April 1, 2023

Media Decoder Blog: Magazine Cover Draws Claims of Racism

A Bloomberg Businessweek magazine cover published Feb. 25 about the housing rebound in the United States — featuring cartoonish minorities holding fistfuls of money — has drawn intense criticism from readers and media critics, some of whom have described the cover as racist.

The Feb. 25 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek.The Feb. 25 issue of Bloomberg Businessweek. Enlarge Image »

“Our cover illustration last week got strong reactions, which we regret,” Josh Tyrangiel, the magazine’s editor, said in a statement on Thursday. “Our intention was not to incite or offend. If we had to do it over again we’d do it differently.”

But his statement came too late to head off pointed criticism online. Some posts on Twitter called it a “non-apology,” and by Thursday afternoon, a handful of people had signed an online petition urging the company to pull the cover. (A new issue, however, is already on newsstands.)

Matthew Yglesias, a business correspondent at Slate, prompted much of the online commentary after questioning the cover in a post on the Web site Thursday morning. While praising the publication for being “a genuinely great magazine that does an amazing job of making business and economics news accessible and interesting,” he said Bloomberg Businessweek “ought to be ashamed” for its cover choice.

Ryan Chittum, at the Columbia Journalism Review, said the cover was “clearly a mistake” because of “its cast of black and Hispanic caricatures with exaggerated features reminiscent of early 20th-century race cartoons.” What made it even more offensive, Mr. Chittum wrote, “is the fact that race has been a key backdrop to the subprime crisis.”

In a statement, Andres Guzman, the illustrator who created the cover, said, “The assignment was an illustration about housing. I simply drew the family like that because those are the kind of families I know. I am Latino and grew up around plenty of mixed families.” According to Mr. Guzman’s Tumblr page, he was born in Lima, Peru and lives in Minneapolis.

In an interview, Hugo Balta, the president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said the cover “continues to speak to the insensitivity of how minorities, and in this case Latinos, are being portrayed in media.”

“I think it oversimplifies an issue that obviously has tremendous financial impact to the country, and it also puts a face to a community that is too often vulnerable to those types of attacks,” Mr. Balta said. “If we go with the old saying that a picture is worth a thousands words, the message in this picture is that it’s the minority’s fault.”

Mr. Balta said he planned to contact Bloomberg Businessweek to discuss the issue.

Gregory Lee Jr., the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said in a statement, “The image that was published by Bloomberg Businessweek is just a microcosm of a bigger problem in the magazine industry — the lack of diversity.”

“The last presidential election demonstrated that our nation’s demographics are changing rapidly and it is essential that media companies should make the appropriate changes to welcome diversity in their newsrooms, specifically in managerial positions,” Mr. Lee said.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/28/magazine-cover-draws-claims-of-racism/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Media Decoder Blog: Oxygen Drops Plans for ‘All My Babies’ Mamas’

The cable channel Oxygen has scrapped a show in development called “All My Babies’ Mamas” after the promotion of an online petition that condemned the channel, accusing it of exploiting and stereotyping black children and families.

“As part of our development process, we have reviewed casting and decided not to move forward with the special,” the channel said in a statement.

Sabrina Lamb, an author who started the petition against the show last month, said she was pleased that Oxygen “has heard the outrage of over 37,000 consumers and shareholders who said, ‘enough is enough.’”

The show idea, with the working title of “All My Babies’ Mamas,” was announced by Oxygen in late December. The channel said the show would be a one-hour special, not a regular series — though channels routinely use specials as a way to decide whether to order a series.

“All My Babies’ Mamas” was scheduled to have its premiere in the spring, but it was “cast-contingent,” meaning it would go ahead only if the talent — in this case, the father, the mothers and the children — were on board.

Then a Web site belonging to the production company behind the special, DiGa Vision, was broken into. A pitch reel soon popped up on YouTube that previewed how DiGa had sold the special to Oxygen: with video clips of the rapper Shawty Lo and his 11 children born to 10 women. A graphic read, “1 man, 10 baby mamas, 11 kids. Oh, and a new girlfriend … who is the same age as his oldest kids.”

Other families were considered for the special, as well. But the production company’s cameras had interviewed Shawty Lo, whose name is Carlos Walker, and his girlfriends and had even been present on Father’s Day last year.

The video clips disgusted Ms. Lamb, who rallied a number of activists and black commentators to support her petition on Change.org. It called for Oxygen to cancel the show and threatened an advertiser boycott. “With your voice,” the petition read, “this ugliness will not see international airwaves.”

Oxygen and the producers, meanwhile, were still considering who, if anyone, to cast for the show — a process that was sped up by the online uproar.

An Oxygen spokeswoman declined to comment on what specific effect the petition had on the decision-making. But the petition had 37,000 signatures by Tuesday morning, when copies of it were delivered to Oxygen in New York and its parent company, Comcast, in Philadelphia.

On Tuesday afternoon, Oxygen confirmed rumors that the special was not going to be produced, after all.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/16/oxygen-drops-plans-for-all-my-babies-mamas/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Fixing a Credit Card Snafu for Stay-at-Home Spouses

More than a year ago, I wrote a Bucks post about a provision of the Credit CARD Act of 2009, which was created to protect consumers but also ended up restricting access to credit for stay-at-home wives and husbands.

Now, the Consumer Federal Protection Bureau plans to propose a new rule to fix that defect, and allow credit card issuers to consider household income on applications from nonworking spouses, according to testimony by bureau head Richard Cordray before a Congressional committee last month.

The law was passed in part to prevent students and young adults from getting into trouble with credit card debt, but it ended up backfiring in its impact on spouses who don’t work outside the home.  In completing the law’s details after it was enacted, the Federal Reserve had said that credit card companies must consider “individual” income, not “household” income, on credit applications. That meant that in most situations, working spouse couldn’t obtain credit based on their husband’s or wife’s income, as they could previously. (There were no specific allowances for same-sex couples, and I’m seeking clarification on where they stand now and where they would stand once the Bureau intervenes.)

The Fed, in a somewhat outdated view of who stays home with the children these days, had said it believed “married women who do not work outside the home” would still have access to credit because they could apply for joint accounts with their husbands, or become authorized users on their husband’s accounts. The move was necessary, the Fed said, to make sure the person holding the card can actually pay the bill.

But some consumers — including one who started an online petition — vehemently disagreed. So did members of Congress, who asked Mr. Cordray to fix the problem.

Mr. Cordray, in testimony before the House committee, said his agency had determined over the summer that the restriction of credit to stay-at-home spouses was “clearly an unintended consequence” of the CARD Act and was creating a significant problem that must be addressed. He said his agency would propose a fix sometime this month.

Do you think considering household income for nonworking spouses who apply for credit makes sense?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/10/02/fixing-a-credit-card-snafu-for-stay-at-home-spouses/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Delta Cracks Down on Mileage Tracking Sites

Associated Press

Delta Air Lines is the latest big carrier to crack down on start-up Web sites that aim to help travelers manage their frequent flier miles from multiple airlines.

Travelers provide their user names and passwords for their airline mileage programs (and other loyalty programs, like those offered by hotels). The Web sites use them to obtain balances and mileage expiration dates, so the travelers can see all this information in one place. The sites can also help users figure out when to pay cash for a ticket, and when it makes sense to use miles.

Back in April, the Your Money columnist Ron Lieber wrote about American Airlines and Southwest’s efforts to block several such sites, including MileWise, from gaining access to information from the airlines’ Web sites.

Now, MileWise executives say their site has stopped offering access to information to users’ accounts at Delta, after the airline last month sent the site a “cease and desist” letter.

Another site, AwardWallet, has also stopped serving Delta fliers after it got a letter from Delta’s lawyers. AwardWallet’s co-founder and chief technology officer, Alexi Vereschaga, said the site could address Delta’s concerns by using different methods to get access to customer information, but it has not been able to talk to the airline — even though some 70,000 Delta frequent fliers, including 10,000 elite Medallion members, used the site. An online petition has been started to ask Delta to reconsider its decision.

Sanjay Kothari, MileWise’s chief executive, said the site complied with Delta’s demand because it did not have the financial resources for a legal fight, and because the site held out hope of working out an arrangement with Delta. MileWise would like to talk with Delta officials so it can address the airline’s concerns, he said, but so far it has not been able to do so.

“We have complied with their request,” he said, “but we’re hoping to speak with them and have a business conversation.”

A Delta spokesman, Paul Skrbec, said in an e-mail, “While we understand some customers have become accustomed to using tools like AwardWallet, we do not have a contractual relationship with them.” He added, “The use of information from delta.com was unauthorized and employed automated screen scraping techniques that we don’t allow.”

He said that the Fly Delta app “has been consistently rated highly by our customers and we plan to continue offering highly usable information for their travel experience.”

Mr. Kothari said airlines had said they were concerned that “screen scraping” — in which access to customer information on the airlines’ Web sites is obtained automatically — might impair the performance of the airlines’ own Web sites.  That could potentially be true, he said, if the volume of accounts to which access was being gained was large — say, in the millions.  But he said technology was available that the airlines could employ to counteract any slowdown that might occur.

Have you used one of the mileage tracking Web sites? Do you find that they offer information you cannot find on the airlines’ sites?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/09/19/delta-cracks-down-on-mileage-tracking-sites/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Common Sense: A Voice Suggests Door-Busters Can Wait a Day

Anthony Hardwick never thought of himself as an activist or even much of an organizer. He grew up in Kansas City, Mo., graduated from Park University in Missouri in 2009, and looked for a job by scouring the Internet for cities with low unemployment rates. He settled on Omaha, where he found two — as a shopping cart attendant at Target and a printing supervisor for OfficeMax. There he met his fiancée, Denise Holling.

“Basically, I just wanted to pursue the American Dream,” Mr. Hardwick told me this week, as the bearded, burly 29-year-old emerged as the unlikely hero of a nationwide movement to roll back the start of the holiday shopping season to the day after Thanksgiving.

Late last month, Mr. Hardwick’s supervisor at Target told him he would be needed at 11 p.m. Thanksgiving night in order for Target to open its doors at midnight for Black Friday, which the discount retailer was doing for the first time this year.

“I’d have to be at Target from 11 p.m. until 4:30 a.m., then I’d have 30 minutes to scurry down to OfficeMax, where I was starting at 5 a.m.,” he said. Mr. Hardwick makes $8.50 an hour at Target, and between his two jobs earns about $25,000 a year. “I used to be able to pull 24-hour shifts,” he said. “I’d drink Red Bull. But now I’m 29, and I’m starting to feel it. I’d have to nap.”

This didn’t sit well with Mr. Hardwick, who figured he’d be sleeping while his fiancée and future in-laws gathered for the traditional turkey dinner. Although a Target spokeswoman told me the company did its best to accommodate employees who wanted the day off, this often isn’t possible, and Mr. Hardwick said he wasn’t given the option. Mr. Hardwick turned to the Internet and discovered the Web site Change.org, best known for a recent online petition to get banks to roll back debit card fees.

“A midnight opening robs the hourly and in-store salary workers of time off with their families on Thanksgiving Day,” he posted on Nov. 3. “A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation — all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!” He asked the Web site’s visitors to join him in calling for Target retail stores to restore the 5 a.m. opening time on Black Friday.

But a “full holiday with family” has become increasingly elusive as competition from 24/7, 365-days-a-year Internet shopping has caused retailers to throw open their doors on a day once sacrosanct “as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens,” as Abraham Lincoln put it when he established the national holiday in 1863.

Franklin Roosevelt moved the holiday to the fourth Thursday in November (from the last Thursday) in an overt attempt to lengthen the holiday shopping season and bolster retail sales during the Depression. And the holiday’s demise as a no-shopping interlude is the culmination of a steady retreat from pervasive blue laws that once banned shopping not only on Thanksgiving and other major holidays but also on Sundays. Today Massachusetts and Rhode Island are the last states to restrict shopping on Thanksgiving, and Paramus, N.J., the site of several major malls, may be unique in banning shopping on Thanksgiving and Sundays.

“The blue laws began in Massachusetts with the Pilgrims, so I guess it’s fitting that we still have them,” Jon B. Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, said. “Christmas is sacrosanct. But there’s been a bill proposed to permit shopping on Thanksgiving. It hasn’t moved. We endorse it every year, but do I have members beating down my door to push this? No.”

Among national retailers, Target is hardly the worst offender. Although some Target stores are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving before reopening at midnight, Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, has been open all day on Thanksgiving for years, and this year moved up its Black Friday door-buster specials to 10 p.m. Thursday. K-Mart and many Gap and Old Navy stores are also open all day, and a wave of stores, including Macy’s and Best Buy, opened this year at midnight on Friday with special holiday promotions. Some retailers are now talking about “Black Thanksgiving.”

 “For many people Black Friday shopping is now as much a part of the holiday tradition as the turkey,” the Target spokeswoman said. “Black Friday has an exciting, euphoric feeling. A lot of our team members get very excited. Months of hard work have gone into preparing for this.” She said Target moved up its store openings to midnight only after much deliberation, and the move had been “overwhelmingly popular” with both customers and employees.

Mr. Hardwick said he was aware of all this, and had modest expectations for his petition. “I promoted it on Facebook and figured I’d sign up some friends and family,” he said. “At first it just sat there.” But gradually comments piled up on the Change.org Web site.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3947af7d1019955a945d4a7531fc1789