By: Mark Fitzgerald
Black journalists reject National Rifle Association recruiters; NRA joins CIA and VOA in banishment from job fair
FOR AN INDUSTRY desperate to diversity its newsrooms, the job fair at the annual National Association of Black Journalists is the greatest show on Earth.
This year at Houston, for example, more than 110 organizations jammed the third floor of the Westin Galleria hotel seeking applicants. Corporate wooers ranged from the New York Times to the National Enquirer to the Lima (Ohio) News.
In this rush came some unwanted suitors,too.
In recent years, the issue of who should be allowed to recruit-or, more accurately, who should not be allowed-has become a perennial problem.
Last years, FBI recruiters were ousted in midconvention after some members complained about their presence.
In the past, the CIA and the Voice of America were barred.
This year, the National Rifle Association came calling.
In a narrow vote before the convention, NABJ’s board of directors turned down the NRA’s request to recruit for its several magazine and public relations slots.
However, an NRA communications specialist, Bill McIntyre, was given time to present the pro-gun group’s case to the annual business meeting at the recent Houston convention.
The NRA application stirred strong feelings among members.
Warren Bell, a news anchorman with WVUE-TV in New Orleans, proudly identified himself as a life member of the NRA and equated gun control of “”Negro control.””
Other members, such as St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Greg Freeman, distanced themselves from the gun group, but nevertheless said NABJ should let any group with jobs to offer come to the convention.
“It is sadly paternalistic and just plain unfair for the board to limit the opportunities of job seekers,”” said Derrick Blakley, a reporter with WMAQ-TV in Chicago.
“As far as I’m concerned, if the American Nazi Party wants to recruit here we should allow them. And if there’s a fool who wants to work for them, let him, “” Blakley said.
Many other members, however, argued the NRA abets the gun violence that is destroying entire black neighborhoods. They also objected to what they said were “”racist”” NRA print and broadcast ads that followed the Los Angeles riots.
“This is how the NRA, in its wormy way…works its influence on us,”” said Andrea Ford, a Los Angeles Times reporter.
By an overwhelming voice vote, the membership voted to continue to prohibit the NRA.
Also this year, the New York Daily News was briefly banned from the job fair.
Before the Houston meeting opened, however, the board said that because of progress in Newspaper Guild negotiations with the newspaper, the Daily News would be allowed to recruit after all.
Thumbs Down Award
NABJ also named the New York Daily News as the “”winner”” of its annual Thumbs Down Award for what it said was a “”lack of commitment to diversity.””
“The blatant firing of almost all its black employees earlier this year represented the newspaper’s lack of commitment to diversity,”” outgoing NABJ president Sidmel Eastes-Sumpter said at a press conference during the group’s convention in Houston.
“We have had yearlong discussions [with the Daily News] of the out-and-out firing of every African American male and two-thirds of all African-American women in the newsroom,”” she said.
NABJ, Estes-Sumpter said, does not accept the newspaper’s explanation that blacks were not targeted by the layoffs were made when Mortimer B. Zuckerman bought the ailing tabloid from the remnants of Robert Maxwell’s press empire.
“They were completely disproportionate when it comes to racial [makeup] in the newsroom,”” she said. “”There was no real measuring stick”” in evaluating individual laid off, Estes- Sumpter said.
So angry was the organization about the Daily News layoffs that for a time NABJ considered banning the newspaper from the huge job recruiting fair held with the convention. After continuing negotiations with the Daily News, the tabloid was allowed to recruit at the job fair.
Estes-Sumpter said the Daily News is making some progress towards diversity, but has a long way to go.
“[ The Daily News] is no longer resistant to our suggestions about what should be done in the newsroom,”” Estes-Sumpter said.
For its part, Daily News L.P. issued a statement that Zuckerman and co-publisher Fred Drasner are committed to diversity and that minority employment is at 17.6% about the same as the 18% under Tribune Co. ownership and the 17% minority employment under Maxwell.
“Since Daily News, L.P. acquired the Daily News, 118 persons have been hired throughout the company, of which 37 (about 31%) are minorities,”” the statement said.
It said 15, or about 24%, of the 63 newsroom professional new hires are minorities.
“Currently, minorities comprise over 10% of the employees in the Daily News, L.P. newsroom,”” the company said.
NABJ also awarded a Thumbs Down to WKBQ-FM in St. Louis because of the on-air behavior of “”shock jocks”” Steve Shannon and D.C. Chymes. The two were fired after such antics as performing a game show called “”Who’s the Jew”” and telling a caller she was “”acting like a nigger.””
NABJ president Estes-Sumpter called for the FCC to stop the “”shock radio”” genre which “”continues to hide behind the weakened argument of freedom of speech…to spew vicious racial slurs and veiled threats against African American leaders.