CNN Chief to Step Aside for 'New Thinking'

CNN's Whitfield, O'Brien (Moses Robinson/Getty)
CNN's Whitfield, O'Brien (Moses Robinson/Getty)

Blacks, Latinos Want More Diversity Progress

"Unable to reverse a dramatic ratings decline, CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton announced Friday that he is resigning at the end of the year," as Joe Flint reported Friday for the Los Angeles Times. The move creates an opportunity for the pioneering cable news network — praised in past years for its diversity efforts — to address disappointments of black and Latino journalists.


" 'CNN needs new thinking,' Walton said in an email to the CNN staff," Flint's story continued. " 'That starts with a new leader who brings a different perspective, different experiences and a new plan, one who will build on our great foundation and will commit to seeing it through.'

"No successor was named for Walton, who has been with Time Warner's CNN for over 30 years and has run it for close to a decade.

"Pressure has been growing on Walton to improve CNN's sagging performance for the past several years. Though CNN Worldwide is very profitable — Time Warner Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes told shareholders in May that it should make more than $600 million in 2012 — CNN has lost ground in the United States to News Corp.'s Fox News and Comcast's MSNBC."

Bob Butler, vice president/broadcast for the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms by telephone that Walton "was a friend to NABJ in that he supported our efforts to increase diversity. While he supported our efforts, we have not seen as much progress as we would like when it comes to diversifying prime time and the power positions behind the scenes … I'd like to see CNN make more of an effort to diversify the prime-time lineup. When you look at prime time, the country is now 35 percent people of color. You don't see that reflected in CNN or the other cable networks."

Manuel De La Rosa, vice president/broadcast of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said by email:

"CNN has talked a good game about developing Latinos and covering the issues in our community, but when you look at their product, it's not as impressive. They are not committed to Latinos and coverage of our issues.


"I really believe if they did a better job of recruiting more diverse managers, promoting them to management positions and covering issues that matter to Latinos, they would see better ratings. I just hope they select a new leader who will be committed to coverage of real issues impacting Latinos, hiring people and putting Latinos in high profile places in management and on-air positions, i.e. not the Morning News and CNN Latino, and would be willing to sit down and talk to NAHJ leaders about how we can help them achieve those goals.

"CNN is a big supporter of NAHJ and we appreciate that. We want to see them and the other cable news networks improve coverage of Latinos. They can do that by reaching out to us and creating a partnership with the organization."


George Kiriyama, national vice president for broadcast of the Asian American Journalists Association, was more approving.

"AAJA applauds the long career of CNN Worldwide President Jim Walton," Kiriyama told Journal-isms by email. "During his time at CNN and especially in his ten years as president, we have seen Asian Americans at the management level like Parisa Khosravi (Senior Vice President for CNN Worldwide) and certainly on-air talent like Sanjay Gupta, Fareed Zakaria, Pauline Chiou, Asieh Namdar and Kristie Lu Stout to name a few. We are confident CNN will hire a leader who will embrace diversity, by hiring journalists who reflect and represent the global community."


Rhonda LeValdo, president of the Native American Journalists Association, did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

David Bauder of the Associated Press reported that "CNN's U.S. network had its worst-ever ratings for a second quarter, down 40 percent for some of its prime-time shows. The decline was particularly notable in May, when CNN faced tough competition from broadcast networks during a slow news period and its ratings were compared to a year earlier, in the aftermath of the Osama bin Laden killing.


"It hasn't improved appreciably since then, with veteran newsman Wolf Blitzer often losing in the ratings to broadcast novice Al Sharpton on MSNBC. Piers Morgan's show has been a bright spot this month."

Only a few years ago, CNN received some of NABJ's highest honors.

In 2007, NABJ awarded CNN its "Best Practices" award. "NABJ recognized the network's journalists for their exemplary work in covering issues of significance to the black community and the African diaspora and the news organization as a whole for its efforts to increase diversity on air and behind the scenes," CNN said at the time.


Former CNN anchor Bernard Shaw, a black journalist who did his best-known work as a prime-time ancho, was presented NABJ's Lifetime Achievement Award.

The next year, Johnita P. Due, then senior counsel and chair of CNN's Diversity Council, received the Ida B. Wells Award, given to a media executive who has demonstrated a commitment to newsroom diversity and improving coverage of communities of color.


In 2011, Walton named Mark Whitaker, formerly of Newsweek and NBC News, to the newly created position of executive vice president and managing editor. Whitaker became the highest-ranking person of color at the network.

Whitaker was soon given the task of finding African American candidates for prime time, responding to a complaint of the journalist of color organizations. So far, none has materialized.


In 2010, CNN fired Rick Sanchez, one of few Latino anchors on English-language network television, over remarks that were interpreted as anti-Semitic, though Sanchez denied that intent.

". . . there is a sad, circular pattern to the bigotry that Sanchez obviously experienced and was scarred by, embittered to the point that even as a successful cable anchor, it escaped his lips one day and blew up his career," Melinda Henneberger, then editor in chief of the Politics Daily website, wrote at the time.


CNN hired Zoraida Sambolin, a bilingual Latina who co-anchors "Early Start" with John Berman, last year. Her show airs in the early morning, leading into "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien."

CNN announced this week that Victor Blackwell, an anchor at WPBF-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., would join CNN as an Atlanta-based anchor and correspondent, co-hosting "CNN Newsroom" Saturday mornings. He succeeds T.J. Holmes, also an African American, who left for BET, unhappy with his continuing assignment to weekends.


Journal-isms asked Don Lemon, another African-American CNN weekend anchor, for his thoughts about what should happen with diversity at the network.

The email was answered instead by a public relations person for CNN.

"Don passed your email on to me.

"Below is a statement from Johnita Due, Assistant General Counsel & Chief Diversity Advisor, CNN Worldwide:

" 'Jim's commitment to diversity will be part of his lasting legacy at CNN. It's due to his leadership that many of our efforts have been institutionalized. We look forward to building on those efforts.' "


Two Black Journalists Among Post-Dispatch Layoffs

Two black journalists were among 23 employees laid off Friday at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, but the Newspaper Guild said Editor Gilbert Bailón could have saved their jobs by designating them "exempt."


The two are reporter Marlon A. Walker, 31, who had just started a new beat, and photographer Johnny Andrews, 38, a Post-Dispatch staffer for 4½ years. Thirteen people in the newsroom were laid off: four editors, three reporters, three copy editors, a photographer, a web editor and the editorial cartoonist were laid off, according to a Storify post.

"We are a Guild shop so they could be 'saved' if someone with more seniority steps up to leave in the next two weeks," Bailón told Journal-isms by email.


Shannon Duffy, business representative of the United Media Guild, said that the layoffs were imposed according to seniority but that the Post-Dispatch has the option of designating certain employees exempt from layoffs. "They don't have to give us a reason," Duffy said by telephone.

Under an agreement with the Guild, the paper can exempt 20 people in the newsroom: 12 reporters, three copy editors, three photographers and two artists, he said.


One exemption was applied to a recently hired reporter covering the state capital, a beat that was deemed difficult to fill, Duffy said.

Bailón, a former president of the American Society of News Editors as well as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, moved from editorial page editor to editor in May. He did not respond to an email question about why he did not protect the two black journalists.


Lee Enterprises, owner of the Post-Dispatch, "has eliminated 234 people at the Post-Dispatch since 2008, and 235 at the Suburban Journals in that same span of time," Paul Friswold wrote Friday for the alternative Riverfront Times. "That's 469 people who lost their jobs, or roughly one person per $2,452 of bonus cash given to Lee Enterprises' CEO Mary Junck this year alone."

With the layoffs, Duffy said, "the newsroom just kept getting whiter and whiter." The 2012 ASNE diversity survey shows the Post-Dispatch with 14 percent journalists of color, including 3.5 percent Asian American journalists, 7.6 percent black journalists and 2.9 percent Hispanics.


In January, fellow photographer Corey Woodruff dedicated a blog posting to Andrews and his work.

"Ladies and gents, I present to you an endangered species: a staff newspaper photographer," Woodruff wrote. "The ridiculously talented Mr. Andrews shoots for the St. Louis Post Dispatch, and he's not a freelancer. He is part of the dying breed of staff shooters; breathing rarefied air alongside other survivors of the rampant downsizing plaguing the industry."


The Riverfront Times said Andrews was "known best in the St. Louis music community for his invaluable LISTEN video series [Video]." The Post-Dispatch series showcases a range of musical talent in the St. Louis area.

Andrews' departure would leave one black photographer at the paper, Duffy said.

Walker came to the Post-Dispatch in 2010 after having worked at the Telegraph in Macon, Ga., at the Associated Press and at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. This month, he began covering neighboring Illinois for the St. Louis paper.


Essence Fires Its White Fashion Director

Ellianna Placas, the white fashion director of Essence magazine whose hiring in 2010 sparked controversy over its appropriateness at a black women's magazine, has been let go, Essence spokeswoman Sheila Harris confirmed on Thursday.


"Sources told us her departure had less to do with race and more to do with her butting heads with editor-in-chief Constance White," the New York Post's Page Six reported late Wednesday. " 'They had different visions for fashion coverage,' said one. An Essence spokesperson confirmed to Page Six that Placas has left the company. Placas wasn't available for comment last night, and a search for her replacement is ongoing."

In April, Essence and Michael Bullerdick, its white male managing editor — whom the leading magazine for black women has emphasized had a production, not an editorial role — parted ways after right-wing material on his Facebook page was brought to the editors' attention. His hiring in July 2011 created similar controversy.


Most Say They Know Enough About Obama, Romney

"With more than three months to go before Election Day, most voters already feel that there's little left to learn about the presidential candidates," the Pew Center for the People & the Press reported on Tuesday.


"When it comes to Barack Obama, 90% say they already pretty much know what they need to know about him; just 8% say they need to learn more. A substantial majority (69%) also says they already mostly know what they need to know about Mitt Romney. Only about a quarter (28%) say they need to learn more to get a clear impression of Romney. Combining these two questions, fully two-thirds of voters say they already know as much as they need to about both presidential candidates.

"When it comes to specific details of Romney's background and experience, 41% of voters say they would like to learn more about Romney's record as governor, 36% would like to learn more about his tax returns, while 35% want to know more about his record as chief executive of Bain Capital. Far fewer want to hear more about Romney's wealth (21%), his family and upbringing (19%) or his religious beliefs (16%)."


Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life: Little Voter Discomfort With Romney's Mormon Religion

Two Foreign Journalists Rescued From Extremists in Syria

"Two foreign journalists captured by Islamic extremists in Syria and held for a week were rescued by Syrian opposition fighters, one of them said on Friday," Rod Nordland reported Friday for the New York Times.


"A Dutch freelance photographer, Jeroen Oerlemans, contacted by telephone in Turkey, described a harrowing ordeal during which he and his captured colleague, a British photographer, John Cantlie, were held at a camp in Syria by a group of several dozen foreign jihadists, who kept them hooded and blindfolded and repeatedly threatened to kill them.

"Mr. Oerlemans said their captors apparently included no Syrian fighters, but instead jihadists from Bangladesh, Britain, Chechnya and Pakistan. The photographers were seized on July 19 shortly after they entered Syria at Bab al-Hawa, a border crossing with Turkey that has been reported under control of a jihadi group."


Reporters Without Borders: Number of citizen journalists killed and arrested rises daily

Nonprofit News Site to Launch in New Orleans

"The New Orleans media market is about to get more crowded," Michaelle Bond wrote Friday for American Journalism Review.


"Two months after the city's daily paper, the Times-Picayune, announced it would cut print publication to three days a week and focus on its digital product, it appears that residents will soon have a couple of new avenues to get their news.

"Today, the University of New Orleans and its NPR affiliate, WWNO-FM, announced that they will launch as a nonprofit news site by the end of the year. Other news organizations will be welcome to use the site's online, mobile and radio content for free.


". . . The launch of is not a direct response to the changes at the Times-Picayune, says Adam Norris, director of public relations at the University of New Orleans. It's a response to a thirst in the community for more high quality journalism – a thirst that has been evident to WWNO for years, he says.

". . . Earlier this week, the Advocate, the daily paper in Baton Rouge, announced that it will print a New Orleans edition, starting when the Times-Picayune stops daily printing in early October. 'This has to have significant news in it,' Richard Manship, president and CEO of Advocate owner Capital City Press, told his paper. 'This is not just an attempt to sell more papers. We will be trying to cover the news in New Orleans.' "


Mike Hoss and Dominic Massa, WWL-TV: [Saints and Hornets owner] Benson offers to buy Times-Picayune; paper not for sale, say Advance officials

Times-Picayune, New Orleans: The Times-Picayune will print and deliver New Orleans Saints coverage after every game this year 


U.S. Journalism Students in London for Olympics

"July 27 marks the opening ceremonies, and official launch, of the 2012 Olympic games in London, which runs until August 12," Marisa Treviño wrote Thursday for her Latina Lista site.


"On hand to witness the festivities, soak up the international cultures, and watch the athletes in action are two young Latinas from Phoenix, Arizona for whom this trip of a lifetime is much more than just pleasure — it's school work.

"Maritsa Granillo and Lisa Blanco graduated in May from Arizona State University's (ASU) broadcast journalism track in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Their accomplishments qualified them to be part of the university's first-ever student journalists delegation covering the three-week international sporting event.


" 'We're always looking for great real-life experiences to not only help our students but help them produce great journalism content for Arizona and the region,' Dean Christopher Callahan, founding dean of the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication department, said about the reason for sending students to the Olympics.

"It was also an increase interest in sports journalism by his students and having Greg Boeck, a former sports writer for USA Today, who covered nine Olympics, on his faculty that Dean Callahan said made the decision easy that it was a worthwhile pursuit by the university on behalf of its students. . . ."


Jackson DeMos, USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism: NBC Sports hires 21 USC Annenberg students for Summer Olympics Internship

Robin Roberts to Take Medical Leave for Transplant

" 'Good Morning America' anchor Robin Roberts is planning to take a medical leave around the end of August for her bone marrow transplant," the Associated Press reported on Thursday.


"But during her absence from the ABC morning show, she'll be getting a little help from her friends, she said Thursday.

"Roberts listed Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric among her 'wonderful, wonderful friends at ABC News' who will be subbing for her. . . .


"Roberts announced last month that she has MDS, a blood and bone marrow disease once known as prelukemia."

Short Takes

"Public Radio International, the Minneapolis-based producer and distributor of public radio content, has been acquired by WGBH in Boston," PRI announced on Thursday. "The transaction, which closed Wednesday, makes PRI an affiliated company of WGBH, which operates five radio and two TV stations in New England and is the largest producer of PBS programs in the nation. WGBH programs include Frontline, Nova and many others. According to officials at both companies, PRI will remain operationally independent, based in Minneapolis, with its own distinct board and mission."


"Seven years to the day since Jewell and Kisa Holmes moved into their first house in New Orleans, they moved into their second," Bob Butler and Danielle Bell reported for New Orleans-based the Lens. "What happened in between was a tale of financial confusion, pressure, bureaucracy and frustration that is sadly familiar to the many families still working to rebuild their lives — and sometimes their homes — nearly seven years after Hurricane Katrina. That story, first told by The Lens in an award-winning December piece, ultimately led to the family's happy homecoming last week." The National Association of Black Journalists conducted a community service project to help Katrina victims at its convention in New Orleans last month, and presented ceremonial keys to three families whose Katrina-damaged homes NABJ and its sponsors helped rebuild. At the end of that presentation, members met Jewell and Kisa Holmes.

Euny Hong has been named lifestyle editor of Quartz, the soon-to-launch business site from Atlantic Media, Chris O'Shea reported Thursday for FishbowlNY. "Hong was most recently the news editor for France 24, France's 24-hour news network. Before that, she worked as a freelance journalist, and her work can be seen in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Financial Times." As reported last week, S. Mitra Kalita is joining the site as commentary editor.


In New York, "A 24-year-old woman draped in a sheet climbed into an NY1 news van and allegedly attacked Vivian Lee as the veteran reporter covered a story in Cobble Hill on Friday morning," Trevor Kapp and Alan Neuhauser reported Friday for "Wearing a white sheet over a T-shirt, sweatpants and green flip-flops, Theresa Casivant hopped into the news truck about 7 a.m. and began using Lee's makeup and snacking on food, Lee and a witness said. When Lee told her to leave, Casivant allegedly took a swing at the reporter. The van's driver grabbed her and hauled her out of the van."

"LA-based freelancer Cord Jefferson just landed himself a pretty sweet gig," Matthew Fleischer reported Friday for FishbowlLA. "He's just joined Gawker's staff as the site's newest, and as far as we can recall, first West Coast contributing editor. Jefferson has been freelancing for Gawker for the past few months. He'll join the staff full-time on August 6."


"Lisa Armstrong has been named the new editor-in-chief of the Sherman Oaks-based African American news site," Matthew Fleischer wrote Thursday for FishbowlLA. "Armstrong is a veteran freelancer with a wealth of international reporting experience. She spent a year in Haiti reporting on the aftermath of the tragic 2010 [earthquake], under a grant from The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting."

". . . It started last Friday when [L.] Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth), a campaign surrogate for President Obama, said that presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is 'speaking to a segment of the population who does not like to see people other than a white man in the White House or any other elected position,' " Tharon Giddens reported Friday for Columbia Journalism Review. She went on to examine how the remarks were handled by media outlets in Virginia and nationally.


In Zambia, Godfrey Chitalu of the Times of Zambia urged that more newspapers be published in traditional African languages. In a trip to Tanzania, "I passed through five different towns that each had a unique daily Swahili newspaper available before noon. . . . Our metropolis has long been spoiled by a variety of newspapers while the more deserving rural folks are left ruing missed opportunities," Chitalu wrote Thursday.

Dolores Prida, columnist for El Diario-La Prensa in New York, responded to a pessimistic commentary on the paper's future by Latino activist Angelo Falcón. Prida wrote, "This newspaper and the others in the ImpreMedia family must re-invent and become 'the bible' of Hispanics, especially for newcomers who need to learn how to navigate their way in their new country. More local and national coverage plus a super Thursday edition, loaded with information on what to do that weekend in the cinema, theater, art galleries, restaurants, dance clubs, etc. would be a bilingual guide indispensable for all New Yorkers who enjoy our culture, and would be a magnet for ads."


"Two journalists were reported missing this week in Latin America: one in Mexico and one in Colombia," Molly Ochs wrote Thursday for the International Press Institute. "Miguel Morales Estrada, who works as a photojournalist for the daily Diario de Poza Rica and as a freelancer for the newspaper Tribuna Papanteca in Papantla in the State of Veracruz, Mexico, was last seen Thursday in Veracruz. In an unrelated event, Colombian journalist Élida Parra Alfonso, a broadcaster for Sarare Stereo Radio, was reportedly kidnapped in the city of Saravena in the north-eastern department of Arauca before noon on Tuesday."

". . . The 2012 Free Press Africa Award was given to the Nigerian press corps as a whole, whom the judges cited for 'their bravery in continuing to report though they face the ire of Boko Haram and other terror groups in operating across West Africa and in the Sahel,' " the International Press Institute reported on Monday.


"The Federal High Court in Ethiopia yesterday upheld a ban on last week's edition of Feteh newspaper, according to news reports and journalists," Molly Ochs reported Thursday for the International Press Institute. ". . . 'The eradication of very critical media in Ethiopia appears to be nearly complete,' said IPI Executive Director Alison Bethel McKenzie."

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