Thursday, March 22, 2018

'Inevitably, It Also Means Sometimes Falling Short & Making Mistakes': New York Times Editor On Hiring Errors

I have long admired James Bennet since we worked together back in the day at The New York Times. I especially enjoyed his work as editor of The Atlantic, which is why I was a little surprised when he hit some snags as editor of The New York Times editorial page.              

Bennet has had a difficult week. First, one of his hires, Bari Weiss, sparked outrage when she referred to the California-born Olympic skater Mirai Nagasu as an immigrant. This occasioned a heated internal conversation in which staffers vented about the direction of Bennet’s section, as HuffPost reported. This was the same day that Bennet accidentally employed the proud friend of a neo-Nazi for a total of five hours before being forced to let her go
While I do not agree with Bennet's hiring decisions, I admire his chutzpah. When I made a very different mistake at The Times in 2003 that was driven in part by a sloppy editor, I resigned on my own accord for a variety of reasons. Unlike Bennet, I did not tamp down the ensuing storm with a statement about what happened. That decision was an even bigger than the mistake itself because lies and misperceptions took on a new life and misperception, aided by a bad editor who wanted to keep the spotlight away from him, became reality.

I also believe that racial and gender politics played into my bad publicity. I believe Bennet will weather the storm because of his talent (hell, critics said I had no talent and called me an Affirmative Action hire) and to be honest, he is a white man. 

Here is how Bennet responded last month to the firestorm of controversy:
To our colleagues:
There’s a thought in Adolph Ochs’s original mission statement for The Times that we don’t talk about so much — “without fear or favor” is the go-to, for good reason — but that I particularly love. It’s in his closing line, about the role of Times Opinion; he says we’re supposed to help “assure the free exercise of a sound conscience.” Please bear down on those words and I think you’ll see what I mean. Could there be a more elegant expression of the thought that we’re supposed to protect the freedom of people to think for themselves, and to help them put that freedom to work?
There’s no reason to hang on to any tradition for its own sake, or to dust off any statement unless it serves our purposes today and helps us look ahead. I think this statement does both, and it helps explain what we’re up to these days here in Opinion.
It’s a commonplace borne out by social science that Americans are sorting themselves by party or convictions and losing the ability to engage respectfully — even if only to disagree — across those tribal lines. Most people seem to think this is a bad thing, but very few institutions are trying seriously to do anything about it. We are trying. It’s what The Times is supposed to do, and it’s what democracy needs.
Surely one of the most basic principles of The New York Times is that we don’t have all the answers. That’s why Times reporters go out into the world, often taking great risks, to try to figure out the truth. It’s not my place to speak for the newsroom, but from where I sit it seems like the authority of The Times is earned every day through the honesty and determination of that struggle — to understand how people think, and what they’re up to, and how the forces at work in our era are reshaping their lives.
This principle applies equally to Times opinion journalism. In Opinion, our collective role is not to tell people what to think. It’s not to simply reflect back to them what they already think. It’s to help them — as best we can — to do what they want to do, which is to think for themselves.
If the newsroom’s fundamental role is to describe the world as it is, ours is to envision how it could be made better. And when it comes to that work, no one — not any of our columnists, who are the best in the business; and not the editorial board, a hive mind of experts; and not any of our outside contributors, who are original thinkers; and also not anyone else on this earth — has all the right answers. We may be right about many of them; we may be partially right about others; and we may be dead wrong on still others. History will have to sort out who had it right in the end. In our time, we owe our readers an honest struggle over the right paths ahead, not a pretense that we’re in possession of God’s own map.
That means being willing to challenge our own assumptions; it means being open to counter-arguments even as we advance our own convictions; it means listening to voices that we may object to and even sometimes find obnoxious, provided they meet the same tests of intellectual honesty, respect for others and openness. It means taking on the toughest arguments on the other side, not the straw men. It means starting from a presumption of good faith, particularly on the part of our colleagues, including those we disagree with. It means having some humility about the possibility that, in the end, the other side might have a point, or more than one.
It means having a far richer array of perspectives — richer in terms not only of ideology but of identity and experience — than we have today. Diversity for us is not just a moral necessity but the only road to fulfilling our purpose of enlarging human understanding.
Inevitably, it also means sometimes falling short and making mistakes. (Remember: we’re not pretending to be right about everything here in Opinion.) We’re taking some chances, recruiting voices that are new to The Times and publishing pieces that press against our traditional boundaries. Sometimes you — or we — might judge, in retrospect, that we’ve made the wrong choice and put a foot over one line or another. I’m very sorry when that happens. I’d be far sorrier if we never tested the limits.
This was the mission for Times Opinion that Adolph Ochs laid out in 1896, declaring that he wanted to “invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.” It was the mission The Times rededicated itself to in 1970, when it launched the Op-Ed page to further “our belief that diverse voices in our society must be given the greatest possible opportunity to be heard.” The editors explicitly wanted the Op-Ed voices to disagree with the editorial line of the paper, to keep it honest. A rich and searching and at times challenging breadth of arguments and ideas is also what society needs from us now, however imperfectly we might realize this vision, day to day, as we strive toward it.
Don’t get me wrong: We’re not just letting a thousand flowers bloom. We are picking our contributors with care, looking for people who share Times standards for fairness and intellectual honesty and originality, who believe in empiricism and the essential equality of all human beings. We are, as ever, editing and fact-checking our work. And we’re not indifferent to the question of who’s right and who’s wrong. As debates ripen or the news demands, The Times editorial board is rendering its best judgment on consequential matters, consistent with the progressive values that have shaped its reasoning for many decades.
What our readers do with any of our arguments is, of course, up to them. Maybe they’ll change their minds; maybe they’ll sharpen their existing views against a surprising and formidable counterargument. But at a minimum this running, noisy debate will help them understand the clash of ideas that’s shaping the world.
A lot of the work we get to do in Opinion is fun: We get to tackle big ideas, write with verve, experiment with new forms and ways of making arguments. But this is also a real struggle we are engaged in. It’s not easy to believe passionately in certain positions and then work with people who see the world very differently.
This is one reason, I think, that departments like ours, and even many newsrooms, have always been at risk of becoming homogeneous in various ways over time. It’s particularly hard now, when an echo chamber in social media grabs hold of one piece we publish and treats it as the whole, rather than one of dozens of opinions we publish in running arguments across a week. It’s particularly hard now because, even as we keep getting attacked from the right, left-wing sites are insistently telling the same story — that we’ve added conservative voices in a rightward frogmarch — while ignoring inconvenient realities like the powerful new voices from the left that have also joined our ranks. It’s hard because some of the critics like to resort to labels without actually contending with the arguments our people make. (The good ones contend and sometimes out-argue us. They’ll make us better.)
It’s hard because this is a work in progress and, as our critics rightly point out, we are still far from realizing our ambitions for a fuller range of voices. We are still far from it.
But we are making progress, not just in the range of our viewpoints, but in the range of our storytelling, the breadth of our subject matter, and the diversity of our team. I want to emphasize: We have a long way to go. But thanks to the fierce intellects and hard work of your colleagues in Opinion we are moving forward. Far more people than ever are reading all of our work. Great journalists want to be part of this project. Great and brave thinkers and doers and survivors and artists want to make their case in The Times because they know they can have their biggest impact here. They know they can be part of a searching argument about how to make the world a better place. That’s an argument that can never end, and it’s our great privilege, in this angry and vengeful time, to have the chance to help give it new vitality.
I’d like to close with an ask of you: Criticize our work privately to each other as you see fit. Please also let me or our other Opinion colleagues know when you think we have, indeed, put a foot over the line. But please also understand that our folks are acting in good faith. Whether you disagree with some of our many viewpoints or not — surely you will — please understand that your colleagues in Opinion are committed to ideals that matter, to fair play, tolerance, pluralism, the free exchange of ideas and intellectual challenge. They, like you, are committed to helping The Times achieve its highest purposes.
We’ll be holding a series of open meetings next week to talk more about our work and we hope you’ll join us.
Allbest [sic],

 Sound off in comments.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

An Open Letter to Women Making Black History

February 1, 2018, PopSugar

Growing up, one of the songs that defined my childhood was Aretha Franklin belting out how lucky I was to be "young, gifted, and black."
As a daughter of the civil rights movement — with Aretha echoing in my ears — I was inspired to become a lawyer, like my heroes: Thurgood Marshall, Charles Hamilton Houston, and Constance Baker Motley.
After years of prosecuting everything from low-level offenses to homicides, I decided to run to be the San Francisco district attorney. There was a two-term incumbent who was nicknamed "KO" because he'd been a boxer known for knocking out his opponents. Meanwhile, I was at six percent in the polls (which is six in 100).
As you can imagine, I heard a whole lot of skeptics. People told me, "It's not your time." They would tell me, "You know, nobody like you has done this before."

Young, Gifted And Black
But I also remembered those empowering words: "You are young, gifted, and black . . . and that's a fact."
So I ignored the doubters. And long story short, I was elected the first woman district attorney in San Francisco and the first woman of color to be a DA in the state of California.
After two terms, I ran to become the attorney general of California, believing that the innovation we were able to accomplish in San Francisco could be implemented statewide.
Again I heard the doubts. Again I didn't listen. And again we won.
In 2015, I decided to run for the United States Senate. And today I have the profound honor of serving as only the second black woman in the history of the United States Senate and the first woman of South-Asian descent to be a United States senator.

Defy Skeptics
My story — of defying the skeptics to break new ground — is the story of so many women in this POPSUGAR project.
It's Jesmyn Ward transforming the trauma of Hurricane Katrina into her masterful and haunting novels of the American South.
It's Ros Gold-Onwude overcoming lingering knee injuries to become a decorated point guard and then a pioneering sports broadcaster.
It's Patrisse Cullors and Tamika Mallory channeling their indignation into activism and galvanizing the Black Lives Matter movement and the Women's March.
It's Christina Ham, bringing to the stage the life of Nina Simone — the artist who first wrote that song Aretha covered.
Each of these extraordinary women is a member of what I have named the Role Model Club. They're leaders who we look up to and strive to emulate.
And the great thing about the Role Model Club is that it's always accepting new members. You can be in it at any stage of life. You don't have to be famous to be a role model; you can be a role model in the context of your family, your neighborhood, or your school.
So identify issues you're passionate about, whether that's fighting the impact of climate change or reforming education.
Seek out your own role models — a teacher, a coach, a family friend — who will encourage you.

The Eloquence Of Being Fearless
Then, take a deep breath and take the plunge.
If you want to run for office — run. Get involved in student government, like I did as a freshman at Howard University. Or run for a local office, like Jennifer Carroll Foy, one of the newest members of Virginia's House of Delegates.
If you want to direct the next Oscar-nominated film like Dee Rees — direct it. Go to film school. Get on a set. Learn the ropes.
If you want to lead a company — lead. Take a leadership role within an organization and develop the skills to move up. Become the next Karen Okonkwo or Angela Davis.
And whenever someone tells you your dreams aren't achievable, whenever you feel alone or under pressure, whenever you find yourself in a room where there aren't a lot of people who look like you — be it a classroom, or a boardroom, or a courtroom — remember that you have an entire community in that room with you, all of us encouraging you and cheering you on.
Like the incredible women featured here, there is nothing you cannot do. And that's a fact.

This article appeared in PopSugar on February 1, 2018

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Help! Chicago Wife Fights To Free Husband Who Was Shot By Police 28 Times

By Lynette Holloway

40 years.
That is the sentence Howard Morgan (pictured) received on April 5 from Cook County Circuit Court Judge Clayton J. Crane, after the former Chicago police officer was convicted of the attempted murder of four Chicago police officers.

The paradox is that Morgan, 61, survived after receiving 28 gunshot wounds, including 21 to the back and 7 to the front, following a much-disputed encounter in 2005, where he awakened shackled to a hospital bed.

Since then, his wife, Rosalind, has worked tirelessly for his freedom as if it was her full-time job. She doesn’t mind, though, because, she says, he’s the victim. She hopes to accumulate 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for his freedom. She says she plans to present it to President Barack Obama.

“Forty years is a wrongful conviction, especially when you are innocent,” she told NewsOne. “We are reaching out to everyone to help overturn the conviction, including, the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois Governor.”

She said that if people ignore her husband’s plight, the nation might as well turn its back on Trayvon Martin’s case.

Read more at NewsOne:

Can Mayor Dave Bing Fix a Broken Detroit?

He tells Lynette Holloway, The Root's Midwest bureau chief, there's no one plan to save the beleaguered city, but he has a blueprint for change.

By Lynette Holloway

(The Root) -- In the face of a crushing $265 million deficit and $13.2 billion in long-term structural debt, it was either sign a consent agreement, file for bankruptcy or accept the fate of a state-appointed emergency manager, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told The Root about two weeks ago in an exclusive interview.

The former NBA star and business owner, who was elected in May 2009, chose to sign the consent agreement under which he is required to create positions of a new chief financial officer, a project management director and nine-member financial advisory board to help run the city. He has also developed a spending plan to trim more than 2,500 of the city's 10,800 jobs and cut $250 million in annual expenses. And last week he announced the appointment of Jack Martin, a former emergency manager of a public school system outside of Detroit, as chief financial officer.

Bing himself is on the road to recovery. He was beset by health woes in March and April when the consent agreement came up for a vote at the city council. He was hospitalized twice: treated for a perforated intestine and released, and treated for acute pulmonary embolism in his lungs and released. Several weeks after returning to work, Bing checked in with The Root.

The Root: How are you and how is your health?

Mayor Dave Bing: My health is improving daily. I had an unfortunate situation where I had to have surgery, but that was about seven weeks ago … My health is coming along very well.

TR: Why did it take so long to come up with a plan to save the city?

DB: I don't think there is a plan to save the city at this point. I don't think anybody externally and in some cases internally here in the city of Detroit understood the depth and the width of the problems that we have. We're talking about problems that go back 40 years, and there is no way any plan that anybody puts together is going to solve the problems short-term. We've approached some of the issues as a city both from a short-term and long-term standpoint. We're constantly changing things because the economy continues to change.

Read more at The Root.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Health Alert! Breast Cancer Is More Deadly In Men

By Lynette Holloway

Breast cancer has long been viewed as a disease that strikes women, but when it does hit men, the results can be much more fatal because many men fail to recognize symptoms, according to the Associated Press.

Women with breast cancer were found to live two years longer than men, according to Dr. Jon Greif, a California breast surgeon, who last Friday presented his study at a meeting of American Society of Breast Surgeons in Phoenix, Ariz.

Findings also showed that men’s breast tumors were larger at diagnosis, more advanced, and more likely to have spread to other parts of the body. Men were also diagnosed later in life; in the study, they men were 63 years old on average, versus 59 years old for women.

The researchers analyzed 10 years of national data on breast cancer cases, from 1998 to 2007. A total of 13,457 male patients diagnosed during those years were included, versus 1.4 million women. The database contains about 75 percent of all U.S. breast cancer cases, the AP reports.

Read more at Newsone.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Hudson Slayings: The Smoking Gun?

By Lynette Holloway
For years it has been alleged that William Balfour shot and killed three members of Jennifer Hudson's family in a vengeful rage after her sister, Julia, rebuffed his advances to reconcile their marriage.

So when his trial began on April 23, it came as no surprise when prosecutors mapped out their case against him. They alleged that he used a stolen 45-caliber Sig Sauer automatic weapon to gun down the star's mother, Darnell Donerson, 57, and brother, Jason Hudson, 29, in their nine-bedroom home on Chicago's South Side. He then stole the keys to Jason's white SUV and took her nephew, Julian King, 7, who was found dead days later.

But what did come as a surprise was the lack of physical evidence linking Balfour to the crimes. During a dramatic opening argument, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Amy Thompson stated that Balfour's DNA was not found on the gun or inside the white SUV where Julian's body was found. "He was excluded from the SUV DNA test," she said.

She said that the only reason Balfour is on trial is that the Chicago Police Department worked quickly to apprehend a suspect. They knew the case would garner a lot of media attention because of Jennifer Hudson's celebrity status, she said.

"They had to find their man, and they had to find him quickly," she told the racially diverse jury. But they got the wrong man in their haste, she said. She told jurors that they would find Balfour innocent. He has pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree murder in the October 2008 killings.

Read more at The Root.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Black Women Continue Making Job Gains

Digging through the demographic data in the latest job numbers, one of the clear winners of the last few months has been black women. Since December, they’ve knocked more than 3 percentage points off their unemployment rate, from 13.9 percent to 10.8 percent. That’s the biggest drop over the last five months for any single demographic group broken out by race, sex, and age by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Education, health care, and retail appear to be factors. All three sectors were among those that posted the largest job gains last month.
Unemployment among black men dropped from 15.7 percent in December to 13.6 percent in April. For white women, the rate has essentially remained unchanged at 6.8 percent, which is the same rate as white men. Total white unemployment remains well below total black unemployment, though the gap has narrowed over the past year. In April 2011, white unemployment was exactly half that of black unemployment, 8.1 percent compared with 16.2 percent. Now the difference is 6.8 percent compared with 13 percent.

Read more at Bloomberg Businessweek.