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Whitlock hits it out of the park

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Twoback, Jul 20, 2006.

  1. DyePack

    DyePack New Member

    That's something I've long been curious about. When did that change?
  2. spaceman

    spaceman Active Member


    It was well underway in the early eighties, gained steam in the early 90s, and was out of control by the late 90s.
  3. preach! tell it!
  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    To be completely trite (on purpose), it's just like the whole cubicle/clean desk business, another sorry manifestation of where the business has gone.

    No shouting; no confrontations; no stacks of paper higher than x on your desk. Just sit quietly in your clean cubicle and write homogenized stories for not enough pay.

    I'll bet there's more stress, too. And certainly not as much fun.

    It was telling to me that DyePack had a hard time believing the Santa Barbara city editor said, "Fuck you, Travis" to the publisher.

    Nobody would have had a hard time believing that 25 years ago.
  5. Ace

    Ace Well-Known Member

  6. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    That docileness you describe, Frank, is a direct result of newspapers' management strategy of hold-on-to-whatever-you-can, instead of actually trying something innovative to grow your business.

    All many editors and publishers can see with controversy is the readers who cancel, not those who might look at it positively. (Though to be fair, I bet controversy gets more cancellations than new subscriptions, except if Ann Coulter is involved.) You could get away with challenging people when you were the only media game in town (or among the few), because you couldn't satisfy your news jones elsewhere. Dave Barry has said he doubts he could get started as a humor columists these days -- and Barry isn't exactly Richard Pryor circa 1974. Plus, political types of all sides have attacked media for so long, and so successfully, that the big players are cowed.

    By the way, is it possible the reason there are so few black sports editors is that black people figured out more quickly than white people that the newspaper business is Shea Hillenbrand's sinking ship?  ;D
  7. jgmacg

    jgmacg Guest

    Please bear with me while I play devil's advocate:

    All due respect to Mr. Whitlock, whose work I honor and admire a great deal, I'm not sure that this column isn't more of a ground-rule double.

    The question of "diversity", in particular that of African-American advancement across any or all fields of professional endeavor, is not a new one. In its current version, in fact, it is now 140 years old, dating at least to the earliest days of the Reconstruction. In that time - from Frederick Douglass to Malcolm X to Senator Obama of Illinois - the debate has always narrowed itself to an either/or proposition and generally runs thus:

    Is change (i.e., the advancement and economic improvement of "minorities," a phenomenon to which we now refer generically as "diversity") the responsibility of the institution, or of the individual?

    It seems to me that the two essays in question, Mr. Jackson's and Mr. Whitlock's, represent these two opposing historical positions quite clearly, and are thus part of a long and vexing tradition in American culture. While Mr. Jackson (however well or poorly he expresses himself) seems to see the institutions themselves as the root of the evil here, Mr. Whitlock, while acknowledging the culpability of the institution, identifies the individual as the more important culprit in our national failure to diversify.

    These were the two positions staked out a hundred years ago by W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington, (at least in part as an adjunct to their larger argument over integration versus self-segregation) and that's the way the debate's gone ever since among leaders in the African-American community. The most recent headline variant in our public discussion being Bill Cosby's call several years ago for self-reliance, education and self-improvement. For which, of course, he was roundly denounced by those who believe the solutions lie in the apparatus of the academy or the corporation or the government.

    This argument has always been stalemated and self-cancelling. Affirmative action vs. Horatio Alger. Up-from-the-gutter bootstrappers versus corporate bootlickers, personal initiative versus EOE quotas. The discussion hasn't moved an inch in a century.

    That Mr. Whitlock plumbs a greater subtlety in this Gordian problem is a fair means of publicly spanking Mr. Jackson for his self-aggrandizing reductionism. But to say that the problem is deep, and complicated, seems to me a statement of the obvious.

    To identify the problem honestly in a well-written column gets you to second base.

    To offer plausible solutions in that same column would be the home run.
  8. I find it interesting that dooley_womack immediately equated acting black, etc., to being unprofessional. I certainly wasn't talking about coming to work with a dashiki on and a pick in your afro.

    What I simply mean is bringing a black perspective -- i.e., sensitivity to black issues and problems within that community -- to the newsroom. That scenario I mentioned about crime takes place every day. Clearly, you must not play close attention to what goes on in Detroit, LA, Chicago, New York etc. Hell, just look at the local news. The general public is desensitized to crimes against minorities. If a black person gets shot, it's supposed to happen. If a white person gets shot, it's treated a tragic anomaly. Decision-makers at major metros make that distinction on the front page every day. And, I believe we've seen this played out on television news with Natalee Holloway, missing bride, etc.  

    But that's getting away from the overall point. Outspoken minorities are usually treated like threats, which is why newspapers tend to see those minorities who will be the opposite. A white male who is confident in their work is seen as driven. A black male who does the same thing is seen as cocky, arrogant and a troublemaker.

    Not many metros could handle a columnist like Whitlock. Newspaper higher-ups are too terrified of pissing off their largely old and white audience. Meanwhile minorities, who will soon be the majority, are failing to read papers because they don't see anyone in the paper that looks like them nor do they feel their communities are being covered with any depth.

    Some of the quality minority journalists who decided to get out of the business were frustrated by this. They tried to bring their diversity to the table and were rebuffed because management simply wasn't ready for it. Again, you get tired of fighting those battles and being the only person serious about championing diversity. As has been said many times before, the diversity battle has got to be waged by EVERYBODY.
  9. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    Well, the problem I had when listening to Michael Steele's speech at the 2004 Republican Convention is that this is probably a lot of white people's wet dream because it almost absolves white America from having to do something to level the playing field. It was touching and all, listening to Steele's story of inner strength and ambition, but then not everyone is going to be a Michael Steele.
  10. cougargirl

    cougargirl Active Member

    I finally got around to reading this (no disrespect, JW, but I've been on a federal jury for the past two weeks and I'm just now catching up on all things media) and I liked the fact that it was very thought-provoking and the arguments were logical. Scoop's column was more bombastic and and reactionary. I'm interested to see the study's minority/women count in the industry, as well.
  11. dooley_womack1

    dooley_womack1 Well-Known Member

    Um, you put words in my mouth, or you're cravenly trying to paint me a certain way. I was saying that there is a standard of acting at work that has nothing to do with any race. There are many people of all races who would just as soon wear cut-off shorts and go Tourette's with their language all day, but in a work environment, that don't hunt. So it's not a matter of a race not being allowed to act in a certain way. That applies to all.

    And if you read closely, I'm with you on the Natalee Holloway syndrome. And I know not every murder makes it out front in a big-city paper. But as you surely know, most papers are not big-city papers. And I ask you: Should we base our play of a murder story on the races of the people involved? I sure in the hell hope the meaning of a human life has not come down to quotas.

    So are you saying that black readers will only look at "black" images or read "black" stories? That sounds a bit racist. And I have been in the business more than 20 years, and I have never seen a paper minimize a legitimate news story or feature because it featured minorities. And I think Frank is right: Outspoken in any race is not favored. It's not a minority thing. And again, there are many other more prosperous choices for blacks in an age of playing catch-up on diversity than journalism. I doubt a single black person has looked at a white family featured in a home section and said "that business isn't for me"
  12. I suppose we're going tit-for-tat in putting words in one another's mouthes, dooley.

    Of course, there are stories that ALL people can identify with in a newspaper, but there are problems specific to minorities that are routinely ignored. Newspapers are supposed to be inclusive of all communities but I find most of them are written from the perspective of the white, baby boomer suburbanite. That is not true diversity.

    Again, we must stop seeing racism as something that's done on purpose. We're talking institutional racism, which has more to do with the subconscious. I didn't say that newspapers are sending out memos saying "no minorities in stories today!" but they continue to disregard minorities in regular coverage, ignore the issues specific to that community, and desensitize the effects of crime and drugs in their areas. Black, brown, children are abducted every day, but more often than not the face that makes 1A is a little white girl or little white boy. Like I said, you read most newspapers and the underlying tenor is that crimes committed against minorities just aren't as important.

    Why would I want to read a newspaper like that?

    It's important newspapers address those diversity issues for everyone's sake, not just minorities. White suburbanites need to understand crime in urban areas affects them too. Or, in general, the newspaper should be a forum where people can learn from and about each other. Obviously, newspapers have made a lot of progress, but they would be making much more progress if they weren't so threatened by having certain types of minorities in the newsroom.

    Diversity is not just about race. If you have a white guy from an impoverished background in the newsroom, he brings something . If you have a white woman that's been sexually assaulted, that also brings something. Even someone from a wealthy family. Newspapers should be just as much of a melting pot as society, but my fear is that higher-ups are only willing to extend themselves so far to make that happen.
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