"I don't battle anymore! I uplift motherfuckers!" - GZA
Friday, December 22, 2006,2:10 AM
Blacks in Journalism
Blacks in the Newsroom
Progress? Yes, but...

by David K. Shipler
Shipler, a former New York Times correspondent and Pulitzer Prize winner, is the author of A Country of Strangers: Blacks and Whites in America.
The good news first: the executive editors of the Detroit Free Press and The Courier-Journal in Louisville are black. So are the managing editors of Newsweek, The Boston Globe, The Miami Herald, The News Journal in Wilmington, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Black publishers include those of the Akron Beacon Journal, the San Jose Mercury News, The Modesto Bee, and the Asheville Citizen-Times.

African-Americans are also gaining influence as columnists, editorial page editors, assistant managing editors, and reporters on key beats. Along with Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans, they are aggressively recruited through job fairs, minority internships, and bonus-driven hiring programs. Their publications have grown more sensitive to the nuances of racial slights and ethnic stereotypes, and some papers even do annual "content audits" to assess how minorities and women are portrayed in pictures and print.

Is this a creeping revolution?

Yes, but . . . While the complexion of major newsrooms has shifted from the virtually all-white of thirty years ago, the rate of change has now slowed; the representation of blacks on news staffs has stagnated at a low plateau of under 6 percent, reports the American Society of Newspaper Editors. And blacks moving into managerial ranks remain too scarce to be counted as a reform completed. "Minority reporters call our news meetings the 'Pale Male Club,'" says a white reporter at The Sun in Baltimore.

This bad news gets more tangled when coverage is assessed for its sophistication and focus. Papers and magazines are writing more respectfully about rap, hip-hop, and other cultural features of African-American life. Black executives have made the cover of Fortune. And you can bet that Time will never again darken a photograph of O.J. Simpson. But reporting on race often features the simplistic stridency of ideologues and extremists; the clash of polemics crowds out the subtler biases that need examination. Blacks are hurt disproportionately by inadequate coverage of the nation's urban problems.

The revolution holds promise but has not kept all its promises. Among white journalists surveyed in 1996 by the Associated Press Managing Editors Association, 77 percent agreed that "a news staff should reflect society in terms of racial/ethnic makeup," and 86 percent thought that "a diverse newsroom staff strengthens news coverage and credibility." But there is no chance of realizing the ambitious goal for the year 2000, set twenty years ago by the editors' association, ASNE, that would have brought minorities as a whole -- African-Americans, Hispanics, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans -- to the same proportion as in the country at large. Newsrooms are now 11.5 percent minority and 5.4 percent black; the country is 26 percent minority and 13 percent black.

Facing the inevitable failure, ASNE's officials have proposed a reduced objective for a more distant date -- 20 percent by 2010. The suggestion, scheduled for a vote by the board in the fall, ignited a divisive debate at the association's April meeting in Washington, where some editors urged higher targets and minority journalists' organizations worried that lower goals would allow the industry to rationalize a broad retreat.

The industry, though, is not especially happy with itself. "Any white journalist in a town that's predominantly black begins to feel like it's more and more of a problem," says a white reporter for the Baltimore Sun, whose news and editorial staff is 12.3 percent African-American. "It's a practical problem in the sense that you literally don't find out about stories, because it's a very segregated town." It's also a public relations problem; some of the city's black activists denounce the paper for racism when it reports critically on local black politicians.

The editors of The Sun's editorial and op-ed pages are black women. The deputy sports editor and the editor of Perspective, a Sunday section of opinion and analysis, are black. But not until recently were moves made to bring blacks into positions where they could govern daily news coverage.

Last November, a committee organized by management spent two days in a hotel drawing up a wish list for the newsroom that ran from the mundane to the expensive, from more coathangers to updated computer terminals. Then the committee met with top editors to present their ideas. Under the ground rules, the editors were to say yes or no on the spot or, if they needed more time, set an early deadline for a response. As it happened, all ten committee members were white.

"To the amazement of upper management, the number one proposal that came out of TheSun's own newsroom was a call for greater diversity on our staff," says Jean Thompson, who has just become the first black assistant managing editor for staff development.

The all-white committee expressed "almost universal support" for increased minority hiring, says a participant. "We were particularly aware that there were no black assignment editors in a position to influence the daily news in a grass roots sort of way." Over the next five years, the committee urged, two out of every five new reporters and one out of every three new managers should be members of minority groups.

The senior editors "expressed discomfort with the idea of quotas," the participant reports. "They said they 'certainly feel very strongly about this, work very hard at this,'" he recalls, yet "they had filled a bunch of editing jobs with almost exclusively white males they knew from before.

"I was sitting there with this dual perspective, being a white guy myself and looking at these guys somewhat from the outside, with a reporter's skepticism. If merit is driving this whole thing, then by some miracle, like winning the Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes, the best people in the whole world after this extensive search turned out to be these white guys I used to work with." He quotes another committee member as saying later, "We would have never accepted that kind of bullshit from anyone we were covering."

Shortly thereafter, during a search for two assistant city editors, Robert Guy Matthews, a black reporter, declared that the day the paper hired two blacks for those jobs he would put salt on his shoe and eat it. He thought he had a sure bet. But on March 26, after the announcement that two blacks had indeed been hired for the two assistant city editor slots, Matthews had a friend bake a cake, with chocolate icing, in the shape of a giant shoe. In the newsroom at the end of the day, with the top editors and a raucous assortment of colleagues present, the cake was devoured. Matthews ate his piece with salt.

Following the committee's appeal, management also promoted Jean Griffith-Thompson to do recruiting, hiring, and training, and to play a news role by sitting in on "daily news meetings, page-one meetings," she explains, "and contributing my perspective on what should be on page one, how stories should be developed, what is news and what is not."

Skeptical colleagues are watching how Thompson's news role evolves and how much authority she gets, for true integration requires more than mixing races in a room; it demands the sharing of power. That has not happened in years past, observes Mark Whitaker, the black managing editor of Newsweek. "There was too much of an emphasis on numbers per se without regard to what kind of impact minorities were having on the publication," he says. "The magazine was going out and recruiting black journalists; they'd end up being the number three or four general assignment reporter in a domestic bureau, or they'd end up being the junior writer in one of the sections here in New York. The numbers would look fine, but my view was that you didn't have a lot of blacks in positions where they could have an impact on the magazine. What I've tried to do is attract people to the magazine who will really have an impact."

Part of that impact lies in creating new networks for blacks equivalent to those that have been so beneficial to whites. The black journalist John Dotson, Jr., now publisher of the Akron Beacon Journal, brought Whitaker into a Newsweek internship in 1977. In turn, Whitaker has been decisive in hiring blacks such as Ellis Cose ("someone I've known for a long time") and the young writer Veronica Chambers ("whom I knew because I served on a board with her").

"People will always hire people that they're comfortable with," says Roy S. Johnson, a black who's an editor-at-large at Fortune. "To do otherwise requires an effort, and not many people are willing to make that effort. Not many people are willing to expand their Rolodexes when they have an opening." Black editors help expand the Rolodexes.

Newsrooms are not hermetically sealed against the prejudices that play perniciously just beneath the surface of American life. "Time Inc. operated out of a culture that presumed that good writing was a genetic trait primarily held by Caucasians," says Joel Dreyfuss, a black senior editor at Fortune. "There was the idea that you had to find extraordinary black people who would meet those standards, while you could find a lot of ordinary white people who would meet the standards."

Evaluations tainted by what he calls "the subtlety of racism today" can seem deceptively reasonable: "This guy doesn't quite measure up, doesn't quite fit in," are standard put-downs often reserved for blacks, Dreyfuss observes. A white is an aggressive reporter; a black is militant. "We bring our own racial attitudes in the society into the newsroom, but we don't acknowledge it. Journalism's holier-than-thou attitude also carries over to racial matters. 'We couldn't be racists. We're the good guys. We write about racism.'"

One result is that blacks' flaws are often remembered more vividly than whites'. The head researcher at a women's magazine complained about a black who had been "a terrible speller" and eventually left the job. "Within the same conversation ten minutes later," Dreyfuss recalls, "she talked about a young white woman who had been very successful at the magazine, and she said, 'You know, she couldn't spell, but . . .' It was exactly the same problem for both, but the other one was seen as brilliant and terrific."

Hiring mistakes are made more rarely when minorities are recruited to improve coverage rather than merely to defend against criticism or lawsuits, according to Keith Woods of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies. "When you're motivated by a desire to avoid trouble, who you bring in doesn't matter a whole lot to you," he notes, "and how they thrive or survive in the organization doesn't matter a whole lot to you. There are consequences of that: you do bone-headed work, which angers your readership. People you've brought in can't do the work they have to do, and motivation wanes."

In the 1980s, Whitaker saw a few examples at Newsweek. "In any institution there are whites who get ahead who aren't exactly fabulous," he says. "If a mediocre white journalist gets ahead, no one ever says it reflects on the overall quality of white reporters. If a mediocre black reporter is hired or promoted, then everybody's going to say, 'Oh, they lowered the standards.' There are only a handful of those cases, but those handful were very regrettable. It didn't serve Newsweek well, and it didn't serve the reporters well."

Since then, print journalism has grown more sophisticated. Guidebooks and Web sites are full of advice on recruiting and managing a diverse workforce. Editors scour job fairs held by ASNE, the National Association of Black Journalists, and professional organizations representing Hispanic, Asian-American, and Native American journalists. ASNE, the Newspaper Association of America, and the major newspaper chains have full-time executives in charge of promoting diversity. Big dailies have internships for budding minority journalists, both to look them over and to induce the best of them to join the profession.

In a program named after the late columnist James Reston, for example, The New York Times takes on eight minority interns each summer to work in reporting, copy editing, photography, graphics, and design. The Times Company runs similar minority internships at its smaller papers. The Times Mirror chain hires recent college or journalism school graduates for two-year stints. During the first year, ten minority trainees work as reporters at the Los Angeles Times, and eight as copy editors at Newsday; for the second year, they are assigned among the company's seven papers, including the Baltimore Sun. Of the 170 trained so far, 95 percent have been offered full-time jobs, and 87 percent are still in journalism.

Nothing significant happens without pressure from the top. "Many managers feel they are open to diversity, but in practice they may not do very much," says Jose Ferrer, Time Inc.'s executive editor in charge of recruitment. "If you're not pushing at this, then you're probably not fixing it, and we're asking our managers to fix it. Just being polite to people of color is not enough."

The message is reinforced with bonuses and evaluations. When Norman Pearlstine became editor-in-chief of Time Inc. in January 1995, he says, "I found a situation not unlike what I'd found at The Wall Street Journal," where he had been executive editor. "A lot of people had done a lot of hard work and had tried a lot of things, and yet the results were, to be charitable, unsatisfactory. I would say we didn't have a credible number of black senior editors and writers, and hiring and training programs weren't delivering for us."

So he made diversity a significant factor in calculating bonuses for the managing editors of Time Inc.'s magazines, who may do the same with their subordinates if they choose. "Bonuses can be equal to base salary in a good year," Pearlstine explains. "Fifty percent of the bonus is based on the financial performance of the magazine and 50 percent on a subjective evaluation of performance." Twenty percent of that subjective part, or 10 percent of the entire bonus, is now linked, he says, to "how successful the managing editor of each magazine is in hiring and promoting minorities."

Has it worked? "I can see some examples where it's worked; I can see some examples where it's too soon to tell. Some people who are here now tell me it's a step." Success will have been achieved, he says, when he can no longer count the changes on only two hands.

In the Knight-Ridder chain each publisher gets 5 to 15 points, out of 100, for fulfilling his newspaper's goal to increase minorities and women. According to Jacqui Love Marshall, assistant vice president for corporate learning and diversity, other points are awarded for profit, circulation, advertising revenue, meeting the budget, installing new technology, and the like. Since bonuses range from 20 percent to 60 percent of salary, failure to hire sufficient numbers of minorities and women can cut as much as 15 percent off a fairly lucrative payment. As a result, she says, even as the company has sold papers with substantial diversity and bought others with less, blacks have held steady at 9-10 percent of newsroom professionals.

Gannett includes coverage of minorities in considering publishers and editors for bonuses and promotions, say former employees. The policy has had a visible impact, but not one the chain seems comfortable discussing. During an entire month, repeated calls to ranking Gannett executives in charge of news and diversity, plus the senior vice president for public affairs and government relations, Mimi Feller, went unanswered. For weeks, Donna Faulk White, a public affairs specialist, said she was waiting for information from her bosses. Finally she conveyed the decision that Gannett would not comment because "we don't feel the company can get fair treatment in the Columbia Journalism Review." Asked what the magazine had done, she was unable or unwilling to say.

Some advocates of affirmative action worry that the climate of aversion to the policy is being felt in newsrooms. "People are just not serious about it," says Vanessa Williams, a Washington Post reporter who is president of the National Association of Black Journalists. She complains that some publications are cutting back on internships, which "suggests to me that there is not a level of commitment." The 1996 APME study found some backlash: 40 percent of white journalists thought that lower standards for promotion were applied to minorities, while 66 percent of blacks thought minorities were held to higher standards.

Other than Gannett, however, every news organization contacted spoke openly and enthusiastically about its drive to increase black staffers. Pearlstine quotes one of his managing editors as saying, "Every time I have a vacancy I'm going to make sure I've found the best minority I can find and make sure he or she gets interviewed." Pearlstine declares: "If that's affirmative action, I think that's great. We ought to do more of it. The more diverse our work force is, the better we're going to cover our diverse society. I haven't felt that affirmative action backlash."

But there are built-in obstacles to finding black journalists. Many upwardly mobile African-Americans, not unlike children of immigrant families, are pushed by parents toward the prosperity brought by the professions of law, medicine, and business. Black communications majors frequently head for corporate public relations, not newspapers. If their ambitions include journalism it often means on-camera television with its higher pay.

The whiter a publication, the less attractive to a black journalist seeking a prospect of promotion. When blacks look at Time Inc., Jose Ferrer concedes, they see that "the power structure is still very white and very male. Half the magazines are run by women, but they are white women."

Even with blacks at 12.3 percent, the Baltimore Sun seems very white to African-Americans considering it as a place to work, Jean Thompson says -- a feeling that may change with her and the two black assistant city editors in place. "When the candidate walks through the newsroom or sits in the page-one meeting and sees practically no one of color in a city that's 60 percent nonwhite, those impressions are stark," she observes. "One of the first questions they would ask is, 'What's going on here? Is everybody absent today? Tell me they're all out sick.' And we'd say, 'We're it, and we hope you'll keep us company!'"

A 1996 survey of journalists by ASNE, however, revealed blacks as more ambitious and optimistic than whites. Fifty-one percent of the whites and 64 percent of the blacks thought their chances for advancement were good or excellent. Fifty-four percent of the blacks aspired to be the top editor or publisher. Yet 54 percent of the blacks (and only 12 percent of the whites) said that people of color were treated unfairly in their newsrooms. And editors, both white and black, complain that many black reporters get frustrated and don't remain long enough to position themselves for promotion. "Few people of color stay in the same place for a long time, because we're taught to be nimble," says Roy Johnson. "You have to move out to move up."

Those who advance often do so by blending in and playing down their blackness, according to some African-American journalists; institutional norms tend to sift out iconoclasts. By and large, "the screening process that brings blacks to top jobs really excludes the innovators," says Dreyfuss, "They're very conventional thinkers, like the guys who hire them. It's true for blacks and whites. . . . There's not a great diversity of coverage and thinking."

Homogenization is lamented by Jim Fisher, a crusty white reporter who has worked for TheKansas City Star since 1960. "I think there was more diversity when I started," he says of the white male staff in those days. "We had people who didn't have a high school education but were good with words and had a way of talking with people and empathizing with the guy in the bar and the steelworker." Empathizing with other whites, that is. "We didn't have black guys going out [as reporters], and that was a real minus," he says. But variety took other forms. "We had a guy who spoke perfect Russian; he was a Russian refugee. We had a guy who went on to become a big official in the Church of the Nazarene." Now, despite the racial diversity, there seems less diversity of experience. "There are almost no [military] veterans," he observes. "They all come out of the University of Missouri, the University of Kansas journalism schools."

If editors, in hiring a black, are looking for insight into Kansas City's black community, another white reporter observes, they'd better pick someone who grew up there and knows the neighborhoods. Being black from Denver won't do it.

But other white editors don't always recognize as newsworthy the attitudes and trends in black communities that they would report in white communities. Papers rarely write about blacks' religious faith, for example, or black women's hair styles.

For a story on fans' reaction to a local team's victory, a black reporter might suggest going to a black sports bar, explains Keith Woods, former city editor of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. The editor might respond with a blank look or with "the assumption that the story just became one about race, while it wasn't a minute ago," Woods says. "Black journalists struggle with offering those kinds of suggestions because of the fear of that phenomenon. They're recruited at black journalism associations, they're recruited at black universities. Their blackness is an issue, and they're asked to do everything black. But then that blackness is not mined. In fact, there is often an antagonism to it in the newsroom. 'Those people play the race card, those people are the militants.' You cannot survive in a business that you got into because of your passion, when they take your passion away."

A sense of incompleteness and marginalization can result. Black reporters sometimes feel that their objectivity is questioned by white editors, that their news judgment is considered suspect. Sometimes in a news meeting when a black journalist proposes a story drawn from his own experience, he has to "watch people respond with violent silence," Woods remarks. That happened when he criticized his paper for running only a short on Spike Lee's appearance at a local black college, with his film on Malcolm X -- a big event for blacks in the community. If the piece gets written, "the editing of the story takes the perspective out of it," he insists, not to eliminate bias, but to remove the reporter's voice as an African-American who brings his cultural insight to the subject.

Who a black journalist wants to be professionally varies with his individual character. Some African-Americans want to cover racial issues; others resent being ghettoized. Jack White, a black who is a veteran reporter in Time's Washington bureau, offered to help report on the Clinton sex scandal. He was annoyed when, he recalls, a white editor in New York told him, "There do seem to be a lot of blacks involved, like Vernon Jordan -- why don't you look into that?" Says White: "I used to be editor of the Nation section of Time, Chicago bureau chief. I've covered two presidential campaigns. I'm not just a race reporter."

ASNE urges editors to mentor minority reporters, not a bad management practice with whites as well. An employee told Ferrer of watching as young whites, but no blacks, went in and out of the office of a white editor who was reaching out to young people. "We're not talking about a bigot," Ferrer says. "We're talking about a liberal, but a liberal who didn't understand that it might not be so easy for an African-American on his staff to come into his office, and he had to take that initiative."

Once created, then, racial diversity has to be managed so that people's talents are harvested fully and the coverage is enriched. For the last six years, The Kansas City Star has undertaken such an effort. It has meant shedding a heavy legacy. In the nineteen-sixties, "we would not run pictures of black girls who were going to get married," Jim Fisher remembers. "There was a term on The Kansas City Star -- a 'nigger killing.' One black guy killed another and it made two, three paragraphs. If there was a killing in the silk stocking district, we went balls out on that one -- column after column."

The paper had made only shallow, grudging concessions to blackness by 1977, when it hired a black reporter, Lewis W. Diuguid. He says, "I was pretty much told, 'Be all that you can be as a white reporter and leave that black stuff at the door.' A large part of me wasn't making it into the job. A large part of me was being discounted. It made me feel uncomfortable, and it meant I wasn't giving all of myself to the work. Some [black] people said screw this, you want only a tenth of me in here? That's all I'm going to give. I'll give my eight hours and I'm out of here." Diuguid persisted, though, and is now a columnist and associate editor.

One morning in 1993, with the Star spread out on the breakfast table, "My youngest daughter, eight, ran by, stopped, and put her finger on the paper and said, 'That girl looks like me.' My oldest daughter could not say that when she was eight. I could not have said that growing up in St. Louis. This was just a nice picture of a bunch of kids in a feature story. The photographer, more aware now, had gone out and gotten an image of a person from another community."

How did that happen? In 1992, the white editor, Mark Zieman, organized a diversity committee, started content audits, and contracted with the Newspaper Association of America to train several staffers in leading diversity workshops. The audits reviewed random weeks of stories and pictures and counted positive and negative portrayals of minorities and women. In the world as typically portrayed, cute white children shopped with parents before school started, prosperous white men moved up through the ranks of business, and young black men wore handcuffs.

In Baltimore, Sun reporters and editors began auditing their coverage by analyzing the week of December 1, 1996. They noted that blacks and other minorities were usually portrayed as needy or in conflict. Stories focused "on our differences as people of different cultures," the report found, and features and business sections practically ignored non-whites. "On first glance," an auditor wrote, "it would appear that minorities rarely travel, eat, or get married."

"We suggest that editors and reporters consciously look for ways to include women and the non-white citizenry in our coverage of universal topics," the first report said. "These are the stories that provide balance to the litany of crime and tension and poverty and government stories."

By the second report a year later, auditors found improvement but saw it as "slow and incremental, rather than sweeping and dynamic." The second report called for "the raising of the consciousness of the current staff" of the Sun.

That is what the Star has tried to do with diversity training. For $5,000 plus hotel and transportation costs, a paper can send a team of three (carefully chosen, supposedly) to a week-long course in presiding over dialogues. It is run by Toni Laws, senior vice president for diversity at the NAA, who then returns with the new workshop leaders and monitors their first couple of sessions in their own newsroom. In-house staffers are cheaper than outside consultants -- and more credible, since the news business, Laws has discovered, is parochial enough to think of itself as unique and incomprehensible to outsiders. The danger is that leaders with only a week of training can get into trouble amid the emotions surrounding race and gender.

There may be no tougher audience than a bunch of skeptical reporters. "It was the most insane thing I've been through," says the Star's Fisher. "They asked what we were afraid of, and I thought, what was the stupidest thing I could think of? I said I was afraid of chickens, and I didn't smile. And you would have thought that I said something very profound. Nobody laughed. They wrote it on the board. I left after six hours."

But Jeanne Meyer, managing editor for business and features, who is white, found that "people were quite open, and they took risks in exposing their feelings and exposing their hurts and exposing their anger. People treated [the discussion] thoughtfully. It made people feel quite good about colleagues." In small groups, everyone in the newsroom attended for a day and a half, and another round is being planned.

Diuguid feels the difference. "In those early days when I started, we were bringing [black] people in totally unprepared for the hostile culture they confronted," he says. "They were getting shot up, and they were leaving. So in changing the culture here, we've made this a better place to work."

A key question is how racial sensitivity and diversity affect what a reader sees in print. The Poynter Institute and ASNE have developed tips for "improving minority coverage," which are included in a booklet. It advises: "Tour your city regularly with a 'guide' or 'shepherd' from the neighborhoods with which you are unfamiliar. Write about human characters, real people, not just bureaucratic processes. . . . Make it easy for people in the neighborhoods to reach you . . . . Don't let place names become code words for crime."

The Star has taken steps in that direction. A computer file gives names of blacks and other minorities whom reporters can call as specialists in various subjects. It begins: "Accounting, Aging . . . " The business section's regular profile of people moving up the career ladder used to feature "just a bunch of white men," notes editor Zieman. "So we made a rule saying one out of three had to be a minority or a woman." The paper still gets complaints from some black leaders. But the usual reactions to the heightened visibility of blacks in the news columns divides a different way, Zieman says. "We get compliments from readers who appreciate what we're doing and criticisms from racists who don't. Some call us the Black Star. Those are calls I'm happy to get."

Counting people of color "can get nutty" when it happens in a virtually all-white town, says a white reporter who worked for the Lafayette, Indiana, Journal and Courier, a Gannett paper. "It got to be a joke around the newsroom" as photographers desperately searched the community for nonwhites, he says, often settling for Asian students at nearby Purdue.

There is no doubt that the presence of African-Americans in positions of influence can produce good story ideas that whites may overlook. When a white Washington Post editor assumed that Mayor Marion Barry was supporting the death penalty to pander to white voters, reporter Vanessa Williams suspected otherwise, and her interviews confirmed the growing endorsement of capital punishment among blacks. Mark Whitaker credits Allison Samuels, a black reporter in Los Angeles, with the idea for Newsweek's cover piece last year on the generation gap between blacks from the civil rights movement and the hip-hop generation. Roy Johnson pushed for Fortune's cover last August on the new, wealthy black entrepreneurs. "The big surprise to us," says Norman Pearlstine, "was that it was one of the highest selling Fortunes in years. It went right off the newsstands."

Many publications also use black staffers like litmus paper to test the acceptability of a questionable story or picture. A few Baltimore Sun reporters, including Ivan Penn, who is black, were approached one day and shown a photograph on the training of police dogs. A white policeman held the leash of a dog that was biting a black man on the arm. "My first reaction was, 'Whoa,'" Penn says. "Then I realized that he [the black man] was the trainer." The photograph was killed. "The sad thing is that in the ideal world that picture should have run. It was a nice action shot, and, in fact, the man was the trainer, so if anything he's in a very positive role."

To illustrate the role of jury consultants, Time prepared three panels in a drawing. The first showed "neutral" jurors whose featureless faces had the color that Crayola would call "flesh" in its crayons, recalls Janice C. Simpson, a black senior editor. The second showed sketchy features emerging, and the third -- the jury resulting from consultants' advice -- pictured "an almost riotous group leaping out of the box, diverse racially, ethnically, genderwise," Simpson says. She objected that the "neutral" jurors were colored to look like white people, implying that only whites could be unbiased. "The artists said, 'What are you talking about? That is a neutral color.' To me it looked like the color of white skin." Her protest got other people in the room thinking and provoked "a spirited debate" that resulted in the color being changed to gray.

No blacks were around to object when free-lance artist Matt Mahurin sent Time his darkened mug shot of O.J. Simpson. The magazine was closing on a Saturday, Simpson had been arrested the day before, and a skeleton crew was doing the cover on deadline. Mahurin declined to be interviewed, but Time's art director, Arthur Hochstein remembers the goal as "a dramatic image -- any kind of racial notion in it was just nonexistent." He pleads ignorance. "We stumbled on an aspect of racial coding that we weren't sensitive to," and he adds: "If we had a more diverse staff, and if they were here at the time, I think somebody would have said something like, 'Whoa!' And had they done it, we would have changed it -- no doubt."

"That notion bothers me a lot," says Newsweek's Mark Whitaker. "We're going to keep a few blacks around so they can save us from embarrassing ourselves. You should be hip enough and clued in enough to see this yourself."

The incident was not used by Time as an occasion for formal discussion or exploration of attitudes and dynamics at the magazine. "Did they really learn a lesson from it?" asks Jack White of Time's Washington bureau. "Hell, no. No, they didn't do the kind of review I would have liked to have seen. It was the same pattern all the years I've worked there. You have a confrontation, you deal with the confrontation. The learning curve is zero."

Well, not quite zero, given Pearlstine's emphasis on increasing diversity. But one of the fundamental problems of race in America was illustrated by Hochstein's lack of attention to the power of darkness in the color of skin -- so basic an element in a society long divided by just that power. As long as such influential whites are so oblivious, there will be a lot of educating to do. In many newsrooms, blacks are given that burden of educating. When many more whites become knowledgeable enough and no longer need to ask blacks for a reality check, that will be real
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