Media Cautious on Tulsa Killings

Reluctance to Label Shootings Racially Motivated

"Maybe it's the Trayvon Martin case, or maybe it's just the system working as it should, but news organizations are moving cautiously on the story of this weekend's shootings in Tulsa, Okla., which may — may — have been racially motivated," Andrew Beaujon reported Monday for the Poynter Institute.


"A headline on says, 'Two arrested in north Tulsa shootings

Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, are each being held at the Tulsa Jail and are accused of three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and a single complaint of possession of a firearm while committing a felony. Their bond totals exceeded $18 million, according to the Tulsa World.
This image was lost some time after publication.

that claimed three lives.' . . . The first line of Zack Stoycoff's story is: 'Tulsa police have arrested two white men who are accused of killing three black residents and injuring two others in a shooting spree that authorities deemed 'unprecedented." '

"A few paragraphs down, the story quotes an FBI agent who says, 'It is way too early to call this a hate crime.' Indeed, the suspects were charged today, but not with hate crimes.

"Cheryl Corley’s report for NPR is headlined ' "Premature" To Call Tulsa Shootings Hate Crimes.' A CNN email alert I saw didn’t mention race until the last line: 'Authorities are working to determine whether the violence was racially motivated.'

"One fact in this story is repelling a simple narrative: Jake England, one of the two accused shooters, is alternately described as white and Native American. A Los Angeles Times article quotes Susan Sevenstar, a family friend of England’s:

" 'If anybody is trying to say this is a racial situation, they've got things confused,' said Sevenstar, who described England as Cherokee Indian. 'He didn’t care what your color was. It wasn’t a racist thing.'


"And yet some posts on England’s Facebook page used racist language."

* New York Post: CNN anchor apologizes for reporter using n-word during news report


Story Confirms Fears of Welfare-Reform Opponents

"Perhaps no law in the past generation has drawn more praise than the drive to 'end welfare as we know it,' which joined the late-'90s economic boom to send caseloads plunging, employment rates rising and officials of both parties hailing the virtues of tough love," Jason DeParle wrote from Phoenix Sunday in the lead story of the New York Times' print edition.


"But the distress of the last four years has added a cautionary postscript: much as overlooked critics of the restrictions once warned, a program that built its reputation when times were good offered little help when jobs disappeared. Despite the worst economy in decades, the cash welfare rolls have barely budged.

"Faced with flat federal financing and rising need, Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. Even as it turned away the needy, Arizona spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps.


"The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow."

DeParle's story would seem to vindicate pundits who warned that the Clinton-era welfare reforms would hurt poor people.


NewsBusters, a conservative media watch group affiliated with L. Brent Bozell III's Media Research Center, says one of those pundits was DeParle.

"In 1996 DeParle predicted poor mothers would 'turn to prostitution or the drug trade. Or cling to abusive boyfriends. Or have more abortions. Or abandon their children. Or camp out on the streets and beg.' None of which came to pass, until now (or so his new anecdotes suggest)."


* Corey Robin blog: Ending Dependency As We Know It: How Bill Clinton Decreased Freedom

* Claudio Sanchez, "All Things Considered," NPR: Now On The Menu For Hungry Kids: Supper At School

Newspaper Movie Resonates After Trayvon, Tulsa Tragedies

A film about newspaper journalists and the killing of a black teenage boy is having its "premiere tour" of the Midwest, South and East punctuated by the Florida killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenage boy, and the shooting-spree deaths in Tulsa, Okla., of three African Americans, allegedly by white suspects.


The movie, "Deadline," was "inspired" by the real-life killing of Wallace Youmans, 18, in 1970 in the small town of Fairfax, S.C. "No charges were filed, and the case seemed headed for obscurity until 1972" [warning: clicking the link might spoil the movie]; when a white man confessed, yet "state officials unaccountably still failed to take action."Mark Ethridge III, working then at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, reported the story, then turned it into "Grievances," a novel. Etheridge and Curt Hahn, a prep-school classmate turned filmmaker, adapted the novel into "Deadline." The location of the killing was changed to Alabama and the newspaper's home to Nashville, Tenn., Hahn's home base.

The time became the present.

Speaking of events in the film, Hahn said, "I didn't want this to be thought of as something that no longer exists." He was speaking at a Washington screening Sunday that benefited the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "I didn't want people to say, 'Oh, that was back then.' "


In the movie, the journalists solve the crime, working on the story against the wishes of the publisher, who believes readers in Nashville's circulation area would not be interested.

"I hope what happens is that people understand why newspapers and journalists are important," said Ethridge, a third-generation journalist. David Dwyer, who played the obstructionist publisher, said he had worked with several news directors and drew from his experiences with them.


At test screenings, viewers said the film reminded them of "Mississippi Burning," "Ghosts of Mississippi," "A Time to Kill," "The Help," and foremost, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The filmmakers' marketing strategy calls for news organizations to sponsor a screening in each location, to benefit local charities. In what Etheridge called the film's only negatie review, Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times said his paper declined to sponsor a recent Tampa event. However, Shawn McIntosh, public editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote that she "so enjoyed" the event in Atlanta, sponsored by her paper and benefiting a student journalism program.


Even with the local sponsorship, however, the Washington booking is for one week only in suburban Oxon Hill, Md., a fate that has been replicated in other metro areas. Theaters are taking a wait-and-see attitude, Hahn said.

The tour began Feb. 15 in Nashville and concludes April 20 in Knoxville, Tenn. On Tuesday, it heads for Philadelphia and Ashland, Ky., followed by Oklahoma City; New York; Boston; Providence, R.I.; Hartford, Conn.; Norfolk, Va.; Richmond, Va.; and Greensboro, N.C. The film officially opens this weekend.


* Kirk Baird, Toledo Blade: 'Deadline' premieres in Toledo, a week ahead of national release (March 22)

* Newspapers in the movies (2009)

* Adam Parker, Post and Courier, Charleston, S.C.: New film based on Allendale killing (March 11)

* Jill Vejnoska, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Film works 'to make a case for journalism'

Trayvon Story No. 1 on Twitter, No. 3 on Blogs

"The often explosive issue of race became a common thread in social media last week as two very different kinds of stories generated passionate conversations," the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reported.


"For the second straight week, the February 26 shooting death of African American teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was a widely discussed topic. From March 26-30, it was the No. 1 topic on Twitter and No. 3 on blogs, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. In addition, a video connected to the case was the most-viewed news clip on YouTube last week.

"On Twitter last week, the largest storylines in the discussion were outrage that no arrest has been made in the case and sympathy for Martin and his family."


Meanwhile, NBC News President Steve Capus told Chris Francescani of Reuters that "several people" were disciplined over NBC's decision to air an edited call from Zimmerman to police in the moments before he shot Martin.

"The edit in question, which aired on the network's flagship 'Today' morning show last week, made it appear that Zimmerman told police that Martin was black without being prompted, when, in fact, the full tape reveals that the neighborhood watch captain only did so when responding to a question posed by a dispatcher," the story said.


"Capus confirmed a previous Reuters report that an internal network investigation had determined that a producer made the editing error, and that the network's editorial controls — including senior broadcast producer oversight, script editors and often legal and standards department reviews of sensitive material to be broadcast — simply missed the selective editing of the phone call.

"Two sources at the network told Reuters the Miami-based producer of the segment had been fired on Thursday."


In Florida, the special prosecutor assigned to the shooting investigation now says she will not take the case before a grand jury Tuesday, as had been scheduled, Jeff Weiner and Walter Pacheco reported for the Orlando Sentinel.

"Angela Corey, special prosecutor in the case and state attorney for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, said Monday that her investigation will continue, but the grand jury will not hear the case."


On the comics pages, "Candorville" creator Darrin Bell concluded a week-long series in which his character Lemont "meets" Martin.

"What struck Darrin Bell first, powerfully and personally, were Trayvon’s eyes ," Michael Cavna wrote for the Washington Post's Comic Riffs column.


"In them he saw something intangible, the 'Candorville' creator tells Comic Riffs, 'that suggested to me that he was essentially a good kid, and that one day he’d grow into a good man.'

"Bell acknowledges that this perhaps was pure projection, but 'isn’t that what we’re supposed to do with kids?' says the L.A.-based cartoonist. 'We’re supposed to find something good in them — even if we have to create it and project it on them — and nurture that. The most tragic part of all this, I thought, was that nobody would ever be able to do that for him; and he would never become the person he could have become.' "


Short Takes

* A wake for Gil Noble, legendary host of "Like It Is" on WABC-TV in New York, is to be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. in Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church, where funeral services are to begin on Friday at 10 a.m. Noble died on April 5 at age 80, having suffered a stroke last year. David A. Wilson, founder of and a former intern at WABC, wrote Friday that there would be no Grio without Noble's inspiration. "Before my internship with Gil I had aspired to be a journalist, but he motivated me to be a black journalist. He taught me that pursuit of stories related to our struggles and triumphs were no less virtuous or important." Alfred Edmond of Black Enterprise magazine also delivered a tribute.

* Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, asked Thursday at the University of Kentucky whether he read the New York Times every day, replied, "Oh, God, no!," Jennifer Hewlett reported for the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.

* Writing Sunday for Fox News Latino, Alexis Garcia called the term "white Hispanic" repetitive. "Forget that it's redundant. Forget that it doesn't make sense. Forget that it violates the New York Times own style guide. It just sounds good," she wrote. The U.S. Census, however, says, "People who identify their origin as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race." Gabriel Escobar might have been on to something when he wrote last month in the Dallas Morning News, "if you're a black Hispanic, you may as well be invisible. Were it not for Major League Baseball, with its huge share of black Latin players, how many people would know that black Hispanics even existed?" Garcia is a political producer and correspondent for

* "The guarantee of landline telephone service at almost any address, a legal right many Americans may not even know they have, is quietly being legislated away in our U.S. state capitals," David Cay Johnston wrote March 28 for Reuters. "AT&T and Verizon, the dominant telephone companies, want to end their 99-year-old universal service obligation known as 'provider of last resort.' They say universal landline service is a costly and unfair anachronism that is no longer justified because of a competitive market for voice services." [Video]

* Syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr., writing about the declining number of journalists of color in newsrooms, recalled his own layoff in 2010. "Nearly two years later, I've never been busier, happier or more productive," he wrote. "Time that I used to spend on meetings and office politics I now dedicate to more writing. I've learned to be more creative and entrepreneurial in shaping and marketing my brand, and I'm doing more work on radio and television. I haven't reinvented myself, but I have redefined my opportunities. Along the way, I've learned the great truth that anyone who is laid off — whether it's in journalism, or any other field — should find comforting: Just because one employer doesn't want you does not mean another isn't ready to snap you up."

* Jim Asendio, who resigned in February as news director of the District of Columbia NPR affiliate WAMU-FM over an ethics issue, was asked by Scott Leadingham of the Quill ". . . The vast majority [of] the public radio audience is white, even in a majority-minority city like Washington, D.C. How, if at all, did you try to change that – to reach a broader, more diverse audience?" Asendio replied, "I had a two-pronged approach: To diversify the newsroom and then also by expanding what we covered. It’s always been my approach that whether public or commercial, the audience wants good news. It’s always been thought that public radio does long-form, audio rich pieces and commercial does breaking news. Well, commercial should do long-form, and public radio should do breaking news, traffic and weather."

* "Betty Nguyen who’s been with CBS News for the last two years, is leaving the network," Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser." 'Preparing to anchor my last show on CBS News,' Nguyen [tweeted] this morning, just before anchoring the early morning 'CBS Morning News.' "

* "Norihiko Shirouzu, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal in Beijing, is leaving the paper," TalkingBizNews reported on Friday. "In an e-mail to colleagues, Shirouzu writes, 'Today is my last day at the WSJ. It’s been a great, 18-year ride, and I’ve got quite a few folks to thanks for: the people who took a big chance and hired me and helped guide me along the way as I moved from Tokyo to Detroit to Beijing. . . .' "

* " 'El Salvador is committed to guaranteeing the safety of El Faro and its staff so they can continue their investigative work,' David Rivas, spokesman for President Mauricio Funes Cartagena, told CPJ in a recent phone conversation," Carlos Lauría reported Friday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The government's pledge came after groundbreaking reporting by the digital newspaper about secret negotiations in which local gangs, known as Maras, said they would limit murders in exchange for official concessions, like having imprisoned gang members transferred to lower-security prisons."


Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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