Will Black Boys Have Skills to Be Journalists?

Ballou High graduates Wayne Nesbit and Jachin Leatherman (Washington Post)
Ballou High graduates Wayne Nesbit and Jachin Leatherman (Washington Post)

Report Calls Underachievement a "National Catastrophe"

"Black males continue to perform lower than their peers throughout the country on almost every indicator," according to a new report from the Council of the Great City Schools, which calls itself "the only national organization exclusively representing the needs of urban public schools."


Its report, released Tuesday, is bad news for efforts to diversify the pipeline that fills journalism jobs — and others that require a solid education.

"The study points out that there has been no concerted national effort to improve the education, social and employment outcomes of African American males, who are not receiving appropriate attention from federal, state and local governments or community organizations," the council said.

" 'This is a national catastrophe, and it deserves coordinated national attention,' stresses the report."

Walk onto any campus, and it is obvious that young women now outnumber young men. This is also true in journalism programs, and it's truest of all for African Americans.

"African Americans still have the largest gender gap in enrollment; 63 percent of all African American undergraduates are women," the American Council on Education reported this year.

"We have such a large drop out rate in that critical early time period that of course fewer young black men are going to college," said Dorothy Gilliam, the veteran journalist who founded Prime Movers, a Washington-based program that provides mentors for high-school journalists. "Most of these young black boys are from low income families and those who make it to college often are first generation college students," she told Journal-isms by e-mail. "Many don’t have the support system that really helps them to navigate through college, so many drop out and there is a lower graduation rate. It stands to reason that you have fewer showing up in the journalism field (or any other profession)," said Gilliam, a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.


"It really starts early, as this report indicates," she continued. "If young children are not being read to and communicated with at a level that encourages them to be inquisitive and to learn, they are behind from the beginning. So many urban kids are going to under resourced school systems with teachers who have not received all the training they need. It’s all so interrelated. There is a quiet crisis going on in our communities across the nation. If we don’t get this one right, it doesn’t bode well for us as a people."

The report is being released as the Fall National High School Journalism Convention, sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the National Scholastic Press Association, meets this week in Kansas City.


"We are concerned about a lack of vibrant school journalism programs in our nation's urban areas. Certainly there are exceptions," Logan Aimone, executive director of the scholastic press association, told Journal-isms, "but in general, city schools tend to not have the same support level for journalism programs as their suburban or small-town counterparts. That's true in many areas, of course, not just journalism."

The Council of Great City Schools called for a White House conference "to help lay out a comprehensive plan of action that leaders at all levels can pursue." Its findings showed:

  • "In readiness to learn, black children were twice as likely to live in a household where no parent had fulltime or year-round employment in 2008. And in 2007, one out of every three black children lived in poverty compared with one out of every 10 white children.

  • "In black male achievement at the national level, first-time analysis of the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) reveals that on the 2009 fourth grade reading assessment only 12 percent of black male students nationally and 11 percent of those living in large central cities performed at or above proficient levels, compared with 38 percent of white males nationwide.

  • "In eighth grade, only 9 percent of black males across the country and 8 percent living in large cities performed at or above the proficient level in reading, compared with 33 percent of white males nationwide. Math results were similar in both grades.

  • "Moreover, the average African American fourth and eighth grade male who is not poor does no better in reading and math on NAEP than white males who are poor, and black males without disabilities do no better than white males with disabilities.

  • "In black male achievement in selected big city school districts, 50 percent of fourth- and eighth-grade black males in most urban districts and nationwide scored below Basic levels.

  • "In college and career preparedness, black males were nearly twice as likely to drop out of high school as white males. In 2008, 9 percent of black males dropped out of high school compared with 5 percent of white males.

  • "In addition, black male students nationally scored an average 104 points lower than white males on the SAT college entrance examination in reading. And black students generally were about one-third as likely to meet ACT college readiness benchmarks as white students.

  • "In school experience, black students were less likely to participate in academic clubs, more likely to be suspended from school, and more likely to be retained in grade than their white peers.

  • "In postsecondary experience, the unemployment rate among black males ages 20 and over (17.3 percent) was twice as high as the unemployment rate among white males of the same age (8.6 percent) earlier this year. In 2008, black males ages 18 and over accounted for 5 percent of the college population, while black males accounted for 36 percent of the nation’s prison population."

Efforts to address the issue have been sporadic.

Two decades ago, the late syndicated columnist Carl T. Rowan, a black journalist, was dismayed by peer pressure that can work against black students excelling in school, so he created a scholarship program, Project Excellence. Backed by the Freedom Forum, it was specifically geared toward two skills that make good journalists — writing and speaking.


He wrote in May 1987, "Suppose that in this town black journalists chipped into a fund to give annual scholarships of, say, $4,000 each, to three black high school seniors cited by a committee named by the school superintendent as the best achievers in writing and speaking? This might help a lot of youngsters to say, 'I'm not playing dumb to please dumb friends; I want that money.' "

The concept moved far beyond black journalists. At his death in 2000, more than 3,000 African American high school students from the Washington area had received offers of scholarships worth $92.6 million. But Rowan's sons lacked the contacts needed to continue the program, and it ended two years later.


Some colleges address the problem among students who make it that far.

At Hampton University, Tony Brown, then dean of its Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, told parents in 2006 that "many freshmen, including those with high GPAs, have serious challenges in GPS (grammar, punctuation and spelling) and English composition." So he started the 6 O'Clock Club, where the dean met with "serious freshmen" at 6 a.m. every Thursday during the first semester. "Get ready by spending your summer reviewing 8-12 grade GPS," Brown wrote. The 6 O'Clock Club is no more, a Hampton professor said, but for the third year, beginning media-writing students must complete a grammar software program. "The program works! Student grammar and sentence structure is clean and coherent," the professor said.


Roy S. Johnson, editor of Men's Fitness magazine, saw a New York Times story on the council's report Tuesday and alerted readers of his Facebook page. "It pains me to post this — but reaffirms my resolve to continue programs like Higher Aims, created and supported by the Foundation of Westchester Clubmen (www.westchesterclubmen.org)," Johnson wrote.

In his Westchester County, N.Y., suburb, the "clubmen" meet for mutual support and camaraderie, and to motivate black boys for whom "college is not something that has crossed their radar."


Johnson said it is up to journalists not only to report the dismal statistics about failing youth but also "to report on the people who are giving their own time to change the statistics" and to "report on the young men who are doing well."

He added that as human beings, "we all have the opportunity to get involved."

Johnson's comment brought to mind a piece in the 2006 Washington Post series "Being a Black Man," reporting on Jachin Leatherman and Wayne Nesbit, two well-liked football players at what some considered the worst high school in the city. They "made it okay, cool even, to be smart," V. Dion Haynes wrote.


Haynes did what Johnson suggested. He revisited the two, now college graduates, for an Oct. 24 piece for the Washington Post Magazine.

There was no single reason for their success.

Nesbit gave credit to his father: "It starts with parents and the people raising you. He said his dad "just stayed on me. He just enforced education." Despite the troubles in Southeast Washington, his father told him, "You've just got to have a one-set mind, make a go and don't let nothing turn you away from it."


In the 2006 piece, Haynes reported what some of the football players had said to the coaches when, three years before, Nesbit and Leatherman were first introduced as examples:

"They smart. We dumb. We can't get better."

Leatherman replied: "That's crazy. Anybody can get good grades. Just go to class and do your work."


In an appearance on NPR's "Tell Me More," host Jacki Lyden asked Haynes, "What would you say the secret to their success was, perseverance?"

"I think it was just confidence in who they are and the fact that they really love their community. They love their family. They love their friends," he replied.


4 Million Latinos Would Leave if They Could, Gallup Says

"A newly released Gallup study of U.S. Hispanics reveals that more than one in seven — or an estimated 4 million adults — would leave the U.S. permanently if they had the opportunity," the Gallup Organization reported on Tuesday.


". . . U.S. Hispanics who would like to migrate are caught between two worlds. Gallup's data show they are less integrated than those who don't want to migrate — they're more likely to feel good only among other Hispanics, feel more discriminated against, and are less likely to speak English well. They not only experience more cultural tension, but also seem to be doing worse off economically, particularly with regard to their ability to afford healthcare for themselves and their families. Further, U.S. Hispanics who would like to migrate are more likely to say they have sent remittances back home in the past 12 months and are less optimistic about the future possibility of increasing or maintaining the amount of these remittances.

"And, although they live in the land of the free, U.S. Hispanics who would like to migrate are less likely to feel that they are enjoying this benefit. While 91% of those who do not wish to migrate are satisfied with the freedom they have to choose what they do with their lives, 77% of would-be migrants say the same."


Marisa Treviño wrote in her Latina Lista blog, "The desire of these individuals to leave the United States is less a reflection on current immigration enforcement policies, the political climate or economic times but a reality that was always known to exist — most migrants only wanted to come to the U.S. to work, not to reside permanently. . . . Congress should look at a Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill that finally accepts this reality and creates a solution that benefits migrants, their home countries and the United States' need for cheap labor."

Crowd Attacks News Crew Covering Memorial Service

"Deputies plan to charge at least two people after an angry mob attacked an Orlando TV news crew Monday night during a memorial service for a teenage hit-and-run victim," WKMG-TV in Orlando reported Tuesday.


"Local 6 cameras caught another local news crew being attacked outside St. Andrews Catholic Church in Orange County, where a service was being held to remember 15-year-old Anthony Rodriguez, who was hit along with his brother while walking to a bus stop last week.

"The fight apparently started because a Spanish-language television crew interviewed Rodriguez's brother without his parents' permission. Local 6 stood back as family members raced across the parking lot intending to confront the television crew that performed the interview. Instead, they swarmed around the first crew in sight. The attacked photographer works for WFTV-TV.


"The family members knocked down the TV station's photographer, then shoved and kicked him, the video shows.

"The victim's father, George Torres, could be clearly heard yelling profanity-laced rants. He said to the news crew, 'Get out of here! Get the (expletive) out of here! I will (expletive) kill you!'


"On the video, the photographer can be seen getting up and walking across the street, but then two of the attackers followed him around his news van, shouting 'turn it off,' referring to his camera. The video then shows one of the men shoving the photographer to the ground once again and the photographer being punched in the face while he is on the ground.

"The men involved are believed to be relatives of Rodriguez.

" . . . The photographer was not seriously injured."


Black Press' Hazel Trice Edney Starts Own News Service

Hazel Trice Edney, who resigned in September as editor-in-chief of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, which provides news and commentary for the nation's black newspapers, is starting her own news service with some of the same columnists she worked with at NNPA.


Trice Edney announced a kickoff party for the Trice Edney News Wire to be held Friday at the National Press Club. It is to be hosted by Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer, with remarks by Joe Madison, the radio talk show host.

Contributing columnists are listed as the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Julianne Malveaux; Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League; A. Peter Bailey; the Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds and Dr. Wilmer Leon.


"We are marketing to NNPA membership and beyond," Trice Edney told Journal-isms via e-mail. "Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Dr. Malveaux, and Marc Morial will write for NNPA as well as Trice Edney Wire. Dr. Wilmer Leon is not an NNPA columnist. Rev. Jackson is not a regular NNPA columnist. A. Peter Bailey will be exclusively Trice Edney Wire. We will have other exclusive columnists as well, including National Medical Association President Dr. Leonard Weather and others."

Trice Edney tendered her letter of resignation from NNPA on Sept. 8 after working for the black press for 25 years. In her resignation letter, she challenged a rebuke she received from board members, who charged that the news service was not acting in concert with NNPA, which had undertaken a "strong direction to assert the power of the NNPA."


Dorothy R. Leavell, chair of the NNPA Foundation, said then that she planned to reorganize the operation to upgrade it with newer technology. So far, the website posting NNPA stories still features advance pieces on the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Legislative Conference, held Sept. 15-18.

Leavell did not respond to a request for comment.

Dobbs Joins Fox Business Network; NAHJ Urges Vigilance

Lou Dobbs, whose departure from CNN a year ago was hailed by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and other groups, has signed a multi-year deal with Fox Business Network, his new employers announced on Wednesday.


"Dobbs will develop and host a new daily program premiering in the first quarter of 2011. He will also make appearances across a variety of FBN programs to provide analysis and commentary on business news of the day," an announcement said.

"Dobbs served as an anchor, managing editor and executive vice president for CNN, hosting various programs including 'Moneyline,' which premiered in 1980 and was later renamed 'Lou Dobbs Tonight.' Dobbs is also a radio talk show host and will continue to host his nationally syndicated radio programs and financial reports," the statement continued.


The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes, had called on CNN to remove Dobbs. Its president, J. Richard Cohen, said Dobbs was "trading in falsehoods and racist conspiracy theories."

Dobbs indulged the "birther" movement, people who questioned whether President Obama was born on American soil and, therefore, whether Obama was constitutionally entitled to be president.


Dobbs' statements on illegal immigrants were called irresponsible and false.

"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has long been on record as advocating fair, accurate and balanced coverage of Latinos and immigration in particular," NAHJ President Michele Salcedo told Journal-isms via e-mail Wednesday. "Fairness, accuracy and balance, on the whole, had been largely absent from Lou Dobbs’ coverage of immigration when he was at CNN.


"Our issue with Dobbs has never been about 'advocacy journalism.' Opinion journalism plays a treasured role as watchdog and valuable source of information in a democratic society. But this opinion should ideally be supported by facts. Dobbs has failed in this regard.

"We challenge journalists, listeners and viewers everywhere to continue weighing Dobbs’ 'advocacy journalism' — on immigration in particular — against reality. In such a contest, we have no doubt that a more reasoned understanding of immigration and Latinos will prevail."


Kanye West Tweets That NBC's "Today" Set Him Up

"Yesterday rapper Kanye West taped an interview with 'Today' show anchor Matt Lauer, and was apparently so incensed with what happened he decided to preemptively comment about it on Twitter," Alex Weprin reported Wednesday for TVNewser.


Weprin quoted from West's tweets, putting them in paragraph form: ". . . let me tell you how they did me at the Today show. I went there to express how I was empathetic to Bush because I labeled him a racist and years later I got labeled as a racist. While I was trying to give the interview they started playing the 'MTV' under me with audio!!!!!! I don’t mess with Matt Lauer or the Today show, and that’s a very nice way for me to put it!

"HE TRIED TO FORCE MY ANSWERS. IT WAS VERY BRUTAL AND I ONLY CAME THERE WITH POSITIVE INTENT… Yo I really wonder if Matt Lauer thought that shit was cool to play the 'MTV' clip while I was speaking about Bush? He played clips of Bush and asked me to look at his face while I was trying to talk to him. I wish Michael Jackson had Twitter!!!!!!! Maybe Mike could have explained how the media tried to set him up!!! It’s all a fucking set up!!"


" 'Today' released a statement responding to West’s Twitter tirade:

" 'We look forward to airing Matt Lauer’s interview with Kanye West tomorrow on "Today." ' "


"Don't Believe the Hype. Black Folks Voted"

"When the votes were counted last Tuesday night in St. Louis, County Executive Charlie A. Dooley had won another four years in office, a victory he credits in part to a heavy voter turnout in the North County districts, home to a large number of black voters," Denise Stewart reported Wednesday for BlackAmericaWeb.com.


"Dooley, a Democrat, beat his Republican challenger by more than 15,000.

"While the voting patterns still are being analyzed from the mid-term elections, it’s clear that blacks across the country went to the polls and voted, said Melanie Campbell, president and CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.


“ 'Don't believe the hype. Black folks voted,' Campbell said.

"Two other groups have analyzed exit poll data and released a report that shows heavy voting among young people between the ages of 18 and 30.


"Young voters in the 2010 midterm elections were racially and ethnically diverse, voted for Democrats and approve of President Obama, according to new analysis of exit poll data released by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) and Generational Alliance (GA).

"An estimated 20.9 percent of all eligible young people ages 18-29 voted in the 2010 mid-terms. Younger voters chose Democratic House candidates over Republican House candidates by a margin of 57 percent to 40 percent."