Three New Orleans police officers were found guilty in connection with the death of Henry Glover in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Plus, blacks and Hispanics outpace whites in use of Twitter.
"A federal jury tonight convicted three current or former New Orleans police officers in connection with the death of Henry Glover, a 31-year old man who was shot by a police officer and died in custody shortly after Hurricane Katrina tore through Louisiana in 2005," A.C. Thompson wrote Thursday for ProPublica.
"The circumstances of Glover's death were first disclosed more than two years ago in a story published by ProPublica and The Nation magazine. That story prompted a federal civil rights investigation and drew attention to the conduct of the New Orleans Police Department in the chaotic days after Katrina and the subsequent flooding ravaged the city.
"The jury found ex-cop David Warren guilty of shooting Glover, officer Greg McRae guilty of burning Glover's body, and Lt. Travis McCabe guilty of creating a false police report and misleading federal authorities when questioned about the case.
"Two other police officials, Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann and former Lt. Robert Italiano, were acquitted of all charges against them. Scheuermann had been accused of participating in the burning [of] Glover's body and beating the men who sought to rescue him after he was shot. Italiano had been indicted for trying to cover-up the crimes."
Hispanics, Blacks Outstrip Whites in Use of Twitter
Users of Twitter, the social networking system, amount to 6 percent of the adult population, according to Aaron Smith and Lee Rainie of the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
They reported Thursday:
"Young adults: Internet users ages 18-29 are significantly more likely to use Twitter than are older adults.
"African-Americans and Latinos: Minority internet users are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white Internet users.
"Urbanites: Urban residents are roughly twice as likely to use Twitter as rural dwellers."
The survey found Twitter to be used by 5 percent of white, non-Hispanic Internet users; by 13 percent of black, non-Hispanic Internet users; and by 18 percent of Hispanic Internet users.
Obama Signs Funding Bills for Black, Indian Farmers
"At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, before a crowd of about 150 lawmakers from both parties, African-American activists and Native American leaders, President Barack Obama brought to a close decades of government-sponsored racial injustice — or at least two chapters in a lengthy book," Cord Jefferson wrote Thursday for theRoot.com.
"Standing in the White House's South Court auditorium, the president signed into law H.R. 4783, otherwise known as the Claims Resolution Act. The act provides billions to fund two separate class-action-lawsuit settlements against the U.S. government: Cobell v. Salazar and Pigford v. Glickman."
Kevin Bogardus, the Hill: Hispanic, female farmers plead for bias claims action
Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Black Farmers Settlement Long Overdue
Jeff Johnson, theGrio.com: Black farmers finally reap rewards of hard-fought battle
DREAM Act Not Dead, Columnist Says
"After the Democrats in the Senate decided yesterday to vote no against a cloture vote on the DREAM Act, several news outlets erroneously reported that the bill was dead," Marisa Treviño wrote Friday on her Latina Lista blog.
"It's not. In fact, it was the smartest move the Democratic leadership could have made. Now, the Senate can just vote on the House DREAM Act bill that was passed rather than try and do the whole process over again in the Senate with a Senate version.
"Surprisingly, learned journalist organizations didn't understand the nuances of this tactic. They should have. Yet, once again in the quest to be first in breaking news, these journalist organizations disregarded the basic tenet of journalism — accuracy. But maybe they can't be fully blamed.
"If ever there was an issue constantly lobbed at with distortions and falsehoods, the DREAM Act bill is one."
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would carve a path to legal status for foreign-born youngsters brought to the United States illegally.
Marcelo Ballvé, New America Media: The DREAM Act — Shrinking Towards Reality
Esther Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: How immigration reform gets mired in terminology
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Common-Sense Outreach
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Straight Talk on Immigration
Edward Schumacher-Matos, Washington Post: The GOP's imagined Latino base
Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: GOP turns its back on patriotic and productive illegal immigrants
Sandip Roy, New America Media: Don't Ask, Don't Dream
FOX to Staff: Don't Use 'Public Option' Term
"As the health-care debate was heating up in the summer of 2009, Republican pollster Frank Luntz offered Sean Hannity some advice," Howard Kurtz reported Friday for the Daily Beast.
"Luntz, who counseled the GOP on how to sell the 1994 Contract With America, told the Fox News host to stop using President Obama’s preferred term for a key provision.
" 'If you call it a public option, the American people are split,' he explained. 'If you call it the government option, the public is overwhelmingly against it.'
" 'A great point,' Hannity declared. 'And from now on, I'm going to call it the government option, because that's what it is.'
"On Oct. 27, the day after Senate Democrats introduced a bill with a public insurance option from which states could opt out, Bill Sammon, a Fox News vice president and Washington managing editor, sent the staff a memo. Sammon is a former Washington Times reporter.
" 'Please use the term "government-run health insurance," or, when brevity is a concern, "government option," whenever possible,' the memo said."
Joel Meares, Columbia Journalism Review: A "Public Option" By Any Other Name…
When Barack Obama said that the public didn't want to keep the Bush tax cuts, he was on the money.
In explaining Tuesday why he made a deal with Republicans on tax cuts that includes cuts for the wealthiest Americans, which he opposes, President Obama said at his news conference, "This is not a situation in which I have failed to persuade the American people of the rightness of our position." The Pew Research Center confirms that on that, at least, Obama was right.
Pew reported on Tuesday, "In a survey conducted before Obama and GOP leaders agreed to temporarily extend all Bush-era tax cuts, most Americans (80%) favor preserving at least some of the tax cuts. However, just a third (33%) of Americans say they favor keeping all of the expiring tax cuts; 47% favor keeping just the tax cuts for income below $250,000, while just 11% want to end all of the tax cuts.
"Only about one-in-five Democrats (18%) favor keeping all of the tax cuts, compared with 33% of independents and 53% of Republicans.
Pew also said: "The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5 among 1,500 adults, finds that 45% approve of Obama’s job performance while about as many (43%) disapprove. Obama’s job ratings have changed little since September.
"Obama’s job approval ratings among Democrats remain strong (77% approve), and there is little evidence that Democrats think he is going along too much with GOP leaders in Congress. Only about [a] quarter of Democrats (23%) say he is going along too much, while about twice as many (48%) say he is going along the right amount.
"However, Obama gets mixed ratings from Democrats and Democratic leaners for how well he stands up for his party’s traditional positions on such issues as protecting the interests of minorities, helping the poor and needy and representing working people. Only about half of Democrats and Democratic leaners (54%) say Obama is doing an excellent or good job of advocating the party’s traditional positions, while 43% say he is doing only fair or poor. White Democrats and Democratic leaners are divided over Obama’s performance in standing up for the party’s traditional positions in these areas (51% excellent/good vs. 47% only fair/poor). By contrast, black Democrats and leaners offer much more positive assessments (70% vs. 29%)."
In the words of David Kocieniewski of the New York Times, "The deal to extend the Bush-era tax cuts for two years includes a bevy of additional credits and deductions that will reduce the burden on nearly all households.
"But the tax benefits will flow most heavily to the highest earners, just as the original cuts did when they were passed in 2001 and 2003. At least a quarter of the tax savings will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of the population."
Obama said at his news conference, "We weren’t operating from a position of political weakness with respect to public opinion. The problem is that Republicans feel that this is the single most important thing that they have to fight for as a party. And in light of that, it was going to be a protracted battle and they would have a stronger position next year than they do currently."
Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: You Don't Have Rahm to Kick Around Anymore
Joe Davidson, Washington Post: Obama still getting push back on pay freeze for federal workers
Sam Fulwood III, Center for American Progress: Can’t We Care for Those Who Need Help the Most?
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: When will Obama go 'gangster'?
Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Obama Dementia: Here's hoping the fever breaks soon
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Ben Bernanke, a one-man fire brigade
Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: What happens to workers when jobs leave for good?
Tony Harris, who anchors the 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (ET) edition of "CNN Newsroom" each weekday, is leaving the network, CNN confirmed Wednesday. Spokeswoman Christal Jones would not elaborate.
Harris was on vacation. "I've got some time off starting Monday," he wrote on his Twitter account on Saturday. TV Newser said Tuesday it had learned that Harris was leaving CNN.
Harris was one of four anchors — Heidi Collins, Kyra Phillips and Don Lemon were the others — tapped for "CNN Newsroom" in 2006. Harris joined CNN/U.S. as a weekend news anchor in September 2004. Before his arrival there, Harris was an anchor for WGCL-46 in Atlanta, where he anchored the station’s evening newscasts, according to his bio.
It's official: black journalists are definitely not "in the tank" for the president.
Remember when black journalists were accused of being "in the tank" for Barack Obama? If it wasn't true during the presidential campaign, and was a misreading after the inauguration, it's certainly not valid two years into his presidency.
The black left was never really there to begin with. Glen Ford of blackagendareport.com has been consistent, writing last week: "Only fools should feel sorry for Obama as he prepares for a Republican-led House and weakened Democratic control of the Senate. This is Obama’s 'comfort zone,' where he can continue to woo Republicans to join his grand center-right coalition. The only people Obama has no tolerance for are liberalish Democrats, who will emerge relatively stronger in the new Congress thanks to the decimation of Obama’s Republican-Lite friends in conservative Democratic ranks. By freezing federal wages, Obama signals that he has no philosophical problems with the GOP’s general aims."
In 2007, Laura Washington, writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, raised the question of whether Obama was "black enough." If she ever resolved that question, it wasn't evident on Monday. She wrote in the Sun-Times, "Is it time for President Obama to 'go black' on his opponents? Time to put his hand on his hips, and let it rip? That’s what I am hearing from liberal friends and political activists. Get some backbone, Mr. President. Don’t let the Republicans push you around. Get mad, then get even."
The phrase "man up" is gaining currency.
While not a journalist, Clarence B. Jones has a piece on the Huffington Post under the headline, "Time to Think the Unthinkable: A Democratic Primary Challenge To Obama's Reelection."
Jones is scholar in residence at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University. He said he was motivated by listening carefully to Bob Dylan's "Blowin' in The Wind": "How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?" Ouch.
The most recent cause for disappointment is Obama's willingness to make a deal with congressional Republicans to extend the George W. Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels for two years, even though Democrats still control the White House and both houses of Congress. Obama announced an agreement with Republicans Monday night to extend expiring tax cuts for all Americans, renew jobless benefits and grant a one-year reduction in Social Security taxes for millions, as Jim Kuhnhenn and David Espo reported for the Associated Press.
"Obama said there were elements of the deal he personally opposed, including an extension of expiring income tax cuts at upper income levels and a more generous deal on estates. But he said he decided that an agreement with Republicans was more important that a stalemate that would have resulted in higher income taxes at all income levels on Jan. 1," they wrote.
During the negotiations, some argued that Obama had no choice but to accede to the Republicans. But not everyone bought that argument.
"Those desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled 'Understanding Stockholm Syndrome' in the online archive of The F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin," columnist Frank Rich wrote Sunday in a hard-hitting New York Times piece. "It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim’s loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors’ 'good side' and develop psychological characteristics to please them — 'dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think.' "
Rich isn't black. The Washington Post's Courtland Milloy Jr. is, however, as he underscored recently with controversial columns about Adrian Fenty's defeat for re-election as mayor of the District of Columbia and about the Tyler Perry movie "For Colored Girls."
"Much of this criticism against Obama has to do with his resolve, not his race," Milloy wrote last week. "But I see the president as a black man first. It's a pride thing. Obama's victory wasn't just about his progressive platform. It was a historic, racial barrier-busting victory that was supposed to make it just a little easier for black boys to imagine being president.
"But Obama is proving himself to be a most peculiar commander in chief. Maybe another black boy will someday grow up to become president, but if he turns out to be like Obama, it'll be hard to call him a black man."
Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: GOP Will Wait for Dems To Buckle on Tax Cuts
Lenny McAllister, theRoot.com: Obama Should Call the GOP's Bluff on Taxes
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Tax cut fight highlights Democrats' missing convictions
Jamal Simmons, theRoot.com: How Obama Can Win Again
Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: OMG! What if the wealthy have to pay more . . .
The Society of Professional Journalists’ national president Monday urged the Associated Press "to do all in its power to maintain its prestigious paid internship program as it looks for ways to make significant cuts in its operating budget."
Hagit Limor, an investigative reporter at WCPO-TV in Cincinnati who is SPJ president, said AP officials last week confirmed they were considering dropping their internship program as part of an overall restructuring that "AP chief executive officer Tom Curley called a 'business transformation.' A final decision is expected this month," the news release said.
"We got our information from AP staffers familiar with budget proceedings," Limor told Journal-isms.
The internship program, begun in 1984 to train journalists of color, has produced successful professionals inside and outside of the AP. The interns are paid salaries on News Media Guild scale.
SPJ's release continued, "Too often in recent years, we have seen news organizations slash their talent development programs as they move to cut costs. This may prove to be a short-sighted approach to charting the future of a company or industry, as experience has shown internship programs are essential investments in helping identify and train top talent for future roles in our business."
The Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association have urged AP's CEO, Tom Curley, to keep the program, and the National Association of Black Journalists has also been talking to senior staff members at the AP, according to Deirdre Childress, NABJ's vice president/print.
"The fate of their internships is tied to the 2011 budget scheduled to be completed this week," Childress said. "NABJ is lobbying for the program to be sustained but knows some reductions are on the table."
NABJ President Kathy Y. Times, who with Childress held a conference call with the AP's human resources manager on Thursday, said, "I'm optimistic the program will survive, even if it means cutting some slots."
As reported two weeks ago, Curley responded to a four-paragraph appeal from Rhonda LeValdo, president of NAJA, with a single sentence, "Rhonda, We simply must focus resources, especially staff time, in 2011 on getting projects accomplished."
Barbara Ciara, president of Unity: Journalists of Color, said she remains hopeful. "I am reaching out to AP insiders who have an interest in saving the program," she told Journal-isms on Monday.
"It's my hope that we can come up with a proposal that will convince the CEO to reconsider his position on ending such a valuable training tool. In the interest of future journalism, AP needs to rethink this ill-conceived business decision. In our view, it's bad business for the Associated Press not to invest in growing future journalists."
Reading the Fishbowl blogs about the media — there are three of them, for New York, Washington and Los Angeles, all produced by the MediaBistro organization — one sometimes gets the impression that media people of color exist merely as window dressing. They rarely do anything collectively on their own.
The Washington City Paper's latest cover story is about Betsy Rothstein, editor of the D.C. operation. "With Fishbowl DC and Betsy Rothstein, the Beltway's media culture gets the gossip column it deserves," its headline says, over a story by Moe Tkacik.
Inside is a two-page layout of "The Fishbowl DC Cast of Characters." In a majority-black city, all 22 are white.
"Factually yes, that's correct. All the 'Boy Banders' are White," Rothstein e-mailed Journal-isms, referring to Generation-Y pundits who make up one of the categories in City Paper's Fishbowl cast of characters.
But, Rothstein added, "Quick Google and Nexis searches will reveal that I have written about a number of black journalists as well as black lawmakers in the course of my writing career here in Washington.
"Among my beats for my former employer, The Hill, early on was Caucuses, and I covered the Congressional Black Caucus extensively. On FishbowlDC I have written about the D.C. blogger, The Black Snob, as well as WaPo's Courtland Milloy, NYT's Helene Cooper, WaPo’s Jonathan Capehart, Washington Watch’s Roland Martin, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux and [the Washington Post's] J. Freedom du Lac, some of whom are among my regulars that I quote and write about.
"Other black journalists we’ve written about include former Politics Daily writer and Bitch is the New Black Author Helena Andrews, Geoff Bennett, Clinton Yates and Beth Perry. Last year I won an award from the Society of Professional Journalists on a story I wrote about Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and what he was going through in his political scandal.
"I cannot help the way the Washington City Paper portrayed our coverage as I was not a part of those editorial decisions. I also don't think it's necessarily a compliment to be a part of a Boy Band or to have been categorized in any of those categories on WCP. So a suggestion that we don't cover minorities because of City Paper's picks who didn't get picked on or called out is just wrong. We clearly do have a diverse array of journalists we cover on FishbowlDC. Apart from black journalists, Asian journalists who we cover regularly include CBS's Kaylee Hartung, Ed Chen (former head of WHCA [the White House Correspondents Association]), Time's Jay Newton-Small, Christina Sevilla, Pamela Sorensen, WaPo's Ylan Mui."
She added that she had forgotten that "Gwen Ifill, Donna Brazile and Michael Wilbon are all black journalists who we cover regularly. And Juan Williams — we cover and have covered him extensively."
Michael Schaffer, editor of the City Paper, which coincidentally has also been viewed as edited with a white audience in mind, replied by e-mail:
"Our reporter read every Fishbowl post of Betsy's that had appeared in the year she'd been writing Fishbowl. She picked the names that in her opinion represent the folks who pop up either most frequently or most dramatically in that space, often on the receiving end of Betsy's teasing. That's not to say they are the only people covered, by any means. I don't think there's any implication that this was a scientifically selected gallery of the media types who appear in Fishbowl."
Members of the National Association of Black Journalists are joining "an unprecedented gathering of black artists, writers, filmmakers, academics, scientists, and other leaders" who are convening in Senegal Friday for the World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures.
"A high-powered U.S. delegation of more than 200 African-American leaders will attend the Festival, including groups from the National Conference of Black Mayors, the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. In all, thousands of delegates from 80 countries will converge on Dakar," an announcement said.
The festival is being billed as only the third such event in 50 years. It continues through Dec. 31.
The delegation is led by Djibril Diallo, coordinator of the U.S. Committee for the World Festival of Black Arts and Cultures, senior adviser to the executive director of UNAIDS (the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS) and a longtime NABJ member. Among other NABJ members in the delegation are Vice President/Print Deirdre M. Childress; photojournalist Kimberly P. Mitchell and columnist Rochelle Riley, both of the Detroit Free Press; Ebony magazine Senior Editor Adrienne Samuels Gibbs; Curtis Simmons, representing the New York Amsterdam News and the National Newspaper Publishers Association; and Miami Herald World Editor John Yearwood, co-chairman of the NABJ World Affairs Task Force.
Childress said no NABJ funds were being used for the project.
The trip is to "build on the work of President Kathy Times and other NABJ leaders during previous visits to Senegal and elsewhere in Africa. A roundtable will be held with Babacar Diagne, Director-General of Senegalese Radio and Television, and other journalists who will discuss how NABJ could work with African media to foster opportunities on the continent for the organization's members."
How little some things change. In an October 1996 piece for the late Emerge magazine, "Targets for Scrutiny," preserved in the book "The Best of Emerge," Joe Davidson quoted Wade Henderson, executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.
"The African-American community is angered in two ways," Henderson said. "First, they are angry at the political and law enforcement establishment, which has at least in some instances clearly targeted unfairly African-American politicians for close scrutiny. On the other hand, the community is also angered by those politicians who use the excuse of unfair targeting to justify what is clearly unacceptable, often illegal, behavior. And reconciling that dilemma is the challenge that faces the next generation of politicians."
The subject then was the number of African American politicians facing criminal charges, the piece focusing particularly on Rep. Mel Reynolds, D-Ill., who was found guilty of seducing a 16-year-old campaign volunteer.
The House censure last week of Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., was not for any criminal offense, coupling that with accusations leveled at Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., some had noted that a disproportionate number of black politicians seemed headed for the dock.
Rangel appeared Sunday on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation" and Monday on the syndicated Tom Joyner radio show (audio) in an attempt at damage control.
But the case and its political fallout was not all that journalists wrote about Rangel. In the Washington Post on Sunday, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion columnist Robin Givhan discussed the broader implications of the sartorial choices of the New York congressman, who is 80, and of African American men in general.
"There was a moment in August when Rangel stood in the House well and addressed his colleagues in a manner that was both defiant and urgent," Givhan wrote. "But as he stood there in his dark suit and white shirt, something was wrong. His tie was crooked; his hair a little mussed. Rangel, by no means, looked disheveled. But for a man whose attire is always such a carefully moderated blend of tradition and showmanship, control and daring, it was a telling lapse.
"His words focused on his determination to fight the ethics charges, on his refusal to be pushed out. But his clothes suggested that he'd already lost control of his personal narrative."
Betty Winston Bayé, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal: Despite his troubles, Rangel's people still love him
Joel Dreyfuss, theRoot.com: Sorry, Charlie, It's Time for a Change
Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds, Trice Edney News Wire: Rules of the Political Game: Black Politicians Are Not Created Equal
Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Nancy Pelosi’s high ethical standards
"ESPN has launched the first phase of a dedicated digital initiative covering women's sports," Multichannel News reported on Monday.
"In what the programmer describes as the 1.0 version, [ESPNW.com], aiming at fans and athletes 18+, bowed today in blog format. The site, supported by a Twitter and Facebook presence, will incorporate posts by top female sports columnists and bloggers, pro athletes, expert contributors and news from a variety of ESPN and non-ESPN news outlets. The launch serves as a precursor to a more robust Web site with mobile applications and personalized content, slated to bow next spring. . . .
"Contributors such as Adena Andrews (formerly NBA.com), Melissa Jacobs (TheFootballGirl.com), Jane McManus (ESPNNewYork.com), Amanda Rykoff (OCDChick.com) and Sarah Spain (ESPNChicago.com) will write daily posts offering insight on the day's biggest sports stories across the entire sports landscape — encompassing men's and women's sports. Guest contributors such as Val Ackerman, Gretchen Bleiler, Tamika Catchings, Julie Foudy, Jessica Mendoza, Summer Sanders and Diana Taurasi will weigh in on a variety of issues as will ESPN's own Michelle Beadle, Sage Steele, Wendi Nix and Hannah Storm. Special posts will be made throughout the year by Jemele Hill."
Laura Gentile, vice president of espnW and ESPN RISE, is directing the site and its accompanying ventures.
Ebony magazine Monday called attention to "the doers and influencers in 13 various disciplines within our community on our annual Ebony Power 100 List," which counts media among the categories.
"We’ve approached things differently this year by reaching out to last year’s candidates and asking for peer recommendations.
"Of course the lists were endless, so our editors devised a formula to assist with the final selection that ranged from the number of Google hits to annual company revenue," an announcement said. "Some of finalists are a given but there are a few surprises, especially with our 'Who’s Got Next' list of emerging leaders."
The media figures are Cathy Hughes, CEO and founder of Radio One; Debra Lee, chairman and CEO, BET Networks; Johnathan Rodgers, president and CEO, TV One; Tom Joyner, radio host; David Drummond, senior vice president and chief legal officer, Google; Christina Norman, CEO, the Oprah Winfrey Network; Necole Bitchie, "Hip-hop Celebrity News Blogger"; Essie Chambers, senior vice president programming at Centric, the BET channel; and Traci Lynn Blackwell, vice president, current programs, the CW Network.
Emerging leaders were Alynda Wheat, "media critic" who reviews films for People magazine; Evan Narcisse, who "covers comic books, pop culture and video games for a wide range of publications," and Erica Kennedy, a novelist who "now has one of the fiercest Twitter followings out there."
Some headlines miss the racial stereotype in the story of a white man robbing a bank in Ohio. Plus: Eugene Robinson named to the Pulitzer Board.
We all know that black men have been so identified with crime in the public mind that white perpetrators have successfully cried "the black man did it" and sent authorities looking for African American suspects.
But a case from Cincinnati has them topped.
"A white man who pleaded guilty to six robberies in Ohio used a black mask so lifelike that police initially arrested a black man for one of the crimes, authorities said Tuesday," Lisa Cornwell reported for the Associated Press.
"The mother of the wrongly accused man even thought a photo of the robbery suspect she saw on television was a photo of her son, the Hamilton County prosecutor's office and the attorney for the white defendant said.
"Conrad Zdzierak, 30, pleaded guilty Monday in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court to one count of aggravated robbery and five counts of robbery in a plea deal with prosecutors. He faces up to 35 years in prison at his Jan. 7 sentencing."
Despite the historical and stereotypical baggage Zdzierak's racial impersonation conjures, some headline writers managed to leave that out of their handiwork.
The online edition of Britain's Daily Mail got it. "The white robber who carried out six raids disguised as a black man (and very nearly got away with it)," it headlined.
In the Cincinnati Enquirer, it was "White man who wore black mask admits to string of bank robberies."
But an Associated Press headline, picked up on the largest number of news websites, was deracinated: "Police fooled by lifelike mask in Ohio robberies."
Journal-isms asked the news organizations why they made their decisions. "I think it was necessary to matter of factly state the mask caused the police to look for a black suspect," said Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan, who taught in the Maynard Institute's Summer Institute for Journalism Education in the 1980s. "Not sure how race would enter into it beyond that. If the robber would have successfully appeared to be a woman, they would presumably have been looking for a woman. But I look forward to your post and ensuing discussions."
Ellen Hale, vice president/corporate communications at the AP, explained by e-mail:
"Each story we send out has two headlines: a short headline and a long one, because headline length needs vary with customers. Our short headline is limited to 50 characters. Because of the limited character count, it was difficult to get the concept across in the short headline, which is the one you are asking [about]. The longer headline in all three versions of the story said 'White man's lifelike black mask in Ohio robberies fooled police.' "
Below whichever headline they saw, readers found quite a tale.
Kimball Perry reported in the Enquirer:
"Zdzierak admitted to the March 5 robbery of Chaco Credit Union and to five April 9 robberies within 3½ hours — Franklin Savings, a CVS pharmacy, Fifth Third Bank branch and two Key Bank branches. He stole about $15,000 in those robberies.
"Each time, witnesses reported they were robbed by a black man and video showed what appeared to be a black man committing the robberies.
"Zdzierak, though, was using a professional-grade mask — like those used in movies — to hide his white skin and true identity.
"The mask was so convincing," Assistant Hamilton County Prosecutor Mark Piepmeier said Monday, "that a black man was arrested for one of Zdzierak’s robberies. That man’s mother, when police arrived at her house, told police she knew why they were there because she’d just seen a television broadcast of the suspect and believed it was her son. Instead, it was Zdzierak wearing the mask, which retails for about $700.
"Zdzierak was found out when his girlfriend, staying with him in a Springdale hotel, saw reports of the robberies moments before she went into the bathroom and saw two masks and, in the sink, money that was stained with dye used by banks to try to foil robberies. She called police."
Associating black men with crime has an unfortunate media history. Just last May, Kevin Ferris wrote in the Philadelphia Inquirer about "City Police Sgt. Robert Ralston, who, on April 5, for unknown reasons, shot himself in the shoulder and blamed a black man with 'cornrows.' Police doubted his story from the start, but we didn't get the truth until Ralston was promised immunity from prosecution."
University of Florida law professor Katheryn Russell-Brown, author of "The Color of Crime," documented 92 such incidents between 1987 and 2006. "But she said the overwhelming majority of the time — 67 percent, to be exact — it is the other way around: white liars blaming black men for things that did not happen," syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts wrote last year.
(In a role reversal, police in Fairfax County, Va., said this week they were searching for a black man in his 30s who they say robbed a bank dressed as an elderly Caucasian man, according to the Fairfax Times.)
As far back as 1995, studies were showing that "Minorities and people of color get on TV mostly when they have done something wrong," according to a survey of evening news programs on 50 television stations in 29 markets by the Rocky Mountain Media Watch.
Another study then from the Annenberg School for Communication, looking at Philadelphia television stations, noted that there were four times as many black victims of homicide in 1993 as white victims, yet two stations showed white people more often victims of violence than people of color.
Kathleen Hall Jamieson, dean of the Annenberg School, told Journal-isms she did not know of any subsequent studies of how race plays out on television news crime stories.
Perhaps the story of Zdzierak and his mask will change that.
Jesse Washington, Associated Press: Another 'Black Man Did It' Hoax Sparks Outrage (June 2)
Columnist Eugene Robinson Named to Pulitzer Board
"Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and associate editor at The Washington Post, has been elected to the Pulitzer Prize Board, Columbia University announced today," the Pulitzer board announced on Thursday.
"A 30-year veteran of the Post, Robinson launched his twice-weekly column on the paper’s op-ed page in February 2005, and within a year it was syndicated to more than 130 newspapers — making it the fastest-growing column in the history of the Washington Post Writers Group.
"In 2009, he won The Pulitzer Prize for Commentary for his columns about the 2008 presidential campaign and the election of President Barack Obama."
The Pulitzer Board is the final arbiter of the winners of the Pulitzer Prizes, sometimes overruling the recommendation of the Pulitzer juries.
Others of color who have served are, with their titles at the time:
Greg Moore, editor of the Denver Post, a current member; Henry Louis Gates Jr. of Harvard University; Jay T. Harris, director of the Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy at the Annenberg School of Communication, University of Southern California; John L. Dotson Jr., president and publisher, Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal; Danielle Allen, professor in the University of Chicago's departments of the classics and political science; the late Marilyn Yarbrough, associate provost and professor of law, University of North Carolina; novelist Junot Diaz; William Raspberry, Washington Post columnist; Roger Wilkins, senior fellow, the Institute for Policy Studies, Washington, and former editorial writer at the New York Times and Washington Post; and the late Robert C. Maynard, editor and publisher, the Tribune, Oakland, Calif.
With his election to the board in May, Diaz is believed to have become the first Latino on the board.
Television's Syler, who showed her own "big chop" in a YouTube video, says, "I hope times are changing," with the public's reaction to natural hair on TV. Plus: Columnists see politics in "Dancing With The Stars."
The last time many viewers saw René Syler, she was a co-anchor of CBS News' "The Early Show," with her hair chemically straightened and then hot curled. After four years, that job ended in 2006. She dealt with breast cancer surgery and other medical issues, wrote a book about being a "good enough mother," started a website for those who have been laid off, and freelanced.
For her next job, though, you will see Syler with a new attitude and her hair in its natural, chemical-free state. [VIDEO]
"I cannot describe to you the completely freeing experience this has been for me," Syler told Journal-isms by e-mail on Monday, "how I cried in the chair after the last of the perm was snipped off and I-WAS-FREE! This is such a difficult thing for anyone other than black women to understand, but if you have a moment, do a quick search on YouTube under Big Chop. There are thousands of videos from black women who were like, screw this, I'm out... and have done the same thing as me :)"
Syler was reacting to the story of Rochelle Ritchie of WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., who decided to let her straightened hair "go natural" during sweeps week and let viewers see the transformation process. It was a ratings success, as reported in this space on Friday.
"I do hope things are changing," Syler wrote. "I went natural almost two years ago when I had bronchitis and ended up in the hospital. I had a meeting with CNN the next week so when I got out I went RIGHT TO THE BEAUTY SHOP for a touch up. Well, of course, my hair fell right out of my head. It was the last in a series of pretty bad events (I felt like Job!), some of which you know about. Anyway, as traumatic as that was, it was life changing for me in that I decided I would never take another TV job that required me to relax my hair! But over the summer I met with [a television executive] and when I told him my story he said 'But I LOVE your hair!' Cut to the chase, I am going back to TV with a project for them . . . It has not been announced yet but I will tell you more as soon as I can. But the bigger issue is I can be ME.. all my God-given curls will be on full display and I LOVE it!
"But that is entertainment where I think diversity of style is a bit more accepted, not so much in TV news, which is why Rochelle's story is such a big deal. . . . I say all this to say I hope times are changing."
*Deron Snyder blog: Hair Today, ‘Gone’ Tomorrow
*"Good Hair" on the TV News Set (Oct. 7, 2009)
*Tonya Mosley, theGrio.com: Black newswomen break the mold by 'going natural' (Nov. 30)
"The word 'diversity' has popular appeal, maybe more so these days than 'affirmative action.' But who knew diversity and affirmative action are in conflict at many businesses and colleges?" Kenneth J. Cooper wrote last week for thedefendersonline.com, website of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"Shirley Wilcher does. The executive director of the American Association of Affirmative Action says human resources professionals who are members of the Washington, D.C.-based organization report that vaguely-defined diversity programs are crowding out or taking priority over affirmative action.
"The Harvard-trained lawyer, who interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, knows well the difference between superficial efforts and the sound practices that make workplaces fairer. During the Clinton administration, she directed the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Labor Department agency that enforces Lyndon Johnson’s executive order requiring federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure they have diverse workforces.
" 'We’ve kind of lost in private industry — they use the term "diversity" now, have a lot of diversity programs,' Wilcher says. 'But if they don’t deal with the issue of opportunity in terms of hiring and promotions — the representation of women and minorities in the workplace — you might as well call them "Kumbaya programs," as far as I’m concerned. Because they won’t really address the issue of getting people in the door and retaining them because they’re qualified and simply deserve a chance.”
"Too many of those programs, she says, do nothing more than make employees feel good; to cite two examples: Black History Month celebrations or speeches about how diversity improves the bottom line. Her blunt assessment: 'Maybe they’re good for morale, but they make no change, so therefore they make no difference.' "
Cooper told Journal-isms, "There are a lot of stories for enterprising journalists to pick up, looking at specific businesses and colleges."
"A quiet tension settled over Haiti on Monday as people waited to learn how electoral officials proceed in handling Sunday's chaos-marred national balloting and the international community hoped the earthquake-ravaged country did not descend yet again into violence," Joe Mozingo reported from Port-au-Prince Monday for the Los Angeles Times.
"A leading presidential candidate, singer Michel 'Sweet Micky' Martelly, who joined 11 others the day before in asking for the elections to be canceled, suggested he was now open to letting the results be counted, while still insisting 'massive fraud' had been committed. . . . Word was spreading that Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, a professor and former first lady, were the front-runners, despite allegations that President Rene Preval tried to steal the election for his Unity party and its candidate, Jude Celestin."
At the Miami Herald, at least, the "chaos-marred national balloting" was no surprise, according to John Yearwood, world editor.
"The Miami Herald has been reporting for months that the elections will be chaotic. And that's exactly what we've seen," he told Journal-isms by e-mail. "It helps that our own Jacqueline Charles, who has been on the ground almost continuously since the earthquake, has covered previous Haitian elections and knows the players. Nothing that has happened so far has surprised us. It's good, however, to see that the elections have brought renewed interests in Haiti from a large segment of the American media. For a long time, it appeared that we were almost alone — along with The AP, Al Jazeera and a few others — in continuing to report the Haiti story."
In fact, the voting irregularities were in plain sight. Randal C. Archibold, covering the elections for the New York Times, told Journal-isms by e-mail, "I can only tell you what you probably already know, that there is a massive international media presence here and, in chit chat, most of us saw one or more forms of the irregularities ourselves. It didn't seem pretty but whether it amounted to a 'massive fraud,' as the candidates assert, remains to be seen."
He also said, "we reported seeing some of the actual tallies showing martelly ahead, well ahead in some cases. i do not believe many other media had that." Those tallies "are basis of 'quick counts' that insiders use to get a feel for how it is going," he said.
*Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: More help needed for Haiti
Links to terrorism have given Somalis in the United States a bad name. On Monday in Norfolk, Va., Jama Idle Ibrahim became the first pirate in nearly 200 years to enter an American prison. A federal judge gave him a 30-year prison term.
On Friday, Somali-born teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested in Portland, Ore., as a crowd of about 10,000 people watched the illumination of the LED lights on a 75-foot Christmas tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square. The FBI said he twice tapped in a number on a cell phone that was supposed to set off a bomb in a van across the street from the plaza, as the Associated Press reported.
For nearly two years, NPR has been following the story of "what looked like a massive recruitment effort of young men from Somali communities in the U.S. As many as two dozen of them have disappeared from Minneapolis alone in the past year," as Dina Temple-Raston reported in January 2009.
"Federal agents are worried these young men are training in Somalia and could end up returning to the U.S. to launch a terrorist attack."
In the news media, the task of separating Somali terrorists from ordinary Somalis has been more than a casual responsibility in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., home to the nation's largest Somali-American community. And the coverage has rubbed many the wrong way.
"There are few relationships on the planet these days worse than the one between the Somali community in the Twin Cities and news organizations which don't know how to cover it," Bob Collins reported in February 2009 for Minnesota Public Radio.
Duchesne Drew, managing editor for operations at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, acknowledged at the time, "It's a hole in our organization that we don't have a lot of Somali people in the newsroom."
But on Monday, Drew told Journal-isms, "I’m proud to say that we’ve made meaningful progress in improving, expanding and sustaining our coverage of issues in the Somali community. We haven’t stopped covering the crime stories that arise, whether they’re terrorism-related or less nationally significant. But we’ve been more intentional about covering a wide range of issues and people within the Somali community."
Part of the problem has been the many dimensions of the Somali community and that many in the news media were responding chiefly to the loudest voices. Three Star Tribune reporters — Allie Shah, Richard Meryhew and James Walsh — have been assigned to the federal investigation into terrorist ties within the Somali community, "but have not limited themselves to that topic, especially not Allie," Drew said.
He provided these links "to a good cross section of stories we have produced. It’s far from exhaustive but gives a sense of range":
*"I included it because we don’t approach every story that includes Somalis as 'Somali' stories, Drew said. "They live here and should factor in stories that touch many aspects of life in Minnesota."
*Michelle Chen, Colorlines: Somali Americans Under Media Siege (July 15, 2009)
*Steve Duin, the Oregonian: Portland-area Somalis shaken by brush with disaster at Pioneer Courthouse Square
*KPTV-TV, Portland, Ore.: Somali, Muslim Communities Hold Peace Rally
*Lolla Mohammed Nur, Minnesota Daily: Is media coverage of Somalis too negative? (Sept. 27)
*Allie Shah and Richard Meryhew, Star Tribune, Minneapolis: New alarm among Somalis in Minnesota (Nov. 30)
"Ordinarily, I would hardly care if Bristol Palin had come in third last week at the 'Dancing With the Stars' competition," Stanley Crouch wrote Monday in the New York Daily News.
"But I actually got a little hot. Once the younger mama grizzly announced that her success would be a middle finger to those who hate her mother and also hate the unwed young mother's soap opera experience, I realized that the Alaskan cub had become the star of a Tea Party reality series tale about the little people being trampled on by the 'elites.'
"As we should know by now, cults of victimization are like the air. They travel everywhere and are inhaled everywhere. That is how the Tea Party emerged — with, of course, the help of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, which balances smidgens of fair with much unbalanced balderdash.
"What we now need is something I read about when I was a boy hypnotized by myths and legends from the world over. A memorable one was a story of the giant folk figure Paul Bunyan, who lived somewhere as a logger in the cold north. When his fellow loggers spewed one curse word after another during winter, the dirty words would freeze in the air and fall to the ground.
"Bunyan went around and collected them. They were deposited in separate barrels with the names of the men who had done all of the cursing. When spring came around, Bunyan gave each of the men his barrel and they had to sit there as the ice melted and the shouts of every unmentionable word burst back into the air.
"That cured the loggers and, in a fantasy world, would stop those who now play with the truth as though it were Silly Putty.
"Sarah Palin is a political version of those loggers. She would certainly go deaf if every one of her purported facts were frozen, then melted back into life precisely when she was least prepared to explain the machine-gunning series of tall tales as they exploded into the air again in an intentional act of retribution."
*Access Hollywood: Bristol: 'There's no politics involved' on 'Dancing'
*Stanley Crouch, New York Daily News: How Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News stole the truth — and how Dems can fight back
*Joyce Eng, TV Guide: Bristol Aside, Has Dancing Jumped the Shark?
*Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Bush, Obama, and the 'socialist' label
*Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Tea partiers are savvy — that's the reality
*Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Dancing all over with the Palins
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