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Andrew Breitbart, the blogger who released the edited tape that made Agriculture Department manager Shirley Sherrod seem like a bigot, is causing grief for ABC News, which invited him to be part of its election night coverage.

Even as Color of Change and other media monitoring groups object to legitimizing Breitbart by including him in the coverage, Breitbart has challenged ABC's explanation that he was to be included only as an online participant in its election-night "digital town hall."

"I can state with absolute certainty that the verbal pitch to me to participate was punctuated by the opportunity to appear as part of ABC News’ broadcast television for the night. I was also aware that the majority of my participation — seven long hours — would be online," Breitbart wrote Sunday night on his Big Journalism blog.

Jeffrey W. Schneider, senior vice president of ABC News, told Journal-isms on Monday, "That was an exaggeration and not true. Any confusion about his role is of his own making. He exaggerated when he blogged that he would be on ABC News."

Asked why Breitbart was invited to appear on any ABC platform, Schneider said, "We went through a broad range of people to participate in this digital town hall with opinions and thoughts across the spectrum, and he was one of those people."

As the Associated Press reported in August, Sherrod was forced to resign "after conservative activist Andrew Breitbart posted a video clip of Sherrod's speech at an NAACP dinner on his website BigGovernment.com in which she appeared to say that she had once discriminated against a white farmer. The edited clip did not include the portion of the speech in which Sherrod said the episode had taught her the importance of overcoming personal prejudices."

An embarrassed President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack apologized when it was discovered that Breitbart had selectively edited the speech. Sherrod announced that she planned to sue Breitbart. She is one of those protesting his appearance on ABC. Her lawyer, Rose Sanders, compared the invitation to rewarding a Klan member for burning a cross, according to the progressive monitoring group Media Matters.

The Sherrod incident was not the first time Breitbart was found to have shaded the truth. Media Matters listed "Other highlights of Andrew Breitbart's recent career of authoring and promoting falsehood-laden journalism" at the end of another story on Breitbart on Friday.

Breitbart first came to the attention of many for his role in discrediting the community-organizing group ACORN.

The progressive media group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting said, "In September 2009, Breitbart's website BigGovernment.com posted videos, made by conservative activists Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe, supposedly showing ACORN employees counseling the pair — ostensibly pretending to be a prostitute and a pimp — on how to avoid paying taxes and other illegal activities. The videos were later found to be completely misleading. Among other things, it was revealed that O'Keefe never dressed as a pimp in ACORN's offices, and in many cases he pretended to be Giles concerned boyfriend protecting her from abuse."

Clark Hoyt, then the public editor at the New York Times, wrote, "The videos were heavily edited. The sequence of some conversations was changed. Some workers seemed concerned for Giles, one advising her to get legal help. In two cities, Acorn workers called the police." However, Hoyt added, "But the most damning words match the transcripts and the audio, and do not seem out of context."

On Saturday, Andrew Morse, executive producer of ABC News Digital, reacted to the furor over Breitbart's election-night participation with an explanation that noted Breitbart was not being paid and that "he is not, in any way, affiliated with ABC News.

"He has been invited as one of several guests, from a variety of different political persuasions, to engage with a live, studio audience that will be closely following the election results and participating in an online-only discussion and debate to be moderated by David Muir and Facebook’s Randi Zuckerberg on ABCNews.com and Facebook. We will have other guests, as well as a live studio audience and a large audience on ABCNews.com and Facebook, who can question the guests and the audience’s opinions."

At a Sept. 1 forum, an animated community member, Aaron Jackson, asks Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan whether the newspaper explored the criminal backgrounds of suburban victims. (Video)

The Buffalo News, which so angered members of the city's black community over the summer that some burned copies of the newspaper, announced steps Sunday to attempt to repair the damage.

About 700 people "shared their grievances" with Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan at a Sept. 1 community meeting after the News followed up on the shootings of eight people at a downtown restaurant with a front-page story about the criminal records of the victims. Four died in what the News called "one of the bloodiest shooting attacks in the region in recent decades."

"I feel that we were victimized twice," said Cheryl Stevens, mother-in-law of Danyelle Mackin, one of the four killed in the shooting, the News reported.

In a column Sunday, Sullivan wrote, "I can say, without exaggeration, that I left that meeting both shaken and changed. I still believe The News was right to publish the story because it exposed an important piece of the puzzle about that tragic shooting. But its timing and placement should have been handled more sensitively and more respectfully. (Those decisions were essentially mine.)"

    "Form a diversity advisory council to give us feedback on our coverage of minorities. The group will be made up of community members — some prominent people and some 'ordinary citizens.' Editors and reporters will meet with the group quarterly. (If you’d like to be considered for a role on the council, please write to me or to Rod Watson at The News.)" Watson, the urban affairs editor, is a black journalist who writes a weekly column.

"Start a speakers’ bureau to get our reporters and editors out to meet people in the community. (If a group would like a speaker, it can request one through Watson.)

"Conduct diversity training in the newsroom. Our newsroom is reasonably diverse, with about 12 percent minorities, which reflects the racial makeup of Western New York as a whole. Black journalists work as editorial writers, assigning editors, photographers and beat reporters. Despite that, I’m sure we can learn from some professional training.

"Conduct a public opinion poll to gauge perceptions of The News among members of the black community. (This was a particular request of the East Side ministers and activists.)

"Begin a regular, every other week feature in the City&Region section that highlights positive or constructive news from the East Side, or simply describes neighborhoods and community activities."

Some greeted Sullivan's statement with skepticism.

"She still did not apologize to the community, nor to the families," George K. Arthur, retired chairman of the Buffalo Common Council, told Journal-isms on Monday. "She just softened her position somewhat." Sullivan had invited Arthur to speak at the Sept. 1 forum specifically to offer a historical perspective on grievances about the News' coverage of the black community.

Arthur also questioned the selection of Watson, who also heads the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists, as the point person.

"He's never been a member of the NAACP, never been active in the community," and the black journalists group had "never uttered one word" about the now-infamous Sunday story, Arthur said. "In fact, he was kind of defending the News."

Chris Stevenson, a Buffalo-based syndicated columnist, told Journal-isms via e-mail, "I wrote a couple pieces on how the News is years ago when I was doing a column for the Buffalo Criterion," a black community newspaper. "I said back then that the Buffalo News biggest problem is that they are always 'out to get someone.' It runs across the board here, the News and most of our white politicians are technically democrats, but when it comes to the East side, they act like republicans. As for the article, time will tell (and it won't take long)."

Rod Watson, asked to expand on Buffalo News Editor Margaret Sullivan's comments in her column on the News' black-community outreach and to respond to comments by George K. Arthur, told Journal-isms, in part:

"Though she didn't mention it Sunday, we also plan to have News editors hold periodic meetings out in the community so that we can explain how and why we do what we do and get feedback from those we cover.

Rod Watson"The overall aim is to break down the wall that has long existed between The News and the African-American community. My goal is to have the black community develop the same sense of 'ownership' in The News that other communities have, so that blacks feel like they can impact The News and, by extension, public policy. The reality is that, for the most part, we don't write letters to the editor, we don't write 'my view' columns, and our organizations don't meet with the editorial board. All of those actions help shape the public agenda, mold public perception and help focus the newspaper's coverage and its editorial policies — yet the black community has been MIA. I've been preaching that message for the past 20 years every time I address a community group, but to no avail.

"I certainly understand the historical reasons for this sense of alienation, and the reasons blacks regard the paper as just another alien institution. But the reality is that this estrangement has been bad for the community and bad for the paper. Now, thanks to the recent controversy, we finally have a window of opportunity to get the African-American community engaged with the paper and vice versa, for the betterment of both.

"As for George Arthur's comments: As a journalist, I obviously don't join the NAACP or any other organizations that deal with the issues I write about. When it comes to my involvement in the community, I'll let my columns and recognition from African-American organizations speak for themselves.

"As for the Buffalo Association of Black Journalists, we've held forums and workshops to address some of these very issues and turnout has been disappointing, to put it mildly. I can recall one 'accessing the media' workshop in which we literally had more people on the panel than in the audience. A few years ago, we held a forum with news managers from the newspaper, the three TV stations and local conservative talk radio station. There were so many empty seats that I'd be hesitant to do it again because it sent entirely the wrong message: Looking out at the empty seats, the news managers probably thought they were doing a great job.

"Again, I understand the reasons for the sense of alienation, but we have to reach out to change that lack of engagement. This is the opportunity to do that. I understand George's skepticism, and no words from me will change that. So I will say only: Judge us by what we do as this effort unfolds."

GOP Favors Defunding NPR

"Most Democrats and a plurality of independents want the U.S. government to continue its financial contributions to embattled National Public Radio, while most Republicans oppose continued U.S. funding for NPR," according to a national poll of 1,074 registered voters taken Monday.

A plurality of blacks and Hispanics, and a strong majority of people 18 to 29, opposed a cutoff of funding.

The survey was conducted by Poll Position, whose founding partners include Eason Jordan, longtime CNN news executive, and Jeff Shusterman, co-founder and president of Majority Opinion Research.

Asked, "Should the U.S. government stop helping fund National Public Radio?" 38.9 percent said yes, 44.7 said no and 16.5 percent had no opinion. Among blacks, the figures were 31.4 percent yes, 48.8 percent no and 19.8 percent no opinion. Among Hispanics, they were 38.7 percent yes, 48.2 percent no and 13.1 percent no opinion.

"It’s important to keep in mind, when writing about this issue, that NPR actually receives a lot less money than people might think it does (a fact drummed into listeners’ heads every time a membership drive comes along)," Lauren Kirchner wrote Friday for Columbia Journalism Review. "NPR actually does not receive any government funding for its operations costs.

"For NPR’s individual member stations: see that direct funding from Federal, State & Local governments made up only 5.8 percent of the stations’ revenue in FY 2008. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) contributed another 10.1 percent, but even if you add those up, that’s still only about 16 percent of the stations’ funding coming directly or indirectly from government sources."

Nevertheless, "NPR’s controversial firing last week of news analyst Juan Williams re-ignited a long-time debate over whether U.S. government funds should be channeled to the non-profit radio service," Ted Iliff of Poll Position wrote.

"In partisan terms, Republicans favored ending U.S. funding 54-28 percent, while Democrats wanted the funding to continue 58-25 percent. NPR funding was favored by independents 49-38 percent.

"Broken down by ages, the 18-29 group supported continued taxpayer subsidies 62-30 percent. The 30-44 group narrowly sided with halting the funding 42-39 percent, and older groups were almost evenly split on the idea."

While such Republicans as former Alaska governor Sarah Palin and former House speaker Newt Gingrich have raised the issue of "defunding" NPR, Williams has concerned himself more with expressing anger at the organization.

"I think that NPR should have money. I think that people at NPR have to be held accountable for their words and actions," he said Tuesday on "The Diane Rehm Show" on Washington's WAMU-FM, an NPR affiliate. "I'm — to repeat, Diane, I'm a big fan of radio and I think especially the whole notion of public radio and good reporting, so this is not an attempt to wipe out anybody."

NPR affiliates "were flooded with complaints when the news broke, but not all suffered financially," she continued.

"Stations in St. Louis, Cleveland, Washington, DC, Pittsburgh, Amherst, MA and other areas broke records. And in some areas, stations actually benefited from a backlash against the backlash; listeners said they wanted to support NPR against what they perceived as a Fox-News generated attack.

"NPR should salvage a bad situation by turning the underlying points Williams raised, about the widespread concerns, suspicions, and prejudices about Muslims in America into a national conversation," she wrote.

Williams had said on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" that he gets nervous when he sees passengers in "Muslim garb" on an airplane.

"What if NPR in the next few months started a thoughtful, probing conversation airing and addressing our fears, rational or not, about Muslims?" Shepard asked. "What if NPR skillfully explored areas many of us are uncomfortable talking about?

"What if it were done throughout the network with local public radio stations exploring the issue locally with interviews and stories?"

NPR spokeswomen were not responding to questions.

Adam Powell, USC Annenberg: NPR, Juan Williams and the Clash of News and Talk 

 Frances Cerra Whittelsey, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Juan Williams' Ethical Duties — and NPR's

Prill, a former secretary and treasurer of the Asian American Journalists Association, becomes the third Asian American woman to lead a daily newspaper in the United States, AAJA President Sharon Pian Chanwrote on her blog. The others are Mei-Mei Chan, publisher of the News Press at Fort Myers, Fla., and Mi-Ai Parrish, publisher of the Idaho Statesman.

"A native of Hawaii and graduate of the University of Washington, Prill cut her management teeth at The Seattle Times in the 1990s before leaving the company in 2002," Chris Bristol wrote in the Yakima paper.

" 'Digital has to be a big piece of every news media strategy,' she said in a phone interview from her office at the Journal Sentinel, adding, 'I'm hoping to bring the best practices I’ve learned here and infuse some of that in Yakima.'

"Part Filipino, she said her first language was [Tagalog] and that she can sympathize with immigrant children who come from families where English may not be the native tongue."

"Both justices disputed the view held by some that racial discrimination plays a significant role in the disparity.

"Johnson also used the term 'poverty pimp,' an apparent reference to people who purportedly exploit the poor in the legal system, say those who attended the meeting.

"Sanders later confirmed his remarks about imprisoned African Americans, saying 'certain minority groups' are 'disproportionally represented in prison because they have a crime problem.'

" 'That's right,' he told The Seattle Times this week. 'I think that's obvious.'

"Blacks make up about 4 percent of Washington's population but 17 percent of people under the supervision of the Department of Corrections. Similar disparities nationwide have been attributed by some researchers in part to sentencing practices, inadequate legal representation and drug-enforcement policies that unfairly affect blacks."

Blethen responded to criticism of Monday's editorial withdrawing its endorsement by saying, "To believe we changed our minds about Sanders because of some notion of political correctness is also wrong. This goes beyond being politically correct.

"What Sanders and Johnson said seriously brings into question their ability to hear cases that involve people of color. That assertion has nothing to do with being politically correct and everything to do with having a Supreme Court that can act in the best interest of all Washington residents, including African Americans."

He said he could not remember when the Times had ever rescinded an endorsement. The paper did not discuss Johnson, the second judge, in its general-election endorsements because he "received more than 50 percent of the primary vote, which in judicial races is enough to win the race."

Lynne Varner and Bruce Ramsey, Seattle Times: Civil Disagreement: Race and Crime

"It was the first visit by a sitting president to the news satire show, and it was worth almost an extra million viewers for the program, which normally averages about 1.9 million viewers for its 11 p.m. airing.

"Comedy Central said the interview ranked as the third-highest-rated edition of 'The Daily Show' ever, behind then-candidate Obama’s appearance in October 2008 and Michelle Obama’s appearance that same month."

On his St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times blog, Eric Deggans wrote, "the President's stop by the Daily Show tonight . . . was a substantive, spirited debate on some of the central questions which have most troubled liberals and progressives about his administration."

On theLoop21.com, Devona Walker agreed.

"After watching the cable outlets go ballistic over President Obama’s appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I have one slightly sardonic question to ask. If it’s disrespectful to call the President 'Dude' then how would you categorize labeling him a welfare thug, Kenyan Witch Doctor, Nazi or racist?

"The whole thing seems like another stupid, made-up media narrative when in actuality they should be embarrassed because Stewart’s (who is a satirist not a real journalist) interview was far more interesting and engaging than any I’ve seen in the least two years.

Betty Winston Bayé, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal:  Efforts to discourage voting should not be heeded

Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Are We Better Off Than in 2008? 

Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Democrats Make a Mess of Florida Senate Race 

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Yes, you can restore sanity (on Tuesday) 

Luisita Lopez Torregrosa, Los Angeles Times: A Latino surprise 

Heather Wright, Medill News Project, Politics Daily:  Latino Voters Discouraged Going Into Midterm Elections (video) 

Latinos Say Illegal Immigration Heightens Bias Concerns

"The national political backlash against illegal immigration has created new divisions among Latinos and heightened their concerns about discrimination against members of their ethnic group —including those who were born in the United States or who immigrated legally," Mark Hugo LopezRich Morin andPaul Taylor reported Thursday for the Pew Hispanic Center.

"About four-in-five of the nation's estimated 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants are of Hispanic origin. A new national survey by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center, finds that Latinos are divided over what to do with these immigrants. A small majority (53%) says they should pay a fine but not be deported. A small minority (13%) says they should be deported, and a larger minority (28%) says they should not be punished.

"Hispanics are also divided about the impact of illegal immigration on Hispanics already living in the U.S. Roughly equal shares say the impact has been positive (29%), negative (31%) or made no difference (30%). This mixed judgment stands in sharp contrast to views that Latinos expressed on this subject in 2007. Back then, fully half (50%) of Latinos said the impact was positive, while just 20% said it was negative.

"Today, more than six-in-ten (61%) Latinos say that discrimination against Hispanics is a 'major problem,' up from 54% who said that in 2007.

 

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.