The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) issues its 2017 Thumbs Down Award to FOX News and Ebony magazine today.
The Thumbs Down Award is presented annually to an individual or organization for especially insensitive, racist or stereotypical reporting, commentary, photography or cartoon about the black community or for engaging in practices at odds with the goals of the National Association of Black Journalists.
“We take this award very seriously,” said NABJ President Sarah Glover. “It is our hope that the recipients would re-evaluate their policies and procedures to ensure that they are following the highest journalistic and ethical standards.”
FOX News was selected for numerous reasons. In addition to lawsuits accusing the cable news network of “abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination,” there have also been allegations of sexual harassment. Additionally, the lack of diversity in key positions, is a major concern for NABJ.
“It seems FOX has allowed a very unhealthy environment to fester,” said NABJ Vice President of Broadcast Dorothy Tucker. “There has to be a level of accountability and it starts at the top. Management has to do better.”
Co-recipient Ebony magazine, under its new owners Clear View Group, has made headlines this year because of staff cuts; the relocation of its headquarters from its founding base in Chicago to Los Angeles; and, its very public and sometimes offensive responses to reports of late or non-payment for work already performed by staff or freelance journalists.
“Many of the decisions being made by Ebony’s new owners seem counter to the vision of founder John H. Johnson,” said NABJ Vice President of Print Marlon A. Walker. “Ebony and its sister publication Jet are near and dear to us. To hear writers whose words bring us much joy aren’t being paid for those words is sad, unconscionable, unacceptable.
“Johnson is probably rolling over in his grave.”
FOX News must address its work culture and diversity at all levels of employment, including management positions, and the owners of Ebony magazine must resolve its pay issues with freelancers immediately and work to rebuild its image after several alarming missteps.