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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

NBC’s Welker Often “the Only Black Woman in the Room”

Columnists Turn Attention to Deadly Football Head Injuries

. . . And Others to Critics of Beyoncé’s Halftime Show

Ferguson Urged to End “Game of Chicken” With Justice Dept.

Reporter’s Own Lead Problem Led to 20-Part Series

Fusion Says It Is a Majority-Minority Company

Mexican Journalist, Mother of Two, Found Dead

Rival Pakistani Media Cooperate to Protect One Another

Short Takes

Clockwise, from top, left: Chris Jansing, Andrea Mitchell, Katy Tur, Kasie Hunt, Kristen Welker and Hallie Jackson report from the campaign trail in Iowa. (Credit: NBC News)

NBC’s Welker Often “the Only Black Woman in the Room”

Elle.com, the website of Elle magazine, published “Meet the Girls on the Bus” Wednesday, confirming what many television viewers have noticed: More women than ever are covering a presidential race.

“This Is What NBC News Looks Like in 2016,” read a headline on a video showing female NBC correspondents on the job.

The newly empowered women on the air are overwhelmingly white. Kristen Welker, a black journalist at NBC, is an exception. “Sometimes she’ll look around at her peers and see that she’s the only black woman in her row,” Mattie Kahn wrote.

“She’ll look behind her. No — she’s the only black woman in the room. So, she keeps moving and meeting young women and showing them that there is space for them on television. She promises. . . .”

Sonya Ross, race and ethnicity editor at the Associated Press, chairs the Political Journalism Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists. Ross told Journal-isms that she can relate to Welker’s observation.

“In all honesty, it is not because we don’t exist,” she said Wednesday by email.

“I definitely sympathize with Kristen. I looked up to realize I was the only one at this rally, or that fundraiser or stump speech, more times than I could count. In 1996, I read a ‘girls on the bus’ article while literally sitting aboard a [BillClinton campaign bus, and needless to say, that article did not mention me. I felt so invisible.

“Our numbers have always been very low in political reporting circles. Even in the Obama era, we have struggled to keep the pipeline populated with talented women journalists of color. But that struggle aside, there certainly are black women out there who are capable of doing this work. I suppose it gets down to whether or not this industry chooses to see us, and assign us.”

A few other women of color are doing the work.

At ABC, Cecilia Vega, Saturday anchor and senior national correspondent, who is Latina, reported from New Hampshire Wednesday for “World News Tonight” on Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton andBernie Sanders after Sanders’ big New Hampshire primary vote.

Fox News Channel says Alicia Acuna, a general assignment reporter who is Latina, will be covering Nevada’s Democratic caucus on Feb. 20 and the Republicans’ on Feb. 23.

Last March, CNN hired the Washington Post’s Nia-Malika Henderson, a black journalist, as a senior political reporter on its digital politics team, anticipating the 2016 presidential campaign season.

But it is at NBC where the presence of female correspondents is most pronounced.

Hours after New Hampshire had been called for Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, MSNBC convened many of the NBC News campaign correspondents to talk about state of the race. It just turned to out that all six reporters are women,” Chris Ariens wrote Wednesday for TVNewser (video).

” ‘This is what the Boys on the Bus looks like this year,’ said Rachel Maddow, referring to [the] 1973 book on the coverage of the 1972 election. ‘Thanks for asking a man to attend,’ added Brian Williamswho, along with Maddow, anchored MSNBC’s prime time coverage [in New Hampshire], and moderated the discussion with the correspondents.

“Among those taking part . . . Hallie JacksonChris Jansing, Kristen Welker, Katy TurAndrea Mitchell and Kasie Hunt. The correspondents were assembled in a circle, seated on folding chairs, with the discussion captured on a steadicam not far from the main MSNBC set in Manchester. . . .”

Kahn wrote in her elle.com article that “Mitchell is ‘the Rabbi,’ a spiritual and intellectual leader. Welker is ‘the Welk-nado,’ which [NBC News White House correspondent PeterAlexander chalks up to the fact that she’s ‘a tornado of energy anywhere she goes.’ . . .”

Kahn also wrote, “Welker says she owes her ambition to her mother, recalling how hard it was for Julie Welker, a black woman in the 1970s, to get a job. Almost 50 years later, Welker is an exception as well. It is still too rare to see a black woman on air.

” ‘When I first went to the White House, candidly, that pressure that I felt [was] immense.’ She pauses: ‘I was very aware of it, let’s put it that way.’ . . . .”

Here are the women on the campaign trail, as reported by the television networks:

ABC:

“World News Tonight” Saturday anchor and senior national correspondent Cecilia Vega and digital journalists Ines de la CuetaraKatherine FauldersJessica HopperLiz KreutzMaryAlice Parks,Jordyn Phelps and Candace Smith are on the trail every day covering the campaigns.

Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce is on the campaign trail regularly.

“Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts was in Iowa for the caucus and reports on the political campaign regularly for the network.

Martha Raddatz, co-anchor of “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” and chief global affairs correspondent, co-moderated Republican and Democratic primary debates.

Brandi Hitt and Marci Gonzalez, correspondents for NewsOne, ABC News’ affiliate news service, and multi-platform reporter Lana Zak cover the campaign trail for special events.

Correspondent Linsey Davis reported for a series on the candidates’ spouses for all programs and platforms.

Political analyst Cokie Roberts and contributor Donna Brazile are regularly included in special coverage such as caucus, primaries and future big election days.

Rebecca Jarvis, chief business and economics correspondent, will contribute to election coverage.

CBS:

“There are a lot of women in the field these days – we have Nancy Cordes and Julianna Goldmanreporting regularly on the campaign trail,” spokeswoman Jackie A. Berkowitz said by email. “Plus four female embeds/digital journalists.” She added that the network “also has a lot of producers on the trail.”

CNN:

Spokeswoman Lauren Pratapas did not respond to a request for information.

Fox News Channel:

“We have three females serving as embeds (out of seven), Lauren BlanchardHillary Vaughn andTamara Gitt,” spokeswoman Dana Klinghoffer said by email. “In addition, correspondents Shannon BreamMolly Line and Alicia Acuna contribute to our campaign reporting.”

NBC:

“Our female correspondents on the campaign trail include: Andrea MitchellChris JansingKristen WelkerKelly O’DonnellKaty TurHallie Jackson, and Kasie Hunt. . . .,” according to an email from  spokeswoman Erika Masonhall.

Will Smith plays Dr. Bennet Omalu, the world-renowned forensic pathologist who first identified a dementia-causing disease found in deceased football players, in the 2015 movie “Concussion.”

Columnists Turn Attention to Deadly Football Head Injuries

Commentary about Sunday’s Super Bowl 50 expanded beyond the Denver Broncos’ 24-10 victory over the Carolina Panthers into discussion of head injuries and Beyoncé’s half-time performance.

For two years, the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Big Pines in Marshall, Texas, discussed Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, the dementia-causing disease found in scores of deceased football players,” Derrick Z. Jackson wrote Saturday in the Boston Globe. “This week, just days before the 50th Super Bowl, the board of the club voted 18-2, with one abstention, to end tackle football. The club’s program had 75 youth, aged 8-to-13.

“It is a decision that should ring around America as a shot in the revolution to protect children’s brains. . . .”

Dr. Bennet Omalu, the world-renowned forensic pathologist who first identified CTE in football players, told Johnny Dodd of People magazine on Jan. 27 that O.J. Simpson might have had the disease.

” ‘I would bet my medical license that he has CTE,’ Omalu, who inspired the movie Concussion, starring Will Smith, tells PEOPLE exclusively.

“Those suffering from the disease, which can only conclusively be confirmed after death by testing cross sections of brain tissue, exhibit a wide range of symptoms. These include mood swings, unjustified violent tendencies, domestic violence, criminality and exaggerated emotional reactions to every day stresses.

” ‘Given his profile,’ adds Omalu, ‘I think it’s not an irresponsible conclusion to suspect he has CTE.’ ”

On the day of the game, Phillip Morris, columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, wrote, “The more we learn about concussions, the more we learn that permanent brain damage is a significant occupational hazard of football. Not all players who play the game will suffer chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease caused by brain trauma, but many will. With the exception of kickers, CTE has been discovered in the brains of deceased players for every position.

“That reality is precisely why in the past few years, the NFL has become deadly serious about protecting its golden-goose brand — and its players. But changes to the rules that better protect quarterbacks and penalize players who deliberately attack the heads of defenseless opponents can only limit — not eliminate — the irreversible brain damage that some former and current players will experience. . . .”

Morris concluded, “Yes, many of us will be entertained — as long as they are not our sons.”

Stuart Varney of Fox Business asked after Beyoncé’s “Formation” performance, “Why is race brought into the halftime show at a Super Bowl game, why?” (video)

. . . And Others to Critics of Beyoncé’s Halftime Show

“I want to thank Rudy Giuliani. As supremely unenlightened as I may be about pop culture, hearing the former New York mayor’s cranky critique of Beyonce’s Super Bowl halftime show makes me feel almost hip,” Clarence Page wrote Wednesday for the Chicago Tribune.

” ‘I think it was outrageous,’ he said, venting full You-Kids-Get-Off-My-Lawn geezer rage on Fox News Monday. ‘The halftime show I thought was ridiculous anyway. I don’t know what the heck it was. A bunch of people bouncing around and all strange things. It was terrible.’

“For the record, the ‘bunch of people bouncing around’ consisted of pop superstar Beyonce backed by her female dance team who wore Black Panther-style black berets atop huge 1960s-style afros and at one point raised a ‘black power’ fist salute in the air.

“All of which Giuliani interpreted as a salute to the Black Lives Matter movement and a slap at police.

” ‘This is football, not Hollywood,’ Giuliani grumbled, ‘and I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive.’

“Excuse me? If pro football is not entertainment, what the heck is it? And if police who behave badly and, by the way, make good police look bad are not going to be held accountable for it, who will?

“Yet it didn’t stop with Giuliani. Over on Fox Business, Stuart Varney asked: ‘Is there anything in America which can exclude race? I mean, why is race brought into the halftime show at a Super Bowl game, why?’

“And Rush Limbaugh called Beyonce’s performance ‘representative of the cultural decay and the political decay and the social rot that is befalling our country.’

“Well, I’m glad they got something out of the show. . . .”

Ferguson Urged to End “Game of Chicken” With Justice Dept.

“The Department of Justice filed a 56-page lawsuit against the city of Ferguson on Wednesday afternoon, citing ‘a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States,’ ” Stephen Deere and Kristen Taketareported for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“The lawsuit came one day after the Ferguson City Council approved a revised version of a consent decree it had worked out with the department. The consent decree was meant to address problems with the city’s police department and municipal court detailed after an extensive investigation last year. The investigation followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown and the unrest that followed.

“The Justice Department had immediately said the city’s revisions to the consent decree would probably be challenged.

“The lawsuit against Ferguson was filed in federal court in St. Louis.

“It alleges that Ferguson officials use illegally practices in conducting stops, searches and arrests; by using excessive force; by interfering with the right to free expression; in the prosecution and resolution of municipal charges; and in discriminating against African Americans.

“The suit asks the court to force the city ‘to adopt and implement policies, procedures, and mechanisms that identify, correct, and prevent the unlawful conduct.’ ”

The Post-Dispatch editorialized Wednesday, “The Ferguson City Council is playing a game of chicken with the U.S. Department of Justice that it is bound to lose.

“The city’s leaders are fooling themselves if they think the consent decree it worked out with the Justice Department after months of negotiation is up for retooling. Ferguson has no leverage in revising the decree, which is intended to reform the city’s police department and municipal court.

“The council voted Tuesday night to seek revisions to the decree. The Justice Department responded with a lawsuit Wednesday. . . .”

The editorial concluded, “Ferguson is being asked to guarantee it will not run a substandard police department that discriminates against African-Americans. It will be expensive, but so was the decision to hire a $1,355-an-hour lawyer to negotiate with the Justice Department. The sooner Ferguson can stop paying lawyers the better off it will be.

“Ferguson should hire the county police. It should work with the Justice Department on a reasonable compromise between what the county’s already doing and what DOJ wants done in Ferguson. Good faith would go a long way, and be a nice change.”

Reporter’s Own Lead Problem Led to 20-Part Series

Rachel Dissell”Rachel Dissell lives in one of Cleveland’s ‘high risk’ neighborhoods for lead exposure, a place where the state mandates screenings for small children,” Erica Berry wrote Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

“Still, when a blood test in late 2012 revealed that her young son had elevated levels in the aftermath of a home renovation, Dissell, a reporter for The Plain Dealer, was horrified — she hadn’t fully realized the scope of the city’s lead problem.

“When she called the city, the news was far from comforting: An official told her Cleveland’s monitoring program was low on funds and behind schedule, only making visits to inspect homes if lead levels were high enough to hospitalize a child, which her son’s were not. In a best-case scenario, someone could investigate her home in six to eight months.

” ‘When that happens as a parent you’re terrified, and you feel horribly guilty,’ Dissell said in a recent interview. She was able to enlist private help to remediate the house, but she knows many people are not as fortunate. ‘In what world does that seem okay that you should just sit around and wait?’

“Fast forward to late fall 2014, when Plain Dealer health reporter Brie Zeltner started investigating the effect of lead exposure as she dug into the long-term ramifications of Cleveland’s childhood poverty rate, which is the second highest in the nation among big cities.

“But Zeltner had a whole list of potential stories on the theme, and lead kept falling to the bottom: She didn’t want to write about a problem unless she could point to potential solutions, and she couldn’t find another city that was managing lead in effective ways.

“Enter Dissell, who, Zeltner said, ‘lit a fire’ under the subject, motivated by her personal experience. The two reporters realized that local media would cover childhood lead poisoning once every decade or so, and each time, a flurry of grants and plans from the city and surrounding Cuyahoga County would follow. Then, quiet. And then, years later, another story about how the problem still wasn’t fixed.

“Dissell said that pitching the story took some convincing, as editors were aware of lead’s cyclical legacy. ‘They would say, “Well, haven’t we done lead already?” So I kept coming back and saying, “That’s the point, it’s still not fixed.” ‘

“By early summer 2015, Dissell and Zeltner had begun collaborating in earnest on a major project. They knew that to break the cycle of attention and neglect, they would need not only to highlight the problem, but also outline a realistic path to improvement. ‘We were going into it with the goal of talking about how we got here, what the solutions are, what could we have done differently to make it better, and to really make good by staying on the topic in order to hold the people accountable who we believed could actually make changes that would carry into the future,’ said Zeltner.

“Last October, Dissell and Zeltner released ‘Toxic Neglect,’ an ambitious 20-part series of articles and online features about their region’s mishandling of the persistent lead problem, and what could be done to fix it. . . . Within five weeks of the Plain Dealer series, three of the four leaders of the city’s lead prevention program had been fired or resigned over management concerns. . . .”

Fusion Says It Is a Majority-Minority Company

Newsrooms talk a good game about diversity, but rarely break down the numbers in public,” Mark Joyella wrote Wednesday for TVNewser. “This week, Fusion chief executive Isaac Lee did just that, writing a memo to staff that details exactly how diverse the company —and its news operation — really are.”

Fusion is the joint cable and digital news network aimed at millennials and owned by Univision and Walt Disney Co., although the Wall Street Journal has reported that Univision is in talks for Disney to exit the partnership.

” ‘With conversations like #OscarsSoWhite happening in the broader entertainment industry, it is critical that the media covering our culture and politics also take a look in the mirror,’ Lee writes. ‘So today I want to share some information with you about how diverse FUSION is. While there is plenty of room for improvement, I am proud to say: we are a majority-minority company,’ ” Joyella continued.

“According to the memo, 52 percent of Fusion employees self-identify as non-white, 40 percent as white, and 8 percent of employees chose not to disclose their ethnic background. 40 percent of Fusion employees identify as Hispanic or Latino. ‘Looking at the numbers, we are among the most diverse newsrooms in the country,’ Lee said. . . .”

Mexican Journalist, Mother of Two, Found Dead

Anabel Flores Salazar”The body of Anabel Flores Salazar, a reporter for El Sol de Orizaba who was abducted from her home near the city of Orizaba in Veracruz on Monday, was found today in the neighboring state of Puebla, according to a Puebla state official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter,” the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Tuesday.

The committee “calls on Mexican federal authorities to take over investigation and prosecution of the crime and to consider journalism as a motive,” it said.

“At least eight armed assailants dressed in what appeared to be military uniforms forced their way into Flores Salazar’s home at about 2 a.m. Monday and went straight to her room, the journalist’s auntSandra Luz Salazar, who was in the house at the time, told CPJ in a telephone interview. The assailants claimed they had a warrant for the reporter’s arrest, pointed weapons at family members, then forced Flores Salazar into one of three gray trucks outside, Luz Salazar said.

” ‘We pleaded with them not to take her. I told them that she recently had a baby,’ she said. According to news reports, Flores Salazar, who covers crime for El Sol de Orizaba, had a baby and a four-year-old son.

“Veracruz Governor Javier Duarte Ochoa said on Twitter Monday that authorities were following the case carefully. A statement from the state prosecutor’s office, also released Monday, claimed the reporter had links with an alleged member of an organized crime group.

” ‘The administration of Governor Javier Duarte Ochoa has a dismal record of impunity and has been incapable and unwilling to prosecute crimes against the press,’ said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior program coordinator for the Americas. . . .”

Rival Pakistani Media Cooperate to Protect One Another

Afzal Mughal, a Pakistani journalist from a small newspaper in Quetta, the capital of the Balochistan province, was abducted, in the early morning of November, by a group of armed men who broke into his home while he was asleep,” Chia Lun Huang wrote Tuesday for World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers.

“Normally, stories like this don’t make the front pages in Pakistan, which ranks as the sixth deadliest country for journalists according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“But the new ‘Editors for Safety’ initiative made all the difference. Instead of letting the case go by unnoticed, a message went out to a new Whatsapp group for Pakistani Editors, informing them of the kidnapping. In less than five minutes, 21 television channels were running the story. Its widespread dissemination even had international broadcasters, such as NBC, pick up the news.

” ‘Within half an hour, he was back home, albeit badly battered,’ [Dawn editor ZaffarAbbas, one of the key conveners of the group, told the World Editors Forum. ‘The government was rattled and the home security department stepped in to inquire.’

“Formed in 2015 with the support of the Open Society Foundation, ‘Editors for Safety’ has a single philosophy: An attack on one journalist is an attack on the whole industry. . . .”

Short Takes

    • Ann Simmons, a veteran reporter of national and international news, is taking on a new assignment as a global development writer/editor on the foreign desk,” Kim Murphy, assistant managing editor for foreign and national news at the Los Angeles Times, announced to staff members Tuesday. “Ann will write on global sustainability issues. She will also curate a collection page on latimes.com that will serve as a center of news, analysis and debate for those interested in the granddaddy of all news topics, the development and survival of our planet. The work is supported by a grant from the U.N. Foundation. . . .”

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