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May 09, 2008

More Affirmative Inaction Damage

As I go through this 21st Century, post-Ward Connerly world, I stumble now and then upon statistics--from all walks of life--that amplify for me not just the potential for disaster, but the actual manifestation of disaster that is the legacy of anti-affirmative-action.

The latest example is from an article on baseball's Barry Bonds, and the Oakland black journalist and editor Chauncey Bailey, who was shot last year for what he was writing (in BeyondChron.org, a Bay Area alternative news source). The article makes it clear that affirmative action provided two moribund Bay Area papers not just with a talented, diverse staff, but also with their first taste of journalistic excellence. Since then, far fewer journalists of color have been developed or supported:

Before Maynard took control of the Tribune, it was a second rate paper owned by the right-wing Knowland family that did not have any Blacks in the Tribune newsroom. Maynard increased the number of journalists of color at the Tribune to the point where Blacks, Latins and Asians made up the majority of the newsroom staff. During Maynard’s 13 year tenure as editor and publisher, the Tribune won every major award in Journalism, including the Pulitzer for the paper’s coverage of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although Bailey was hired at the Tribune a year after Maynard sold the paper, Bailey was part of Maynard’s legacy and vision to recruit and train Black journalists. A similar effort by the Knight-Ridder chain to increase the number of non-white journalists at the chain’s flagship Mercury-News transformed the Merc from a sleepy small-town paper to one of the best newspapers in the United States.

Bailey, an Oakland native, was part of a corps of Black journalists hired by mainstream media outlets in the early 1970s from programs to recruit minority journalists at Columbia University and UC Berkeley. Efforts by anti-affirmative critics like Ward Connerly have resulted in the demise of most of the 1970s programs created to recruit Black journalists. Most of the Black journalists hired from these affirmative action programs are nearing retirement age or are being forced out of the newsroom because of media consolidation, while many other African Americans with great writing and broadcasting skills have opted to work in non-journalism related fields.

Latest surveys of the nation’s newspapers and broadcast newsrooms indicate that today fewer than five percent of the nation’s journalists are African American; many newspapers and broadcast outlets have no African Americans in their newsrooms. The Chronicle has gone from having nearly 30 African American reporters, columnists, editors and other editorial staff right after the Examiner-Chronicle staff merger in 1999 to less than five today.

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