It’s Friday, Juneteenth.
This time in The Objective: The Washington Post and The New York Times want to talk about diversity, Rappler CEO Maria Ressa is sentenced to jail time for doing journalism, Metpro, and an interview with L.A. Times reporter Erin B. Logan on Capital B Black.
This week, The New York Times and The Washington Post both committed to diversifying their staff at all levels.
In a memo to staff, The Washington Post committed to hiring a managing editor for diversity and inclusion that reports to Tracy Grant, the managing editor for staff development and standards. The outlet also committed to hiring on a host of other roles requested by the Union.
At The New York Times, executive editor Dean Baquet committed to setting up committees to figure out how to retain and value Black staff.
Related: RE: About Your Tweet
Both commitments ring hollow for at least a few former (and almost) Post employees, who widely consider Grant to be a detriment to diversity in the newsroom. Others pointed out that tacking on a managing editor for diversity and inclusion, without a substantive commitment to change, will likely not amount to much.
From The Times, we only have commitments to something possibly maybe happening. After existing for almost two hundred years, one can only hope that the newsroom will finally figure out how to hire and retain Black employees other than its executive editor.
Rappler CEO Maria Ressa sentenced
On Monday, Filipino-American journalist Maria Ressa was sentenced to between six months and six years in jail in Manilla for cyber libel. Ressa, who co-founded the news website Rappler in the Philippines, is very clearly being criminalized for her work as a journalist.
In a recent interview, she told the South China Morning Post that she’s been looking for pointers on how to serve jail time.
“You will never know exactly what is happening at this particular point in time,” she said. “It’s the very act of trying to understand … as a journalist, the very act of us being there, [that] changes [what is happening]. So we can know what it was before but we can never exactly know [the present].”
“We just have to plan ahead. We can’t allow the fear to stop us.”
Despite the conviction, Rappler is undaunted, covering the result here: After verdict on Maria Ressa, world puts Duterte on trial.
The Los Angeles Times Minority Editorial Training Program
Yes, that’s what it stands for.
The L.A. Times Minority Editorial Training Program (or Metpro) was started in the 1980s as a way to improve ethnic and racial diversity in the newsroom, riding on the first wave of “multiculturalism” initiatives newsrooms would see up until the 2000s. As ownership, priorities, and the number of subscriptions changed, so did the program.
In 2018, the L.A. Times News Guild published a report, “Let’s turn Metpro back into a program we can be proud of.” The report pointed out that the program wasn’t so much a training program as it was a “low-wage hiring program,” a way to keep “minority” journalists underpaid in one of the most expensive cities in the United States (it is worth noting that white people are only 28 percent of the population in Los Angeles).
There is one Black reporter on the Metro desk, which employs more than 90 reporters. Recent population estimates say Los Angeles County is about 9 percent Black. An L.A. Times internal audit released Monday says that on the metro desk, there are three Black employees: a reporter, an editor, and a columnist.
Extra credit reading: Ava Duvernay congratulates the sensitivity of the L.A. Times’ coverage of Nipsey Hussle’s murder, which only happened because three Black reporters worked on it.
What is The Objective?
The Objective is a new publication meant to confront the inequities in journalism that are rooted in the notion of “objectivity” since the 1950s and continue today. Newsrooms have punished reporters from marginalized identities for their tweets, stories and otherwise bringing their experience to the table. To that end, we publish reporting, first-person commentary, and reported essays on how journalism has interacted with historically-ignored communities in terms of hiring and retention in newsrooms, as well as coverage.
The L.A. Times’s Erin B. Logan on Capital B Black
Black reporters in newsrooms have asked their editors to make the change for years, but the protests over the last few weeks have spurred a very specific kind of reflection and reckoning in some. As Lori L. Tharps wrote for the New York Times in 2014: “Black with a capital B refers to people of the African diaspora. Lowercase black is simply a color.”
At the L.A. Times, Metpro fellow and reporter Erin B. Logan led a lot of the push for the styleguide change. She’s also one of the few Black reporters in the newsroom.
In order to understand how the conversation changed from words to tangible action from newsroom leadership, I talked to Logan about the change, her handy-flow chart (available on Twitter and Tumblr), and where the journalism field needs to go next. The conversation is edited for length and clarity.
Gabe Schneider: What prompted your focus on getting your newsroom to change the B in Black to a capital letter?
Erin B. Logan: I think we need to take a step back, because for some reason, the media thinks that African American and Black are the same thing.
I personally think that that’s very dehumanizing. Every time I read it, I cringe. One day I was sitting at my desk and I read a story and it referred to a Black Jamaican woman as an African American. I was just like, ‘What the fuck?’
I like angry-texted my friend, Jess, who is white. She’s one of my best friends. And I was like, Jess, does this make any type of sense to you?
And she was like, ”Okay, I’m going to be honest with you, Erin, it does, because when we were children, we were taught that African American, is more politically correct.’
And I’m like, okay, ‘But it’s like not though. It’s an ethnic group.’
So when she said that to me, I said to myself, ‘Okay, instead of me like cursing everyone out on Twitter, maybe there really is just like a sincere disconnect between the way that Black people identify and the way that the media is identifying them.’ Obviously that disconnect has probably been attempted to be mended internally by Black reporters. Wouldn’t surprise me.
So I made this flow chart, because people just like were incorrectly saying someone is African-American when they’re Black. So I made the flow chart. It was really janky the first round. I’m trying to scrub it from the internet permanently, cause it’s really janky. I made it out of clip art.
So I went to my other friend, her name is Aida. And she made like a much better graphic and it got a lot more attention because it was now no longer ugly.
And people were just in my mentions like, ‘Oh, that makes sense.’
Read more of the interview here.
The Front Page
The first three stories from The Objective are written by Gabe Schneider. In the coming weeks, we’re looking to publish more members of our collective. And if you’re interested in pitching to us, you can do that here.
Who exactly is telling this story? American journalism has for years refused to decide what truth to tell. Read more.
How To Erase Black Journalists. Prominent white writers don’t want to admit they disagree with many of their Black contemporaries. Read more.
RE: ABOUT YOUR TWEET. New York Times and Washington Post leadership keep demonstrating that they don’t care about Black reporters. Read more.
A bit more media
Gannett’s Golden Parachutes
Local newspaper conglomerate Gannett gave $15.5 million in “golden parachutes” to executives leaving the company, while at least some staff have been denied unemployment and are furloughed.
Two Black journalists are barred from covering the George Floyd protests.
At the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, two Black reporters barred from covering protests respond differently: Michael Santiago, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist, left. Alexis Johnson, a reporter, is suing.
An Open Letter to Alexis Johnson
In the Pittsburgh City Paper, Tereneh Idia writes an open letter to Alexis Johnson: “I want you to be OK, I want you to be protected, celebrated, happy, and thriving. More than imagining the community with you walking through that door, I want to hug you, hold you as you go — not because you need it, but because I am your sister.”
‘Terrified’ staff at South Carolina’s largest newspaper were forced to return to office.
For the Daily Beast, Maxwell Tani reports that executives at the South Carolina’s Post and Courier asked staff to return to work in the office, despite concerns about the coronavirus. Now, there’s a COVID-19 case in the building.
An ABC executive said it’s not like they asked their Black anchor to “pick cotton”
‘The police have been spying on black reporters and activists for years. I know because I’m one of them.’
For ProPublica and MLK50, journalist Wendi C. Thomas talks about how the Memphis Police Department spied on her.
And finally, a few resources
Thanks for reading. We’ll have more for you soon.
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The Objective is a nonprofit newsroom holding journalism accountable for past and current systemic biases in reporting and newsroom practices. We are written by and for those underrepresented in journalism.