Is White America Ready for Truth and Reconciliation Commissions?

South African President Nelson Mandela (left) receives five volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report on Oct. 29, 1998, from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in Pretoria, South Africa. What might that report look like in America? 
WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images
South African President Nelson Mandela (left) receives five volumes of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission final report on Oct. 29, 1998, from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in Pretoria, South Africa. What might that report look like in America? 
WALTER DHLADHLA/AFP/Getty Images

Whites Believed Ready for Local Initiatives on Race

Polling data say that recent developments such as video showing police culpability in brutality against citizens have persuaded white Americans that racism is a national problem that must be confronted, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation declared Thursday.

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That means the United States is ready for the concept of truth and reconciliation commissions, successfully used in other countries with fractious racial histories, such as South Africa, it said.

The foundation "believes the stage is set for this pioneering enterprise. The repeated police and civilian killings of unarmed people of color, well-documented bias within our education, health, civic and justice systems, and escalating divisive rhetoric over religious and ethnic intolerance and immigration policies have created an environment where race and ethnicity are driving our national discourse and fueling anxiety and fear in our communities," it said in a news release.

"In conjunction with [the Kellogg Foundation], the Northeastern University School of Journalism today released an analysis of recent polling data [PDF] showing that public opinion among whites in the U.S. has shifted significantly, with polling data underscoring that a large segment of the public is ready for a comprehensive initiative on racism, such as the TRHT," its acronym for the Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation initiative.

The foundation said it plans to "assemble national and local commissions to hold public meetings on 'the consequences of racial inequity' and work toward mobilizing systems and structures to create more equitable opportunities." About 70 organizations and several individuals are part of the effort, for which the foundation has committed to $5 million a year for at least seven years and anticipates that other entities will also provide resources.

Among the organizations are Color of Change, the Arab American National Museum, the NAACP, the American Library Association and the National Congress of American Indians.

The foundation also plans a media campaign, "Remix the Narrative" (video)to dispute negative perceptions of people of color and other ethnic and religious groups, Dillon Davis reported Thursday for the Battle Creek (Mich.) Enquirer.

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La June Montgomery Tabron, Kellogg Foundation president and CEO, said, "Our nation looks at far too many people as deficits instead of assets." This perspective, she said, causes an "uneven disbursement of opportunities" in areas such as education, housing or health.

While many commentators have pointed to the racial divide among the political parties as evidence that racial attitudes seem to be intractable, the Detroit Free Press did not share such cynicism.

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An editorial Thursday began:

"In 2016, the truth about American history is still shrouded in fantasy, denial and guilt.

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"Many Americans don't know, or don't want to admit, the pivotal role that race and racism — sewn into the U.S. Constitution, baked into our culture, with us from the beginning — [have] played in shaping everything we know and believe about our country today.

"And how historical injustice is manifest in nearly every aspect of modern life.

"We don't talk about it. Not without accusation or conflict, and certainly not with the understanding that acknowledgment might compel us to rethink our past. But that's what's required, if we want to forge a more honest and equitable future.

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"The emerging American awareness about discrimination and racism in the criminal justice system, as documented indisputably, over and over again, in the now-surfacing videos of police brutality against black men in particular, has begun to change that — to provide a stark, grim insight for white Americans about the conditions their non-white neighbors have lived with every day.

"It's the beginning of a shared understanding that things are different, in America, if you're not white.

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"Now, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation is launching an ambitious effort to amplify that conversation, to give more Americans the chance to share their lived experiences — and, perhaps, to figure out how understanding each others' lives might allow us to move forward, together. . . ."

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal pioneer Will Keith Kellogg.

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The foundation says on its website, "We actively support efforts to dismantle racial and structural inequities that limit opportunities and hold some children back."

In 2010, the foundation awarded the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education a $1.2 million, three-year grant to launch the Maynard Media Center on Structural Racism. The institute took steps to "encourage the media to provide comprehensive coverage of structural racism and its impact on American society. . . ."

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Alexandria, Va., Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names — First Meeting (video)

Dr. Gail C. Christopher, W.K. Kellogg Foundation: Meta-Analysis of Recent Polling Data on the Impact of Racism on American Society Today

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Dillon Davis, Battle Creek Enquirer: Kellogg Foundation seeks racial equity with new initiative 

Jim Mitchell, Dallas Morning News: You don’t have to leave Dallas to find income inequality

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Errin Haines Whack, Associated Press: Analysis of racial polling shows whites more aware of racism

Birmingham Times Sold to Foundation Devoted to Training

The Birmingham Times, which calls itself "The Southeast's Largest Black Weekly," has been sold to a nonprofit journalism foundation that plans to use the newspaper as its "most significant move yet to generate more opportunities for student and professional journalists," the newspaper announced on Thursday.

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"More than 50 years after founding the newspaper at the height of Birmingham's civil rights movement, Dr. Jesse J. Lewis, Sr. has sold The Birmingham Times to the Foundation for Progress in Journalism," the newspaper reported.

"The Birmingham-based nonprofit foundation was founded in Lewis' honor two years ago with the goal of promoting journalism to minority students and others who have expressed interest in the field.

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"Under the foundation, the newspaper will function as a training ground for students and recent graduates pursuing careers in journalism, as well as maintain its historic commitment to diversity.

" 'This is a historic day for me personally,' Dr. Lewis said. 'I'm glad to see that The Birmingham Times will continue to live on. When I first published the newspaper in 1964 it was to give the Black community a much-needed platform. The need for that platform continues to exist, so I am honored that The Birmingham Times will continue to exist.' "

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Lewis, 91, will be publisher emeritus. "Samuel P. Martin has been named publisher of The Birmingham Times. Martin has held senior leadership positions in major media organizations, including chief advertising officer with the Boston Globe, and former president and publisher of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser. Martin will also continue in his role as FPJ's executive director. . . .

"Barnett Wright, a former senior reporter for The Birmingham News and AL.com, will be The Birmingham Times' executive editor. . . ."

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The newspaper also said, "Since it began, FPJ has placed 10 interns — three in 2014 and seven in 2015 — at media properties throughout the state. It has also provided a summer training session to more than 30 high school journalism advisers. . . ."

"In April, FPJ is planning to partner with Investigative Reporters [&] Editors, Inc. for a training session open to journalism professionals and students. The session will take place in Birmingham. . . ."

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More Michigan Water Tests Above Safety Benchmarks

All eyes are fixed on Flint as the crisis over lead in the city's drinking water supply has unfolded at an accelerating pace since 2014," Garret Ellison reported Thursday for mlive.com.

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"But Flint is not the only municipal or private water supply in Michigan where the drinking water is testing at or above levels that researchers and public health officials consider to be the threshold for concerning exposure to a potent neurotoxin.

"Michigan Department of Environmental Quality records show that six private water supplies in Michigan and two municipalities — not including Flint — meet or exceed the federal limit on lead and copper in water tested at the customer tap.

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"Another six private and 16 municipal systems across the state, ranging in size from 25 customers to more than 120,000, tested for levels that are below the U.S. federal limit, but above safety benchmarks used by the World Health Organization, the international public health arm of the United Nations, and the Virginia Tech university team that helped blow the whistle in Flint.

"Michigan cities with lead at or above the WHO benchmark include Kalamazoo, Muskegon Heights, Benton Harbor, Owosso, Ionia, Marysville and St. Louis.

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"The statewide lead records underscore a widespread problem with American drinking water infrastructure that, in communities with homes and commercial buildings constructed prior to the mid-1980s, continues to supply vital tap water through private service line connections that leach lead into the liquid. . . ."

James Clingman, National Newspaper Publishers Association: The Economics of Water

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Charles D. Ellison, The Root: Infrastructure Failures, Like Flint, Are a Crisis for Black America

John Hiner, Poynter Institute: Letter to the editor: Local media didn't whiff on Flint coverage 

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Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Flint evokes the public health racism of years past (Jan. 30)

Chris Mooney, Washington Post: It's not just Flint: Poor communities across the country live with 'extreme' polluters

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HuffPost's Editor's Notes to Call Trump a Racist, Liar

"The Huffington Post has started appending an editor's note to the bottom of posts about Republican presidential contender Donald Trump, calling him a 'racist,' a 'liar' and a 'xenophobe,' and reminding readers of his proposal to ban all Muslims from entering the United States," Peter Sterne reported Thursday for Politico.

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" 'Note to our readers: Donald Trump is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, birther and bully who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.,' reads the note, which was added to an article about Trump's feud with Fox News published last night. The note also includes links to prior coverage of Trump's comments.

"A Huffington Post spokesperson told POLITICO that the note will be added to all future stories about Trump.

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" 'Yes, we're planning to add this note to all future stories about Trump,' the spokesperson said. 'No other candidate has called for banning 1.6 billion people from the country! If any other candidate makes such a proposal, we'll append a note under pieces about them.' . . "

Julie Alderman, Media Matters for America: Media Laud Megyn Kelly's Debate Questions, Ignore Her Record Of Misinformation And Fearmongering

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Robert Burns and Josh Boak, Associated Press: AP FACT CHECK: GOP claims on carpet bombs, Kurds and economy

Dylan Byers, CNN: Trump taps the right's anger against Fox 

Marina Fang, Huffington Post: We Were Very Confused By Ben Carson's Weird Answers During The GOP Debate

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Fox News Latino with Associated Press: Immigration, national security issues dominated 7th Republican debate in Iowa

Jeffrey Gottfried and Elisa Shearer, Pew Research Center: Contentious Republican debates lure many Democrats to tune in

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Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Iowa? More than 90 percent white, but Asian Americans will caucus in Election 2016

Caleb Howe, truthrevolt.org: Chris Matthews Apologizes For 'Two Cubans' Remark

Mark Joyella, TVNewser: Reviewers Call Kelly Clear Winner in Fox News Debate

Eugene Kiely, Brooks Jackson, Lori Robertson, Robert Farley, D'Angelo Gore and Raymond McCormack, FactCheck.org: GOP Presidential Hopefuls Stretch The Facts During Fox News Debate

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John Koblin, New York Times: Trump's Solo Act Gets Cable's Attention, but Not All of It 

League of United Latin American Citizens: Univision News and Lulac to Host Presidential Candidates Forum

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Media Matters for America: Fox Debate Moderator Megyn Kelly Pushes Chris Christie To Change His Stance Against Muslim Profiling

James Poniewozik, New York Times: Fox News vs. Trump: Setting Free the Golden Goose

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Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: What Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have in common

Janell Ross, Washington Post: Armstrong Williams: The man of political mystery behind Ben Carson

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Nick Wing, Huffington Post: There Was Something Missing From The GOP's 'Debate' On Criminal Justice Reform

Poynter Institute Capitalizes "Black" and "White" Races

A story on the Poynter Institute site Friday, headlined "Jose Antonio Vargas on the power of #JournalismSoWhite: 'Timing, of course, is everything,' " bore this editor's note:

"Poynter.org's editorial staff has chosen to capitalize Black and White in recognition of their status as racial identities."

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The school for journalists thus broke from the style at most mainstream news organizations, which capitalize "African American" and "Caucasian," but lowercase "black" and "white." Capitalizing "Black," however, is the dominant style in the black press.

Benjamin Mullin, a staff writer for Poynter, explained by email Friday how the style change took place.

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"Kristen Hare, the reporter on the story, turned in a draft with the B and W in Black and White capitalized, and I signed off on it after discussing that choice with her. This decision has its roots in an earlier discussion Poynter's editorial staff had in August, before we published a column by Meredith D. Clark, an assistant professor at the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas.

"In the article, Clark argues that lowercasing Black constitutes 'a niggling reminder of the pervasive issues of Black underrepresentation in the newsroom and its effects,' especially while descriptors for other nationalities and people, such as Asian, Latin and Pacific Islander, take capital letters. This issue has also surfaced in The New York Times' opinion pages, where Lori Tharps, an assistant professor at Temple University, argued that Black describes a distinct cultural identity that merits capitalization.

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"We included the editor's note because we wanted to be transparent about that decision and invite conversation with our audience.

"Although we're still working on Poynter's stylebook, Kristen and I were in agreement that the word Black should be capitalized, especially in an article that addresses the diversity problem in the news industry head on."

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Mullin said he was "pinch hitting as editor this week while my boss is out of town."

Up from Lower Case: The Day "negro" Got Its Capital "N" (June 7, 2005)

Native Writer Compares, Contrasts for Black History Month

America LOVES black culture, even though they don't always like to admit it — Natives are no different," Gyasi Ross wrote for Indian Country Today Media Network on Thursday, four days before Black History Month was to begin.

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"Between all the Native hip-hop artists you meet at any particular pow-wow or all the Native kids speaking ebonics and doing the Nay Nay, you realize that younger Natives also appreciate the coolness. . . ."

Ross is an author, speaker, lawyer and storyteller who comes from the Blackfeet Nation and lives on the Port Madison Indian Reservation near Seattle. He wrote that he discovered he was one-quarter black. "I guess that means that I'm SUPER cool since Native people and black people are the two coolest groups of people in the world! Two different types of beautiful brownness," he added.

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Ross also said he found similarities in Native and black history. "I've consistently found how similar the racism that Native people and black people have experienced has been within the United States. Oh sure, the execution of that racism is unique — for example, racism against Native people largely happened by trying to assimilate Native people into white society while racism against black people came by trying to keep them out of white society.

"But looking at the history of racism in America, pretty much every evil thing that white people did to Native people later happened to black people. . . ."

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Ross also wrote, "The way America treats its Indigenous people is prophecy for black folks. Canaries in the coal mine.

"Dehumanization by religious decree? Check. Slavery? Check. Rape of women to further domination? Check. Labeled as a 'problem' when white people no longer know what to do with you? Check. Meaning: after Natives would not die out, white people began to call Native people the 'Indian Problem' because they didn't know what to do with us. Similarly, after slavery black folks became the 'Negro Problem' because white folks figured they just couldn’t stay on this continent after the sordid history between whites and blacks. . . .

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"I suppose the major difference in the treatment of the two groups was, looking back at history, two things: 1) land and 2) economics. Specifically, 1) Natives had land and white people wanted that land and so white people had a vested interest in getting Natives out of the picture by any means necessary.

"Initially that meant simply killing the Natives and then later making them blend into white society so the land would be available. Whereas with black folks, the 2) economics of the situation dictated that white people did not want to kill black folks because slaves were expensive and were much worth much more alive than dead.

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"But most other forms of racism happened largely the same, just at different times.

"Which brings me to today. The treatment of Natives again foretold how black folks would be treated. . . ."

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Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Atlantic: The Case for Considering Reparations 

Adam Howard, MSNBC: The Black History Month debate is back (Jan. 22)

Shaun King, Daily News, New York: Why Black History Month should never begin with slavery

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President Barack Obama, USA Today: Black History Month: Obama says work isn't over

Michelle R. Smith, Associated Press: Project aims to mark dozens of American slave trade ports

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Jim Wallis with Roland Martin on "NewsOne Now," TV One: America's Original Sin: Slavery Never Ended, It Just Evolved

Julia Zorthian, Time: This Is How February Became Black History Month

Chicago Website Finds Police Broke Dashcams

"Why are so many police dashcam videos silent?" Mark Konkol and Paul Biasco asked Wednesday on dnainfo.com.

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"Chicago Police Department officers stashed microphones in their squad car glove boxes. They pulled out batteries. Microphone antennas got busted or went missing. And sometimes, dashcam systems didn't have any microphones at all, DNAinfo Chicago has learned.

"Police officials last month blamed the absence of audio in 80 percent of dashcam videos on officer error and 'intentional destruction.'

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"A DNAinfo Chicago review of more than 1,800 police maintenance logs sheds light on the no-sound syndrome plaguing Police Department videos — including its most notorious dashcam case. . . ."

Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times: Stop the shootings in Chicago

Evan MacDonald, cleveland.com: What you need to know about discipline for Cleveland police involved in deadly chase, shooting

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Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Off-duty cops accused of beating brothers (Jan. 20)

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Cleveland police problem started at the top:

Politico to Hire 50 in Wake of Departures

"Politico will hire at least 50 people in the coming year and successors for those who have left," Ravi Somaiya reported Friday for the New York Times.

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On Thursday, co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei, Politico's star reporter Mike Allen and three other key executives announced they would leave the company in the coming months.

Hadas Gold, Politico: A memo from POLITICO's founder and publisher Robert Allbritton

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Lonnae O'Neal, Latoya Peterson Joining the Undefeated

Lonnae O'Neal, Style section columnist for the Washington Post, and Latoya Peterson, editor-at-large at Fusion, the joint venture of ABC and Univision, are joining ESPN's the Undefeated, the network's two-year-old digital project about the intersection of sports and race.

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"This was such an agonizing decision," O'Neal told Journal-isms by email on Friday. "I've been a Postie half my life and it will always be home.

"But the chance to help start something new with someone I so deeply respect was hugely compelling. The Undefeated is perfect, and needed, for this moment. So much of the intersection of sports race and culture is driven by black creativity, and I'm delighted to be one of the voices to help cover it. Plus, you know, it's Kevin," she continued, adding a smiley face.

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Her reference was to Kevin Merida, the former managing editor of the Post who is editor-in-chief of the Undefeated. O'Neal was a 19-year reporter for the Post when she debuted a year ago as a twice-weekly columnist for the Post's Style section.

Peterson, who is to be deputy editor, digital innovation, describes herself in her LinkedIn profile as "a certified media junkie" who "provides a hip-hop feminist and anti-racist view on pop culture with a special focus on video games, film, television, and music.

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One of Forbes Magazine's 30 Under 30 rising stars in media for 2013, she is best known for the award winning blog Racialicious.com — the intersection of race and pop culture. She is currently an Editor-at-Large at Fusion. Previously, she was the Senior Digital Producer for The Stream, a social media driven news show on Al Jazeera America and a John S. Knight Journalism 2012-2013 Fellow at Stanford University focusing on mobile technology and digital access. . . ."

Two weeks ago, ESPN confirmed that the Post's Michael A. Fletcher is joining the site as a senior writer concentrating on criminal justice, social issues and politics, and that ESPN.com columnist Jason Reid, formerly of the Post, was named senior NFL writer. Steve Reiss, who edited Merida's pieces for the Post's Style section, is to be deputy editor for narrative and enterprise. He was managing editor at Crain's Chicago Business.

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On Jan. 8, the Post announced that Soraya MCDonald, a writer contributing to arts and entertainment coverage, was joining the Undefeated as a senior culture writer. In December, the Undefeated hired Kelley L. Carter, an award-winning entertainment and pop-culture journalist for BuzzFeed, in a similar role.

Book Alleges Reporters Collaborated With Apartheid

"God, Spies and Lies," "a blend of memoir, political reporting, analysis, media history and lively anecdote" by South African journalist John Matisonn, names journalists who collaborated with apartheid's security agencies and "underscores the absence of in-depth accounts of the struggles and achievements of leading black journalists of the era," according to John Allen, reviewing the book Friday for allafrica.com.

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"The 'revelation' in Matisonn's book that has generated the heat has been the suggestion that Tertius Myburgh was an apartheid spy," Allen writes. Myburgh is the late editor of the Sunday Times and a former Nieman fellow.

"Matisonn names a number of journalists from the 1970s and 1980s who collaborated with apartheid's various security agencies in degrees varying from acting as reporters exchanging information with intelligence contacts to being paid to spy on their colleagues. But he doesn't in fact say that Myburgh was a spy or a paid agent in the conventional sense.

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"He says rather that Myburgh was on 'the first rung' of 'informers,' someone who shared information with his contacts in exchange for 'information, ideology, comfort zone, and advantages that lead to advancement.' That, Matisonn concludes, 'does not make him any less of an agent… he was an agent, one of theirs.' Notably, when white business decided to close the Rand Daily Mail, whose coverage in spite of shortcomings nevertheless infuriated the forces of apartheid, Myburgh was in on the kill.

"The consequences of that decision, and that to close another newspaper in the company, the Sunday Express — which had led the way in exposing the secret use of government money for pro-apartheid propaganda at home and abroad — were arguably as damaging as the activities of spies and agents to the role the established white press played in exposing the worst depredations of apartheid.

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"And one of the saddest effects of the business establishment's collaboration with [Prime Minister P.W.] Botha was the loss to South African readers of a generation of anti-apartheid journalists who had to seek a living abroad or as local correspondents for foreign media — among them Sylvia Vollenhoven, Hennie Serfontein and Matisonn himself."

Short Takes

"Panthers quarterback Cam Newton suggested for the first time Wednesday that race may play a factor in why he's become a lightning rod for public criticism," Steve Reed reported for the Associated Press. " 'I'm an African-American quarterback that scares people because they haven't seen nothing that they can compare me to,' said the 6-foot-5, 245-pound Newton. . . ." On the Shadow League website, Alejandro Danois wrote Thursday, "Here's a newsflash, you dimwits: race, whether you choose to admit it or not, is and needs to be at the core of every discussion we have in America. But that's only if we want an honest confrontation with the truth with an aim at a true accounting and reconciliation of this country's past and present sins, as opposed to the idiocy of believing in the fairy tale of a post-racial society. . . ."

Gary Witherspoon, formerly deputy Long Island editor at Newsday and assistant metro editor at the Boston Globe, is now senior writer and public affairs manager for the Maryland Department of Transportation's Office of Public Affairs, Erin Henson, director of public affairs for the department, messaged Journal-isms on Thursday. "In that role, he communicates the Maryland Department of Transportation's (MDOT) key messages on Maryland's roadways, railways, transitways and airways to the public, media and key transportation stakeholders. . . ." (video)

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"City Prosecutor Stephen Richey has deferred prosecution of a misdemeanor assault charge against MU assistant professor Melissa Click in exchange for community service. The move comes two days after Click was suspended from her MU faculty position," Elise Schmelzer reported Friday for the Missourian in Columbia. "Click was recorded asking for 'some muscle' to remove MU student Mark Schierbecker from Mel Carnahan Quadrangle on Nov. 9 as student protesters celebrated the resignation of former UM System President Tim Wolfe after weeks of protests on campus. . . ."

"Media Moves, which celebrates its 9th anniversary in June of this year, will be marking another milestone in 2016," Veronica Villafañe, who founded the site, wrote Thursday. "We're launching a job board to connect employers and the diverse talent that reads Media Moves. For a fee, prospective employers will be able to post job openings. Job seekers will be able register for free and apply online for an advertised position directly from the Media Moves job section. . . ."

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"One editorial criticising Kenya's government was all it took to get seasoned journalist Denis Galava unceremoniously sacked from his job," Simon Allison wrote Wednesday for the Daily Maverick in Kenya, in a piece republished by Britain's Guardian. Allison added, "But at the beginning of the year he wrote an opinion piece that pulled no punches. Addressing the president, Uhuru Kenyatta, he said that the country deserved better leadership from its politicians, lambasting the president's record in office … "

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