Roundtable: Maintaining Diversity Amid Job Cuts Newspapers across the country have cut an estimated 14,000 jobs so far this year. The National Association of Black Journalists is calling on the industry to keep diversity in the forefront of cost-cutting decisions. Why is it important? Our bloggers weigh in.
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Roundtable: Maintaining Diversity Amid Job Cuts

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Roundtable: Maintaining Diversity Amid Job Cuts

Roundtable: Maintaining Diversity Amid Job Cuts

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

It's time now to see what headlines are firing up our bloggers. With us, we've got citizen journalist and public policy consultant Faye Anderson, she blogs at Anderson at Large, former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, he blogs at Three Brothers and a Sister and hosts "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalk Radio, and Shawn Williams, who publishes the blog Dallas South. Hi, guys.

Ms. FAYE ANDERSON (Blogger, Anderson at Large): Hi. How're you doing?

Mr. KEVIN ROSS (Blogger, Three Brothers and a Sister; Host, "The Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalk Radio): Greetings.

Mr. SHAWN WILLIAMS (Blogger, Dallas South): Hi, Farai.

CHIDEYA: I'm doing great. I just want to give you a little taste of the Blagojevich case. We've talking about it throughout the show. But here is the governor at a press conference on Monday before his arrest.

(Soundbite from press conference)

Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Illinois): I don't believe there's any cloud that hangs over me. I think there's nothing but sunshine hanging over me. And by the way, I should say if anybody wants to tape my conversations, go right ahead, feel free to do it. I appreciate anybody who wants to tape me openly and notoriously. And those who feel like they want to sneakily, and wear, you know, taping devices, I would remind them that it kind of smells like Nixon in Watergate.

CHIDEYA: All right, Kevin. It was the I dare you, I dare you comment. What do you think of his approach to this criminal case?

Mr. ROSS: You know, it reminds me actually of Gary Hart when he was running for president and he was saying to folks, you know, I'm not doing anything, and catch me if you can. And I mean, literally, was it, the next day? I know anybody who has Blagojevich on their Facebook page is immediately deleting any references, any links. I mean, this is horrible. And when you couple that with the Fourth District race with "Dollar" Bill Jefferson and you see just what's going on in these circles, I'm starting to wonder as a Republican if Democrats are showing some signs of imploding.

CHIDEYA: That sounds potentially like a stretch.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Considering that in Alaska, you had a little Republican implosion. But what do you think? Is this an issue where the Democrat - and I'll throw this to you Shawn - The Democratic Party needs to step up its game because it's heading for the corruption iceberg? How is that for a bunch of mixed metaphors?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROSS: Look at that.

Mr. WILLIAMS: There's no doubt that the Democratic Party is going to have to make a move, and I think that they've done that, I think they've addressed it in the past. I do believe that we've seen some of the Republicans when they have their counterparts in these types of ethical binds, they kind of wait how it will weigh their - shift their balance of power. I see the Democrats, knowing that times have changed, making sure that they have no appearance of impropriety as a party, and go on in addressing this. And hence, you've seen President-elect Obama come out strongly condemning this, as well as the leadership of the House.

Mr. ROSS: Now, Shawn, can I just say, you know, I love you, but Charlie Ringo right now. Hello, my brother.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Kevin, they are looking into it. He has apologized for what has happened with his taxes and, you know, he has made the mistake and they're looking what to do with this. So come on, Kevin.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: All right, Faye. I'm going to steer us to a little bit more of this situation. Federal law enforcement sources told ABC News that Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. is the so-far unnamed Senate candidate number five. We want to be very careful with how we structure, this because it is just very much a balloon that's being floated at this point. But here's how Congressman Jackson responded this morning.

Representative JESSE JACKSON, JR. (Democrat, Illinois): I can tell you what I have been informed of. That I am not a target of this investigation, that the U.S. attorney has asked me to come in and share with him my insights and thoughts about the selection process. I plan to do that, of course, after having consultant with counsel. I shared with the U.S. attorney that I would like to do that as quickly as possible, as soon as possible, at their earliest convenience.

CHIDEYA: And so, Faye, he basically just said, look, I'm not a target, I haven't been included in this investigation. I have been contacted by investigators. Is it unfair to have Congressman Jackson in the media cross hairs at this point, or is it all a fair game?

Ms. ANDERSON: No, I think it's all fair game. And Congressman Jackson said the five words no elected official should say, not a target of this investigation. I think what it does in the short term, it removes him from consideration for the Senate seat. Reading the affidavit, it was kind of funny when Governor Blago(ph) - I have not even going to try to pronounce his name.

CHIDEYA: Blagojevich.

Mr. ROSS: Blagojevich, yeah.

Ms. ANDERSON: Blago.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. ANDERSON: When you talked about candidate number five, that, you know, he's had problems with him in the past in terms of reneging on a commitment. But, you know...

Mr. WILLIAMS: I just can't hear her.

CHIDEYA: You know what, we'll be going to a break shortly, and we'll be able to tweak anything that needs tweaking. So go ahead, Faye. Just finish your thought.

Ms. ANDERSON: Oh, I was just going to say, you know, pick up on what Kevin said earlier about Gary Hart. When I've read the - well, actually saw the video - I immediately thought of Gary Hart. And also, Richard Nixon, who said - who told David Frost, and I quote, "Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal." Clearly, the governor has learned nothing from history.

CHIDEYA: All right. That's a great place to leave it before the break. We have to go to a break, guys. But we're going to be back with our Bloggers' Roundtable, including having our bloggers tell us what the impact is of the economy on their work and their audiences.

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya, and this is News & Notes. We are back with our Bloggers' Roundtable. We're talking to citizen journalist and public policy consultant Faye Anderson, she blogs at Anderson at Large, former Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, he blogs at Three Brothers and A Sister and hosts the "Kevin Ross Show" on BlogTalk Radio, plus Shawn Williams, who publishes the blog Dallas South. So let's jump right back into the topics. You guys are a part of the media for many years. The…

Mr. ROSS: Really, have we arrived?

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Yeah - for many years.

Mr. ROSS: You like us. You really like us.

CHIDEYA: That's the question. The question is, did you arrived just in time to turn around and head home? What we're going to talk about is media economics, because, you know, television stations, newspapers, everyone is having difficulties. Kevin, the National Association of Black Journalist is calling on the industry to keep diversity in the forefront as there's these cost-cutting measures at places like at the Tribune everywhere. Some blogs - one of our sister blogs, Stereohyped - have shut down. So I'm going to back in to the media topic and ask you first about blogs. What do you feel is the future for black blogs? Is there a future in this climate?

Mr. ROSS: I totally believe that we are at the precipice of something great. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. I would submit to you that necessity in this case is the mother of reinvention. Because you have traditional media, particularly black media, that has had a very limited and somewhat dim view of bloggers - it's like, well you all aren't really quote-unquote journalists.

Meanwhile, people like Shawn Williams, who has his Dallas South blog, is not only blogging, but now Shawn has a BlogTalk radio show, and Faye and I have been corresponding back and forth. And Faye is like, you know what, I want to add a different component to my blogging. What you're seeing is, we are becoming the next generation of media folks who are seeing this from a 360 view. It's about blogs, it's about internet radio, it's about digital content. And you know, Shawn and I met in Atlanta for the bloggers' conference, and that conference was unable…

CHIDEYA: Blogging While Brown.

Mr. ROSS: Blogging While Brown Conference. It was in Atlanta this year. Next year, it's going to be in Chicago. We couldn't get traditional media sponsors. So we took it upon ourselves. Shawn and I said, you know what, let's link. Let's connect with each other. So when I'm in Miami this past week and then I'm hearing Rickey Smiley talking about the Cotton case, the Shaquanda Cotton, I think that's the name, Shawn.

Mr. WILLIAMS: That's right.

Mr. ROSS: And he was saying how he took it upon himself to help free her, because he was reading on a blog. I'm listening to that going, no, he was reading Shawn's blog, Dallas South blog. And I know that he was instrumental in galvanizing other people, and that's direction that I see media, irrespective of race. They're going to have to look to us to create some synergy.

CHIDEYA: Since, you know, your blog came up, Shawn, do you consider yourself someone who is a reporter, a analyst, an advocate?

Mr. WILLIAMS: All of the above, Farai. You know, like Faye, I consider myself as citizen journalist. But you know, I think a lot of us as bloggers, especially starting a couple of years ago, when we didn't know where it was going to go, you know, we're idealists. And you know, we want to do the good thing and the right thing, and we want to be advocates.

But we've learned that, you know, there's a cost to doing business that way. And to bring up the Blogging While Brown Conference again, you know, it was kind of like pulling teeth at some point to try to get people to talk about, how do we monetize our blog? How do we finance our blog so that we can do this? Some of us who want to do it on a more permanent basis. It was really to hard to get people to have that discussion. But you know, if we don't want more blogs to start shutting down, and if we wanted to supplement what's going on in traditional media, we're going to have to find a way to, you know, find a way to finance these endeavors.

Mr. ROSS: Preach.

CHIDEYA: Faye, what's that mechanism? Who's going - I mean, because consumers don't want to pay for media, which is affecting big media and small media. Advertisers are hurting, because they're corporations that have customers that don't want to buy a lot of things right now. So where's the money going to come from?

Ms. ANDERSON: Well surprisingly enough, the money will likely come from the mainstream media. Farai, let me just say up front, 99.9 percent of bloggers don't make any money from blogging. They do it - we do it out of passion. That said, out of crisis comes opportunity. that the newspaper industry has been in decline for some years. They, like the auto industry, will have to find ways to cut their labor costs. Bloggers, freelance writers - they would look to bloggers and freelance writers as cheap labor.

For the last, I guess, three or four years now, I have been participating in an annual convening, Journalism That Matters - actually, I've been the token blogger up until recently. And it's looking at what's next in the news room. And what I told them - or tried to get across, I shouldn't say told - tried to get across is that yeah, editors are looking to bloggers to supplement as a shared staff to bring to use bloggers, but they can't use the model of putting some token donation in our tip jar and think that we are going to provide them with labor. Bloggers will come cheaper than traditional journalists, because we'll come without the benefits. But I think increasingly, they will - the mainstream media will turn to bloggers as a source of cheaper labor.

CHIDEYA: All right. Well, we are going to have to end it there, but this is a great conversation that I definitely want to continue. Brings up a lot of bigger issues about how the media will unfold ahead. So I want to thank the three of you.

Ms. ANDERSON: Well, thank you.

Mr. ROSS: Thank you, Farai.

Mr. WILLIAMS: Thank you so much, Farai.

CHIDEYA: We've been talking with Shawn Williams, who publishes the blog Dallas South, he was at CakeMix Recording studio in Dallas, Texas - and I have to say, I love the name CakeMix Recording studio, I don't know who came up with that - citizen journalist and public policy consultant Faye Anderson, she blogs at Anderson at Large and NPR's election blog Sunday Soapbox, she was at our New York studios, and former L.A. Superior Court Judge Kevin Ross, who blogs at Three Brothers and A Sister, he was with me at our NPR West studios.

You can find links to their blogs and ours at nprnewsandnotes.org, and the conversation does not stop here. Our online series Speak Your Mind gives you a chance to sound off on the issues you care about. To find out how, go to our blog, nprnewsandviews.org, and click on Speak Your Mind.

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