The first fatality identified as a casualty of the Oklahoma tornado was Ja’Nae Hornsby, 9, an African American student who was among seven people found dead Monday, drowned under the rubble at Plaza Towers Elementary School in suburban Moore, Okla.
Ja’Nae’s father, Joshua Hornsby, released her name, and tearful family members told her story to reporters.
“On Monday, Ja’Nae went off to Plaza Towers Elementary School while her father, Joshua, headed into Oklahoma City for work,” Tracy Connor reported for NBC News.
“As the tornado bore down on the suburb of Moore just before dismissal time, the father of two tried to race back home to get Ja’Nae from school and his two-year-old, Jia, from daycare, Angela Hornsby,” an aunt, said.
“The highways were jammed, though, and by the time he got to Moore, the grade school had been reduced to a pile of rubble, its parking lot transformed into a triage area for surviving students being pulled from the debris.
“There was no sign of Ja’Nae, though. Her father and other relatives shuttled from shelter to shelter, ‘looking for answers,’ Angela Hornsby said. She dialed all the hospitals that had taken the injured but could not find her niece.
“As night fell, Joshua Hornsby went to St. Andrew’s United Methodist Church, where a dwindling number of parents waiting for reunions were camped out.
” ‘He would not leave until he found out what happened to his baby,’ his sister said. ‘They received a call while they were at the church this morning.
” ‘My sister called to tell me. They were just sobbing.’
“Joshua Hornsby also lost his house to the twister. His youngest child, who was picked up from daycare by her grandmother, survived. . . .”
On Wednesday, the state medical examiner released the names of 24 people killed in the EF-5 tornado that ripped through Moore and Oklahoma City Sunday and Monday, hitting two schools head on and destroying hundreds of homes. Ten children were among the dead, KJRH-TV in Tulsa reported. Three of the 24 were identified as black, two as Hispanic and one as “other.”
Those casualties included Sydnee Vargyas, seven months old, and her sister, Karrina Vargyas, 4.
“According to the Daily Mail, the girls were at home with their mother, Laurinda Vargyas, when the tornado ripped the house apart,” the Huffington Post reported. “The mother managed to survive the ordeal, as did the two oldest children, Damon, 11, and Aria, 8, who were at school at the time.”
Were it not for the news media, the toll might have been higher.
“The Oklahoma City TV stations are getting high marks for timely coverage that some feel may have prevented scores of deaths as a devastating tornado leveled much of Moore, Okla. May 20,” Michael Malone reported for Broadcasting & Cable.
“While the number of fatalities has varied dramatically before appearing to settle in around two dozen on Tuesday afternoon, pinpoint warnings from the stations’ meteorological crews and sobering aerial footage sent a clear message that this storm was nothing short of a monster.
” ‘Channels 4 [KFOR], 5 [KOCO] and 9 [KWTV] did an outstanding job of covering this’ says Vince Orza, who runs the independent KSBI . . . . ‘The total could have been in the hundreds but for their coverage. The press is the reason people are alive today.’ . . .”
State officials agreed. “Okla. Gov. Mary Fallin thanked her state’s media Tuesday for saving lives with early storm warnings and non-stop coverage of the recovery efforts,” Al Tompkins reported for the Poynter Institute.
He continued, “The storms found two Oklahoma City TV stations between news directors. KOCO is advertising for a news director and KFOR’s new news director arrives next week from Tulsa. But neither lacked for leadership. . . .”
NewsOK, the Oklahoman website, saw its highest traffic ever, Fry told Journal-isms, exceeding 2½ million page views on Monday and Tuesday. Forty-five percent of Tuesday’s traffic went to the photo galleries, she said, and Twitter was the top source of referrals to the site.
“Everything we’ve done has been a miracle. It’s really been working against the odds,” Kelly Dyer Fry, editor of the Oklahoman and vice president of news, told Journal-isms by telephone. The paper added four pages on Monday and Tuesday and saw a 20 percent increase in street sales despite an inability to circulate in the damaged areas. It also distributed free copies.
Clytie Bunyan, a black journalist who is director of business and lifestyles, helped to supervise the coverage.
The national networks rushed to send anchors and top reporters, the Hollywood Reporter reported on Monday.
“As of Monday night, all three cable [news] networks were sticking with wall-to-wall coverage of the devastation in Oklahoma,” the Hollywood Reporter said. (CNN later defected. “Of course CNN made sure that momentum didn’t last by bailing on Oklahoma to cover Jodi Arias addressing the court pleading for her life, Inside Cable News reported on Tuesday.)
The Associated Press offered a video in which Sue Ogrocki, an Oklahoma City-based AP photographer, described rescuers pulling children from a tornado-flattened school school.
Among the television journalists of color in the area were NBC’s Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Lester Holt, Ann Curry and Gabe Gutierrez, with Craig Melvin reporting for MSNBC; and ABC’s Byron Pitts, Alex Perez and Cecilia Vega. Univision had Ricardo Arambarri, Viviana Ávila and Maria Elena Salinas reporting from Moore, with others reporting from Miami, Houston, New York, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Nick Valencia, a reporter for CNN in Atlanta and president of the local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, was in Oklahoma, too.
He posted Tuesday on Facebook, “I’ve finally been able to grab a couple of hours of sleep after non-stop coverage of the tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma. My crew got on scene before some of the first responders. We heard the screams from loved ones looking for their families, saw the shock on people’s faces as the walked around their neighborhood bewildered by storm that shredded their community, and smelled things I’d rather not remember. I don’t think I’ll ever forget this assignment. Such a tough one to cover. Pray for Oklahoma.”
The Indian Country Today Media Network reported on Oklahoma’s Indian tribes. “The Citizen Potawatomi Nation, whose tribal complex is located in the Shawnee area, was one tribal jurisdiction affected,” according to a story by Brian Daffron.
“The nation’s police department was assisting with rescue efforts, and the nation’s emergency management department provided food and water to first responders, according to a press release on the tribe’s website.” Daffron added, “Other tribes in Oklahoma have been pulling their resources together to help, even if the tornadoes did not touch down within their tribal jurisdiction. . . .”
The Oklahoma Eagle, a black newspaper based in Tulsa, apparently was not directly affected, but alerted readers to relief efforts.
Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: not improved): Like Joplin, Mo., and Greensburg, Kan., Moore, Okla., should be rebuilt green
Radio Ink: PDs [Talk] About Tornado Coverage
Lynn Hoppes, senior director/entertainment at ESPN, former newspaper sports editor and former president of Associated Press Sports Editors, is out of a job, according to the Deadspin website, one of his critics.
“ESPN’s Dancing with the Stars correspondent Lynn Hoppes — a man who drooled over swag, recruited a scam artist, plagiarized Wikipedia, and stole my girlfriend — has been laid off, three sources have confirmed,” Deadspin posted on Wednesday. “ESPN is also shutting down Playbook, Hoppes’s home for the past year. . . .”
Josh Krulewitz, spokesman for ESPN, said the network would have no comment on the report. ESPN announced Tuesday it would implement an unspecified number of layoffs.
Last year, Hoppes was scolded for “journalistic laziness” after Deadspin found that he had been “shall we say, over-reliant on Wikipedia as a research tool,” as Deadspin put it.
Krulewitz told Journal-isms at the time, “This obviously fell short of our editorial standards. Even though he used multiple legitimate news sources to gather background information, we should always recite even the most basic facts in an original voice, and source as warranted. That wasn’t the case here. It was an example of journalistic laziness, and we’ve addressed it.”
Hoppes has been sports editor at the Orlando Sentinel and a radio host at Clear Channel Communications. In 2008, he became the second person of color to become president of Associated Press Sports Editors. His LinkedIn profile lists him as “In charge of entertainment, video games, music, style/fashion and humor for ESPN.com. In charge of all serious commentary on ESPN.com.”
Hoppes, who is Asian American, also made news last year during a spike in interest in NBA phenom Jeremy Lin.
In a column for ESPN headlined, “Stop the Linsanity insanity,” Hoppes wrote of Lin, “Please don’t automatically assume that every Asian-American is rooting for him to become a star and help the Knicks make the playoffs.
“President Obama told advisers this week that he is not interested in prosecuting reporters for soliciting information from government officials, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday,” Ann E. Marimow and Scott Wilson reported Tuesday in the Washington Post.
” ‘If you’re asking me whether the president believes that journalists should be prosecuted for doing their jobs, the answer is no,’ Carney said in his daily briefing. . . “
They added, “The news comes a day after Carney had refused to answer questions about a Justice Department leak investigation into the newsgathering activities of a Fox News reporter.
“Carney told reporters Tuesday that he spoke to the president after that briefing about the controversy over the case involving the network’s chief Washington correspondent, James Rosen, and a former State Department arms expert, Stephen Kim. . . .”
Meanwhile, Walter Pincus, the Post’s national security correspondent, broke with the near-uniform media criticism of the administration. He wrote that “Whoever provided the initial leak to the Associated Press in April 2012 not only broke the law but caused the abrupt end to a secret, joint U.S./Saudi/British operation in Yemen that offered valuable intelligence against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.”
Pincus added, “As journalists and politicians focus on what they say are too-broad subpoenas for records of 21 phone lines for AP offices and individuals, what’s lost is the damaging and criminal leak.
“Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s initial comment to reporters last Tuesday that “it is within the top two or three most serious leaks that I’ve ever seen” has been rejected. Journalists have heard that over the years.
“This is different.
“The AP was working on a story where lives really could be at risk. Also at risk were the relationships between U.S., Saudi and British intelligence. . . .”
Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: The political truce is over.
Mariah Blake, Columbia Journalism Review: True the Coverage
Stephanie Condon, CBS News: WH says criticism of its handling of IRS story is “legitimate”
Editorial, Denver Post: Muzzling a free press
Nick Gillespie, Daily Beast: Obama’s War on Journalism: ‘An Unconstitutional Act’
Rick Horowitz, YouTube: Ridiculous Nixon Comparison-gate
Lucy Madison, CBS News: Poll: Most think IRS targeting was deliberate
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Is Obama Richard Nixon?
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Obama administration mistakes journalism for espionage
Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Maybe some good things will come from all the “scandals”
Alex Weprin, TVNewser: Editorials Condemn Government Snooping Of Journalists, As Rosen Investigation Expands
Commentators continued to debate the weekend commencement addresses by President Obama at Morehouse College and first lady Michelle Obama at Bowie State University in Maryland, historically black institutions where the Obamas spoke about issues of personal responsibility.
Some agreed with the first couple, others called it unwarranted “scolding” not delivered to nonblack audiences.
James Braxton Peterson, director of Africana Studies and associate professor of English at Lehigh University, wrote for the Grio, “Whether you love them or hate them, Mr. and Mrs. Obama’s speeches at HBCU’s this year certainly suggest that a longer, more sustained dialogue between the Obamas and black America is a few years overdue. . . . “
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Obama can’t win with some black critics
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Dr. Dre a philanthropist? Barack Obama a scold? and other interesting reads on the web
Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Obamas’ message not just for black students
Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: As commencement speakers at black schools, the Obamas pile on the homework
Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Obamas stress blacks’ need for education
Roland Martin on “Tom Joyner Morning Show”: Morehouse Grad Leland Shelton On President Obama’s Shout-Out (audio)