NABJ president tackles media bias towards tennis ace Serena Williams

NABJ President Bob Butler addresses media bias towards Serena Williams.

NABJ President Bob Butler addresses media bias towards Serena Williams.

Serena Williams’ dominance in sports has been greeted with pride in some quarters while she has been mercilessly attacked for her appearance and body image in others. NABJ President Bob Butler responds to the vitriol below:

Here we go again. Another media company is apologizing for publishing or broadcasting racially insensitive comments, then going right back to business as usual. It’s happened with television stations, radio stations and newspapers, but this latest case of poor journalism is by The New York Times, long regarded as one the United States’ newspapers of record. During Wimbledon, The Times ran a story by Ben Rothenberg that explored whether other women tennis players wanted to have bodies like Serena Williams.

Serena has shown repeatedly that she has no equal in tennis.

Serena Williams has shown repeatedly that she has no equal in tennis.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), believes journalists are supposed to be accurate but the article implied that Williams does not look feminine because she has a muscular body. The article has been pilloried on the Internet.There is more than one standard of beauty and to even broach this subject in this manner is at best disingenuous and insulting. Throughout her career Williams has been described in any number of unflattering ways, including being called “manly.”

Many white women have been praised for their surgery-enhanced curves while Serena Williams has been vilified for hers, which are natural.

Many white women have been praised for their surgery-enhanced curves while Serena Williams has been vilified for hers, which are natural.

Rothenberg did NOT do that, but he should know that writing about Williams’ body invites the haters – or racists – to call her anything but a championship tennis player who arguably is the best athlete in the world – male or female.NABJ, African-Americans and women are tired of it. In an apology of sorts, Times public editor Margaret Sullivan wrote that Rothenberg “…. sees some of the ways that the article could have been approached differently.”

Serena Williams showcases her beautiful curves in Essence magazine.

Serena Williams showcases her beautiful curves in Essence magazine.

Whether it’s television anchors using the long-outdated term “colored” or other racially offensive terms, a meteorologist messing up the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s name or a newspaper referring to an African-American hockey player as the “dark guy,” this can’t keep happening. It is not OK to make these kinds of mistakes and then think issuing an apology or disciplining the guilty party makes everything alright.

Longtime media critic – and NABJ member – Eric Deggans says many news outlets seem to forget that, because it’s 2015, they can’t possibly have the same problems with race and gender coverage that they had 10 or 15 years ago.

Essence magazine has celebrated Serena Williams' curves while encouraging all women to celebrate theirs as well.

Essence magazine has celebrated Serena Williams’ curves while encouraging all women to celebrate theirs as well.

“The other thing we know at NABJ is that covering race and gender well is a constant process,” he said. “In the same way you can never stop striving to be accurate, you can never stop working hard to fairly cover race and gender issues – which includes maintaining a diverse newsroom and paying particular attention to stories touching on these themes,” Deggans added.

Serena Williams has won the last 2 major tennis tournaments and is closing in on a 3rd straight this week at Wimbledon.

Serena Williams has won the last three  major tennis tournaments when she won at Wimbledon last week but instead of being praised for her achievements she has been met with vitriol for her looks and body type.

You can kind of understand slips of the tongue on live television or radio. But The Times admits four editors signed off on the story. It’s hard to believe that not one of them saw this as being offensive to African-Americans and women. Were any of these editors people of color? That might be the problem and it’s only a matter of time before something else offensive is broadcast or published.

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit, www.nabj.org.–OnPointPress.net.

NABJ salutes its member, Lester Holt, newly-minted NBC Nightly News anchor

Longtime NBC News Anchor Lester Holt was named permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News, replacing discredited former anchor Brian Williams who was suspended for repeatedly lies. Williams will remain at NBC in some capacity.

Longtime NBC News Anchor Lester Holt was named permanent anchor of NBC Nightly News, replacing discredited former anchor Brian Williams who was suspended for repeatedly lying on air. Williams will remain at NBC.

Washington, D.C., June 18, 2015:The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) congratulates member Lester Holt on his appointment as anchor of the “NBC Nightly News.”

“In a more than 30-year career Lester Holt has become one of the finest journalists of his generation. He is an engaging storyteller, an agile field reporter, and a commanding figure behind the anchor desk,” said NABJ President Bob Butler. “I have known Lester for most of that time and he has gained the trust of viewers for his reporting and anchoring. He has the respect of his colleagues and peers because of the consistency of the caliber of his work and his notable versatility in reporting and anchoring in a myriad of situations.”

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Holt joined the NBC News in 2000 and in that time served as an anchor for MSNBC before being named co-anchor of the weekend edition of “Today” in 2003, and the weekend edition of “NBC Nightly News” in 2007. He became the anchor of NBC’s newsmagazine “Dateline” in 2011.

Earlier in his career he was a lead anchor for WBBM-TV in Chicago, a weekend anchor and reporter for WCBS-TV in New York, and a weekend anchor for KNXT now KCBS in Los Angeles, each CBS owned and operated stations. Before his career in television, Holt worked for CBS Radio station KCBS in San Francisco.

In a statement today release by NBC News, Holt expressed his sentiments.

“This is an enormous honor. The respect and admiration I have for the Nightly News team has only grown deeper over the last several months that we’ve been together. Day-in and day-out under an uncomfortable spotlight they have produced world-class journalism. I’m very proud and grateful to be part of such an unflappable and dedicated team of professionals as we move forward together.”

Holt has Jamaican roots through his maternal grandparents, who were born in Jamaica, West Indies.

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NABJ Vice President-Broadcast Dedrick Russell noted the historic significance of Holt’s appointment.

“It is thrilling to see that an African-American will for the first time in television history be the solo anchor of a network evening newscast,” said Russell. “Lester’s presence will surely inspire the next generation of young journalists to make a commitment to the craft and aim to tell honest, creative, and compelling stories which illuminate the diverse world around them.”

In 1978 NABJ founder Max Robinson became the nation’s first black television network news anchor when he was made part of the three-anchor team of ABC’s “World News Tonight.” Ten years later in 1988 member Carole Simpson became anchor of the weekend editions of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” a position she held for 15 years. Member Russ Mitchell was made anchor of the CBS “Evening News Saturday” in 1999, and like Holt also simultaneously anchored his network’s weekend morning show.

Lester Holt is the new anchor of NBC Nightly News.

Lester Holt is the new anchor of NBC Nightly News.

“As NABJ reflects on 40 years, this is a major milestone for the organization”, said Darryl R. Matthews Sr., NABJ’s Executive Director. “On behalf of the entire NABJ family we could not be more proud of Lester. We look forward to watching him flourish in this new capacity.”

NABJ salutes NBC for recognizing Mr. Holt’s ability to lead the program and wishes Mr. Holt much success in his new role.

An advocacy group established in 1975 in Washington, D.C., NABJ is the largest organization for journalists of color in the nation, and provides career development as well as educational and other support to its members worldwide. For additional information, please visit, www.nabj.org.–OnPointPress.net.