At the moment the National Association of Black Journalists and I are having our issues. Serious issues. Right now we’re in the middle of a trial separation. It’s touch and go whether it becomes a permanent one.
But every so often NABJ gives me reasons to reconsider.
Citing the stipulation that the meeting would be off the record, the National Association of Black Journalists and the Asian American Journalists Association said Sunday that they would not attend Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.‘s Monday meeting with journalists of color to refine guidelines on dealing with journalists during leak investigations.
The National Association of Hispanic Journalists and the Unity: Journalists of Diversity, Inc., umbrella group have said they would attend.
The Native American Journalists Association, also citing the off-the-record stipulation, has said it would not.
Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of NABJ, said by email, “I asked the board that nabj will not have official reps. If individual board members do attend it will not be under nabj representation. Nabj will not attend in . . . any official capacity.” Lee added by telephone that NABJ believes in freedom of the press and is “not happy with what’s going on at the Justice Department,” as stated in its May 15 statement on the Justice Department’s secret seizure of office and personal telephone records of journalists at The Associated Press.
In 2010, Holder appeared as the honored guest at the NABJ convention. He took no questions from the audience. Nobody knew then but the past was prologue. There has been a sneaky suspicion Holder and the Obama Administration hold the press in barely concealed contempt. The Attorney General’s dismissive attitude would seem to confirm this.
Many major news outlets rejected Holder’s off the record stipulation as well they should. With three of the major journalists of color organizations declining to participate in this farce as well, the ineptitude of the Justice Department has blown up in their faces.
There are times when the profession as “journalist” trumps the racial identifier of “Black.” This is one such time.
The National Association of Black Journalists should not take part in this off the record “meet and greet” with Attorney General Holder. Everyone knows the A.G. is engaged in damage control after the chorus of disapproval that has descended upon the Justice Department for their investigations into the phone records of journalists.
If Holder is willing to try to explain and defend his department’s actions he should be willing to go on the record. It’s one thing for the Obama Administration to say they believe in the freedom of the press. Quite another to see them walk it like they talk it.
NABJ is composed of journalists, not stenographers. This is nothing but a glorified photo-op with Holder trying to look reasonable and solicitous to a room full of journalists who are writing down and recording NOTHING. It’s pointless exercise in spin control.
NABJ can get their coffee and bagels elsewhere. Like where real news is occurring. I applaud the decision of President Gregory Lee and the board not to attend.
The Attorney General would serve his cause better by opening up and going on the record instead of continuing his distressing habit of only speaking when it serves his own purpose to do so. This is an approach that has not served Holder well. For five years President Obama has managed to avoid the sort of serious ethical and legal missteps that have blemished prior administrations.
If Holder, the nation’s highest law enforcement official, continues on his arrogant and autocratic path they may not make a sixth.
- Native American Journos Shun Holder (theroot.com)
- Brokaw: ‘Tough to See How’ Holder Keeps His Job (nationalreview.com)
- Holder: ‘I’ll protect journalists’ (21stcenturywire.com)
- Eric Holder ‘told US editors he would not repeat controversial searches’ (guardian.co.uk)