Thursday, July 31, 2008
CHICAGO - When presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama visited the Unity Journalists of Color convention Sunday, July 27, there was a question about the professional decorum of the more than 2,500 journalists and associates present. Journalists, as a rule, should maintain their decorum and maintain a perception of balance and no favoritism. Alas, the Obama mystique and charisma overwhelmed many of the journalists present. When Obama walked up to the stage, the audience jumped to its feet, cheered and whistled and applauded loudly. There was a definite Obama bias in the air as the cheers and applause grew louder. I have to admit, I was among those who stood and applauded, but it was polite applause. Others cheered loudly, as if at a rock concert. The Obama presentation was televised live by CNN in the Chicago area and also picked up by many news networks. One of the live TV shots showed one of the audience members clearly wearing an Obama T-shirt. For the veteran journalists present that morning, that could have been the low-point of the Obama visit with minority journalists. Ouch! Jouralists don't do that. We don't publicly cheer for politicians or root for our favorite sports team when we are on assignment or at a convention. As the Obama interview continued, his remarks drew repeated applause and cheers. Again, this is wrong. Now, polite applause is warranted at the start and at the end of the speech or interview, but to openly display more than a cordial greeting in a situation like this is just wrong. Journalists don't do that. Period. Speaking of Obama and journalists, this display in Chicago only fuels the sentiment that's already out there about liberal bias in news media. The
perception is that these journalists will tilt their coverage in favor of Democrats or minorities. What do you think?
I had the privilege of traveling to the 2008 Unity Conference and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Convention in Chicago, Ill., July 23-27, with two Texas A&M University-Kingsville graduate students. The conference is the largest of its kind in the nation for journalists "of color." NAHJ held the conference in conjunction with professional associations for black, Asian and Native American journalists. Approximately 5,600 journalists were present.
The highlight of the TAMUK delegation's visit to the conference came during the NAHJ Hall of Fame Banquet, Friday July 25. During the banquet, two video/powerpoint presentations produced by the TAMUK Communications and Theatre Arts Department made their debut. The presentations were: "Los Periodiqueros: 200 Years of Spanish-Language Journalism in the United States" and "Francisco Ramirez: 19th Century Spanish-Language Pioneer." Both were met with much acclaim from the more than 2,500 present at the banquet. "Los Peridiqueros" is based on the research done for my book "Hispanis in the Media," but the work of putting together the presentation was all done by students and staff. Those who worked on the 17-minute "Los Peridiqueros" presentation and the 6-minute "Ramirez" presentation showed that our students and department were up to the task of preparing something for a prestigious national convention. Our students and I were seated right along other great journalism school like those at Northwestern, Columbia, USC, Notre Dame and others. It was fun to hear the names of the professors associated with these prestigious universities and than introduce us from Texas A&M-Kingsville. There were a couple of "uh?" moments in the audience but by the time our two students who attended the conference - Adriana Garza (left photo) and J.R. Quintanilla (right photo) - were introduced for having worked on the productions, they knew TAMUK was an integral part of the ceremonies that night at the Sheraton Chicago. Our students received a loud, long and appreciative ovation. It was very gratifying to see that. Adriana and J.R. were the two chief researchers for the project and also helped in compiling info for the book. Others who helped were Kirk Notarianni, radio-TV operations manager for TAMUK, Sam Eulenfeld, KTAI radio station director; Marco Iniquez, Spanish instructor; and Dr. Carl Saltarelli, assistant professor of communications. I served as producer and writer. Kirk was the director and production manager. Sam was in charge of sound. Marco and Adriana were the talent. The conference was well-worth attending, just for the information and networking possibilities. That we as TAMUK played an integral role in one of the key moments at the conference made our visit to the windy city that much more gratifying. TAMUK can now be counted on as a "player" in the field of journalism nationwide, especially in the eyes of hundreds of professional Hispanic journalists.