Blacks Aren't Backing Obama on Syria

African Americans, President Obama's most loyal voting bloc, nevertheless are breaking with the president over his request for military action against Syria, according to two new surveys. Hispanics likewise join the majority in their opposition to a military response to reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

"A sharply divided Senate committee voted Wednesday to give President Obama limited authority to use force against Syria, the first step in what remains a treacherous path for Mr. Obama to win Congressional approval for a military attack," Mark Landler, Jonathan Weisman and Michael R. Gordon reported Wednesday for the New York Times.


The 10-to-7 vote showed bipartisan support for a strike, but bipartisan opposition as well.

A national survey conducted for the Washington Post and ABC News found 40 percent of African Americans supporting airstrikes against Syria and 56 percent opposed. For Hispanics, the figure was 31 percent supporting but 63 percent opposed. For whites, it was 38 percent supporting, 58 percent opposed. The survey was conducted by telephone Aug. 28 to Sept. 1 among a random national sample of 1,012 adults.

A survey by the Pew Research Center, conducted Aug. 29-Sept. 1 among 1,000 adults, yielded similar results, according to a racial breakdown provided to Journal-isms. The sampling of Asian Americans and Native Americans is usually too small to be included.

Asked, "Would you favor or oppose the U.S. conducting military airstrikes against Syria in response to reports that the Syrian government used chemical weapons?" only 22 percent of black non-Hispanics said they were in favor, 53 percent said they were opposed and 25 percent said they did not know.

Among non-Hispanic whites, 29 percent were in favor, 47 percent said they were opposed and 24 percent said they did not know. Pew questioned 2,907 whites and 521 blacks.

In the Washington Post Tuesday, Ed O'Keefe listed Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., as one of "12 key voices in Congress for the Syria debate." A leading anti-war liberal, she convinced more than 60 colleagues to sign a letter to Obama asking him to seek formal authorization for military action, O'Keefe wrote. "Given her vocal stance, she could be especially influential over colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, a bloc of more than 40 votes that the White House will need to ensure passage of a resolution in the closely-divided House."


Lee has said, "We must learn the lessons of the past. Lessons from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and others. We must recognize that what happens in Syria does not stay in Syria; the implications for the region are dire."

Some columnists of color have agreed. In Tuesday's print edition of USA Today, DeWayne Wickham wrote, "Yes, the 426 children killed by the use of a weapon of mass destruction — which most of the world agrees is an unacceptable means of meting out death — is a chilling reminder of the indiscriminate brutality of war. But in a conflict in which both sides are accused of committing gruesome war crimes, President Obama should not let himself be bamboozled into plunging this nation down another Middle East rabbit hole."


On the other side, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. of the Washington Post Writers Group wrote, "We don't have to be the world's policeman, but — like it or not — we are the world’s moral referee. We haven't always done that when we should have, as when the United States turned a blind eye to what was happening in Germany in the 1930s. That's no excuse for refusing to do it now. We defend the powerless and voiceless. This is what America does. It is tough and often thankless work. But it is also indispensable work if we aspire to live in a civilized world. . . ."

Bridget Johnson, Washington editor of PJ Media, a conservative libertarian news and opinion site, made a racial argument on NPR's "Tell Me More."


"You know, this is nauseating that we're having this argument that somehow says a Syrian life is worth less than another life. You know, if this was happening in Brussels right now we would be all over it. If it was European intervention, we would not hesitate one minute. If it was Rwanda, that's another story. . . ."

The Pew survey also asked, "Do you think Barack Obama has explained clearly why the U.S. should launch military airstrikes against Syrian military targets or has he not explained the reasons clearly enough?"


Among non-Hispanic whites, 30 percent said yes and 49 percent said not clearly enough; among non-Hispanic blacks, 51 percent said yes and 35 percent said not clearly enough. The remainder said they did not know.

Asked "Do you think U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to lead to a long term U.S. military commitment there?," 62 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 60 percent of non-Hispanic blacks said yes; 26 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 25 percent of non-Hispanic blacks said no.


Asked "Do you think U.S. airstrikes in Syria are likely to create a backlash against the U.S. and its allies in the region?," 76 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 69 percent of non- Hispanic blacks said yes; 14 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 19 percent of non-Hispanic blacks said no.

Just 30 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 39 percent of non-Hispanic blacks believed that airstrikes "are likely to be effective in discouraging the use of chemical weapons."


Fifty-seven percent of non-Hispanic whites and 61 percent of non-Hispanic blacks agreed that the United States "should first get a United Nations resolution to use force before taking military action against Syria."

Fifty-six percent of non-Hispanic whites and 51 percent of non-Hispanic blacks said they believed "there is clear evidence that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against civilians."


In a separate question about interest in recent news developments, whites and blacks differed markedly on how close they followed the 50th anniversary celebrations of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

Fourteen percent of non-Hispanic whites said they followed "very closely," but 59 percent of non-Hispanic blacks did. Fifty-six percent of non-Hispanic whites said "not too closely," but only 30 percent of blacks did.


Simon Maloy, Media Matters for America: Syria And The Conservative Anti-Obama Reflex 

Evan McMurry, Mediaite: Romney Advisor: Conservatives Didn't Oppose Red Line When Obama Drew It


Greg Mitchell, the Nation: Media Question Kerry's Mysterious 1,429 Death Toll in Syria — and Why It Matters (Sept. 5)

 Joby Warrick, Washington Post: As Syria deteriorates, neighbors fear bioweapons threat


Stories on Low-Income Groups Said to Miss the Big Picture

"Over the past three months, major print outlets throughout the country largely failed to discuss rising structural inequality and poverty in the United States while reporting on policies and programs that affect low-income groups," Media Matters for America reported on Wednesday.


In May, Media Matters wrote, "According to Congressional Budget Office data, from 1979 to 2007 the top one percent of income earners have seen their after-tax share of total income rise by more than 120 percent, while the bottom 20 percent of earners have seen that share decline by almost 30 percent."

Wednesday's report said, "From June 1 to August 31, the major print outlets analyzed for this report published 456 articles that provided substantial discussion of policies and programs that have disproportionate effects on lower income groups. Of the total number of articles, only 88 —roughly 19 percent — mentioned rising inequality or poverty in the United States," Craig Harrington and Albert Kleine reported.


"Of the 12 print outlets analyzed, only two — The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Boston Globe — mentioned structural inequality or poverty at a rate greater than the group average of 19 percent. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution mentioned inequality in 24.4 percent of its coverage on policies and programs affecting low-income groups, and The Boston Globe mentioned inequality in 28.6 percent. The Chicago Tribune and The Denver Post mentioned structural inequality the least, accounting for only 6.4 and 4 percent, respectively, of each paper's total coverage on policies and programs that have disproportionate effects on lower income groups. . . ."

Bezos Meets Washington Post Staff; Diversity Not a Topic

"The Washington Post's new owner, Jeffrey P. Bezos, long wary of journalists, courted the paper's editors and reporters in a series of meetings Wednesday, saying that he is optimistic about the future of journalism and wants to create a 'daily ritual bundle' that would appeal to a variety of readers," Steven Mufson reported Wednesday for the Post.


None of the accounts of Bezos' meetings, which took place over two days, mentioned that diversity issues were raised. Still, some Post journalists of color said they were pleased.

"I think he's smart without being condescending, a quality I admire," local Post blogger Clinton Yates told Journal-isms by email. "I also feel that he has a very realistic grasp of what the mistakes are that the news industry has made on the whole, not just The Post, which is refreshing beyond just any potential innovations that may come in the future."


Yates was one of several Post staffers who tweeted during the visit. "To me, this tweet said it all," Yates told Journal-isms. His tweet quoted Bezos: "The deathknell of any enterprise is to glorify the past. No matter how good it was."

Kevin Merida, the paper's managing editor and a black journalist, told Journal-isms by email, "The meetings were invigorating. Lots of creative energy and ambition for the future. Jeff sees the value of what we do, and the journalists in our room already believe in themselves. So it's exciting to think about what a great news organization like ours can be in the next phase of our life. As Jeff himself said, put readers first. And stay forever young."


Mufson's story continued, "The founder and chief executive, who has agreed to purchase The Post for $250 million, said he plans to invest in the paper and rejected the idea that news organizations could cut their way to profitability or stability, or attract advertisers without adding readers. . . ."

When news of the sale broke last month, stunning the news industry, Bob Butler, who had become president of the National Association of Black Journalists only a day before, told Journal-isms that he would seek a meeting with Bezos, whose company is based in Seattle. "We do not know whether this will have any negative impact on our employees, especially our members," Butler said then.


On Aug. 6, journalist Farai Chideya, who teaches at New York University, wrote an "open letter" to Bezos quoting a 2010 column by former Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander.

"All told, journalists of color comprise about 24 percent of the newsroom, comfortably above the ASNE [American Society of News Editors] census average of roughly 13 percent in recent years. But here's the problem: Minorities are 43 percent of The Post's circulation area, and a large part of the region is edging toward 'majority minority' status. For The Post, being 'good on diversity' isn’t enough. . . . "


Opinion Editor Urges Writers to Protest Op-Ed Cutback

"There's a new wrinkle in the ongoing tensions at Philadelphia's daily papers. The editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer's editorial page has publicly criticized a decision to eliminate that paper's op-ed page as of next week," Elizabeth Fiedler reported Monday for WHYY/NewsWorks.


"In a Labor Day email obtained by WHYY/NewsWorks, The Inquirer's Harold Jackson speaks out against plans to reduce the daily opinion section of The Inquirer to one page, starting next Monday.

"For decades, the paper has had what is known as an 'oped' page (literally OPposite EDitorial) page six days a week. The page usually carries commentaries by members of the community, syndicated commentators and some of the paper's own columnists.


"The Saturday oped page was dropped for cost-cutting reasons in the middle of the last decade.

"Jackson, writing to people whose work has appeared on the Inquirer oped page over the year, urged recipients of the email to protest the decision to the papers' owners. He listed several owners' emails. . . ."


His email said the reduction "not only does a disservice to the greater Philadelphia community, but represents a reduction in the status of one of America's largest cities."

Jackson declined to comment.

As a result of the cutback, Melanie Burney, an editorial writer at the Inquirer since 2008, was transferred to a reporter's job in the New Jersey bureau effective Sept. 9.


NPR's "LatinoUSA" Expands to an Hour

"On September 6th, 2013, NPR's Latino USA with Maria Hinojosa, the foremost Latino voice in public media and longest running Latino-focused program on radio, will expand to an hour," the Futuro Media Group, the show's producers, announced Wednesday.


"Building on its 20 year tradition, the new Latino USA will be fast-paced, lively and smart with varied points of view and writing designed for the weekend NPR listener. The program will continue to chronicle how Latinos are living in, shaping and changing America.

"An engaging cast of new voices and contributors will join Hinojosa, among them Al Madrigal, standup comedian, actor and correspondent on The Daily Show; Pilar Marrero, political reporter and veteran immigration reporter for La Opiníon; Julia Preston, immigration reporter for the New York Times; Marta Moreno Vega, writer, scholar, cultural activist and 'Wise Latina;' and Jimmy Santiago Baca, poet, novelist and essayist.


"New recurring segments will broaden the scope and story mix of Latino USA. In 'Dimelo,' new advice columnist for Latina magazine Pauline Campos will offer advice on listeners’ 'Latino Problems.' At a time when one out of four kindergarteners [is] Latino, 'Class of 2030' will take a look at how these students will impact the education system. As deportations reach record highs, 'Dearly Deported' will chronicle the personal stories of thousands of Latinos separated from their families because of US immigration laws. The new series 'Somos/We Are' will present an intimate insider's conversation about Latino identity, how Latinos self-identify, what they look like, and how others see them. . . ."

N.Y. Times Offends in Linking "Twerking" With Race, Class

"I'm black but I don't eat watermelon. What other 'black appropriate' food should I substitute? #askteddywayne."


"There was no twerking featured in Roots. Was that movie historically inaccurate? #askteddywayne @TeddyWayne1999."

"how long after i stop twerking can i also stop worrying about my black male friends being murdered by cops? @TeddyWayne1999."


Those were just three of the tweets that surfaced after the Sunday Review section of the New York Times published "Explaining Twerking to Your Parents" by novelist Teddy Wayne.

Wayne made clear the piece's intended audience when he wrote as its third paragraph, "Explain that twerking is a dance move typically associated with lower-income African-American women that involves the rapid gyration of the hips in a fashion that prominently exhibits the elasticity of the gluteal musculature."


Some thought the piece cute. Others simmered. Still others mocked it. They created an #askteddywayne hashtag.

"idk my lineage, but my skin tone suggests race-mixing somewhere in my family tree. can i listen to rap? @TeddyWayne1999 #askteddywayne."


"am i less or more black because i went to prep school? #askteddywayne."

"Please stop @nytimes having Negrologist writers attempting to define black culture. It's offensive. #blacktwitter #askTeddyWayne."


Kwame Opam, Salon: Black Twitter's not just a group — it's a movement

Pinkston, Peterson Latest to Connect With Al Jazeera

Randall Pinkston, who left CBS News in May after 33 years, has resurfaced as a freelance correspondent for Al Jazeera America.


Pinkston told his Facebook friends Tuesday, "I had not anticipated returning to work so soon after my departure from CBS. The AJAM gig is free-lance. My new colleagues include several former colleagues. So far, it's fun and I'm thankful I can still have a venue that wants me. Thanks for watching and please tell our friends."

Meanwhile, Latoya Peterson, owner of the award-winning blog and a a 2013 Knight Fellow at Stanford University, has joined Al Jazeera America as senior digital producer for "The Stream."


Liberia Answers Jailed Journalist's N.Y. Times Op-Ed

"In an op-ed recently published in the New York Times, "Jailed for Journalism," Mr. Rodney Sieh attempts to paint a gloomy picture of the prospect of free speech and the practice of journalism in Liberia," the Liberian government wrote Tuesday in a response to the op-ed.


"On the same day that Mr. Sieh posted the piece, a lower court, the Office of the Independent Information Commissioner, ruled in favor of a private petitioner's right to information under the Freedom of Information Law passed a few years earlier by the government. Freedom of speech is being experienced as a daily reality in Liberia.

"Obviously, Mr. Sieh blames the Liberian government for his imprisonment, and for the unanimous jury award of US$1.5 million which he believes to be excessive. . . . "


Meanwhile, Sieh's newspaper, FrontPageAfrica, reported, "Journalists in their numbers turned out at the Corina Hotel in Monrovia on Tuesday hoping to put an end to a situation that has been dragging for weeks that has seen one of their colleagues the Managing Editor of the FrontPageAfrica newspaper Rodney D. Sieh in jail for a week and another week in the hospital after falling sick in his cell, but later found that Dr. Chris Toe was determined to prolong the crisis.

"The former Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Toe Tuesday acknowledged  [the General Auditing Commission] report that accused him of his alleged failure to account for millions of United States dollars offered by the government to fight army worms that invaded two regions but claimed that the report was unprofessional. . . ."


Short Takes

Two years ago, Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman began reporting a Pulitzer Prize-winning series revealing how the NYPD's Intelligence Division surveilled Muslim communities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Michael Calderone reported for the Huffington Post. "On Tuesday, the pair expanded upon that reporting with their first book, 'Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit and bin Laden's Final Plot Against America.' The new reporting uncovers how the NYPD designated entire mosques as terrorism organizations in order to gather intelligence on their members without the presence of a specific threat. . . ."


"Marysol Castro is returning to New York City CW affiliate WPIX as co-anchor of the early morning newscast," Merrill Knox reported Tuesday for TVSpy. "Castro has worked as a weather anchor for CBS' 'The Early Show' and ABC's 'Good Morning America.' She was the traffic reporter for WPIX when the station launched its morning newscasts in 2001. . . ."

"MMQB, or the Monday Morning Quarterback, a football Website and branch of Sports Illustrated magazine and, has joined the growing chorus of publications and writers who have decided to no longer use 'Redskins' in their prose," the Indian Country Today Media Network reported Friday. Meanwhile, the Washington Post's Mike Wise profiled Zema Williams, an ailing 72 year-old African American who on Oct. 2 will mark three and a half decades playing Chief Zee, unofficial mascot of the Washington Redskins.


"You may have seen the video by now: On Aug. 18 Fox Sports reporter Pam Oliver had just finished doing an interview with NFL referee Ed Hochuli for a story for '60 Minutes Sports,' airing Wednesday night on Showtime," Chris Ariens wrote Tuesday for TVNewser. "When she returned to the sideline, a ball thrown by Indianapolis Colts backup QB Chandler Harnish (since waived and signed to their practice squad) hit her on the side of the face." He added, "Turns out, Oliver suffered a concussion. . . ."  Oliver told Bob 

 Raissman of the Daily News of New York, "Now I want to get it out there. It was a painful, shocking moment,"  Raissman reported Saturday.

Advertisement, website of the Plain Dealer, published the winning essays Sunday in its Hispanic Roundtable contest. First place went to Juan Caminero of Cleveland, who graduated from the city's Mc2 Stem High School last year and now attends Cuyahoga Community College. The essay was titled, "I am Latino. I am American. I understand."

" 'Enrique’s Journey' has been revived," Veronica Villafañe reported last week for her Media Moves column, referring to a book by Sonia Nazario that began as a series in the Los Angeles Times. "A new version for young people of the national bestseller that tells the compelling story of a boy who risked his life traveling from Honduras to the United States in search of his mother, has just been released August 27, aimed at the new [Common Core] guidelines in schools. . . ."


C-SPAN 3, "American History TV," is broadcasting a lecture this weekend on Emmett Till, whose 1955 kidnapping and murder has been evoked in discussions of the Trayvon Martin case. "Till was a 14-year-old African American boy from Chicago who in the summer of 1955 was visiting family in Mississippi. A few days after an incident at a local grocery store, Till was kidnapped from his relatives’ home and murdered," C-SPAN explains. "In this class at George Mason University, professor Suzanne Smith discusses the Emmett Till case with her students, including details of his murder, the investigation and trial, race relations in Mississippi in the 1950s, and Till's emotional funeral which included an open casket so the damage done to him could be seen and photographed." The show airs Saturday at 8 p.m. and midnight Eastern time, and Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern. 

Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page Wednesday praised his 99-year-old high-school journalism teacher, Mary Kindell of Middletown High School in Middletown, Ohio, as he mourned the decline in high school newspapers. "With the explosion of Internet traffic, too few youngsters are learning good news literacy. As Mrs. Kindell taught, you need to be a good reporter before you start giving your opinion. Today's world of blogging and tweeting encourages the opposite. Too bad we don't have more Mrs. Kindells to go around," Page wrote.


"A radio commentator was shot dead in Iligan City on Thursday, the fourth journalist to be murdered in the Philippines in the past month," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday. The group called on authorities "to investigate the murder of Fernando 'Nanding' Solijon and swiftly bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice. . . ." 

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


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