Googling the Racism Toward Obama
Journal-isms: Research suggests that race cost the president more votes in 2008 than many realized.
"Barack Obama won 52.9 percent of the popular vote in 2008 and 365 electoral votes, 95 more than he needed," Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, a doctoral candidate in economics at Harvard, wrote Sunday in the New York Times. "Many naturally concluded that prejudice was not a major factor against a black presidential candidate in modern America. My research, a comparison of Americans' Google searches and their voting patterns, found otherwise. If my results are correct, racial animus cost Mr. Obama many more votes than we may have realized.
" . . . Can we really quantify racial prejudice in different parts of the country based solely on how often certain words are used on Google? Not perfectly, but remarkably well. Google, aggregating information from billions of searches, has an uncanny ability to reveal meaningful social patterns. 'God' is Googled more often in the Bible Belt, 'Lakers' in Los Angeles.
" . . . many Americans use Google to find racially charged material. I performed the somewhat unpleasant task of ranking states and media markets in the United States based on the proportion of their Google searches that included the word 'nigger(s).' This word was included in roughly the same number of Google searches as terms like 'Lakers,' 'Daily Show,' 'migraine' and 'economist.'
" . . . The state with the highest racially charged search rate in the country was West Virginia. Other areas with high percentages included western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio, upstate New York and southern Mississippi.
"Once I figured out which parts of the country had the highest racially charged search rates, I could test whether Mr. Obama underperformed in these areas. . . . The results were striking: The higher the racially charged search rate in an area, the worse Mr. Obama did.
" . . . If my findings are correct, race could very well prove decisive against Mr. Obama in 2012. Most modern presidential elections are close. Losing even two percentage points lowers the probability of a candidate's winning the popular vote by a third. And prejudice could cost Mr. Obama crucial states like Ohio, Florida and even Pennsylvania."
Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Not Afraid to Talk About Race
Neil Foote video: ObamaRace&Image April2012
Joy-Ann Reid, theGrio.com: Obama campaign releases first black radio ad
The appearance by the vice president, scheduled for Wednesday, is usually a sign that the president will not be present, since Biden is a surrogate for President Obama. Obama addressed the NABJ convention in 2007 and the Unity convention in 2008, both times as a presidential candidate.
Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to the president, is scheduled to address the convention on Saturday night.
Mitt Romney, the putative GOP candidate, was invited to the NABJ convention, but it could not be learned whether he plans to attend the NABJ convention or that of Unity, which is scheduled for Aug. 1-4 in Las Vegas.
"As many of you know, five years ago I beat breast cancer," Robin Roberts announced Monday as she co-hosted ABC's "Good Morning America." I've always been a fighter, and with all of your prayers and support, a winner.
"Sometimes the treatment for cancer can cause other serious medical problems. Today, I want to let you know that I've been diagnosed with MDS, or myelodysplastic syndrome. It's a disease of the blood and bone marrow and was once known as preleukemia.
"My doctors tell me I'm going to beat this -- and I know it's true.
"If you Google MDS, you may find some scary stuff, including statistics that my doctors insist don't apply to me. They say I'm younger and fitter than most people who confront this disease and will be cured. . . .
"Today, I will start what is known as pre-treatment -- chemotherapy in advance of a bone marrow transplant later this year. Bone marrow donors are scarce and particularly for African-American women. I am very fortunate to have a sister who is an excellent match, and this greatly improves my chances for a cure.
"I received my MDS diagnosis on the very day that 'Good Morning America' finally beat the 'Today Show' for the first time in 16 years. Talk about your highs and lows! Then a few weeks ago, during a rather unpleasant procedure to extract bone marrow for testing, I received word that I would interview President Obama the next day. The combination of landing the biggest interview of my career and having a drill in my back reminds me that God only gives us what we can handle and that it helps to have a good sense of humor when we run smack into the absurdity of life.
"Bottom line: I've been living with this diagnosis for awhile and will continue to anchor GMA. . . ."
Chris Ariens, TVNewser: GMA Staffers Meet to Discuss Robin Roberts Treatment
Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Following Bone Marrow Transplant Revelation, Robin Roberts Says 'Be a Donor'
Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News: Robin's Next Challenge: Myelodysplastic Syndrome
Merrill Knox, TV Newser: WWL's Sally-Ann Roberts to Donate Bone Marrow Cells to Her Sister, 'GMA' Anchor Robin Roberts
"We've recently had a rash of shootings in Seattle," Sharon Pian Chan, associate opinions editor/digital at the Seattle Times, told Journal-isms by email, saying she was inspired to write "after reading your essay on the need to develop minority opinion writers."
"A series of gang related shooting deaths in south Seattle, then a non-gang related shooting in which a man opened fired at a cafe and killed four people, then killed another woman downtown as he was on the run.
"We asked Prometheus Brown, a member of the Blue Scholars, to write an op-ed for us on the shootings. It turned into a song, and we ran the lyrics in our Sunday opinion section with a QR code that linked to an online video of him performing the song.
"Prometheus, also known as George Quibuyen, is Filipino American and he lives in south Seattle. While the Blue Scholars are from Seattle, they are a nationally known group. We want to show the community that things are changing in the opinion section, and this was a way to reach more diverse readers in a format they related to. Music has a long history of social commentary, and this piece spoke to our readers in a way that no news story could."
The Prometheus piece begins:
"Never heard of this, city getting murderous --
"occupation dangerous like Philippine journalists.
"Crazy and deranged they describe him in the same pages
"that would call him terrorist, if not for the melanin deficiency.
"Gang problem bigger than just juvenile delinquency.
"Gangs is survival if environments is grimy.
"To begin with -- speaking of which, let's be consistent --
"Today is called a tragedy, yesterday a statistic. . . . "
Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley added by email that the video "was shot by our intern Aaron Levinsky. The song lyrics were packaged with an oped by two academics discussing the mass shooting and how more gun control won't dissuade a mass murderer -- a well written, well-reasoned oped.
"Then there was Mr. Brown's song, which was good medicine for a city hurting. All heart, all irony, all painful truths. Especially poignant [are] Brown's comments about people being upset about the mass murder in the northend, perhaps more so than they were about those in Rainier Beach. Maybe yes, maybe not. But he also has a moment where he acknowledges the music is influential. The words are powerful, but the video really makes these moments. . . ."
The Washington Post commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Watergate break-in on Monday, and although there was little ethnic diversity among the journalists in attendance,
investigative journalists of color are making their mark, according to Manny Garcia, executive editor and general manager of El Nuevo Herald and president of Investigative Reporters and Editors.
Garcia told Journal-isms in an email:
"The number of investigative journalists of color has increased, and that is a very positive sign. First, I see it at the university level, where there is a hunger by students to dig into institutions. I also have seen a change for the better in some news organizations, and I see it at the non-profit level. I see the change mostly across beats, municipal governments, school boards, cops, immigration.
"I routinely get calls from news editors looking to hire investigative journalists of color, so I think there is an awareness by those newsroom leaders that if they really want to cover their communities credibly, they need a diverse and aggressive team on the beat or on projects.
"Still, despite the advances, we are not where we need to be as an industry, especially with our changing demographics. We don't have nearly enough journalists of color on I-teams — whether as investigative reporters or editors. The talent is out there.
"I see the successes in our newsroom where a diverse group of watchdog reporters has uncovered everything from child trafficking in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to illegal campaign contributions in the local mayoral races."
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is sorting through its 168 lifetime members, many of whom voted in the last NAHJ election two years ago, and disqualifying as voters those whose principal means of support is not "earned in the gathering, editing, or presentation of news," Anna Lopez Buck, NAHJ interim executive director, told Journal-isms by email on Sunday.
"Lifetime members that didn't meet the qualifications should not have been voting in the past. That was a mistake that no one caught," she said.
In the 2010 election, Michele Salcedo beat Hugo Balta for president, 137 to 124, a margin close enough for lifetime members to have affected the outcome. Lopez Buck said she had not yet determined how many lifetime members are ineligible to vote.
The culling of the lifetime membership list prompted a robust exchange on NAHJ Facebook pages over the weekend, coinciding with Saturday's deadline for seeking NAHJ office. Balta, a coordinating producer at ESPN, and Russell Contreras, an Associated Press reporter who is NAHJ vice president/print and chief financial officer, are seeking the NAHJ presidency.
Members speculated about the political leanings of lifetime members who would be purged and the motives for and desirability of purging them. They said some had signed nominating petitions with signatures that might no longer be valid.
"Lifetime members can vote if they qualify as an academic or regular member," Lopez Buck said. "Lifetime membership is not one of the 7 classes of membership as defined in the NAHJ bylaws. It was created in 2002/2003 as a fundraising tool, and a way to increase membership.
"In order for all Lifetime members to vote or hold office there would have to be an amendment passed by the membership and then it would be reflected in the bylaws.
"The bylaws state that a regular member's [principal] means of support must be earned in the gathering, editing, or presentation of news. . . . Check out our bylaws at http://nahj.org/nahj-bylaws/
"Lifetime members that didn't meet the qualifications should not have been voting in the past. That was a mistake that no one caught.
"In fact, in previous years I contacted the NAHJ office during election cycles informing them that I was receiving nomination requests and an electronic ballot when I shouldn't have. My calls and emails went unanswered. I am a lifetime member. Should I be voting[?] no. I'm not a working journalist or an academic as defined by the bylaws.
"I can't say if there were invalid signatures submitted in the past. I wasn't working with NAHJ from July 2003 - June 2011."
Suzanne Gamboa, campaign manager for the Contreras slate, did not respond to a request for comment.
Balta said by email, "I've been reading many of the FB exchanges in regards to some lifetime members not being eligible to vote. I will be making inquiries like many other members. The communication (specifically the process for candidates and voters alike) has been inconsistent. I believe that is what's causing some of the angst (for members). The Elections committee along with the NAHJ leadership should have communicated or clarified the information in the bylaws, etc. in advance of the nomination process."
Manuel De La Rosa, vice president/broadcast, said in an email, ". . . nobody asked our executive director to do this. she's just doing her job and I am glad we are cleaning up this mess and only allowing the people who are eligible to vote in elections to vote."
Elizabeth Zavala, a lifetime member who is a content editor for MultiBriefs, the publishing subsidiary of MultiView, Inc., based in Irving, Texas, said by email, ". . . Because I work for an online media company that does association-branded eNewsletters, I'm probably not considered a regular lifetime member anymore. I'm probably considered an associate lifetime member by our bylaws. Those bylaws were written a very long time ago, and they probably need to be re-invented like all of us are re-inventing ourselves in this new media world.
"But I'd rather NAHJ continue to shore up its finances before we rewrite membership categories. Getting the organization financially stable and on comfortable footing is more important because to me, it gets us closer to meeting the mission of NAHJ, the betterment of its members and journalism overall because of it."
A first-person story by Shalise Manza Young, who this fall will begin her seventh season as a beat writer covering the New England Patriots, highlighted a special section on diversity in Sunday's Boston Globe.
". . . Before Newsday promoted Kimberley Martin to be its primary New York Jets writer in April, I was the only African-American woman in the country who was a full-time beat writer for a National Football League team," Young wrote.
". . . I rarely have problems with the players I cover. Sure, I've been around for seven years, so I'm a familiar face to many of them. A majority of NFL players are African-American, and the sad fact is that many of them were raised by single mothers who worked tirelessly to make sure their sons had what they needed. In some ways, I think I am viewed similarly. I am there to do my job, and I work hard at it; I've proven that I can be trusted. I talk to them about more than X's and O's -- I learn about their wives and children, and what makes them tick off the football field.
"Sometimes they'll tell me things that they might not tell a male reporter, maybe because of some macho attitude or being afraid of being viewed a certain way, or perhaps I just asked a question a man wouldn't think to ask.
"Those often bring about the best days, when the trust I've built up leads to my breaking a story, or when I produce a profile of a player who's been written about a hundred times before, but through my eyes, his story has new details and readers get a different perspective."
Tuesday marks the 10th anniversary of the day that "Journal-isms" debuted in this space, having previously existed only on the printed page.
It began about 1991 as a catch-all column of briefs in the NABJ Journal, which was then a newspaper of the National Association of Black Journalists that Richard Prince was co-editing. It continued there for seven years.
Jackie Jones picked up the sequence of events in a 2011 piece for BlackAmericaWeb.com that refers to Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education:
" 'When the Internet came along,' Prince said, 'Dori Maynard was looking for something to draw traffic to the Maynard Institute [site], and it's gone from these little briefs to a full-blown column.'
"Among mainstream journalists, a column by media critic Jim Romenesko has become a staple about the news industry. In many ways, Journal-isms serves a similar purpose, only for and about people of color.
" 'That's why we started it, actually,' said Maynard, president of the journalism training institute based in Oakland, California. 'I was so disturbed by Romenesko. There was [rarely] any notice of people of color.' "
Today, many sites aggregate news items about the news business, but only one is devoted to diversity concerns. Thanks to Dori J. Maynard, Bill Elsen, Roberto Delgado and the other colleagues who have posted, edited and supervised Journal-isms for the Maynard Institute, to our partners at theRoot.com, and to the multiracial audience who, with their tips, comments and criticisms, have made it a success.
"Lorenza 'Lori' Rodriguez, a Texas journalist who in 1971 became the first Hispanic editor of the University of Texas newspaper [The] Daily Texan and later a longtime reporter and columnist for the Houston Chronicle, was found dead Thursday at her Houston Heights home," Allan Turner reported Friday for the Chronicle. "She was 62.
" 'Lori was a star in the Latino community,' said Marcario Ramirez, a Houston Hispanic activist and businessman. 'Because of her writing about our culture and tradition, she was admired. … She put our community on the roadmap — in a positive way, for the most part. Our hearts weep for her.'
"Houston City Councilman James Rodriguez called her a 'trailblazer.'
" 'There were not many Latinas covering politics for major newspapers,' he said. "She was a very aggressive, fair and balanced reporter who took the time to develop relationships in this city and cover the growing number of Latino politicians and elected officials.' "
Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.
Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.