The Westside Gazette

ESPN public editor says Jemele Hill violated policy

Jemele Hill and co-host Michael Smith (ESPN).
Jemele Hill and co-host Michael Smith (ESPN).

ESPN public editor says Jemele Hill violated policy

ESPN’s public editor said Friday that Jemele Hill violated the company’s social media policy in her tweets Monday calling President Trump a white supremacist, as Trump elevated the controversy by calling for Hill to be fired and for ESPN to apologize.

Black journalists, mean-while, seemed largely to be standing beside Hill, especially after a disputed report by ThinkProgress that ESPN tried to take Hill off the air on Wednesday but that potential Black fill-ins would not go along. The report named none of its sources and no other news organization substantiated it, but Black employees elsewhere said they had seen managements try similar divide-and-conquer tactics.

Public Editor Jim Brady’s conclusion is just an opinion, as he is not a part of management. However, ESPN President John Skipper reiterated in an internal memo that “we have social media policies which require people to understand that social platforms are public and their comments on them will reflect on ESPN. At a minimum, comments should not be inflammatory or personal.”

Skipper added, “We had a violation of those standards in recent days and our handling of this is a private matter. As always, in each circumstance we look to do what is best for our business.”

Brady explained it this way: “So, yes, Hill is a U.S. citizen who clearly cannot stand the president of her country. She’s far from alone in that view. But she’s also the high-profile host of a high-profile show on a high-profile network that is going through high-profile business and cultural challenges, and none of what’s happened the past few days has accrued or will accrue to ESPN’s benefit.

“With the salary and prominence ESPN provides Hill comes some responsibility to play by the network’s rules, and, in this case, she crossed the line set by management just five months ago, when ESPN released revised guide-lines about political discussions.

“Included in those guidelines was the following:

     “The topic should be related to a current issue impacting sports. This condition may vary for content appearing on platforms with broader editorial missions — such as The Undefeated, FiveThirtyEight and ESPN W. Other exceptions must be approved in advance by senior editorial management.”

“The tweet that Hill was responding to when she wrote her most noteworthy comments had nothing to do with sports. And for those who say that Hill’s personal Twitter account isn’t ESPN’s business — and I have seen a few suggestions to that effect — ESPN made it clear when I asked back in April that it considers social media ac-counts of its public-facing talent part of that policy. . . .”

Hill said as much in her care-fully crafted statement Thurs-day when she wrote that “my regret is that my comments and the public way I made them painted ESPN in an unfair light.”

In reporting Friday on Trump’s tweet calling for ESPN to apologize, “CBS Evening News” reporter Julianna Goldman noted that Trump had never apologized for his long insistence that former President Barack Obama was not born in the United States, and called Trump’s current stance “straight out of the Trump playbook.” Goldman quoted from Trump’s 2007 book “Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life.” “When people wrong you, go after those people because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I love getting even.”

In the New York Times, Kevin Draper reported Friday that any disciplining of Hill “might be out of legal bounds for ESPN. The network is based in Bristol, Conn., and a Connecticut statute provides free-speech protections beyond the First Amendment, making it illegal for ESPN to punish Hill, according to some labor lawyers. . . .”

There might be a deeper reason why African Americans have been inclined to support Hill, Jarvis DeBerry wrote Friday for | the Times-Picayune.

“With the obvious exception of those whose shtick is publicly scolding Black people, most Black opinion writers and pundits are signing themselves up to be attacked by white people every time they dare to talk about race,” DeBerry said. “Jemele Hill, the ESPN co-host who White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders thinks should be fired, was getting that kind of backlash long before her Monday tweet that President Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has surrounded himself with other white supremacists.

“I haven’t seen a poll on the question, but I would bet money that if you asked Black Americans — or, honestly, just Americans who aren’t white — you would find widespread agreement with Hill’s sentiment. You’ll also find agreement from some white people. Some journalists who covered Alabama’s Gov. George Wallace’s campaign rallies say Trump’s campaign events are nearly identical to those of that late champion of segregation. The question that always confronts a black person who thinks in public is this: Do I say what I really think? How much grief can I take from white people today? . . .”

Articulating Hill’s view is only part of being a journalist, Vanessa Williams wrote Friday for the Washington Post in what CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter called a “must-read”: “I think one of the fundamental responsibilities of a journalist is not only to report the news, but in reporting the news, to be simultaneously categorizing what is happening in society,” Williams wrote. “We categorize hurricanes as horrific for people suffering through it. We categorize mass murder as horrific. The adjectives and descriptions and categories journalists use allow us consuming their journalism to understand it.

“One of the categories that journalists are reluctant to use and which breeds misunderstanding, lack of understanding is the category of racism and white supremacists. To me that means journalists should be categorizing individuals, ideas and policies as racism. It will give people the ability to understand that in the way that we so freely categorize everything else. … If somebody pushes a campaign that attracts primarily white voters on the basis that he’s going to make the country in the image of white people again, we should be willing to categorize those actions as what they are — white supremacist or racist. If journalists are not going to do it, who’s going to do it?”

Why were U.S. Media Slow on Caribbean Disaster?

“Hurricane Irma made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands as a Category 5 storm just over one week ago, knocking out electricity and running water, and cutting off communications with the outside world,” Amy Goodman said in introducing a segment Friday on radio and television’s “Democracy Now!”

“Now, Governor Kenneth Mapp says the islands of Saint John and Saint Thomas are still nearly entirely without power. The hurricane also destroyed schools and the main hospital on Saint Thomas. The devastation was so extensive; it can be seen from space. Earlier this week, a U.S. military amphibious ship arrived on Saint Thomas ladened with equipment and supplies. The islands have also received emergency aid from residents of the nearby island of Puerto Rico, where volunteers banded together to collect supplies and transport them on dozens of ships.

w“But while Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. Virgin Islands days before it made landfall on the Florida Keys, the Virgin Islands have been largely forgotten in the wall-to-wall U.S. media coverage of the storm. And that omission is even more striking given that the U.S. Virgin Islands are in the midst of celebrating their centennial as U.S. territory. . . .”

Goodman’s guest, St. Thomas native Tiphanie Yanique, an award-winning poet and novelist, wondered the same thing Tuesday in an op-ed in the New York Times.

“Before Hurricane Irma hit the continental United States, it had already affected at least 100,000 Americans,” Yanique wrote. “Not tourists visiting islands; just 100,000 Americans, living in America’s paradise; the United States Virgin Islands.”

On NPR’s “1A” on Monday, Russell Lewis, NPR’s Southern bureau chief, said a public radio reporter was in the U.S. Virgin Islands but that NPR had not heard from the journalist because the infrastructure was so poor. On Thursday, NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara reported back to Journal-isms, “We have heard from her, but the state of infrastructure is still very poor. We are well aware of the devastation suffered by the community and the station and we are doing all we can to help them get back on the air,” she said by email.

“NPR news has a reporter and producer over there now covering the recovery effort.”

She added later that Jason Beaubien was reporting from the Caribbean (first from Puerto Rico, then St. Thomas), and started reporting from there Sept. 8, before the storm had hit mainland.

While the devastation in the black- and brown-populated Caribbean is now receiving broadcast coverage on the mainland, it was a struggle.

“Balanced coverage is always an issue,” Jim Asendio, who anchors network radio newscasts for WestwoodOne, told Journal-isms by email on Thursday. “Even Texas and Louisiana (Hurricane Harvey) have been pushed aside with so much attention being focused on Florida (Hurricane Irma). Notice much coverage of Georgia, the Carolinas? Most of the reporters and photographers are in Florida, so most coverage is of Florida.

“Coverage of the USVI/BVI/Cuba/Dominican Republic/Haiti/Bahamas remained sparse until social media images started emerging. Reporters only started being sent there a few days ago. My concern centered on the lack of even mentioning what was happening there throughout the coverage. Now that the coverage in Florida has shifted from dramatic live coverage to recovery, you’re seeing more focus on the devastation Irma caused in the Caribbean. The media’s attention and hence the public’s is fleeting. The urge is always to move on to the next big thing.”

Of course, there were exceptions, such as the Miami Herald. Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles said by email, “We’ve been on top of this story. I was positioned in Haiti, which did have farms and communities in the northern region devastated but got overlooked (audio). At the same time I’ve been providing updates on what’s happening in the Caribbean including Turks and Caicos which also had a family island devastated but [was] overlooked in the media.

“We’ve had a reporter in St. Thomas and most recently I’m [in] St. Maarten. And if course we’ve written about Cuba.

“Given Irma’s impact in Florida, and the abandonment of the Caribbean by most U.S. media outlets, we remain committed to the region.

“South Florida is home to a wide range of people from the Caribbean and Latin America, and at the Miami Herald we remain committed to [being] their source for news. There wasn’t any hesitation to send me and a photographer to Haiti ahead of Irma. Why Haiti, because it remains one of the most vulnerable island-nations to natural disasters. Through it dodged a direct hit, it was impacted and we were the only U.S. daily on the ground to tell people so.”

“Below just one of the stories I reported from the ground:

Go to our site: to see our coverage.”

To many Americans, Caribbean islands are simply tourist destinations. In the New York Times Sunday print travel section, Stephanie Rosenbloom provides an island-by-island guide.

“Tourism is the most important economic driver and the main foreign exchange earner for the region, according to the Caribbean Tourism Organization,” Rosenbloom wrote Friday. “Some places — including St. Kitts and Nevis, Anguilla, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the Bahamas and Sint Eustatius — emerged mostly unscathed.

“Yet, as of Thursday, the damage in other places was so extensive that despite the projected loss of crucial revenue, government officials were not focused on tourism; they were still struggling — and continue to struggle — to ensure people’s health and safety and evacuate stranded visitors. . . .”

For all the delay in covering the Caribbean disaster, it is receiving more coverage than other devastated parts of the world. “The effects of these hurricanes have been massive in the Caribbean and the United States, but they actually don’t compare to what’s happening in South Asia,” Goodman said at the end of her segment Friday. “Over 1,300 people have died in the flooding in Nepal and India and Bangladesh. We’re going to go to Kathmandu, Nepal.



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