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In Emotional Valediction, First Lady Praises America’s ‘Glorious’ Diversity

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – First lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned case for embracing diversity and welcoming all religious groups on Friday in a not-so-veiled message to her husband’s successor two weeks ahead of Inauguration Day.

In what was billed as her last formal speech before President Barack Obama leaves office, the first lady said at an event honoring high school counselors that the United States belonged to people from all backgrounds and walks of life.

“Our glorious diversity – our diversities of faiths and colors and creeds – that is not a threat to who we are, it makes us who we are,” she said.

The remarks were reminiscent of her vigorous campaign speeches in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election. President-elect Donald Trump has proposed building a wall along the border of Mexico and temporarily banning Muslims from entering the country.

“If you or your parents are immigrants, know that you are part of a proud American tradition: the infusion of new cultures, talents and ideas, generation after generation, that has made us the greatest country on earth,” Mrs. Obama said.

“If you are a person of faith, know that religious diversity is a great American tradition, too … And whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh – these religions are teaching our young people about justice and compassion and honesty.”

Mrs. Obama gave a series of high profile speeches at campaign events for Clinton last year and made clear her disapproval of Trump for questioning President Obama’s citizenship and for the New York businessman’s treatment of women after a recording was released in which he bragged about groping women.

Trump was a leader of the so-called birther movement that questioned whether President Obama, who was born in Hawaii, had been born in the United States.

Mrs. Obama has kept a lower public profile since the election.

Choking up on Friday, she said being first lady had been the greatest honor of her life.

“So that’s my final message to young people as first lady. It is simple. I want our young people to know that they matter, that they belong,” she said. “Lead by example with hope, never fear. And know that I will be with you, rooting for you and working to support you for the rest of my life.”

(Reporting by Jeff Mason, editing by G Crosse)

Trump’s Efforts To Influence Debate Moderator Selection Seem To Have Paid Off

Published with permission from Media Matters for America.

Donald Trump’s accusations of media bias seem to have paid off as the Commission on Presidential Debates moderator selections for the 2016 presidential debates will include a moderator from Fox News for the first time, but will notably lack Latino representation. Trump had previously warned that he would object to moderators that he considered unfair, and given the selections, it seems that the Republican presidential nominee got his way.

CNN reported on September 2 that the commission has chosen NBC’s Lester Holt, ABC’s Martha Raddatz, CNN’s Anderson Cooper and Fox News’ Chris Wallace to be moderators in the three presidential debates, while CBS News’ Elaine Quijano will moderate the debate between vice presidential candidates.

It was previously reported that the commission was struggling to select moderators who wouldn’t be subjected to accusations of bias, a particular problem this election due to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s “aggressive attacks on the media and complaints about unfair treatment.” According to CNN’s Dylan Byers:

The delay is due in part to an unprecedented challenge the bipartisan Commission faces in selecting individuals who are immune (or at least as immune as possible) to accusations of bias. While that is always a concern for the Commission, the sources said it is more challenging than ever this time around due to one factor: Donald Trump.

The last thing the Commission wants is for the moderator to become part of the story about a debate. Yet Trump’s aggressive attacks on the media and complaints about unfair treatment have effectively guaranteed that the moderators will come under scrutiny from conservatives.

This has made the Commission even more cautious than usual in researching potential moderators, sources said. The Commission fears that Trump would use even the slightest whiff of a pro-Clinton bias to attack a moderator and undermine his or her credibility.

With the commission taking into account Trump’s previously levied attacks, it’s not surprising that the commission didn’t include a Latino journalist in their selection of presidential debate moderators. After all, the candidate is on record saying he believes people with Hispanic heritage might not be objective when dealing with him because he has promised to build a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

The exclusion of a Hispanic moderator comes as a loss for audiences who could’ve gotten the added perspective of someone with unique understanding of the second largest demographic in the country, a value Telemundo’s Maria Celeste Arrarás displayed when moderating the February 25 Republican presidential primary debate. Arrarás pressed the candidates on the nuances of issues that Latinos care most about, spotlighting the value of newsroom diversity.

Trump had also previously hinted at who he thought would be acceptable and unacceptable as debate moderators, noting “he would ‘object to moderators who he considered to be ‘unfair.’” While discussing possible debate moderators Trump claimed that “certain moderators would be unacceptable,” while also noting that NBC’s Lester Holt, who the commission chose, “is a good guy.” .

Another area in which it appears Trump got his way is the commission’s choice of Fox News’ Chris Wallace, marking the first time someone from Fox News had moderated a presidential debate and who some have argued presents a “massive conflict” of interest. Until recently, Wallace reported to Roger Ailes, the oustedhead of Fox News, who is a close adviser to Trump and is reportedly helping him with debate preparation. Wallace “has been fiercely loyal to Ailes,” publicly defending him amid the sexual harassment allegations that led to his resignation, and his Sunday show has received praise from Trump himself.

With the choice to include Wallace and to exclude Latinos, it seems like the commission let Trump dictate the conditions for the debates.

Emmy Nods Reflect Push For Diversity On TV

By Scott Collins, Los Angeles Times (TNS)

LOS ANGELES — There won’t be any need for an #EmmysSoWhite hashtag.

The 67th Emmy Awards nominations announced Thursday underscored TV’s push into diversity over the last year, with nods for minority lead actors such as Viola Davis in “How to Get Away With Murder,” Taraji P. Henson in “Empire” and Anthony Anderson in the comedy “black-ish.” A win by Davis or Henson would be the first for an African-American actress in the dramatic category. And Amazon’s “Transparent” was nominated for best comedy — an Emmy first for a show with a transgender protagonist.

In this arena, as in so many others, TV is simply reflecting the times, veterans say.

“I don’t like to say ‘diversity’ in 2015,” said John Ridley, creator of ABC’s murder mystery “American Crime,” which was developed in the wake of the Trayvon Martin killing and received 10 nominations. “I like to say ‘reality.’ Look at the stories around us … these are different types of shows, different types of perspectives.”

Even so, the nominations didn’t represent quite the coup that some observers were expecting. “Empire,” a soap opera set in the hip-hop world that turned into a major hit for Fox, had to settle for just three nominations, including Henson’s scene-stealing turn as Cookie. That was a long way from the 24 nods for HBO’s fantasy epic “Game of Thrones,” the most-nominated program of this year’s pack.

There was no mention of Terrence Howard, who plays the tortured patriarch on “Empire” — in fact, the lead dramatic actor category was entirely white, featuring repeat nominees Kyle Chandler, Jon Hamm and Kevin Spacey. And no major nods went to “Jane the Virgin” or “Fresh Off the Boat,” two other much-talked-about series that featured Latina and Asian-American lead characters respectively.

Even so, the balance generally on display throughout the roster still provided an illuminating counterpoint to, say, the Academy Awards, where the monochromatic nature of the nominees this year led to a #OscarsSoWhite hashtag. No black, Latino or Asian-American actors were nominated at the Oscars.

“Film needs to take a leaf out of the TV book especially with diversity and women starring, directing and producing,” said the British-born actor David Oyelowo, nominated for his work in the HBO movie “Nightingale.” “There is a far more representative view of what it is to be in America from TV” than from film.

After years of tokenism — minority actors traditionally relegated to “buddy” roles in shows created by and aimed at white people — television is embracing diversity amid a larger creative renaissance. Part of the reason is financial, at least for broadcasters. As affluent whites have abandoned free TV for premium outlets such as HBO and Showtime, programmers have reaped the benefits of creating shows, such as “Empire,” that reveal other sides to culture.

Much of the attention leading up to the awards will likely focus on the dramatic actress category. An African-American has never won in that category; the first to even get a nod was Debbie Allen, for “Fame” in 1982. Between Cicely Tyson’s nomination for “Sweet Justice” in 1995 and Kerry Washington’s first nod for “Scandal” in 2013, nearly two decades went by without a black actress getting a nomination.

A historic win for Washington was widely expected in 2013 and 2014, but she was edged out first by Claire Danes from Showtime’s “Homeland,” then by Julianna Margulies from CBS’ “The Good Wife.” (Margulies was not nominated this year.)

The sense of TV as a medium now embracing multiple cultures and identities has been growing for a while. Last year, “Orange Is the New Black,” Netflix’s drama that reinvented the cliched and exploitative girls-in-prison genre with biting wit and a famously diverse cast, received eight nominations, eventually winning three Emmys. (This year, after moving from comedy to drama categories because of a rule change, it’s back with four nods.)

Among the most-nominated programs was HBO’s movie “Bessie,” a biopic of the blues pioneer Bessie Smith that earned 12 nods, including one for star Queen Latifah.

Some of the nominees say that there’s no going back.

“Audiences are demanding new stories,” said veteran character actor Andre Braugher, nominated for his work on the Fox comedy “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

TV is “always going to be less representative than the general population,” he added. “It moves at a glacial pace. But it continues to move.”

(Times staff writers Meredith Blake, Tre’Vell Anderson, Yvonne Villarreal and Steve Zeitchik contributed to this report.)

Photo: Anthony Anderson, right, who plays a father in ABC’s “black-ish,” is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series. After years of criticism that the award show focused too much on white shows and actors, this year’s crop is notable for its racial diversity. (Bob D’Amico/ABC/TNS)

Adrianne Wadewitz, Scholar Who Helped Diversify Wikipedia, Dies At 37

By Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — When Adrianne Wadewitz became a Wikipedia contributor 10 years ago she decided to use a pseudonym, certain that fellow scholars at Indiana University would frown on writing for the often-maligned “free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.”

But Wadewitz eventually came out as a Wikipedian, the term the encyclopedia uses to describe the tens of thousands of volunteers who write and edit its pages. A rarity as a woman in the male-centric Wikipedia universe, she became one of its most valued and prolific contributors as well as a force for diversifying its ranks and demystifying its inner workings.

Her goal was “empowering everyday Internet users to be critical of how information is produced on the Internet and move beyond being critical to making it better,” said Alexandra Juhasz, a Pitzer College professor of media studies who worked with Wadewitz to address gender bias in Wikipedia.

Wadewitz, who trained scores of people, particularly women, to participate in Wikipedia as editors, died April 8 in Palm Springs, California, 10 days after sustaining head injuries in a fall while rock climbing in Joshua Tree National Park, said her partner Peter B. James. She was 37.

A postdoctoral fellow at Occidental College’s Center for Digital Learning and Research, Wadewitz worked with faculty and students to use technology and the Internet effectively in the classroom. As a campus ambassador for Wikipedia, she also tackled widespread skepticism about the online source’s trustworthiness and biases.

An expert on 18th-century English literature, she merged her interests in Wikipedia, where she wrote articles on famous writers like Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft and pioneering female rock climbers like Steph Davis and Lynn Hill.

Legendary in the Wikipedia world, Wadewitz had more than 50,000 “edits” or contributions to her credit. She also was the author of 36 “featured” articles, the highest distinction bestowed by other Wikipedians based on accuracy, fairness, style and comprehensiveness.

“She was one of the top 10 editors in terms of producing a lot of high-quality content,” said Sue Gardner, executive director of Wikimedia Foundation, the San Francisco-based nonprofit that operates Wikipedia. “Wikipedia is full of brilliant, talented people. She really stood out.”

Wadewitz did not fit the profile of the typical Wikipedia editor. According to a 2011 Wikimedia Foundation survey, only 9 percent of more than 100,000 Wikipedians are women, and of those, 22 percent reported that editing for Wikipedia was “an unpleasant experience.”

When Wadewitz emerged from behind her moniker (she initially identified herself as “Awadewit”) she was greeted by a range of responses from other Wikipedians that spurred her to think about the website’s gender gap.

“When I used my real name, all of a sudden there was a lot of commentary,” she told a Scripps College audience earlier this year. “‘Oh, you’re a woman’ or ‘You can’t really be a woman’ or ‘You don’t write like a woman.’ Or all of a sudden my arguments were not taken as seriously or were judged as hysterical or emotional. … So I got much more interested in why this was happening.”

She began to cast herself as a bridge between Wikipedia and a distrustful public that regarded the online encyclopedia as unreliable and error-prone. She began leading workshops called “edit-a-thons” where she took participants on a tour of the website and explained how entries are produced, vetted and constantly updated and revised.

“Archivists take Wikipedia with a grain of salt,” said Liza Posas, archivist and librarian at the Autry National Center, who attended Wadewitz’s workshop for the L.A. as Subject research alliance. “You think there’s a troll behind the screen and don’t know what’s going on, what’s the accountability. She walked us through this great unknown, Wikipedia land. She put us at ease.”

She also pointed out the encyclopedia’s shortcomings. The website’s gender gap has been the subject of much discussion as critics like Wadewitz have pointed out disparities not only in the number of female Wikipedians but in the treatment of women subjects and decisions about who or what is worth including. On the day Prince William married Kate Middleton, for example, an entry about Middleton’s vaunted wedding gown was nominated for deletion, prompting pro and con comments from editors. Even Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales leaped into the fray, noting that the website had more than 100 articles on Linux operating systems and perhaps needed more stories on famous dresses.

In another example, Wadewitz wrote about sharply different interpretations of a plot point in an 18th-century novella, with one characterizing an incident as rape and another as a case of a female character who “succumbs to her desires.” Both viewpoints could be valid, but only one could be included in the plot summary, a problem Wadewitz said shows that “who writes Wikipedia matters.”

“Wikipedia needs to recruit women, yes, but, more importantly, it needs to recruit feminists,” she wrote on her blog last year. “And feminists can be of any gender.”

Wadewitz was born Jan. 6, 1977, in Omaha and grew up there and in North Platte, Nebraska. The only child of the Rev. Dr. Nathan R. Wadewitz, a Lutheran pastor, and Betty M. Wadewitz, a nurse and attorney, she earned a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Columbia University in 1999 and a doctorate from Indiana University in British literature in 2011.

Her parents survive her along with James, a photographer.

When she first began taking rock-climbing classes she “felt silly because I could not do basic exercises that seemed effortless for other people,” she wrote last year in an essay, “What I Learned as the Worst Student in the Class.” In time she celebrated her successes, such as the first time she balanced on a small foothold.

“For me, one of the most empowering outcomes of my year of climbing has been the new narrative I can tell about myself. I am no longer ‘Adrianne: scholar, book lover, pianist, Wikipedian.’ I am now ‘Adrianne; scholar, book lover, pianist, Wikipedian, and rock climber.’”

Flickr via Giulia Forsythe