Posts Tagged ‘African American’


Donald Sterling: Not Just an Angel vs. Devil Story

There’s a lot that can be said of the saga involving Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling. While the subject is a target-rich environment for news articles on diversity, sometimes we can get so homed in on the bad guy/good guy aspect that we miss other credible angles.

I attended a reporting on race workshop at the Poynter Institute in 2000 run by Keith Woods, who is now the vice president for diversity in news and operations at National Public Radio. One of the numerous takeaways I remember was that we as reporters often get locked into what he called “angel vs. devil” scenarios when reporting on race.

Reach for Complexity
The person making the perceived racial comment or taking the action is seen as evil, thus everything that person does or has done is viewed through that lens. Likewise, the victim of the perceived racial slight is almost always viewed more sympathetically, and is given a more supportive treatment. Woods tried to get us to step away from that paradigm and look at people involved in racial conflicts in all of their complexities.

That does not mean that Donald Sterling is not worthy of the critical reporting he has received. But reporters should not shy away from the complexities of the story. How does person who through his own words has such a negative view of African-Americans hire such a successful and strong-willed black coach as Doc Rivers? Or, on a more personal level, date a multiracial woman like V. Stiviano?

Likewise, how do we as reporters not critically look at Stiviano’s motives in recording Sterling?

Fresh angles on mental health, ethics

And how does our assessment of Sterling’s comments change if the “mentally incompetent” label sticks?

The initial reporting on the Sterling case brought up his contributions to the local branch of the NAACP and how the group had planned to give him a lifetime achievement award. I had a debate with other journalists on Facebook about this. Some believed the NAACP should never have taken money from Sterling. Others said fundraising is so difficult, especially for African-American and civil rights organizations, that Sterling’s generosity could be considered a “sin tax” and that the NAACP should have gladly accepted it.

That’s just one example of numerous angles that can be mined from the Sterling saga without getting into the “he said, she said” melodrama of the original story. At times we get so caught up in the tawdry details of the “angels vs. devils” that we miss other worthy topics.


Clyde Hughes is a freelance journalist based in Lafayette, Indiana, who wrote many years for the Toledo Blade. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites around the country and taught courses on covering minorities in the media and media ethics as an adjunct professor.

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Use Bloomberg and Disney News to Deepen Health Coverage

It’s been a fun couple of weeks for health news, with New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg rationing soda portions and the Disney Co. calling a halt to junk food advertising for kids. You can do more with this story, though, than just trot out arguments for and against.

Bloomberg and Disney aim to block structural incentives to eat sugary, salty foods – and through their policy efforts, trim obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Their specific approaches certainly are open to debate. But public health departments across the country have been pleading for some type of policy-based, structural change. Their priority: Halt the disproportionate impact of dire health conditions on specific population groups.

Take a close look at the obesity statistics. African Americans and Mexican Americans have the highest rates across the country. And while we tend to associate obesity with low incomes, that’s not true here – at least for men. Nationally, African American and Mexican American men with higher incomes are more likely to be overweight than their lower-income counterparts. What’s going on?

To take the story one step further, consider that high weight puts people at risk for diabetes, a life-long chronic condition characterized by a roller-         coaster of blood sugar levels – and devastating complications –  if not kept under control. Puerto Ricans and Mexican Americans have the highest risk for diabetes of all ethnic or racial groups, close to double that of non-Hispanic white people. The rate for non-Hispanic black people also is much higher than for whites – by three-quarters. Diabetes is rising dangerously among Native Americans, too.

Photo Courtesy: CDC

While all of us are at high risk for heart disease, both African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to die of strokes than non-Hispanic white people.How about using this moment to probe the value of Bloomberg’s and Disney’s approaches and their potential effectiveness as structural solutions to health disparities? And why not reach a little deeper to cover the populations most affected by these health conditions?

Big differences in lifelong health don’t trace back to genetics, education or even solely individual choice, according to the latest thinking in public health. Do efforts like Bloomberg’s or Disney’s help balance the equation?That’s a question worth investigating.

Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

 

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Trayvon Martin Shooting Death: Evaluating and Improving Crime Reporting

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

Once again we find ourselves caught short. Why did it take news media across the country a couple of weeks to notice that a black teenager had been shot by a vigilante in a gated community? In our sometimes clumsy efforts to catch up (see NBC’s hideous editing error), some accuse the media of hyping the racial element.

That’s absurd, and here’s why. When three-quarters of black people surveyed consider racial bias a factor in the killing and in the non-arrest of the shooter, you’d better believe race is important to this story. It’s no secret that black parents fear for their children, knowing that suspicion routinely follows young males with black skin, wherever they are.  In a study of unconscious racial reactions, experimental psychologists found people of all backgrounds more likely to “see” a weapon in a black person’s hand when it’s actually a harmless object like a can of soda.

Distressingly, our own work is part of the reason why.  Decades ago, communication theorist George Gerbner first described the “Mean World Syndrome.” In his studies, he discovered that people exposed to heavy doses of violence on television developed an overblown sense of danger and fear about the world around them. Despite our best intentions, we’re part of that picture.

In the crime stories so favored by the local news, multiple studies have found that race plays a predictable but inaccurate role. White people disproportionately play the victim. People with darker skin disproportionately flash on the screen as suspects. News audiences have become so conditioned that even when no suspect is shown at all, viewers assume one — and he is black.

In one influential study, Frank Gilliam of UCLA and Shanto Iyengar of Stanford University altered the suspect’s race in crime news clips that they showed to about 2,300 participants. In the test group whose clip included no suspect at all, 44 percent recalled seeing a black perpetrator. Regular news watching also increased audiences’ support for punitive remedies to crime.

Separately, researcher Travis Dixon, now also at UCLA, found that African Americans are consistently overrepresented as perpetrators in local crime news. Not surprisingly, he also found that regular crime news watchers tended to perceive black people as violent.

Photo Courtesy: Paul Weiskel

In this moment, it’s important for the news media to step up to our responsibility to cover and spur conversation about America’s racial climate. Let’s also use this moment to consider hard questions about how we help to create it.

Digging Deeper into a Story

Some things you can do, based on experimental psychology research and other sources:

  • Avoid snap judgments in your reporting; that’s when reactive biases are most likely to emerge.
  • Form anti-bias strategies, like consciously pursuing stories about young African American men who are heroes or protectors of safety.
  • Evaluate crime stories by the level of community impact, and place them in social context of root causes and potential solutions.
  • Cross-check victim/perpetrator ratios by race within your own news reports. Do they reflect actual police statistics?
  • Check your sources. Are you including perspectives across the fault lines of race, gender and age? Who is the affected community? Is there more than one?

Sally Lehrman is a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee. She holds Santa Clara University’s Knight Ridder — San Jose Mercury News Endowed Chair in Journalism and the Public Interest. Sally is also an author and independent journalist who specializes in covering identity, race relations and gender within the context of medicine and science.

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Forbes Under-30 Media List: No Latinos, No Blacks, and No Native Americans

The issue about diversity is burning up the web right now, because journalists of color are upset with the latest Forbes Under-30 Media List.  Not one person is Latino, African American or Native American.  There are a few Asian Americans.

Forbes unveiled its list stating:

“These are the people who aren’t waiting to reinvent the world. FORBES, leaning on the wisdom of its readers and the greatest minds in business, presents the 30 disrupters under 30, in each of 12 fields, making a difference right now.”

Robert Hernandez made me aware of the issue when he posted on Facebook  “Apparently Forbes does not know any Black or Latino journos under 30….let’s introduce them to some.  Please tweet them some names.”

Hernandez is assistant professor at USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism.  He’s also a current board member with the Online News Association and past board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Soon after Hernandez put out that call on Twitter; journalists started tweeting suggestions to Forbes.   Alexandra Talty, a spokeswoman with Forbes talked to Richard Prince who blogs about journalists of color for The Maynard Institute.  Talty told  Journal-isms:

“While there are over fifty people of color on our other 30 Under 30 lists, diversity in media remains a national issue, which this list reflects.”

WHO DID THE CHOOSING?

Forbes asked its readers to nominate candidates for the list.  The staff also submitted names. I just can’t believe that when they laid out the photos and bios of the top 30—no one said “wait a minute, what’s missing here?”

I’m wondering who were the judges. Was it a diverse group that included Latinos, African Americans and Native Americans?

DON’T IGNORE THE ISSUE

An effort has to be made to make everyone feel “included.”  That’s the bottomline.  Today no magazine, newspaper, online news site or television station can afford to lose readers and viewers.  Not when we have so much news at our fingertips.

If  journalists of color are upset that Forbes did  not include one African American, Latino or Native American on its media  list; don’t you think they will let others know?

On a broader look, if people of color do not feel included in a story; they will stop buying your newspaper or magazine or they’ll change the television channel. Forbes thought this golden list of people under 30 was going to be a wonderful way to end 2011, but for journalists of color—it was a slap in the face.

DO IT RIGHT

My suggestion to Forbes; DIVERSIFY in all areas.   Your spokeswoman said “diversity in media remains a national issue.”  There you have it!  Do a story on the lack of diversity in the media and start with your magazine.  Take an inside look.

Learn what Forbes is learning today from bad press: Diversity matters!

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy Award winning reporter with 30 years in the business. She’s a member of the SPJ Diversity Committee and a board member with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the SPJ Fort Worth Chapter.

 

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Diversity Committee: George Daniels and Sandy Frost

Our diversity committee is made up of people committed in making a difference in the landscape of journalism.Today we’re introducing you to two more members.  They come from different backgrounds and opposite sides of the country.

George DanielsGeorge Daniels is a faculty member of University of Alabama. He’s also the former chair of the SPJ Journalism Education Committee.

“I joined the SPJ Diversity Committee because diversifying our newsrooms has been a perennial goal of mine as a full-time working journalist and now as a full-time journalism professor. 

In my current position on the journalism faculty at The University, I not only teach two courses that focus on issues of difference or diversity in the media, but I also have made topics/issues of diversity a part of the academic research that I do. 

SPJ cannot be the nation’s largest, most broad-based group of journalists if it does not reflect the breadth of experiences and backgrounds of those who populate our profession.”

Sandy Frost is is online investigative journalist for Newsvine.com in Tacoma, Washington.

Sandy Frost“I was asked to serve on the diversity committee because of my work for the Western Washington Pro Chapter. It is my hope to help other journalists understand how words matter, no matter who or what they are covering.

 The concept of diversity extends beyond who we are to include those we love and how we identify. As the proud mother of a transgender son, I hope to bring a certain awareness for equal rights and justice, whether it’s health care, marriage, employment or housing. I also want to contribute to a greater understanding of American Indian issues.

 Recently,  a celebrity mother used the derogatory term ‘Indian giver’ to describe her daughter keeping her expensive wedding ring. Instead of getting angry or demanding an apology, let’s use situations like this as ‘teachable moments,’ educate with compassion and move on. “  

GETTING TO KNOW THE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

Every year there are changes on committees. We’re just making sure that as members you know who we are and what we stand for. Please feel free to contact us if you have an ideas for our blog.  Stay tuned for the next committee member profiles.

Stop by again!

Rebecca Aguilar an Emmy award winning reporter based in Dallas, TX.  She has 30 years of experience, with 28 in television news.  She’s also a board member with the SPJ-Fort Worth Chapter and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

 

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The SPJ Diversity Committee: Working towards equality and fairness in the media

SPJ 2011 Conference

I was asked to sit on the SPJ Diversity Committee at the SPJ convention in New Orleans.  I met many of the members and was inspired by their determination to improve diversity in newsrooms and news coverage.  

Each one of the committee members has the goal of diversity in common, but they all bring different experiences and journalism passions to the table.  Though they are all very busy individuals; I wondered why volunteering to be on this committee was important.  There is much to learn from what they have to say.

WHY SERVE ON THE SPJ DIVERSITY COMMITTEE?

Curtis Lawrence is the chairman of the SPJ Diversity Committee and a professor of journalism at Columbia College in Chicago, Illinois:

Back in the 1980s shortly after I graduated from college, I remember reading how the American Society of Newspaper Editors vowed to make newsrooms reflect the racial and ethnic makeup of their communities by 2000.  A lot has changed since then. For example, ASNE is now the American Society of News Editors, reflecting the national decline of newspapers. And a lot has stayed the same.

Curtis Lawrence

Many of the faces in our newsrooms still do not reflect the communities they serve. That’s why I feel keeping the diversity issue at the forefront of discussions about our changing  media landscape is crucial.Aside from my work with SPJ, I also am involved with encouraging and training young journalist of color in the Chicago area.

I co-founded an organization at Columbia called Columbia Links. We reach out to students in the Chicago Public Schools and train them in the basics of journalism. That’s where it will have to begin if we’re going to continue to change the face of journalism.”

 

Justin Chenette is an assistant morning producer and weekend web producer at WPFO-Fox 23 in Portland, Maine. 

“It is important that stories are told about people from all walks of life, not just the ones that are the easiest to source or the ones most prominent in our society. This ideology is the basis for my continued interest and participation in the SPJ Diversity Committee.

Only through the incorporation of diversity training or diversifying newsrooms, with highly qualified individuals with a dynamic range of backgrounds, can news operations truly report a cross section of the entire community in which they serve.  

Justin Chenette

 Our country is facing some tough issues many of which are very controversial social dilemmas. We have the issue of illegal immigration, gay rights/marriage equality, equal pay amongst the sexes; the list goes on and on. With each issue comes their own set of unique challenges for the journalists that cover them.

 Do you use the phrase illegal immigrant or undocumented worker? Do you use the term gay or homosexual? Opening the dialogue about these topics can spur an awareness of how the media portrays, correctly or incorrectly, millions of people.”

MEET MORE COMMITTEE MEMBERS

We currently have 17 members on our committee.  Find out who they are in upcoming blogs.

Thanks for stopping by!

Rebecca Aguilar is an Emmy award winning reporter based in Dallas, TX.  She has 30 years of experience, with 28 in television news.  She’s also a board member with the SPJ-Fort Worth Chapter and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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Diversity in the US Census is important

Currently, there are 29 racial or ethnic designations on the U.S. Census form. I have to ask “Why only 29?” And being from a community excluded from the Census, I have to ask again, “Why even have that designation if you can’t include everyone?”

Here’s the list:

White; Hispanic (listed five different ways) Hispanic, Latino or Spanish Origin, Mexican American, Chicano, (What country does Chicano come from?), Black (listed three different ways) Black, African American, Negro, American Indian or Alaskan Native (they get space to write in their “Tribe”), Asians and listed as Asian, Asian Indian, Japanese, Native Hawaiian, Chinese, Korean, Guamanian or Chamorro, Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan and “Other Asian” such as Laotian, Thai, Pakistani, and Cambodian. And finally, they have Pacific Islander, Fijian, Tongan.

47 actual words describing ethnicity and race and 313 characters. And they can’t add one more word or 4 more characters to the list.

For the past three decades, American Arabs have been asked by the Federal Government and urged by their leadership (many funded by the U.S. Census through grants and full time jobs) to ignore their exclusion from the list and instead write their name “Arab” on the “Other” line at the bottom of the list.

I think it is wrong. I think diversity loses it’s significance when it is narrowly defined and some ethnicities are excluded for, in my opinion, political reasons.

The whole point of including identities is to encourage individuals to participate and identify themselves. Including their names on the Census form is a form of respect and recognition that encourages their participation. It holds precisely true to then argue that excluding a group from the form discourages that participation. If they are on there, they will participate more. If they are not on there they will, therefore, not participate more.

American Arabs (and Muslims, a religious designation often wrongly interchanged by the mainstream media to designate the larger racial or ethnic group of Arabs), have been center stage in an international drama over war, conflict, terrorism and discrimination. Everyday the issue of Arabs and Muslims is raised and yet society and the mainstream media feel comfortable to argue a dichotomy in conflicting reasoning that 1) Arabs are a potential national threat and therefore should be profiled (counted in a negative manner) and 2) Arabs are “Caucasian” or White and therefore should not be counted in a positive way.

What is a a positive way? Well, counting Arabs officially, would open the door to a vast amount of racial and ethnic protections.

In communities across the country, police departments are required to note the race or ethnicity of motorists that they stop for alleged traffic violations and ticketing. Why? Because communities want to know if certain ethnic groups are being targeted for racial and discriminatory reasons.

Arabs are stopped on a huge scale — American Arab communities suspect — and they are the victims of ongoing discrimination. But not being “recognized” officially by the Federal Government means they are not counted and are blended in to the larger identity of White. The fact is in many communities, racism against Arabs is rampant but we don’t have a way to measure that because the mechanisms for measuring that kind of bigotry by government agencies, including starting with the U.S. Census, does not exist.

American Arab journalists have been lobbying UNITY: Journalists of Color for official recognition, but our requests have been rejected as soundly and as disrespectfully as the White mainstream media has long fought opening the doors of the Fourth Estate to the inclusion of Blacks, Hispanics and Asians.

That needs to change. American Arabs need to stand up and protest and say that the process of excluding an ethnic and racial group from the U.S. Census for the past three decades (at least since 1980 when American Arabs were first pushed to “write in” their race “Arab”) must end. The mainstream media which claims to care about issues of diversity needs to also take a second look at the selfishness of the diversity process so far. Just having “their” representatives at the mainstream news media table is not the proper response for the need for diversity in the media. It is not “true diversity” if the groups represented in UNITY and on the US Census are only certain groups represented and others are excluded. We do not have true diversity.

— Ray Hanania

www.RadioChicagoland.com

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