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
Facebook users: Sign up for the "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" fan page.
Rochelle Ritchie decided to go through "the big chop" on camera during sweeps week and let viewers see her transformation.
An African American female television reporter decided to let her straightened hair "go natural" during sweeps week and let viewers see the transformation process. Rochelle Ritchie of WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., called "The Big Chop" a success, and ratings confirmed that. The station put up a web page with her two stories and related ones.
News director Jeff Brogan told Journal-isms that the ratings for the 11 o'clock news on Nov. 17, which featured Ritchie's second piece of the day, increased from the lead-in show and stayed at the high point during the broadcast. That is "not an easy thing," he said. The "share" of the audience numbered 11 at 10:45 p.m., rose to 14 from 11 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. and stayed there from 11:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., he said. The seven-minute piece aired at 11:15.
When Ritchie explained the story to him, said Brogan, 33, who is white, "I had no clue this was an issue," he said of the chemical burns caused by straightening of hair. "I never heard about it, and I had African American friends. I instantly bought into this" story. "I had not seen this story done. It brings up a safety concern," he said. Brogan said his only worry was insensitive audience reaction, but all the feedback was positive, he said.
Ritchie shared her own back story via e-mail with Keonte Coleman, assistant professor in the Journalism & Media Studies Department at Bennett College, who posted her comments on his website:
“Making the decision to go natural was not an easy one, especially being a black female reporter. After graduating Western Kentucky University in 2004, I accepted an editor position at a local tv station in my home of Lexington, KY. I had sent out tons of resume tapes hoping to one day be a reporter. But I didn’t get one interview with my relaxed shoulder length hair. One day an anchor, black female, told me I needed to get extensions if I wanted to land a job. I got extensions and made a new tape with my new look and I started getting calls immediately. From there the belief that I needed extensions in order to be hired set in. I spent more money on my hair than anything. In six years I spent $9600, my student loans are $9500, so that should give you an idea of where my priorities were.
"The story about going natural developed while I was having a conversation on the phone with a friend at work. My producer heard me saying, 'I am going natural, I am tired of wigs, weaves and relaxers.' She (producer) asked me what I meant by that and I showed her YouTube videos of black women who were on the journey of going natural. She was stunned and said, 'Rochelle that would make a great story for sweeps.' I pitched the idea and with her support as well as our female anchor they allowed me to do it. My news director’s response was great. His only concern was just keeping up with the process of my story and hair. My general manager is a great guy and totally supported me as well.
"The fear of getting a new job with my new look does not scare me because I believe my work and passion for this business will shine through.
"I have had such an AMAZING response from the community. People of all genders and races have completely supported me with positive feedback. Of course if there were any negative emails my news director does not send those to me. But personally I haven’t gotten one email or Facebook comment that was negative. A matter of fact many of my white and Latino colleagues say I look more professional. I believe this as well. I feel I look more polished and sharp. I also feel like I think better without all that fake hair on my head! lol….
"For my 'black female reporter hopefuls' I say let your work show your ability to be a good, excuse me a great reporter. My story is a way for me to pave the way for black women’s hair to be acceptable not just in the professional world but on TV! I would say if you are natural. Keep it neat. And if you are worried about getting a job the fabulous thing is we can straighten our hair for the interview and go back to our beautiful curls when we leave.
"Do I have any regrets? Yes I do. I regret denying my natural beauty. I regret falling into the belief that I needed to look a certain way to get into this business instead of believing in my ability as a reporter. I regret allowing someone to cover me up. But no more! This is me, Rochelle Ritchie a natural, professional and happy television reporter. And I feel more confident now than ever before and look forward to climbing the ladder of success with all my kinky curls.”
"Good Hair" on the TV News Set (Oct. 7, 2009)
Courtland Milloy Creates Buzz Tracing Issues to Race and Class
Washington Post Metro columnist Courtland Milloy Jr. sparked attention far outside the Washington area when he dissected the racial dimensions of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's September primary defeat for reelection and this month took on the portrayal of black men in Tyler Perry's movie "For Colored Girls." Now Milloy is the cover story in the Washington City Paper.
"If he’s not quite a mouthpiece for a black agenda in the District, he’s the closest thing to it at the Post — or anywhere else in the local mainstream media, for that matter, Rend Smith wrote. "Milloy’s column cuts against the usual conventional wisdom in journalism these days, giving readers a mirror of an urban, poor D.C. instead of the wealthy suburbs advertisers would probably prefer. And while the newspaper lavishes attention on its new iPad incarnation, and courts Facebook and Twitter like a desperate teenaged boy chasing after a crush, Milloy almost gleefully stays away from the trend.
"Like the late Herb Caen in San Francisco, he’s an old-school journalist doing an old-school job: the Metro columnist writing about, and for, the city’s downtrodden. For decades, that was a generally quiet, low-impact job. But following a mayoral campaign that pitted rich against poor in dramatic new ways this fall, Milloy’s knack for reducing post-modern problems to their race-and-class roots has suddenly made him a controversial, buzz-generating columnist — the man that the supposedly liberal class of newcomers to D.C.’s gentrifying neighborhoods love to hate.
"In the steadfastly non-gentrified neighborhoods that Milloy covers, though, he’s rarely seen as incendiary."
The piece also asserts that in the 1970s, your Journal-isms columnist "was known for opening his Dupont Circle house up for late-night get-togethers that catered to the black media elite." (!)
Columnists and bloggers take up the cause of two black women in Mississippi who are serving double life sentences for an armed robbery that yielded $11 and resulted in no injuries.
A black nationalist website was onto the case early. Then there were more websites and the muckraking magazine Mother Jones.
A talk-show voice on CNN, a local black radio station and the syndicated The Michael Baisden Show joined the mix, as did the NAACP and the Innocence Project.
The social media sites played their role. And now the "legacy" print media have joined in.
So, will two black Mississippi women, whom so many agree have been unjustly imprisoned, now be freed?
On Sunday, syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald became the latest to raise his voice. He wrote:
"Let’s assume that two days before Christmas in 1993, a 22-year-old black woman named Jamie Scott and her pregnant, 19-year-old sister Gladys set up an armed robbery. Let’s assume these single mothers lured two men to a spot outside the tiny town of Forest, Miss., where three teenage boys, using a shotgun the sisters supplied, relieved the men of $11 and sent them on their way, unharmed.
"Assume all of the above is true, and still you must be shocked at the crude brutality of the Scott sisters’ fate. You see, the sisters, neither of whom had a criminal record before this, are still locked away in state prison, having served 16 years of their double-life sentences.
"It bears repeating. Each sister is doing double life for a robbery in which $11 was taken and nobody was hurt. Somewhere, the late Nina Simone is moaning her signature song: Mississippi Goddam."
"For the record, two of the young men who committed the robbery testified against the sisters as a condition of their plea bargain. All three reportedly received two-year sentences and were long ago released. No shotgun or forensic evidence was produced at trial. The sisters have always maintained their innocence.
"Observers are at a loss to explain their grotesquely disproportionate sentence. Early this year, the Jackson Advocate, a weekly newspaper serving the black community in the state capital, interviewed the sisters’ mother, Evelyn Rasco. She described the sentences as payback for her family’s testimony against a corrupt sheriff. According to her, that sheriff’s successor vowed revenge."
Lenore J. Daniels added last year on BlackCommentator.com:
"Evelyn Rasco has been fighting for her daughters' release the last 14 years. Rasco lost her husband and an older daughter who died of congenital heart failure in 2001. This daughter left behind a 5 year old child. In these last 14 years, Rasco has tried to be the grandmother and the mother of 10 children (includes grandchildren of Jamie and Gladys) while sustaining the battle to free her two remaining daughters from prison."
Unlike in antebellum Mississippi, some of the accused villains in this saga, in both the prosecution and in law enforcement, are African American.
But that distinction hasn't meant much to Jamie Scott. In August 2009, she posted this message on a website maintained by her family:
"Slavery in Mississippi has changed names. It is still very much active and alive in Mississippi. Its new name is called the LAW! So, if there is anyone out there that thinks this cannot happen to their child or family, think about Gladys and Jamie Scott. We were not criminals nor were we drug addicts. I worked every day. I have a right to be bitter, angry, mad as hell at the United States of America, but I choose not to because I know a higher power and Gladys and I WILL walk the streets again."
Among the sisters' most ardent champions is Nancy R. Lockhart, who came across the sisters' case as a law student working with the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. As a volunteer, Lockhart has dedicated her attention to the Scott sisters' case for the last four years.
"I will never forget the frigid, Chicago morning when I opened a letter from Mrs. Evelyn Rasco, a mother and widow," Lockhart wrote two years ago for BlackCommenator.com. "She told the story of her daughters, and said she had written Rainbow/PUSH for 11 years, without a response. She redirected her strategy this time and wrote Congressman [Jesse] Jackson [Jr.] in a plea to get the letter to his father’s (Rev. [Jesse] Jackson) office. The letter was hand delivered."
Lockhart told Journal-isms on Monday that her piece came to the attention of Rip Daniels, a Realtor who owns WJZD in Gulfport, Miss., via a friend who read the piece in Cuba.
Daniels began publicizing the case on his station. He even urged listeners to write in the names of the sisters in opposition to the reelection bid of the presiding judge in their trial, Marcus Gordon.
The case drew more attention in February after a small crowd gathered outside the state capitol in Jackson to push for the sisters' release.
"At the Central Mississippi Correctional Facility (CMCF) in Pearl, where Jamie and Gladys are incarcerated, medical services are provided by a private contractor called Wexford, which has been the subject of lawsuits and legislative investigations in several states over inadequate treatment of the inmates in its care. According to Jamie Scott’s family, in the six weeks since her condition became life-threatening, she has endured faulty or missed dialysis sessions, infections, and other complications. She has received no indication that a kidney transplant is being considered as an option, though her sister is a willing donor."
Then, in May, Ridgeway quoted from a letter from Jamie Scott:
"The living condition in quickbed area is not fit for any human to live in. I have been incarcerated for 15 years 6 months now and this is the worst I have ever experience. When it rain out side it rain inside. The zone flood like a river. The rain comes down on our heads and we have to try to get sheets and blankets to try to stop it from wetting our beds and personnel property...I am fully aware that we are in prison, but no one should have to live in such harsh condition. I am paranoid of catching anything because of what I have been going throw with my medical condition."
The case caught the attention of cable television when CNN's Jane Velez-Mitchell used it on March 4 to illustrate the disparities in the criminal justice system. Lockhart posted the video on her website.
National black radio helped. An appeal on the "Michael Baisden Show" for a CAT scan to find the cause of Jamie Scott's headaches prompted listeners to pressure authorities. "She's going blind," Lockhart said of Jamie Scott. The scan was performed, but Scott still does not know the results, Lockhart said.
Attention in the New York Times raised the case's profile. Columnist Bob Herbert, who is syndicated, devoted two columns to the case last month.
"This is Mississippi we’re talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages," Herbert wrote. "The right thing to do at this point is to get the sisters out of prison as quickly as possible and ensure that Jamie gets proper medical treatment."
The piece "produced a different level of people who responded," Lockhart said, and their numbers pushed the Facebook support page beyond its limit.
Meanwhile, other writers tried to put the case in a larger context. BlogHer's Nordette Adams wrote, "The high numbers of African-Americans being sent to prison for longer terms than whites committing a similar crime, as was seen in the case of the Jena 6, has prompted research that leads some people to conclude the prison system, with its work programs, has become the agent of "neoslavery."
On the other hand, a Mississippi writer objected to using the case as a slur against his state. "I don't want Mississippi's painful history stricken from the nation's textbooks, and I don't want outsiders to stop trying to effect change in the Magnolia state, if they feel so moved," M. Scott Morris of Tupelo's Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal wrote last month. "But there are a whole lot of sins buried in a whole lot of backyards in this country."
For all the news outlets who have mentioned the Scott sisters case, however, many more have not. Lockhart praises Charles Evers, the civil rights leader who is station manager for WMPR-FM in Jackson, and investigative reporter Kathy Y. Times of WDBD-TV in Jackson, who is also president of the National Association of Black Journalists. But Lockhart can also name media outlets that have not returned telephone calls or have made inquiries but never followed up.
"The media have been very important," she told Journal-isms, but the women are still in prison and at least one is in need of medical attention. Gov. Haley Barbour is weighing a pardon, but that is by no means certain. "We still need a lot of coverage. There are still a lot of people who don't know about this case," Lockhart said. "The media are very much needed in this case. I do not exaggerate when expressing the medical condition that Jamie is in. We need more of a public outcry!"
Eve Conant, newsweek.com: Left Wing: Pardon Me, Governor Barbour
Toure Muhammad, the Final Call: Jailed for $11: Sisters locked up 16 years in Dirty South injustice
News release: 1961 Freedom Riders Call For Prisoners' Release
Pamela D. Reed, thedailyvoice.com: Mississippi Goddam: Free the Scott Sisters
James Ridgeway, Mother Jones: Haley Barbour Will Decide the Fate of the Scott Sisters
"December's American Vogue features eight Asian models who are, according to the magazine, 'redefining traditional concepts of beauty,' " James Lim noted last week in New York magazine.
"Which raises the question, 'traditional concepts of beauty' where, exactly?" added Jen Wang on the website Disgrasian. "Because there are plenty of places in the world where, traditionally speaking, Asian women have long been considered beautiful. Like in, um, Asia, for example? Even in Western countries, Asian beauty, for lack of a more specific term, isn’t a new concept (although, granted, sometimes, it’s a creepy, fetishy one.)
"And since that covers 3/4 of the world’s population, what’s left?
"Vogue magazine, that’s what.
"Let’s think about this for a second: American Vogue has never featured an Asian model on its cover in its 40-plus years of featuring models on its cover (unless you count Blasian Naomi Campbell). American Vogue also has a dismal track record when it comes to featuring non-white models in general. So, by featuring a 'new' crop of Asian models in its pages, American Vogue is 'redefining traditional concepts of beauty' held by . . . American Vogue.
"On Nov. 4, Anderson Cooper did the country a favor. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumor that President Obama’s trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day," Thomas Friedman wrote last week in the New York Times. "This was an important 'story.' It underscored just how far ahead of his time Mark Twain was when he said a century before the Internet, 'A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.' But it also showed that there is an antidote to malicious journalism — and that’s good journalism.
"In case you missed it, a story circulated around the Web on the eve of President Obama’s trip that it would cost U.S. taxpayers $200 million a day — about $2 billion for the entire trip. Cooper said he felt impelled to check it out because the evening before he had had Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, a Republican and Tea Party favorite, on his show and had asked her where exactly Republicans will cut the budget.
"Instead of giving specifics, Bachmann used her airtime to inject a phony story into the mainstream. She answered: 'I think we know that just within a day or so the president of the United States will be taking a trip over to India that is expected to cost the taxpayers $200 million a day. He’s taking 2,000 people with him. He’ll be renting over 870 rooms in India, and these are five-star hotel rooms at the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel. This is the kind of over-the-top spending.'
"The next night, Cooper explained that he felt compelled to trace that story back to its source, since someone had used his show to circulate it. His research, he said, found that it had originated from a quote by 'an alleged Indian provincial official,' from the Indian state of Maharashtra, 'reported by India’s Press Trust, their equivalent of our A.P. or Reuters. I say "alleged," provincial official,' Cooper added, 'because we have no idea who this person is, no name was given.' ”
George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Obama Should Reject Bush Tax Breaks for the Wealthy
Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: America’s loss of friendship
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Obama's opportunity to be the decider
Jack White, theRoot.com: Rescuing the President
"In her new family memoir, 'Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family' (Crown Archetype, October 2010), Condoleezza Rice recalls her childhood in the parallel worlds of segregated Birmingham, where her attentive parents did their best to shield her from the daily degradations of being black in Alabama in the '50s and '60s," Kenneth J. Cooper, a Boston-based freelancer and Denver native, wrote Sunday for the Denver Post.
"The Rices refused to sip from 'colored only' fountains and on road trips carried their own food.
"I was struck, though, by what happened after her family moved in Denver in 1968. They seem to have eased into another parallel world, this one on the other side of the color line, quite apart from the city's black community, where I was growing up at the same time. Condoleezza seems to have had almost no connection to northeast Denver.
". . . her parents sent their only child to St. Mary's Academy, the same year I entered Graland Country Day. At St. Mary's, her estrangement from black Denver took firm hold, by her account.
"Two other black girls were in Condoleezza's class of 70 students. She remembers that 'a huge wall separated me from my black sisters. Maybe I was just the new kid on the block, or I didn't try hard enough, but I sure didn't feel welcomed by the few black students.'
"At Graland, class tensions divided me and a couple of more prosperous black students. It's hard to say similar problems existed at St. Mary's: One black classmate from an accomplished family once told me she felt young Condoleezza looked down on her. . . .
"On her book tour or another visit to Denver, I hope a black intimate with northeast Denver takes the former secretary of state on a fact-finding mission to correct her misimpressions. Perhaps her guide could be former Mayor Wellington Webb."
Javier E. David, thegrio.com: Why blacks should end their beef with Condoleezza Rice
Sherrilyn A. Ifill, theRoot.com: Standing Up for the Extraordinary, Ordinary People Who Didn't Fight Back
Dale Russakoff, Washington Post Magazine: Lessons of Might and Right: How Segregation and an Indomitable Family Shaped National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (2001)
"Pride and nostalgia aside, the cold business reality is that Johnson Publishing was long overdue to move on," Eric Easter, former vice president of digital and entertainment for Johnson Publishing Co., argued Sunday on theRoot.com.
The company announced last week that it has sold its historic building on Chicago's Michigan Avenue to Columbia College Chicago but would stay there for 18 months.
"For anyone decrying some great loss of history, I would argue that the history is secure," Easter wrote. "More important than Johnson Publishing owning the building or residing in it is that the building even existed for its time. It stands as a major achievement. Historians and preservationists should be more concerned that the landmark does not get torn down and that its story be told prominently and correctly.
"As for the company itself, I would advise my former colleagues not to wait to move. Get out as soon as possible and begin anew. Scrap the 'world's largest black publishing company' hype and start acting like a startup. Find a funky warehouse with creaky floors, drafty windows and exposed beams, and a great view of an alley — some space that reeks of innovation, creativity and growth. Then crank the music loud and start having fun again. Less Mad Men, more Facebook."
"Media owners from across the African continent today vowed to end reliance on donor funding and rid the industry of corrupt practices," the African Media Initiative announced from Cameroon, West Africa, on Friday.
"This is a watershed moment that holds out the promise of a new dawn in African media," said Trevor Ncube, co-chairman of the African Media Initiative, a continent-wide body that sponsors the African Media Leaders Forum.
"The three year old Forum brought together more than 225 African media owners from 48 African countries, as well as international media experts. The purpose of the meeting was aimed at coming to a consensus around the best ways to develop an African media that meets the needs of a dramatically changing media landscape, while instilling the highest professional standards and ethical reporting. . . .
"Attending the meeting were representatives from African financial institutions that pledged to assist in transforming media institutions into both viable businesses and effective purveyors of credible news and information."
In March, Charlayne Hunter-Gault, the veteran African American journalist now based in Africa, and Ncube, an owner of media properties in Zimbabwe and South Africa, announced they were starting an "African Media Initiative" to bolster a free news media on the continent.
Fifty guests, mostly black women, were invited over to the White House to see a screening of Tyler Perry's film version of For Colored Girls.
When the showing of Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls" ended Tuesday evening at the White House, first lady Michelle Obama got up and told the 50 guests she hoped they enjoyed it. But those who had come from around the country to share the experience "were just sitting there. I don't think they knew how to respond to it," Shirley Poole, who had arrived from New York, told Journal-isms.
It was mostly a crowd of black women, said E. Faye Williams, though two or three men and some white women were also present. "Most people cried throughout," said Williams, who is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women. "For the majority of the film, you could see that the stories would be very painful. It's meant for black women, and almost all black women could identify with at least one of the women in the picture. . . . The first lady is a black woman. I'm sure she can relate." Indeed, Obama gave everyone a hug on the way out.
The Perry film, based on Ntozake Shange's 1975 "choreopoem" "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf," has been criticized for its portrayals of black men but praised for giving voice to black women's struggles with emotional obstacles. It is White House policy not to comment on activities in the residence, a spokeswoman said, and thus nothing official was said about the screening. In fact, the word was passed that the showing was for the White House staff.
Poole, executive director of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. in New York, said Obama sat in the first row, dressed casually. Obama told the group she had thought, "What about having the girlfriends over to see it?"
Popcorn and soft drinks were served, just as in the movie houses outside the bubble.
Had there been formal discussion, Williams would not have spent much time on the man-bashing charges. "It wasn't meant for a male," she said of the film. "If I were a man, I would not enjoy seeing the negative characters, but the truth is they exist." More important, the movie helps "black women understand the part we play in allowing these things to happen to us."
Poole might have confessed that she felt better about the stage version. "I felt more empowered when I left the play," she told Journal-isms.
Attendees did network and exchange business cards. Apart from Williams and Poole, some of those cards belonged to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Bishop Barbara L. King, founder/minister of the Hillside Chapel and Truth Center, Inc., in Atlanta; Blanche Williams, "a national broadcast journalist, acclaimed author, dynamic speaker and change agent" and Neil Irvin, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape.
Neither President Obama nor his senior female adviser, Valerie Jarrett, was present for the screening, but the first daughters, Sasha and Malia, could be seen taking the family dog, Bo, for a walk.
*Alex Weprin, TVNewswer: Barbara Walters to Interview President Obama, First Lady for Primetime Thanksgiving Special
College to Own First Black-Owned Building in Chicago's Loop
Johnson Publishing Co. has sold its historic building on Chicago's Michigan Avenue to Columbia College Chicago, the company announced on Tuesday.
It has not yet selected a new home and is to remain in the building for 18 months.
"The sale of 820 S. Michigan is part of the continuing evolution of the company that my father and mother started in the early 1942s," Linda Johnson Rice, Johnson Publishing Co. chairman, said in a statement.
"Just as when JPC moved to this location in 1972, my father would be the first to say it makes good business sense to relocate to space that serves the current needs of the company."
The purchase price was not disclosed, but spokesman Rodrigo A. Sierra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said, "It does strengthen our balance sheet. We want to be focused on our businesses and not on upkeep of a building."
JPC said that it uses only about 40 percent of the building.
The announcement said, "The 11-story, 110,000 square-foot historic building, which has been home to EBONY and JET magazines as well as Fashion Fair Cosmetics for almost 40 years, was completed in 1972 as the first major downtown Chicago building designed by an African-American since Jean Baptiste Point DuSable’s trading post, built two centuries earlier."
The building is historic not only because it was designed by an African American, John W. Moutoussamy, but also because it was owned by one — the first skyscraper owned by an African American in the Loop.
In his memoir, "Succeeding Against the Odds," written with Lerone Bennett Jr., company founder John H. Johnson described how he enlisted a white lawyer to buy the land for him when the owner would not sell to a black person.
Writing in the Washington Post in 1980, Carla Hall described the building as it looked then:
"On the wall of the advertising department are framed posters of slick, crisp ads that ran 10 years ago promoting the Ebony readership as a bountiful consumer market to be tapped by companies. The caption on one showing black professionals reads: 'If these men and women have rhythm, they've put it to work on marketing cycles or computer electronics or fabric patterns... Ebony is where 49 million people do their shopping.'
"The $8 million building contains a $300,000 art collection, the work of many black artists all over the country. It is practically a monument — sometimes an ostentatious one — to black success."
After Johnson — father of Linda Johnson Rice — died in 2005 at age 87, a new honorary street sign reading John H. Johnson Avenue was posted on the corner near the Michigan Avenue entrance.
After 18 months, Columbia College Chicago plans to use the site for a library.
Allen Turner, chairman of the school's Board of Trustees, said in a statement, "The purchase of the Johnson Building offered us a rare opportunity for much needed expansion, especially given that the space is central to our South Loop campus. Just as important, we will have a part in preserving the legacy of the Johnson Building and its legendary significance to all Chicagoans."
Lynn Norment, an editor who worked at Ebony from 1977 to 2009 and is now with Carol H. Williams Advertising, also located downtown, said of the building, "It represents wonderful memories, the legacy of Mr. Johnson. It represents a black institution in our community. I spent half my life there, and I was there for more than half of Ebony's life, and I realize now I was there for the heyday. It's kind of sad."
Warrick L. Carter, Ph.D., President, Columbia College Chicago: Columbia College Purchases Iconic Johnson Publishing Headquarters Building
In January, 70 percent of Americans polled told the Pew Research Center that the massive earthquake that had just shaken Haiti was the story they were talking about with their friends. Nearly half said they gave or planned to give a donation to those affected.
The heart-wrenching catastrophe spawned such pledges as this one by Karl Rodney, publisher of the New York Carib News and chairman of the black press' NNPA Foundation Haitian Project:
"The story of Haiti is the story that the Black Press must own and the Black Press must tell because Haiti is the first Democratic country in the Western Hemisphere, the first Black republic for over 200 years."
As could be expected, public attention eventually shifted elsewhere, but a deadly outbreak of cholera, an upcoming presidential election and continuing frustration with a lack of progress are helping to bring it back.
Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop star, sparked a flurry of interest over the summer when he announced he would seek Haiti's presidency. But elections officials ruled in August that Jean was not eligible because he did not live there; he left Haiti as a child for the United States.
More recently came the cholera epidemic. Monday brought this news: "Protesters who hold U.N. soldiers from Nepal responsible for a deadly outbreak of cholera that has killed nearly 1,000 people barricaded Haiti's second-largest city on Monday, burning cars and stoning a peacekeeping base," as Jonathan M. Katz reported for the Associated Press.
Haiti was again grabbing media attention. In Washington, public radio's "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU-FM broadcast live from Haiti for four days last week, discussing topics ranging from the use of cell-phone technology on the island to the more than $1 billion Haiti receives every year in remittances from Haitian immigrant communities overseas.
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Lauren Kirchner wrote last week about a first-person simulation program in which the participant plays the role of an aid worker, journalist or survivor. " 'Inside the Haiti Earthquake' is designed to challenge assumptions about relief work in disaster situations," she wrote of the creation by Canada's PTV Productions. "You will be given the opportunity to commit to various strategies, and experience their consequences."
On Sunday, Byron Pitts, correspondent for CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," with a team that included Haitian-American producer Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson, reported from the scene:
"This year had already been a disastrous one for Haiti when a cholera epidemic erupted a few weeks ago that has killed over 700 people in the countryside and is spreading to the capital, Port-au-Prince. It's where millions of people live in wretched conditions — a perfect breeding ground for the waterborne disease to flourish.
"This latest disaster couldn't have come at a worse time: Haiti was already struggling to recover from last January's earthquake that killed 300,000 people.
"To help it get back on its feet, nearly half the households in America donated money and countries from around the world pledged billions.
There seems to be no end to the angles that can be explored. "The difference between life and death in Haiti is now an ordinary bar of soap," William Booth wrote Monday in the Washington Post.
"Soap could slow the terrifying cholera outbreak that is quickly spreading and has just in the past week entered the ravaged capital, according to health care specialists and international aid groups.
" . . . A cake of yellow Haitian soap costs about 50 cents. But many Haitians do not have soap, because they cannot it afford it. More than half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day."
José de Córdoba wrote Friday in the Wall Street Journal that non-governmental organizations on the ground to help could also be part of the problem.
"As the past few months have made clear, there is little coordination among the NGOs or between the NGOs and Haitian officials. Some NGO plans don't fit or clash outright with the plans of the government. Some are geared toward short-term relief — a classic case of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him to fish," he wrote.
The American news industry had responded with plans to help Haiti's journalists, devastated by the quake like other Haitian citizens, to tell their own stories.
An e-mail Monday to Joe Oglesby, the retired editorial page editor at the Miami Herald who was picked to head this Haiti News Project, found him on the island.
"I'm in Haiti this week, delivering computers, printers and cameras to journalists and newspapers. I will spend the week interviewing media folk here," he wrote. "The cholera outbreak has caused serious concern among the people I've seen so far. Other than the obvious precautions of frequent hand washing and extreme care, there is not much that people can do. So most are resigned to simply be as careful as possible and hope for the best.
"Small delivery this time," he continued. "We're winding down this part of the project and focusing on training. I'm delivering 7 computers, two cameras, two printers and 52 computer bags that were donated by NABJ participants. I have local brokers helping me negotiate the arcane and corrupt Customs process.
"We're working with several small groups of radio and print journalists on a range of projects depending on their skill levels. This we're doing in collaboration with Knight Foundation international fellow Kathie Klarreich. We're also working with Jane Regan who will begin a course in investigative reporting at State University for senior journalism students and active journalists."
The NABJ reference was to the National Association of Black Journalists, whose member donated bags at the summer convention in San Diego. President Kathy Times made an announcement about the project at a dinner. "The response was overwhelming," John Yearwood, world editor at the Miami Herald and NABJ liaison to the project, told Journal-isms.
A delegation from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, including Richard Muhammad, editor-in-chief of the Final Call, New York freelancer Herb Boyd and talk-show host Joe Madison, went to the island in February. As part of the follow-up, Hazel Trice Edney, editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service, said then that the publishers planned to open a bureau in the country, staffed by a Haitian journalist who would be trained in Washington. However, Trice Edney left NNPA in September.
Still, Julianne Malveaux, an NNPA columnist, was in Haiti last month, and reported last week in USA Today, "Our indifference, political wrangling and sense of business as usual are nothing short of immoral."
Joel Dreyfuss, a Haitian-American who is managing editor of theRoot.com, has been following the Haitian coverage closely.
"One of the best pieces on Haiti recently is the one that ran in the Wall Street Journal by Jose de Cordoba talking about a backlash against foreign aid," he told Journal-isms via e-mail. "It touches on why so many of the 'well-meaning' efforts are a failure. There's a general oversimplification when it comes to Haiti. It's like, this tiny country can't possibly be that complicated.
"Yesterday's '60 Minutes' piece talked about blocking relief materials at the port, but what about the local economy? one new worry is that free and donated goods will destroy the merchant economy. Should an aid group bring millions of dollars of building material, or buy from local merchants? There is corruption of course, but there is also genuine worry about the long term effect. That's a big issue that's not dealt with very often.
"There is already the story of how all the free medical aid has bankrupted several hospitals and put some very good doctors out of business. The NGOs are out of control.
"So I think the interest has returned because of cholera, but much less attention is being paid to the upcoming election on Nov. 28, which has much more of a long term impact."
There's still time to gear up for that, even for those who want to broadcast from Haiti in person, as Nnamdi did. He offers this advice:
"Once we hooked up with Radio Metropole in Haiti, we were able to get the live broadcasts done. We had to take a lot of equipment that only our engineer understands, but it all fit into a large metal suitcase.
"Apart from that, we discovered that your fixer is everything. Not only driver and translator, but also as producer, since you've got to find people in a hurry, and having someone who knows a lot of people who can find other people in a chaotic city is crucial if you're operating with limited time."
Nadege Charles, Miami Herald: Haitian presidential hopefuls seek support
Bob Ray Sanders, Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Misery grows in Haiti
Deborah Sontag, New York Times: A School Fights for Life in Battered Haiti
Crystal Wells, Huffington Post: In Haiti, A Fear of the Water
President Obama might have been tending to international affairs last week, domestic politics remained in full tilt back home.
A piece in the Washington Post Outlook section generated the lion's share of Sunday buzz by suggesting that Obama declare that he would be a one-term president.
"Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones," wrote Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell in a piece called "One & done."
Caddell was identified as a political commentator who was pollster and senior adviser to former president Jimmy Carter. Schoen was labeled a pollster who worked for former president Bill Clinton and is the author of "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System."
But Matt Gertz noted for Media Matters that the Post failed to disclose "that Schoen has been a pollster for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As Bloomberg is considered a possible third-party candidate for president in 2012, the Post basically gave Schoen space to try to push his potential client's opponent out of the race.
"A Washington Post spokesperson now tells Media Matters that the paper 'should have also noted' Schoen's work for Bloomberg:
"Because the piece sought to give advice to President Obama, the Outlook editors thought it was important to highlight the authors' experience working for former presidents. In hindsight, given the speculation about Michael Bloomberg possibly seeking the presidency, we should have also noted that Schoen was a former pollster for Bloomberg."
Meanwhile, ProPublica and PolitiFact, the political fact-checking unit of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, examined this statement by Obama Nov. 7 on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes":
"One of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there."
Rob Farley of Politifact, and Michael Grabell of ProPublica concluded last Wednesday:
". . . Obama would have been on firm ground had he said 'many' projects have come in faster than expected. Many have. But many have not. And if the claim is based on meeting a deadline to outlay funds, the overall target of 70 percent was reached — barely — by the end of September. That's only faster than expected if you expected the government to fail.
"Obama makes a valid point about this being a good time to get deals on infrastructure projects. The recession has created desperate workers willing to work cheaper, and the cost of materials is still relatively low. Obama's point that this was borne out by the stimulus projects is on target. But he stretched the facts — at least what is actually known — when he claimed most projects have come in under budget and faster than expected. And so we rate his claim Half True."
Separately, a new website has surfaced, whatthefuckhasobamadonesofar.com.
Betty Winston Bayé, Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal: America's emerging plutocracy
Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The Blasé Mandate
George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: What President Obama Should Do Next
Matt Gertz, Media Matters: The Wash. Post and Fox's "leading Democratic political analysts"
Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Tea Baggers in the Black Caucus — What's the Point?
Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald: Marco Rubio's simple ways to win hearts
Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: President Obama, You've Got a Base Problem
Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: My people, my people, why can't we get it together?
Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Did White voters go stark raving mad in 2010?
Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Election Day a sad one for women
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Where's the Democrats' fighting spirit?
Rose Russell, Toledo Blade: Obama’s right: Develop U.S. ties to Indonesia
Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald: Coming to terms with the midterm election
Cynthia Tucker blog, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Here’s why the Democrats need Nancy Pelosi
USA Today: Obama's Asia trip gets mixed reviews
DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: President Obama should fight, not surrender
Rodney Ward, executive editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television, was promoted Monday to executive vice president/special president of NBR Worldwide, the company that acquired the show in August.
"In his new position, he will report directly to NBR Worldwide CEO Mykalai Kontilai on the many new platforms that are planned for NBR content. Ward will no longer be involved with the production or editorial management of the daily program," Stuart Zuckerman, vice president, sales and marketing, told Journal-isms.
"Wendie Feinberg, current Managing Editor, assumes those responsibilities as VP/Managing Editor."
Elizabeth Jensen reported Friday for the New York Times that " 'Nightly Business Report,' the business newscast on PBS, laid off eight people on Friday, or about 20 percent of the staff, in the first major change since it was acquired in August."
"Before being promoted into the position he currently holds, Rodney spent 11 years as managing editor of 'Nightly Business Report.' In that capacity, he guided a dedicated news team headquartered in Miami and also operating out of bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Rodney was also directly responsible for leading NBR's regional coverage of Asia. During his tenure as Managing Editor, NBR was recognized with a National Emmy Award as well as numerous other awards for its coverage of business and the economy."
Producer-writer Denise Royal, who is also a black journalist, remains with the program.
"In all the years I knew Andrew, he was a gentle soul — angry at injustice towards humanity but possessing a great love towards humans. News of the manner of his death in South Africa came as a shock," Brian Wright O’Connor wrote Thursday in Boston's Bay State Banner, describing Andrew Philemon Jones.
"In late October, after an argument with his estranged wife — the mother of their three young sons — Andrew left their office, returned with a handgun, and fired one bullet. The shot went through her shoulder. He pulled the trigger a second time. The gun jammed. Andrew killed himself after she fled from the room. He was 58 years old.
"Andrew had battled demons but demons could hardly explain or condone such a violent end.
"Friends and family who attended his funeral in Johannesburg, the city where Andrew had started a new life after leaving Boston in 1995, were similarly shocked. His wife, Kubeshni Govender Jones, was sufficiently recovered to attend the services, as were their boys — Cochise, Sicelo, and Ayanda.
". . . he studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, but concert halls and recording studios couldn’t contain his searching mind and restless spirit. He got a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University in 1982 and set out to use the media to change the world. Or, as a more seasoned Andrew put it later, 'I switched from one form of entertainment to another.'
"The inevitable clash occurred when ABC sent an executive to the network’s Prudential Tower suite to advise bureau employees, who had long complained about strange fibers in the office air, not to talk to the press about asbestos dust falling from the ceiling. Andrew laughed at the man in the suit and denounced the network in public.
"The end of Andrew’s network producing career gave rise to a successful run as an agent provocateur seeding intellectual sedition through documentary films. In segments for public television stations around the country, including many first aired on Boston’s WGBH-TV, Andrew told the story of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, captured the growing pains of Russia in the first gasps of post-Soviet life, and conducted pioneering interviews with the reclusive leaders of North Korea.
"He broadcast reports from Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Jordan, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Mexico and Zimbabwe. He picked up a New England Regional Emmy and scores of film awards along the way. His segments aired on NBC, Black Entertainment Television, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the PBS Network and Russia’s TASS News Agency."
Eduardo Suárez has been named to the newly created position of vice president of programming for CNN en Español, the network announced on Monday.
"Suárez will be based in Miami, and travel frequently to the network’s bureaus and Atlanta hub, as well as on location to key news hotspots.
"As vice president of programming, Suárez will be responsible for the strategic planning and execution for all network programs, specials and on-location events across CNN en Español’s three feeds: pan-regional, Mexico and U.S. He will supervise production teams in Atlanta and Miami, and the creation of all new media content."
". . . He most recently served as the Vice President of Productions and Programming for Mega TV, and has worked in various leadership roles at Univisión, Telemundo, Discovery Latin America and MGM Latin America, in addition to running his own company."
Politico plans a February 2011 launch of Politico Pro, which "will provide paid subscribers high-impact, high-velocity reporting on the politics of energy, technology and health care reform," the three-year-old Internet and print publication announced on Monday. "And it will do so with a team of more than 40 dedicated journalists — roughly the same number that POLITICO itself had when it started publishing.
"As POLITICO itself did nearly four years ago, POLITICO Pro is moving aggressively to hire the best reporters and editors in the business. Leading the effort will be POLITICO Pro Editor-in-Chief Tim Grieve, currently a deputy managing editor at POLITICO," the announcement said.
LaRonda Peterson, a black journalist, "will serve as POLITICO Pro's production editor, leading a team that will include copy editor Abby McIntyre and web producers Kate Nocera, Jess Kamen and Alex Guillén," it continued.
However, Politico would not identify any journalists of color. "Company policy as well as respect for our employees' privacy and their individual talents preclude us from giving you a head count on hiring. Suffice it to say that we're proud of our track record on Pro," said Beth Frerking, assistant managing editor, partnerships.
Although John F. Harris, Politico's top editor, is a board member of the American Society of News Editors, Politico has not disclosed its diversity information when ASNE surveyed online operations. "Our corporate policies don't allow me to release numerical data," Harris has said.
Nevertheless, Frerking did add, "our second POLITICO Fellow — Juana Summers — arrived today. She'll be on our 2012 political reporting team. She joins Jennifer Martinez, a tech reporter, in a program that we're very proud to have launched this fall.
Summers, who is African American, was a member of the 2009 summer class of Chips Quinn Scholars, the Freedom Forum training program designed to boost diversity in the news business.