NABJ Facing "Identity Crisis"
Monday, August 5, 2002
The National Association of Black Journalists, founded 27 years ago to promote the careers of black newsmen and newswomen, and to open the profession's blinkered outlook on issues involving ethnic minorities, has reached an awkward maturity, reports Felicity Barringer in the New York Times. It is old enough to be proud of its past. But if it ever was certain about what it is, what it needs to do and how to do it, that certainty is fading. More from the NABJ convention at the end of today's posting.
Americans are less confident now than last fall that they are getting accurate reports from the government about efforts to deal with terrorism, and the decline has been most notable among African Americans, according to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. In November, 68 percent of African Americans had a great deal or fair amount of confidence in government reports; today, only 40 percent do.
The study also found that the quadrennial World Cup soccer tournament held in Japan and South Korea was followed very or fairly closely by 26 percent of the public in June, but that Hispanic Americans and college graduates are significantly more knowledgeable on this topic.
And, as the media's focus has shifted away from terrorism, Americans regard news organizations with the same degree of skepticism as they did in the 1990s.
Though unfamiliar to many Americans, the Wall Street Journal is seen as a highly credible news source among those who rate it. Among news magazines, U.S. News and World Report receives slightly better marks for credibility than Time or Newsweek. Entertainment and tabloid outlets such as People and the National Enquirer receive the lowest ratings overall.
Despite modest believability ratings for their network news programs, Tom Brokaw, Dan Rather, and Peter Jennings remain the most trusted figures in television news. By comparison, the best-known cable news anchors – Brian Williams, Brit Hume and Aaron Brown – and cable talk hosts – Larry King and Bill O'Reilly – are seen as significantly less credible.
Putting a new magazine into the hands of the consumer has become so difficult that publishers almost need to go door to door to get some attention, reports the New York Times. So it is not surprising that Latina magazine, a 230,000-circulation monthly magazine for bilingual Hispanic women, has joined with Avon Products to sell subscriptions. This fall, up to 80,000 Avon sales representatives catering to a Hispanic customers will begin selling subscriptions to Latina for $10.99 a year.
Surely we are living in topsy-turvy times, a loop-de-loop moment when the Old World Order is crumbling by the second, writes Amy Alexander on africana.com.
Nearly two weeks after CNN broadcast a debate between William McGowan, author of "Coloring the News: How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism," and Condace Pressley, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, "I think I've gotten closer to at least pinning down the source of the angst surrounding this latest dust up (at least, the angst felt by minority journalists). It's all about Twenty-first Century White Male Fear Run Amok. The White Guys are hearing footsteps of America's growing brown majority, and Lord knows what lengths they'll go to to keep their power. What I fear is their fear, and the lengths to which McGowan and his ilk might go to protect their once-unassailable supremacy in journalism and at the top of the nation's economic power structure.
"McGowan, it seems to me, is merely a shill for larger forces at work in the shadowy netherworld where conservative American politics meet Big Bidness."
One might think the subject of race is turf too well traveled to startle or delight any longer, writes Gregory Stanford in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. But he says the writers of a new book reach into the core of their beings for fresh, gripping takes on this weary topic.
The book is "When Race Becomes Real: Black and White Writers Confront Their Personal Histories," a collection of mostly original essays edited by Bernestine Singley, a lawyer and writer. Some of the contributors held a book-signing event at the annual conference of the National Association of Black Journalists.
Racism, says George M. Fredrickson in his new book, "Racism: A Short History," is difference plus power.
In summarizing Fredrickson's thesis in the New York Times Book Review, scholar Kwame Anthony Appiah, a member of the Henry Louis Gates "Dream Team" at Harvard who recently defected to Princeton, says that "People everywhere, throughout history, have sometimes been beastly to members of groups they thought of as different. What is distinctive about racism in the West is the development of a full-scale systematic ideology to explain why these others deserved bad treatment. And that theory was necessary only because modern Western societies were unlike most others, which did not share the assumption that human beings were created equal and thus had nothing to explain away."
However, Appiah writes that Fredrickson's analysis is potentially misleading. "Even if racism starts as a rationalization for abuses that have other motivations, it ends up having a powerful negative force of its own."
"On a bright Minneapolis day early in the 21st century, I found myself wondering the same old 20th century, 'why?' writes Amy Wang of the Portland Chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.
"Why, amid 35 newspaper managers from the Midwest and the West – men and women, young and old, veteran and newcomer, metropolitan and rural – was I the only Asian American there? Why, in a seminar meant to pass on the wisdom of three nationally known editors, was I the only Asian American? Why, as we discussed and dissected coaching, mentoring, accountability, communication, planning and other essential leadership concepts, was I the only Asian American?"
There is hope for the continued survival and relevancy of the nation's 200-plus black newspapers, reports Kathy Bergen in the Chicago Tribune.
Many are small family-owned businesses that have faded badly since the early to mid-20th century, when they carried the torch for civil rights. But effecting revivals at these papers, most of which are weekly, will require a burning passion and a lot of fortitude.
Many of the publications long ago ceased to be "must reads," as African-Americans turned to mainstream media as well as black-oriented magazines, radio stations, television programming and Web sites.
CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston, on assignment in Afghanistan, looks at the legacy of destruction for Kabul's youth.
AARP -- the largest organization representing retired and older Americans -- has joined 50 TV writers suing nearly all of the major broadcast networks, studios and talent agencies for alleged age discrimination, reports Broadcasting and Cable.
There are 23 class-action suits pending in California state court filed by TV writers age 40 and older. The plaintiffs are seeking $200 million in damages. The writers said they have been "gray-listed" in violation of prohibitions against age discrimination in hiring.
More from the NABJ Convention
Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig told the NABJ convention that his organization erred in adding four new teams during the past decade, and reaffirmed his belief that contraction would be inevitable in the next few years, reports the Orlando Sentinel.
But he declined to speculate whether the players union would set a strike date during talks within the next week or what moves the league might make if an arbitrator ruled in favor of the union, which is fighting his plans to eliminate certain teams.
While the nation's two major political parties remain united against terrorism, they are worlds apart on another front - their campaigns to lure minority voters, two top party leaders said, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Democrats and Republicans agree that the fight to win the support of minority voters will be critical in this fall's midterm elections as well as President Bush's domestic agenda.
Terry McAuliffe, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and Richard Graber, chairman of the Republican Party of Wisconsin, both conceded that neither party should take the minority vote for granted - even with the Democratic Party's historic appeal to black voters since the terms of Franklin Roosevelt.
As cities become more racially diverse each day, newspapers will need to work much harder at reaching this growing market of minorities if they are to survive financially, writes Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel business columnist Tannette Johnson-Elie.
For 55 years, Cal Patterson has told his stories in the black community papers of the Midwest. He currently writes for the Milwaukee Community Journal and sports, above all else, has always been his first love, writes Anthony Witrado in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.
Patterson was honored with a Pioneer Award from the National Association of Black Journalists' Sports Task Force.
"The problem with the black papers in Milwaukee is no one knows how to produce a paper," he said. "These young people can't do any production, so they are paying other people to produce their paper." The effort has to be made to teach young journalists the ropes of the game, Patterson says, so that they are a valuable commodity to any newsroom.
"Young people need experience," he says. "They need to know what it's like to wash their hands three or four times and still have ink under their fingernails."
Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. received the President's Award from the National Association of Black Journalists on Friday during the organization's annual awards dinner in Milwaukee, the Miami Herald writes.
The award recipient is chosen by the organization's president as the person who best exemplifies what it means to be a member of the association. ''I was very pleasantly shocked,'' Pitts said.
One of the hits of the NABJ convention was an advance screening of the movie "Antwone Fisher," for which Denzel Washington served as director (his debut), co-producer and co-star. The movie will be screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in September before opening in theaters Dec. 20.
The film is based on the true story of Antwone Quenton Fisher, who wrote the script. Fisher's memoir, "Finding Fish," recalls his 15 years in foster care, most of them with one family, where he was sexually molested and physically abused and neglected.
Available for $2.95 from the New York Times archive is a story on Fisher, "At Home with Antoine Quenton Fisher; A Child's Tale Told in Disbelief" and the Barnes & Noble Web site features material on "Finding Fish."
Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites. 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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@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine