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"Invisible Child," a five-part series about child homelessness published last week in the New York Times, is winning kudos as an example of the role that newspapers have traditionally played in calling attention to appalling social conditions — except from the rival New York Post, which put a "bah, humbug" on the series in an editorial headlined, "The New York Times' 'homeless' hooey."

Nicole Hemmer wrote Dec. 10 in U.S. News & World Report, a day after the series debuted, "She shares a crowded, mouse-infested room with her parents and seven siblings, who sleep doubled up on torn mattresses

"That room in the decrepit Auburn Family Residence, a shelter for homeless New Yorkers, is where we first meet Dasani, the subject ofAndrea Elliott's masterful profile published Monday in The New York Times. In 'Invisible Child,' Elliott follows the energetic 11 year old as she navigates hunger and homelessness, an ordeal Dasani shares with more than 22,000 other children in New York City.

"Elliott is not the only one concerned with the economically vulnerable: both the Pope and the president grabbed headlines in recent days with their remarks on income inequality. Yet if history is any guide, Elliott and Dasani will have a far greater impact on the politics of poverty than either one of them."

Hemmer also wrote that the series "comes at a critical time in America's economic recovery. Poverty programs have already absorbed the double blow of austerity and sequestration. In recent months Republican lawmakers have moved to slash food stamps, which over the past fifty years have eased hunger for millions of low-income Americans. And with the Dow rocketing above 16,000 and the unemployment rate dipping to 7 percent, the economically vulnerable risk slipping off the public's radar.

"Which is why journalists are so vital to the politics of poverty: The poor are almost always hidden from view. . . . "

In the Chicago Reader, Steve Bogira wrote Friday, " 'Invisible Child' is the remarkable five-part series (almost 29,000 words) that ran in the New York Times this week, about a family living in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn. A Times reporter and photographer shadowed the family — eight kids and two parents — for 15 months. It's a heartbreaking story, and a damning indictment of our nation's vast, shameful inequality."

In Columbia Journalism Review on Monday, Dean Starkman agreed.

"One of the great newspaper series of any kind that I can recall, it draws on a time-honored genre that traces its lineage to the late 19th century and Jacob Riis, and no doubt before, and is right in line with Alex Kotlowitz's work in The Wall Street Journal in the 1980s that provided the basis for There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in the Other America (1991), set in Chicago's housing projects," Starkman wrote. "It also made me think of J. Anthony Lukas's Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade In the Lives of Three American Families, mostly because of the incredible wealth detail that only comes from spending massive, massive amounts of time with a subject. . . ."

To the New York Post, these kudos were so much "hooey."

"For this family, shelter, rental assistance and food stamps alone have added up to nearly half a million dollars since 2000," its Dec. 9 editorial noted. It concluded, "If the city is at fault here, it might well be for having been too generous — providing so much that neither the father nor mother seems much inclined to provide for their kids. That would be a story worth reading."

Beth Cunningham, a staff attorney for the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, contended in the Chicago Reader piece that most homeless children aren't in shelters, but live "doubled-up" with relatives or family friends.

And in the Columbia Journalism Review, Starkman said of the series, "It's this mountain of detail — not to mention the enumerated structural issues and policy choices that contribute to this family's wanderings — that overwhelms crude, paint-by-the-numbers arguments from the peanut gallery about personal responsibility, such as those made by the New York Post’s editorial board. Sorry, but it's complicated. . . ."

Kenneth J. Bernstein, Daily Kos: Invisible Child

Lee A. Daniels, syndicated: The American Dream Lives!

David Edwards, Raw Story: Robert Reich hammers Newt Gingrich after he blames Democrats for increasing poverty

Andrea Elliott, New York Times: Invisible Child: Girl in the Shadows: Dasani’s Homeless Life

Mandela Told a Critical Cartoonist, "But That Is Your Job"

"Watching the hundreds of hours of coverage about Madiba's life on TV this week, I came across a documentary — Madiba and the Cartoonists — and a fascinating story told by [photographer Karina] Turok’s husband Jonathan Shapiro, better known as Zapiro,"Jermaine Craig, editor of South Africa's Cape Argus newspaper, wrote on Monday. "I called Zapiro up this weekend and asked him to relate the story again.

" 'I was sitting at my desk, busy drawing, on what was just an ordinary day in early 1998. The phone rang and my wife said it was the president's office on the line. When I took the phone a woman told me to "please hold for President Mandela." Then I heard that distinctive voice: "Hello, this is President Mandela. I am very upset with you."

" 'I was worried that he must have been annoyed with some of my recent drawings. "I read that your cartoons will no longer be appearing in The Argus and when I am at Parliament I won't be able to see them every day – and I really love seeing them every day," he said.

" 'I was shocked and told him I was amazed and honoured he had contacted me, and what made it so much more special was that in the last three-and-a-half years my cartoons had become more and more critical of the government.

" 'But that is your job,' he told me. That always stood out for me, that as much as Madiba respected cartoonists and satire, even when our criticism was directed at government, he valued and supported our role in society.'

"This week has rushed by in a wave of emotion, grief, joy and pain, evoking strong memories of the life of a man the likes of which we have never seen before — and will probably never see again. For years now we have expected — and dreaded — that call, that text message, that announcement. . . ."

Craig also wrote, "As much as you prepare yourself emotionally for the news and think you will be ready to absorb it when it finally comes, I wasn't prepared to hear [President JacobZuma utter the words that Madiba had 'departed'.

"I stood numb, in shock, in tears, but there was no time to mourn. . . ."

Denise Clay blog: What About Your Friends?

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Mandela and the Question of Violence

Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: Nelson Mandela's righteous turn (Dec. 9)

George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Jesse Jackson Almost Missed Mandela's Funeral

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Nelson Mandela was complex; don't make him simple (Dec. 9)

Fannie Flono, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer: Mandela captivated, inspired — and is gone

Marcella Gadson, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council: Mandela's Leadership in Media and Telecom Leaves a Strong Legacy in South Africa

Huffington Post: Gwen Ifill: Media Messed Up Mandela Coverage

Mark Landler, New York Times: In Obama's Praise of Mandela, a Nudge to Africa

Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Mandela's lesson to us: Choose the right side of history (Dec. 8)

Lisa Lee, Hyphen: The Meaning of Mandela to an Asian (American) Woman

Joonji Mdyogolo, qz.com: Nelson Mandela has died but he has not taken our country with him (Dec. 5)

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Mandela, Obama Presidential Sons of Africa

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Fake interpreter is one sign of crazy times

Sudarsan Raghavan, Washington Post: Reporter’s notebook: A final farewell to 'Madiba'

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Jesse Helms was always 'loud and wrong' about Nelson Mandela

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post: How U.S. schools misteach history of racial segregation

Michael Paul Williams, Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch: Area has close ties with Mandela

John Yeld, Cape Argus, South Africa: 'Illegal picture of Madiba inspired us'

Gary Younge, the Guardian, Britain: Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest – but his legacy must not be

Gary Younge and Daniel Howden, the Guardian, Britain: Nelson Mandela funeral: a gun salute, then still, silent calm, and it was over

"Santa Is Not White, Because Santa Is Not Real"

"Hours after The Washington Post Style section published a fawning profile declaring blondiful Megyn Kelly to be 'Fox News's brightest, fastest-rising star,' she stepped in a politically incorrect mess by declaring Santa Claus and Jesus to be white," Mike James wrote Thursday on his NewsBlues site.

" 'For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white,' said Kelly. 'Santa is what he is.... I wanted to get that straight.'

"Kids watch Fox?

" 'Santa is not white, because Santa is not real,' argued Ben Dreyfuss in Mother Jones. 'Santa is fake. Santa exists in Coca Cola commercials and the hearts and minds of misled children. Santa is often depicted as white because That's The Way It's Always Been. But Santa is not white, again, because Santa is not real.'

"Santa isn't real? But we just saw him in front of Walmart.

" 'Just because it makes you feel uncomfortable doesn't mean it has to change,' Kelly said. 'You know, I mean, Jesus was a white man, too.' . . ."

"Jesus is white? . . ."

Meanwhile, "On this week's Saturday Night Live, Santa Claus appeared on Weekend Update to settle the argument that Fox News’ Megyn Kelly started this week when she declared that Santa Claus is white," Tommy Christopher reported Sunday for Mediaite. "One day after Kelly herself addressed the controversy, Kenan Thompson's Santa jumped into the fray to settle everything, and assured viewers that he is 'black as hell,' explained how the impression that he is white actually helps get Christmas night deliveries done faster, and said 'White guys taking credit for what a black guy did? I’m more used to it than I am okay with it.' . . .”

Slate blogger Aisha Harris, whose article prompted the original Kelly remark, appeared on CNN’s "Reliable Sources" Sunday. "Host Brian Stelter played Kelly's response from Friday evening, in which the Fox News host mocked critics for blowing an offhand comment out of proportion," Evan McMurry reported Sunday for Mediaite.

" 'I felt that they were playing the victim there,' Harris said. . . . "

Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Megyn Kelly Explains White Santa

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Making sure that [Christmas] stays white in New Mexico.

Eric Deggans, NPR: It's Called 'Africa.' Of Course It's About Race, Right?

Jeremy Holden, Media Matters for America: Megyn Kelly's Non-Apology And Fox News' Race Baiting

Huffington Post: Don Lemon Can't Stop Laughing At Megyn Kelly's Santa And Jesus Comments

Zelie Pollon, Reuters: New Mexico teacher on leave after telling black student Santa is white

"Code Switch" Project Gains as NPR Receives $17 Million

Matt ThompsonNPR's "Code Switch" race relations project has received a $750,000 one-year Ford Foundation grant and its director, Matt Thompson, an editorial product manager, is being promoted, NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher Bross told Journal-isms on Monday.

NPR announced "a significant expansion of NPR's ability to deliver in-depth coverage of news and culture and reimagine the public radio experience for digital listening."

Four leading foundations and three individual philanthropists are supporting the expansion, the NPR announcement said. "The grants, totaling $17 million, will both deepen and extend NPR's coverage of key issues — education, global health and development, and race, ethnicity and culture — and fund NPR and six Member Stations – KPCC, KQED, MPR, WBUR, WHYY and WNYC – in the creation of a seamless local-national listening platform, helping deliver the work of NPR and stations to tens of millions of Americans everywhere they want it, in words, images and sound."

The announcement also said, "Over the past few years, the growth in NPR's audience on digital platforms has climbed, significantly extending the organization’s weekly on-air reach of tens of millions of listeners. As more people seek NPR's journalism in more places, NPR is adapting both its platforms and its newsgathering models to take advantage of that shift. Building on the success of efforts like Code Switch, the news unit covering race, ethnicity and culture, and Planet Money, reporting on the global economy, NPR is developing multidisciplinary teams to produce distinctive, in-depth coverage of key beats. These teams bring together reporters, editors, bloggers and visual journalists to tell stories audiences can hear, read and see. Code Switch, which launched in April 2013 with funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, has successfully boosted NPR's reach to new audiences in its first six months. Support from the Ford Foundation will enable NPR to continue building on the work of Code Switch itself. . . ."

Thompson, who will become director of verticals, "will help guide all three deepened coverage areas," Bross said. She said the new funding will not mean additional Code Switch staff.

At the Unity '12 convention in Las Vegas, Gary E. Knell, then president and CEO of NPR, announced a $1.5 million, two-year grant from CPB "to launch a major journalism initiative to deepen coverage of race, ethnicity and culture." He said he was "delivering on our promise for NPR to look and sound like America."

HLN Turns to Trio to Help Reverse Its Fortunes

HLN, formerly Headline News, announced Monday the hiring of a multicultural team of programming executives: Keith Brown, a former senior vice president of news and public affairs at BET Networks, as senior vice president, programming; Kari Kim, a digital and television industry veteran, as vice president, program development; and Adrienne Lopez, who created the Nickelodeon Writers Fellowship program, which cultivates writers of color for children’s television, as director, special projects.

Brown and Lopez are African American; Kim is Asian American.

"Marrying the talented trio of Keith, Kari and Adrienne to the dynamic HLN team creates a powerful force that will no doubt catapult the network's brand evolution and invigorate programming," Albie Hecht, HLN executive vice president and general manager, said in a news release.

"In his new role Brown, who reports to Hecht, will be responsible for overseeing all current daytime and primetime series, editorial, newsgathering and programming which encompasses scheduling, media planning, acquisitions and on-air talent." Lopez is to report to Brown and Kim to Hecht.

Jeanine Poggi reported for AdAge, "The hires are the latest move by Mr. Hecht, who has shaken up both prime-time and daytime, canceling 'Raising America,' 'Now in America' and 'Evening Express.' The shows were replaced by re-airings of 'Showbiz Tonight' and 'News Now.'

"CNN's sibling network recently debuted a health and wellness programming block . . .  but initial ratings put HLN at a new low.

"According to a person familiar with the situation, HLN employees met last week to help brainstorm on the direction of the network. . . ."

Chung, Rivera See Truths in Anchorman Movie

"In 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,' opening Wednesday, the arrogant journalist is recruited to join a 24-hour cable news network during the early 1980s," Reed Tucker reported Saturday for the New York Post. "The plot centers around how he and his team — suave reporter Brian Fantana (Paul Rudd), clueless weatherman Brick Tamland (Steve Carell) and sports yahoo Champ Kind (David Koechner) — battle a rival anchor (James Marsden) and try to earn big ratings."

Connie Chung and Geraldo Rivera were among anchors of the period asked by the Post for their perspectives.

Chung said, "Every part of [Ron Burgundy] depicts the quintessential anchorman. Every single one [I worked with], with the exception of one, [was] just like Ron Burgundy. They were egotistical, they loved to hear the sound of their own voices. They hogged air time when it came time to ad lib. Sexism was rampant. You want examples? Do you have a year? For example, [the typical male anchor] had to say 'Good evening' and 'Good night.' He had to start the program and every single time out of a commercial. [Women] were not allowed. It's almost as if she could not speak until spoken to. Oftentimes, that was legislated in [the man's] contract. . . ."

Rivera said, "I thought in the first movie that they modeled the [Paul Rudd] character [Brian Fantana] after me. He's a ladies man with long hair, mustache, bell bottoms, platform shoes. What the film captures wonderfully is these burlesque aspects of the we're-all-in-this-together, local-news-team-as-family, where the anchormen are the surrogate parents and there’s one of each kind of character in the team.

"At [WABC in 1970], I was the Puerto Rican — and there was the Jewish one, the fat one, the tall one, the skinny one and the black one, and we'd do commercials. They're classics now. In one, I bring [anchors] Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel and [weatherman] Tex Antoine and [sportscaster] Frank Gifford to a Puerto Rican wedding. 'Eh, hombres, here’s my family.' At least in the promotional aspect, it was a bridge too far. . . ."

Journalists Warned Against Overreacting to Obama Woes

"Journalists rightly seek to tell compelling stories, which can bring abstract or dry topics to life, but the need to create a compelling narrative can be dangerous in politics," Brendan Nyhan wrote Thursday for Columbia Journalism Review. 

"As we've seen in recent weeks, the focus on storytelling over analytical precision pulls the media toward overstated claims, false binary choices, and simplified narratives, especially when it comes to the presidency.

"The most recent example is the current cycle of media overreaction to Barack Obama's difficulties. First, troubles with the rollout of HealthCare.gov led to wild speculation that the law was doomed. When it became clear the Affordable Care Act won't be repealed any time soon, pundits shifted to the argument that while the law itself might be salvaged, it was already 'game over' for Obama’s presidency — and that, after a series of negative stories, 'chances are he never recovers Americans' trust'. (The New Republic's Alec MacGillis has already tackled the flaws in these arguments.)

"To support these hyper-pessimistic assessments, journalists point to the historical record, which suggests that second-term presidents struggle to regain their previous levels of popularity, and to the current resemblance between Obama's current approval ratings and those of George W. Bush at this point in his term . . .

"The pattern of presidential difficulties during second terms is real, but journalists tempted to declare Obama's presidency dead should recall the history of premature media postmortems. . . ."

Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: President Obama's shift from compromise to confrontation is paying dividends

Guy Boulton, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Obamacare brings significant changes to small employers' insurance

Dylan Byers, Politico: Steve Harvey gets Obama interview

Herbert A. Sample, California Health Report: Obamacare and Me, California-style

Short Takes

"AOL says implications that Patch is closing down are inaccurate," TeleCrunch reported on Monday. "A New York Times article stated that AOL is reportedly planning to 'dismantle Patch or perhaps sell it off to various partners,' even though CEO Tim Armstrong 'cannot quite admit that it is over.' . . . "

The Times Free Press in Chattanooga, Tenn., which caught heat last month when it published 32 mug shots of black male suspects on its front page, on Sunday introduced "Speak No Evil," an eight-page section on "the divide between the police and residents of inner-city neighborhoods. The reporters found there's a huge level of distrust between inner-city residents and police officers. Residents simply don't trust the police. Meanwhile, police don't understand why many won't testify in criminal cases. . . ." The paper is being delivered free to neighborhoods most affected by gun violence, and is hosting a forum on the issue Thursday, Editor Alison Gerber wrote on Sunday.

A Rolling Stone piece by Matt Taibbi, "Apocalypse, New Jersey: A Dispatch From America's Most Desperate Town" "isn't the tale of a city, it is poverty porn, and is abusive and exploitive like the real thing," Stephen Danley, an assistant professor of public policy and administration at Rutgers University-Camden and a Camden resident, wrote on a Rutgers blog Thursday. "Rolling Stone‘s article is just the latest example of the national media obsession with using Camden this way. Sooner or later, every national publication comes to Camden to do their story on poverty and violence," Danley wrote, suggesting that a better story would have been on the resilience of residents despite being taken advantage of by powers-that-be.

Mary Mitchell, columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times and a black journalist, described her fear of young black men as she walks Chicago streets. "Obviously, I know that every black man is not a criminal. What's happening to me?" she asked Thursday.

"Kenneth Li, who had been the global editor of Reuters.com and is now an editor at large of the news organization, is leaving," Chris Roush wrote Thursday for Talking Biz News. "In a Twitter post, Li wrote, 'Working on something hot/cool. Or whatever the millenials call it these days.' . . ."

"With the departure of Maria Bartiromo from CNBC, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is calling on cable networks to take a deeper look at their diversity and the lack of faces of color in financial cable news," the association said Thursday. "Bartiromo, one of the first women to rise to success on television by reporting on business news, and CNBC's only on-air talent of color, announced she will depart her longtime home at CNBC for its rival, the Fox Business Network. Bartiromo's contract ended November 24, concluding 20 years with CNBC. . . . "

David Lee, assistant news director at KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, Calif., has been named news director at Tallahassee ABC affiliate WTXL-TV,Kevin Eck reported Wednesday for TVSpy. "In his 25 years in broadcasting, Lee has worked as a production manager, sports director and anchor, promotions director, reporter, assignment editor and news content manager," Eck wrote.

"Bobby Jackson, a longtime, award-winning jazz broadcaster and educator, died Dec. 9 in Cleveland," Jeff Tamarkin reported Wednesday for Jazz Times. "Jackson, who was 57, died suddenly of undetermined causes, said his wife of 10 years, Lisa-Jean Sylvia. Jackson most recently created, wrote and hosted The Roots of Smooth, a syndicated radio program airing on 21 stations. Prior to that, he was the music director of northeastern Ohio public radio station WCPN 90.3-FM and WVIZ-TV. His program Jazz Tracks was named the Ohio Educational Telecommunications Program of the Year and he received the Gavin trade magazine's national jazz radio Programmer of the Year award three times.. . . "

"A coalition of the nation's leading civil rights organizations took on a new issue Thursday: the name of the Washington Redskins,"Theresa Vargas reported for the Washington Post. "The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of organizations including the NAACP, the ACLU and the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, approved a resolution at its annual meeting in the District that called on the team to change its name and 'refrain from the use of any other images, mascots, or behaviors that are or could be deemed harmful or demeaning to Native American cultures or peoples.' . . . "

Friday is the deadline to nominate a working U.S. journalist for the University of Georgia's McGill Medal in Journalistic Courage. Nominate online at www.grady.uga.edu/mcgill. Click on "Medal." The most recent award went to Al Jazeera reporter Dorothy Parvaz, who was captured, jailed and interrogated for 19 days while attempting to cover the revolt in Syria, then returned to reporting there upon her release.

The board of directors of Unity: Journalists for Diversity, meeting over the weekend, "discussed how to further the organization's mission and has begun planning a caucus on diversity issues," the organization announced Monday. "The summit, planned for spring 2014, will bring together journalism industry leaders to develop training to diversify news coverage. . . ."

The South Asian Journalists Association announced, "Thanks to generous support of members and friends, we reached our matching goal of $10,000 via our SAJA Editors Challenge & SAJA Broadcast Challenge." It also said, "The current challenge will match $ for $ up to $25,000 of donations received from Oct 6 to Dec 31. . . ."

"We're very pleased to announce a partnership with POV, PBS's longest running documentary series, to commission several 4-10 minute documentaries about the most pressing African-American issues of our time," Carlos Cabrera wrote Dec. 3 for storyhunter.tv. "The series will air on POV's website in conjunction with the February national broadcast premiere of the critically acclaimed documentary American Promise. In this documentary, filmmakers follow two boys from kindergarten to their high school graduation, and present complicated truths on issues like race, class and opportunity. . . . We're also looking for profiles of inspiring people, who dedicate their lives to shrinking the widening inequality gap in the US, or highlight a unique perspective on issues important to African-American communities. The profiles could also dive into the lives of artists or musicians, who provoke thought about these issues and break stereotypes. Storyhunter is paying US$1,000 for each 4-10 minute, character-driven story. . . ."

"The global group Reporters Without Borders is proposing that attacks on journalists be considered war crimes by the International Criminal Court," Mark Lyall Grant reported for the Associated Press on Friday. "The U.N. Security Council held informal talks Friday on the protection of journalists amid alarm at the more than 50 killed so far this year. An estimated 90 percent of those deaths go unpunished. . . ."

Reporting from Zimbabwe, Musa Dube of the Standard wrote Sunday that "America has defended setting up transmitters in Botswana to power radio stations such as Voice of America (VOA)'s Studio 7 saying it was in line with both countries' policy to ensure that people had unrestricted access to information. Studio 7 broadcasts to Zimbabwe over a medium-wave or AM transmitter in Botswana. However, President Robert Mugabe's administration has on several occasions protested to neighbouring Botswana for allowing what they call 'pirate' radio stations to transmit into Zimbabwe from its soil. It alleges that the stations broadcast 'hate messages' to Zimbabwe from the transmission facilities in order to effect regime change.  . . ."

"The leaders of Syria's main Western-backed moderate rebel faction said they would do everything in their power to protect journalists on assignment in the country and work to secure the release of those who have already been abducted," Ryan Lucas of the Associated Press reported Sunday.

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