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A Passionate Obama Insists Muslims Be Respected

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Thursday, September 9, 2010

Updated September 11

President Calls on 4 Black Journalists at News Conference

Ronald Walters Dies at 72, "Go-To Guy" on Black Politics

After Tracking Koran Story, It's "Sillier" to Blame Media

Elvis Mitchell to Co-Host Revival of "At the Movies"

Terence Samuel Joins National Journal as a Managing Editor

Pacifica Radio in Talks to Air Al Jazeera

Politico Starts Opinion Columns, Hiring Two More White Guys

Short Takes

Associated Press reporter Darlene Superville asks the first question of President Obama during a news conference Friday in the East Room of the White House (Credit: Susan Walsh/AP)

President Calls on 4 Black Journalists at News Conference

An impassioned President Obama declared Friday that treating Muslims with respect was in the national interest as he responded to one of four questions asked by black journalists in a nearly 1 hour and 20-minute news conference.

"All men and women are created equal," Obama said to a question from Wendell Goler of Fox News, who asked about the controversy over the planned construction of an Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan. "If you could build a church on a site, if you can build a synagogue on a site, if you could build a Hindu temple on the site, you should be able to build a mosque on a site."

Wendell Goler of Fox News asked the final question of the news conference. (CredObama said he understood the pain of the relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but added:

"We are not in a war against Islam. We are in a war against terrorist organizations .

"If we're going to successfully reduce the terrorist threat," he said, "we're going to need all the allies we can get." The terrorists are "a handful of a tiny minority who are engaging in horrific acts and have killed Muslims more than anybody else."

Muslims in America, he said, are "going to school with our kids. They're our neighbors. They're our friends. They're our coworkers. And when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them? I've got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They're out there putting their lives on the line for us. And we've got to make sure that we are crystal clear for our sakes and their sakes - they are Americans. And we honor their service. . . .

"We don't differentiate between them and us," he added. "It's just us."

Goler's question was the final one of the news conference and one of four by black journalists, a fact celebrated on the e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"The White House sisterhood just hit the trifecta. I don't ever recall a time when there were that many of us in the room, let alone posing questions," wrote Sonya Ross, a Washington editor at the Associated Press and a former White House reporter. She wrote after Obama called on a third black woman, Helene Cooper of the New York Times.

"This is a very proud day."

(None was on Politico's list of "Five reporters POTUS should call on.")

Martha Joynt Kumar, a political science professor at Towson University in Maryland who has written books about the presidency and the media, told Journal-isms that calling on four black journalists out of 13 "is definitely high. I don't remember an instance where the percentage was that high."

She said it showed "some maturing of news organizations," because the journalists were called on because of the news organizations they worked for rather than their ethnicity.

The news conference opened with a black journalist chosen to ask the first question, as Obama, reading from a prepared list, chose Darlene Superville of the AP, the news organization that traditionally goes first.

Superville asked "about his comment in an interview earlier this week that the Democrats will not do very well in the fall midterm elections if they are a referendum on how the economy is doing," Peter Baker of the New York Times wrote in his live blog. Obama used the query "to pivot and continue his attack on Republican economic policies that he said led to the worst financial crisis of decades. 'For 19 months, what we have done is steadily work to avoid a depression, to take an economy that was contracting rapidly and make it grow again,' he says."

April D. Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked Obama about the "poverty agenda" of President Lyndon B. Johnson and Martin Luther King Jr., and about the lawsuits by farmers of color against the Agriculture Department. Black farmers from around the country have said they will park their tractors and travel to Washington this month to demand $1.2 billion that the government owes them for past discrimination in farm loans, as Deborah Barfield Berry reported for Gannett Newspapers.

The departments of Agriculture and Justice agreed to pay the farmers $1.2 billion, but Congress must approve legislation to fund the payments.

"It's important for Congress to fund the settlement. I will continue to make that a priority," Obama said.

On the question about the poverty agenda, the president restated his belief that "if we can grow the economy even faster and create more jobs, then everybody is swept up," adding, "That doesn't mean there aren't targeted things we can do." He reminded the journalists that he got his start in public life as a community organizer. He also noted his education initiatives.

From Ryan, Obama went to Cooper, a former State Department correspondent at the Times who referenced the president of Afghanistan in asking how  Obama could "lecture Hamid Karzai on corruption" when many corrupt Afghans are on the U.S. payroll. She also asked about the Mideast peace talks.

"We're going to try to make sure that as part of helping President Karzai stand up a broadly accepted, legitimate government, that corruption is reduced," Obama said. "And we've made progress on some of those fronts."

He said that if the Palestinian and Israeli leaders are "going to be successful in bringing about what they now agree is the best course of action for their people, the only way they're going to succeed is if they're seeing the world through the other person's eyes," and said he had communicated that to the leaders of each side.

"In the end, Mr. Obama takes questions for more than 75 minutes, an unusually long marathon session for any president," Baker wrote. "It's almost as if to say to cranky reporters who often complain about how few news conferences he holds, Fine, you want a news conference? Bring it on."

Earlier Friday, Obama called in to the syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show," taking questions from Joyner and his radio sidekicks about his efforts to shore up the economy and African Americans' lack of excitement about the midterm elections.

Obama said that he is a longtime listener of the show and that "one of the things I mentioned to my team was we've got to make sure that we're not only talking to television, and especially in the African American community, Tom Joyner and black radio is what people listen to.

"If African-Americans aren't fired up right now, you better be fired up because you could end up in a situation where we could have more of the same from a Republican Congress that's not willing to move our infrastructure, that's not committed to investing in people and job training and not committed to investing in our education system. And we could end up slipping back into the same situation that we were in before this recession hit, only worse," Obama said.

Dr. Ronald Walters "wasn't a theoretical scholar, he actually did things," William Jelani Cobb said.

Ronald Walters Dies at 72, "Go-To Guy" on Black Politics

Dr. Ronald W. Walters, one of the foremost analysts of black politics and the "go-to guy" for journalists covering the subject, died Friday of cancer at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda, Md., Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer, which carried Walters' newspaper column, said on Saturday. He was 72.

"No arrangements have been made but according to the family, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. visited him several times over the past few days and will most likely deliver the eulogy," Barnes wrote to her Facebook followers. "Patricia Walters wants everyone to know that her husband, Dr. Ron Walters, fought hard against the cancer and was continuing his work on behalf of the people who loved so much until the very end."

Journalists paid tribute as word spread virally on Saturday morning.

"Whether he knows it or not Barack Obama owes a huge debt of gratitude to Ron Walters, architect of Jesse's 88 campaign," William Jelani Cobb, author of "The Substance of Hope: Barack Obama and the Paradox of Progress," tweeted. "I interviewed Ron Walters when I was writing my Obama book and as he outlined the strategy for Jacksons 88 campaign. Obama's debt was clear.

"For many years Ron Walters was a standard bearer for HBCU faculty. He got far fewer resources than his peers but still did amazing work. Moreover, he broke down that wall between academia and the 'real world.' He wasn't a theoretical scholar, he actually did things."

Among Walters' activities was a weekly column for the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which serves the black press. He also provided journalists with background for their stories.

"Our work is diminished," said Charles Robinson, reporter for Maryland Public Television and a board member of the National Association of Black Journalists. "People would say there's no empirical data" for black journalists' observations about the black electorate, but Walters provided it. He worked with the Congressional Black Caucus, the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies and others conducting research on African American politics.

Walters also made himself available as a quotable pundit. Last month, he called Fox News host Glenn Beck's planned rally in Washington "a slap at the movement in a way consistent with what the tea party has done. . . They really want to dishonor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King’s March on Washington in 1963 to give it a conservative spin,” he said, describing Beck’s effort as a "white nationalist movement."

"Dr. Walters spent most of his professional career in the Washington area and won worldwide acclaim as the author of many books, including works on black presidential politics, pan-Africanism and the resurgence of white conservatism," Matt Schudel wrote for the Washington Post.

"After 25 years at Howard, Dr. Walters became director of the African American Leadership Institute at Maryland and frequently . . . wrote for the popular press and appeared on television programs discussing major issues of the day. In 1984, he was a key adviser to the presidential campaign of Jesse Jackson, and he had been a major intellectual force behind the Congressional Black Caucus since the 1970s."

Jack White, a contributor to theRoot.com and former Time magazine columnist, said, "He was a strong advocate for the interests of black folks as he perceived them, who never pulled punches and never backed off."

Commentator Roland S. Martin told his NABJ colleagues, "This is a profound loss for African Americans and all of America."

"At one time or another, Ron saved ALL of our butts on deadline. A serious loss to Black journalists," said veteran Washington journalist Bill Alexander. [Sept. 11]

A YouTube video on "International Burn a Koran Day," featuring Pastor Terry Jones' Dove church colleague Pastor Wayne Sapp, had already been posted on July 17. (Video)

After Tracking Koran Story, It's "Sillier" to Blame Media

"Is the media responsible for having turned an obscure Florida pastor with a flock of no more than 50 people into an international figure by publicising his threat to burn the Qur'an?" media writer Roy Greenslade wrote Friday on his blog for Britain's Guardian newspaper.

"Up to a point . . . To blame the media for the message is easy enough. It was certainly the view of many callers from across the globe to a BBC World Service phone-in yesterday evening.

"But once we see how the story emerged, bit by bit, it becomes less tenable — and much sillier — to accuse 'the media' of giving Terry Jones a public stage for his absurd stunt.

"Jones, who runs a church called the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville (population 115,000; home of the University of Florida), originally announced his plan for 'International Burn a Koran Day' back in July.

"In trying to trace the story's exact origins, I came across several references on the web in late July. One example — posted on an atheist site — also referred to the setting up of a Facebook page announcing the event.

"But the above YouTube video, featuring Jones's Dove church colleague Pastor Wayne Sapp, had already been posted on 17 July. And there had been immediate reactions to that, from inside and outside the US. . . ."

Elvis Mitchell to Co-Host Revival of "At the Movies"

Roger Ebert is bringing back "At the Movies," the landmark film review program that he created with Gene Siskel in 1975, William Yelles reported Friday for TheWrap.com.

Principal critics will be Christy Lemire of the Associated Press

The new version, " 'Roger Ebert Presents At the Movies,' will be co-produced by Ebert and his wife Chaz at the original series' birthplace, WTTW Chicago, and broadcast on PBS stations nationwide beginning in January, he announced on his website Friday.

"The trademarked 'thumbs up, thumbs down' format will be revived as well. Principal critics will be Christy Lemire of the Associated Press and Elvis Mitchell of KCRW. Bloggers Kim Morgan and Omar Moore will be featured contributors.

"Ebert, who lost his ability to speak after a bout with thyroid cancer, will appear in every episode, with segments titled 'Roger's Office.' He will use his computer voice to discuss classic, overlooked and new films. But he will not debate with the two co-hosts, he said. 'They'll be awarding the Thumbs, and you can't have three Thumbs.' "

Mitchell, host of 'Under the Influence' on Turner Classic Movies, has reviewed films for the New York Times; hosted a half-hour-long interview show, "The Treatment," on KCRW-FM in Santa Monica, Calif., and was entertainment critic for NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday" until 2005.

In 2008, he co-produced "The Black List" for HBO Documentary Films, dramatic portraits of such contemporary African American figures as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Sean Combs.

Columbia Pictures announced in 2005 that Mitchell would jointly head a production office in New York, and "Weekend Edition" told Journal-isms then that Mitchell would not review films for NPR while he held a post at Columbia Pictures. He has not returned to "Weekend Edition," but it could not be learned whether Mitchell still has ties to movie studios.

A WTTW news release added about "At the Movies": "Occasional contributors will be Kim Morgan of Los Angeles and Omar Moore of San Francisco, both respected and popular film bloggers. Morgan specializes in her love of film noir and classic cinema at www.sunsetgun.com and writes for MSN and the Huffington Post. Moore, an attorney, publishes reviews, essays and video essays on his site, www.popcornreel.com. He is also a member of the San Francisco Film Critics Circle. Lemire, Mitchell and Morgan were guest co-hosts after the death of Siskel."

Terence Samuel Joins National Journal as a Managing Editor

"Terence Samuel, former chief congressional correspondent of U.S. News and World Report and national correspondent and New York bureau chief of the Philadelphia Inquirer, joins the National Journal as managing editor of congressional coverage," Keach Hagey of Politico reported on Friday.

Terence Samuel"He is also a former director of editorial programming at AOL Black Voices and helped launch The Root, the Washington Post's online magazine of at opinion and analysis aimed at African American readers. He wrote for the American Prospect for six years.

"He is also the author of 'The Upper House: A Journey Behind The Closed Doors of the U.S. Senate.' "

In 2006, National Journal Group expanded its influence with an editorial partnership with "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill," the longest running PBS public affairs program. It was renamed "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal."

The level of diversity at National Journal was criticized this week by Holly Yeager in the Columbia Journalism Review.

"Since June, when the Atlantic Media Group hired Ron Fournier, the AP's Washington bureau chief, to be editor in chief of the National Journal Group, I count just four women among 20 high-profile hires. Let's see," she wrote, "quick back of the envelope calculation here. That looks like 20 percent to me. Not good."

Journalists of color at the publication seemed to be even scarcer.

Pacifica Radio in Talks to Air Al Jazeera

"Pacifica Radio, the nonprofit organization that runs the nation's oldest public-radio network, is in talks with the Al Jazeera Network to put the Persian Gulf-based news service on its five stations, including WPFW-FM in Washington," Paul Farhi reported Thursday in the Washington Post.

"If an agreement is reached, Pacifica would become the biggest American broadcaster to air Al Jazeera, whose news reports have at times drawn criticism from Western governments, including the Bush administration during the early days of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Al Jazeera is perhaps best known for being the first network to broadcast video communiques from Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"Pacifica's parent organization, the Pacifica Foundation in Berkeley, Calif., has been negotiating with Doha-based Al Jazeera to carry the audio portion of its English-language TV channel, according to people familiar with the discussions.

"Closing a deal with Pacifica, which is known for its liberal-leaning programming, would be a boost for Al Jazeera. The network, owned by the emir of the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, has struggled to gain a foothold in the American market."

Politico Starts Opinion Columns, With Two More White Guys

Despite its editors' proclamations that they appreciated the need for diversity, Politico sent the opposite signal when it launched in 2007 with 19 journalists, only one of whom was African American. The big names it unveiled all were white.

The online-and-print operation seems to be repeating itself.

"Politico has built a successful enterprise on the idea that there is no such thing as too much information when it comes to political news. Now it is going to apply that concept to political opinion," Jeremy W. Peters reported Thursday for the New York Times.

"Starting on Oct. 1, Politico will run weekly opinion columns by Joe Scarborough, the MSNBC host and former United States representative, and Michael Kinsley, a columnist for The Atlantic."

Scarborough and Kinsley add two more white guys to the list.

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 BugMeNot.com 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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Comments

Dr.Ron Walters

Every minority community that shares the space of existence with the majority bandwidth has icons and presence makers that articulate and document with words and written manifestos the core and themes of their tribe...Often these words are sirens and narratives that provide an inventory of existence  that silences the power and noise of the ruling class..Dr. Ron Walters  captured the essence of Black Americans his body of work cements his place next the icons of Black legends in America..Farewell Dr.Walters your words will continue to shatter the inequalities of life and live on as a conduit articulating the soul of a people.....

Dr.Ron Walters

Every minority community that shares the space of existence with the majority bandwidth has icons and presence makers that articulate and document with words and written manifestos the core and themes of their tribe...Often these words are sirens and narratives that provide an inventory of existence  that silences the power and noise of the ruling class..Dr. Ron Walters  captured the essence of Black Americans his body of work cements his place next the icons of Black legends in America..Farewell Dr.Walters your words will continue to shatter the inequalities of life and live on as a conduit articulating the soul of a people.....

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