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.

This is NOT The Year for NABJ, UNITY to be Meeting Separately

The latest figures on newsroom diversity ought to make a case for why the nation’s largest groups of journalists of color should be meeting TOGETHER This summer. There is strength in numbers when ti comes to diversity

The latest newsroom diversity census came out today and it’s no surprise the news is not good– the number of African American journalists declined for the fourth consecutive year.

But, I’m not sure minority journalists are set up to do anything about this — especially in 2012.

African Americans in the newsroom workforce fell from 4.68 percent in 2011 to 4.65 percent.

The data released by the American Society of News Editors, which concluded its annual convention today, show overall the percentage of racial minorities in newsroom at 12.32 percent, down a percentage point from 2010 census.
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