Tsarnaev Coverage Proves Labels Matter

Tamerlan Tsarnaev competing in the 2009 Golden Gloves National Tournament. (Getty Images)
Tamerlan Tsarnaev competing in the 2009 Golden Gloves National Tournament. (Getty Images)

"Since the identification and apprehension (both dead and alive) of Boston Marathon bombing suspects Tamerlan Tsarnaev (reportedly shot and run over with explosives strapped to him, amid unconfirmed reports he was clutching an 'ACME Co.' receipt) and [Dzhokhar] Tsarnaev (apprehended as a result of history's first heroic nicotine fit), there has been a rush to triumphantly point and laugh at liberal commentator David Sirota's preference that the bombers turn out to be like the cheese on his ham sandwich: white and American," Tommy Christopher wrote Sunday for Mediaite.


"As it happens, both of them turned out to be Caucasian, and one of them was American, but we can't allow their actions to define all Caucasian-Americans.

"Lucky for white Americans, Sirota was at least half-right: when perpetrators of horrific acts turn out to be white, there is some phenomenon that causes their whiteness to become completely irrelevant, even if they are actually from the place where whiteness gets its name. Until Friday, I always thought 'caucasian' was just a name that some fancy racist thought up to make white people sound better than 'negroids' and 'mongoloids,' but it turns out there's a real place called Caucasia, and the Boston bombing suspects are from it.

"Despite that fact, and despite the fact that their region of origin has been heavily reported as 'the Caucasas,' you would never know that these guys were Caucasian, let alone white, from the way cable news has been reporting on them. With the exception of Sunday morning's Melissa Harris-Perry show, the only cable news description of the suspects as 'Caucasian' came from Massachusetts State Police Col. Tim Alben, during a press conference.

"That's because David Sirota didn't count on the one possibility that could nullify a white American bomber: a white American Muslim bomber. . . ."

The issue of racial and religious profiling was one of the themes that followed the capture Friday of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev and the death of his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Muslims with Chechen origins.

Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor of the New York Times, wrote Monday, "The Boston Marathon bombings are closer to the colloquial and legal definitions of terrorism than the Aurora shooting, but not the Oklahoma bombing, or the Arizona attack.


"The real difference is that Mr. Tsarnaev is a Muslim, and the United States has since the 9/11 terrorist attacks constructed a separate and profoundly unequal system of detention and punishment that essentially applies only to Muslims. . . . "

Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and director of the Institute of African American Studies at the University of Connecticut, ruminated on the subject of collective guilt in writing Saturday for the New Yorker website:

"And though we think of ourselves as a nation of immigrants, many Americans are removed enough from identity-based communities to recoil at the idea that they'd be held accountable for someone else's crimes," Cobb wrote. "But recent immigrants know that, even in a country founded upon the premise of individual rights, there is no guarantee that a person will be treated as an individual. This isn't solely a dynamic about immigration. For those with long enough memories, the ambiguous description of a 'dark-skinned male' suspect brought to mind the 1989 Charles Stuart case — itself a case study in collective suspicion and guilt in the city of Boston. . . ."


Sarah Kendzior, an anthropologist who recently received her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, wrote for Al Jazeera Sunday that Muslims are owed an apology:

"American Muslims have long had to deal with ignorance and prejudice in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. 'Please don't be Muslims or Arabs,' goes the refrain, as unnecessary demands for a public apology from Muslims emerge. This week made it clear that it is Muslims who are owed the apology. After wild speculation from CNN about a 'dark-skinned suspect', on Thursday the New York Post published a cover photo falsely suggesting a Moroccan-American high school track star, Salah Barhoun, was one of the bombers. 'Jogging while Arab' has become the new 'driving while black.'"


Kendzior added, "It is easy to criticise the media, and after this disastrous week, there is much to criticise. But the consequences of the casual racism launched at Chechens — and by association, all other Muslims from the former Soviet Union, who are rarely distinguished from one another by the public — are serious. By emphasising the Tsarnaevs' ethnicity over their individual choices, and portraying that ethnicity as barbaric and violent, the media creates a false image of a people destined by their names and their 'culture of terror' to kill. There are no people in Chechnya, only symbols. There are no Chechen-Americans, only threats. . . ."

Boston Post-Mortems Apportion Praise, Criticism

In a flood of post-mortems on the Boston Marathon killings and subsequent manhunt, the Associated Press said, "We made mistakes because we didn't follow our own very good guidelines"; CNN President Jeff Zucker, whose network was faulted for wrong judgment calls, praised his team; and Callie Crossley, a local critic, said of the Boston media, "in an ever evolving fast-moving situation, I thought they were brilliant.


"I was with a group of friends not in business last night," Crossley, host of "Under The Radar" on Boston's WGBH-FM, told Howard Kurtz Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "I asked what they thought about the coverage.

"These are people who keep up with news and information. They said . . . what they most appreciated was a lack of hyping what was already a heightened situation. They said inform me, don't scare me. That was the highest compliment they could give local reporters here in town and I have to agree. . . ."


In a memo to Associated Press staffers, Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll said, "There was much great work from AP staffers and we celebrate that. But we had some missteps, too. And that's what we want to talk about here today.

"Tom Kent, our Deputy Managing Editor for Standards, finished a thoughtful breakdown of where our standards served us well and where we fell short. Two issues stand out.


"We made mistakes because we didn't follow our own very good guidelines.

"And in one important case, we did not move quickly enough to clearly to fix that mistake. . . ." In particular, Kent said, "The AP routinely seeks and requires more than one source. . . ."


While CNN was widely mocked for its mistakes, including premature reports that a suspect had been captured (a mistake others made as well), and John King's statement that a "dark-skinned male" had been identified as the suspect, CNN president Jeff Zucker heaped praise on his team Friday:

"You have worked tirelessly, around the clock, to share these stories. And our audiences have responded, making it clear that they rely on us in ever increasing ways," Zucker wrote, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "In front of the cameras and behind the scenes, you have shown the world what makes us CNN. . . ."


Ken Bensinger and Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times: Boston bombings: Social media spirals out of control; Web sleuths cast suspicion on innocent people and spread bad tips and paranoia.

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The Mind of a Terror Suspect

David Carr, New York Times: The Pressure to Be the TV News Leader Tarnishes a Big Brand


Stanley Crouch, Daily News, New York: From Boston, sorrow and hope

Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: Understanding the bomber next door

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: After Boston marathon bombings, choose sadness, not fear


Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Backpack control as a way of making marathons safer?

Editors, the Aerogram: The 12 Best Tweets About CNN's 'Brown-Skinned Individual' Fail


Fannie Flono, Charlotte (N.C.) Observer: Senseless sacrilege of Senate gun control vote

Arturo R. García, Racialicious: Quoted: Sunil Tripathi's Sister, Sangeeta, On Redditors' False Accusations


Keli Goff, the Root: Will President Obama Rise to the Occasion?: How he handles the fallout from the Boston Marathon attacks will help shape his legacy.

Bill Grueskin, Columbia Journalism Review: In defense of scoops

Huffington Post: David Westin, Former ABC News President: New York Post Photo 'Inexcusable'


Lucette Jefferson, Huffington Post: Boston Bombing Suspect Race: Were You Relieved? (TELL US)

Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Media's Rush to Get It First Opens Door to Racial Profiling


Charles King, Foreign Affairs: Not Your Average Chechen Jihadis

John McWhorter, Daily News, New York: The terrorism truthers and the larger truth


Media Life Magazine: 46 million watch bombing suspect's capture

Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: False hope and folly in gun-control bill (April 16)


Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Boston's tragic week will only serve to make it stronger

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Someday, today's gun laws will be absurd

Brendan Nyhan, Columbia Journalism Review: Fast and wrong beats slow and right

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Gun vote reveals new GOP divide

Andrea Plaid, Racialicious: Open Thread: The Boston Marathon Bombings, The Boston Manhunt, And The Race To Racism


Pro Publica: A Reading Guide to What's Going on in Boston (April 19)

Radio Ink: How To Cover a Story Like Boston

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Wasn't Sandy Hook Enough to open our eyes?

Ana Veciana-Suarez, Miami Herald: After the Boston marathon bombing, focus on the heroes


Ali Velshi, Quartz: Ex-CNN anchor: Twitter is merciless when media lag, ruthless when they're wrong

Rookie TV Anchor's Profane Debut Goes Viral

"There are likely some professors at the University of West Virginia red-faced today after a recent graduate made his TV debut by dropping a string of obscenities," John Landsberg wrote Monday for Bottom Line Communications.


"A.J. Clemente went on the air for the first time at NBC North Dakota affiliate KFYR-TV and almost immediately blurted out a string of obscenities that left him looking like he was learning disabled.

" 'Say hello to the most disastrous start to a television career in the history of moving pictures inside little boxes and/or flat screens,' noted the Awful Announcing site.


"Clemente, who must have missed the 'assume the microphone is always on' lesson in school, has already been suspended (UPDATE: He has been fired.)

"His co-anchor was so flustered by his actions she sounded worse than a high school broadcaster. Clemente's performance has gone viral around the country. . . ."


CBS Seattle: Station Facing Backlash After Firing Anchor For Cursing On Air On First Day (April 23)

Prime Movers High School Program Ending After Nine Years

The Prime Movers Media program, "the first intensive journalism mentoring and news literacy program targeting students within urban high schools," is sunsetting after nine successful school years, Dorothy Gilliam, the program's founder and director, announced on Monday.


The program, based at George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs, was established for its first three years with a grant from the John S. and James L.  Knight Foundation and supported in more recent years by a contract with the District of Columbia Public Schools.

"Financial support from George Washington University and the School of Media and Public Affairs, along with news organizations, individuals and smaller foundations has provided supplemental funding for the program," the announcement continued. "The completion of this year's contract with the D.C. Public School system (D.C.P.S.) left too large a gap without new sources of funding to sustain the program. Without new funding, it has become difficult to sustain and administer the Prime Movers program so the program will close at the end of this academic year.


"Prime Movers Media has brought 80 interns from the George Washington University together with 60 professional journalists to train more than 4,000 students in 28 schools in the Washington area. Along with the White House Correspondents' Association and AOL, Prime Movers Media has facilitated college scholarships for students to study journalism and mass communications."

Gilliam added that the program's legacy would continue as D.C. students study a mass media/journalism education curriculum that Prime Movers wrote for D.C. Public Schools. A branch of the program in Philadelphia co-founded with Acel Moore, former Philadelphia Inquirer associate editor and columnist, will continue.


According to the program's website, its genesis dates to 1997, when Gilliam learned "that none of Washington D.C''s public high schools had produced student newspapers.

"Believing that students should have opportunities to communicate and develop journalistic skills, she obtained Washington Post support to launch a project called the Young Journalists Development Program through which journalists from the newspaper served as mentors and coaches to help urban high school students learn about journalism and produce newspapers for their schools."


Gilliam started Prime Movers in 2004.

AP's Honduras Writer Honored, Covers "Failing State"

Alberto Arce, a correspondent in Honduras for the Associated Press, has won a National Headliner Award for news beat coverage or continuing story by an individual or team [PDF], the Press Club of Atlantic City announced.


In December, Arce wrote a first-person dispatch about his life as a correspondent. "Every Saturday morning, one of my taxi drivers pays about $12 for the right to park his cab near a hospital, about two blocks from a police station," it began.

"But it's not the government that's charging.

"An unidentified man pulls up in a large SUV, usually brandishing an AK-47, and accepts an envelope of cash without saying a word. Jose and nine other drivers who pay the extortionists estimate that it amounts to more than $500 a year to park on public property. During Christmas, the cabbies dish out another $500 each in holiday 'bonuses.'


"Meanwhile, Jose pays the city $30 a year for his taxi license.

" 'Who do you think is really in charge here?' Jose asked me.

"It is an interesting question, one I have been trying to answer since I arrived here a year ago as a correspondent for The Associated Press. Is the government in charge? The drug traffickers? The gangs? This curious capital of 1.3 million people is a lawless place, but it does seem to have its own set of unwritten rules for living with the daily dangers."


Arce added, "I am the only foreign correspondent here, with no press pack to consult on questions of security, or to rely on for safety in numbers. I fall back on instincts honed in war zones, but they are not always sufficient when you are covering a failing state. . . ."

NAACP's Crisis Magazine Responds to Justice Scalia in Kind

"Anyone keen on the Supreme Court's on-going arguments over the legality of certain parts of the Voter Rights Act surely has not forgotten Justice Antonio Scalia‘s 'racial entitlement' remarks from earlier this year — especially 'The Crisis,' the NAACP's flagship publication," Terrell Jermaine Starr reported Monday for News One.


" 'I think it is attributable, very likely attributable, to a phenomenon that is called perpetuation of racial entitlement. It's been written about, Scalia said of the Act during a hearing back in February. 'Whenever a society adopts racial entitlements, it is very difficult to get out of them through the normal political processes.

"The award-winning magazine pulled no punches with its response, using its cover to feature an illustration of Justice Scalia with a Confederate flag bandana wrapped around his mouth. The conservative's eyes peer ominously through his thinly-framed eye glasses, evoking worst memories from the era in which the original [Voting Rights] Act was born.


"The cover is very hard-hitting, but The Crisis' Editor-in-Chief, Jabari Asim, told NewsOne, 'we thought his comments were hard-hitting and deserved that kind of response. I think that voting rights is one of those principles that the Crisis, African-Americans, and the NAACP all hold sacred. The memory of people who died for our right to vote remains fresh in many of our consciences and I think in that instance when you dare to be that irreverent and that disrespectful of the lessons of history that's the kind of response you earn.' . . ."

James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Report: Over half of black men in their 30s in Milwaukee County have been incarcerated


James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Buying black: Too much money flows out of the black community

George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Supreme Court Determined to Kill Affirmative Action (April 3)


Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Race-Baiter update: What I've learned after a summer of talking race and media everywhere from CSPAN to CSUN

Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: Economic disparity still hampers black success


Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star: The complacency seen by King hasn't gone away

Ann Curry "Professionally Tortured" Before Leaving "Today"

"Ann Curry was basically professionally tortured her last months as co-anchor of 'Today,' according to Brian Stelter's new book 'Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV,' " Tony Hicks wrote Thursday for the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times.


"MSN reported Thursday that an excerpt from Stelter's upcoming tell-all describes a boys club atmosphere at 'Today,' co-anchor Matt Lauer's 'growing indifference' to Curry and a 'general meanness on set' during Curry's time as co-anchor, according to MSN. The book says executive producer Jim Bell made a blooper reel of Curry's biggest on-air [gaffes], while people in the control room made ongoing jokes about Curry and her wardrobe.

"Insulting a woman's wardrobe — who does such a thing? It's just not safe …

"Curry's abuse also included giving her an undesirable office location and insults at the security desk.


" 'Many executives at the network never grasped how profoundly hurt and humiliated Curry remained — not just by her televised dismissal but by all the backstage machinations that led to that fateful morning,' Stelter wrote. 'Curry felt that the boys club atmosphere behind the scenes at "Today" undermined her from the start, and she told friends that her final months were a form of professional torture.'

"The story also details the tricks the show used to pay off guests, how NBC tweaked Nielsen ratings, and the cutthroat battle against rival 'Good Morning America.' . . . "


Stelter is scheduled to appear on "Good Morning America" and "CBS This Morning," among other programs.

Ed Bark, New York Times: Ratings War Zone Is a Rough Place to Start the Day

Rachel Nolan, New York Times Magazine: Behind the Cover Story: Brian Stelter on the Drama at the 'Today' Show


Brian Stelter, New York Times Magazine: Waking Up on the Wrong Side of a Ratings War

Short Takes

Two candidates have been certified as presidential candidates for the National Association of Black Journalists: Bob Butler, reporter for KCBS radio in San Francisco and current vice president/broadcast; and Sarah Glover, social media editor at WCAU-TV in Philadelphia, former board secretary and past president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. View all candidates.


When Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. completes three deals announced in the past two months, it will own more television stations across the country than any other company — 134 stations in 69 markets, Lorraine Mirabella reported Saturday for the Baltimore Sun. Craig Aaron, president of Free Press, a group that advocates for diverse media ownership and criticizes consolidation, said he views several aspects of Sinclair's growth strategy as problematic. "One is this merged newsrooms in all but name," he told the Sun, adding, "I think it's violating the spirit of what local TV is supposed to be. . . ."

Gregory H. Lee Jr., executive sports editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel and president of the National Association of Black Journalists, has been nominated to receive the 2013 Missouri Honor Medal for Distinguished Service in Journalism, NABJ announced Monday. Suzette Heiman, a spokeswoman for the University of Missouri School of Journalism, said the school was not ready to announce this year's nominees.


Loop21.com, an African American-oriented news website, has eliminated the two positions in its New York office, CEO Darrell L. Williams told Journal-isms on Monday. "As part of its restructuring and expansion, Loop21.com has consolidated its staff operations into its California office," Williams said by email. "Additional staff have been added to the California office over the last few months and last week Loop21.com ended all remaining staff operations outside of California. This consolidation will significantly improve staff collaboration and coordination. Loop21.com will continue to work with freelance contributors and editors throughout the country." The site employs six full-time equivalent positions and is adding four to the California staff, he said. The editors remain in place.

Revolt, a Sean Combs-backed lifestyle cable network, is getting ready to launch in July, Brittney M. Walker reported Saturday for EURWeb.com. She added, "Like perfect Sean Combs fashion, it looks like it'll be quite exciting. The network will feature art, music, fashion, culture and film. . . " Comcast solicited proposals for independent channels as a commitment to the Federal Communications Commission to help launch minority-owned networks.


Gene Norman, who resigned as chief meteorologist at KHOU-TV in Houston in November, has joined the WIAT-TV weather team in Birmingham, Ala., as chief meteorologist anchoring the 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts.

Chris Redford, a crime reporter at KTBS-TV in Shreveport, La., was fired last year for defending himself online, but unlike his former colleague Rhonda Lee, the also-fired meteorologist with the short Afro who became the center of a media whirlwind in December, Redford did not want to talk about the situation. Now he does. In a Facebook posting Sunday, Redford disputed KTBS assertions that he had posted the offending comment on the KTBS Facebook page. "Since when does KTBS own Facebook?" Redford wrote. "I never posted anything but news stories on the KTBS Facebook page. The thing I put on my personal page was a comment in which I called some dude a moron because he asked if 'Bob Griffith still plays with hamsters?' I cannot tolerate anti-gay and hate-filled remarks. . . ."


Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter at the Washington Post, is joining the Post's video department to host one of the marquee shows on its upcoming political channel, a memo to Post staffers said on Monday. "Nia will continue to write for The Post and serve as a frequent political commentator on network and cable television," it said.

"Does steadily declining newspaper advertising mean the print medium is near death? Innovators at the Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) say 'no,' " Wayne Dawkins, Mavis Carr and Joy McDonald of Hampton University wrote last week in Editor & Publisher. "Leaders at the Daily Press — a medium-sized local daily where advertising revenue used to cover as much as 75 percent of production cost — cite evidence that Sunday readership has trended up thanks in part to the paper's distribution of content across multiple platforms: print, online, and mobile. Surprisingly, many consumers still hold close to old conventions such as sectioned, broadsheet newspapers. . . ."


In Kenya, "Two investigative journalists have reported receiving death threats in Kenya shortly after airing a story suggesting foul play in a government official's death, according to news reports and local journalists," the Committee to Protect Journalists said Friday. "Mohammed Ali and John-Allan Namu, investigative journalists from the private KTN television network received threats from anonymous callers and via social networking sites on Wednesday, according to Namu and Willis Angira, associate producer for KTN. . . ."

"Two Nigerian journalists and their employer have been charged with forgery in connection with their publication of a memo reported to be from President Goodluck Jonathan, according to news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported. "If convicted, the journalists could face life terms. . . ."


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 (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.