Black Political Writer Declares for Romney
An African-American journalist makes waves with his Republican support.
Robert Vickers, a black journalist and the political writer at the Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa., gave some readers at least two reasons to disagree with him Friday. He told them his choice for president, and said that person is Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate.
"Given that my role here is to explain politics to readers, it felt appropriate to divulge my choice and explain how I came to that choice," Vickers told Journal-isms by email.
"It was not a decision that I came to easily, and even now the traditionalist in me is still uneasy. But the walls between straight news and opinion were blown down long before I wrote my column. And rather than leave readers to guess about my preference and speculate on my motivation, I felt my transparency in explaining how I came to my decision would serve the readers."
Vickers, 44, joins what the Pew Research Center found were just 2 percent of African Americans who intend to vote for Romney. Earlier this week, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader disclosed that Rufus M. Friday, its president and publisher, was another. The percentage of newspaper political writers who disclose publicly their polling-place choices — or are even allowed to — might be just as small.
"There's been two kinds of reaction: that to my voting choice and that to my decision to share it," Vickers said by email. "Most of the journalistic reaction has been disapproving, and I can understand that. Though reporters have flogged their opinions on television and radio for years, they're still uncomfortable doing it in the old gray lady."
Vickers said in his column, ". . . No party consideration, ideology, race or religion factor into my choice — I've never even been a member of the Democratic or Republican parties. It's a pragmatic decision made more about the incumbent than about the challenger. And it's predicated on the hardships the nation must address in 2013.
"It wasn't an easy decision. In his attempt to win the office, Romney has taken such a slew of conflicting positions that Barack Obama has dubbed the tactic 'Romnesia.'
"Americans should legitimately wonder whether Romney even knows what he believes in.
"But I can't vote for President Obama, who was a first-term senator when he was elected president, because he has proved to be out of his depth wading into Washington's shark-infested waters. . . ."
Vickers later participated in an online chat with readers. "A political writer penning an opinion piece is ... unusual," someone identified as "JJ" wrote. "Columnists are supposed to take sides and spout opinions; aren't you supposed to remain neutral? I don't think you would have done this three, five or 10 years ago. Why now?"
Patriot-News Managing Editor Michael Feeley provided one answer in an email exchange with Andrew Beaujon of the Poynter Institute,
Beaujon reported, " 'Robert's immediate editor supported his decision but told Robert he knew it would be a hard sell,' Feeley writes. 'Together, they discussed and worked on the column over several weeks. Robert himself went back and forth.' " Beaujon quoted Feeley's email: "Our initial response was no. Our opinion remained that way for some time. Eventually, we supported his decision.
" 'We demand transparency on how public officials do their job and spend taxpayer money. And I like the idea of reflecting that same kind of transparency and accountability in such an important national debate.
"Vickers is 'primarily a columnist,' Feeley writes, and the paper's management doesn't 'anticipate problems' from his disclosure in terms of how he'll be deployed in the future. 'If conflicts come up, we will weigh them case by case,' Feeley writes."
Vickers added for Journal-isms, "Most of the 'positive' reaction to my choice has come from conservatives and I don't think their rationale for supporting Romney matches mine. But I think they — like too many Americans of all political stripes — just want to hear voices that reflect their own positions.
"The negative reaction from many liberals has been harsh and it seems to come because I differ with their position.
"Friends and folks from the black community have sounded disappointed, but seem oblivious to my rationale. Again, I take this as their reaction to me supposedly going off farm and expressing an opinion they don't share.
"My decision was largely down to my disbelief that President Obama was up to the job of overcoming an obstinate Congress. For whatever reason few people have paid attention to and addressed that rationale."
Vickers said he is both the political writer and a columnist and that his column should not be considered an endorsement. "I say that my opinion was not intended to affect anyone's decision," he told Journal-isms.
Vickers arrived at the Patriot-News in 2011 after having been a reporter at the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He taught public relations, media, sport management and globalization courses at Syracuse University and is a former board member of the National Association of Black Journalists.
"Mitt Romney has been quoted by the media about 50 percent more often than Barack Obama this election, a new analysis shows," Elizabeth Flock reported Tuesday for U.S. News & World Report.
"The data from the 4th Estate Project, which creates visualizations of data relating to the media, shows that Romney was quoted more often than Obama in print, TV and radio, from June 2012 to present. The project used a sample of TV broadcast shows, including CNN, MSNBC and Fox, as well as major print papers, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, and radio data from NPR.
"Nearly 62 percent of quotes from the two presidential candidates in these media outlets during that time period came from Romney, while less than 40 percent came from Obama. The data [do] not reveal how many of those quotes were used in negative stories versus positive ones. . . ."
"A former brothel manager who helped the FBI bust a national prostitution ring. A retired sheriff who inadvertently helped a money launderer buy land. A young woman who mailed ecstasy tablets for a drug-dealing boyfriend, then worked with investigators to bring him down," Dafna Linzer began Friday for ProPublica.
"All of them and hundreds more were denied pardons by President Obama, who has granted clemency at a lower rate than any modern president, a ProPublica review of pardons data shows.
". . . Obama last granted pardons in November 2011, weeks before ProPublica and the [Washington] Post published a series of stories that found that between 2001 and 2008, white applicants were nearly four times as likely to be pardoned as minorities. African American applicants fared the worst, almost never receiving the pardons office's recommendation. The Justice Department has commissioned an independent study to examine ProPublica's findings. . . ."
"From the conventions to the eve of the final presidential debate, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both received more negative than positive coverage from the news media, though overall Obama has had an edge, according to a new study," the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reported on Friday.
". . . The study also reveals the degree to which the two cable channels that have built themselves around ideological programming, MSNBC and Fox, stand out from other mainstream media outlets. And MSNBC stands out the most. On that channel, 71% of the segments studied about Romney were negative in nature, compared with just 3% that were positive — a ratio of roughly 23-to-1. On Fox, 46% of the segments about Obama were negative, compared with 6% that were positive — a ratio of about 8-to-1 negative. These made them unusual among channels or outlets that identified themselves as news organizations.
"The study also found a difference between the three network evening newscasts and the morning shows. Obama also fared better in the evening, Romney in the morning. . . . "
"In the final days before Tuesday's election, most of the focus will be on those likely to cast votes," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Thursday. "But a sizable minority of adults choose not to vote or are unable to vote. By their absence, they also will affect the outcome. Nonvoters are numerous; in 2008, they constituted about 43% of the voting age population.
"Nonvoters favor Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by a wide margin (59% to 24%). While most nonvoters (64%) have a favorable view of Obama, just half as many (32%) view Romney favorably.
". . . Nonvoters also are much more likely than voters to be Hispanic: 21% of nonvoters are Hispanic, which is three times the percentage of Hispanics among likely voters (7%). About six-in-ten (59%) nonvoters are white non-Hispanics. By contrast, white non-Hispanics make up about three quarters (74%) of likely voters. . . . "
Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: It's the Obamacare, stupid: Why Election 2012 is about health care, not the economy
Liz Cox Barrett, Columbia Journalism Review: Toledo Blade disappoints on Jeep-to-China claims: For Ohioans targeted by Romney's misleading rhetoric, the paper confuses more than it clarifies
Gilbert Arap Bor, USA Today: GMO labeling efforts will hurt Africans
Jonathan Capehart blog, Washington Post: The 'big lie' about Republicans and blacks
Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post News Media Services: Bucking a stereotype for Romney
Jonathan Chait, New York magazine: The Case for Obama: Why He Is a Great President. Yes, Great.
Sasha Chavkin, Columbia Journalism Review: The Ad Wars: Romney's Last-Minute Deceptions: Swing state reporters — watch for ninth-inning spitballs
George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: The End of Republicans' 'Whites Only' Strategy
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: Barack Obama's significance captured in a pat on the head
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: President Barack Obama's critics can't get it together
Editorial, Chicago Tribune: Defiance, meet Beijing
Editorial, Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa.: Four more years: The Patriot-News endorses Barack Obama
Eric Hananoki, Media Matters for America: REPORT: 30+ Fox News Hosts And Contributors Who Are Campaigning For Republicans
Jeremy Holden, Media Matters for America: Geraldo Rivera Calls Fox Colleague Bolling A "Politician" Who Is "Misleading The American People" Over Benghazi
Allen Johnson blog, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: Plain ugly
Bill Kelly, National Native News: The Native Vote in Nebraska (second item) (audio)
Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Mitt Romney could be the next Andrew Johnson (Nov. 3)
Julianne Malveaux, TriceEdneyWire: After the Election — Hard Choices
Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald: Early voting: hopes, fears, gut calls
Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: White Folks Just Aren't Into Us
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post News Media Services: Skip the line
New America Media: Issues, Not Race, Drive Ethnic Media Endorsements for Obama
Brad Plumer, Washington Post: Bloomberg endorses Obama over climate change. Does Obama deserve it?
Bessy Reyna, ctlatinonews.com: I Am Voting for the President and Supreme Court
Marian Robinson, the Grio: Election 2012 is 'too important' to 'sit on the sidelines'
Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Catch-phrases are plentiful this election season, but civility isn't
Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today Media Network: Gauging the Native Veteran Vote
Tom Scocca, slate.com: Why Do White People Think Mitt Romney Should Be President?
Gary Segura, Latino Decisions: How the Exit Polls Misrepresent Latino Voters, and Badly
Bernal E. Smith II, Tri-City Defender, Memphis, Tenn.: TSD nod to President Obama for term two
Wendi C. Thomas, Commercial Appeal, Memphis, Tenn.: Voice of a pro-choice rape victim who bore her attacker's child should be louder than that of anti-choice Republicans
Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today Media Network: Elections 2012: Native Americans Have More Influence in New Mexico Than Any Other State
Mark Trahant, Nativetelecom.org: Denise Juneau and the Montana Native American Vote (video)
Gary Younge, redpepper.org.uk: Hoping for change: Obama and the limits of elections
Kevin Powell, a New York writer and activist, sent this S.O.S. on Friday. "Greetings to all of you. APOLOGIES for the joint email, but deeply involved in Hurricane relief efforts on the ground, and just need to get this out in one shot.
"Respectfully asking you all to pay particular attention to the plight of working-class people in New York City, especially poor people and poor people of color, in areas like Far Rockaway, Staten Island, and the Lower Eastside. My office has been bombarded with complaints of neglect, suffering, etc. and this is just not right. I am willing to funnel information to you all as needed, and hoping you all will provide the media coverage that is not otherwise happening.
"Because I did Hurricane Katrina relief work for over a year in the Gulf Coast, I have seen this before. Asking you to do the right thing by all New Yorkers, and not just the ones who live in certain areas or with certain incomes. And if your particular media outlet cannot do it, or refuses to do so, asking you to encourage your colleagues who can. . . ."
Asked whether his note meant that the news media have not been covering poor people of color, Powell said by email, "The coverage has been AWFUL and barely exists."
A few hours later, April R. Silver, who describes herself as social entrepreneur, activist and writer/editor, posted an essay on Facebook [sign-in required], writing, ". . . This morning, I spoke to my cousin, a proud life-long resident of Far Rockaway. 'April, FEMA, the National Guards, the police, the media...they are all here. We see them. We see them driving right pass us...headed straight to Breezy Point, a gated, wealthy white community out here.' Her family, my other cousins, aunts, and uncles (and their neighbors) do not have heat, water, or power. In some cases, they have been told by officials in their buildings that utilities will not be restored for another four to six weeks, if they've been told anything at all. And what's more insulting to them is how, suddenly, Breezy Point has become all that matters in The Rockaways. The residents know better. The media does not. . . ."
Saturday's New York Times caught up some with the complaints. It featured, above the fold, "In New York's Public Housing, Fear Creeps in With the Dark" by Cara Buckley and Michael Wilson.
Journalists of color might not be in the forefront of the coverage of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath, but Michael J. Feeney, a reporter at the Daily News in New York and president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, assured Journal-isms Friday, ". . . We're definitely out there and telling the stories that need to be told."
Feeney wrote in a message:
"I'm extremely proud of the coverage and the contributions made by so many black journalists in the aftermath of Sandy. It's hard to name everyone, but we're definitely out there and telling the stories that need to be told.
"But some have really stood out. NYABJ member Dan Bowens of FOX 5 was down on the Jersey Shore reporting before and after Sandy hit. He's been doing a phenomenal job. I know at the NY Post reporters Ikimulisa Livingston and Christina Carrega (who doesn't have power in her own home) have been contributing. My colleagues at the NY Daily News have also been getting in on the action: Jennifer Cunningham and Simone Weichselbaum. Simone had a good story about people diving in dumpsters to collect food that had been thrown away by a supermarket. I know Jennifer has been all over the city, including Bellevue Hospital where people had to be evacuated.
"NBC's Mara Schiavocampo and Ron Allen have also gotten a piece of the coverage. WNBC's Pat Battle has been reporting from New Jersey. WABC's Anthony Johnson, Kemberly Richardson. Deon Hampton of Newsday has been out on Long Island, one of the hardest hit areas (he also lost power in his home). Josh Barker of the NY Amsterdam News has been covering the aftermath in Rockaway, Queens. NY1 News also had a stable of black reporters out in the field: Dean Meminger, Ruschell Boone (I can't name them all . . . ) [Readers have since added Al Roker, co-anchor and weather and feature anchor on NBC's "Today" show and Ron Claiborne, ABC News correspondent.]
"Cheryl Wills of NY1 News has been anchoring a lot their coverage; she had to stay in a hotel during Sandy and the power went out. NY1 News lost power during the storm and were briefly off air. But they have done an excellent job. The NY Daily News also lost power during the storm and there was three feet of water in the lobby. Our e-mail system and office phones remain down and the staff has been spread out all over the place — and they still managed to put out the paper.
"I should point out that the coverage at the NY Daily News is being led by Robert Moore, the first black managing editor of news at the paper. Man, there have been so many black journalists doing a great job. I haven't had a chance to view and read everything — but that's just what comes to mind. . . . "
Feeney later added Newsday reporters Aisha Al-Muslim, Keith Herbert, Olivia Winslow, Lauren Harrison and Zachary Dowdy, the Huffington Post's Trymaine Lee and the New York Post's Leonard Greene , who shared a byline on the tragic story of two small Staten Island boys who died when the storm swept them from their mother's arms.
Among the journalists of color at the New York Times, culture writer Felicia R. Lee wrote "Downtown Theaters Are Still Dark" on Thursday; Raymond Hernandez wrote that day's big story, "Bloomberg Backs Obama, Citing Fallout From Storm, and Ray Rivera, who covers Connecticut, shared a byline with Peter Applebome on "In Connecticut, a Sense That the Storm's Impact Could Have Been Worse." Photos by Chang W. Lee were among those featured on the Lens blog's "Glimmers of Light in a Darkened City."
Paul M. Barrett, Bloomberg Businessweek: It's Global Warming, Stupid
Mary Collins, TVNewsCheck: Mitigating Risks For Reporters In Harm's Way
Sheri Fink, ProPublica: In Hurricane's Wake, Decisions Not to Evacuate Hospitals Raise Questions
Keach Hagey, Wall Street Journal: Daily News Carries On After Storm Swamps Newsroom
Rebecca Hanser, Inter Press Service: Hurricane Sandy Fans Flames of Climate Change Debate
Joshua Hersh and Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: Fox News Focuses On Benghazi Attack While Largely Ignoring Hurricane Sandy
Jim Naureckas, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: How'd You Like That Hurricane We Made?
Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The Boss led hope train through Pittsburgh
Joe Pompeo, Capital New York: Back on the grid, with the Daily News, Time, Businessweek and Ali Velshi
Adrianna Quintero, HuffPost Green: Superstorm Sandy Reminds Us Why We Have to Care About Climate Change
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Will Hurricane Sandy be our wake-up call?
Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: To help storm victims, can the cans and pass the cash
Dan Shelley, Radio Television Digital News Association: During Disaster Coverage, Be Sure to Monitor Social Media at All Times
Rob Stein, NPR: Sandy Leaves Long List Of Health Threats
"Tavis Smiley is returning to Chicago radio in a big way," Robert Feder wrote Tuesday for Time Out Chicago.
"Not one but two local stations are picking up the weekly radio show he hosts with Cornel West for Public Radio International. Smiley & West will air at 3pm Sundays on Newsweb Radio progressive talk WCPT-AM (820), starting this weekend. It also will air at 11am Saturdays on Midway Broadcasting urban news/talk WVON-AM (1690), starting November 10.
"Until late last month, the show had been on Chicago Public Media WBEZ-FM (91.5). It was dropped after station bosses cited concerns about fairness and balance. Smiley later blasted the decision as 'demeaning, derogatory and dead wrong.' In a related move, WCPT also is adding Smiley's other PRI program, The Tavis Smiley Show, at 2pm Sundays. Leading up to the premiere, WCPT will air a Smiley & West Uncensored marathon from 10pm Saturday to 7am Sunday."
Raju Narisetti, who left a managing editor's job at the Washington Post for the Wall Street Journal almost a year ago, will "assume the mantle of digital czar" as Alan Murray, the Journal's deputy managing editor and executive online editor, leaves to become president of the Pew Research Center, Journal Managing Editor Robert Thomson said in a memo on Friday. Narisetti, who returned to the Journal after having worked there from 1994 to 2006, heads its online news efforts.
"A Florida judge on Monday denied a proposed gag order that would muzzle all attorneys and law enforcement officers involved in the prosecution of George Zimmerman," Lilly Chapa reported Wednesday for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "More than a dozen news media organizations, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA TODAY, opposed the motion, which was filed by lead prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda before a hearing two weeks ago."
"Two of the most powerful women in media — Oprah Winfrey and Arianna Huffington — are joining forces," the Associated Press reported on Thursday. "The two on Thursday launched 'HuffPost OWN,' a new section on the Huffington Post website that will feature material from the Oprah Winfrey Network and Oprah.com. The new online destination will focus on lifestyle advice and personal inspiration."
"Elizabeth Valdés has joined Noticias Telemundo as the new Director of News Gathering, reporting to Sylvia Rosabal. She started the job this past Monday, October 29th," Veronica Villafañe reported Thursday for her Media Moves site. "In this role, Elizabeth will supervise the news gathering for all properties including 'Al Rojo Vivo' and 'Noticiero Telemundo,' as well as news segments for 'Un Nuevo Día.' She'll be responsible for developing content for breaking news, daily news coverage and planned events, such as U.S. and foreign elections and natural disaster coverage."
Neil Foote, a former journalist who is public relations consultant at the Tom Joyner Foundation, has edited an election-pegged e-book, "HaterNation: How Incivility and Racism are Dividing Us," an anthology of essays by journalists, lawyers, academics, social activists and others. Among the contributing journalists are Michael H. Cottman, Jackie Jones, Yanick Rice Lamb and Sophia A. Nelson. "This book is designed to fuel a productive dialogue about how we stop the hate or as Rodney King said, 'Can't We All Get Along?'," Foote told Journal-isms.
"John Micklethwait, editor-in-chief of The Economist, maintains that 'People still like to read,' " the Economist reported this week, recapping Micklethwait's appearance on Washington station WAMU-FM's "The Diane Rehm Show." Micklethwait said, "Actually, if you really want to discover about something in as short a time as possible, reading is still the best and most effective way to do it. If you wanted to find out about the situation with Syria, for instance, you could watch 24 hours of news footage on YouTube or you could read a four or five page article that breaks it down. Print is still the most efficient medium to get across detailed information."
The Tico Times, an English-language news source in Costa Rica since 1956, is appealing for donations to continue its environmental reporting even though its print edition was slated to end in September. ". . . We've broken stories on secret runways used by the Contras, rampant shark finning in Costa Rican waters and luxury hotels in violation of environmental law. We also covered the fun stuff: 'domesticated' crocodiles, surf competitions and tales about monkeys. Oh, so many stories about monkeys," reads a message on its site.
"Just days after criminal charges were dropped against Gambian journalists Abubacarr Saidykhan and Babucarr Ceesay, they have received an emailed death threat," Naomi Hunt reported Friday for the International Press Institute. The institute "expressed deep concern and called for an investigation."
"The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday's decision by authorities in Guinea-Bissau to expel Portuguese journalist Fernando Teixeira Gomes from the country in connection with his critical coverage of the transitional government," the press-freedom group said Thursday. " . . . 'The expulsion of Fernando Teixeira Gomes is a setback for democracy ahead of presidential elections,' said CPJ Africa Advocacy Coordinator Mohamed Keita. 'We are also alarmed by reports of official intimidation against freelance journalist António Aly Silva and hold Guinean authorities responsible for his well-being.' "
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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.