Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Koran-Hating Church Tells Paper to Get Out

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Yearlong Series Led to Partial Loss of Tax Exemption

On Op-Ed Page, Imam Pledges to Proceed With N.Y. Mosque

Johnson Publishing Co. Expects New Strategy by January

Corrupt Journalists Said to Play Role in Mexican Violence

Floridians Start Bilingual Investigative Reporting Unit

Web Journal Promises "Serious . . . Long-Form Journalism"

Awards for Minority-Oriented Pieces on Consumer Finance

Atlanta's Creative Loafing Caught Napping on Diversity

Short Takes

The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun ran this cartoon Wednesday by Christo Komamitski of Bulgaria. 

Yearlong Series Led to Partial Loss of Tax Exemption

A request at the Dove World Outreach Center to talk with center founder Terry Jones was met with an order to leave church property, the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun reported on Wednesday. The Dove center, located in Gainesville, plans to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

" 'The Gainesville Sun is no longer welcome here,' a church official said, although media outlets from all over the state and nation were allowed to stay.

"Following a series of stories by The Gainesville Sun on the church throughout the past year, Dove World recently lost tax-free status on part of its property because the church runs a for-profit business in an adjacent building.

"The entire property is for sale."

The Sun's editorial page, like community leaders, has frowned on the idea of burning Korans.

"In the name of human decency, they can choose to cancel their plan," the Sun editorialized on Wednesday.

"In the name of patriotism they can choose not to endanger our troops.

Time asked the question last month."In the name of God they can choose to follow Christ's teachings and love, not hate, their neighbors."

A news story in the Sun reported, "Local leaders, including University of Florida President Bernard Machen and Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe (whom Dove World has targeted because he is gay), along with an interfaith group, have uniformly spoken out against Jones' plans. They say burning a Quran would put residents' lives in danger, including the 90,000 people expected to attend Saturday's football game at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium between UF and the University of South Florida.

"While the mainstream media picked up on Dove World's most recent story first, social websites also have a piece of the pie. Dove World's Facebook page dedicated to 'International Burn a Koran Day' has 8,578 fans, although some people who have 'liked' the site have posted comments protesting the planned burning. Another page, 'Against International Burn a Koran Day,' has more than 16,500 followers, while 'Burn the Dove World Outreach Center' has four people who like the page.

On Op-Ed Page, Imam Pledges to Proceed With N.Y. Mosque

"We are proceeding with the community center, Cordoba House," Feisal Abdul Rauf, imam of the Farah mosque in Lower Manhattan, wrote on Wednesday's New York Times op-ed page. "More important, we are doing so with the support of the downtown community, government at all levels and leaders from across the religious spectrum, who will be our partners. I am convinced that it is the right thing to do for many reasons.

"Above all, the project will amplify the multifaith approach that the Cordoba Initiative has deployed in concrete ways for years. Our name, Cordoba, was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims. Our initiative is intended to cultivate understanding among all religions and cultures," he said of the center that has drawn opposition because of its proximity to Ground Zero.

Rauf, who had been abroad for the last two weeks representing the United States on a State Department tour in the Middle East, said he had not spoken out sooner because, "I felt that it would not be right to comment from abroad. It would be better if I addressed these issues once I returned home to America, and after I could confer with leaders of other faiths who have been deliberating with us over this project. My life’s work has been focused on building bridges between religious groups and never has that been as important as it is now."

He was also scheduled to be interviewed on CNN Wednesday night by Soledad O'Brien.

Johnson Publishing Co. Expects New Strategy by January

Rodrigo A. SierraThe new management team at Johnson Publishing Co. plans to "take a minute" to develop a new strategy for the company, evaluating its personnel and the content of Ebony and Jet magazines before moving in its chosen direction at the beginning of the year, the company's new marketing director said on Wednesday.

"I need to pull together an overall strategy for all the pieces," Rodrigo A. Sierra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, told Journal-isms.

Sierra was the first person hired by Desiree Rogers, the business executive and former White House social secretary, when she became the new CEO last month. He spoke after the departure of four executives in recent weeks: Eric Easter, who left a week ago as as vice president — digital and entertainment; Wendy E. Parks, assistant director — corporate communications and PR; Lisa M. Butler, assistant vice president — licensing & consumer products; and Tanya Hines, senior vice president — integrated sales and marketing.

Sierra, 49, worked with Rogers at Peoples Gas in Chicago when she headed that company and was a board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in the early 1990s. A former radio reporter for Chicago's WGN and a manager with ABC Radio in New York, Sierra chaired the 1996 NAHJ convention in Chicago, where then-first lady Hillary Clinton spoke.

In a telephone interview, Sierra pledged that Jet and Ebony would be "recharged and reenergized," topical and relevant, and would provide journalists with "unique content that will help them think through local stories they are writing and developing." For example, he cited the October issue's twin pieces on "Is black leadership dead?" by social commentators Kevin Powell and Michael Eric Dyson. September's issue featured an interview with President Obama and a series on education, to be continued in partnership with NBC.

Writers will be paid, he said, responding to an observation that some had been asked to write for free. "The company has to survive, but you've also got to take care of your employees," he said. They "have to get paid and get the right benefits."

Asked how Rogers is operating as CEO, Sierra said she "pays attention to everything. She watches details very closely. She asks a lot of questions" and wants to create a workplace where "people do their absolute best work every time."

The new strategy for the company "may or may not" involve new people, he said. "A lot of people on the staff may or may not be in the right role." It might be necessary to bring in "a different kind of talent" or to contract out some work out, he added.

A key piece of the company's strategy will be its digital efforts, which he now supervises. Easter's arrival in 2007 signaled an effort to enter the digital arena in a serious way, but the four-member digital unit was consistently understaffed and underresourced.

"Digital has not been where it needed to be for the company," Sierra said. "I don't think that Johnson Publishing Co. has done a good enough job" with the digital efforts "to move the brand forward and monetize that side of the business." He said he also wanted to consider how deeply to become involved in social media.

Sierra also said he wanted the publications, which launched after World War II, to get "back to basics" yet remain relevant to new generations. He pointed to the September issue's perennial feature on campus queens at historically black colleges and universities, noting that this year the queens had to submit videos of themselves.

In ‚ÄúSilencio o muerte," Mexican crime reporter Luis Horacio N?°jera recounts his work in embattled Ciudad Ju?°rez and the threats that forced him to move his family north. (Video)

Corrupt Journalists Said to Play Role in Mexican Violence

"In 2004, I traveled to Tijuana to carry out a CPJ investigation into the murder of my friend and colleague Francisco Ortiz Franco, an editor at the muckraking newsweekly Zeta," Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, said Wednesday in the preface to a new report from the committee, "Silence or Death in Mexico's Press."

"In the course of my reporting, I came to understand the new ways in which rival cartels were using the media to further their illicit interests.

"First, they suppressed stories about their own violence while paying journalists to play up the savagery of their rivals. More important, they used the media to damage competing operations by planting stories about corrupt officials. The impact of these stories was profound; a corrupt police chief in whom one cartel had invested huge sums might be forced to resign. And not all the journalists who played the game were corrupt. They didn’t know that their sources, often in law enforcement, were working as public relations agents for the cartels. In the ensuing years, competing cartels throughout the country developed aggressive media tactics. They use corrupt journalists as a key component in their all-out battle for control of the 'plaza,' as the narcos call the drug market.

"The traffickers rely on media outlets they control to discredit their rivals, expose corrupt officials working for competing cartels, defend themselves against government allegations, and influence public opinion. They use the media in a manner not that different from that of a traditional political party — except they are willing to use deadly means to attain their public relations goals. It is unsurprising then that as the drug war has intensified, violence against the press has escalated. U.S. correspondents, once ignored, are threatened regularly now."

Simon wrote that "More than 30 journalists have been murdered or have gone missing since December 2006, when President Felipe Calder??n Hinojosa came to power. CPJ has confirmed that at least eight of these journalists were killed in direct reprisal for their work."

The organization's recommendations include this one for the news media:

"Consistently cover the issue of violence against the media. Treat attacks against journalists, even those from competing news organizations, as worthy of news coverage. Speak out against attacks on the press in on-air commentary and editorial pages."

And this for the U.S. government:

"Ensure that the issue of violence against the press in Mexico is regularly addressed as part of bilateral communications. President Barack Obama and high-ranking officials of his administration should make clear that the United States has deep concern about pervasive violence against the Mexican press and considers the issue to be a priority."

Floridians Start Bilingual Investigative Reporting Unit

Mc Nelly Torres

A new outfit calling itself the nation’s first nonprofit, digital and bilingual investigative journalism organization has received $100,000 from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the recipient, the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, said on Tuesday.

The center said its mission is to work in Florida’s public interest by exposing corruption, waste and miscarriages of justice. Sharon Rosenhause, retired managing editor of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, is president of its board of directors.

The organization’s founding editors and reporters are Mc Nelly Torres and Trevor Aaronson, who are to serve as the associate directors. Torres, a board member of Investigative Reporters and Editors, has worked at the Sun-Sentinel and San Antonio Express-News. Aaronson, an investigative reporting fellow at the University of California at Berkeley, has worked at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis and Village Voice Media in South Florida.

"In addition to the $100,000 Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation grant, FCIR has received project grants from the Washington, D.C.-based Fund for Investigative Journalism for individual stories being worked on by Torres and Aaronson," an announcement said.

"FCIR will begin publishing investigative journalism later this year."

Web Journal Promises "Serious . . . Long-Form Journalism"

A new Web-based public policy journal that "will feature original, long-form reporting across a broad range of domestic public policy issues, taking seriously the idea that the job of journalists is to question and illuminate" plans to launch Oct. 12, its editor, Craig Gurian, said Wednesday.

Gurian put out a call for "reporters who want to do serious, high-quality, non-partisan, long-form journalism." The journal, Remapping Debate, is sponsored by the Anti-Discrimination Center, a "small but highly successful not-for-profit that is perhaps best known for its historic housing desegregation victory over Westchester County," N.Y., last year.

"Among our staff will be Diana Jean Schemo, a long-time veteran of the New York Times who has most recently published a book on the Air Force Academy entitled 'Skies to Conquer,' and Greg Marx, most recently an Assistant Editor at the Columbia Journalism Review. We will also be getting regular contributions from David Cay Johnston, the Pulitzer-prize winning reporter who now teaches the history of tax and regulation at Syracuse University College of Law, and who has published the best-selling books 'Free Lunch' and 'Perfectly Legal.' "

The job listings conclude with, "We affirmatively encourage applications from journalists who are members of one or more protected class groups that have traditionally been under-represented in the news business."

Awards for Minority-Oriented Pieces on Consumer Finance

"The McGraw-Hill Companies 2010 Personal Finance Journalism Awards will go to journalists from Mercado De Dinero, Telemundo and The Hartford Guardian for coverage of consumer debt and the housing crisis," the Washington-based International Center for Journalists announced on Wednesday.

"The journalists were among 30 reporters who participated in a 12-week online program, taught in English and Spanish. The program sought to provide in-depth knowledge of consumer finance issues of particular importance to minority communities.

  • "First Place: Elizabeth Ostos for her article 'Credit consolidation in a country in debt' in monthly newspaper Mercado de Dinero. The article illustrates the credit crisis in the United States through the lens of an immigrant family.

  • "Second Place: Carlos Rajo of Telemundo, Los Angeles, for his article 'A House of Their Own: Is the American Dream too Expensive?' Rajo explains how the mortgage crisis has changed the perception of home ownership among the Hispanic community.

  • "Third Place: Ann Marie Adams of The Hartford Guardian for her story 'Losing Ground: Foreclosure Rate Higher Among Minority Homeowners.' Adams details the particular hardships faced by minority homeowners in Connecticut facing foreclosure."

Atlanta's Creative Loafing Caught Napping on Diversity

Editor plans column of explanation.The Atlanta alternative newspaper Creative Loafing, published in the city often called a mecca for the black middle class, ran a cover and story showing "8 Artists to Watch," with none of them African American.

Editor Mara Shalhoup told Rob Redding's Redding News Review that she plans a column on how her arts staff, which includes one black reporter, failed its readers.

Asked how she hoped to prevent a recurrence, she told Journal-isms:

"I think one of the most valuable lessons, for me personally, is that diversity must be reflected not just in a single issue. The 'Artists to Watch' issue as a whole was actually incredibly diverse. Diversity should be reflected story by story, page by page.

"As far as my role, with very few exceptions, my preference generally has been that our writers and editors — a diverse group — come up with suggestions for what lands in the paper. I like for that process [to] remain as organic as possible, and I think the process has served us well. We by and large do a great job reflecting the diverse community in which we live — this one, glaring incident aside. That said, do I need to further involve myself in such matters as the selection of subjects for '8 Artists to Watch' — and do I need to do a better job impressing upon the editors the fact that diversity is essential in those features? Definitely."

Creative Loafing claims a circulation of 112,000 and has an editorial staff of 30, including contributing writers, of which eight are minorities, Shalhoup said. "Also, two of the four staffers at the top of the editorial department's masthead are minorities."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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