Covering a Racially Polarized Electorate

Early voters in Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Early voters in Florida (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

AP Poll: 51% Express Explicit Anti-Black Attitudes

"The 2012 election is shaping up to be more polarized along racial lines than any presidential contest since 1988, with President Obama experiencing a steep drop in support among white voters from four years ago," Jon Cohen and Rosalind S. Helderman reported Thursday for the Washington Post.


"At this stage in 2008, Obama trailed Republican John McCain by seven percentage points among white voters. Even in victory, Obama ended up losing white voters by 12 percentage points, according to that year's exit poll.

"But now, Obama has a deficit of 23 percentage points, trailing Republican Mitt Romney by 60 percent to 37 percent among whites, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll. That presents a significant hurdle for the president — and suggests that he will need to achieve even larger margins of victory among women and minorities, two important parts of the Democratic base, to win reelection."

[Sonya Ross and Jennifer Agiesta reported Saturday for the Associated Press, "Racial attitudes have not improved in the four years since the United States elected its first black president, an Associated Press poll finds, as a slight majority of Americans now express prejudice toward blacks whether they recognize those feelings or not."]

While the implications of this poll have not been prominent in mainstream news coverage, pundits of color have been commenting on the phenomenon for some time.

Veteran journalist Les Payne wrote Friday on the Root, ". . . Alas, in this year of our Lord 2012, the Republican Party structurally is 97.9 percent non-African American, fielding only 47 blacks among the 4,411 delegates at its Tampa convention!

"With blacks constituting some 13 percent of the electorate, the GOP, win or lose, is likely to register a popular vote that is 99.5 percent non-African American. And this near lily-white party operates in a diverse republic — with a black president, who attracted 43 percent of the white vote in '08.


". . . Seldom, if ever, are whites queried about voting for the candidate of a predominantly white party, who is so shameless a panderer that even ranking party officials are knocked into a quandary over what exactly he believes. So the question arises:

"Are whites voting against Obama chiefly because he's black?"

On the Grio, David A. Love Thursday found the poll results of a piece with the GOP's recent strategy:

". . . Republicans have doubled down on intolerance, xenophobia, and the shunning of racial diversity as a winning strategy," Love wrote. "Blacks, Latinos, Arabs, Muslims and others need not apply — or vote, for that matter. They are not part of a winning Republican strategy. Rather than change their product to appeal to consumers who won't buy it, the GOP has decided to eliminate those who won't do business with them. Voter ID laws and Tea-Party-sponsored voter purge operations such as True the Vote are attempts to disenfranchise voters who will not vote Republican."


Armstrong Williams, a black conservative commentator, wrote Thursday for the Hill, ". . . . American blacks don't vote Republican because they can't seem to identify with the platform and conscience of the GOP hierarchy. Many continue to feel unwelcome and underappreciated in the Grand Old Party.

". . . The Republicans need to take a page from the Democrats and do a better job of grooming black elected officials to carry their message into the community, because the black community is ripe for appeal."


Eugene Robinson, writing Thursday for the Washington Post, said, ". . . Issues may explain our sharp political divisions, but they can't be the cause of our demographic polarization. White men need medical care, too. African Americans and Latinos understand the need to get our fiscal house in order. The recession and the slow recovery have taken a toll across the board.

"Some of Obama's opponents have tried to delegitimize his presidency because he doesn't embody the America they once knew. He embodies the America of now."


Did Debate Commission "Play" the Journalist Groups?

Were the journalist of color associations "played" by the Commission on Presidential Debates?


After journalists of color were shut out of the debate questioning of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and Anna Lopez Buck, NAHJ interim executive director, met in Washington Aug. 23 with Michael D. McCurry, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates.

McCurry, press secretary to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1998, accepted Balta's suggestion that the commission receive questions from the journalists of color and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for presentation to the moderators. McCurry acknowledged "that it would be very difficult (for the moderators) not to take advantage of such an offer," Balta wrote at the time.


But it appeared that none of the questions were asked, despite an Oct. 1 statement from the commission's Nancy Henrietta that "All questions submitted to the CPD have been forwarded to the moderators."

The moderators and their network spokesmen have been reluctant to comment on whether they received the questions, but Edie Emery, a spokeswoman for CNN, spoke Friday on behalf of Candy Crowley, who moderated the second presidential debate. Emery told Journal-isms by email, "Candy moderated the Presidential town hall debate. All of the questions came from the town hall participants. Candy did not receive any questions from the CPD."


Balta previously expressed his disappointment: ". . . Regardless of the outcome, NAHJ is committed to working with the CPD and media companies in ensuring that the list of experienced Latino candidates in 2016 is more robust than what it has been in 2012," he said.

On Friday, Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists, responded by email:

"It is disappointing that the commission disregarded the work of NABJ and the Unity alliance. Perhaps we should not be surprised at these developments when considering the lack of ethnic diversity among the moderators was a path the commission chose to take. When you examine that there were no questions taken from journalists of color and there were no journalists of color as moderators, they missed an opportunity to be more inclusive."


McCurry could not be reached for comment.

Wayne Bennett, Field Negro: Colin makes a pick and Sarah is still "shucking and jivin".


Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: John Sununu: Race-baiting buffoon

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post News Media Services: Lured by a DREAM

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Mourdock, Conception, and Theodicy

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: Rush Limbaugh, tragic villain

George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Romney Continues Campaign of Lies


Mary C. Curtis, the Grio: 4 years after Obama's breakthrough, few black pols on the ballot for major offices

Wayne Dawkins, Reluctantly imagining a presidency without Obama


Darrell Dawsey, Deadline Detroit: GOP Gushes Over Black Actress Backing Romney; Blows Off Colin Powell's Independence

Jarvis DeBerry,|Times-Picayune: Poor Republicans and rich Democrats will show up at the polls


Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Factchecking Libya: Debate dispute sheds light on media's cockeyed standards 

Peter Finocchiaro, Huffington Post: Lawrence Wilkerson, Former Colin Powell Aide, Blasts Sununu, GOP, As 'Full Of Racists'


John W. Fountain, Chicago Sun-Times: Even President Obama gets 'angry black man' label

Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer: Sexist views worthy of cave men in election season


Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Jewish group backs Israel but wants 2-state solution

Latina Lista: Majority of Latino voters want Obama to finish what he started

Latina Lista: Final debate underscores misstep of Commission on Presidential Debates to not include moderators of color


Suevon Lee, ProPublica: Reading Guide: Where Romney and Obama Stand on the Supreme Court

Trudy Lieberman, Columbia Journalism Review: Ask Obama This: Will we have to be older to get Medicare?: We know about Romney's vouchers, but the president is quiet on the subject of raising eligibility


Julianne Malveaux, syndicated: What You Talking 'bout Willard?

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: It's a Black Thing, Right John Sununu?

John McWhorter, Daily News, New York: The pure sport of the debates: They're fun to watch, but have nothing to do with leadership

Advertisement Obama gooses 'Tonight Show' ratings

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Sarah Palin's 'shuck and jive' remark racially insensitive


Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Does America still have the capacity to make good on the promise to its young?

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Tough Talking Tagg Romney

Kimberly Nordyke, Hollywood Reporter: Michelle Obama on Kimmel: Reveals Her Disguise, President's Advice to Daughters (Video)


Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: And now, a word from Mr. Mourdock's god

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Romney the chameleon debates himself

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Closing the binders on pay inequity 

Tracie Powell, Poynter Institute: Why Black Enterprise was given an exclusive interview with Mitt Romney


Clyde Prestowitz, Foreign Policy: America's dangerous fantasy land

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Romney sounds presidential — and out of his league


Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: Put Up or Shut Up

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: What the men of the GOP don’t get about rape and abortion


Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: The Rev. Billy Graham plays politics

Katherine Leal Unmuth, Latina Lista: Education is Top Issue for Latino Voters

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Obama campaign and Des Moines Register: A form of quote approval


Alex Weprin, TVNewser: 'Morning Joe' Books President Obama

Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post: The U.S. Economy Is Recovering Well

Stephen A. Smith Denies Uttering N-Word on Air

"This morning Stephen A. Smith was in a 'First Take' debate about whether or not Kobe Bryant would play in the season opener," Clay Travis wrote Thursday for


"That's par for the first take course, a 'debate' that no one really cares about and that has no lasting significance, delivered with stereo sound histrionics and Bay of Pigs level crisis threat. Ordinarily no one would have noticed. Except on this particular morning Smith dropped a 'Nigga, please,' to cement his point. He did not follow it up by saying, 'you ain't signing no checks like these,' in which case he could just claim he was quoting a popular Jay-Z song.

"Later ESPN dropped the phrase from a reairing . . . [ESPN's] official response: 'Stephen A. Smith vehemently denies using any inappropriate language. We didn't leave it on the re-air as we didn't want to create more confusion if people misunderstood him.'"


Under the headline, "Memo to ESPN, Stephen A.: Enough BS," fellow black sports commentator Jason Whitlock of Fox Sports took Smith and "First Take" to task on Friday.

". . . I'm not going to waste a lot of time breaking down the weakness of Smith's latest denial," Whitlock wrote. "He dropped the N-word. The audio and video speak for themselves. Smith's laughable denial — saying he's from New York and sometimes speaks too 'fastly' — doesn’t even attempt to explain what he said if not 'n—-a, please.'


"Nope. The discussion today should focus on First Take, and why this particular show can't avoid sprinkling the N-word into its discourse.

". . . This is a horrendous look for black journalists. Where are the standards? How will we have any credibility the next time a white broadcaster says anything remotely racist if we sit quiet while Smith gets away with this?


"Smith owes us an apology and a few days off work to think about how to properly and respectfully use the immense broadcasting talents he's been blessed with."

BET, Bossip, Madame Noire Rise Among Black Sites

The BET, Bossip and Madame Noire websites recorded increases in unique visitors compared with June numbers, but HuffPost BlackVoices, the Grio and Essence sustained significant declines, according to September figures from the comScore research company.

Advertisement was No. 1 among 17 African American-oriented websites for which Journal-isms requested ratings Friday. BET drew 3,191,000 unique visitors in September, compared with 2,851,000 in June. Second was MediaTakeOut, a site specializing in lurid celebrity gossip that for a time had been the top-viewed black-oriented website, with 2,564,000 unique visitors, compared with 2,256,000 in June.

Third was Bossip, a gossip site that last year ran photos of the miscarried fetus of rapper Joe Budden and model Esther Baxter. It drew 2,087,000 unique visitors in September, compared with 1,692,000 in June.


Fourth was HuffPost BlackVoices, which fell from 3,874,000 unique visitors in June to 1,791,000 in September, according to comScore.

"Like every news site, HuffPost Black Voices' statistics fluctuate from month to month based on the nature of the stories," Huffington Post spokesman Rhoades Alderson told Journal-isms Friday by email. "Pageviews were actually 35% higher in September compared to February even though UVs were lower. We are extremely happy with the performance of HuffPost Black Voices in the 15 months since its launch." Alderson was asked about a comparison with February figures.


Madame Noire, which calls itself "a sophisticated lifestyle publication that gives African-American women the latest in fashion trends, black entertainment news, parenting tips and beauty secrets that are specifically for black women," was fifth with 1,276,000 unique visitors, up from 815,000 in June.

The Grio, a black-oriented NBC News property, was sixth with 1,129,000 unique visitors, down from 1,646,000 in June.


Others were the Root, 1,106,000, down from 1,697,000 in June; Black Planet, 672,000, up from 581,000 in June; Essence, 652,000, down from 986,000 in June; Black America Web, 476,000, up from 294,000 in June; and EURWeb, 398,000, down from 529,000.

Lee Bailey of EURWeb said comScore does not have tracking code installed on his website and so cannot calculate visits properly. "Our internal (Google) Analytics show us averaging between 900k to 1 million unique per month over the last six months," he said by email. ". . . it seems to me that based on our 900k plus average, the comScore should be no lower than 700k or 600k at the MOST."


Traffic for other sites: Concrete Loop, 201,000, down from 248,000 in June; Clutch magazine, 152,000, up from 127,000 in June; Ebony, 115,000, up from 42,000; Hello Beautiful, 978,000, down from 996,000 in June; NewsOne, 910,000, down from 988,000 in June; and the YBF, 594,000.

NAHJ Says Use of "Illegal" Can Lead to Violence

". . . NAHJ continues to condemn the use of the term 'illegal immigrants,' 'illegal aliens' and 'illegals' in describing people who are in this country without proper documentation," Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote Thursday for Fox News Latino.


This month, New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan endorsed the newspaper's policy of using "illegal immigrant," and Tom Kent, deputy managing editor for standards and production at the Associated Press, defended AP's use of the term, though he added, "The first thing to note is that 'illegal immigrant' is not the only term we use."

Balta continued, ". . . Those demeaning titles are not only inaccurate and disrespectful, but a propaganda tool used to dehumanize a group of people and instill fear in the general population in order to establish policy.


". . . It's easy for someone to preach from behind an office desk about the proper meaning of words like illegal immigrant. It is irresponsible for them to think that those decisions do not have consequences; sometimes violent."

Balta also quoted Fatma Marouf, co-director of the Immigration Clinic at the University of Nevada William C. Boyd School of Law, who said ". . . the term 'illegal immigrants' erroneously suggests that anyone in the United States without legal status is a criminal. Unlawful presence in the United States is not — and never has been — a crime."


Balta also said, "NAHJ has historically asked the media to use the term undocumented immigrants or undocumented worker. To use any other term when describing this group is an attempt to discredit them, question their motives for being in this country and silence their voice from the controversial immigration debate. . . ."

Paul DeMain Isn't Joining Tributes to Russell Means

Paul DeMain, CEO of Indian Country Communications and editor of News From Indian Country, is not joining the outpouring of tributes to Russell Means, the American Indian Movement activist and actor who died on Monday at 72.


For more than 10 years, DeMain has investigated the case of Leonard Peltier and other Native activists. In 1977, Peltier was convicted and sentenced to two consecutive terms of life imprisonment for first-degree murder in the shooting of two FBI agents during a 1975 conflict on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Peltier's supporters say he is innocent.

DeMain, a former president of the Native American Journalists Association and of Unity: Journalists of Color, does not agree. At the 2011 NAJA convention, he led a session on the 1975 kidnapping, torture and killing of Native activist Annie Mae Pictou Aquash, in which he questioned the actions of Means and AIM co-founder Dennis Banks.


DeMain told Journal-isms by email, ". . . . how is it that mainstream media puts Means, Banks and Peltier on such a pedestal aside from the work that Native journalists did to expose the lies about Peltier being an innocent man." He said that several informants, such as Pictou, Johnny Moore, Buddy LaMont and a black civil rights worker, Perry Ray Robinson, were murdered, and that the AIM leaders "have used their hollywood notoriety to be turned into spokespeople for the Native community when there [are] much more legitimate people to advise the media.

"It is a failure of the media as far as I can see. They no longer want to dwell or work on hard stories, especially when it is easier to quote some radical pretty Indian looking stereotype guy that has something cute to say all the time about anything you ask them about. AIM, Russ and Dennis have become the mascot and logos of Indian Country they fight against."


Editorial, New York Times: On Wounded Knee

Indian Country Today Media Network: Breaking News: Russell Means Walks On

Robert D. McFadden, New York Times: Russell Means, Who Clashed With Law as He Fought for Indians, Is Dead at 72


Gyasi Ross, Huffington Post: Russell Means, Lightning and Sexiness: The Toughest Indian in the Whole Wide World

Gale Courey Toensing, Indian Country Today: Russell Means: Standing Against Injustice


Special Olympics Athlete Responds to Ann Coulter Slur

"John Franklin Stephens is a Special Olympics athlete who has written a letter that we hope all Americans will read," the Chicago Tribune editorialized on Friday.


"He wrote it earlier this week to conservative political pundit Ann Coulter after she used the word 'retard' to refer to President Barack Obama. Coulter's disgraceful tweet came during the debate Monday between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney: 'I highly approve of Romney's decision to be kind and gentle to the retard,' alluding to Romney's strategy of not directly attacking Obama.

"The casual use of the word is repugnant to people who have learning or developmental disabilities, and to the people who love them.


"Stephens called Coulter on it and reminded Americans why the word hurts. . . . "

Wayne Bennett, Field Negro: Ann's R word, and Mitt gets a beatdown.

Hannah Groch-Begley, Media Matters for America: Ann Coulter Continues To Use Offensive Term "Retard" Despite Backlash


Short Takes

"Steve Coll, a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper correspondent and nonfiction author, who is a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine; Quiara Alegría Hudes, author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning drama; and Aminda (Mindy) Marqués Gonzalez, vice president and executive editor of The Miami Herald," have been elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board, the board announced on Thursday.


In "Why Being A TV News Reporter Almost Kept Me From My Natural Hair," reporter Abi Ishola explained for Huffington Post readers Thursday how she went from straight to natural hair, back to straight and natural again. "The idea of one day being on a mainstream network is no longer appealing if it means I can't be who I am," Ishola wrote. "I realized that there would always be a place for me no matter how I choose to wear my hair. It just made sense."

"Earlier this week, Northwestern University rightly heralded [its] journalism school's laudable new effort known as the Medill Equal Media Project (MEMP)," Richard Horgan wrote Friday for FishbowlLA. "Put together over the summer by a group of students led by editor-in-chief Camille Beredjick (Class of 2013), the website filters LGBT issues through the prism of the 2012 Presidential election."


"In a 60 Minutes profile, Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shahid Khan is seen in the parking lot of his team's stadium surrounded by well-wishers," CBS announced on Thursday. "Presumably, these fans of the popular Jaguars' owner were not the ones who spouted anti-Muslim epithets on the Internet when they learned the Pakistan-born billionaire was buying their football team. Khan tells Byron Pitts that such prejudice only made him more determined and denies rumors that it caused the former owner to offer him an escape from the deal. Pitts' report on Khan's remarkable immigrant's journey to the top of American business will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, Oct. 28 at 7:00 p.m. ET/PT."

In introducing an interview with this columnist, posted Friday, Betsy Rothstein of FishbowlDC alludes to a December 2010 piece written for the Poynter Institute about the lack of diversity on MediaBistro's Fishbowl sites. Let the record show that the sites have since become more inclusive. At FishbowlLA, Marcus Vanderberg, a black journalist, is a co-editor, and that site, particularly, has reached out to include more diverse sources.


"The Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication has awarded the Equity and Diversity award to the Annenberg School of Journalism for [its] commitment to diversity and community outreach," Rebecca Iloulian wrote Thursday for Annenberg TV News. "Annenberg's Dean Ernest J. Wilson III and School of Journalism Director Geneva Overholser will be accepting the 2012 AEJMC Equity and Diversity Award from Kyu Ho Yoam, president of the [Association] for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication as well as professor and holder of the Jonathan Marshall First Amendment Chair at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication."

Reeyot Alemu, a columnist imprisoned under Ethiopia's controversial anti-terrorism laws; Khadija Ismayilova, an Azerbaijani investigative radio reporter who had surveillance cameras planted in her apartment; and Asmaa al-Ghoul, a Palestinian blogger who has been beaten and tortured for reporting on abuses and protests in Gaza, each received Courage in Journalism awards Wednesday from the International Women's Media Foundation, the Associated Press reported.


"Former Atlanta Braves slugger No. 5 Ron Gant retained his old number as he took a swing at a new career Thursday morning as co-anchor of Fox 5's 'Good Day Atlanta'," Richard Eldredge reported Thursday for Atlanta magazine.

"Steve Baskerville's 25th anniversary at CBS 2 flew by so quickly last month that even the veteran meteorologist missed it," Robert Feder reported Thursday for his Time Out Chicago blog.


"Laura Washington, the Sun-Times columnist and ABC 7 political analyst, has rejoined the Chicago Reporter to lead the search for a new publisher," Robert Feder reported Thursday for his Time Out Chicago blog. "Editor and publisher Kimbriell Kelly is stepping down from the nonprofit investigative news organization after eight years to join the Washington Post's investigative team. Washington, who was editor and publisher of the Reporter from 1990 to 2002, will return temporarily to work with the staff and form a search committee to hire a new publisher."

"An Egyptian appellate court should strike down the criminal defamation conviction and prison term handed down this week against a television commentator," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday. "A court in the southern city of Luxor on Monday convicted Tawfiq Okasha, talk show host and owner of the private satellite broadcaster Al-Faraeen, in absentia and sentenced him to four months in prison on charges of defaming President Mohamed Morsi, according to news reports."


"Ana Maria Garcia, a photographer with the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo, was assaulted by a police officer two days ago while she was covering the crash of a bus of the TransMilenio transit system north of Bogota," Reporters Without Borders said Thursday. "For no clear reason, the policeman threw her to the ground and overpowered her, injuring her right arm. . . . this unprovoked assault is just the latest in a series of abuses committed by the police in various parts of the country in the past few weeks, against the background of peace talks with FARC guerrillas and large-scale public protests."

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