Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

Obama Was More Aware of Racism Than We Saw

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  • Aide: Like Jackie Robinson, Felt He Had to Take It
  • Obama Is Busy Organizing and Writing
  • A High for Diversity in Local TV Newsrooms
  • Rethinking Urged on Funding for News Diversity
  • J-Groups Seek Access to Migrant Detention Centers
  • ‘What’s the El Salvadoran Congress Going to Do?’
  • NAHJ Investigating Misconduct Allegations
  • Magazine Targets Blacks, Latinos Who Dislike ‘Gay’
  • Ex-Essence, Vibe Editor Champions Black Gay Men
  • Algeria Ousts Thousands, Forcing Sahara March
  • Short Takes

Aide: Like Jackie Robinson, Felt He Had to Take It

Barack Obama was more conscious of the racism that greeted his presidency than he let on, according to Benjamin J. Rhodes, his deputy national security adviser and speechwriter. To Obama, it was “white noise” and he often bit his tongue, Rhodes said in an interview that aired on C-SPAN (video) over the weekend.

Rhodes, author of the new “The World as It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House,” was interviewed by Jeffrey Goldberg, editor-in-chief of the Atlantic magazine, at Washington’s Politics and Prose bookstore on June 15.


Here is part of the discussion.

Q: There’s a very, very interesting chapter in your book about race and President Obama. I don’t want to highlight it too much; people should read it for themselves, but I’m under the impression — and correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the most frank discussion by an intimate of President Obama, a close aide of President Obama about how he felt about his role as the first African American president, and it’s interesting to read now, in what we call a period of racial reaction, so talk about that a little bit.


What you convey in broad strokes is President Obama was not as unaware of white perceptions of him as he made it out to be publicly. Is that a fair —

A: Yeah, [as] I described in the book, I really didn’t mean it to be a pun, but basically racism was like white noise to us, in that it was ever-present. It was so omnipresent for all eight years that it’s not that we sat around and talked about it, but it would come out in these kind of moments where we’d be prepping him for like an interview or press conference where we’d say, “You may be asked whether the opposition to you is motivated by race.” And he’d be like, “Yes, of course it is. Next question.” And he wasn’t going to say that publicly.


Q: What would he say when he was asked that publicly?

A: “Well, there are many different factors and you know . . .”

And another one, “How do we reduce tensions around Black Lives Matter and policing?” and he would say, “Well, I’ll say, ‘Cops should stop shooting unarmed black folks. Next question.’ “


Q: Why wouldn’t he say it in public; that would be galvanizing, no?

A: Well, I think it’s a couple of things. One, I think he learned early in the presidency that if he — the Skip Gates thing was more impactful than people know. So, here he is, he’s asked about “what do you think about probably the pre-eminent African American academic in the country being arrested in his house?” and he said it was stupid.


And the blowback was so insane, and it was like people were so excited to be talking about race on cable television, and it was multiple days of people going back and forth and Fox going into hysteria. And then we have this absurd beer summit where Gates has a beer with the guy, and you know, he was trying to fix the economy.

And he’s like, “I cannot do this every couple weeks. I’m trying to get us out of a financial crisis. I’m trying to get us out of some wars. I can’t afford this spectacle. . . .”


It was just a belief that [it was] difficult for him to engage these issues in a kind of raw way without it becoming trivialized in kind of the fun-house mirrors of our politics. He was certainly very angry about the “birther” movement and furious he had to release his birth certificate. But he wanted to put that behind him. He didn’t want to stir the pot. What he was most angry about, frankly, is that cable television networks gave so much airtime to the birther movement, and I would argue led to the election of Donald Trump, right?

The point . . . is I describe it as he had kind of a Jackie Robinson ethos, which is, “I’m the first African American to do this, so I have to do this job better, twice as good as a like, white person would have to, and I have to take all this stuff and keep my head down. I think late in his presidency he started to find new ways to talk about this. I think if you look at his speech at Charleston, his visit to the prisons, his My Brother’s Keeper initiative, his efforts with criminal justice reform, he found a voice to talk about these things the last year or two that was different, and part of that was, I think, experience, and part of that was we weren’t in a financial crisis anymore.


Q: Who was more surprised by Donald Trump’s election, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama or you?

A: I was more surprised.

Q: They were not surprised.

A: No, I think they were a little surprised. I try to be candid in the book. It was white people who thought that Barack Obama’s election was going to transform race in America and not largely African American people, certainly not the Obamas. They never believed that, because of the lived experience of being an African American in this country.


And so he was far more acutely aware of racism in this country than I was, you know. And far more aware of the forces that might lead to Trumpism, and the fact — I remember some anecdotes of hearing where I was at . . . events in Washington and kind of casual racism that shocked me but it wouldn’t shock him at all, that would happen. I think what I came to see, when I became closer and closer to him, is there is an understanding of the omnipresence of racism in American society that I, as a white person, didn’t fully appreciate until I worked for the first African American president.

Obama Is Busy Organizing and Writing


Where is Obama?Gabriel Debenedetti asked Sunday in a 6,300-word cover story for New York magazine. “It is a question much of the country has been asking over the last two years, sometimes plaintively. ‘Come back, Barack,’ Chance the Rapper sang in a Saturday Night Live sketch. ‘We all miss him,’ Kobe Bryant said, speaking for other athletes. Even former FBI director James Comey admitted to German interviewers this spring that he misses Obama. . . .”

Debenedetti also wrote, “Obama’s reticence is more than simply a matter of communications strategy. He has mostly opted out of liberal America’s collective Trump-outrage cycle. Though he reads the [New York] Times and other newspapers, he doesn’t follow daily Trump developments on Twitter or watch television news.”He is upset by the administration’s actions, and he’s confided to friends that what worries him most is the international order, the standing of the office of the presidency, the erosion of democratic norms, and the struggles of people who are suddenly unsure of their immigration status or the future of their health-care coverage. Still, in conversations with political allies, Obama insists that today’s domestic mess is a blip on the long arc of history and argues that his own work must be focused on progress over time — specifically on empowering a new generation of leaders. . . .”


About the Trump administration’s “systematic attempt to bludgeon every one of Obama’s biggest moves,” Debenedetti writes, “Obama is monitoring the destruction, but he spends the bulk of his time on two projects, building his foundation and writing a memoir,” Debenedetti writes, “It’s a familiar vision for a post-presidency and, for now, a return to two activities with which Obama is temperamentally more comfortable than raw politics: organizing and writing. . . .”


A High for Diversity in Local TV Newsrooms

The percentage of women and people of color in [local] TV newsrooms and in TV news management are at the highest levels ever measured by the RTDNA/Hofstra University Newsroom Survey,” Bob Papper, professor emeritus of Hofstra University, reported Wednesday in his annual survey for the Radio Television Digital News Association.”The percentage of people of color in local TV news overall rose to 24.8% in 2017. That’s up just 0.4, but it’s enough to beat the previous record of 24.6% set in 2001.”Still, the bigger picture remains unchanged. In the last 28 years, the percentage of people of color in the U.S. has risen 12.4 points, but just 7 in the TV news industry. The U.S. is about [38.3%] people of color, but the local TV news workforce only 24.8%.”Papper also wrote:”Highlights

“The percentage of women and people of color in TV newsrooms and in TV news management are at the highest levels ever measured, but while the minority population in the U.S. has risen 12.4 points in the last 28 years, the minority workforce in TV news is up just 7.


“The disparity in representation of people of color in TV management is shrinking.

“The percentage of TV news employees overall and of TV news directors who are women is at an all-time high.


“There are fewer women and people of color in radio this year than last.

“The percentage of people of color in radio is up from its low in 2010, but down from the high 22 years ago and far from on par with the population overall.


“There are twice as many men as women in radio news, and just under half of radio news staffs include at least one woman, but the percentage of women news directors has increased in the past year. . . .”


Rethinking Urged on Funding for News Diversity

Journalism has long struggled to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves, and over the past decade, most efforts to support diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in news outlets have been unsuccessful in creating meaningful change within the stories, sources, and staff of newsrooms across the United States,” Lea Trusty wrote June 19 for the Democracy Fund.

“New research released today by Democracy Fund traces half a decade of philanthropic investment in organizations, programming, and research aimed at increasing DEI in journalism. We commissioned this report to learn from the important work undertaken up to this point, to guide our future investments, and to spark discussions across philanthropy regarding the urgent need to address these challenges with significant new resources. . . .”


Trusty also wrote, “Recent research by the Shorenstein Center at Harvard and Northeastern University . . . found that there [are] simply not enough philanthropic dollars flowing into journalism to make up for the gaps in what has been lost from legacy newsrooms. Amongst the funding that does exist there are troubling gaps and disparities. Our report provides a deeper look at one of those gaps, showing that there are even fewer dollars . . . going to DEI efforts within the industry. . . .”

Trusty continued later in the report, “The past efforts represented in these numbers faced stiff headwinds and real challenges, including a dramatic financial downturn that strained the news industry. But tight budgets alone cannot explain the persistent gap in employment opportunities between minorities and their white counterparts seeking jobs in journalism. Nor does it excuse the historic leadership failure of legacy outlets to fulfill their promise to diversify their ranks.


“Reviewing this history, we are left with more questions than answers How should we think about supporting programs and investigative projects looking at inequality when they may be housed at news outlets with a weak history of supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion internally? How do we rethink equitable funding so that program-specific funds at ethnic media outlets don’t exacerbate financial and structural uncertainty? And how do we ensure that investments in diversity, equity, and inclusion have broad and measurable impact across the industry?. . .”

Summarizing the report, Trusty and colleague Paul Waters said by email Wednesday, “Funders should always be assessing the impact of their work and iterating to better support the field and we hope this data can be useful in that regard. In preparing this report we partnered with many of the funders that were included. We are seeing growing collaboration between foundations who are funding programs specifically dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion in newsrooms, but also a growing effort amongst the funding community to build diversity, equity and inclusion into all their grants. We think both strategies are critical.”


J-Groups Seek Access to Migrant Detention Centers

The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force today joined the National Press Photographers Association in calling on the U.S. government to grant access to photojournalists at migrant detention facilities,” the Radio Television Digital News Association said Friday.


“In a statement issued earlier this week, the NPPA said, ‘On all issues, especially an important issue such as this, the public has a right to and a need for independent, verified visual journalism – not government-controlled images.’

“Further, RTDNA’s task force is calling on the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Health and Human Services and any other government agency involved in detention of migrants who have been taken into custody under the [administration’s] so-called ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy at our southern border, to allow all journalists greater access to the facilities nationwide.


“So far, such access has been limited to pool reports or other select journalists with no cameras in tow. The only images that have been available to the public are those created and distributed by the government.

“ ‘Journalists are the eyes and ears of the American people, who need to be able to see video and other images from sources independent of the U.S. government, to know what federal officials are doing in their name. It is hard to imagine an issue where that is more important at this moment in our nation’s history than this,’ said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Executive Director. . . .”


‘What’s the El Salvadoran Congress Going to Do?’

You know, we talk about family separation,” CBS News correspondent Ed O’Keefe said Sunday on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.”

“I think one thing we have to remember in this immigration debate, in most cases, the people crossing the border have already been separated from their family. They left Guatemala. They left El Salvador. And maybe, as a society, and as journalists, we should be worrying not just about what the American Congress is going to do, but what’s the El Salvadoran congress going to do?


“What’s the Honduran congress going to do? What the Guatemalan national assembly going to do? Because something’s not going right. And, if the United States were perhaps, as a society, as journalists, as lawmakers, as a president, focused a little more on them and say, what can we do to keep them here, perhaps, you know, this issue will start to mitigate itself.”

O’Keefe, who is Hispanic, spoke on a Sunday in which the networks were criticized for the paucity of Hispanics on the talk shows.


But rarely has a prior week of news demanded a wider range of view points,” the Daily Beast wrote on Monday. “That said, the shows’ panels were a far more even mix, with eight men (one of whom is Hispanic) and eight women (two of whom are Hispanic) making up the guest list. In addition, CBS had on two of its reporters, one of whom, Ed O’Keefe, is Hispanic. . . .”

Among the others were Leslie Sanchez, CBS News political contributor, on “Face the Nation,” and Cecilia Vega, senior White House correspondent, on ABC News’ “This Week.”


Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Brian Kilmeade Called Out for ‘These Aren’t Our Kids’ Comment

Aura Bogado, Reveal, Center for Investigative Reporting: Doctor giving migrant kids psychotropic drugs lost certification years ago


Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times: At the U.S.-Mexico border, immigrant mothers seeking asylum prepare for whatever may come

Brad Heath, USA Today: DOJ: Trump’s immigration crackdown ‘diverting’ resources from drug cases


Emily Kassie and Eli Hager, Marshall Project: Inside Family Detention, Trump’s Big Solution

Roberto Lovato, Columbia Journalism Review: Politics pushes Central American voices out of child separation coverage


Matt Smith and Aura Bogado, Center for Investigative Reporting: Immigrant children forcibly injected with drugs, lawsuit claims (June 20)

Spectrum News NY1: Video shows kids being brought to NYC immigration foster agency


Michael Tomasky, Daily Beast: Would Donald Trump Have Deported His Own Grandfather?

NAHJ Investigating Misconduct Allegations

On Thursday, Russell Contreras, a former board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Facebook readers that he had not been to an NAHJ convention since 2012, and that “there needs to be a thorough, independent investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct during the 2010 student projects and beyond. #MeToo.”On Friday, NAHJ President Brandon Benavides wrote members: “The Board has received an allegation concerning misconduct by persons associated with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists which occurred a number of years ago. The Board takes these matters very seriously and will investigate the matter immediately. We encourage members to raise such concerns directly to NAHJ via email at Until the Board has had an opportunity to complete an objective investigation, we urge members to refrain commenting on this matter on social media.”


On Monday, asked to elaborate on what Benavides was referencing, NAHJ spokeswoman BA Snyder said by email, “We cannot comment any further at this time.”

Magazine Targets Blacks, Latinos Who Dislike ‘Gay’

The publisher of such LGBT publications as The Advocate, Out and Plus has introduced Chill, a publication aimed at African Americans and Hispanics who dislike the label “gay, Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni, wrote June 18 on his website.


Reporting on an interview with Joe Landry, a 25-year magazine-business veteran who is executive vice president of Pride Media, Husni wrote, “According to Joe, Chill is geared toward that LGBT person who dislikes labels such as ‘gay’ attached to their persona. The magazine is really aimed at African American and Hispanic millennial men who are more about the person than the stereotype. It’s an exciting concept that opens up an entire new spectrum of possibilities for the LGBTQ individual. . . .”

Chill, a free quarterly, has a 200,000 circulation target, Argus Galindo, senior fulfillment manager of Pride Media, told Journal-isms, and is distributed in barbershops, community centers and at cultural events and historically black colleges and universities. The first issue was mailed March 30. The website,, launched earlier in March.


Ex-Essence, Vibe Editor Champions Black Gay Men

Emil Wilbekin, the former editor of Vibe and Giant magazines who had been a major figure at Essence magazine until he was laid off there in 2014 (scroll down), is marking the second year of Native Son, “an intergenerational movement . . . with the aim of creating a safe space to empower black gay men and celebrate their achievements in the arts, business, media, fashion, politics, and healthcare,” Les Fabian Brathwaite reported April 9 for Chill (also published last June 30 in Out).


“After losing his job at Essence, Wilbekin took an Eat, Pray, Love-esque sabbatical in India to figure out what he wanted to do next,” Brathwaite wrote. “He knew that he wanted to create something to give back to the black gay community. Back in New York, a book on his shelf caught his attention: James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son, his first collection of essays detailing the problem of race in America and Europe. Shortly afterwards, during his best friend’s bachelor weekend in the country with several other successful black gay men, Wilbekin realized ‘there’s something here.’ And so Native Son was born. And it couldn’t happen at a better time.

“With the success of Moonlight, the Oscar-nominated Baldwin doc I Am Not Your Negro, Edward Enninful being named editor-in-chief of British Vogue, and Hilton Als winning the Pulitzer Prize, Wilbekin notes, ‘all this stuff is happening and we need to own it.’ . . .”


Emil Wilbekin, Essence: Emil Wilbekin Recounts How He Found His Truth And Sharing His Darkest Secret With His Late Mother (June 11)


(Credit: France 24) (video)

Algeria Ousts Thousands, Forcing Sahara March

From this isolated frontier post deep in the sands of the Sahara, the expelled migrants can be seen coming over the horizon by the hundreds,” Lori Hinnant reported Monday for the Associated Press from Assamaka, Niger. “They look like specks in the distance, trudging miserably across some of the world’s most unforgiving terrain in the blistering sun.


“They are the ones who made it out alive.

“Here in the desert, Algeria has abandoned more than 13,000 people in the past 14 months, including pregnant women and children, stranding them without food or water and forcing them to walk, sometimes at gunpoint, under temperatures of up to 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).


“In Niger, where the majority head, the lucky ones limp across a desolate 15-kilometer (9-mile) no-man’s-land to Assamaka, less a town than a collection of unsteady buildings sinking into drifts of sand. Others, disoriented and dehydrated, wander for days before a U.N. rescue squad can find them. Untold numbers perish along the way; nearly all the more than two dozen survivors interviewed by The Associated Press told of people in their groups who simply could not go on and vanished into the Sahara. . . .

“The migrants the AP talked to described being rounded up hundreds at a time, crammed into open trucks headed southward for six to eight hours to what is known as Point Zero, then dropped in the desert and pointed in the direction of Niger. They are told to walk, sometimes at gunpoint. In early June, 217 men, women and children were dropped well before reaching Point Zero, fully 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the nearest source of water,” according to the International Organization for Migration.


Agence France-Presse: Stranded migrant rescue ship may dock in Malta: France

Francesca Fionda and Alia Dharssi, How journalists can do a better job of talking about refugees


Short Takes

  • Former NAACP chief Ben Jealous won Maryland’s Democratic primary for governor Tuesday, promising to deliver a progressive agenda that makes college free, legalizes marijuana and raises the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour,” Erin Cox and Luke Broadwater reported for the Baltimore Sun. Jealous was executive director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the trade organization for black-newspaper publishers, from 2000 to 2004.
  • While the National Association of Black Journalists spent $40,000 with a search firm to find an executive director, according to Sharon Toomer, who was chosen for the job last year but resigned last week, the NABJ leaders, not the search firm, selected the final candidate, Gina Roose, director of research for Harris Rand Lusk, the search firm, told Journal-isms by telephone on Monday. Search firms typically forward to the client a dozen or so candidates, Roose said. Asked what Toomer’s resignation cost NABJ, President Sarah Glover said by email, “As a personnel matter, NABJ would not comment on whether an employee had a contract, or not, or the terms thereof.”
  • “We’re thrilled to announce that Lauretta Charlton, a member of the editorial staff at The New Yorker, will be joining Race/Related, a team that works across departments covering race issues, as its editor,” the New York Times announced on Friday. “At The New Yorker, Lauretta has been involved in various digital initiatives, helping to develop a new online news feature called The Current, introducing and editing a feature called The New Yorker Recommends, and managing the Listening Booth. . . .”
  • We are proud to share that we have promoted Eliezer Budasoff to be editorial director of NYT en Español,” the New York Times announced on Friday. “Eliezer, a prize-winning narrative journalist from Argentina, joined our team in Mexico City in July 2016, a few months after the launch of Español, and has been a creative force from day one. . . .”
  • Honoring legendary African-American civil rights activist and journalist Ida B. Wells by officially renaming a city street after her is a good idea,” columnist Eric Zorn wrote Sunday for the Chicago Tribune. “So is changing the name of East Balbo Drive, a four-block stretch just south of downtown named for fascist aviator Italo Balbo. But combining the two — renaming Balbo Drive for Wells, as two Chicago aldermen want to do — is a lousy idea” that would needlessly antagonize Italian Americans. Zorn suggested changing the existing Wells Street to Ida B. Wells Street.
  • In Atlanta, “Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms named former TV news anchor and reporter Keith Whitney director of communications on Friday,” Stephen Deere reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Deere also wrote, “Whitney’s first day is Wednesday. Whitney replaces Anne Torres who left city hall in April shortly before text messages revealed she apparently tried to frustrate media access to public records. . . .” Whitney anchored at WGCL-TV after 23 years at WXIA-TV.
  • Shaun King, Black Lives Matter activist and columnist with the Intercept, shared the Humanitarian Award Sunday at the BET Awards. Co-winners were Naomi Wadler, Mamoudou Gassama, Justin Blackman, Anthony Borges and James Shaw Jr. “Instead of honoring ONE celebrity, the Humanitarian Award went to several individuals (BET Humanitarian Heroes) who have done extraordinary things in some of the most disheartening of situations,” BET spokeswoman Tracy S. McGraw said Wednesday by email. “The idea was to remind everyone that you don’t have to be a celebrity to be recognized for humanitarian work. Everyone has the opportunity to do something impactful and be honored for it. We selected Shaun King because his work has been instrumental in covering numerous untold stories that directly affect the black community — activism, police brutality and racial discrimination.”
  • In Ferguson, Mo., four years after the unrest prompted by the fatal police shooting of 18-year-old African American Michael Brown, “nearly all of the new development is concentrated in the more prosperous — and whiter— parts of town, bypassing the predominantly black southeast neighborhood where Brown was fatally shot by a police officer while walking to his grandmother’s home,” Tracy Jan reported Thursday for the Washington Post. “The investments, rather than easing the economic gap, have deepened that divide. . .

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.


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