Alma Mater Offers Rare Tribute to Black Journalist

Zimbabwe Media Slow to Report on Takeover

Forbes Picks a Diverse ’30 Under 30′ Media List

Reporter Remembers Unpunished Killings of 1972

Black Gay Editor Suspended Over Racist Tweets

Moore’s Bible Rhetoric Attracted Some Black Voters

Lincoln U., Missouri HBCU, Tries Drone Journalism

Students Report Housing Fight for News Service

Native Magazine Seeks Better Storytelling

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Gwen Ifill (credit: Simmons College)

Gwen Ifill (credit: Simmons College)

Alma Mater Offers Rare Tribute to Black Journalist

The late Gwen Ifill’s alma mater, Simmons College, will name a new College of Media, Arts, and Humanities after her, the school announced Tuesday.  It makes Ifill the rare black journalist so honored on a majority-white campus.

It appeared that she is the first.

Simmons made the announcement on the first anniversary of Ifill’s death from cancer at 61. She was the longtime PBS news anchor who had served as a co-host of the “PBS NewsHour” and as moderator of PBS’  “Washington Week.” Before that, she was a journalist at the Washington Post, New York Times and NBC News.

For over 100 years, our mission at Simmons has been to prepare our students to lead meaningful lives and build successful careers. Gwen’s example stands tall in that mission,” Helen Drinan, president of Simmons, said in a news release. “The kind of unimpeded curiosity Gwen brought to her work, coupled with her warmth, integrity and commitment to truth-telling, is something all of our students aspire to — no matter what field of study they pursue. We are extraordinarily proud of her and so pleased to formalize her legacy at Simmons this way.”

Roberto Ifill, Gwen’s brother, added, “Simmons was a launching pad for Gwen and prepared her well. My sister leveraged her education to excel as a liberally educated, consummate professional. She graduated thoroughly grounded in the liberal arts and sciences, and well-prepared professionally to embark on her journalism career, and it all started at Simmons.”

The Ifill family “has donated a collection of Gwen’s papers, materials, photographs, awards, memorabilia, and clothing to Simmons College,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Sullivan told Journal-isms by email.

Simmons College, located in the Fenway neighborhood of Boston, is a small private school for undergraduate women and male and female graduate students, according to U.S. News. “It has a total undergraduate enrollment of 1,801, its setting is urban, and the campus size is 12 acres,” the publication said.

Ifill, the daughter of O. Urcille Ifill, an African Methodist Episcopal minister who frequently moved to new assignments, graduated from Classical High School in Springfield, Mass., in 1973. Four years later, she received her B.A. degree in communications from Simmons. During her senior year, she interned at the Boston Herald American newspaper. There, as she would recount, a fellow staffer left her an ominous note: “(N-word), go home.”

Ifill went on to work for the Baltimore Evening Sun, to the Post as a national political reporter and to the Times as a White House correspondent before moving to television to work for NBC. She was mentored there by “Meet the Press” legend Tim Russert. In 1999 she became the moderator of PBS’s “Washington Week in Review.”

“With the announcement of the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities, Simmons also is previewing a significant redesign of its academic structure,” the school said. “The Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities will be one of four newly-reconstituted colleges of study under the Simmons academic umbrella that will be launched in 2018. . . .

“Simmons will continue to be a women’s college for undergraduate education with a women-centered approach, the only one of its kind in Boston. Graduate programs will continue to be open to all.

“In addition to the Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts, and Humanities, Simmons will be composed of the College of Social Sciences, Policy, and Practice; the College of Organizational, Computational, and Information Sciences, and the College of Natural, Behavioral, and Health Sciences.”


While historically black colleges and universities have named schools for black media figures, such as with the Cathy Hughes School of Communications at Howard University, Simmons’ move is a rare one on a majority-white campus. When such tributes take place, they usually are for buildings, not schools with academic programs.

Last year, the University of Missouri decided to name a residence hall after legendary Kansas City Call editor Lucile Bluford. A multicultural center at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor is named after William Monroe Trotter, the early 20th century Boston activist and editor. The center was the focus of protests when a renaming of the center seemed a possibility last year. The university broke ground for a new center with the Trotter name last week.

In 2007, Ohio University named a residence hall after Alvin C. Adams, its first African American journalism graduate.  Bowdoin College has a John Brown Russwurm African American Center, named for the co-founder of Freedom’s Journal, the first African American newspaper, and who was Bowdoin’s first African American graduate.

On Wednesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists is to present broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff, Ifill’s co-anchor on the “PBS NewsHour,” with the Gwen Ifill Press Freedom Award “for her work in advancing press freedom and strengthening the role of women journalists worldwide.”

“Washington Week” established a fellowship in Ifill’s name, to begin next month.

Zimbabwe Media Slow to Report on Takeover

Zimbabwean media have been slow to keep their audiences up to date on developments after the military took control earlier today,” the BBC reported Wednesday.

“State TV and radios were re-broadcasting the statement by Major-General Sibusiso Moyo announcing that the military had taken over but offered little by way of updates to the situation.

“For most of the morning the TV played patriotic songs from the independence period of the 1980s before resuming normal programming.
The lunchtime news featured the army takeover as the main story.

“The print edition of the government-owned daily The Herald appeared on the streets on Wednesday morning with Tuesday’s stories which downplayed the importance of the warning by the head of the armed forces Constantino Chiwenga that the military would take over if necessary. . . .”

Jazmine Hughes (Credit: BK magazine)

Jazmine Hughes (Credit: BK magazine)

Forbes Picks a Diverse ’30 Under 30′ Media List

When asked about her biggest wins of 2017, Jazmine Hughes, associate editor of New York Times Magazine, listed a couple of expected accomplishments: her first feature for the publication and the Letters of Recommendation column that she edits,” Madeline Berg wrote Tuesday for Forbes magazine, introducing the media section of its latest “30 Under 30” list.

“But Hughes also mentioned something less typical for someone with her title. She had met a woman who had gotten a job through Writers of Color — the database she cofounded to help assigning editors discover more diverse writers. ‘We both cried,’ Hughes says of the meeting.

“Hughes has dedicated her career to diverse storytelling — whether she’s writing and editing the stories of others or helping writers of color tell their stories. She joins those on 2018’s 30 Under 30 Media list who have done the same: Some tell the stories; some have created the outlets that host the storytelling; some make the business decisions that allow those platforms to thrive. All are under age 30 as of December 31, 2017 and have never appeared on a previous 30 Under 30 list. . . .”

Among the trio of judges was Elaine Welteroth, editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue.

The diverse list includes:

On Nov. 16, 1972, student protesters at Southern University in Baton Rouge occupied the campus' administration building. In an effort to remove the demonstrators, sheriff's deputies and the state police tossed tear gas cannisters into the building, which the occupiers allegedly threw back out of windows. Two students were killed in the ensuing melee. (Courtesy John G. Cade Library, Archives and Manuscripts, Southern University and A&M College)

On Nov. 16, 1972, student protesters at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., occupied the campus’ administration building. In an effort to remove the demonstrators, sheriff’s deputies and state police tossed tear gas canisters into the building, which the occupiers allegedly threw back out of windows. Two students were killed in the ensuing melee. (Courtesy John G. Cade Library, Archives and Manuscripts, Southern University and A&M College)

Reporter Remembers Unpunished Killings of 1972

The celebratory news from Baton Rouge, La., Wednesday was justifiably about Wilbert Jones, who left East Baton Rouge Parish Prison, free for the first time in almost 46 years after his 1974 rape conviction was overturned.

But Edward Pratt, a former reporter and editor who writes a weekly column for the Advocate, had another case on his mind.

Thursday will be Nov. 16, 2017,” he wrote on Friday. “That’s 45 years to the day that East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s deputies shot and killed unarmed Southern University freshmen Denver Smith and Leonard Brown.

“Neither student was near the deputies who were on the Baton Rouge campus, nor did they make any aggressive move toward the lawmen who were at least 40 yards away from them. Both were shot in the head and fell lifeless to the ground.

“No deputy was charged. Local and state officials, even popular Gov. Edwin Edwards, did little about it. The shootings were followed by a sham investigation, and the shooter or shooters went on with life. Move on. Nothing to see here, folks.

“The African-American community did what it had become accustomed to doing in the South. It complained, got nowhere with the government, then went on to mourn its dead.

“I have never put this killing to rest. I try to write about the deaths of those two students as often as possible. I was standing with a group of students a short distance away from Smith and Brown. ‘There but for the grace of God go I,’ I thought. . . .”

Black Gay Editor Suspended Over Racist Tweets

Josh Rivers

Josh Rivers

Decades of white-run, white-owned, monocultural LGBT magazines came to an end last month,” Patrick Strudwick reported Wednesday for BuzzFeed. “Gay Times, Britain’s oldest gay title, made an announcement: Its new editor would be Josh Rivers, who, as a mixed-race British-American, is the UK’s first BAME [Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic] editor of a gay men’s magazine.”

Strudwick also wrote, “But while researching Rivers — previously the magazine’s marketing manager — following an invitation to interview him, BuzzFeed News found several dozen tweets between 2010 and 2015 that would shock many people.

“There were tweets about Jewish people: ‘I wonder if they cast that guy as “The Jew” because of that fucking ridiculously larger honker of a nose. It must be prosthetic. Must be.’ In another tweet, he applauded as ‘genius’ a quote from animated sitcom Family Guy: ‘Jews are gross. It’s the only religion with “ew” in it.’ In a third, he asked for film recommendations — except ones about the Holocaust.

“Then there were the tweets about Asian people. . . . ”

Strudwick continued later, “Rivers begins to confess further. ‘My own inability to accept who I am, to accept the intersection of queerness and blackness, to find a place for myself in the world, that journey I’ve been on has led me to a place where I want to do good in the world.’

“But given how recently he has changed, is he ready to edit the world’s longest-running gay magazine?

“ ‘I have accepted the challenge,’ he says. ‘I believe I can do this.’ . . .

“Hours after BuzzFeed News published its story on Rivers’ tweets, Gay Times said he had been suspended pending an investigation.

” ‘Josh Rivers’ past tweets do not align with the values of Gay Times, or any of our employees, in any capacity,’ a statement posted on Twitter said. . . .”

Moore’s Bible Rhetoric Attracted Some Black Voters

Yep, Roy Moore had African-American supporters,” Roy S. Johnson wrote Tuesday for al.com.

“Even though he bullied a bi-partisan group of Alabama legislators in 2004 as it tried to eliminate language in the state constitution calling for school constitution and poll taxes. (He claimed doing so would increase taxes.)

“Even though he once spoke before the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, whom Dylann Roof later said influenced his decision to walk into a Charleston church and murder nine African-American worshipers during Bible study.

“Even though he said as late as this year he didn’t believe President Barack Obama is a natural-born American citizen.

“Despite all those race transgressions — and more — the former Alabama Supreme Court judge had more than a few stalwarts among black voters, almost exclusively because of his staunch and consistent Biblical rhetoric, which he uses to justify anything and everything he purports.

“No matter how outlandish. . . .”

Johnson wrote of the contest between Moore and his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, “Now, with the race anywhere from slight Jones lead to solid but vulnerable Moore lead — depending on your favorite poll — the primary question around African-American voters is whether they will turn out for the special election in numbers sufficient enough give Jones a chance at what would be the ‘Mount Rushmore’ [of] Alabama political upsets. . . .”

Lincoln University journalism students observe as assistant professor Will Sites, left, pilots a DJI Phantom 3 drone. (Credit: Kelsey Bias)

Lincoln University journalism students observe as assistant professor Will Sites, left, pilots a DJI Phantom 3 drone. (Credit: Kelsey Bias)

Lincoln U., Missouri HBCU, Tries Drone Journalism

I teach at Lincoln University, a 3,500-enrollment public historically black college and university (HBCU),” Will Sites wrote Nov. 8 for Mediashift, referring to the Jefferson City, Mo., campus founded in 1866.

“We are allegedly the first black university to offer journalism courses and the first to publish a campus newspaper. We are certainly steeped in tradition, but not in change. However, I was pleasantly surprised when my Poynter drone training funding was approved and my plan to fly drones on campus was enthusiastically endorsed. For my students, this was a game-changer.”

Drones, Sites maintained, are “the next big thing” as “university journalism programs are aiming to strike a balance between teaching legacy skills and adopting curricula that include digital innovations conducive to post-graduation employment.”

He continued, “Lincoln is an open-enrollment university. Every high school graduate is given a chance to succeed — we don’t turn anyone away. The majority of students come from inner-city Kansas City and St. Louis — two cities known for failing public schools. Many are first-generation students, arriving with almost no understanding of college life.

“Journalism majors often struggle to shed bad writing habits or learn the value of newswriting and AP style. But, that’s the bad news.

“We’ve launched Blue Tiger 1 (our DJI Phantom 3 drone), and it appears to be paying dividends. Students are realizing that a drone is not a toy — it’s a tool. A drone is both visual and hands-on, and as an added benefit, many introverted students are gravitating toward a media tool that removes intense human interaction — a shell-remover, of sorts. . . .”

Students Report Housing Fight for News Service

This fall, journalism students from Marquette, a Jesuit university in Milwaukee, have produced 11 of 15 multimedia packages for a two-month series called Milwaukee Open Housing Marches,” Steve Dubb wrote Tuesday for Nonprofit Quarterly.

“The series, writes Herbert Lowe for Media Shift, tells the story of the struggle for fair housing in Milwaukee 50 years ago.

“The students’ work was published by the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS). The news service itself is sponsored by Marquette and began operations in 2012. In addition to backing from Marquette and its communications school, the nonprofit news service receives foundation support from the Zilber Family Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, among others.

“NNS has won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club for five consecutive years.

“At NPQ, we have frequently covered the rise of a nonprofit journalism sector, as the traditional for-profit media model continues to falter. Of course, we glad to say that we are not the only ones to notice.

“The student project was a two-month-long series, published by NNS, ‘examining the legacy of heroic efforts by black teenagers and a white priest to combat discrimination and segregation.’ . . .”

Native Magazine Seeks Better Storytelling

Graham Lee Brewer

Graham Lee Brewer

With the Indian Country Today Media Network on hiatus as the National Congress of American Indians decides what to do with its newly purchased assets, Graham Lee Brewer, a reporter for the Oklahoman and board member of the Native American Journalists Association, wrote Wednesday that he has “accepted the role of contributing editor for High Country News’ burgeoning tribal affairs desk.

As both a professional journalist and a member of the Cherokee Nation, I hope to help the magazine in its commitment to better storytelling from Native communities — and for them.

“Our hope is that our coverage will stand apart, in seeking stories by and about Indigenous peoples, and to ask challenging questions about who we are as a country, how we got here, and what that means for hundreds of Native communities across the West.

“We want to hear from Indigenous reporters, writers, commentators, and scholars, as well the non-Native writers who have something meaningful to add. . . .”

Brewer also wrote, “As a reporter at The Oklahoman newspaper, I covered a forum at the University of Oklahoma, where Native students expressed frustration that they are seen as monolithic.

‘I think that’s kind of a misconception that a lot of non-Native students have of us here on campus that is really problematic to overcome,’ Apollonia Pina, who is Mvskoke and Xiacana, told me. ‘They think we’re all in this one gigantic tribe, and we all live in tepees.’

“If you think such misconceptions are uncommon, consider the debate over sports mascots, or most film depictions of Indigenous people, or the would-be president, Donald Trump, who told a House committee in 1993 that certain casino operators ‘don’t look like Indians to me.’ There are 567 federally recognized tribes, and many more who lack the distinction, in the United States. There are 5.4 million American Indians and Alaska Natives, and none of us look like Pocahontas.

“What message does it send to the country’s Native youth when the leader of the free world uses their race as an insult? To consider all tribes the same is woefully inaccurate. To report so is dangerous. It undermines their unique histories and the multi-faceted legacy of sovereign nations.

“We can do better, and we have role models to guide us. . . .”

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