If Jews Controlled the Media, So What?
Richard Prince breaks down what's really behind the comments Rick Sanchez made about Jon Stewart, Jews and the media. Plus: BET and TV One's black viewership, LeBron James sports coverage and more in the latest edition of Journal-isms.
Ousted CNN anchor Rick Sanchez broke his silence on Wednesday about his firing, saying he had apologized to late-night comedian Jon Stewart "for my inartful comments from last week."
Those comments, made in an interview for a satellite radio show, excoriated Stewart for hailing from a middle-class background that Sanchez said made Stewart unable to "relate to a guy like me." Sanchez went on to answer a question about whether Stewart, as a Jew, should also be considered a member of an oppressed minority group.
The answer ricocheted first around the Internet and then in all other corners of the media. It was widely reported, inaccurately, that Sanchez said Jews "control" the news media, and accordingly, that his words were therefore anti-Semitic.
The fateful comment was, "I’m telling you that everybody who runs CNN is a lot like Stewart, and a lot of people who run all the other networks are a lot like Stewart, and to imply that somehow they -- the people in this country who are Jewish -- are an oppressed minority? Yeah.' "
It was the rare news organization that addressed the question of whether Jews are disproportionately represented at the top of media organizations, and rarer still, what difference it would make if they were.
"On October 4th, I had a very good conversation with Jon Stewart, and I had the opportunity to apologize for my inartful comments from last week. I sincerely extend this apology to anyone else whom I may have offended," Sanchez said in his statement, released through a South Florida publicist.
"As Jon was kind enough to note in his show Monday night, I am very much opposed to hate and intolerance, in any form, and I have frequently spoken out against prejudice. Despite what my tired and mangled words may have implied, they were never intended to suggest any sort of narrow-mindedness and should never have been made."
He went on to praise CNN.
" 'Here’s the deal,' Mr. Stewart said," according to Brian Stelter, reporting for the New York Times. " 'If CNN got rid of Rick Sanchez because they didn’t like his show, fine.' (He whispered, 'We weren’t that crazy about it either.' Mr. Sanchez was fodder for 'The Daily Show' more than 20 times.)
"He continued, 'But if they fired him for making some intemperate statements and some banal Jew-baiting, I gotta tell you, I’m not even sure Rick Sanchez believed what he was saying.' Mr. Stewart then queued up some classic Sanchez clips."
Howard Rosenberg, a former Los Angeles Times television critic who teaches news ethics at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and critical writing and a TV symposium at its School of Cinematic Arts, was asked about the comments on Jews Tuesday on NPR's "Tell Me More."
"Well, he never said — let's make sure that we quote him correctly. He never said 'controlled,' OK. He used other words. And I have to tell you, historically and even today, Jews have a voice in the media far out of proportion to our numbers," Rosenberg replied.
"That's not something to be ashamed of. I'm proud of it. It says a lot about us. For somebody to point that out is not problematic to me at all, nor is it problematic that he would call Jon Stewart a bigot. Jon Stewart is a public figure. If Jon Stewart can call Rick Sanchez an idiot, which he is as a matter of fact, Rick Sanchez has every right to call Jon Stewart a bigot."
Rosenberg went on to say of Sanchez, "I've been observing him since he was MSNBC. He's much more of an actor than a journalist. He's a vamper. He showboats. He gets his facts wrong. He speaks off the top of his head, frequently incorrectly. And to me, that spells out incompetence.
"And I suspect that he would not have been fired if he had big ratings."
In the Baltimore Sun, critic David Zurawik's ears told him that Sanchez had mentioned "ownership and control" by Jews. Having done 12 years of research into the topic, Zurawick responded:
"Here is the once-upon-a-time truth that the lie told by Sanchez is based on. The three networks -- NBC, CBS and ABC -- were founded and run by Jewish broadcasting pioneers: David Sarnoff (NBC), Bill Paley (CBS) and Leonard Goldenson (ABC). Like the founders of the Hollywood film industry, they were hands-on businessman who built their companies virtually from scratch. And for a while, network TV was essentially a three-network operation with this trio as the big three."
Was that a bad thing? Two years ago, columnist Joel Stein wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
"I have never been so upset by a poll in my life. Only 22% of Americans now believe 'the movie and television industries are pretty much run by Jews,' down from nearly 50% in 1964. The Anti-Defamation League, which released the poll results last month, sees in these numbers a victory against stereotyping. Actually, it just shows how dumb America has gotten. Jews totally run Hollywood. ... As a proud Jew, I want America to know about our accomplishment."
Tuesday on Slate.com, Brian Palmer tried to clarify the different assertions with a piece called "Do Jews Really Control the Media?"
"Maybe the movies, but not the news," Palmer wrote. "If Sanchez was referring to people in the television news business, he's wrong. Not one of the major television news operations — Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, CBS News, or NBC News — is currently headed by a Jewish executive."
Some writers took a stab at explaining what difference those men's ethnicity makes.
"The intensity and ferocity and dementia of the claim transcend many normal political differences," Todd Gitlin, a Columbia University professor of sociology and journalism, told Glenn Garvin of the Miami Herald. "No sooner were the modern media born than we started hearing the accusation that not only do Jews control the media, but they do it invidiously, deploying newspapers and other media against other groups. It's one of the old arrows in the quiver of routine anti-Semitism."
But, as Zurawik noted about the three pioneering network executives who were Jewish, "one of the ironic truths I found in my research is that the three founders, out of self-consciousness about being Jewish and fear of finding disfavor for their companies with WASP-centric Madison Avenue, literally kept Jewish images off the air for almost two decades in prime-time."
In 2005, Laurel Leff wrote an entire book, "Buried by The Times: The Holocaust and America's Most Important Newspaper," about how the Jewish-led New York Times "deliberately underreported the Nazi rise to power, the deportation and ghettoization of millions of Jews, and the implementation of the Final Solution," in the words of a review in the Jewish publication Shofar. "Clearly The Times made winning the war the first priority, while efforts to save Jews fell somewhere down the list of worthy causes."
Sanchez's bitterness was partly prompted by CNN's failure to award him the 8 p.m. slot that went to "Parker Spitzer," featuring the disgraced New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker, syndicated columnist for the Washington Post.
It debuted Monday, and by all accounts, it bombed.
Chris Ariens, TvNewser: Rick Sanchez: 'It's all about transparency. It's all about being real'
Hillary Atkin, TV Week: In Truth, Jon Stewart Was No Harder on Rick Sanchez Than on Any Other News Anchor That Stewart Uses As Daily Fodder (And Stewart Was a Lot Easier on Sanchez Than He Was on Jim Cramer)
Michael Calderone, Yahoo News: The reviews are in: Tough night for CNN’s 'Parker Spitzer'
Bo Emerson, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fired from CNN, Rick Sanchez could rise again
Stuart Levine and Sam Thielman, Variety: Spitzer's CNN debut is a bust
Joel Meares, Columbia Journalism Review: Parker/Spitzer: Countdown to Divorce
Paul Farhi chat, Washington Post: Stewart-Sanchez smackdown: Battle of the network cable stars
Richard Prince, Rafael Olmeda and Howard Rosenberg with Michel Martin on "Tell Me More," NPR: The Rick Sanchez Meltdown And Journalism Ethics
Hunter Walker, the Wrap: Rick Sanchez's Wife Blames 'Exhaustion' for His Meltdown
David Zurawick, Baltimore Sun: Ratings are awful for 'Parker Spitzer' debut on CNN
Four "Meet the Browns" episodes were at the top of the week's ratings for cable shows among African Americans. A Turner Broadcasting System spokeswoman said, "Diversity is a core operating principle."
The Nielsen Co. listed the week's top 25 shows among African American cable television viewers on Tuesday, and once again, the networks specifically geared toward African Americans — Black Entertainment Television and TV One — were hardly in evidence.
In fact, on Tuesday's list, covering Sept. 27-Oct. 3, they were shut out. Instead, the top slots were taken by ESPN, Turner Broadcasting System, MTV, the Disney Channel, Oxygen Media, Nick at Night, the A&E Network and the USA Network. Save for ESPN, none of those requires the services of journalists.
"Diversity is a core operating principle at Turner Broadcasting System," spokeswoman Gina McKenzie told Journal-isms, speaking of the home network of the Tyler Perry sitcoms that place TBS at the top of the list week after week. "This focus helps define the company and shape its strategic vision and direction. Our programming recognizes a range of experiences and perspectives.
"TBS’s partnership with Tyler Perry began with the sitcom Tyler Perry’s 'House of Payne,' which formed the basis for a strong, Wednesday night lineup," she continued. "That lineup has grown to include Tyler Perry's 'Meet the Browns' and 'Are We There Yet?,' which stars Ice Cube.
"In summer 2010, 'Are We There Yet?' and Tyler Perry’s 'Meet the Browns' have ranked as the top two primetime series on all television -- not just cable -- among African-American adults 18-49 and adults 18-34.
"TBS's diverse lineup also includes the late-night talk show 'Lopez Tonight,' which stars George Lopez. This show appeals to a broad audience, including Latinos and African Americans."
TV One and BET have different takes on the ratings numbers.
"When TV One is equal to the other cable networks in terms of age, revenue and distribution, we can have a conversation about ratings that makes sense," CEO Johnathan Rodgers said via e-mail. "Otherwise everything I say sounds like an excuse ... TV One is doing very well and is ahead of our strategic plan."
BET issued a news release that declared it was garnering "record breaking ratings. According to Nielsen Media Research, the 2009-10 season was the #1 season in network history, making it the second consecutive season to post strong viewership gains," BET said.
A Nielsen spokeswoman said BET was crunching the numbers differently.
What the numbers might prove is that despite the presence of African American-oriented cable networks, existence isn't enough. They still must navigate the inner workings of the cable business, including securing access to local cable systems, competing with larger networks in the prices they charge local systems and outmaneuvering others to obtain popular programming.
The key for TBS was linking with Perry, whose films are box-office gold.
"TBS’s new block of minority-oriented programming sits virtually unopposed," Megan Angelo reported for the New York Times in May.
"It was that momentum that led Ice Cube, the rapper turned actor turned television producer to bring 'Are We There Yet?' to TBS. ... Nothing convinced Ice Cube of that more than Mr. Perry’s success with TBS. In 2006 it ran a 10-episode test of 'House of Payne' on its local Atlanta channel, WTBS. Viewer response prompted TBS to take it national. Mr. Perry’s 'Meet the Browns' followed in 2009; it’s currently television’s No. 1-rated scripted series among African-Americans ages 18 to 49, the group most coveted by advertisers."
The top 10 cable shows among African Americans were 1: "NFL Regular Season," ESPN; 2, 3, 4 and 5: "Meet the Browns," TBS; 6: "Jersey Shore 2," MTV; 7: "House of Payne," TBS; 8: Phineas and Ferb," Disney Channel; 9: "The First 48," A&E; and 10: "Bad Girls Club," Oxygen Media.
On broadcast television, the top 10 were: 1. "NBC Sunday Night Football"; 2. "The OT," Fox, 3. "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 4. "Sunday Night NFL Pre-Kick," NBC; 5. "Law & Order: LA," NBC; 6. "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC; 7. "Law and Order: SVU," NBC; 8. "Undercovers," NBC; 9. "The Simpsons," Fox; and 10. "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS; 10 (tie) "No Ordinary Family," ABC.
Digital journalist Mark S. Luckie, recently named national innovations editor at the Washington Post, sold his blog 10000Words.net to WebMediaBrands Inc., owner of the Mediabistro blog network, for an undisclosed amount, the company announced on Tuesday.
"Let's say it's enough to make any blogger happy. I won't be retiring just yet but I may go out for a nice lobster dinner. ; )" Luckie told Journal-isms via e-mail.
"This actually benefits my new job in a great way. The acquisition frees me up to create and develop even more explosive content and strategies for The Post, something I'm incredibly happy about."
As described on the blog, "10,000 Words was created as a resource for journalists and web and technology enthusiasts to learn the tools that are shaping digital journalism. The site offers examples, resources, and tutorials of both new and established technologies used to enhance journalism.
"The name comes from the phrase 'A picture is worth 1,000 words.' If this is so then a multimedia or interactive story is worth 10,000 words (or more)." Luckie was based in San Francisco before moving to Washington.
In the release, Alan M. Meckler, chairman and CEO of WebMediaBrands, said "10,000 Words has become one of the more important blogs in the journalism and social media space. 10,000 Words is a perfect fit for the Mediabistro blog network, which attracts over 3 million unique visitors monthly. Mark Luckie will continue to contribute to 10,000 Words and will help us develop other bloggers to write for 10,000 Words as we rapidly expand coverage."
ESPN is launching a special section devoted to coverage of the Miami Heat "and their new superstar core of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh," the network announced Monday. It has hired Brian Windhorst from the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Michael Wallace from the Miami Herald to write for it.
"Windhorst is one of the leading authorities on LeBron James. Windhorst has written two books about James and has covered him since middle school," the network said in announcing the section, The Heat Index.
"Wallace has been the Miami Herald’s Heat beat writer for the previous three seasons and is an experienced sports and news reporter. Wallace, an award-winning writer, will team with Windhorst as regular Heat beat writers covering the team daily throughout the season."
"I felt this opportunity was a blessing and a prayer answered," Wallace told Journal-isms. "I was in a great position with the Miami Herald covering the Heat — especially with the offseason additions the team made. But ESPN offered an opportunity to expand into some other areas of interest, including the radio and TV formats.
"Sure, there are some risks involved any time you make a change like this. But I'm betting boldly on myself and the talented team ESPN has in place already. Everyone is expecting to produce great work and having even greater fun along this ride."
Herald Sports Editor Jorge Rojas said a replacement for Wallace at the Herald was "Still up in the air. Waiting to hear whether we'll be able to replace him. We'll have three reporters on the beat. Israel Gutierrez, for sure, as blogger/insider/columnist. The rest is undecided," he said by e-mail.
Asked whether he blamed Wallace for taking the ESPN job, Rojas said, "No. He did a great job while he was here. We wish him the best, but now unfortunately must plan to crush him on the Heat beat!"
Also working for the site will be Kevin Arnovitz, managing editor and contributor to ESPN.com’s TrueHoop Network, who is to provide digital media content and edit portions of the site, and Sebastian Martinez-Christensen, a multilingual columnist and contributor for ESPN Deportes.
Glenn Davis, SportsGrid.com: Cavs Fans None Too Pleased About Local Beat Writer Leaving For Miami, Either
"Arizona’s immigration law has prompted denunciations, demonstrations, boycotts and a federal lawsuit. But it may not bring the protest vote that many Democrats had hoped would stem a Republican onslaught in races across the country," Mark Lacey wrote Wednesday from Phoenix in the New York Times' lead story.
"That is because although many voters are disillusioned with the political process, Latino voters are particularly dejected, and many may sit these elections out, according to voters, Latino organizations, political consultants and candidates.
"A poll released Tuesday found that even though Latinos strongly back Democrats over Republicans, 65 percent to 22 percent, in the Congressional elections just four weeks away, only 51 percent of Latino registered voters said they would absolutely go to the polls, compared with 70 percent of all registered voters."
Mark Hugo Lopez, Pew Hispanic Center: Latinos and the 2010 Elections: Strong Support for Democrats; Weak Voter Motivation
Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista blog: Pew Hispanic report reveals divide among Latino voters
"Some leading minority advocacy groups long have supported AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp. and other major telecommunications firms in the industry's efforts to win approvals for mergers, get rid of old regulations and avoid new government rules," Jennifer Martinez reported Tuesday for the Los Angeles Times
"And the telecom firms, in turn, have poured millions of dollars of donations and in-kind services, including volunteer help from the carriers' executive suites, into charitable groups in the communities they serve.
"Consumer and public advocates used to whisper about the possibility of conflicts of interest, but now they are openly critical as the battle heats up over proposed federal regulations over net neutrality, the principle that Internet service providers should not restrict content, programs and other uses on their networks.
"Key minority groups are backing the carriers' efforts to thwart the net neutrality proposals, which would, for instance, prohibit carriers from charging more to give some residential and corporate customers priority in delivering online content.
" 'When you give national civil rights groups millions of private dollars, there's no firewall strong enough to keep that money out of their policy,' said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice."
A plea for an aggressive press came Wednesday from a surprising source: Anthony Williams, former mayor of the District of Columbia.
Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy wrote that he asked Williams about his successor, Mayor Adrian Fenty, who lost the Democratic primary last month to Vincent Gray, and about Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee:
"Adrian Fenty, who succeeded you as mayor, got elected by . . . going to every neighborhood," Milloy told Williams. "But he, even more than Rhee, became disconnected from so many black residents that he lost his bid for reelection. Any idea why he started acting like that?"
Williams replied, "I think The Washington Post's four years of adoration and devotion did Adrian a disservice. You guys beat the [daylights] out of me, and it kept me humble. I don't know if you all were on vacation or what, but if I had done some of the things Adrian did, I would have been run out of town. Adrian never had to explain himself. I found that being called out in the newspaper and screamed at during community meetings is a powerful antidote to arrogance and keeps you on your toes."
A New York magazine cover showing some of the vitriol hurled at President Obama won in the "Most Controversial" category of the American Society of Magazine Editors' contest for best covers of the year, chosen by visitors to amazon.com.
"New York’s Obama 'HATE' cover takes Shepard Fairey’s campaign 'HOPE' poster and turns it on its head to reflect the political realities of fall 2009," Alex Alvarez explained for Mediabistro. "A collection of words used on signs at Obama protests ('imposter . . . Hitler . . . parasite-in-chief') were hand-painted and then digitally placed onto a photograph of Obama, while the word 'hate' replaces 'hope' at the base of the image. The cover caused controversy for scrawling hateful words across the face of the president, and it certainly showed in stark fashion the public vitriol that emerged so loudly in some quarters in the months since Obama’s election."
"Cover of the Year" was Harper’s Bazaar‘s December 2009 issue, featuring the stars of the movie "Twilight."
Michael H. Cottman, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Analysis: Obama Denied Respect the Office Demands