R. Kelly, the Media and the Status of Black Women

R. Kelly
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Clear Channel
R. Kelly
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Clear Channel

"Nobody Matters Less to Our Society Than Young Black Women"

"It has been nearly 15 years since music journalist Jim DeRogatis caught the story that has since defined his career, one that he wishes didn't exist: R. Kelly's sexual predation on teenage girls," Jessica Hopper reported Monday for the Village Voice, referring to the R&B singer best known for "I Believe I Can Fly."


Hopper's story was headlined, "Read the 'Stomach-Churning' Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full." By Wednesday afternoon, it had generated 2,366 comments and the support of several other writers.

"DeRogatis, at that time the pop-music critic at the Chicago Sun-Times, was anonymously delivered the first of two videos he would receive depicting the pop star engaging in sexual acts with underage girls. Now the host of the syndicated public radio show Sound Opinions and a professor at Columbia College, DeRogatis, along with his former Sun-Times colleague Abdon Pallasch, didn't just break the story, they did the only significant reporting on the accusations against Kelly, interviewing hundreds of people over the years, including dozens of young women whose lives DeRogatis says were ruined by the singer.

"This past summer, leading up to Kelly's headlining performance at the Pitchfork Music Festival, DeRogatis posted a series of discussions about Kelly's career, the charges made against him, and sexual assault. He published a live review of the singer's festival set that was an indictment of Pitchfork and its audience for essentially endorsing a man he calls 'a monster.' In the two weeks since Kelly released his latest studio album, Black Panties, the conversation about him and why he has gotten a pass from music publications (not to mention feminist sites such as Jezebel) has been rekindled, in part because of the explicit nature of the album and also because of online arguments around the Pitchfork performance.

"I was one of those people who challenged DeRogatis and was even flip about his judgment — something I quickly came to regret. DeRogatis and I have tangled — even feuded on air — over the years; yet, amid the Twitter barbs, he approached me offline and told me about how one of Kelly's victims called him in the middle of the night after his Pitchfork review came out, to thank him for caring when no one else did. He told me of mothers crying on his shoulder, seeing the scars of a suicide attempt on a girl's wrists, the fear in their eyes. He detailed an aftermath that the public has never had to bear witness to.

"DeRogatis offered to give me access to every file and transcript he has collected in reporting this story — as he has to other reporters and journalists, none of whom has ever looked into the matter, thus relegating it to one man's personal crusade.

"I thought that last fact merited a public conversation about why. In this interview (which has been condensed significantly), DeRogatis speaks frankly and explicitly about the many disturbing charges against Kelly and says, ultimately, 'The saddest fact I've learned is nobody matters less to our society than young black women. Nobody.' . . ."


Kyle Harvey, the Grio: R.Kelly responds to Village Voice article exposing past sexual allegations

Jamilah Lemieux, Ebony: Were YOU Wrong About R. Kelly?

Amanda Marcotte, Slate: Jim DeRogatis Cannot Forget the Sexual Abuse Allegations Against R. Kelly. We Shouldn’t Either.


Brian McManus, Village Voice: #AskRKelly Backfires Mightily on Twitter

Akoto Ofori-Atta, The Root: R. Kelly Responds to Details of Child Pornography Charges


Etan Thomas, The Root: More Fans Should Be Outraged by R. Kelly's New Album Cover

EURWeb.com: R. Kelly Preps More 'Trapped in the Closet'; Speaks on Article on Sexual Assault History


Zerlina Maxwell, the Grio: Can feminists enjoy R. Kelly's music? Short answer: No

TMZ Readers Vote for N-Word Over "African American"

The brash, celebrity-gossip website TMZ posted a video Monday in which hip-hop entrepreneur Suge Knight says he likes the N-word better than "African American," and in early results from its informal online poll, the website's viewers agreed with Knight.TMZ Readers Vote for N-Word Over "African American"


"Suge Knight is offended when people call him African American, because he's NOT African. On the other hand, he doesn't have a problem with the word, 'Ni**a,' " the website reported.

"Suge says it's offensive to label all Black people African American. And he goes further … he thinks it's ridiculous that only rappers can use the word, 'Ni**a.' He thinks if it can be used by some, it should be used by all.


"At first his theory sounds a little shocking, but maybe he has a point.

"So we gotta ask… "

The online poll asked:

"Refer to black people as

  •  "African American
  •  "Ni**a"

The statements by Knight, founder of Death Row Records, were quickly picked up in cyberspace.


Stephen A. Crockett Jr. reported Tuesday morning for The Root, "At press time, 'n—-a' is leading the poll, with 56 percent of some 66,000 votes reported."

Ebony.com wrote later in the day, "(For those who are wondering, and we surely hope you won't go give them any additional traffic, the results were 55% in favor of 'n*gga' when we checked — and there were some 73,000+ votes. Not terribly surprising, as the comments section most often resembles a cyber-Klan meeting. Post-racial 'Murrica!)


"We're done with TMZ and we hope that any self-respecting Black person who ever visited them for gossip or fun or folly or as a guilty pleasure will say the same. There is no coming back, no apology needed, no sensitivity training, nothing.

"Bye, TMZ."

By contrast, on the hip-hop site hiphopdx.com, Danielle Harling quoted Compton rapper YG, who has a hit single using the word. "If the people using that word as a word to like uplift they friend or like say 'that's my homie, that's my friend,' I feel like it's love. Because they ain't using it in a disrespectful way."


TMZ returned to the subject Wednesday with a short article quoting a more politically aware godfather of hip-hop. "Public Enemy frontman Chuck D has a message for anyone buying into Suge Knight's take on the n-word — tossing around that epithet is vile and disrespectful to the Civil Rights movement … no matter how much it's overused in popular music today," TMZ wrote.

It added, "Put more poetically by Chuck — 'Being called Black in America is the struggle to keep us moving and breathing over bloody water. Being a Nig**r or [Ni**a] without the context of history is like drowning in bloody water, dragging down those yet knowing to swim.' . . . "


Hilary Lewis, Hollywood Reporter: CNBC Apologizes for Airing Song With N-Word (video)

B2K Lyrics

White House, Journalists Agree to Expand Media Access

"The White House and news media representatives have agreed to work toward expanding access to President Barack Obama's public duties to give news photographers a less restricted view of the president at work," the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.


"Participants in Tuesday's meeting said the session did not resolve the coverage issues recently raised by a group of news organizations and media associations, but said they were hopeful the discussion marked progress.

"Associated Press Senior Managing Editor Mike Oreskes said media representatives were encouraged by the commitment expressed by White House press secretary Jay Carney. Oreskes said, 'The proof will be in the outcome.'  . . ."


"Dozens of leading news organizations have complained about restrictions that at times have kept journalists from taking pictures and video of Obama performing official duties while the White House releases pictures taken by the president's staff. . . ."

Oreskes provided Journal-isms with this list of the media representatives:

Kevin Goldberg, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, PLC, present as legal counsel for the American Society of News Editors; David Boardman, Temple University, ASNE president; Lucy Dalglish, University of Maryland, ASNE freedom of information committee co-chair; Michael Oreskes, Associated Press, for AP/Associated Press Media Editors; Santiago Lyon, Associated Press, for AP/APME; Karen Kaiser, AP associate general counsel; George Lehner, Pepper, Hamilton, White House Correspondents Association counsel.


Also, Steve Thomma, McClatchy Co., WHCA president; Doug Mills, New York Times, WHCA board member; Sam Feist, CNN Washington bureau chief; Ken Strickland, NBC News Washington bureau chief; Bryan Boughton, Fox News Washington bureau chief; Mickey Osterreicher, National Press Photographers Association legal counsel; Ron Sachs, Consolidated News, White House News Photographers Association; J. David Ake, AP Washington assistant bureau chief for photos; and Win McNamee, chief photographer/news at Getty Images.

Strickland is a black journalist, and Lyon is a native of Spain.

Perry Bacon Jr., the Grio: President Obama's shift from compromise to confrontation is paying dividends paying dividends


Hadas Gold, Politico: Media pushes for greater access in meeting with White House

Zerlina Maxwell, the Grio: Why President Obama was right to sit down with Steve Harvey


David Rohde, Reuters: Will a billion 'selfies' cause us to miss history?

"Rape in the Fields" Collaboration Wins duPont-Columbia

"Rape in the Fields/Violación de un Sueño," "a deeply reported collaboration spanning multiple platforms that spotlighted the sexual assault of female farm workers," was among 14 winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards announced Wednesday by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.


"Led by producer and correspondent Lowell Bergman, this unique collaboration between the Investigative Reporting Program at U.C. Berkeley, the Center for Investigative Reporting, FRONTLINE and UNIVISION produced a dynamic cross platform documentary that focused on an overlooked subject; the sexual abuse, with impunity, of female migrant farm workers," the school said.

"The team documented the stories of farm workers who were preyed upon by their field bosses and co-workers telling the story through a series of unforgettable interviews with the victims, some all the more vulnerable because they are undocumented. The reporters tracked down some of the men accused of these crimes, often years after they occurred. The pacing of the online and broadcast video, the dynamic online resources, and the overall presentation were sharp and consistent. The unique collaboration, including the first ever between FRONTLINE and UNIVISION, enabled this multi-lingual effort to reach across the country and into the fields themselves, demanding action by those in authority."


Among other winners were WBEZ in Chicago for "This American Life: "Harper High School Parts 1 and 2," "a stark two-part radio series that captured the impact of gun violence on the students and staff of one Chicago high school"; WYPR in Baltimore for "The Lines Between Us," "an ambitious yearlong broadcast and multimedia series on inequality in Baltimore"; and "The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement", a POV episode on PBS that the judges called "an intimate short documentary profile of an 85-year-old barber and civil rights veteran."

 2014 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award Winners Announced

With Paper's Support, Confederate Name Voted Off School

"Following a petition drive that garnered more than 160,000 signatures, a Florida school district will rename a high school whose current name commemorates a Confederate general and the first 'grand wizard' of the Ku Klux Klan," Valerie Strauss reported Monday for the Washington Post.


"Nathan B. Forrest High School in Jacksonville will soon be known as something else after the community made clear to the Duval County Public School Board that they wanted the school changed. The board voted unanimously Monday night to remove the Forrest name.

"How did the school get that name? When it opened in 1959, an organization called the Daughters of the Confederacy pushed for the Forrest name despite a number of other noncontroversial names that were under discussion, including the student favorite, Valhalla High School. In 2007 the School Advisory Council asked the school board to change the name but it refused by a 5-2 vote. Since then, membership on the panel has changed. . . ."


As discussed in this space last month, newspapers have been reluctant to call for disturbing monuments to those who fought to perpetuate slavery, tributes that still dot the landscape of Southern states. "Live and let live" appears to prevail, as though each side in the conflict held equal moral footing.

In this case, however, the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville editorialized in support of removing Forrest's name. Columnist Mark Woods noted Wednesday that in 1959, the Times-Union supported segregationists who named the school to express defiance of the Supreme Court's 1954 Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. An editorial then "decried the 'reckless edict' of the court."


By contrast, Wednesday's editorial recalled the testimony of a Confederate sergeant that Forrest had ordered the killing of scores of white and black Union soldiers who were trying to surrender at Fort Pillow, Tenn. Soldiers were burned and some were buried alive. The editorial observed, "The school is an orphan with uninvolved alumni and an African-American community that considers the name offensive. The school, once all-white, had 57 percent black students at the end of the last school year. . . ."

"Should the name of Nathan Bedford Forrest belong on a Jacksonville high school?" the editorial asked.


"There is enough evidence to answer clearly: No. The name is poisoned.

"And the evidence is convincing enough to say confidently that this magnet of controversy will never go away until the name is replaced.


"Times have changed regarding race, mostly for the better.

"It's time to find a new name, a new identity and a symbol that everyone in Jacksonville can embrace."


Richard Danford, Florida Times-Union: Guest column: Urban League CEO comments on Forrest High (Nov. 25)

Indian Country Today Media Network: NFL Redskins Defiant After Houston School Board Votes to Ban Nickname


Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times: Southern Discomfort: U.S. Army seeks removal of Lee, 'Stonewall' Jackson honors

. . . In Memphis, Grave and Statue Stay, but Park Name Goes

In May, the Commercial Appeal in Memphis, Tenn., supported a City Council committee recommendation to rename Nathan Bedford Forrest Park along with two others, while leaving as is the statue of Forrest and the graves of Forrest and his wife.


Confederate Park would be named Promenade Park, and Jefferson Davis Park would become Harbor Park.

In January, the newspaper supported efforts to honor legendary anti-lynching crusader and publisher Ida B. Wells, but not in Forrest Park, as one councilman proposed.


"It is hard to imagine that civil rights fighter Ida B. Wells would want her name associated with Ku Klux Klan founder Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, who fought to keep people like her enslaved," the editorial board wrote on Jan. 21.

"Ida B. Wells was a heroic anti-lynching crusader, suffragist, women's rights advocate, journalist, speaker and founding member of the NAACP from the 1870s until her death in Chicago in 1931. She conducted much of her early anti-lynching crusade journalism in the basement of First Baptist Church-Beale Street.


"It is a shame that this city has yet to honor Wells with some kind of prominent monument or memorial. . . ."

The council acted as the Tennessee General Assembly considered bills to prevent local jurisdictions from renaming or rededicating any "statue, monument, memorial, nameplate, plaque, historic flag display, school, street, bridge, building, park, preserve, or reserve which has been erected for, or named or dedicated in honor of, any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization, or military unit, and is located on public property."


The editorial board acknowledged on Feb. 10, "Jefferson Davis, Nathan Bedford Forrest and other leaders of the Confederate States of America clearly were on the wrong side of history. Confederate forces may have been fighting to preserve states' rights in the Civil War, but a major part of what they fought for was the utterly indefensible right to keep blacks enslaved. And for decades after the war ended, white Southerners kept a boot on the necks of African-Americans through Jim Crow laws and segregation.

"Those who say that the Confederacy is a part of Memphis' history that should be remembered, rather than erased, make a valid point. But in a city where 63 percent of the citizens — and most of the 26 percent who live in poverty — are black, the glorification of the Confederacy and its heroes is a hard pill to swallow. . . ."


Maria Bartiromo Is Italian-American, but a Person of Color?

Is Maria Bartiromo a person of color? Are Italian-Americans a "minority"?

The National Association of Black Journalists issued a news release Dec. 2, reported in this space on Monday, that began, "With the departure of Maria Bartiromo from CNBC, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is calling on cable networks to take a deeper look at their diversity and the lack of faces of color in financial cable news.


"Bartiromo, one of the first women to rise to success on television by reporting on business news, and CNBC's only on-air talent of color, announced she will depart her longtime home at CNBC for its rival, the Fox Business Network. Bartiromo's contract ended November 24, concluding 20 years with CNBC. . . ."

Bartiromo, however, is an Italian-American, as Vanity Fair noted in this profile and a CNBC spokesman confirmed for Journal-isms on Wednesday.


Dedrick A. Russell, NABJ's vice president/broadcast, quoted in the release, explained by email:

"The message of the release was to focus on giving journalists of color a chance to host a show on one of the cable business channels. When we read Bartiromo was leaving CNBC, we thought that would be a good time to respond. Bartiromo is Italian American which means she is a minority.


"We were thinking minority but journalist of color was written in the release. This does not take away from the main point that journalists of color should be considered to host a show."

Italian-Americans are not included on the U.S. government's definition of racial and ethnic minority populations, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention defines as "Asian American, Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander, American Indian and Alaska Native."


However, Italian-Americans were not always considered white. Jennifer Guglielmo, who co-edited the 2003 book, "Are Italians White?: How Race is Made in America," wrote, "Throughout the twentieth century, many people of color have critiqued the ways Italian Americans have asserted and claimed a white identity. W.E.B. Du Bois, Bernardo Vega, James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Ann Petry, Ana Castillo, Piri Thomas, and other influential writers and activists have also commented on the complicated and contradictory ways Italians have adopted and challenged the practices of white supremacy."

The CNBC website shows that diversity remains on the anchor and reporting staff


Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times: Maria Bartiromo and the problem with CNBC (Nov. 25)

Julia La Roche and Henry Blodget, businessinsider.com: Here's Why Maria Bartiromo Is Leaving CNBC For FOX Business (Nov. 22)


211 Journalists Worldwide Jailed for Their Work

"Turkey, Iran, and China accounted for more than half of all journalists imprisoned around the world in 2013, the Committee to Protect Journalists has found," the press freedom organization said Wednesday. "In its annual census, CPJ identified 211 journalists jailed for their work, the second worst year on record after 2012, when 232 journalists were behind bars.


"Intolerant governments in Ankara, Tehran, and Beijing used mostly anti-state charges to silence a combined 107 critical reporters, bloggers, and editors. Turkey and Iran retained their distinctions as the worst and second worst jailers for two years in a row, despite each having released some prisoners during 2013. The number detained by China held steady. . . ."

"Smiley & West" Show Airing Final Episode

The final edition of "Smiley & West," the public radio show pairing activist Tavis Smiley and scholar-activist Cornel West, airs the weekend of Dec. 27. "The Tavis Smiley Show" on Public Radio International will expand to two hours in January. 


The pair, who began the show in 2010, are perhaps best known for their vocal criticism of President Obama. A year ago, syndicated radio host Tom Joyner, on whose show Smiley once delivered commentary, blamed the two for creating the climate that led to Time magazine editor-at-large Mark Halperin calling the president a "dick."

"While I am appalled at Halperin's statement . . . I'm even more disgusted with Smiley and West, two brothers who I did have expectations of — and thought I knew," Joyner said then. "These two have done much worse than what Halperin has done because they set the tone for it, opened the door to it, and must take much of the blame for creating a climate that would make a white, professional journalist feel comfortable verbally and vulgarly attacking the first black president of the United States."


An October news release said of Smiley and West, "Both agree that it is critical to offer differing viewpoints on the airwaves, especially the stories of the more than 45 million Americans living in poverty.

"Smiley will be devoting more time to the Tavis Smiley Network, the first online programming network for BlogTalkRadio."


Smiley laid out the rationale for the program in a 2012 "open letter" to Torey Malatia, then president and CEO of Chicago Public Media, who had canceled the show on his station.

Short Takes

"Concerns among Hispanics that signing up for medical insurance under President Barack Obama's healthcare law may draw the scrutiny of immigration authorities has hurt enrollment, according to advocates of the policy," Alex Dobuzinskis and Curtis Skinner wrote Wednesday for Reuters. They also said, "Ironically, polls have consistently shown Latinos are more supportive of the law, commonly called Obamacare, than the general public. . . ."


In New York, "The Black-owned talk radio station WWRL is switching to a Spanish-language format and leaving its progressive format behind, according to sources close to the AmNews," Cyril Josh Barker reported for the New York Amsterdam News on Friday. "The silencing of yet another Black radio station is scheduled for January 1. The station gave employees the news on Friday via email and phone calls. Employees informed the AmNews that the station is citing low advertising revenue coming in as a factor for the change. All current programming will be off the air. . . ."

After six years, columnist Brenda Payton has returned to the Oakland Tribune, writing this month about the death of Nelson Mandela. Payton, who wrote a column about Oakland three times a week for 25 years, is filling in for Tammerlin Drummond, who is on a Nieman journalism fellowship at Harvard University. In her first return column, Sept. 22, Payton explored changes in the city over six years. In her most recent, on Sunday, Payton observed that "Typically, the media coverage of Mandela's death and the world's reaction has portrayed him as a superman who single-handedly changed the world. Maybe it's an inherent flaw of the media; it's certainly a disservice to Mandela himself." The key was "sustained organization," Payton wrote. She plans to write twice a month.


Entrepreneur Rafat Ali, founder of PaidContent, one of the leading publications covering the business of online media, is joining the board of the Investigative News Network, a network of 92 independent, nonprofit community and investigative newsrooms. Lisa Williams wrote Tuesday for the network.

"Longtime broadcaster and former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez has a new shift on South Florida radio," Johnny Diaz wrote Tuesday for the South Florida SunSentinel. "The flashy and sometimes controversial newsman is joining WIOD's morning block from 10 a.m. to noon weekdays beginning Jan. 6. . . ."


"The number of African-American-owned bookstores has dropped significantly since the late 1970s and 1980s due to a variety of factors, including corporate control of the Internet, waning literacy and fiscal mismanagement," Frederick H. Lowe reported Tuesday for NorthStar News & Analysis. He also wrote, "The failure of Black Issues Book Review, which went out of business in 2007, also contributed to the decline in black-owned bookstores. Angela P. Dodson, executive editor of Black Issues Book Review from 2003 to 2007, said because the publication no longer exists, black readers don’t know to go into a bookstore and ask for books written by black authors. 'The books are not getting any publicity,' Dodson said. . . ."

"From Times Square to Vatican Square, this morning's 'Good Morning America' was weeks in the making, but only came together in the last day, Chris Ariens reported Wednesday for TVNewser. "Robin Roberts and Josh Elliott traveled to Rome after Monday’s 'GMA' to be in place for Pope Francis's weekly audience in Vatican City this morning. As the Pope greeted pilgrims in the Square, Roberts and Elliott waited their turn. It only lasted a few seconds, but will be meaningful for the GMA anchors for the rest of their lives. . . ."


"HLN anchor Ryan Smith is joining ABC News as a New York-based correspondent and legal analyst," Merrill Knox reported Wednesday for TVNewser. "In his new role, which begins early next year, Smith will also provide legal analysis on ESPN's programs and platforms. . . ."

Wendy L. Wilson, former news editor for Essence magazine and former news editor for Essence.com, has been named managing editor of Jet magazine, Johnson Publishing Co. announced on Tuesday. "In this role, Wilson is responsible for generating and writing original stories, developing content ideas for the magazine and website, and assisting in the growth of the JET brand," an announcement said on Tuesday. "Wilson will also assist the Editor-in-Chief with planning, decision-making, and evaluating editorial content. . . . "


"The International Press Institute (IPI) today urged South Sudan's government to refrain from slapping restrictions on journalists and interfering with news coverage in the aftermath of an apparent coup attempt in Africa's newest country," the institute said Wednesday. IPI also said, "The unrest comes amid growing concern about the erosion of press freedom in South Sudan, including the temporary detention of several journalists from the Citizen newspaper in the past six months. The government also recently ordered all journalists to register with the government, allegedly to protect them against arrest or harassment. . . ."

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