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"There's been a lot of talk about media in the wake of the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as the world struggles to understand something that may be beyond rational thought," media critic Eric Deggans wrote Monday in the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times.

"Big picture-wise, I think America is experiencing the brutal intersection of many thorny issues: a runaway gun culture we have indulged for too long; a culture of violence which too-often glorifies those who end problems with a fist or gun; a chronically underfunded mental health system woefully unable to help average people struggling with mental illness; and a media culture which can make outsize villains of those who commit the most horrific acts.

"It would be nice if the tragedy of 20 children killed in their own elementary school was a big enough shock to prompt some movement at least on the curbing of assault weapons ownership and boosting of mental health resources in America. But at a time when politicians can't even agree on a plan to avoid raising every voter's taxes by the start of 2013, I'm not holding my breath. . . . "

Peter Applebome and Brian Stelter, New York Times: Media Spotlight Seen as a Blessing, or a Curse, in a Grieving Town

Wayne Bennett, Field Negro: A culture of madness

Curtis Brainard, Columbia Journalism Review: Lanza, autism, and violence

Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: Gun control must also address ongoing urban mayhem

Toni Fitzgerald, Media Life Magazine: Newsmagazines soar over shooting coverage

Leonard Greene, New York Post: Our culture of killing

Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Newtown: A marker for how far we haven't come in the gun control debate

Peter Hart, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Does the Public Really Oppose Gun Restrictions?

Bob Herbert, Demos: War At Home

Blair Hickman, Suevon Lee and Cora Currier, ProPublica: The Best Reporting on Guns in America

Harry A. Jessell, TVNewsCheck: TV Should Lead Push To Reduce Violence

Wesley Lowery and Christopher Goffard, Los Angeles Times: School shooting: How do you tell a child his protectors are dead?

Melody T. McCloud, M.D., Psychology Today: Mental Health Experts, After Sandy Hook, If Not Now, When?

Frazier Moore, Associated Press: Media Struggle With Shooting Story Facts

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: Public Divided over What Newtown Signifies

Tavis Smiley, HuffPost BlackVoices: Blood on Our Hands

Alex Weprin, TVNewser: The Media's Attention Turns To Guns

Media personality Tavis Smiley, a harsh Obama critic whose "poverty tour" champions the cause of people in poverty, is having his chain pulled by a Los Angeles radio talk-show host who formerly worked for Smiley.

In escalating language between the two men, Morris W. O’Kelly, whose on-air name is Mo'Kelly, has called Smiley's campaign "more about ego and constant pushing of his name."

A story in the Los Angeles Wave newspapers last week asserted that Smiley sent O'Kelly "a 'cease and desist' letter demanding that he stop talking and writing bad about him!" It made the Obama critic seem as though he could not take criticism when he was the object.

Smiley publicly remained silent, but the story by Betty Pleasant gained steam as its message was repeated on at least two black-oriented websites,  the black entertainment outlet EUR Web and radio host Tom Joyner's Black America Web.

Then, on Sunday, EUR Web published an "open letter" to Smiley from Najee Ali, director of Los Angeles-based Project Islamic HOPE (Helping Oppressed People Everywhere), siding with O'Kelly.

Ali said of Smiley, ". . . It's time that you cease and desist with this foolishness! "Tavis the White establishment has been propping you up for years. . . ."

Moreover, O'Kelly appeared Tuesday to discuss the dispute on a national platform: Roland Martin's segment on radio's  syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," on which Smiley was once was a regular.

On the Tuesday program, Martin referred to the dispute as the "Tavis-Mo'Kelly throwdown." O'Kelly said he was all for eradicating poverty, "but I am not going to support foolishness." The poverty tour "is not substantive change," he said.

The drama is part of a narrative that began in the 2008 presidential campaign after Obama did not appear at Smiley's annual "State of the Black Union" symposium. Smiley became increasingly critical of the future president and was later joined by Princeton professor Cornel West. West recently called Obama "a Rockefeller Republican in blackface."

In the process, Smiley left Joyner, who is ardently pro-Obama. Joyner told listeners in April 2008, "He can't take the hate he's taking over this whole Barack Obama thing," a charge Smiley denied.

The Oct. 30 "cease and desist" letter cited by the Wave newspapers does not in fact demand that O'Kelly "stop talking and writing bad about him!"

Sent by the law firm of Browning & Browning, the letter cites the "Confidentiality and Non[-]-Disclosure Agreement" that O'Kelly signed when he left Smiley's company. "While we acknowledge your First Amendment rights to comment on Smiley's views and opinions, we will not tolerate blatant violations of the Agreement, statements that constitute defamation against Smiley and the Smiley Enterprises, or statements that are intentionally tortious in nature," it says.

Verboten are "the use, dissemination, or publication of any Confidential Information" and "disseminating or publishing any false, misleading, or otherwise defamatory statements pertaining to Smiley and/ or Smiley Enterprises."

At issue is whether the observations O'Kelly has told his listeners about Smiley's actions while O'Kelly worked for him violate the confidentiality agreement. O'Kelly says no; Smiley says yes.

Asked by Journal-isms Monday for an on-the-record statement, Smiley said through his spokeswoman Leshelle Sargent, "The document from Ken Browning's office speaks for itself. As the letter indicates, Mr. O'Kelly was fired but has every right to speak on Mr. Smiley's political views -- which he had done repeatedly over radio and social media without interference from our company. He cannot, however, speak on Mr. Smiley's confidential and privileged business affairs. You must know that this is common practice in our business. Mr. O'Kelly surely did which is why he signed the confidentiality agreement.

"To go on the radio airwaves suggesting anything other than what is clearly stated in the letter is pure gossip. And we don't deal in gossip. To THEN spread lies in a newspaper article is ridiculously beyond the pale. . . . "

O'Kelly denies he was fired. "I was given an end date to my employment of Jan. 1 2011, due to 'funding' I decided to leave early," he told Journal-isms.

Journal-isms asked O'Kelly Monday whether the disagreement is simply a case of a former disgruntled employee striking back. O'Kelly messaged:

"When Tom Joyner said that Dr. West was his 'sidepiece'...I said nothing publicly. When Steve Harvey called him and Dr. West 'Uncle Toms' I had no public comment. When Najee Ali picketed and protested Smiley's building (both times) I had no public comment, either time. Even more recently (yesterday) when MSNBC's Melissa Harris Perry likened him to the Black nurse during the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment, I neither commented nor highlighted it.

"All of the aforementioned were low-hanging fruit. I said nothing. I could have easily [piggybacked] on any or all of those if the goal were to simply snipe at him. I have never engaged in any name-calling and I've never wavered from the issues. This is far from personal on my part. But I am absolutely clear that his litigation threats have been reserved for me and me only. So if there is animosity, it's not from me.

"Let the record be clear on these inarguable truths.

"He's released a number of books on poverty, and his story about 'Failing Up' I've said nothing. I haven't engaged in tearing down anything and all things 'Tavis.' There is no such history.

"In the time between me leaving The Smiley Group (11.24.2010) and now, I have only made three public commentaries in relation to him.

"In June of 2011, I published a commentary on EURWEB.com regarding the coming release of R. Kelly's memoir and how Smiley was publishing it. Given Smiley's public statements and stances regarding the mistreatment of women in this country, it was highly odd and an obvious contradiction that someone supposedly so in support of women and touting a "youth foundation" would also be trumpeting publishing R. Kelly's memoir. I highlighted the glaring contradiction. . . . "

" To which, Tavis called Lee Bailey and demanded that my story be removed. . . . He is the disgruntled employer, let's be clear. . . ." [Updated Dec. 18]

Mo'Kelly with the Rev. Dion Evans: "Mo'Kelly in the Morning," KTLK-AM Los Angeles, Nov. 16: "The Unmitigated Gall" (mp3)

Mo'Kelly: "Mo'Kelly in the Morning," KTLK-AM Los Angeles, Nov. 29: "U Mad Bro?" (mp3)

Members of the four journalism associations that make up the Unity Journalists coalition each voted for "UNITY: Journalists for Diversity" as the new name to succeed "Unity: Journalists of Color," the groups announced on Monday.

"Unity: Journalists for Diversity" won out over "UNITY: Journalists of Color" and "UNITY: Journalists of Color and Diversity."

The full Unity board is to discuss the results of the membership vote on Friday, with each board member save the president, who votes only when there is a tie, weighing in on the new name. "UNITY board members are expected to vote how their organizations voted and respect the wishes of their members," a Unity announcement said on Dec. 4.

Voting among the associations was light. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists tally was UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, 116 votes, or 66 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color & Diversity, 34 votes, 19 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color, 25 votes, 14 percent. NAHJ has nearly 2,000 members, President Hugo Balta said.

The Asian American Journalists Association vote was UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, 217 votes, or 70.7 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color & Diversity, 58 votes, or 18.9 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color, 32 votes, or 10.4 percent. AAJA has more than 1,700 members, Doris Truong, national president, said.

The Native American Journalists Association vote was UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, 49, or 67 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color and Diversity, 14, or 19 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color, 10, or 13.7 percent. NAJA has 232 members, Rhonda LeValdo, president, said.

The National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association vote was UNITY: Journalists for Diversity, 132 votes, or 81.4 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color and Diversity, 29, or 17.9 percent; and UNITY: Journalists of Color, 1, 0.6 percent. NLGJA has 584 members, Michael Triplett, NLGJA president, said.

Although the National Association of Black Journalists withdrew from Unity last year, 82 members voted in an unofficial poll, according to Benet Wilson, an NABJ representative to the Unity Name Task Force. NABJ has more than 3,000 members.

UNITY: Journalists of Color & Diversity Inc. received 35 NABJ votes, or 50 percent; UNITY: Journalists of Color Inc., 28, or 40 percent; and UNITY: Journalists of Color & for Diversity Inc., 9 votes, or 12.9 percent. The "UNITY: Journalists of Color & for Diversity Inc." option was later changed to "Unity: Journalists for Diversity." There were 12 write-ins.

The Unity coalition renamed itself "Unity Journalists" in April after it admitted NLGJA, which warned that its members might boycott Unity's summer convention if the words "Journalists of Color" were not dropped from the coalition's name.

The name change prompted a backlash from many who said Unity was veering from its history and purpose. Among them were NABJ members, who left the coalition last year over governance and financial issues, and who Unity is trying to woo back.

The ballot sent to members of the associations in the coalition explained, "The UNITY Board created the UNITY Name Task Force to address our members' concerns about how our previous name, 'UNITY: Journalists of Color Inc.' was changed to 'UNITY: Journalists Inc.' without their input at our April Board meeting. The Board unanimously agreed to find a name that better reflected our expanded coalition."

With perhaps unfortunate timing, a weekend airing of "Django Unchained: The TV One Special," showed TV One founder Cathy Hughes and director Quentin Tarantino talking about how much they liked Westerns because people are allowed to kill each other so much.

In the one-hour "profound and revealing look at the making of Quentin Tarantino's blockbuster film Django Unchained," Tarantino added that he likes "extreme violence."

The interview was filmed before Friday's horrific violence in Connecticut, in which a gunman killed 20 first-graders, his mother, six school employees and himself. In the wake of the shooting, the Weinstein Co. is canceling the Hollywood premiere, Amy Kaufman reported Monday for the Los Angeles Times.

In an interview Saturday, Jamie Foxx, a star of the film, told the Associated Press that actors can't ignore the fact that movie violence can influence people.

Foxx told the AP's Nicole Evatt Saturday, "We cannot turn our back and say that violence in films or anything that we do doesn't have a sort of influence. It does."

Evatt wrote, "In true Tarantino form, buckets of blood explode from characters as they are shot or shredded to pieces by rabid dogs," describing the film as "Quentin Tarantino's upcoming ultra-violent spaghetti Western-style film about slavery.

"Tarantino, whose credits include 'Pulp Fiction' and the 'Kill Bill' volumes, said he was tired of defending his films each time the nation is shocked by gun violence," Evatt continued. "He said 'tragedies happen' and blame should fall on those guilty of the crimes."

Journal-isms asked a TVOne spokeswoman if she wished to clarify her remarks. ". . . Ms. Hughes has no comment at this time," Monica Neal replied by email.

The African American jobless rate is about twice that of whites, a disparity that has barely budged since the government began tracking the data in 1972, Michael A. Fletcher noted Saturday in the Washington Post.

Discrimination has long been seen as the primary reason for this disparity, which is evident among workers from engineers to laborers. "But fresh research has led scholars to conclude that African Americans also suffer in the labor market from having weaker social networks than other groups," Fletcher continued.

"Having friends and relatives who can introduce you to bosses or tell you about ripe opportunities has proved to be one of the most critical factors in getting work. Such connections can also help people hold onto their jobs, researchers say.

" 'It is surprising to many people how important job networks are to finding work,' said Deirdre A. Royster, a New York University sociologist. 'The information they provide help people make a good first impression, get through screening and get hired.' "

Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a former chairman of its Sports Task Force, told Journal-isms that the observation holds true in journalism.

"Networking is key to our industry, the problem is in sports journalism not many of the decision makers know any of our members nor other minorities," Lee said by email. "Journalism is still about who you know, especially in sports journalism. There [has] been some progress, but not enough has been made to make a larger impact."

ESPN is being criticized for creating an environment in which ESPN commentator Rob Parker would question on the air whether Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was a "real" black man. Parker was suspended on Friday, a day after he made the comments on ESPN's "First Take."

"Instead, those within the network who have decided to abdicate any sense of journalistic responsibility in favor of a craven desire for ratings and 'buzz' should probably take a few minutes and consider that they created and nourished an environment by which Rob Parker, who had made multiple professional missteps before, could thrive by saying stupid stuff and getting away with it."

In announcing Parker's suspension on Friday, ESPN said a "further review" of the Parker situation would take place. 

"It's telling that when ESPN aired Best of First Take on Thursday afternoon, it included Parker's comments. That's because First Take thrives on provoking controversies with its panelists making outrageous claims, and it wasn't until Parker's comments were the subject of widespread criticism later in the day that ESPN felt the need to acknowledge the comments were inappropriate," Smith wrote.

Two months ago, viewers watching "First Take" accused Stephen A. Smith of saying "N**** please" to another commentator while the two debated a topic. Smith denied using the word.

Asked to comment on the criticism, ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said by email, "Our thoughts are with our neighbors in connecticut and we will come back to this issue in due time."

Deron Snyder of the Washington Times wrote that he spoke with Parker just before he went on the fateful show. Snyder told Journal-isms by email, "my regret is that i didn't caution rob about his angle or attempt to flat-out dissuade him from pursuing it." He wrote in his column, ". . . I imagine this is what it feels when you're the last person to speak to someone before he or she harms themself."

Michael Cottman, Black America Web: Rob Parker's Rhetoric Becoming a Pattern

Shane Paul Neil, HuffPost BlackVoices: An Open Letter to Rob Parker

George M. Thomas, Akron Beacon Journal: ESPN suspends Rob Parker and reality

Rhonda Gillespie, who was laid off a year ago as news editor of the Chicago Defender, has returned to the black-press publication as managing editor, Michael House, the Defender president, told Journal-isms on Monday. "She had done a good job for us before . . . ," House said.

The previous managing editor, K.P. Chaney, said she became executive producer of the "Perri Small Show" on WVON-AM in October.

Gillespie had been at the Citizen News Group, according to her LinkedIn profile.

House said he wants more local news coverage and is looking to hire an executive editor and "a couple good reporters." Four people remain on the editorial staff, he said.

Meteorologist Rhonda Lee, fired from KTBS-TV in Shreveport, La., after responding to a Facebook posting criticizing her short Afro, may be "the New Poster-Lady for Black Women," as EURWeb dubbed her, but she would not have a strong legal case to challenge her termination, according to John F. Garziglia, a Washington communications law attorney.

Garziglia wrote Monday for Radio Ink that "social media policies are a whole new field of employment law." Lee was wrong to respond to the viewer, he said, given that "The broadcast station had a policy that management, not the air personality, responds to viewer complaints."

Reminded that Lee maintained she viewed the criticism as a comment, not a complaint, Garziglia elaborated for Journal-isms.

". . . If I was representing the terminated employee, I would probably attempt to argue that it was a 'viewer comment' and not 'viewer complaint' but I would also have to wonder how far that argument would take me," Garziglia wrote in an email. "What I would need to know in assessing whether this is a valid point is whether Lee and other TV station personalities at her station routinely posted replies responding to [viewers'] comments on the station's Facebook page. If the air personalities at this station routinely posted reply comments in response to viewer comments, and such postings were encouraged by management, then that significantly changes the story.

"There is no indication from anything I read on this story, however, that such postings of reply comments by the station's air personalities on Facebook were either routine or encouraged by station management. Rather, it appears to me that Lee's reply postings at issue were a lark or an exception, and something that management specifically warned against in its August 30th email.

"Indeed, if the August 30th email was as Lee apparently would like to interpret it, one would have expected management to include a statement encouraging employees to continue their posting of social media reply comments but warning that if a viewer comment could be regarded as a complaint, then it should be referred to management. That is not what the email said. After management explained why in general terms it was best for air personalities not to respond to viewer complaints at all, the email went on to specifically state:

" 'If you choose to respond to these complaints, there is only one proper response: Provide them with (redacted) contact information, and tell them that he would be glad to speak with them about their concerns. Once again, this is the only proper response.

" 'And don't forget, if you have a social media question of any sort, please contact me and I will be glad to help you in deciding the best plan of action.'

"There is no suggestion in this admonition that employees should continue reply comments. Further, there is the specific direction that if there are any questions, management should be consulted. It is specific and definitive.

"Finally, it is Lee's own words that perhaps most pointedly contradict her defense that she believed that the viewer posting was a 'comment' and not a 'complaint'. She begins her reply comment with the statement 'I am sorry you don't like my ethnic hair'. A person stating that he or she does not like something is the classic definition of a person making a 'complaint' (a statement expressing discontent or unhappiness about a situation). Lee thus acknowledges that the viewer posting was a complaint. . . ."

"I will also add as an aside that I do think that management here in this incident may have been woefully tone-deaf to the journalism, diversity and social issues surrounding criticisms of an air personality's physical appearance. But that is an observation that goes to the wisdom of firing an air personality under the circumstances, rather than to the law applicable to doing so when there is not any claim that the air personality's physical appearance itself had any bearing on management's decision."

Jason Samenow noted in the Washington Post last week, "African Americans have historically been an minority in meteorology. A 2008 American Meteorological Society survey revealed less than 2 percent of its members were black (that breakdown is for the entire meteorology industry; statistics regarding race/ethnicity in the broadcast industry were not provided in that survey)."

Jamil Smith, Melissa Harris-Perry site: Comments on her 'ethnic' hair should've been a teachable moment

" 'Zero Dark Thirty' was named the top picture of the year by the African American Film Critics Assn., which gave 'Middle of Nowhere' honors for lead actress Emayatzy Corinealdi and to Ava DuVernay for her screenplay," Jon Weisman reported Sunday for Variety.

"Ben Affleck of 'Argo' was best director, while Denzel Washington ('Flight') won lead actor honors. Nate Parker ['Arbitrage'] .  .  . and Sally Field ('Lincoln') earned supporting acting kudos.

" 'The Intouchables' won for top foreign-language film, while 'The House I Live In' and 'Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution' tied in documentary. 'Rise of the Guardians' won for top animated feature.

"The org's top 10 in film this year: 'Zero Dark Thirty,' 'Argo,' 'Lincoln,' 'Middle of Nowhere,' 'Life of Pi,' 'Les Miserables,' 'Django Unchained,' 'Beasts of the Southern Wild,' 'Moonrise Kingdom,' 'Think Like a Man.' "

"Congo has become a never-ending nightmare, one of the bloodiest conflicts since World War II, with more than five million dead," Jeffrey Gettleman, East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times, wrote Sunday in a first-person piece about covering the Democratic Republic of Congo. "It seems incomprehensible that the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa and on paper one of the richest, teeming with copper, diamonds and gold, vast farmlands of spectacular fertility and enough hydropower to light up the continent, is now one of the poorest, most hopeless nations on earth. Unfortunately, there are no promising solutions within grasp, or even within sight. . . . "

". . . Quietly, and mostly on shoestring budgets, Haitian media in greater Miami are covering news of Haiti beyond its catastrophes," Tsitsi D. Wakhisi reported Monday for Editor & Publisher. "Catering to America's largest concentration of Haitian immigrants and their offspring, emergent ethnic media are reaching out to a South Florida audience longing to connect to their homeland -- and the new land. The Haitian media's efforts are documented in a University of Miami study released earlier this year. The study looks at the uses and practices of Haitian media in Greater Miami -- from newspapers and radio to TV shows and websites. . . . "

As part of a "Can't Stop Giving" effort, former Washington Post columnist Donna Britt has asked readers to send holiday cards to Sybrina Fulton, mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, "during what surely will be a painful first Christmas without her son."

Reporter Nefertiti Jáquez of KPRC-TV in Houston is heading back to Philadelphia's WCAU-TV, Mike McGuff reported on his Houston blog on television news. Anzio Williams, who joined WCAU as VP of news in July, and has been shaking up the staff, announced another departure at the station in an email to the staff Friday night: that of Dawn Timmeney, who has been an anchor and reporter over her 12 years there. Philadelphia Daily News columnist Dan Gross reported the news via Twitter. In other developments this month, Williams announced that meteorologist Brittney Shipp is joining WCAU from KTVK in Phoenix and that Tim Lake would anchor his final broadcast after 20 years at the station. Last month, reporter Daralene Jones was hired from WFTV in Orlando.

". . . Mort Zuckerman, widely known for his work as a publisher, editor, real estate investor and philanthropist, has pledged $200 million to endow the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University," Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia, said in a message to alumni Monday. Reviewing the year, Bollinger also said, "We reaffirmed Columbia's commitment to diversity by dedicating $30 million to the recruitment and support of outstanding female and under-represented minority faculty members."

"In a coda to the often contentious relationship between Mitt Romney's staff and the press, news outlets are preparing to file a formal complaint to the Romney campaign contesting some of the seemingly inflated charges that were billed to them from the campaign trail," McKay Coppins reported Friday for BuzzFeed.

"The International Press Institute (IPI) today welcomed news that Bolivian journalist Fernando Vidal was released from an Argentine hospital where he had been treated for third-degree burns suffered during an arson attack in October," Scott Griffen reported Friday for the institute. " . . . Vidal had been conducting a live radio broadcast when four masked men stormed his station and set the journalist on fire using gasoline canisters they had brought with them. . . ."

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

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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.