July 21, 2012
Dear NAHJ board candidates:
We are in a transformative time in the media, journalism and telecommunication industries. As professional communicators, we are also industry stakeholders. Large media and telecom companies continue to push for government deregulation, which has profound implications on the information sector.
Media deregulation policy is giving fewer companies greater control over the creation and distribution of news. While it may please investors, it negatively affects journalism practices and diversity in newsrooms across the country.
Cable and telephone companies are fighting to privatize the Internet. Deregulation and privatization put profits before people and spoil the journalistic value of wide access to open information. An open Internet is critical to fostering independent and diverse voices online.
Journalists of color remain woefully absent in the “mainstream” media and news coverage continues to under-represent our communities. We believe it is essential for journalism organizations to take charge of the infrastructural changes affecting the industry, to be a viable force for a just media system.
These are perilous times in the long, historic fight for a fair and open media system. We are concerned the association is not well positioned to advocate for issues and policies that deal with the many challenging structural issues confronting journalists of color. If we do not help shape the changing structure, we fear that journalists of color will remain marginalized in whatever media platform we work.
We respectfully submit these questions to all the candidates running for office.
- What is your vision for the advocacy role that NAHJ should play in fighting for a just media system? What media policy issues should NAHJ address in its advocacy efforts?
- What is your strategy for holding media companies accountable for improving its coverage of Latinos and for increasing the presence and influence of Latinos in the newsroom?
- What is the state of Spanish-language media? Are there too few Latinos in key management and decision-making positions at Spanish-language media companies? What is the state of Latino ownership of Spanish-language media properties? What is the state of the current job market for Spanish-language journalists? Are the staffs of Spanish-language media companies racially diverse?
Latino Print Network study:
State of the News Media (Hispanic Media):
- Do you believe that media consolidation has harmed newsroom diversity and
“minority” broadcast ownership? Do you believe it has harmed the journalism profession? Why or why not?
- Broadcasters are fighting against a new FCC regulation that requires the big network stations to disclose online who is buying political advertisements in our nation’s largest media markets. By 2014, all broadcasters will be required to place their political files online. The goal of the new rules is to increase transparency about how broadcasters are selling access to the public airwaves for partisan political ads.
Do you believe that broadcasters should be required to place their political files online?
- In recent years, there has been a great deal of political debate whether the FCC
should pass rules that preserve an open Internet, preventing broadband providers from interfering with Web traffic by favoring certain content over others. In recent days, Verizon stated in its legal fillings to a federal court that “broadband providers possess ‘editorial discretion.’ Just as a newspaper is entitled to decide which content to publish and where, broadband providers may feature some content over others.”
In 2006, NAHJ took a position to protect an open Internet by supporting the principles of Network Neutrality.
Do you still support Network Neutrality? If so, would the NAHJ board continue to fight to protect an open Internet?
- A recent episode of the public radio show This American Life revealed that several media companies have outsourced their local news coverage to a company called Journatic. The company uses low-wage foreign workers to write so-called local news stories. Several major newspapers have published stories with fake bylines, leaving readers unaware that these articles were written by an outsourced worker.
What is your position on news media companies outsourcing local news?
Recent stories about Journatic:
- Media companies across the country are circumventing our nation’s ownership rules by merging their local TV news operations with rival stations. In many cities, the same newscast appears on multiple outlets. This growing practice has resulted in staff layoffs. For example, Raycom took over the news operation of a Belo station in Tucson, earlier this year and laid off the news staff. A third of the staff were black or Latino. And a recent study stated that various versions of news sharing agreements can be found in at least 83 of the nation’s 210 TV markets.
Do you support this growing practice, or would you speak out against it as a board member?
New York Times story on the issue:
Richard Prince story:
- Will you pledge not to allow corporate sponsors or employers to influence the positions NAHJ takes on media policy issues or to control the editorial content of workshops or discussions taking place at the regional and national gatherings hosted by NAHJ?
We wish best of luck to all the candidates.
Jessica Durkin, founder, InOtherNews.us and former NAHJ board member
Juan Gonzalez, columnist for the New York Daily News, co-host of Democracy Now!, member of NAHJ’s Hall of Fame and former president of the association
Felix Gutierrez, professor at Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California and member of NAHJ’s Hall of Fame
Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, Ph.D., associate professor of journalism, the University of Texas at Austin School of Journalism and a member of NAHJ’s Hall of Fame
Joseph Torres, senior external affairs director for Free Press and former deputy director for NAHJ