"All along, the Herman Cain campaign — which Politico called 'one of the most hapless and bumbling operations in modern presidential politics' — has been riveting but improbable," Edward Wasserman, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., wrote Sunday in the Miami Herald.
"Yet whatever the ex-restaurant executive's other misdeeds and missteps, Cain's bid seems finally to have crumbled because of extensive coverage of a woman's allegations that she had a 13-year extramarital romance with him.
"Some Cain supporters have cried foul: 'Private, alleged consensual conduct between adults,' said his lawyer, Lin Wood, is 'not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public.' That's a point worth examining. Why isn't this private? How much should the news media care about a past amorous liaison? As Brad Hirschfield asked in his Washington Post column, 'Does it matter if Herman Cain had an affair?'
Wasserman concluded: ". . . I fear the lesson of the Cain campaign is to elevate infidelity as an electoral issue and move coverage a big step farther from civic purpose and closer to celebrity-mad tabloid TV."
Cain pointed a finger at the news media. "With his wife Gloria standing behind him and cheering him on, Cain said the accusations about his infidelity and harassment are being 'spinned in the media,' and 'that spin hurts,' " Faiz Shakir wrote Saturday on thinkprogress.org after Cain's news conference announcing the suspension of his campaign.
S.E. Cupp, columnist at the Daily News in New York, senior writer at the Daily Caller, and a political commentator, was one of many who weren't buying it.
"He can't blame the media for his fumbles on foreign policy, or his inability to explain his own position on abortion. Nor can he blame Democrats or his alleged victims for his failure to sell his 9-9-9 plan as the solution to all of our ills," she wrote on cnn.com.
Don Lemon, anchoring Sunday on CNN, said, "Long story short — maybe it's time for politicians who get caught in unflattering situations or who might have a bit of trouble with the truth to take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming the media."
* Wayne Bennett, Field Negro blog: The final word on Herman.
* Paul Delaney, theRoot.com: Blacks to Herman Cain: You're on Your Own
* Charles Ellison, Politic365.com: The Herman Cain Show Series Finale
* Mansfield Frazier, the Daily Beast: Herman Cain's Failure to Be a ‘MackDaddy' Killed His Campaign
* Juan Gonzalez, Daily News, New York: Cain Is Making Clinton Look Like an Innocent
* J. Bryan Lowder, Slate.com: What's the Difference Between Women and “Women” in the Minds of Herman Cain's Supporters?
* Douglas C. Lyons, South Florida SunSentinel: Memo to the Far Right: Interest trumps ideology
* Deborah Mathis, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Herman Cain His Own Judge and Jury — for Now
* Mark Anthony Neal, New Black Man: Performing Herman Cain
* Sophia A. Nelson, theGrio.com: From Herman Cain to Eddie Long: High-profile Atlanta black marriages fail publicly
* Ishmael Reed, CounterPunch: Herman Cain, the Latest Black Boogeyman
* David Squires, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.: The GOP's Herman Cain accident
* David Swerdlick, theRoot.com: How Herman Cain Killed Black Republicanism
"Richard Stevenson, the political editor who has overseen national election coverage for The New York Times since 2006, was explaining why this presidential contest was not the stunted affair I told him I thought it was," Arthur S. Brisbane, public editor of the New York Times, wrote for Sunday's editions.
" 'If 2008 was an epic clash of personalities and historical figures,' he said, '2012 is very possibly an epic clash of ideologies and ideas at a moment of palpable crisis, both in terms of the immediate economic situation and in terms of a vision of the place of America in the world. So this election really is going to mean a lot.'
"In an interview last week, Mr. Stevenson discussed The Times's campaign coverage strategy. The big questions, as he sees them, are whether President Obama will experience 'one of the most dramatic rise-and-fall stories in the history of American politics,' and whether the Republicans, knowing they have a real chance to unseat the president, will seize the opportunity or fumble it."
Meanwhile, Gabriel Sherman, writing in New York magazine, reported that "when six GOP primary contenders descended on Fox News' midtown headquarters for a 'candidates forum' with a trio of red state attorneys general on Saturday night, the candidates probably expected tough questions about their positions. But they certainly didn't expect to find a New York Times reporter roaming backstage.
"Fox's decision to allow Times scribe Jim Rutenberg into the building to confront the candidates in person threw campaign aides off guard, especially in the Romney camp, which went into 'defensive mode immediately, insisting that the reporter stay far away,' as Rutenberg later wrote.
"But the decision was just the latest example of what Fox head Roger Ailes recently called a 'course correction' in an interview with Howard Kurtz of Newsweek."
As for the president, Joseph Williams of Politico wrote this Monday: "Stung by summertime allegations that they neglected their bedrock African-American constituency, the White House and President Barack Obama's reelection team have cranked up their outreach to black voters, selling the president's first-term achievements as accomplishments that will pay long-term dividends for the black community."
On Friday, Obama courted Native Americans. "After a morning no-show at the White House Tribal Nations Conference he was supposed to be hosting, President Barack Obama made a grand entrance to the afternoon portion of the event held December 2 at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters," Rob Capriccioso wrote for Indian Country Today.
"Like Santa Claus, the president came bearing good tidings, a jolly laugh, and even a gift: He told the hundreds of assembled tribal leaders that he had earlier in the day signed an executive order meant to bolster Native education and tribal colleges and universities.
"When Obama was present, the energy in the room came alive."
* Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Newt's War on Poor Children
* Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: The Gingrich who stole Christmas
* Fox News Latino: Senator John McCain Says Powerful Latino Vote is Up For Grabs in 2012
* Emil Guillermo blog: To fuel his rise, Newt Gingrich loves the undocumented — but just a little bit; Plus, a few thoughts on Herman Cain and the unofficial HCSAI — Herman Cain Sexual Appetite Index.
* Julianne Malveaux, USA Today: Broke cities should awaken nation
* Roland Martin, Creators Syndicate: Trump as Debate Moderator Is an Absolute Joke
* Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Gingrich and the politics of good [Nov. 30]
* Albor Ruiz, Daily News, New York: Mitt Romney needs more than Three Amigos from Miami to win over Latino voters
* Mark Trahant, Indianz.com: How can president have Indian Country's back?
* Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times: Here's hoping Newt's finally right
It was reported in this space in August that the Obama administration flatly rejected a request for a presidential pardon for Jamaica's first national hero, black nationalist Marcus Garvey, "and earlier refused to issue a pardon for black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, despite a 2009 congressional resolution introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.
It turns out that those historical figures have plenty of company among the living.
"White criminals seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed as minorities, a ProPublica examination has found," Dafna Linzer and Jennifer LaFleur reported in front-page story Sunday in the Washington Post.
"Blacks have had the poorest chance of receiving the president's ultimate act of mercy, according to an analysis of previously unreleased records and related data.
"Current and former officials at the White House and Justice Department said they were surprised and dismayed by the racial disparities, which persist even when factors such as the type of crime and sentence are considered."
On Monday, Linzer reported in a follow-up, "A statistical analysis of nearly 500 pardon applicants during the [George W.] Bush administration suggests that advocacy makes a difference. Applicants with a member of Congress in their corner were three times as likely to win a pardon as those without such backing. Interviews and documents show a lawmaker's support can speed up a stalled application, counter negative information and ratchet up pressure for an approval."
Given such a racially freighted story, one reader wondered how much diversity existed at ProPublica.
Spokesman Mike Webb, who is African American, told Journal-isms by email, "We have 2 African Americans on the staff and one that we've just hired, but I'm not sure if she's told her employer she's leaving yet. So 3 as of 2012. We also have 3 full time Asians, 1 part time Asian, 2 Latinos and 2 people of Middle Eastern descent."
The others are Dan Nguyen, news application developer; Minhee Cho, communications manager; Chisun Lee, part-time contributor; and Sergio Hernandez, Habiba Nosheen and Assia Boundaoui, who are not identified on the website.
However, Webb said, "Our news application developers are VERY involved with the journalism we do. Nguyen essentially conceived our Dollars for Docs investigation (one of our most-trafficked pieces) and did the pain-staking work to pull all the data together. Cho has written numerous pieces that appear in our @ProPublica section — http://www.propublica.org/atpropublica. And Lee is part of the team that has been working on our 'coroners' series. The next story in that series will be published before Christmas.
"Sergio is an intern, but he's written several pieces for us — http://www.propublica.org/site/author/sergio_hernandez
"Habiba is a reporter and producer for us — http://www.propublica.org/site/author/habiba_nosheen . And she produced a BBC World segment that accompanied one of the Pakistan stories we published.
"Assia is an intern and she is creating a new podcast that we hope to air soon. Her background is in radio production, so she has not written anything for the website.
". . . We could not function as we do without them."
* Paul Steiger and Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica: The Kind of Journalism That Demands Action
"Blackness dumps a heavy weight on your back but we know the benefits of being in this family are worth it," Touré writes in "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now," named one of the "100 Notable Books of 2011" in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.
". . . As a writer I'm inspired by the stylish excellence of the peerless Black artists who preceded me — not just Ellison and Baldwin and Morrison and Greg Tate, but also Nas and Miles and Monk and Sonia Sanchez.
"We are a people who know it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing: style matters. That ethos runs through every aspect of Blackness from music to dance to cooking to clothes to language. As a Black writer I've got to confront the reality that a well-built sentence full of substance may permeate the mind, but style is also required to impress minds that have already been penetrated by Baldwin's sheets of sound and the poetics of the Black pulpit and the everyday linguistic gymnastics of so many non-famous Black folk."
As reported in a recent column on books by journalists of color, more black writers are tackling questions of identity.
That is less so in print or on the Web, but over the weekend two writers broached the subject with contrasting views.
In the Boston Globe, reporter James H. Burnett III wrote about his 10-month-old son.
"Our household will be an intimate case study for my son, as I'm black and my wife white," he said. "But what I'm hoping — right along with my dreams of a stable economy, a revival of basic civility, and the invention of beer that has no calories and doesn't taste like kindergarten glue — is that by the time my Max is an adult, skin color just won't be important anymore."
In the Detroit Free Press, Rochelle Riley began her column:
"Yeah, it sounds funny. They're usually described as acting white. They make straight A's and perform at the highest level of athletic and musical ability while excelling in class. So their classmates harass them.
"But they were acting black … upholding the academic excellence of W.E.B. [Du] Bois.
"Seeking the exceptionalism of Marian Anderson. . . ."
Riley concluded, "Between now and June, I plan to write about students who are beating the odds, who are striving daily for excellence, who are acting black in the traditions of education and excellence that guided my childhood. I hope you will be as glad to meet them as I will be to introduce them to you."
As part of his research, Touré asked 105 African Americans, most of them prominent, to name the most racist thing that had ever happened to them. For many, the answer was that it was impossible to know since it likely happened out of eyesight. But the question led to discussions of the psychic costs of racism, "acting white," in-group use of the N-word, the value of friendships with people of different races, and even the origin of the epithet whose most prominent letters are "MF."
He also writes that issues of skin color, while not discussed much publicly, are still very much with us. "When I asked light-skinned people if there was an advantage in being lighter they had one of two responses. They either hemmed and hawed in a way that admitted they knew it was socially inappropriate to discuss the advantages of light skin, similar to the way it is to talk about being born into money, or they began listing the many advantages. 'I am a light-skinned, pretty Black girl, so my experience is everybody loved me,' said Professor Melissa Harris-Perry," a substitute talk-show host on MSNBC this summer. "She said the assumptions about light-skin-ness went beyond intelligence and into an expectation of being attractive, well behaved, and from a good family.
". . . 'I can even,' Harris-Perry continued, 'ramp up or down my light-skinned privilege depending on whether I'm wearing a perm or braids. Or whether I'm wearing my hair long or short or coloring it or not. There's all kinds of weird things you can do, like the whiter you can make yourself the more likely, for example, they'll put you on television. The privileges of light-skin-ness are real and tangible and they're tangible within the community, maybe even more so within the community than outside of it.' "
* Touré, Time: Grammys Fallout: The Subtle Snubbing of Kanye
"A Medill student, a 2011 grad and I are completing a three-month, 13,500-mile drive around the United States for a book, web and documentary project titled 'Traveling with Twain in Search of America's Identity,' " writes Loren Ghiglione, who teaches global journalism and media history at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.
"We're following the path of Mark Twain as a young man as he traveled east to New York, south to New Orleans and west to San Francisco (we're adding Seattle to our long list of cities and towns)," Ghiglione told Journal-isms. "We're interviewing Americans about contemporary hot-button identity issues, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and immigration. We're posting regularly to our website, twaintrip.com.
The junior is Dan Q. Tham; the 2011 grad is Alyssa Karas. The most recent posts, from Memphis and Mississippi, are "Trying to pinpoint a spy from the Freedom Summer: Our visit to Rust College in Holly Springs, MS," Non-profit “Baby Steps” is a success story in mostly poor Okolona, Mississippi," "Tri-State Defender celebrates its 60th anniversary of keeping the African-American voice alive in Memphis," "David Beckley transforms Rust College and its student body" and "Ernest Withers: Civil rights photographer and FBI informant?"
Ismail Turay Jr., city editor for the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, was called up for duty by the Ohio Army National Guard and left last month for a year-long mission providing security in Afghanistan.
"He will be writing occasional updates on his unit," according to an editor's note.
In a story posted Monday, Turay wrote, "After nearly a month of shadowing their active duty counterparts in an effort to become familiar with their mission, Columbus-based Task Force 1-134 Field Artillery Regiment of the Ohio Army National Guard officially took over security duties for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan on Thursday afternoon." The regiment is Turay's unit.
"In doing so, Task Force 1-134 — or Task Force Roc — became the first National Guard unit in the decade-old war to be tasked with protecting civilian and military dignitaries. The security duties, which Task Force Roc commander Lt. Col. Craig Baker called the cornerstone to the success of the NTM-A mission, normally goes to active duty units."
The unit is nicknamed Task Force Roc, after a mythical bird so large it could carry off elephants in its talons, according to an Oct. 23 story by Matt Sanctis of the Dayton Daily News.
Sanctis reported, "Some joined to help pay for college, while others wanted to travel and learn new skills. Many of the soldiers in the Columbus-http://mije.org/node/6250/editbased 1st Battalion, 1-134th Field Artillery Regiment had parents and grandparents who served. But each of those who spoke said they felt a need to serve their country."
In his Nov. 25 story, Turay said of Thanksgiving, "The food was delicious and I enjoyed the fellowship with my fellow service members. And while I enjoyed those things, it didn't quite make up for not being at Thanksgiving dinner with my family at home and, of course, the annual Thanksgiving football game. Those memories made me homesick. Despite missing my typical Thanksgiving traditions, I'm grateful to be in a relatively safe environment."
The Washington Post Magazine marked its 25th anniversary on Sunday celebrating "25 Moments That Shaped Washington." Its controversial origins went unmentioned, but editor Lynn Medford told Journal-isms, "We were focusing on events that changed Washington, not the magazine. We had a 20th anniversary issue that focused on the magazine so we wanted to explore outward, not inward."
The magazine did recall in its Dec. 3, 2006, issue, "In the fall of 1986, the shiny new Washington Post Magazine launched amid a flurry of promotion and great expectations. But one thing happened that — stunningly, in retrospect — nobody expected: For three long months, "African Americans protested, outraged by that first cover story featuring a rap artist accused of murder and a column arguing that it was reasonable for upscale shopkeepers to be suspicious of young black males. The climax came when protesters dumped thousands of copies of the Magazine on the steps of The Post building as a crowd chanted, 'Take it back, take it back.'
"Boy, did we wish we could have.
"That might have been a good time to call a bookie and place a large bet that the magazine would still be around in 2006. Talk about long shots."
* T.J. Holmes, who anchors the weekend edition of "CNN Newsroom" on Saturday and Sunday mornings, told colleagues on Sunday that he is leaving the network at the end of the year for another job. He did not disclose the new position. Holmes joined CNN in October 2006.
* "The conventional wisdom has held that younger viewers are tuning out of the network evening newscasts, turning instead to cable news and the Web," Alex Weprin wrote Friday for TVNewser. "Univision's evening newscast, 'Noticiero Univision' seems to indicate otherwise. The program is still far behind its English-language competition in terms of total viewers and the key news demo of adults 25-54, but among younger viewers, the program is right up there with ratings-leader 'NBC Nightly News.' "
* "According to numbers released last month by the Department of Commerce, a mere 4 out of every 10 households with annual household incomes below $25,000 in 2010 reported having wired Internet access at home, compared with the vast majority — 93 percent — of households with incomes exceeding $100,000," Susan P. Crawford wrote for the Sunday editions of the New York Times on "the New Digital Divide." "Only slightly more than half of all African-American and Hispanic households (55 percent and 57 percent, respectively) have wired Internet access at home, compared with 72 percent of whites."
* "Since I left corporate-owned media in 2009, I've had a chance to view news from the other side," Jodi Rave wrote Thursday on her Buffalo's Fire blog. "The view from over here has inspired me to start my own media company, one in which I will share news about Native people in addition to publishing authentic and original views and opinions from topic experts in Indian Country. How will I do this? It's already in progress. I am currently transforming the Buffalo's Fire blog into a news site. We plan to be operational by Dec. 31." Rave spent 11 years reporting on Native American issues for Lee Enterprises newspapers before leaving in 2009.
* "Sure, we stole the idea from Oprah Winfrey," Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News columnist, acknowledged as she unveiled a list of "really cool stuff" from Philadelphia stores in her Thursday column. She asked readers "to tell us who they think deserves these gifts."
* "The vanished history of black people in Boston is visible again to anybody with a smartphone, thanks to Arizona State University journalism professor Retha Hill," Hiawatha Bray wrote Sunday for the Boston Globe. "Her free 'augmented reality' Black History app offers a video tour of the city's African-American history."
* Thomas Peele, an investigative reporter for the Bay Area News Group and the Chauncey Bailey Project, has the blurbs ready for his "Killing the Messenger: A Story of Radical Faith, Racism's Backlash, and the Assassination of a Journalist ," scheduled for February publication. In August, former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusef Bey IV was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison and bakery associate Antoine Mackey to two for their roles in the 2007 murders of Bailey, then editor of the Oakland Post, and two other men.
* Al Jazeera English announced the opening of a new Chicago bureau and the addition of correspondent John Hendren, formerly with ABC News in Washington, D.C., Steve Myers reported for the Poynter Institute.
* The wake for Andre Coe, the former editorial assistant in the Dallas bureau of the Associated Press and the AP's regional news desk in Phoenix who died Friday, is to be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Dec. 9 at Elmwood Funeral Home & Memorial Park, 5750 Hwy 277 South in Abilene, Texas. The funeral will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at King Solomon Baptist Church in Abilene, Barry Bedlan, assistant bureau chief for Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas, told colleagues.
* Visitation for Allen Wilson, the Buffalo News sportswriter who died on Saturday, is scheduled for Tuesday at the Amigone Funeral Home, Inc., 2600 Sheridan Drive (corner of Parker Boulevard) in Tonawanda, N.Y. A homegoing celebration is planned for Wednesday at 11 a.m. in Delaware Avenue Baptist Church, 965 Delaware Ave., Buffalo, N.Y. 14209.
Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.
Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.