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FCC Taking on Shared Services Agreements

March 6, 2014

FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler today came out against further consolidation in the broadcast industry and made it clear he would like to cut back on the so-called “shared services” agreements or “SSA’s”.  SSA’s allow a station owned by one company to provide news for a competing company in the same market. (

In his statement Chairman Wheeler said, “…motivated by evidence that our rules protecting competition, diversity and localism have been circumvented, we will consider some changes to other Commission Rules to enforce existing rules.”

I could not agree more. This will no doubt be applauded by those journalists who were laid off when their newsroom shut down so the news could be provided by the competition. I know at least a half-dozen people this happened to. Sometimes they get hired by the new station, sometimes they must move for a new opportunity and sometimes they remain unemployed for a length of time. There are many more people who have been affected but they won’t talk about it publicly because they could get in trouble, especially if they currently work in the industry.

 When there are fewer newsrooms, jobs are cut, normally leaving fewer opportunities for all journalists to find work. Viewers for the different stations get the same news delivered by the same people, limiting the opportunity to hear different viewpoints. For those who work in these newly “shared” newsrooms, there is more work and less time for in-depth or investigative reporting.

There are also fewer management jobs, leading to less diversity among those who make decisions on news coverage and hiring.

Research has shown that the demographics of newsroom management trails way behind that of the country. The National Association of Black Journalists Association 2012 Television Newsroom Management Diversity census found that, while people of color represented approximately 35% of the nation’s population, that figure for television station newsroom managers was 12%.

The FCC has not stopped the practice of Shared Services Agreements because there may be limited cases where these agreements make sense. But, given the number of journalists who have been displaced by them, I’m glad to see the FCC take a closer look at how the SSA’s are being used.

Also read:

NABJ Mourns the Passing of Angelo Henderson

February 15, 2014

AngeloHendersonNABJ is stunned to learn of the passing of long-time member and award-winning journalist Angelo Henderson in Detroit.

Henderson won a Pulitzer-prize for the Wall Street Journal in 1999 and currently hosted “Your Voice with Angelo Henderson,” a popular news talk show on Radio One in Detroit.

I first met Angelo when he was running for president in 2009. He said it was a logical extension of his service to NABJ. He had served two terms on the NABJ executive board and two terms as the president of the Detroit chapter of NABJ.

The news of Henderson’s passing hit all members hard, particularly NABJ presidents.

“Angelo was one of the most influential members in this organization, said Sidmel Estes, who served as president from 1991-1993, Henderson’s second term on the executive board as parliamentarian.

“His buoyant style in terms of his personal demeanor, as well as his love for NABJ is unmatched. This is just devastating to me.”

Henderson was a stalwart for NABJ. He had a passion for journalism, the ministry and issues affecting African Americans.

Our hearts go out to Felecia, Grant, the Detroit NABJ family and the many people who were touched by Angelo and grew to love him over the years.

We will keep members updated when new information becomes available.

My Road to Madiba’s Memorial

December 11, 2013

Johannesburg, South Africa

December 11, 2013

In late August my wife and I scheduled a trip to see her cousin in Windhoek, Namibia. When Nelson Mandela’s health took a turn for the worse a few weeks ago I mentioned to my mentor, Belva Davis, that I might try to cover the story if he died while I was in Southern Africa.

Lois and I flew to Frankfurt on the fourth of December and arrived in Johannesburg on the morning of the sixth. I learned of Mandela’s passing during our layover and did some interviews and filed a report with CBS Radio and KCBS. The network was especially pleased because it had no one in the region.

Before boarding our flight to Windhoek I talked with the network about the possibility of covering the memorial service. The bottom line was, while it wouldn’t pay my travel expenses, it would put me to work if I happened to be in town.

It was an expensive, but easy, decision. I flew back to Johannesburg on Monday and made my way to FNB Stadium Tuesday morning in the steady rain. There were concerns that the weather would prevent people from coming out. That was partially true. More on that later.

With 90 world leaders in attendance I was surprised that there was not more security. There WAS a large police presence but I walked into the stadium without going through any kind of screening.

The first person I met was Sean Pardo. “I think it’s such a great honor to pay our respects and last homage to a great, pious, graceful, gracious and harmonious leader like the father of our nation, Tata Madiba” he said.

He was like many dressed in Mandela t-shirts, carrying the national flag or dressed in color of the African National Congress. Some groups marched into the stadium singing freedom songs. I was inspired. The atmosphere reminded me of Barack Obama’s first inauguration in 2009.

I spent the day interviewing members of the crowd and reporting their comments live for a number of radio stations in the U.S and Canada. I only caught pieces of the speeches but two things from the public announcements stayed with me: one was the huge cheer that went up when the arrival of former South Africa President F. W. deKlerk — who ordered Mandela’s release from prison in 1990 — was announced; the other was the tremendous ovation U.S. President Barack Obama received.

The speeches were long but the rain-soaked crowd didn’t seem to care. The upper decks were full because the lip of the 90,000-seat stadium protected people from the rain. The bottom decks were a sea of umbrellas but the rain was actually a good omen.

“In lots of African cultures and customs rain (at a memorial service) is a symbol that this person was really special,” said Melissa Chavila, who was born in Mali, now lives in South Africa and works as a business researcher and writer. 

“I’ve never seen so much rain in one day in the middle of summer and that, to me, is very symbolic of how significant Madiba was.”

Mandela was indeed significant. It is why so many world leaders came to pay their final respects. Eight of them spoke, including Obama who talked about how he was influenced by Mandela.

“Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land,” the President told the crowd.

“ It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities – to others, and to myself – and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better.”

Chavila said Mandela’s ability to unite, to forgive and his desire for reconciliation will benefit all of Africa and the world.

“That is a very important message especially in this day and what we’ve been going through in this global community,” she said.

I have covered news all over the world but it was a big deal to leave my wife on vacation in Namibia and fly to South Africa to cover this historic event.

As a member of the National Association of Black Journalists – and now as its President  — I have worked tirelessly for jobs, promotions and opportunities for NABJ members. We have often criticized our companies for assigning “us” to cover “Black” stories. Often we don’t get a chance to cover the high-profile beats (see White House press pool) or high-profile stories.

But this is one time I can’t complain too much because of all the NABJ members I greeted at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.

It was great seeing Byron Pitts from ABC, Bill Whitaker from CBS, NBC’s Lester Holt, NPR producer Jonathan Blakely, Al Jazeera America’s Karl Bostic and James Blue from Arise TV.

CBS’ Alphonso Van Marsh was at the Mandela home in Soweto as was CNN’s Errol Barnett, a young man who was very impressive. I was hoping to meet him at the stadium but CNN sent in the big guns, Anderson Cooper and Christiane Amanpour.

This is one of those stories that leave you exhausted but exhilarated. I’m glad I came.

Tips for Young Journalists/Students at the NABJ Convention

July 23, 2013

Each year, hundreds of young people attend their first National Association of Black Journalists Convention and Career Fair.

Many are looking for jobs or internships and this is, by far, the best place to find both. But, in my twenty+ years as a mentor for young people, I’ve seen them make mistakes that can cost them opportunities. This has prompted me to share some things that others (Louise Ritchie) have shared before. Tips 1-9 apply to all students and young journalists. #10 is specific to those interested in working in print or online media. Because the industry has changed, you should be comfortable working in all platforms. You may find yourself writing for the newspaper, taking photos and video and posting to the web. There are tips for aspiring broadcasters but they, too, should be able to work in digital media.

Bob Butler
President, NABJ

RESUMES should be one-page. They should include relevant journalism or communications experience and links to your social media pages or resume reel (you’ll see why in a few). Make sure your name and contact information is in bold at the top of the page.

Cover Letters should also be one page and should quickly tell the reader who you are, what you have accomplished and what you want to do. Since this is a career fair, your cover letter can be general. But, if you are applying for a specific job, your cover letter should explain why you are uniquely qualified for that position.

RESEARCH You can find the list of companies that are recruiting here. Take a few minutes and check these companies’ corporate “career” pages. It helps to know what jobs these companies are trying to fill.


1. Have a positive attitude. You never know if the person to whom you’re complaining about the lousy food is not only the NABJ member who spent hours of free time helping to plan the convention, but also is a recruiter on the lookout for an entry-level hire or intern.

2. Be gregarious. Some good conversation openers include saying things such as, “Have you been to other NABJ conventions?” (A good follow-up to a “yes” could be to ask the person’s advice about how you can get the most out of this one.)

3. APPEARANCE/BEHAVIOR: The type of attention you attract is based on your professional look. Remember that even parties at conventions are professional situations. Have fun, but have fun without telling the intimate secrets of your life or without becoming an intimate secret in someone else’s life! Especially on Saturday night!
MEN: NO SAGGING. T-shirts celebrating booze, sex or drugs, the “n” word, etc., definitely will attract attention but not the kind that will lead to a job or internship. Leave that attire at home. Don’t even wear it to convention parties.
WOMEN: Deep cleavage, mini and micro skirts, T-shirts celebrating booze, sex or drugs etc., definitely will attract attention, but not the kind that will lead to a job or internship. Leave that attire at home. Don’t even wear it to convention parties.

4. Talk to everyone. This includes talking to attendees who may be several decades older than you. Instead of clustering with your classmates at meals, make a point of sitting with people whom you don’t know. Your schoolmates can’t hire you or give you an internship. When you select a seat, walk around the table, shake everyone’s hand and introduce yourself to them.

5. Know that many people — including veteran journalists — are shy (It’s amazing how many journalists are tigers when they’re pursuing stories, but in their personal lives they are quiet and shy!) so are very happy when you take time to reach out to them. Some people who especially may be appreciative are families of attendees and recruiters who are not black and who may not have had previous experience attending a gathering in which they are the racial minority. You also can get some valuable tips and information from such people, including members’ families, who often have lots of inside knowledge about the field and may even have journalism experience, too.

6. Attend the workshops and, when you go, sit up front and be prepared to ask questions. When you ask questions, stand up and say your name and your school or affiliation. Students have been known to get job offers and internship offers by asking thoughtful questions at workshops.

7. Seek out opportunities to get feedback. Ask recruiters and veterans to critique your work. When they do so, don’t argue with them. If you don’t agree with their assessment, then you don’t have to follow their advice. But if you start arguing with them, you will get a reputation as a person who is not interested in learning and that can prevent your obtaining a job or internship. People who are hired as entry-level employees and interns are expected to grow and learn as part of the job. For that reason, many employers will choose a student who is eager to learn over a more experienced student who is a know-it-all.

8. In interviews, make sure that you highlight the excellent things you’ve done in journalism. Explain how you got the reluctant source to talk. Describe how you did a tough story on a tight deadline while you were also editing copy. Don’t wait for the interviewer to directly ask you about these things. The recruiter cannot read your mind. In addition, an interview is not a modesty test. You easily can highlight your strengths by, when you are showing your clips, also telling the story behind your clips. “When my editor assigned me this story, he said that he chose me because I handled deadlines better than the other interns. I got the story at 7 and by 9, my editor had it on his/her desk.”

9. Be prepared for a current events quiz. With news available on your cell phone there is no excuse for not knowing the news of the day.

10. Prepare packets of your resume, cover letter and clips. Put them in separate envelopes to give to recruiters. That way, when the recruiter packs the stacks of resumes and clips s/he has received and piles them into a suitcase, yours won’t become wrinkled. Never give away your last package. Create a file that includes your resume, cover letter and clips and email it to yourself each morning. You can show the recruiter your clips, then email them the file at the end of the interview. (This is a great way to get contact information for potential mentors and hiring managers.)


1. DON’T huddle with your classmates like a sheep. Among the no-nos are sitting only with other students or your friends from school or waiting for your roommate to get up in the morning so that you can go to the convention together. Don’t let them make you late. Your classmates may be your BFF’s but they can’t hire you or give you an internship.

2. DON’T get up and leave if you realize that you’ve sat at a table with veterans or recruiters. Often such people are very happy to meet aspiring young journalists and are really insulted if you jump up and abandon them. This particularly may be true with recruiters who literally are there to connect with potential hires such as you. You’ll be embarrassed if that same person you didn’t want to sit with is the one at the career fair interviewing for the job you want.

3. DON’T be on the prowl for a date.

4. DON’T sit in the back of the room at workshops. The days of back of the bus are long over.

5. DON’T go on the prowl for free drinks and free meals. Well… I’ll amend this to say don’t go on the prowl by yourself. I have not met a journalist yet who will turn down a free drink or food when not working. 🙂

6. DON’T spend your time telling recruiters what you DON’T want to do. The phrase “I don’t want to…” will turn recruiters off. Spend your time telling and showing recruiters what you can do for them.

7. DON’T tell a recruiter that you have no clips/reel because the people in your student media were mean or cliquish. Recruiters know that if you couldn’t make it at your campus media, you definitely aren’t ready for the outside world. While the recruiter may nod his or her head sympathetically, that person is mentally crossing you off their list of good candidates.

8. DON’T decide that the job fair is a waste of time because recruiters say they have no open jobs now or they have no internships available for this summer. Typically, summers are when there is turnover on jobs, so recruiters are now taking applications for openings that are expected later. If you blow off the interview or stop interviewing, what can happen is that when the jobs open up, your name isn’t in the pool. Even if you’re looking for an internship this fall, it can be important to interview because most internships may already be filled, but often there are last-minute openings, and the students whom the recruiters know are available are the ones contacted.

9. DON’T run around loudly telling your friends and associates how “mean” certain recruiters were. This is a small business. The new friend whom you’re sharing this information with may end up being the recruiter’s spouse or best friend.

10. Don’t use an email address that is inappropriate. or bigboy24@yahoo may have been cute in high school but they are not professional.

11. Clean up your social media pages. Potential employers check those… closely. When someone asks me to mentor them, the first thing I do is Google them and see what’s on their FB page. If your page is dedicated to partying or getting blasted, I won’t be calling.

–Louise Ritchie/Bob Butler


— Bring PLENTY of resumes and business cards. Make sure your resume is ONE PAGE and includes links to your social media pages and your resume reel. The employer doesn’t need to know all the details of every job you’ve had. If it’s not related to journalism just put down what it was. Example: Taco Bell, June 2002 to September 2003. Oh, and make sure your name is in LARGE TYPE AND BOLD FACE. When I’m trying to find your resume, I may not look too hard. So make it easy for me to find you.

— Reporter Resume Reel: Your first job will 95% be as a “one man band” reporter. You will be shooting and editing your own packages. Start your resume reel with two stand-ups and two walk-and-talks then go directly to your first package, preferably from something on your montage. Shoot your stand-ups yourself, if at all possible. When I see a standup where the camera is zooming and/or panning, it tells me you did not shoot that yourself. I want to see what I can expect if I send you out to do a story. Also, put your slate at the end and drop the bells and whistles. If I’m interested in you, I don’t want to wait through a heavily produced slate to see or hear you.

PRODUCERS: Your reel should be the first three blocks of your show, including the open, teases and transitions. Telescope the spot breaks (if you have them) or live shots.

REPORTERS/PRODUCERS: Load your reel on Youtube’s “unlisted” channel. Type the url on your resume and bring 50 copies to the convention. Email that document to yourself each morning so it stays near the top of the email on your phone.

REPORTERS/PRODUCERS: I have often told people to make DVD’s of your reel to hand out to hiring managers. But most managers I know would rather view your reel online. So I now encourage you to bring a couple of dvd’s or put your reel on a flash drive for viewing. You can also show the recruiter your reel from your laptop. Read on for a much better option.

SMART PHONES: Before you head out to the career fair, email your resume and link to yourself. Save the document on your phone if you can. Ask for the recruiter’s email address and forward it to them on the spot. This is a good way to get contact information for potential mentors and/or hiring managers.

REPORTERS: Be realistic when lining up at the network (ABC, CBS, ESPN, etc) booths. Their recruiters can offer great advice but their stations are generally located in top 50 markets where they won’t consider hiring you until you have at least 5 years paid experience. Consider companies that have stations located in DMA 100-210. For example Lin Media has 50 stations, 7 of them are located in markets 109 – 189, where you can be hired right out of college. Also Raycom Media operates 53 television stations in 36 markets and 18 states. More than a dozen are located in DMA 100+. Both companies, as well as Time Warner Cable will be recruiting in the career fair.

Collect business cards. After each encounter take minute and write some notes on the back of the card. Example: “Tall brother with a blue suit, and red tie” or “lady with really pretty earrings. She said they had an opening in Fort Wayne” or “He liked my tape but said I need to slow my delivery.” When you get home (or see ‘Smart Phone’) send an email thanking them for talking to you, maybe comment on the tie or the earrings. And attach your resume. They’ll probably see a hundred people. It’s not uncommon for resumes to be misplaced. You’re ahead of the game because the link to your work is already there.

Don’t rule out working as a producer. One news director told me, “I can shake a tree and 12 reporters and anchors will fall out. But a good producer is hard to find.” These jobs lead you into newsroom management, where the real power and control lie. And don’t be surprised if, while you’re waiting in line at the network booth, producer candidates go to the front. There is a critical shortage of people of color who want to be producers.

Newtown Shooting Reaction

December 14, 2012

This has got to stop.

When I heard about the shooting at the school in Connecticut it hit me like a punch in the solar plexus. It brought me back to one of the few times this job as a journalist brought me to tears.

It was January 17, 1989. A man named Patrick Purdy had opened fire with an assault rifle on children at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California.

After shooting more than 100 rounds, five students lay dead, another 29 students and a teacher were wounded and Purdy shot himself in the head.

I was working on the editor’s desk at KCBS that day. We sent reporter Diane Kalas to the scene and she went on the air to describe children at recess having to run for their lives as Purdy sprayed gunfire at them.

She had a sound bite of an eight-year old student saying her best friend was shot down as they ran for safety.

At the time my son was 8-years-old. I was talking to Diane after her live shot and she explained the little girl has said she could hear her friend saying, “ouch, ouch,” before she went quiet. She decided not to use that sound in her report because it was so graphic.

I began to think about my own son and, at that point I lost it. I couldn’t bear the thought of my son being the victim of such violence.

As journalists we all have to ignore these tragedies in order to cover them. But there is no way to ignore senseless violence when it targets innocent children.

You can’t blame today’s shooting on guns, the NRA, the Democrats or the Republicans. They didn’t do this.

This was, again, the action of a sick person named Adam Lanza. He joins an infamous group that includes James Holmes, Patrick Purdy, Jared Lee Loughner or Seung-Hui Cho.

The real tragedy is that this will probably not be the last time this happens. And we’ll shake our heads and cover the story.

This has got to stop.


SAG-AFTRA: A Better Future for All

February 5, 2012


Now that the boards of SAG and AFTRA have approved the merger agreement, the future of our unions is in our — the members — hands.

I was an alternate on the G-1, the group for one union that crafted the merger agreement, the constitution and the governance and dues structures.

Think of the G-1 as the inner circle that actually voted. The alternates sat in the outer ring, but were members of the various working groups. Many of us ended up at the G-1 table, especially at the end of the 9-day meeting in Los Angeles early in the morning of January 16th.

Since then many people have asked if voting yes will guarantee them more work, better wages and improved working conditions.

As you may know I am a reporter. Those questions about guarantees reminded me of a story I recently wrote in New Orleans about what happened to some homeowners after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

I had met Kisa Holmes, who had bought her home 6 weeks before Katrina and never made her first mortgage payment before she, her husband and five children were flooded out ( Her bank convinced her to use her insurance money to pay off the mortgage. Bureaucratic red tape prevented her from ever getting her house fixed and the family has basically been homeless since.

The house was demolished right before Christmas. (

Holmes had fought so many battles trying to get back home that she was reluctant to recount the emotional pain of the previous six years.

I told her I could not guarantee that telling her story would help but I could guarantee NOTHING would change if she did not allow me to explain what happened. Telling her story would at least give her a chance at changing her circumstances.

In the end the story was published and the founder of the St. Bernard Project (, a non-profit organization that repairs hurricane-damaged homes, read it.  The project is now working with Kisa Holmes to either build a new house or move her into another house that the organization has repaired.

The same can be said for members of SAG and AFTRA only this is a lot better than taking a chance.

In 2003 we were told that the industry would continue to consolidate and it would be tougher for actors, broadcasters, singers, dancers and recording artists to achieve fair contracts.

Does anyone working today care to dispute that?

Together we can use our collective might and talents to make it easier to make a living.

One union of 150,000 members could negotiate better health plan rates than two separate organizations.

Voting yes gives us makes it easier to get more work, better wages and improved working conditions.

Voting no guarantees that things will remain the same: producers will try and play one union off against the other and many actors will continue to struggle to qualify for health benefits and pension credits. 



Bob Butler is a reporter at KCBS radio in San Francisco, a freelance investigative reporter, a vice president on the AFTRA national board and AFTRA’s national EEO committee chair.


Chauncey Bailey Suspects Get Life With No Parole

August 26, 2011

Oakland, CA — Both defendants charged in the murders of journalist Chauncey Bailey and two other men were sentenced to life without parole. Yusuf Bey IV, the former CEO of Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland, was given 3 consecutive life sentences for ordering the murders of Chauncey Bailey, Michael Wills and Odell Roberson. Co- defendant Antoine Mackey was sentenced to two consecutive terms of life without parole.

Robin Hardin-Bailey, the journalist’s ex-wife, addressed the court — and the defendants.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think Chauncey’s life would end because of a story.

Bailey was working on a story about financial problems at the bakery, once a prominent African-American institution started in the early 70’s as an example of black self-sufficiency. Its policies were consistent with the Nation of Islam in that it was one of the only places that would hire ex-convicts.

The bakery fell on hard times after the patriarch, Yusuf Bey, Sr, died in 2003.

Violence took the lives of the elder Bey’s next two successors.

Waajid Aljawaad Bey, the man picked by the elder Bey to run the bakery, disappeared in February 2004. His body was found in a shallow grave in the Oakland hills several months later.

Bey IV’s older brother, Antar Bey, took over the bakery and took out $700,000 loan but regular payments were not made. He was killed in a failed carjacking in November 2005, leaving the bakery in the hands of then-19-year old Yusuf Bey IV.

One of Bey IV’s first acts was to lead a group of bakery employees and associates on a vandalism spree at two Oakland liquor stores. A shotgun was stolen from one of the stores.

The bakery fell into chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2006. Yusuf Bey IV was trying to keep the bankruptcy court from converting the chapter 11 to a chapter 7 liquidation when he learned Bailey was writing the story.

The man who actually killed Bailey, Devaughndre Broussard, testified that Bey told him he wanted Bailey killed before the story ran. Broussard pleaded guilty to killing Bailey and Roberson and was sentenced to 25-years in prison in exchange for his testimony.

Bailey was killed on the morning of August 2, 2007 with the same shotgun that was stolen from the liquor store.

Hardin-Bailey addressed Bey IV directly and drew a parallel between Bey’s father and Bailey.

“From what I understand you started good. You father wanted to do something good for the community,” she said. “That was Chauncey.”

Robin Haugen, the mother of victim Michael Wills, expressed frustration that Mackey and Bey IV were not charged with a hate crime.

“It was a hate or racist crime. I can’t imagine what Michael’s thoughts were… especially when he realized that this short walk would become a run for his life.”

Wills had walked to the store to buy cigarettes when he was spotted by Bey and Mackey.

Broussard testified that Mackey told him he “got a white devil.”

During sentencing Alameda County Superior Court judge Thomas Reardon cited the racial, hate crime motivating factor to justify making the sentences run consecutively.

Roberson was killed because his nephew was convicted of killing Antar in the failed carjacking.

Bailey’s ex-wife, Robin Hardin-Bailey, ended her statement by saying she forgave the defendants.

“I forgive you and the Chauncey Bailey I knew, the Chauncey Bailey who came here to right the wrongs, to tell the stories of people who had no voice,” I believe he would forgive you too.”

Bey IV’s had his attorney read a statement in which he said he was innocent.

“I do apologize to my family and the families of the victims for not making wiser decisions and allowing this to have occurred on my watch,” he wrote.

“I will not rest until I find out those who are truly responsible for setting this operation up. For years there have been elements out there trying to destroy the institution of Your Black Muslim Bakery and, though they have been successful temporarily, I know and believe that truth and righteousness always triumphs in the end.”

Attorneys for both Bey IV and Mackey plan to appeal.

Alameda County deputy district attorney Melissa Krum called the sentence, “absolutely and positively justice in it’s ultimate. There could not have been a more maximum sentence unless we had sought the death penalty.”