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What Ron Walters Would Ask of Journalists

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Late Professor's Colleagues Urge a Look at the Black Vote

C-SPAN Says It Was Denied Live Feed of Obama

Bill on Immigrant Students Could Come to a Vote This Week

With Gun Test, Writers Challenge Mumia Abu-Jamal Verdict

Univision Relaunches Sites in Top 20 Hispanic Markets

Image of Black Athletes "Overwhelmingly Negative"

After 2nd Killing, Mexican Paper Curbs Drug-War Coverage

Short Takes

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, center, and widow Patricia Turner Walters lead a prayer before a memorial service for Ronald W. Walters at Howard University on Sunday. (Credit: Nikki Kahn/Washington Post)

Late Professor's Colleagues Urge a Look at the Black Vote

Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said she really got to know Ronald W. Walters when they worked on Jesse L. Jackson's 1984 Democratic presidential campaign. "Jesse Jackson would have you join hands in prayer" when there was a problem, "but Ron Walters figured it out," she told more than 700 people Sunday at a Howard University memorial service for Walters.

Then Waters mentioned a front-page story by Nia-Malika Henderson in Saturday's Washington Post that reported, "In the past week, party leaders launched a drive to stoke enthusiasm among black voters, dusting off the president's 2008 campaign logo, lingo and grass-roots strategy to get them to the polls in November." It would call upon black elected officials to help whip up black voter enthusiasm for the fall election.

That posed a dilemma, Waters said, because when she raised with party leaders the need to target African Americans' specific problems, "I was told that what was good for white America was good for black America."

And yet African Americans were hit by the economic downturn in ways exponentially harder than was white America.

"I'm looking for Ron's voice," Walters said. "If I don't hear from Ron, I'm not doing anything."

Walters, author, scholar, professor, activist and political scientist, died Sept. 10 at age 72 from lung cancer. In addition to politicians such as Waters, many black journalists wondered who, if anyone, could take Walters' place as the "go-to guy" on black politics.

"There is no replacement," Robert C. Smith, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University, told Journal-isms during the repast at Howard's Blackburn Center. But when asked what issue Walters would want journalists to follow, Smith had an answer: He pointed to Waters' remarks.

"Can you mobilize people to do for you when you have done very little for them?" Smith said. The issues are, he repeated, "The effort to mobilize the black vote and a party that has been unwilling to address the concerns of black people."

Smith was one of about 20 people chosen to speak at the Sunday service, where it was announced that Walters, most recently at the University of Maryland, had agreed to return to the Howard campus to teach in the fall semester.

Smith told the gathering that although Walters had produced books on politics from a black perspective, he had declined to write about himself. Therefore, Smith, who had worked closely with Walters and first met him 37 years ago, planned to do so.

"I've been trying to get him to do that for 20 years," Smith said of his friend. "A political biography. Using his biography to trace the last 30 years of black politics. It is the story of post-civil rights-era black politics in America."

One of the traits he most admired about his mentor, Smith told Journal-isms, was that "he knew how to help the reporters shape the story the way he wanted to. He knew how to give the appropriate media quote. Over the years, he developed that. That's a skill."

Walters was on both sides of the media line. He wrote political analyses for the Black Scholar and the old Black World/Negro Digest, and, later, weekly columns for the Washington Informer and the Richmond (Va.) Free Press that eventually were syndicated to other black newspapers through the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service. And he wrote "for free," Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Informer, told the crowd. "He believed in the black press."

Barnes added that when she contemplated seeking a doctorate, perhaps in theology or African American studies, Walters advised remaining in her field and studying the media. "This new media is going to need someone like you to reach the new generation," Barnes said Walters told her.

Along with Barnes, Joe Madison, the radio talk show host, represented the media during a three-hour program that featured speakers from various segments of Walters' life. "Ron Walters was everybody's political science professor," Madison said. "TV, radio, print. He was erudite and simplistic. He taught us how to read with a third eye and listen with a third ear."

Few knew Walters had been ill, Madison reminded the audience. Five days before he died, a Washington Post reporter called and those caring for Walters turned the reporter away. "He grabbed the phone and took the call and did the interview," Madison said.

Asked where reporters could find a substitute for Walters on political questions, Mack H. Jones, professor emeritus at Clark Atlanta University, recommended the Web site of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, of which Jones was founding president and Walters a founding member.

Jackson, who delivered Walters' eulogy on Monday, said at the repast that the message of Walters' life for journalists is that "scholarship matters.

"We focus often on results. Results are the continuation," he told Journal-isms. The facts have to be organized and have a framework and a context. The big picture counts, he said.

Walters was "a scholar-activist," Jackson continued. Many people are one or the other. But "when you combine the two, you have a Martin Luther King," he said, "or a Ron Walters."

President Obama told the Congressional Black Caucus, "The last election was a changing of the guard; now we’ve got to guard the change” from Republicans dedicated to undoing or blocking the Obama administration’s initiatives. (Video)

C-SPAN Says It Was Denied Live Feed of Obama

Viewers who turned to C-Span Saturday night looking for President Obama's speech to the Congressional Black Caucus didn't find it. The network pool feed did not offer it to C-Span live, a C-Span spokesman said.

"The network pool is run by NBC, Fox, CBS, ABC, and CNN," spokesman Howard Mortman told Journal-isms on Monday. "We picked up the speech from the network pool feed, and they didn't offer the speech live."

ABC reportedly did show the speech live, but a spokesman was unable to say why it wasn't offered to C-Span.

Obama's speech to the caucus was one of the opening salvos in the effort to get out the black vote for the midterm elections, in which Democrats are projected to lose seats in the House and Senate.

"I need everybody here to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back to your workplaces, to go to churches, and go to the barbershops, and go to the beauty shops, and tell them we’ve got more work to do," Obama told the crowd at the Washington Convention Center, Jackie Calmes reported for the New York Times, noting that the Caucus members are all Democrats.

"It is a measure of the enthusiasm gap between the Democrats’ demoralized voters and the Republicans’ energized ranks that Mr. Obama, the first black president, feels the need to rally support for the midterm elections from black voters, traditionally the Democratic Party’s most loyal constituency. But Mr. Obama is not on the ballot this year to draw voters out."

C-Span did air the speech on Sunday at about 4 p.m. EST. The network announced that the speech is available via C-SPAN’s Video Library.

Bill on Immigrant Students Could Come to a Vote This Week

"Chances for comprehensive immigration reform have dimmed with the approach of midterm elections, prompting Democrats to push a measure that would grant citizenship to illegal immigrant students as a way to energize Hispanic voters," Gary Martin wrote Monday for the San Antonio Express-News.

"President Barack Obama said he is backing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's decision to attach the so-called DREAM Act to a defense authorization bill.

"Reid, who faces a stiff re-election challenge in Nevada, said he will seek a vote on the measure as early as this week.

"Hispanic groups are disappointed with Obama and Democrats for failing to act on a campaign pledge in 2008 to pass sweeping immigration reform in the first two years of a new administration. . . .

"Senate Republicans, including John Cornyn of Texas, accuse the Democrats of playing politics with the defense bill, pandering to a special-interest group in the run-up to the Nov. 2 election."

With Gun Test, Writers Challenge Mumia Abu-Jamal Verdict

Reporter Linn Washington aims a shot at a concrete slab in replicating conditions at the crime scene in the Mumia Abu-Jamal murder case. (Credit: ThisCan'tBeHappening!)"During the contentious 1982 murder trial of Philadelphia radio-journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, a central argument of the prosecution in making its case for the conviction and for imposition of a death penalty was the trial testimony of two key eyewitnesses who claimed to have actually seen Abu-Jamal fire his pistol repeatedly, at virtually point-blank range, into the prone Officer Daniel Faulkner," Dave Lindorff and Linn Washington wrote Monday on the website ThisCan'tBeHappening!

Lindorff wrote the first independent book examining the Abu-Jamal case, and Washington has covered it since 1981.

"This testimony about Abu-Jamal’s shooting at the defenseless policeman execution-style solidified the prosecution’s portrayal of Abu-Jamal as a cold-blooded assassin," the article continued.

"There was however, always the lingering question, never raised at trial, or even during the subsequent nearly three-decades-long appeals process, of why, if Abu-Jamal had fired four bullets downward at Faulkner, only hitting him once with a bullet between the eyes on the morning of December 9, 1981, there was no evidence in the surface of the sidewalk around the officer’s body of the bullets that missed.

"Now ThisCantBeHappening! has raised further questions about that troubling lack of any evidence of missed shots by doing something that neither defense nor prosecution ever bothered to do, namely conducting a gun test using a similar gun and similar bullets fired from a similar distance into a slab of old concrete sidewalk similar to the sidewalk at the scene of the original shooting on the south side of Locust Street just east of 13th Street in Center City, Philadelphia.

"Our test conclusively demonstrated it is impossible to fire such a gun from a standing position into a sidewalk without the bullets leaving prominent, unambiguous and clearly visible marks. Yet, the prosecution’s case has Abu-Jamal performing that exact miracle, missing the officer three times without leaving a trace of his bad marksmanship. So where are the missing bullet marks? The police crime-scene photos presented by the prosecution don’t show any, and police investigators in their reports don’t mention any bullet marks on the sidewalk around the slain officer’s body.

"The results of this test fundamentally challenge the prosecution’s entire case against Abu-Jamal since they contradict both eyewitness testimony and physical evidence presented by the prosecution about the 1981 murder of Officer Faulkner in a seedy section of downtown Philadelphia."

Univision Relaunches Sites in Top 20 Hispanic Markets

"Univision Communications is relaunching its 72 online and mobile TV and radio sites in the top 20 Hispanic markets," Katy Bachman reported Monday for MediaWeek.

"The new venues offer visitors improved navigation, more video and photo content, enhanced social media tools and better design.

"The decision to redesign and enhance the sites is part of Univision's effort to drive growth at the local level. In June, Univision created a local media unit to leverage the company's radio, TV and interactive properties in each of its markets. . . .

"New sites have already launched in Miami, Los Angeles and New York. Through the end of the year, revamped venues are set to launch in Chicago, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, San Francisco, Austin, Phoenix, Fresno, San Diego, Sacramento, Atlanta, Philadelphia, El Paso, McAllen [Texas], Las Vegas, Albuquerque and Puerto Rico."

Univision said, "To see a sample of the new sites, visit Miami-based WLTV Univision 23 at and the Mix 98 WRTO 98.3FM at"

Image of Black Athletes "Overwhelmingly Negative"

"This study suggests that today's overall image of black athletes is overwhelmingly negative," Shannon J. Owens wrote Saturday for the Orlando Sentinel.

Owens analyzed a recent study of athletes' "Q scores," which measure "likability."

Interestingly enough, the top six of 10 dislikable sports personalities were African American but just two registered high on the likability scale. In all, eight of the top 10 dislikable personalities were minorities and four minorities registered among the top 10 likable personalities, she wrote in a separate blog post.

The "likable" sports personalities are:

1. Michael Jordan

2. Apolo Anton Ohno

3. Peyton Manning

4. Steve Nash

5. Joe Montana

6. Kristi Yamaguchi

7. Shaun White

8. Brett Favre

9. Arnold Palmer

10. Tim Duncan

"In fairness, half of the black athletes (Michael Vick, Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant) who scored high in [dislikability] made egregious choices that influenced public opinion.The other half, which includes Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco and [LeBron] James left me scratching my head.

"Of the two [likable] black athletes, one is retired and the other is on his way to retirement.

"So what gives?"

After 2nd Killing, Mexican Paper Curbs Drug-War Coverage

"The biggest newspaper in Mexico's most violent city will restrict drug war coverage after the killing of its second journalist in less than two years, just as international press representatives will urge the government to make security for journalists a national priority," Olivia Torres wrote Monday for the Associated Press.

"In a front-page editorial Sunday, El Diario de Juarez asked drug cartels warring in this city across from El Paso, Texas, to say what they want from the newspaper, so it can continue its work without further death, injury or intimidation of its staff."

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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