The ousted leader of Unity, an coalition of minority journalists, feels there was a campaign to keep an NABJ members out of the top spot.
In a contested election that is rare for the board of Unity: Journalists of Color, Joanna Hernandez, a Washington Post multiplatform editor who represents the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, was elected president of Unity on Sunday.
She defeated Barbara Ciara of the National Association of Black Journalists, the current Unity president who was seeking a full term. Ciara told Journal-isms she felt a "gentleman's agreement" was violated: that she would win the seat unopposed.
"Obviously, there were other agendas," said Ciara, an anchor and managing editor at WTKR-TV in Norfolk, Va. She said she was told "there were those who felt that NABJ shouldn't have a second bite at the apple." The vote was 11-6.
Unity, a coalition of the national associations of black, Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists, has rotated its leadership among the four groups. Since Unity's first convention in 1994, it has worked hard to overcome the cultural differences among the associations.
Still, it has been a challenge to ensure that each group feels fairly represented despite the varying sizes of their memberships. Within NABJ, the largest of the groups, there have been consistent grumblings that it was not receiving its due, considering its size.
The back story on Sunday's vote began a year ago, when Rafael Olmeda, former president of NAHJ, stepped down as Unity president, citing personal reasons. Ciara, who had been NABJ president, was chosen to complete Olmeda's term, which ends Dec. 31, and Hernandez was picked as Unity vice president. John Yearwood, world editor of the Miami Herald and chair of the Unity nominating committee, and Michaela Saunders, a reporter at the Omaha (Neb.) World Herald and board secretary, confirmed that Ciara said at the time that she did not want to give up the chance to run for a full term as president.
Traditionally, according to Ciara, the heads of the various associations would consult and agree on someone to run for each of the offices.
This year, when the board put out its call for candidates, Hernandez said, "I just took it at face value." She said she knew nothing of a "gentleman's agreement." As one who had been laid off by the New York Times in 2007, she said she believed that Unity needed to "get back to basics" — jobs, increasing diversity in newsrooms and "focusing on communities of color," she said.
"I'd like to go out to the mainstream media and get them recommitted to diversity," she said. "I'll reach out to the online world." She noted that there were contested elections in all the journalist of color elections this year and that this was a healthy development.
Ciara said she was given a heads-up a few weeks ago about a whispering campaign to deny NABJ the presidency.
"I am happy to serve in any capacity" that puts to use what she's been told are her leadership skills, Ciara said, especially as Unity prepares for its 2012 convention in Las Vegas. The convention was one reason that she sought the Unity presidency, Ciara said. No NABJ representative has presided over a Unity conference.
Ciara remains on the Unity board as a director. She said she would consult with NABJ President Kathy Times to find out how she can best serve.
Also elected to the Unity board were Leisa Richardson of NABJ, assistant metro editor of the Indianapolis Star, secretary; Sharon Chan of the Seattle Times, outgoing president of the Asian American Journalists Association, vice president; and Saunders, of the Native American Journalists Association, treasurer.
Fox news analyst Brit Hume said of Juan Williams, above, on "Fox News Sunday," "The standard that was applied to Juan Williams is [manifestly] not being applied to other NPR people."
Fox News Channel Sunday accused NPR of hypocrisy in firing news analyst Juan Williams for expressing opinions, showing tapes of other NPR news employees expressing their views.
In a celebratory exchange on "Fox News Sunday," host Chris Wallace told Williams, who has signed a three-year contract with Fox reportedly worth $2 million:
"In March, Cokie Roberts wrote a column about Glenn Beck in which she said this: 'Beck is worse than a clown. He's more like a terrorist who believes he has discovered the one true faith and condemns everyone else as a heretic. And that makes him something else as well — a traitor to the American values he professes so loudly to defend.'
"That's Cokie Roberts in a column. And then there's Cokie reaction on 'This Week,' the ABC show, to a Supreme Court ruling on partial-birth abortion."
In a video clip, Roberts says, "I'm just saying that, you know, women would be protected from regret later in life. There are a lots of moral decisions people make all through their lives where they regret them. And the idea that the court is going to stop that for women is something that I think is just offensive."
Continued Wallace, "Somehow NPR didn't seem to think those opinions were objectionable. . . . "
He went on, "Brit, we also have the case of Nina Totenberg, who's not an analyst, but NPR's legal affairs correspondent. Besides a few years ago wishing that the late Sen. Jesse Helms would get AIDS for —
"BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS ANALYST: Or his grandchildren.
"WALLACE: Or his grandchild for opposing AIDS government research. We also have just in the last month her reaction — remember, she covers the court — to the court's ruling on Citizens United, a decision that said that corporations could get more involved in political campaigns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
"NINA TOTENBERG, NPR COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, really, this is the next scandal. It's the scandal in the making. They don't have to disclose anything. And eventually, this is the kind of thing that led to Watergate."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
"WALLACE: And again, this is a reporter who covers the court."
An NPR spokeswoman did not respond when asked for comment. However, Alicia Shepard, the NPR ombudsman, said on the public radio show "On Point" Monday that she had begun to receive complaints about Totenberg and that having NPR newspeople in the role of news analysts "just doesn't seem to work. I hope they phase out the role," she said.
NPR has not responded to questions about whether Williams will be replaced.
Meanwhile, Vivian Schiller, NPR's chief executive, said she was sorry for how Williams' dismissal was handled — but not for firing him, David Bauder reported Monday for the Associated Press.
"Schiller sent an apology to National Public Radio staff members on Sunday night and wrote to managers at NPR stations. Her dismissal of Williams for saying on Fox News Channel that he gets nervous when he sees people on a plane with clothing that identifies them as Muslim became a 'public relations disaster,' NPR's ombudsman said."
The National Association of Black Journalists addressed the diversity issue.
"Whether you side with Williams' right to speak his opinion or National Public Radio's decision to part ways with the veteran, his firing creates a void at the network. Williams' was one of the few African American male voices heard on NPR," it said in a statement.
"That is the area that remains a key concern for the National Association of Black Journalists. Our leadership met with NPR executives in 2009 after releasing an open letter criticizing the network's lack of diversity in management. We took this opportunity to call NPR for a progress report.
"The network has made some progress since last fall's meeting. At the time, the network had one African American vice president. Today, there are three.
"Since our meeting, NPR has hired an NABJ member — an African American male. He is a national correspondent for NPR's digital platform. An NPR spokesman says another black male hire is in the works, but it is too soon to disclose details.
"Should NPR get a passing grade for this progress report? NABJ truly believes diversity is good for business, and we won't rest until NPR's on-air and management reflects the diversity of America."
Asked what role Keith Woods, vice president of diversity in news and operations, played in the Williams situation and the questions about diversity that followed, spokeswoman Anna Christopher said, "Keith is a member of the executive committee, and so of course is engaged in all major issues at NPR."
Melissa Bell, washingtonpost.com: Blog surfaces to counter Juan Williams's notions of 'Muslim garb'
Carl Chancellor, change.org: He's Juan and There Are Millions More
Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Juan Williams Tossed From NPR
Eric Deggans blog, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times: NPR's mistake with Juan Williams: Not being clear on why they really fired him
Editorial, Los Angeles Times: NPR's overreaction
Bonnie Erbé, Politics Daily: NPR Shouldn't Have Hired Juan Williams in the First Place
Paul Farhi, Washington Post: Amid anger, regret over Williams's firing, NPR staffers fear financial backlash
Iesa Galloway, Muslimmatters.org: Juan Williams: O’Reilly’s Colin Powell? A teachable moment or a civil rights ‘slam dunk’?
Allen Johnson, Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record: Juan Williams talks himself out of a job
Eric Hananoki, Media Matters: Wishing for Obama's assassination won't get you fired from Fox News
Leslie Harris blog, technorati.com:Hey Juan Williams, "You Are Black, I am Afraid"
Eugene Kane blog, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: So Juan Williams is a victim now?
Ronald Kessler, newsmax.com: The Juan Williams I Know
Michael Moore, Huffington Post: Juan Williams Is Right: Political Correctness About Terrorists Must End!
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Punished for being too honest
Elmer Smith, Philadelphia Daily News: Dismissal of Juan Williams will reverberate for NPR
Michele Weldon blog from Journalists & Women's Symposium: Fired Up Over Firing
David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun: Juan Williams, Fox News, NPR and the culture wars
"Over the weekend, word spread that an outbreak of cholera has sprung up on Haiti, the island nation that was devastated by an earthquake nine months ago," Alex Weprin wrote Monday for TVNewser.
"While the pictures may not be as dramatic as the ones viewers saw during the earthquake, the disease has the potential to kill or seriously affect thousands of people.
"CNN has chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Haiti (he left the U.S. on his birthday) joined by his senior producer Danielle Dellorto.
"CBS News has its medical correspondent, Dr. Jon LaPook on the island, where he will give his first report on the 'CBS Evening News' tonight.
"ABC News medical editor Dr. Richard Besser is in the country covering the outbreak, and filed a report for 'Good Morning America' this morning. Video of that report, after the jump.
"NBC News’ chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman was in St. Marc, which Snyderman calls 'the epicenter of the cholera epidemic.' "
Juan Williams lashed back at NPR Thursday and Friday over his firing as the network's CEO acknowledged that it bungled Williams' dismissal, and black NPR employees tied Williams' departure to their diversity concerns.
Juan Williams lashed back at NPR Thursday and Friday over his Wednesday night firing, as the network's CEO acknowledged it bungled Williams' dismissal and black NPR employees tied Williams' departure to their diversity concerns. The story was proving to be bigger than anyone imagined.
Some American Muslims, meanwhile, wondered whether the episode would make matters worse for them.
" 'The greater American public remains unsure about Islam and very often hostile about Islam,' saidAkbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University, who examines the divide in his new film and book, 'Journey into America: The Challenge of Islam,' " Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times reported Friday for the Tribune Washington bureau.
"Ahmed said he was disappointed by Williams' comments. But he added that NPR's abrupt firing 'does not bring the temperature down against Muslims…. Now the debate is, are we being oversensitive to Muslims?' "
NPR fired Williams from his news analyst job after he told Bill O'Reilly on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" that Muslims dressed in Muslim garb on planes made him nervous.
"Mr. Williams tempered his remarks, though, by reminding Mr. O’Reilly that all Muslims should not be branded as extremists," as Brian Stelter wrote in the New York Times. " 'We don’t want, in America, people to have their rights violated, to be attacked because they hear rhetoric from Bill O’Reilly and they act crazy,' Mr. Williams said, and Mr. O’Reilly agreed."
Williams, a senior news analyst on NPR but a commentator on Fox News Channel, was told by NPR late Wednesday via telephone that it was terminating his contract. "His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," NPR said in a statement. The remarks also came in a week when NPR affiliates, which depend heavily on donations, were conducting a pledge drive.
In a FoxNews.com column and an appearance on O'Reilly on Thursday, and in an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America" on Friday, Williams struck back.
"Now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion," he wrote. "This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one-sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought."
On "Good Morning America," Williams said of NPR, "This current crew was really getting vicious. I’ve always thought the right wing were ones that were inflexible and intolerant And now I'm coming to realize that the orthodoxy at NPR, if it's representing the left, it's just unbelievable that, you know — and especially I think for me as a black man to somehow, you know, say something that's out of the box, they find it very difficult.
"And I think that's right, George. I think they were looking for a reason to get rid of me, that they were uncomfortable with the idea that I was talking to the likes of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity."
It was an unusual public denunciation of his former employers in an industry where burning bridges carries a risk: A boss at one network today might easily become a supervisor at your news organization tomorrow.
Vivian Schiller, the NPR CEO, framed Williams' firing as the last straw in a series of incidents, not simply over the comments on O'Reilly. Asked about firing Williams in a late-night phone call, she conceded in a staff meeting on Friday, "Was it a smart idea? No."
Black journalists who watched events play out declared Williams the winner after he emerged with a $2 million, three-year contract with Fox News Channel. But many did not buy Williams' arguments, although they did agree that there were racial implications to the developments.
"OK, so he worked for an organization whose leadership he supposedly found 'self-righteous, ideological, left-wing' and that treated him worse than 'Tricky Dick' treated his enemies," freelance writer Marjorie Valbrun wrote for Slate.com. "Yet he stayed with them for 10 years. I wonder when exactly he began to notice he was the only black male on air at NPR and why he did not publicly complain about this lack of diversity before?
"Now that Williams is feeling victimized, maybe he can imagine how Muslims must feel about his comments."
Williams was NPR's sole on-air black male voice for most of his career at NPR. The National Association of Black Journalists questioned NPR's commitment to diversity a year ago after Greg Peppers, one of two black men in NPR's newsroom management, was fired less than 24 hours after the network hosted NABJ at its Washington headquarters.
Schiller responded that "we are examining our overall diversity status critically," released NPR's own set of figures about the staff makeup and in December hired Keith Woods, one of the foremost trainers and educators in journalism diversity and then the No. 2 administrator at the Poynter Institute, the school for professional journalists, for the new position of vice president of diversity in news and operations. In August, NPR hired another black journalist, Wall Street Journal reporter Corey Dade, as a Washington-based digital news correspondent.
At staff meetings on Thursday and Friday, African American employees questioned whether blacks were being singled out for dismissal and wondered whether a white employee would have been fired in the manner Williams was.
Spokeswoman Anna Christopher did not respond to a message asking whether NPR planned to replace Williams, who had become a contract worker.
In the Williams-connected conversations about NPR's diversity, little was said about the on-air homogeneity of Fox News, which attracts the fewest black viewers of the cable news networks.
Joe Strupp noted additionally for Media Matters for America, "Whether or not Juan Williams deserved to be fired from NPR, it's clear that Fox News regularly airs far worse anti-Muslim commentary."
Williams maintained on "Good Morning America" that one reason he was so angry about his dismissal was that his remarks were taken out of context. After all, he said, he had a track record as a historian on civil rights issues.
Even so, Williams' statement that he felt nervous around Muslims dressed in "Muslim garb" on planes became a lightning rod, despite his additional comment that Muslims should not be stereotyped.
"I’ve been a Muslim for 32 years. I’ve been all over the world, especially the Middle East," Sunni Khalid, senior reporter at WYPR-FM in Baltimore, told Journal-isms.
"What the hell is 'Muslim garb?' I bet Juan and Bill O’Reilly couldn’t distinguish Sikh or Hindu traditional garb from Saudi or Kuwaiti clothing. What about people from Indonesia, who wear the black, oval-shaped songbok on their heads? I wear it when I travel. Should people from those countries, where the bulk of extremist attacks occur, be 'nervous,' too? What about Obama, when he hosts Karzai or King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia? I remember there was a time, not too long ago, when white women crossed the street when I was walking IN A SUIT! And, of course, it’s still tough to catch a cab in DC if you’re a black man," said Khalid, a former NPR foreign correspondent who settled a discrimination lawsuit against the network in 2003.
"Again, it should be pointed out that the 9-11 skyjackers were not dressed in so-called 'Muslim garb,' but Western clothes, in order to fit in. In fact, I’d be more comfortable to see someone dressed in traditional garb, because I could be assured that they had already passed through the same security measures that I had."
However, Asra Nomani, a scholar in the practice of journalism at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies, said Friday on NPR's "Tell Me More," "What Juan Williams expressed, I believe, is the sentiment of many people and including Muslims. Muslims profile each other all the time. When you walk into a mosque and you see other Muslims, you say, oh, look, he looks like a Jihadi. Or, that's a niqab, a woman who wears a full-face veil. It doesn't mean, you know, that we need to go to the point of civil liberties, you know, offensive or anything like that. . . . I believe, unfortunately, that NPR short-circuited a conversation that we really need to be having."
NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard reported that "NPR’s initial story garnered more than 6,800 comments, many supporting Williams and others asking why it took so long to fire him. At noon, the deluge of email crashed NPR’s 'Contact Us' form on the web site."
According to one national survey of 1,017 Americans Thursday evening, 46 percent of those polled said NPR was wrong to fire Williams, 19 percent said NPR was right to fire him and 35 percent said they had no opinion on the issue, according to Ted Iliff of the organization Poll Position.
The controversy went far beyond the journalism realm when former governors Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who also are paid Fox News contributors, jumped to Williams' defense and called for a "defunding" of NPR by the federal government.
But as Andrew Phelps of public station WBUR in Boston noted, "NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government for operations," although individual stations benefit from grants from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
"NPR does receive grants from CPB for special projects, but that funding is not included as part of the network’s operations budget," he wrote.
"So while federal dollars do flow to NPR, the connection is indirect. It may be a fine point, but it’s an important distinction. The federal government can’t 'defund' NPR. What Congress can do is cut CPB funding — which has diminished over the years and has, at times, been threatened."
The Williams affair at heart was a debate over the proper role of journalists, however.
"After dismissing Mr. Williams, who was one of its senior news analysts, NPR argued that he had violated the organization’s belief in impartiality, a core tenet of modern American journalism," Stelter wrote in the New York Times. "By renewing Mr. Williams’s contract, Fox News showed its preference for point-of-view — rather than the view-from-nowhere — polemics.
"Kelly McBride, the ethics group leader for the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, called the Williams case an 'object lesson in how different news organizations have different values.' She said the ethics guidelines at many news organizations matched those at NPR.
" 'If you make some outlandish statement on your Facebook page or at a public event somewhere, you are still representing your newsroom,' she said. 'So there are consequences to that.' "
This columnist was pleased to have participated Friday in a smart, hour-long discussion of the case withMark Jurkowitz of the Pew Research Center, host Kerri Miller and listeners of Minnesota Public Radio, among other conversations.
Akbar Ahmed, washingtonpost.com: A Muslim response to Juan Williams
Farai Chideya, Huffington Post: What Everyone Is Missing About NPR's WilliamsGate [Oct. 23]
Juan Cole blog: End Federal Tax Subsidies to Fox!
Javier E. David, theGrio.com: NPR tunes out First Amendment with Williams firing
Editorial, Washington Post: NPR's hasty decision to fire pundit Juan Williams
David Folkenflik, NPR: Fox News Gives Juan Williams $2 Million Contract
Matea Gold, Tribune Washington Bureau: Prominent Muslims fear NPR analyst's firing may fan hostility
Keach Hagey, Politico: Sarah Palin joins calls for defunding NPR
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Gone Juan: A Faux Liberal NPR Should Have Canned Long Ago
Arsalan Iftikhar, CNN.com: NPR right to fire Juan Williams
Jimi Izrael blog, "Tell Me More," NPR: Here Today, Juan Tomorrow?
Wil LaVeist, UrbanFaith.com: NPR Firing of Williams Disappointing
Michael Meyers, New York Daily News: NPR's firing of Juan Williams wrong, but not excuse to take away funding from public radio
Richard Prince and Mark Jurkowitz with Kerri Miller on "Midmorning," Minnesota Public Radio: When news commentary crosses the line
Richard Prince with Latoya Peterson on "The Michael Eric Dyson Show," WEAA, Baltimore: Juan Williams’ Firing
Richard Prince, Asra Nomani and John Watson with Michel Martin on "Tell Me More," NPR: NPR Fires Juan Williams, Journalists React
Rem Rieder, AJR:;Moving too Fast: NPR’s mishandling of the Juan Williams imbroglio
Kevin Roderick, LAObserved: NPR memo to stations: why we fired Juan Williams
Betsy Rothstein, Fishbowl DC: QUOTES of the DAY
Betsy Rothstein, Fishbowl DC: Ambivalence
Alicia Shepard, NPR: NPR's Firing of Juan Williams Was Poorly Handled
Brian Stelter, New York Times: Williams Episode Shows 2 Versions of Journalism
William M. Welch, USA Today: Williams' firing from NPR [renews] debate over Muslims
Some African American columnists from the Trotter Group who were not selected to attend the group's White House meeting with Barack Obama were "disappointed, embarrassed and inconvenienced."
An attempt by the White House to reach out to the nation's organization of African American columnists has resulted in anger and resentment on the part of those in the group who were ignored or, worse, disinvited. Some lost money when they made travel arrangements to Washington and then were forced to cancel.
The role of the White House in selecting the interviewers, and whether group representatives were complicit in granting the White House such a role, has been called into question.
President Obama met Friday in the Roosevelt Room with 10 members of the Trotter Group as part of his effort to shore up his African American base for the midterm elections next month.
The meeting was fraught with symbolism. The Trotter Group was named after activist Boston editor William Monroe Trotter, a militant figure of the early 20th century. Boston Globe columnist Derrick Z. Jackson explains on the Trotter Group site:
"On November 12, 1914, William Monroe Trotter, editor of the Guardian newspaper, went to the White House to confront President Woodrow Wilson. Trotter had supported Wilson's election, but lynching was flaring up, and segregation was more rigid than ever. Trotter asked Wilson where he stood.
"Wilson replied: 'Segregation is not humiliating, but a benefit. ... Your manner offends me.' A 45-minute argument ensued during which Trotter said: 'Two years ago, you were regarded as a second Abraham Lincoln. ... Now we colored leaders [who supported Wilson] are denounced in the colored churches as traitors to our race.
"The argument made the front page of The New York Times."
On Oct. 8, Trotter Group co-founder DeWayne Wickham, a columnist for USA Today and Gannett News Service, told Trotter members that Obama wanted to meet with the group on Oct. 15.
The group has 40 members, and Wickham, who negotiated the meeting with the White House, told members later in the day, "The White House has just asked me to limit the number of Trotter members taking part in the meeting with President Obama to 16. So I sent to the White House the names of the first 16 Trotter members who responded."
The Journal-isms author, who is in Washington, was among those on the list of 16 and had planned to invite readers to suggest questions. Other columnists on the list made preparations for a trip. On Monday afternoon, however, Wickham messaged, "Unfortunately, the White House has asked us to reduce the number of Trotter members who will attend Friday's meeting with President Obama from 18 to 10 — and to limit it to the founders and newspaper columnists." There was no explanation of how the number had risen to 18.
Wickham and another co-founder, retired Newsday columnist and editor Les Payne, pared the list, Wickham said.
It was unclear how much the White House participated in vetoing or approving certain members. Kevin S. Lewis, who started as White House director of African American media only a week ago, did not respond Monday to questions from Journal-isms.
What was clear, however, was that not all members were involved in the decision and that those who were suddenly cut were disappointed, embarrassed and inconvenienced.
An e-mail from George E. Curry, a veteran journalist who opines for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, which serves black newspapers, and for the Philadelphia Inquirer, indicated that the White House did play a role in shaping which members were invited.
In an electronic discussion among those who were not invited, Curry said:
"I am also deeply dismayed over how an announced selection process was abandoned in mid-stream, evidently because the names of certain people were not included on the list.
"When DeWayne initially announced that participation would be limited to 18 people and they were selected in the order in which they replied to the invite, I thought it would be unfortunate if all of us could not attend, but that was a fair way of deciding who should attend.
"However, fairness was quickly thrown out of the window when DeWayne said he and Les decided on a list of names that he sent to the White House before even letting us know of their decision. As one of the first to reply, I was pleased that I was on the first list. However, it was no fun learning that I had been deleted from the list because, according to DeWayne, he and Les wanted to make sure the founders were included in the group.
"Like Richard, I did not know there [were] two separate but unequal membership levels in the Trotter Group," Curry continued, referring to this columnist.
"DeWayne first told me I was being eliminated because the White House asked him to 'limit it to the founders and newspaper columnists.' I doubly qualify as a newspaper columnist: 1) As a regular columnist for the Philadelphia Inquirer and 2) As a columnist for the NNPA, a federation of more than 100 Black newspapers. When I questioned the decision, I received a different explanation: The White House 'expressed a lack of interest in having an NNPA person in our reconstituted group since the president is planning to meet soon with the NNPA and other units of the black press.' It stretches the imagination that a White House that is finally reaching out the Black community would specifically ask that the person whose column is syndicated to more Black newspapers than anyone else in the country should be specifically excluded from participation.
"Furthermore, I do not work for the NNPA and therefore will not be included in any meeting Obama has with the publishers. If in fact that were the case, I still would qualify by virtue of my writing a column for the Inquirer and being among the first to respond."
Others weighed in who agreed to put their e-mailed comments on the record:
Monroe Anderson, another veteran journalist who blogs from Chicago, said:
"I was surprised to discover that the meeting had taken place after the fact since I've known Michelle and Barack longer than any other member of the Trotter [Group] and I would think my long term perspective could have contributed to the meeting. . . . I've known Axelrod since he was an intern at the Tribune in the 70s and Valerie's first TV appearance was on my show, Common Ground, in the early 90s." Anderson referred to White House advisers David Alexrod and Valerie Jarrett, and to the first couple.
David Squires, a columnist at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., wrote:
"I and my editors were certainly disappointed in the process and the result, after gearing up for me to represent all of Tribune newspapers in the meeting. I am certainly a newspaper columnist. The final list included no Tribune rep but at least four from Gannett. It was also particularly disappointing to me because of my trying for several years to join this group and having been tripped up by not getting invited to the Washington meetings — the only way to join, as I was told. I was pleased to finally join the group prior to the Louisville meeting [this year]. I would hope that in future high-end meetings, more of us will get the opportunity to participate. . . . none of us want to be relegated to the second-rung wing of the Trotter Group. (I also had to eat the cost of my accommodations for Thursday night, which could not be canceled.)"
Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune:
"I too would have represented my entire chain, as well as distribution through one of the many syndicates and news services that court me all the time. (Before the final cut, I emailed DeWayne offering similar assistance to any other Trotter.)
"And like at David's paper, we started discussing coverage, only with me it was with my publisher and vice president. Imagine the thrill of having to say 'never mind.' "
Cary Clack, columnist for the San Antonio Express-News:
"My newspaper thought the trip was important enough to send me and I didn't find out I wouldn't be going until after I made my travel arrangements. Frankly, it was embarrassing to have to tell them the trip was off. And as for the meeting being open only to founders and newspaper columnists well, my newspaper pays me to write three columns a week so that should put me in the latter group."
Issac Bailey, Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Sun News:
"I think we have to find a better way to handle these situations. One of the hardest things to do now is to get your editors to see the importance of speaking about national events in your column — even though most of our readers are conservative and boisterous about President Obama and national politics. They were readying to make room for this trip, though.
"I understand that in any such process that there will be difficult choices to be made, and that disappointment simply can not be avoided in such situations. I'm a grown up. All I'm saying is that moving forward, we need to figure out a process we can all agree upon so one day we don't tell our editors we are heading to the White House, then two days later have egg on our faces."
The Trotter Group decided at its 1992 inception that it would have no formal officers or bylaws — a mistake, according to Barbara A. Robinson, a retired columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "I remember when I tried to get the organization to function like any responsible organization, bylaws etc, and my ideas were opposed by the founders. The organization has grown tremendously since then," she said. "Without elected officers you will continue to have arbitrary decisions made by the founders who really didn't expect this organization to grow this large."
Wickham has functioned as the group's leader.
Asked a series of questions about who made what decision when, and how much the White House was involved, Wickham asked Journal-isms which members were dissatisfied.
Told that not all were speaking on the record, he replied:
"I'm not going to respond to complaints and charges from unnamed journalists.
"I don't see any point in engaging in a discussion about questions that are being raised by people whose own role in this matter cannot be examined."
The final list of 10 selected columnists included:
Wickham, USA Today; Payne, theRoot.com; Dwight Lewis, Nashville Tennessean; Tonyaa Weathersbee, Florida Times-Union; Rhonda Graham, Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal; Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer; Askia Muhammad, the Washington Informer; Lynne Varner, Seattle Times; Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press and Joe Davidson, Washington Post.
Monroe Anderson blog: White House blackout peeves some black columnists
Mary C. Curtis, Politics Daily: Obama Aide Valerie Jarrett's Advice to Boss: 'Stay the Course and Know It Will Get Better'
Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Obama: Dems can win if voters can tune out attacks
Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: We should judge Barack Obama as the president, not as the black president
DeWayne Wickham blog: Obama rises above the racial swamp
Online "summit" attendees were accused of breaking the rules, but the White House does not believe the ground rules for Monday's session were broken.
Except for the posting of a smart-phone video of President Obama greeting black bloggers and journalists — a video that found its way to the Drudge Report — the White House does not believe that ground rules for the Monday session were broken, according to the White House liaison for African American media.
Controversy over the meeting, which had gone virtually unreported in the mainstream media, increased late in the week after a Wednesday blog posting about the session by Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times. It began, "The White House is usually quite good at keeping a muzzle on the mediaafter one of its off-the-record sessions with President Obama and senior members of his administration.
"But not this week."
Providing the meeting further notoriety, the Drudge Report and RealClearPolitics.com posted the blogger's smart-phone video under an identical headline: "Obama: Blacks Probably Don't Watch 'Meet the Press'."
What Obama actually said during his surprise visit to the online "summit" was, "The media is changing so rapidly. It allows us to reach audiences that may not be watching ‘Meet the Press’ — not that there’s anything wrong with ‘Meet the Press.’ I’m just saying that, you know, it might be a different demographic," prompting laughs from the group.
Kevin S. Lewis, director of African American media for the White House, told Journal-isms on Friday that the bloggers did not break the ground rules, save for the posting of the video. Under those rules, as Peters wrote, the first half of the briefings was to be on background, meaning they could report any information they learned but not attribute it to any specific official; the second half was off the record entirely.
But Lewis, defending the bloggers, said of the meeting, "We didn't make it a secret." He noted that the White House posted its own account of the session on Wednesday morning, complete with a list of attendees.
As reported on Monday, the session took place as the Democrats attempt to solidify their African American base for the midterm elections. Among the 20 Web workers who attended were representatives of theRoot.com, Black Entertainment Television, Essence, Jack & Jill Politics, City Limits, Concrete Loop, AOL Black Voices, Black America Web and even the gossipy MediaTakeOut.
The session prompted a range of opinions about its propriety and the choice of invitees.
"Tell anyone who reads MediaTakeout.com that the site was invited to the White House as part of its effort to 'broaden online engagement' with the black community and it will be at least 5 minutes before you can continue the conversation due to the laughter that will ensue," wrote J Danielle, identified as a professional speechwriter and media coach, on her Media Strut site.
"As a black woman and confirmed policy wonk, I can tell you, I don’t look to music and gossip blogs for thought leadership. It’s almost as if the White House decided that any blog or web site that is owned or read by black people would be sufficient."
But Cheryl Contee ("Jill Tubman"), blogging at Jack & Jill Politics, wrote, "Look, if black bloggers and black online media weren’t having a consistent impact in reaching people — if what we are trying to do wasn’t meaningful & important — no one would care what we did, when we did it and whether or not we did it at the White House. Naw mean? You could read this as an attempt to drive a wedge between increasingly effective and powerful black online forces and a new center of power at the White House. We can’t let that happen."
Introducing his observation with, "Oh my people," Ta-Nehisi Coates, blogging for the Atlantic, posted an excerpt from Peters' piece and said, "Insert your favorite line from 'The Poundcake Speech' [by Bill Cosby], 'The Ballot or the Bullet,' Ice Cube or Chris Rock," all of which offer advice on or criticism of some black behavior.
"Can't have an off-the-record convo. Why? Cause bloggers are videoing the president . . ."
On the "barbershop" segment of NPR's "Tell Me More" on Friday, columnist Ruben Navarrette said the president was playing "to the lowest common denominator in terms of the guest list," adding that "the real story" was, "What was the president thinking in reaching out to a bunch of people who are, frankly, probably beneath him and beneath the office?"
Bloggers who attended the session defended themselves — and acted to blunt the criticism.
"I took it upon myself to remove the video, solely due to certain media (who were not present at the Summit) who have publicly misconstrued the facts," Natasha Eubanks of TheYBF.com (for "The Young, Black and Fabulous") celebrity-gossip site wrote in a Twitter posting. "I refuse to give any ammunition in any way to those who have a negative agenda for such a positive event."
Angel Laws, editor of ConcreteLoop.com, another celebrity-gossip site, tweeted of Peters, "i hate the undertone of his article. he is basically saying we can't be trusted." She accused the reporter of not checking his facts and urged others to contact him.
In the comments section under Peters' article, some predictably accused Obama of being "racist" for meeting with black bloggers.
Also in that space, entrepreneurial journalist Mike Green, who is black, said Peters had buried the lead. He said it was this passage:
"The attention the meeting received in the black blogosphere highlighted the vast gap that remained between mainstream media outlets and ones focused at minority groups. Though the meeting occurred on Monday and had been a topic of discussion in black media circles for three days, it received virtually no attention in the mainstream press."
At the White House, Lewis defended the choice of guests, which he said was determined after "a collection of folks got together. We're reaching out to all Americans. People get their information from different places," he said. Lewis added that Peters had not contacted him for his article.
Obama held a session on Friday for members of the Trotter Group of African American columnists. The Journal-isms author, an 18-year member of the group, was disinvited when the White House cut the number of attendees from 18 to 10 and Trotter organizers said attendance would be limited to newspaper columnists and a founder.Thus, there is no firsthand report here.
Matt Dornic, Fishbowl DC: Behind-the-scenes of Obama’s Youth Town Hall
David Jackson, USA Today: Obama: 24/7 media makes it hard to focus 'on the long term'
Steve Krakauer, Mediaite: Meet The Press Gets Worst Ratings In 18 Years
Gina McCauley, AOL Black Voices: The New York Times vs. Black Media Mogulettes: When Black Bloggers Visit the White House, We've Arrived
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: The Disillusioned Latino Voter
Christopher Nelson, the Grio.com: Obama tries to recapture his youth vote
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Can Obama deliver the black vote?
David Squires, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.: Schools are failing black males
Leutisha Stills ("The Christian Progressive Liberal"), Jack & Jill Politics: Why the NYT and Drudge are Having Coniptions about Black Bloggers
Shernay Williams, Afro-American: Black Vote May Have Strong Impact on Maryland Gov. Race
Essence.com Spotlights Lesbian Couple in Brides Feature
Essence.com showcased its first lesbian couple in the site's "Bridal Bliss" feature on Wednesday. The couple married on Long Island, N.Y., last month.
Aisha Mills, a public affairs consultant, and Danielle Moody, an environmental lobbyist, secured their marriage license in the District of Columbia, where same-sex marriage became legal this year. Their story began:
"When Aisha's dear friend Rashad accepted a job in NYC, he invited her and another close friend over to help him pack and reflect on his life in Washington D.C. But when Danielle walked through the door, Aisha put down the cardboard boxes and the packing tape and focused on the vision of love in front of her. It was love at first sight.
"Danielle and I sat in Rashad's window sill and talked about our lives for hours," Aisha remembers.
"Six and a half years later, Aisha and Danielle continue their conversation of love."
Black bloggers and journalists descended upon the White House Monday for an unprecedented summit and were treated to a meet-and-greet with the president.
President Obama stopped by a "black online summit" at the White House Monday as part of an outreach to African American journalists and bloggers before the midterm elections, an effort that includes the Democratic National Committee spending what it calls an unprecedented $3 million to reach the most loyal part of Obama's base, African American voters.
"I thought the meeting was great in that it showed that President Obama and his administration are taking black new media and our growing influence seriously," David A. Wilson, managing editor of theGrio.com, told Journal-isms via e-mail.
"They outlined how the administration's policies have had a positive effect on the African-American community and they invited us to make suggestions on how they could work better with us and provide us with more access to the White House.
"I also thought the summit provided a great opportunity for all of us leading the charge in [the] black new media movement to get together in a way that I haven't seen since we started theGrio last year."
However, Leutisha Stills, who blogs at Jack & Jill Politics, cautioned, "The summit was a good one and very comprehensive, but we made it known that if we really have 'influence,' we are going to test drive it and see how many more invites we get from the White House."
The Columbus Day session lasted from 9:15 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., with senior adviser Valerie Jarrett present along with specialists from various parts of the administration, including the first lady's office. Among the 20 African Americans working on the Web were representatives of theRoot.com, Black Entertainment Television, Essence, Jack & Jill Politics, City Limits, Concrete Loop, AOL Black Voices, Black America Web and even the gossipy MediaTakeOut.
Monday's session is to be followed Friday by a presidential meeting with 10 members of the Trotter Group of African American columnists. Moreover, six or seven African American bloggers were credentialed for Obama's rally in Philadelphia last Sunday, although invitations were extended to about 20.
"As Obama has steadily increased his outreach to African American voters over the past month, with interviews and campaign stops targeted at the black community — 'our community,' as the president likes to say — he has sent a clear signal that this election is about him and his record," Carol E. Lee and Abby Phillip wrote for Politico.
Derrick L. Plummer, regional press secretary for the Democratic National Committee, told Journal-isms via e-mail, "Between now and Nov. 2nd the Democratic Party and the President will continue to speak with and engage the African American community about why this election [is] so important and the clear choice we face."
Referring to Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Plummer said, "Chairman Kaine will continue to speak with AfAm media print, online national radio outlets/hosts."
Obama has appeared on six or seven radio shows that target African Americans, including those hosted by Warren Ballentine, Russ Parr, Doug Parks, Joe Madison and Tom Joyner.
"The DNC’s $3 million AfAm paid advertising investment in a midterm election is unprecedented. In addition to AfAm paid advertising, we’ll make a significant investment in Latino advertising and continue our contributions to coordinated campaigns in every key state — most of the work of which is devoted to base voters," Plummer said.
"In addition, the DNC this morning started running a radio ad nationally and regionally featuring civil rights icon Rev. Joseph Lowery in which he calls upon young people of all ages to vote because in '2008 we changed the guard…this year, we must guard the change.'
"Since Labor Day the DNC has been running radio and/or print and online advertising — the earliest we have ever done so — and will continue to run ads through Election Day.
"Because of record fundraising the DNC, is looking into the possibility of television advertisements as well."
Kevin S. Lewis, director, African American media for the White House, told Journal-isms via e-mail, "The online summit provided a space for an in-depth, off-the-record dialogue with new media professionals on how the Obama Administration is approaching pressing issues like jobs, the economy, health care, education, and community investment, through the 'New Foundation' platform. The summit also served as a space to discuss how we can build on our efforts to further engage the online community."
It was Lewis' first official day on the job. Lewis, 27, was a press assistant in the White House press office and worked in that role during the presidential campaign. He succeeds Corey A. Ealons, who joined a Washington public relations firm last month.
"Everything that was said was either on background or totally off the record, so I can't reveal as much as I'd like," Cord Jefferson, a writer with theRoot.com, told Journal-isms, "but I think it was quite productive. In my estimation, any time the media sits down and talks with an administration — as long as neither side is guaranteeing anything to the other — is time well spent.
"I'll also say that just bringing together black web outlets to the White House, just sitting them down and saying, 'We respect your mission,' is a huge step. We met President Obama today. It's difficult to imagine a black web summit even taking place in the Bush White House, let alone a black web summit that would have seen President Bush stop by. It's not like we saw any major reforms take place in that room today, but we did see progress."
Charles M. Blow, New York Times: What’s Dumb, Really?
Stanley Crouch, New York Daily News: Obama could lose a little of his cool: Seriously, why are Lil Wayne and Jay Z on President's iPod?
Merlene Davis, Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: Churches take the lead in voter education
Jarvis DeBerry, New Orleans Times-Picayune: Voting your values? Do you know what they are?
Joel Dreyfuss, theRoot.com: Obama Reaches Out to African-American Voters
Bob Herbert, New York Times: The Campaign Disconnect
Carol E. Lee and Abby Phillip, Politico: With black voters, Barack Obama gets personal
Stephen Miller, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: Report finds little FOIA improvement under Obama
Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Commission should clear up Wall Street meltdown
Edward Schumacher-Matos, Miami Herald: 'Obamacare' wrong choice for headline
Leutisha Stills ("The Christian Progressive Liberal"), Jack & Jill Politics: African-American Online Summit at the White House
Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Obamacare does not violate the US Constitution
Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Voters dislike "government," like what it does
Devona Walker, TheLoop21: Has the Obama backlash fueled more workplace discrimination?
Ousted CNN anchor Rick Sanchez said Monday that in his now-notorious comments to a satellite radio station, "I argued inartfully that all of us are capable of being prejudiced whether we are Jewish, African American, Asian or Hispanic."
Some media reports called his original statement anti-Semitic or asserted that Sanchez claimed that Jews "control" or "run" the media. Asked in a Washington Post online chat whether the media's coverage of his comments was fair, Sanchez replied, "I can't control what people write or say. All I can do is make myself available to anyone who wants to talk to me and hear my message because I have absolutely nothing to hide."
He also said, "I am flattered by the number of calls that my representatives have received about my future employment. Then I will sit down with my representatives and comb through any of those possibilities."
In a Sept. 30 interview for a satellite radio show promoting a new book, Sanchez excoriated late-night comedian Jon Stewart for hailing from a middle-class background that Sanchez said made Stewart unable to "relate to a guy like me." Sanchez went on to answer a question about whether Stewart, as a Jew, shouldn't also be considered a member of an oppressed minority group.
His response was: "I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they — the people in this country who are Jewish — are an oppressed minority? Yeah.' "
Keli Goff and Michael Medved with Howard Kurtz on CNN's "Reliable Sources": Sanchez Apologizes for Comments
NBC News correspondent Ron Allen, just back from Sierra Leone, writes that in African countries he is "constantly reminded of the fact that, even though I'm black, I stick out like a sore thumb.
"While in Sierra Leone for example, often when driving through the streets, we would hear people yell out the local term for 'white people,' even though our entire team was black. Clearly, the way we looked represented something to them, that went much deeper than skin color.
"On the other hand, there have been times when blackness helped me blend in. In Somalia, where I spent months and months during the U.S. led invasion in the 1990's, many were convinced I was a Somali because of my features and skin tone," Allen wrote for theGrio.com
"There also was the time in Rwanda, when I was mistaken for being a local member of the Tutsi tribe. Very unfortunate, because Tutsis, you'll remember, were the target of the country's genocide. Fortunately, I happened to be in an armored United Nations vehicle. The soldiers slammed the door shut at the checkpoint, and drove off under a hail of rocks, insults and a few bullets.
"Overall, over the years, I've felt very deeply for many of the people I've met, enduring poverty and deprivation so much more extreme than in America. I always will remember a famine victim in Sudan, a man who had become a skin and bones skeleton of a person. He was an English teacher, who was able to tell us very clearly how he and his fellow villagers had arrived in this circumstance, victims of the country's epic civil war, making their way to a U.N. food center desperate for something to eat. I've been deeply moved by so many people we've met caught up in war, not the soldiers, the residents. I think a lot of people don't realize the fact that, war rarely happens on distant battlefields. It usually happens in neighborhoods, villages, right where families live, and innocents often die.
"Do I feel more deeply, because I'm African-American and so many of the victims are black like me? Perhaps. But I've met, and told stories about people in desperate circumstances all around the world that also were deeply moving. The wars in Bosnia and across the Balkans were especially horrible for civilians. I certainly do wish we, the media, paid more attention to Africa, and the developing world in general."traight. (Video)