Anchor Has Cited ‘Strong Sensitivity to That Story’

USA Today Network, Univision Push Voting

Charlotte Editor Asks Where Black Professionals Are

Commentator Suspended Over Charlotte Tweet

New Museum Affects Black Journalists Personally

Short Takes

Lester Holt interviews Donald J. Trump at the Trump Tower in May. (Credit: NBC News)

Lester Holt interviews Donald J. Trump at the Trump Tower in May. (Credit: NBC News)

After the debate:

Anchor Has Cited ‘Strong Sensitivity to That Story’

Lester Holt is carrying the weight of the nation,” Dylan Byers reported Friday for CNN Money.

“On Monday, the NBC Nightly News anchor will preside over what may be the most highly anticipated presidential debate in American history. . . .”

Callum Borchers of the Washington Post noted that “Holt . . . is the first black moderator of a general election presidential debate since Carole Simpson in 1992” and quoted Dominic Carter, a New York area black journalist, as saying viewers should not expect Holt’s background to influence his questioning.

“We are journalists first,” Carter said. “That’s a huge distinction. We’re not there to advocate on issues relating to African Americans. We’re there advocating and asking questions on behalf of the American people. You don’t want people to put you in the box of the black guy doing the debate. So you have to be over and above in terms of fairness and professionalism.”

The lead story in Sunday's Los Angeles Times. (Credit: CNN "Reliable Sources")

The lead story in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times. (Credit: CNN “Reliable Sources”)

Of course, African Americans are part of the American people, a point made repeatedly over the weekend at the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall.

In 2004, Gwen Ifill’s professional standing rose after she asked vice presidential candidates Dick Cheney and John Edwards about AIDS in the United States, “where black women between the ages of 25 and 44 are 13 times more likely to die of the disease than their counterparts.”

She believes the candidates’ answers showed that neither man ‘had given it a moment’s thought,‘ “ Howard Kurtz reported in 2008 for the Washington Post.

Holt, named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists, has not spoken about his plans for the debate, but he framed the issue differently from Carter when he was named to the anchor job in June 2015. Journal-isms asked Holt then whether his background would make a difference in how he approached the job.

As we’ve certainly seen, race has been a recurring theme especially somehow in the last year, it feels like,” Holt replied in the telephone interview.

“That’s a story that, of course, everyone wants to cover. I guess it’s fair to say that I have a strong sensitivity to that story by virtue of my background. It’s a story that, among others, we’ll be going at aggressively and try to find new ways — because often, the problem with the race story is that, as you know, ultimately someone says, ‘we need to have a conversation.’

“Well, I would argue that we need more than a conversation — we need action, we need something concrete, and to the extent that we can provoke, and tell that story, and move beyond just the conversation, I think is important. That’s not to suggest that others won’t be covering this story, but I do think it’s fair to say that it’s one that I have a sensitivity toward.”

Although Holt is the anchor, not the producer of “NBC Nightly News,” the show repeated the mischaracterization of June’s shooting in an Orlando gay nightclub, where a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 53 others, as the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

That ignored those involving Native Americans and African Americans in earlier times. “Although precise numbers of deaths are impossible to specify, at least 100 African Americans were killed in East St. Louis, Ill., in one bloody night in July 1917; anywhere from 55 to 300 blacks were massacred in Tulsa, Okla., in 16 hours in June 1921; and dozens more were killed in Rosewood, Fla., in January 1923,” Ariela Gross wrote in June for the Wall Street Journal.

“NBC Nightly News” also has yet to report on the air on the months-long resistance of Native Americans to the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota, which has prompted a rare unity among Native tribes and intervention by the federal government to halt part of it.

Still, writing in USA Today, Roger Yu noted Sunday that Holt’s “race is another notable variable in a debate that will likely address questions of diversity, immigration, police violence and Muslims in America.” Yu quoted Betsy West, a journalism professor at Columbia University and former senior vice president at CBS News, and Mark Feldstein, a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland and a former correspondent at ABC News.

“ ‘It will be powerful to have an African American man posing the questions and moderating the discussion,’ West says.

“And he’ll be just a few feet away from the man with naked appeal to white nativism.

” ‘Time is ripe,’ says Feldstein, ‘for a Murrow moment, a Cronkite moment.’ . . .”

Some have argued that a debate moderator should not fact-check or challenge the candidates, leaving that to the candidate’s opponent. But in the New York Times Sunday, columnist Nicholas Kristof suggested that challenging Trump on his demagoguery would simply be good journalism.

In the early 1950s, journalists were also faced with how to cover a manipulative demagogue — Senator Joe McCarthy — and traditional even handedness wasn’t serving the public interest. We honor Edward R. Murrow for breaking with journalistic convention and standing up to McCarthy, saying: “This is no time for men who oppose Senator McCarthy’s methods to keep silent.”

“Likewise, in the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, it was not enough to quote from news conferences by each side. Great journalists like Claude Sitton and Karl Fleming took enormous risks to reveal the brutality of the Jim Crow South.

“Our job is not stenography, but truth-telling. As we move to the debates, let’s remember that to expose charlatans is not partisanship, but simply good journalism.”

USA Today Network, Univision Push Voting

For the first time in its history, USA Today and its more than 100 partner publications around the country will hold a national voter registration and civic engagement initiative,” Kelsey Sutton reported Thursday for Politico.

“The initiative, called ‘Voting Because,’ is aimed at making it easier for participants to vote in November and read about the issues in the election. The portal launches Thursday at and will be promoted in print and on the digital properties of USA Today Network titles.

“It’s the first major collaborative effort out of the USA Today Network, which was formed in December to connect and encourage collaboration among Gannett’s newspaper titles around the country. . . .”

On Friday, Univision Communications Inc. announced plans “to encourage citizens to register to vote in conjunction with National Voter Registration Day.

“UCI is leveraging all of its media assets across all broadcast and digital, across its 126 local television and radio stations, including all Entravision-operated stations, to guide Hispanics and diverse communities through the voter registration process. Additionally, as part of its nonpartisan, multiplatform ‘Vote for Your America’ initiative, UCI is collaborating with leading, national organizations to amplify their existing tools and strategies to motivate and activate voters across the country. . . .”

In June, WNYC, public radio in New York, found that “Hispanic voters were disproportionately purged from the rolls when compared to all other groups.”

On Sept. 8, WNYC, ProPublica, Google News Lab and a broad coalition of news organizations announced a reporting initiative to track and report on voter experiences throughout the U.S. in the upcoming election.

“. . . The goal for Electionland is to provide story leads to local reporters that help them stay on top of problems that voters encounter at their local polling places such as long lines, malfunctioning machines, dropped names from voter rolls,” Tyler Falk reported for “The tips will be shared in real time as they occur, not after voting in the Nov. 8 election is complete. . . .”

Charlotte Editor Asks Where Black Professionals Are

I often hear folks grouse about how small Charlotte really is,” Glenn Burkins, editor and publisher of, an online-only black-oriented website he launched in 2008, wrote on Saturday. “Go to any Gantt Center social, any Happy Hour event, and you’re sure to see many of the same faces…over and over again. They read like a Who’s Who of the city’s black, professional class.

Glenn Burkins

Glenn Burkins

“Not so this week at the protest marches.

“And why is that?

“In my 16-plus years as a reporter/editor in Charlotte, rarely have I seen (how do I say this?)… black folks ‘of a certain social class’ at protest events.”

Burkins founded the site after taking a buyout from the Charlotte Observer, where he was deputy managing editor for local news.

“Not when the school board voted one year to use the MLK holiday as a snow makeup day. Not when Jonathan Ferrell was shot and killed. And not this week following the police killing of Keith Lamont Scott.

“I’m not writing this to throw shade. Honestly, I’m not. Were it not my job to attend such events, I can’t say for sure that I’d have been there either.

“But it does raise some questions: As well-educated, professional black people, are we simply too busy with work and family to get involved? Do we assume others who are younger and more energetic will carry the ball? Or have we become so isolated from the day-to-day concerns of poverty and injustice that we, to some degree, now see ourselves as somewhat removed from all that mess?

“Or maybe there’s some other explanation . . .”

Meanwhile, authorities responded to pressure nationally and locally Saturday to release the dashcam and body cam videos of Scott’s shooting.

But as the Charlotte Observer editorialized, “Both sides can claim the videos support their view of the case.”

“They are one batch of evidence that tells us certain things but not others . . .,” the ed‭itorial said.

Commentator Suspended Over Charlotte Tweet

USA Today has suspended the column of a conservative commentator for one month after he called for drivers to ‘run … down’ demonstrators protesting police shootings in Charlotte, North Carolina Wednesday night,Kelsey Sutton reported Thursday for Politico.

” ‘USA TODAY expects its columnists to provide thoughtful, reasoned contributions to the national conversation, on all platforms,’ Bill Sternberg, the editorial page editor of USA Today, said in a statement to POLITICO. ‘Glenn Reynolds’ [‘]Run them down’ tweet, in response to a news report about protesters in Charlotte stopping traffic and surrounding vehicles, was a violation of that standard and can be interpreted as an incitement to violence.

“Reynolds, a law professor at the University of Tennessee who writes twice a week for USA TODAY, has apologized. His column has been suspended for one month.’ . . .”

New Museum Affects Black Journalists Personally

Coverage of the momentous opening Saturday of the National African American Museum of History and Culture included a few personal impressions. Two were by black journalists Sonya Ross, race and ethnicity editor at the Associated Press, and Robin Givhan, fashion writer for the Washington Post. Ross wrote after a preview tour on Thursday.

I was feeling pretty good until I saw the cowry shells,” Ross began.

“There they sat, arranged in neat little stark-white semi-circles on a dark pedestal lit by a spotlight. Disbelief made me lean in and read the display caption twice: ‘Cowries, manillas, beads, and guns changed hands in exchange for African men, women and children.’

“My people were bought with play money? Wow.

“I expected the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to hold some surprises. The very thing that this museum is about — the contributions of black people to U.S. society — has been untaught for so long that the truth remains elusive.

“Or at least, it remained elusive until now. Walking up to the museum, an ornate bronze structure situated beside the Washington Monument like pieces on a chess board, I wondered if truth would indeed be my friend inside this place. . . .”

Givhan wrote on Sunday, “I am in the building, but mostly I’m in my head.

“Thinking of the past, considering the future. Mesmerized by the right now.

“This building, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is monumental in scale. Grand and breathtaking with its elegant filigree panels of bronze-tinted aluminum. The light bounces off the metal, pulling the eye upward, and the building glows. It tugs at emotions, too, because it’s been so long in coming — a century-long dream, a decade-long endeavor.

“But mostly, the building is dignified. And that is a source of tremendous pride.

“I am here, on opening day, to take it all in. But my first visit to the African American Museum was for a charter member open house. I made my contribution for all sorts of reasons but mostly because of the mantra of my parents to ‘never forget where you came from.’

“That was a warning not to ignore the lessons of history, but it also was a reminder that I should not see good fortune or success as something independently earned but as a community endeavor. It was built on a foundation that was established by those who came before and, in some cases, those who came up at the same time but were left behind. .. .”

On Sunday, just blocks away from Washington’s National Mall, site of the museum, the Rev. William H. Lamar IV of the historic Metropolitan AME Church, where Frederick Douglass worshiped, was skeptical. “This has been a week of museums and murder,” he told the congregation. The museum folds black people’s story into Pax America, he said. He sensed “American propaganda about being liberty and justice for all” and said “newspaper people are employed . . . to tell the same old story.”

Asked to explain  afterward, Lamar told Journal-isms that the museum ceremony was designed to make everyone feel comfortable, and that he was irritated by the talk about the museum being for everyone. “Why can’t we have a museum for black people?,” he asked, adding, isn’t the museum of the American Indian for Native Americans? The Holocaust museum for Jews?

He also said black journalists had a responsibility to ask different questions, such as those raised by historian Gerald Horne in writing that the American Revolution was actually about the colonists’ desire to escape Great Britain before Britain moved to end slavery.

"This is who we are," reads the copy for an ad for MSNBC in the Daily Beast. The network came under fire earlier this year for a diminution of diversity in its on-air ranks.

“This is who we are,” reads the copy for an ad for MSNBC that appeared Friday in the Daily Beast. MSNBC came under fire earlier this year for a diminution of diversity in its on-air ranks.

Short Takes


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