Former NABJ President Kathy Times Questions Latest Newsroom Diversity Strategies

Speaking at conference in Birmingham Saturday, Kathy Times, a former broadcast journalist and president of the National Association of Black Journalists, questioned some recent efforts by some of the nation’s broadcast newsrooms to emphasize a “diversity of thought” in their hiring while the number African Americans, Latinos and other underrepresented groups is dropping. .

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Kathy Y. Times, in 2010, was national president of National Association of Black Journalists. She was among those who launched NABJ’s Annual Diversity Census.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.– On the 50th anniversary of so many landmark events in civil rights history. Kathy Times has returned here to the epicenter of the movement where she once was a working broadcast journalist and posed some important questions about the media industry’s commitment to diversifying its newsrooms.

The former president of the  National Association of Black Journalists has noticed a trend toward newsrooms recruiting individuals who bring a so-called “diversity of thought,” but who may not necessarily increase the number of people of color in the newsroom.

Where people of color are employed as anchors at broadcast or cable news networks such as CNN or NBC,  they are often relegated to weekend or second-tier positions.

“To see us go backwards when we are supposed to be going 50 years forward is changing the entire landscape of what you see on the news,” Times said.

She was among the panelists at the “Standing on Their Shoulders” Conference sponsored Saturday by the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists.

Historically, a key goal of newsroom diversity has been increasing the number of racial minorities (African American, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans) not only in on-air positions, but also in key management roles.

Times was quick to note, she’s not opposed to bi-racial individuals or those who bring other types of diversity to the newsroom being hired.  But, that should not be at the expense of hiring African Americans, Hispanics, or other under-represented racial groups.

“It’s important to have those bi-racial opinions.  We have a bi-racial president today,” Times said.

Times’ visit this Saturday was a bit of homecoming to the same media market where she was an investigative reporter at WVTM (now called “Alabama’s 13) from 2002 to 2008.

In 2009, she was the main anchor of a start-up news operation at the Fox Affiliated station in Jackson, Miss, WDBD-TV, a position she held for just over two years.

Today, in addition to media consulting, Times is the Chief Operating Officer and one of the founders of Where2Go411.com, an e-destination and mobile app designed to grow the black business class.

WFLA-TV’s Rod Carter Makes a Return Visit to Birmingham, Reminds Black Journalists Of Our Special Calling

Rod Carter, anchor/reporter at WFLA-TV, talked about the role of African American journalists in broadcast news during the “Standing on Their Shoulders” Conference sponsored by the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists.

It’s a been a few years since morning news viewers in Central Alabama have been able to watch Rod Carter.

That’s because he’s been doing the early morning news back in Tampa, Fla. at WFLA-TV NewsChannel 8 since 2010.

On Saturday, Carter made a return trip to the Magic City to participate in the “Standing on Their Shoulders” Conference, an event sponsored by the Birmingham Association of Black Journalists (BABJ), of which Carter is a former vice president.

In addition to looking back at the role of the journalist 50 years ago when the city of Birmingham was the site of many flashpoints of the Civil Rights Movement, including the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church on September 15, 1963,  the BABJ event was also focused on the work still left to be done in newsrooms today.

Carter’s View

As one of the few African American reporters at WFLA-TV,  Carter considers it his job to bring a different perspective to news meetings and discussions about what stories his station covers.    He also volunteers to cover stories that he thinks are especially important for reflecting the experiences of those from historically under-represented groups.

During Saturday’s forum, he told the story of how he spent several days on a bus in order to follow Tampa Bay residents attending the 50th anniversary  commemoration of the “March on Washington” in August 1963.

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Rod Carter anchors “NewsChannel 8 Today” and reported on the recent 50th anniversary March on Washington.

Second Tour in Tampa

I first saw Carter’s on-air work when I was conducting research in the Tampa-St. Petersburg market at the Convergence Newsroom of the World.   In the early 2000, prior to coming to Alabama’s 13 (WVTM-TV),  Carter was an anchor/reporter at  WFLA-NewsChannel 8.

The Tampa NBC affiliate and The Tampa Tribune, both owned by Media General, moved into a converged facility that was viewed as the “newsroom of the future.”

Over the years, I’ve sat in on more than one meeting there the Tribune and WFLA and talked to folks on their staff.

In 2012, Media General sold the Tribune and its Web site, TBO.com to Los Angeles-based Revolution Capital Group.  The two outlets are part of the Tampa Media Group, Inc.   WFLA remains part of Media General as does Birmingham’s WVTM-TV.

Clearly Rod Carter is one journalist who has a firm understanding of why African Americans in the newsroom still have a special calling that goes beyond just showing for work every day.

Who cares about Jeff Bezos’ visit to The Washington Post?

We should care about what Jeff Bezos says to the journalists today on the second day of his visit to the newspaper he now owns.

The story of the Post sale this summer was international news.  This web site capture is one example.
The story of the Post sale this summer was international news. This web site capture is one example.

As a journalism graduate from Howard University, I grew up reading The Washington Post as a student of the craft.

One of my professors, Bob Asher, required us to go down to the Post for an editorial planning meeting editors were deciding on stories for the next day’s edition.

My Affection for The Post

While there were other newspapers in town,  when I was at Howard in the late 1980s and early 90s,  I knew  the Washington Post WAS the standard.   Since then, other media outlets have come on the scene.  But, the Post is still highly-regarded.

So, when the news broke this summer that Jeff Bezos from Amazon was buying the newspaper,  I, like others who have been reading this paper for years, followed closely all of the developments surrounding the acquisition.

I had an opportunity to visit the Post earlier this year (in May) for an Online News Association Workshop and then was back in the nation’s capital last month for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication Annual Conference.

While in my hometown of Richmond, Va. for two weeks this summer,  I made a point to pick up a copy of The Post nearly every day.  Thankfully, the paper circulates at many outlets around town.

So I CARE about what Bezos is going to do to this paper.   But, do others?

Bezos’ Big Day

Today, Bezos is supposed to hold a meeting with the staff.    I’ve been following closely what’s been reported on his visit.

On Monday,  Bezos did his first real interview about the $250 million acquisition.  , Politico, a competitor for the Post, ran a piece about it.  Dylan Byers’ post didn’t provide much in terms of specifics.

The Guardian also ran a story about the Bezos visit. But, it was mostly just a re-hash of the quotes that came from the interview, the same info. upon which Byers based his post.

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Washington Post Photojournalist Matt McClain captured this photo Tuesday of – Jeff Bezos, center, meeting with members of the newsroom staff on Tuesday.

Then, the Post on its Web site had a story about the events of Tuesday.

Thank goodness former Washington Post.com editor Jim Brady tweeted that his followers.  Even though he runs another newspaper (or shall I say “digital media”) company now,  Jim Brady was still my link to the latest on the Post.

Why You Should Care

The fact is whether you’re a reader of The Washington Post or not,  the acquisition of the Post is a story of concern to you if you’re concerned about the future of journalism.   Notice I didn’t say the future of newspapers.   That’s another discussion.

Journalism like the kind that Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, the greatest investigative reporters ever, practice is in jeopardy.   Not a lot of people want to invest in a sinking ship.  But, is the ship REALLY sinking?

Some people mistakenly believe that because of the proliferation of online outlets that journalism is dead.

Nothing could be further from the truth.   But,  the newspaper platform is in a state of re-organization, re-affirmation and re-tooling.    Investors like Warren Buffet (who purchased my hometown paper The Richmond Times-Dispatch) last year and Jeff Bezos see a value in keeping these properties alive.

Thus,  there is a great deal of interest in knowing what plans Bezos and the next generation of newspaper owners have for our beloved outlets.

I care about his visit this week and if you care about journalism, you should too!