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Assata Shakur (YouTube)

"Let me put it this way," began Salim Muwakkil, the veteran Chicago writer, in a Facebook posting Wednesday. "I've known Assata Shakur from the days when she was known as Joanne Chesimard.

"What's more, while working as a journalist for the Associated Press, I covered the deadly encounter on the NJ Turnpike that resulted in her imprisonment. Thus, I have a rather specialized knowledge of her case. I consider her a victim rather than criminal and have written sympathetically about her plight.

"Assata recently was placed on the FBI's 10 most wanted terrorist list. Am I now considered a terrorist associate vulnerable to NSA targeting?" he continued, referring to the National Security Agency.

"With that security agency reportedly in possession of all my tele-communications' contacts, can they now be data mined for any 'incriminating' evidence[?] What about those hundreds of people on my contact lists? Are they similarly implicated in associating with someone who once associated with someone now deemed a terrorist? These are not just idle questions and point to the real threat of a national security state."

As more information about the extent of government surveillance surfaces, others are sharing similar concerns. Last week, the Poynter Institute published "6 ways journalists can keep their reporting materials private & off-the-record" by Beth Winegarner.

Among Winegarner's suggestions: "Get old school." "Run your own mail server." "Encrypt or go anonymous." "Don't keep anything online." "Stay off the phone." "Consult a lawyer." She referred readers to the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Surveillance Self-Defense site, created "to educate the American public about the law and technology of government surveillance in the United States, providing the information and tools necessary to evaluate the threat of surveillance and take appropriate steps to defend against it."

Meanwhile, the conversation about Edward Snowden, the former employee of government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton whose leak of NSA documents has dominated the headlines all week, turned to whether he should be considered a hero or a traitor.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden told reporter Lana Lam: "I'm neither traitor nor hero. I'm an American."

David Simon, creator of television's "The Wire" and a former Baltimore Sun reporter, did not think Snowden disclosed much new. Simon wrote on his blog, "Having labored as a police reporter in the days before the Patriot Act, I can assure all there has always been a stage before the wiretap, a preliminary process involving the capture, retention and analysis of raw data. It has been so for decades now in this country. The only thing new here, from a legal standpoint, is the scale on which the FBI and NSA are apparently attempting to cull anti-terrorism leads from that data. But the legal and moral principles? Same old stuff. . . ."

Clarence Page, syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist, agreed. "The NSA phone sweeps are a large-scale version of police tracking the calls -- but not content -- on pay phones (remember those?) that were frequented by drug dealers. As a character on 'The Wire' used to say, 'Things change but the game stays the same.'

"Those who fear constitutional breaches should first read the Constitution. It is not biblical scripture. It is often conditional, as in the Fourth Amendment's protections against 'unreasonable searches.' The 10 Commandments, by contrast, do not permit 'reasonable adultery.' . . ."

Leonard Pitts Jr., the syndicated Miami Herald columnist, took the opposing view. "If ever tyranny overtakes this land of the sometimes free and home of the intermittently brave, it probably won't, contrary to the fever dreams of gun rights extremists, involve jack-booted government thugs rappelling down from black helicopters," he wrote. "Rather, it will involve changes to words on paper many have forgotten or never knew, changes that chip away until they strip away, precious American freedoms.

"It will involve a trade of sorts, an inducement to give up the reality of freedom for the illusion of security. Indeed, the bargain has already been struck. . . ."

Mumia Abu-Jamal, Prison Radio: Big Brother Phone Surveillance (podcast)

David Bauder, Associated Press: Media: No mistaking how NSA story reporter feels

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: The convenient [Constitution].

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Edward Snowden isn't exactly a hero

Irin Carmon, Salon: How we broke the NSA story

Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Pundits vs. Edward Snowden

Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times: Blowing a Whistle

Andrew Leonard, Salon: Edward Snowden: A libertarian hero

Julianne Malveaux, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Is 'Big Brother' racially biased?

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: NSA's intrusions are quite a wake-up call

Mark Trahant, Indian Country Today Media Network: Indian Country's Data Scandal: Invisibility

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: CNN coverage on ground floor of IRS scandal!

Armstrong Williams blog: Privacy [Concerns] (via Facebook) 

"An upscale men's magazine decided to praise [its] favorite magazine editors' work, declaring boldly a 'New Golden Age' on its cover," Connor Simpson wrote Tuesday for the Atlantic Wire. "Except there's one small diversity problem: all the editors basking in this new golden age are white dudes. . . ."

Simpson noted that for its efforts, "Port is getting taken to task on Twitter and other realms of the Internet. 'Don't you buncha jerks dare forget about the relevance of white men at legacy brands!' said Gawker's Cord Jefferson. "The 'new golden age of publishing' only features white men, obvi," added [BuzzFeed's] Rosie Gray. 'Hey [Port magazine], you don't admire a single lady magazine editor?' wondered Spry's Katie Neal. 'If I'd known all it took to make a Golden Age was a bunch of white dudes in suits I'd've started one a long time ago,' chimed another. It was posted to the 100 Percent Men tumblr real quick. 'So, based on the makeup of Crowe's expert panel, are we meant to conclude that white men are the future of magazines?' Salon's Katie McDonough asks," Simpson continued, referring to Port magazine editor-in-chief Dan Crowe.

" 'In which case, shouldn't Port re-title its feature to something like "a new pale, male age" of magazines or something more descriptive of its content?' That doesn't seem like a half bad idea. And so on and so on the outrage train went. . . ."

"Soledad O'Brien has inked an overall content development deal with HBO and also will join the network's award-winning sports journalism program Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel," Marisa Guthrie reported Wednesday for the Hollywood Reporter. "The deal lets HBO have first look at scripted projects and long-form programming concepts developed by O'Brien's Starfish Media Group.

"O'Brien's first piece is about an innovative regimen at a San Diego fight club that helps veterans combat mental illness and PTSD. It will air on the June 25 edition of Real Sports.

"Real Sports" airs monthly. Guthrie added, "O'Brien left CNN earlier this year after incoming CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker set about revamping the network's ill-fated morning show, which O'Brien had been hosting. At CNN, she was responsible for the Black in America and Latino in America franchises. A graduate of Harvard University, she will serve as a visiting fellow for the 2013-14 school year at the university's Graduate School of Education."

"CNN has named Rosa Flores as correspondent, it was announced today by Terence Burke, Vice President of Newsgathering for CNN/U.S. She will start in July and will be based in New York City," CNN said on Wednesday.

The announcement added, "In addition to her role as correspondent Flores will serve as substitute anchor.

"Throughout her career Flores covered a variety of national, state and local stories. Before joining CNN, she anchored the late afternoon newscast at WBRZ, the ABC affiliate in Baton Rouge. . . ."

CNN President Jeff Zucker was criticized by leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists after his failure to include journalists of color among his first few appointments.

"Trahant is the former editor of the editorial page for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, where he chaired the daily editorial board, directed a staff of writers, editors and a cartoonist. He [is] chairman and chief executive officer at the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and a former columnist at The Seattle Times. He has been publisher of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News in Moscow, Idaho; executive news editor of The Salt Lake Tribune; a reporter at the Arizona Republic in Phoenix; and has worked at several tribal newspapers. . . . "

 

"A 60-year-old wound in Kenya has finally found its recompense," Gregory Warner reported Sunday for NPR.

"Last week, the British government finalized an out-of-court settlement with thousands of Kenyans who were tortured in detention camps during the end of the British colonial reign. The historic apology -- and the unprecedented settlement - has been years in the making.

"It started with a Harvard graduate student named Caroline Elkins. She became fascinated with the Mau Mau - Kenyan rebels from the tribe called Kikuyu -- who fought in the '50s and '60s for independence from the British," who had seized their land for settlements. "Back then, in the British press, the Mau Mau were seen as murderous criminals. But Elkins discovered that much more violence was committed by colonial authorities.

" 'In fact, in total [only] 32 Europeans died,' Elkins says. 'As opposed to that, nearly 1½ million Kikuyu were put into some form of detention, where they were tortured and forced to labor.'

"Elkins took the testimony of survivors from those camps, [pored] through logbooks and police records chronicling the abuses, and published her dissertation in 2005 as a book, Imperial Reckoning, the Untold Story of the British Gulag in Kenya," which won a Pulitzer Prize.

"Four years later, when a team of British and Kenyan lawyers filed a case on behalf of the Mau Mau veterans in the British High Court, they hit a wall. Elkins' research, from testimonies to written logs, was not enough to meet the court's standards for evidence.

"The case idled for years in legal purgatory until a breakthrough last fall, when a judge ordered the British Foreign Office to release its own classified records from those colonial detention camps. Elkins says those official documents confirmed, in explicit detail, the systematic torture of male and female detainees.

"There was 'forced sodomy with broken bottles and vermin and snakes and just horrific, horrific things,' she says. 'And the documents confirmed, almost verbatim at times, the kind of oral testimonies I had taken 15 years ago.

" 'So not only was it absolutely wrenching to read these, but it was also validating on so many levels and particularly that the British government had been calling them liars,' she says. 'All the while sitting on the evidence proving that they were actually telling the truth.'

"In a luxury hotel ballroom in Nairobi, hundreds of Kenyan survivors, now in their 70s and 80s, came to celebrate the case's conclusion. Under an out-of-court settlement, the British government agreed to pay more than $20 million in damages to the living survivors, about $4,000 per person. . . ."

The demonization of the Mau Mau was worldwide, and the news media played an integral part.

In her book, Elkins wrote, "Mau Mau sized the world's attention in the early 1950s, not just in Britain and the commonwealth countries but also in the United States, Western Europe, and the Soviet bloc. Life and other magazines presented photographic spreads with chilling pictorial evidence of Mau Mau's savagery that contrasted dramatically with images of the local British settlers.

"While the Mau Mau insurgents claimed they were fighting for ithaka na wiyathi, or land and freedom, few people in the Western world took seriously the demands of these so-called savages. The Mau Mau were said to be criminals or gangsters bent on terrorizing the local European population, and certainly not freedom fighters. . . ."

The press was also used by opponents of the atrocities. One newspaper sponsored a tour of Kenya by a Labour member of Parliament, reporting it under such headlines as "The Truth About the Secret Police" and "Gestapo Way in Kenya."

Elkins wrote Thursday in the Guardian, "In the wake of its announcement, Britain now faces potential claims from across its former empire. From a historical perspective, the government has every reason to be concerned about its legacy. There is unequivocal evidence of colonial brutalities in end-of-empire Malaya, Cyprus and elsewhere. Whether there is enough for successful legal claims is another matter altogether, however. . . ."

Reuters reported, "In 2008, The Times newspaper reported that US President Barack Obama's Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, had been imprisoned and tortured by the British during the Mau Mau uprising. It quoted his wife, Sarah Onyango, as saying he was whipped every day. . . ."

David M. Anderson, New York Times: Atoning for the Sins of Empire

" 'There were two Native journalists in the class [and] one of them did a story about a Native woman who was beaten up,' he says. When someone explained that the Native woman had been called a squaw, some students in the back of the class started laughing. He walked out.

"He was also offended when a professor told him First Nation stories weren't 'newsy' enough.

"Another time, he asked peers to help cover a story about the Assembly of First Nation Chiefs in New Brunswick's plan to address poverty. No one showed up, he says, 'as breaking and important as it was.' Molley says he felt ostracized, but he hasn't given up on his chosen profession.

"Despite challenges like accessibility and racism, Indigenous students are graduating and working as journalists. Exactly how many is unknown, but mediaINDIGENA.com, an online magazine, recently counted more than 60 working Indigenous journalists in Canada. . . ."

Michael V. Marcotte, 2012-13 Donald W. Reynolds chair in the ethics of entrepreneurial and innovative journalism at the University of Nevada, "describes in unprecedented detail the capacity and practices of local public media newsrooms, " according to Marcotte's website.

Among those details is the overwhelming whiteness of public broadcasting stations.

"His survey work provides staffing, budgeting and programming patterns. It also provides an initial baseline from which to track emerging trends in local public media news. . . ."

Marcotte also wrote, "The census of journalists found 3222 people are paid to create the local news you get from public media stations. Radio employs the largest share of these news people."

"Gannett Co., the global media company that owns USA TODAY, said Thursday it will buy Belo Corp. for $2.2 billion in a deal that will make Gannett the USA's fourth largest owner of major network affiliates, reaching nearly a third of U.S. households," Kim Hjelmgaard and Roger Lu reported Thursday for USA Today. In a conference call with investors, Gracia Martore, president and CEO of Gannett, praised the two companies' "shared values and shared cultural focus," as well as their commitment to "quality local journalism." In 2008, the four Belo newspapers, including the Dallas Morning News and Providence (R.I.) Journal, were split from the television properties into a separate company. The newspapers were A.H. Belo Co.; the broadcast properties became Belo Corp. "We've seen time and again that media consolidation means fewer journalists and less diversity on the public airwaves," Craig Aaron, Free Press president and CEO, said in a statement.

The Radio Television Digital News Association announced six winning entries in its RTDNA-Unity awards, developed with Unity: Journalists for Diversity to recognize the winners' "ongoing commitment to covering the cultural diversity of the communities they serve." In television, the winners were ESPN for "Ghosts of Ole Miss" and WJW-TV, Cleveland, for "Race: Our Stories." In radio, they were StateoftheRe:Union.com / NPR / PRX, Brooklyn, N.Y., for "As Black As We Wish To Be" by Lu Olkowski; Michigan Radio for "Infant Mortality in Michigan" and a WFPL-FM in Louisville, Ky., for "Defining Fairness." The Boston Globe won for online news organization for "68 Blocks: Life, Death, Hope."

"A Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by not paying production interns, a case that could upend the long-held practice of the film industry and other businesses that rely heavily on unpaid internships," Steven Greenhouse reported Tuesday in the New York Times.

"The media landscape has changed drastically in recent years, but despite increased hiring and revenue, those changes often result in increased and premature burnout among those working in the field," Mike Krings reported for the news service at the University of Kansas. Krings was reporting on a survey of hundreds of television journalists by Scott Reinardy, associate professor of journalism. Asked about racial differences, Reinardy told Journal-isms by email, "I did not include the diversity numbers in the study, primarily because there were no significant differences among Caucasians and people of color, in terms of burnout. . . ."

The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., displayed new portraits of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers and his wife, Myrlie, as Mississippians and others commemorated the 50th anniversary of Evers' assassination on Wednesday. In Raleigh, N.C., columnist Barry Saunders of the News & Observer interviewed Claude Sitton, who covered the assassination for the New York Times. Sitton "wrote what could be the definitive story of the Civil Rights Movement, possibly even more so than those detailing the assassination five years later of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.," Saunders said. Corey Dade wrote for the Root, "Any day now, the Supreme Court could strike down a pair of landmark remedies owed in part to Evers' activism. . . "

"As the Supreme Court prepares to once again weigh in on the issue of affirmative action, a record-low number of Americans support such programs, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, . . ." Domenico Montanaro reported Tuesday for NBC News.

"Connecticut residents who wish to visit the state's tall ship Amistad will have a hard time figuring out its whereabouts," the Hartford Courant editorialized on Tuesday. The organization hasn't filed taxes in three years. Connecticut taxpayers still provide 80 percent of the ship's annual funds, the editorial said. "The ship's mission is to educate people about the celebrated case in which Africans headed for the slave market seized control of the Amistad in 1839, were captured and later freed by the U.S. Supreme Court. But how can this ship educate anyone if it's so hard to find? . . ."

American Public Media Thursday concludes "After Innocence: Exoneration in America," a three-part series on public radio's "The Story," Graham Vyse reported for Current.org. It is "an in-depth look at wrongful imprisonment in the United States."

In the Los Angeles Times last week, David Honig, president of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, opposed a proposal by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., that McCain said would ensure that consumers could buy only those cable television channels they wanted to watch. Honig said the current model "has contributed to the growth of culturally diverse channels, such as TV One, Nat Geo Mundo, Discovery en Español, the Africa Channel and others." Such outlets "would face an uncertain fate if they were forced from the current distribution model. . . . ," Honig wrote.

"Reporters Without Borders is extremely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in Libya and the behaviour of certain militias towards media personnel. Journalists have repeatedly been attacked, threatened or kidnapped by militias in recent months," the press freedom organization said on Tuesday. 

"Indian authorities should bring to justice the perpetrators of an attack on three cameramen in Kolkata, capital of eastern West Bengal state, on Friday, in which one reporter was almost burned alive," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Tuesday. Barun Sengupta of Chhobish Ghanta TV "filed a police complaint in which he said the attackers doused him with gasoline and were about to light him on fire, but law enforcement arrived on the scene, according to the reports. . . ."

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