As NABJ Yawns Karen Finney Gets The Brown Paper Bag Test

So where’s this brown paper bag?

I’ve been a member of the National Association of Black Journalists off and on since 1994.   It’s about to be “off’ again when my membership lapses in a week, but this time I think it will be for good.   Like many long term relationships that go sour, we don’t believe in the same thing anymore.   There has always been a struggle between NABJ’s activist and party animal sides but lately it seems like the party animals are kicking the asses of the activists.

Salon columnist Joan Walsh took down a right-wing hatchet man, Tim Graham of  the Media Research Center over his race-baiting of MSNBC (and NABJ member?) Karen Finney following the announcement she would be getting her own program on the liberal news network.

MSNBC just announced that Karen Finney, a network political analyst and former communications director of the Democratic National Committee, will host a new weekend show. MRC director of media analysis Tim Graham immediately Tweeted:

Finney is African-American, although MSNBC didn’t particularly “tout” that in its press release; it mentioned that she was the first African-American communications director of the DNC and is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists.   I’m not sure what would cause Graham to even muse about her racial bona fides, let alone share his idiocy publicly.


In a 2010 Huffington Post piece Finney wrote about being the descendant of slaves on her father’s side and Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee on her mother’s side.   Maybe it’s too much to ask that Graham inform himself about the biological and cultural diversity of African-Americans. It’s not too much to ask, though, that he shut up about his ignorance, but I won’t hold my breath.

On one hand, congratulations are due to Karen Finney for landing her own TV show on MSNBC. On the other, if it’s true that Finney is a NABJ member (She is. I checked) whose racial authenticity is being mocked by a right-wing media monitoring group, doesn’t that deserve a response from NABJ?


There was  one response to my query (and it wasn’t from NABJ’s president or vice-president of broadcast to the e-mail I sent them).   It came from an respected member who shrugged it off as follows:

Tim Graham’s idiocy is not worthy of an official response from NABJ.
However, the pundits among us should feel free to load our satire guns and  plug him full of more holes.


Some right-wing hack/hitman for arch-conservative L. Brent Bozell pulls the brown paper bag test on a NABJ member and The Root, Jezebel, Huffington Post, Salon, Media Matters, The Daily Mail (UK), Talking Points Memo, Richard Prince’s Journal-isms, among other places do find it worthy of their notice, but it’s not worthy of a response from the National Association of Black Journalists?

Congratulations, Karen.  Welcome to the media wars.   NABJ’s got your back.  Just don’t look behind you for them because they’re a ways off in the distance.

I’ve known for a while mine is a minority opinion in an organization of minority journalists.  What I’m unsure of is when my views on how NABJ should advocate for journalists of color diverged so drastically from NABJ’s.  I’ve read the mission statement for the group  and this part jumps out at me.

“I know my Negroes,” says Tim Graham

Sensitizing all media to the importance of fairness in the workplace for black journalists…Fostering an exemplary group of professionals that honors excellence and outstanding achievements by black journalists, and outstanding achievement in the media industry as a whole, particularly when it comes to providing balanced coverage of the black community and society at large

Those are principles worth believing in and fighting for.  I still do, but NABJ doesn’t seem to and if they don’t there isn’t enough of anything else they bring to the table worth me being part of it any more.

I don’t make policy for NABJ and I don’t know who does.  Maybe no one does.    Take this to the bank:  If  NABJ won’t defend its highest profile members, it  sure won’t for those who are not and if that’s the case what do I need NABJ for?

Today the Cleveland Plain-Dealer announced it will cease daily publication and go to three days a week and Sunday.  That is terrible news for any journalist.   It’s even worse if you’re working for the Plain-Dealer because you might not be much longer.    Any guesses on which staffers will be the first given a box to pack their junk and a last paycheck?

But later for that.  There’s always another convention in another city most members can’t afford to attend.   There’s always another old journalist to honor with an award even if young journalists coming up behind them are facing some hard times.    There’s always another Black journalist ready to be dropped like a hot rock by their employer in the mainstream media only to find they won’t find much comfort coming from NABJ.

Finney will be fine.  She has paid her dues and joins the MSNBC pool of personalities, but actually has journalistic credentials as a NABJ  member.  A week ago, nobody knew who Graham was a next week nobody will care what a race-baiting loser like Graham has to say.  All Graham has is a small axe to grind and a smaller soapbox to preach to the ten or twelve other losers who read his bullshit.

For my part, I’ve got less than two week remaining on my NABJ membership and right about now, I’m fine about forgetting about NABJ the way NABJ forgets  about anyone who isn’t part of the privileged few.   The passivity and timidity of the nation’s largest organization of minority journalists on the issues that matter most has become too pervasive and too entrenched.   There’s a difference between being cautious and picking your shot and being fearful that if NABJ stands up its corporate underwriters will slap it down.