 suggestion from ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos that the team name "should be avoided in Web headlines and used only infrequently in stories."

"Here’s the current guideline," spokesman Emerson Brown told Journal-isms by email. "NPR News does not plan to prohibit the use of the full team name in its sports reporting or in its coverage of the controversy over the name 'Redskins.' The team’s name is the name and the organization's job is to report on the world as it is, not to take a position or become part of the story."

Josh Levin, Slate: Here, Take This Coat

Jack Marsh, a diversity and First Amendment advocate as a journalist and executive at Gannett Co., Inc., and the Freedom Forum, announced his retirement in a Facebook message on Monday.

"Grateful," Marsh wrote. "That best captures my feelings today as I conclude a rewarding and fulfilling 43-year media and journalism career. This is my last day of work for the Freedom Forum and in my final assignment as president of the Al Neuharth Media Center. I'll take a few weeks of vacation, mark my 65th birthday and officially retire on April 30.

"It’s been a privilege to join with other champions of journalism excellence, believers in the First Amendment and passionate evangelists for the truth, fairness, inclusion and diversity. I’m grateful to many and especially to Al Neuharth, who set the lofty standards for the only two companies of my career: Gannett and the Freedom Forum. Thanks to Al and thanks to all of you for the opportunities, the inspiration and the affirmations. Continue the fight. Never forget your dreams."

Marsh has been a reporter, editor and publisher for Gannett newspapers in New York, New Jersey and South Dakota, including executive editor of the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D., president and chief operating officer of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute, Inc., and president and chief operating officer of the Al Neuharth Media Center at the University of South Dakota.

Marsh wrote on Feb. 26, "In appreciation for an abundance of opportunities we've enjoyed since moving to our adopted state of South Dakota, Betty and I have committed $50,000 to launch the Jack Marsh Scholarship and Opportunity Fund administered by the University of South Dakota Foundation. With the help of other like-minded folks, we hope to raise about $250,000 over the next five years to continue and build on the great work inspired by Al Neuharth at his alma mater. Donations will grow an endowment at USD, where I was my privilege to be founding director and eventually president of the Al Neuharth Media Center." Neuharth, former CEO of the Gannett Co., died last year at age 89.

Kevin Abourezk, county government reporter at the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal Star, wrote on Facebook: "With the retirement of Jack Marsh today from the Freedom Forum, I feel a great burden placed on my shoulders. It's a feeling every Native, Hispanic and black journalist he mentored and lifted up should feel, knowing one of our greatest advocates and champions is leaving his post. It's up to us now to find and mentor other minority journalists trying to navigate the world of journalism. We can't depend on Jack to connect us to training opportunities, job opportunities and other minority journalists. We must depend on each other now. Thank you so much Jack for all you have done to open the doors for countless minority journalists over your long and fruitful career. Happy retirement!"

Paula Madison, who stepped down in 2011 as executive vice president and chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal, has returned from a trip to China, where she met the Chinese side of her family and produced a documentary on the experience, with a book to come.

Madison appeared Tuesday on TV One's "News One Now" with Roland Martin.

"So you're here at the Africa Channel, which is one of the businesses that my family owns, and we are African," Madison told Martin. "We are people of African descent, but I also know that my parents were born in Jamaica. My mother's father was Chinese. They got to Jamaica when the British abolished slavery, and they brought in Chinese to work. Well, by 1905, my grandfather goes from Hong Kong to Kingston, works on a sugar plantation, does his thing. There's my grandmother, a beautiful black woman. He had my mother. And my grandmother was not happy because his family eventually when they were allowing Chinese women to come in, his family sent him a bride from China sight unseen, saying you going to come back to China.

"My grandfather had my mother with one woman and two other children with another woman. Back then, you could have as many wives as you could afford. Chinese woman comes in, they actually got married. And my grandfather's announcement of marriage was in 1920 in a Jamaican newspaper. He had seven shops in Jamaica. But the fact that he married this Chinese wife, he went to my grandmother and said, 'I want my daughter.' And my grandmother was not having it.

"Not only did she not give my mother to him, she hid my mother from him. My mother was 3 years old, never saw her father again. When I retired from NBCUniversal, actually when I threw myself into it, former investigative reporter, studied China, I connected with a group of Chinese in Toronto and they said, 'We'll help you find your grandfather's people.' "

Madison continued, "The 20 members of my family who are black and Chinese, my brothers and our descendants, we went to China. I found my five aunts and uncles ranging in age of 80 to 94, my mother's siblings living in China. And they all have Jamaican passports. My 94-year-old aunt told me, 'Bring everybody here, bring all of them here. . . .' "

Madison's documentary, "Finding Samuel Lowe: from Harlem to China," was shown in February at the Pan-African Film Festival in Los Angeles. "I turned the manuscript [into] the book," Madison told Martin. "It will be published in February of 2015. It goes into more detail. But people don't know that there is a long history of there being black Chinese."

"Jerry Bembry, a journalism professor at Morgan State University in Baltimore, and Yolanda McCutchen, a journo professor from Howard University have been named 'Back in the Newsroom' fellows at USA Today and WaPo, respectively," Patrick Tutwiler reported Tuesday for FishbowlDC. They will join Michael Douglas, assistant professor at Florida A&M University, who is going to the Los Angeles Times; B. DaVida Plummer of Hampton University, CNBC; and Jessica Sparks of Savannah State University, Wall Street Journal. "The fellowships start this summer. The fellowships are designed to be a sort of 'summer internship' for professors, and are part of a larger program run by the International Center for Journalists that seeks to help journalism educators from historically black colleges and universities see firsthand the new skills needed for students to succeed in today’s newsrooms," Tutwiler wrote.

"Since its announcement last December, the ASNE and Journalism That Matters partnership for engaging diverse communities in meeting their news and information needs has identified three pilot sites and begun building an interactive platform for supporting news organizations in doing high-quality community engagement," the American Society of News Editors said on Wednesday. "The 'proof of concept' community partners are: We Create Here—The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Unite Rochester—Democrat and Chronicle, Rochester, New York; Oakland Voices—The Oakland Tribune, Oakland, Calif." More here.

"Cesar Chavez: An American Hero" opens nationwide on Friday, and Ruben Navarrette Jr., columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group, expects the film of the United Farm Workers leader to be lacking. "The real story of Chavez and the UFW is full of nuance and contradictions," Navarrette wrote this week. "Judging by the trailer, early reviews and media accounts, the dark side of Chavez and the UFW was left out of the film." However, Navarrette added, "But I also expect to feel proud that this story is finally being told, even if it is incomplete. . . . " Writing for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Dwight Brown said, "Chavez’s legacy and spirit will be kept alive by this rousing and empowering film." Michael Cieply wrote in the New York Times that 1,000 agricultural workers are expected to attend a premiere on Tuesday. The National Institute for Latino Policy says the film is "this year's only major studio release about (or starring) Latinos."

"First lady Michelle Obama's trip to China has garnered massive attention in this vast country over the past five days, as an aggressive pack of Chinese journalists has followed her every move and penned hundreds of stories about her visit," Krissah Thompson wrote Tuesday for the Washington Post. "But coverage of the trip has been made more difficult by tight restrictions on reporters and photographers, who have been kept far away from many events and were not allowed to accompany the first lady, her mother and her two daughters on their flight last week from the United States. . . ."

Writing about the Environmental Protection Agency, Beth Parke and Joseph Davis said March 18 for the Society of Environmental Journalists, "Journalists frequently report waiting for days and in some cases weeks to get EPA to respond to routine requests for information or interviews . . . ."

"I've left Colorado Public Radio and am now serving as editor for a startup news collaboration involving PBS & NPR stations—a Denver-based news unit focused on all things energy," Lee Hill, a reporter at Colorado Public Radio and a founding producer of NPR's "Tell Me More" in 2006, wrote to Journal-isms on Tuesday. "Goal is to become the primary news source nationally in all aspects of energy-related reporting, moving beyond the conventional policy-wonkish coverage that dominates this subject to more engaging and creative reporting that helps Americans of *all walks of life* see themselves in energy policy legislation, regulation debates and ... brings energy reporting closer to the ground, so to speak. . . . " More about the project here.

David Plazas wrote to Facebook friends on Tuesday, "My colleagues and I at The News-Press (Fort Myers, Fla.) wanted to share with you the multimedia, multisensory experience we launched on Sunday: 'Voices of the Everglades.' For more than eight months, two of our journalists, Chad Gillis and Andrew West, built relationships with the Native communities of the Everglades—the Miccosukee, the Seminole and non-affiliated 'traditionals.' The issues spanned from the communities' relationship with the land, with each other, public issues like water quality and trying to find a balance between the modern wealth found in gaming and gambling with maintaining traditions. We hope you enjoy it."

Ayesha Williams, producer at CNN Newsource in Atlanta; Yang Yang, producer at Bloomberg Television in Washington; and Leoneda Inge-Barry, changing economy reporter at WUNC Radio in Durham, N.C., are among 13 producers, reporters and editors chosen for fellowships in Germany this June, the Radio Television Digital News Foundation announced on Tuesday. The fellowship is part of the German/American Journalist Exchange Program.

Informing readers that her mother was in a house fire and is in critical condition in a burn center, Washington Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary wrote Thursday, "I'm begging you to please put in place the paperwork and gather the personal and financial information that a designated family member, friend or professional will need to take care of your affairs should anything happen to you. Do some estate planning. . . Do it for the people you will leave behind. . . ."

"Aaron McGruder, creator and executive producer of The Boondocks, has had no involvement with the upcoming fourth season of the cartoon, Adult Swim confirms, fueling suspicions that began on Facebook, where McGruder claimed The Boondocks page had been 'hijacked,' " Stephen A. Crockett Jr. reported Friday for The Root. "According to a press release issued by Adult Swim, 'this season was produced without the involvement of Aaron McGruder, when a mutually agreeable production schedule could not be determined.' . . ." 

"Since the round of violent conflicts that began in Venezuela several weeks ago, many readers have written to me to share their views, and many have protested what they see as biased coverage," Margaret Sullivan, the New York Times public editor, wrote Tuesday. "Most of the complaints say that The Times's reporting seems to favor the antigovernment opposition." After reviewing the coverage by the Times’s reporter in Venezuela, William Neuman, Sullivan wrote, "While I think more consistent reminders that [President Nicolás] Maduro was democratically elected would help, I disagree with charges of bias. Mr. Neuman's articles can be analytical and interpretative, perhaps more so than typical news reporting, but I also found them fair."

"More than seven years after its creation, the Special Prosecutor for Crimes Committed against Freedom of Expression (FEADLE) under the Mexican’s Attorney General's Office (PGR) has not shown effectiveness in investigating cases of journalists who were killed or disappeared, says Balbina Flores Martínez, Mexico correspondent for the international press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders," Julieta Pelcastre wrote Tuesday for the Baltimore Post-Examiner.

"The Swaziland magazine editor Bheki Makhubu, whose arrest and jailing has sparked an outcry across the world, appeared in court in leg irons for a bail application," Swazi Media Commentary reported on Tuesday. "Makhubu, editor of the Nation magazine, is charged with contempt of court for writing and publishing articles critical of the judiciary in Swaziland, where King Mswati III rules as sub-Saharan Africa's last absolute monarch. . . ."

"Journalists whose reports are considered offensive and unfair by the leadership of the National Conference will be kicked out of the Conference, PREMIUM TIMES can authoritatively report today," Sani Tukur reported Sunday for the Abuja, Nigeria-based publication. Some 500 delegates are attending the gathering, convened to discuss the nation's future.

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

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