Thursday, July 12, 2001

Media action team formed

By Kevin Aldridge
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati Community Action Now announced Wednesday that 12 community activists, journalists and public-relations experts will make up its media, communications and cultural-change action team.

        The team's job will be to promote understanding of core issues affecting race relations in Cincinnati. Mayor Charlie Luken formed Cincinnati CAN in May after April's racial unrest, to help achieve racial equity, opportunity and inclusion in the city.

        Four people — Susan Howarth, president and CEO of WCET-TV; Damon Jones, a Procter & Gamble spokesman; Jan-Michele Lemon Kearney, of Sesh Communications; and Mark Serianne, president and CEO of Northlich — co-chair the team.

Team members

        Team members announced Wednesday are: Bill Fee, vice president and general manager of WCPO-TV; Robert “Chip” Harrod, executive director of the Cincinnati region of the National Conference for Community and Justice; Edwin Rigaud, president and CEO of the National Underground Railroad and Freedom Center; the Rev. Jeannette Thomas Shegog, pastor of Mount Zion United Methodist Church; Harry Whipple, president and publisher of The Cincinnati Enquirer; Rhonda Deel, vice president of publicity for the AMOS Project; Eric Ellis, president and CEO of Integrity Development Inc.; Mike Kenney, vice president of Clear Channel Radio; the Rev. Taylor Thompson, president of the Metropolitan Area Religious Coalition of Cincinnati;Alfred Tuchfarber of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Cincinnati; Nick Vehr, vice president of Dan Pinger Public Relations; and Charlene Ventura, executive director of the Cincinnati YWCA.

        Commission co-chairman the Rev. Damon Lynch III said members of the media action team possess a good sense of the diverse attitudes about race relations in Cincinnati.

        “This team will be invaluable in helping Cincinnati CAN listen to, and understand, the diversity of voices and perspectives with which issues related to race are perceived in the community,” the Rev. Mr. Lynch said. The team held a four-hour meeting Tuesday — its first — to discuss goals and strategies.

Plans in the works

        Among initiatives under discussion are a series of televised community forums on race, a focus on how the media covers race in Cincinnati and public perceptions about race relations, and strategies for media to be more racially sensitive and culturally diverse.

        “I think the media institution ... can benefit from more cultural diversity and more commitment to intergroup and interracial understanding,” Mr. Harrod said. “Many of the media institutions locally do a good job of attempting to handle cultural diversity topics with sensitivity, but we still need to do a lot of work in getting better at that.”

        Initially, the team's mission was to act as a public relations arm for Cincinnati CAN to repair the city's image in the wake of civil unrest triggered by the April 7 shooting death of Timothy Thomas. However, team leaders decided the group's focus instead be on establishing a dialogue about what leads to differing perceptions on race relations and finding ways to promote cross-cultural and interracial interaction, said Cincinnati CAN spokesman Paul Bernish.


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