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Television Exec Flees to U.S., Seeking Asylum

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez Alleges CIA, State Dept. Conspiracy

Laid-Off Journalists Affected by Standoff on Benefits

After Thanksgiving, It's Native American Heritage Day

Reporter Changes to Natural Hair During Sweeps

Milloy Creates Buzz Tracing Issues to Race and Class

Jonathan Capehart Has Been "Smacked Around" by Blacks, Gays

Rep. Bobby Rush Praised, Panned for Key Committee Post


Interviewed by CNN en Español's Patricia Janiot, Guillermo Zuloaga of Venezuela's Globovisión said charges against him are another attempt to silence his 24-hour news channel. (Video)

Venezuela's Hugo Chávez Alleges CIA, State Dept. Conspiracy

The head of Venezuela's last openly critical television station is seeking asylum in the United States, the fleeing executive, Globovisión President Guillermo Zuloaga, said Wednesday on CNN en Español.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez said in a televised address, "The United States is giving protection to a criminal. This man is saying whatever the CIA wants him to say," Christopher Toothaker reported from Caracas for the Associated Press.

"With what passport did he enter the United States? Who gave him a visa?" Chávez asked, according to Agence France-Presse. "It was the CIA, conspiring against Venezuela, along with the State Department."

As Jim Wyss wrote Wednesday in the Miami Herald, "Chávez and Zuloaga have been feuding for years as Globovisión has fought off efforts to close it and refused to pull punches. The channel has been slapped with millions in fines and more than 40 court cases.

"Zuloaga and his son fled the country after the government accused them of hoarding automobiles at their car dealership. Zuloaga says those charges were politically motivated.

"Despite the pressure, Globovisión, which reaches 2.5 million homes via cable, has continued to broadcast."

Toothaker added, "Globovision has been the only opposition channel on the air in Venezuela since another one, RCTV, was forced off cable and satellite TV last January. RCTV had been booted off the open airwaves in 2007."

Chávez was an especially vocal critic of George W. Bush during his presidency. When Bush toured Latin America in 2007, Chávez told a rally in Buenos Aires, "Let’s give him a big boo! Gringo, go home!" . . . The president of the United States is a political cadaver. He doesn’t even smell of sulfur anymore. He doesn’t even smell of sulfur or brimstone, if you will. No longer. What you smell from him now is the stench of political death. And not long from now, he will turn to dust and disappear." However, Chávez has praised President Obama for his charisma and invited Obama to visit Venezuela.

Zuloaga, 67, appeared on "Nuestro Mundo" on Wednesday, interviewed in the CNN Miami bureau by anchor Patricia Janiot in Atlanta. He said "he is confident he will soon be granted asylum," Agence France-Presse reported. Mariana Pinango, a spokeswoman for CNN en Español, told Journal-isms that "the Nuestro Mundo editorial team began to pursue the interview following Zuloaga and President Hugo Chávez's public exchange of words earlier this week." 

Wyss wrote that Zuloaga also spoke Tuesday at a country club in South Florida, where he has been living intermittently since fleeing Venezuela in June. "Zuloaga said the latest charges are another attempt to silence his 24-hour news channel amid pressing national problems," Wyss reported.

"At a recent rally, Chávez said Zuloaga and others had pooled the reward money to have him killed.

" 'I'm a businessman and communicator. I've never been a conspirator or someone who keeps secrets,' Zuloaga said. 'There's no plot to overthrow him or kill him. Those are the fantasies of a . . . worried mind.' "

The article continued, "After Chávez's 12 years in office, Venezuela is saddled with the region's highest inflation, a shrinking economy and a bloody crime wave, Zuloaga said. And recent legislative elections show the ruling party losing support just as Chávez is launching his 2012 presidential bid."

Laid-Off Journalists Affected by Standoff on Benefits

"Emergency unemployment benefits are likely to lapse shortly after Congress returns from recess next week, affecting upward of 2 million people by the end of the year," Vicki Needham reported Thursday for the Hill, the Capitol Hill newspaper.

"When they say long-term I think it's people that would be looking for a third extension," Bernie Lunzer, president of the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, told Journal-isms by e-mail on Friday. "I can think of several journalists from Denver and Seattle for sure, and some laid off in the early going."

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer folded its print edition in March 2009. The Rocky Mountain News in Denver closed the previous month.

"Lawmakers have until Nov. 30 to extend the current six-month extension of the benefits, but it’s unclear if they can reach an agreement in time for the unemployed workers who have exhausted their 26 weeks of state unemployment insurance," Needham wrote.

" 'I think the chances of something happening in the first two days are slim, but leadership and the White House are both still very aware of the need for quick and aggressive action,' said Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator with National Employment Law Project."

Lunzer said the Guild and its parent Communications Workers of America supported the extension.

The House last week failed to reach a two-thirds majority needed to extend the benefits through February. The bill, which would cost $12.5 billion in deficit spending, would fund additional payments to a projected 4 million people whose benefits are scheduled to expire over the next three months, the Washington Post reported. The bill would keep 99 weeks as the maximum eligibility period for receiving state-federal unemployment compensation. Advocates are urging that citizens contact members of the Senate.

The building housing the Cherokee Phoenix, the first American Indian newspaper, in New Echota, Ga. The paper debuted on Feb. 28, 1828.  In 1838, some 14,000 Cherokees were marched to Oklahoma on what became known as the Trail of Tears. The paper had been destroyed by the Georgia Guard and its lead type dumped into a well. The Phoenix is now published in Tahlequah, Okla.

After Thanksgiving, It's Native American Heritage Day

Thanksgiving "will be a time of celebration and reflection as we gather with family and friends to count our blessings and remember those less fortunate," President Obama said Thursday in an official White House statement. "But it will also be a time to remember how this holiday began — as a harvest celebration between European settlers and the American Indians who had been living and thriving on the continent for thousands of years.

“That is why on Friday, I encourage every American to join me in observing Native American Heritage Day. My Administration is committed to strengthening the nation to nation relationship with tribal governments. But it is also important for all of us to understand the rich culture, tradition and history of Native Americans and their status today — and to appreciate the contributions that First Americans have made, and will continue to make to our Nation.”

The statement followed an earlier proclamation that November would be National Native American Heritage Month.

Indians have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving, Charles Trimble wrote Wednesday for in a piece headlined, "Thanksgiving out among the colonized people."

"My expert source on things historical, Nancy Gillis — executive, historian, teacher and Hunkapi sibling, tells a different story of the first Thanksgiving than that which American tradition has cooked up," Trimble wrote. "As she tells it, 'Thanksgiving is often depicted in an idyllic setting with starched-and-buckled pilgrims devoutly in prayer over a bountiful spread of turkey with all the trimmings, joined at the table by a small number of Indians, often shown wearing Plains tribal garb, although they dressed much differently back then.' But, in historical reality, she says, 'it was an uneasy three-day meeting of the settlers and Wampanoag Indians to work out a peace and mutual-support agreement.'

"She cites the notes of on-the-scene witness Edward Winslow who tells of three days 'characterized by the smell of gun powder mingled with the aroma of roasting meat,' during which 'great quantities of beer and wine were consumed.' In Winslow’s notes, he makes no mention of giving thanks to God or even to the Wampanoags, who brought almost all of the food.

"So, the case might be made that the event doesn’t merit historical significance, certainly nothing to celebrate in such sanctimony. Nevertheless, I maintain that it isn’t something that warrants resentment and boycott either."

Reporter Changes to Natural Hair During Sweeps

Rochelle Ritchie before . . .An African American female television reporter decided to let her straightened hair "go natural" during sweeps week and let viewers see the transformation process. Rochelle Ritchie of WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., called "The Big Chop" a success, and ratings confirmed that. The station put up a web page with her two stories and related ones.

News director Jeff Brogan told Journal-isms that the ratings for the 11 o'clock news on Nov. 17, which featured Ritchie's second piece of the day, increased from the lead-in show and stayed at the high point during the broadcast. That is "not an easy thing," he said. The "share" of the audience numbered 11 at 10:45 p.m., rose to 14 from 11 p.m. to 11:15 p.m. and stayed there from 11:15 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., he said. The seven-minute piece aired at 11:15.

When Ritchie explained the story to him, said Brogan, 33, who is white, "I had no clue this was an issue," he said of the chemical burns caused by straightening of hair. "I never heard about it, and I had African American friends. I instantly bought into this" story. "I had not seen this story done. It brings up a safety concern," he said. Brogan said his only worry was insensitive audience reaction, but all the feedback was positive, he said.

Ritchie shared her own back story via e-mail with Keonte Coleman, assistant professor in the Journalism & Media Studies Department at Bennett College, who posted her comments on his website:

“Making the decision to go natural was not an easy one, especially being a black female reporter. After graduating Western Kentucky University in 2004, I accepted an editor position at a local tv station in my home of Lexington, KY. I had sent out tons of resume tapes hoping to . . . and afterone day be a reporter. But I didn’t get one interview with my relaxed shoulder length hair. One day an anchor, black female, told me I needed to get extensions if I wanted to land a job. I got extensions and made a new tape with my new look and I started getting calls immediately. From there the belief that I needed extensions in order to be hired set in. I spent more money on my hair than anything. In six years I spent $9600, my student loans are $9500, so that should give you an idea of where my priorities were.

"The story about going natural developed while I was having a conversation on the phone with a friend at work. My producer heard me saying, 'I am going natural, I am tired of wigs, weaves and relaxers.' She (producer) asked me what I meant by that and I showed her YouTube videos of black women who were on the journey of going natural. She was stunned and said, 'Rochelle that would make a great story for sweeps.' I pitched the idea and with her support as well as our female anchor they allowed me to do it. My news director’s response was great. His only concern was just keeping up with the process of my story and hair. My general manager is a great guy and totally supported me as well.

"The fear of getting a new job with my new look does not scare me because I believe my work and passion for this business will shine through.

"I have had such an AMAZING response from the community. People of all genders and races have completely supported me with positive feedback. Of course if there were any negative emails my news director does not send those to me. But personally I haven’t gotten one email or Facebook comment that was negative. A matter of fact many of my white and Latino colleagues say I look more professional. I believe this as well. I feel I look more polished and sharp. I also feel like I think better without all that fake hair on my head! lol….

"For my 'black female reporter hopefuls' I say let your work show your ability to be a good, excuse me a great reporter. My story is a way for me to pave the way for black women’s hair to be acceptable not just in the professional world but on TV! I would say if you are natural. Keep it neat. And if you are worried about getting a job the fabulous thing is we can straighten our hair for the interview and go back to our beautiful curls when we leave.

"Do I have any regrets? Yes I do. I regret denying my natural beauty. I regret falling into the belief that I needed to look a certain way to get into this business instead of believing in my ability as a reporter. I regret allowing someone to cover me up. But no more! This is me, Rochelle Ritchie a natural, professional and happy television reporter. And I feel more confident now than ever before and look forward to climbing the ladder of success with all my kinky curls.”

In a Washington Post video with Post editor Vanessa Williams, right, Courtland Milloy Jr. said a joint mention of the movies "For Colored Girls," "The Color Purple" and "Precious" made him cringe because of their negative images. They were interviewed by the Post's Shani George. (Video)

Milloy Creates Buzz Tracing Issues to Race and Class

Washington Post Metro columnist Courtland Milloy Jr. sparked attention far outside the Washington area when he dissected the racial dimensions of D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's September primary defeat for reelection and this month took on the portrayal of black men in Tyler Perry's movie "For Colored Girls." Now Milloy is the cover story in the Washington City Paper.

"If he’s not quite a mouthpiece for a black agenda in the District, he’s the closest thing to it at the Post — or anywhere else in the local mainstream media, for that matter, Rend Smith wrote. "Milloy’s column cuts against the usual conventional wisdom in journalism these days, giving readers a mirror of an urban, poor D.C. instead of the wealthy suburbs advertisers would probably prefer. And while the newspaper lavishes attention on its new iPad incarnation, and courts Facebook and Twitter like a desperate teenaged boy chasing after a crush, Milloy almost gleefully stays away from the trend.

"Like the late Herb Caen in San Francisco, he’s an old-school journalist doing an old-school job: the Metro columnist writing about, and for, the city’s downtrodden. For decades, that was a generally quiet, low-impact job. But following a mayoral campaign that pitted rich against poor in dramatic new ways this fall, Milloy’s knack for reducing post-modern problems to their race-and-class roots has suddenly made him a controversial, buzz-generating columnist — the man that the supposedly liberal class of newcomers to D.C.’s gentrifying neighborhoods love to hate.

"In the steadfastly non-gentrified neighborhoods that Milloy covers, though, he’s rarely seen as incendiary."

The piece also asserts that in the 1970s, your Journal-isms columnist "was known for opening his Dupont Circle house up for late-night get-togethers that catered to the black media elite." (!)

Capehart Has Been "Smacked Around" by Blacks, Gays

Jonathan Capehart, whose perch as editorial writer at the Washington Post "has made him one of the nation's most prominent gay editorialists," was the cover subject of the Nov. 4 issue of Metroweekly, a Washington area publication targeting the gay community.

Jonathan Capehart (Credit: Todd Franson)"I didn't go into journalism and I didn't come to the Washington Post to be a leader in the LGBT community or be a leader in the black community,' he said in a question-and-answer with Sean Bugg, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

"There are a lot of people who think that because I'm gay or because I'm black I have a responsibility to those respective communities depending on the issue. I feel that my responsibility as a journalist is to tell the truth. And sometimes telling the truth to either the gay community or the black community is really tough for those two communities to take: 'How dare you air our dirty laundry?' or 'How dare you say this, why aren't you supportive?'

"I've been smacked around by both communities for 15 years, so I'm so used to it now," said Capehart, who had also served on the New York Daily News editorial board. "I can't let other people's expectations get in the way of my doing my job. If someone gay or someone African-American is doing something incredibly dumb or harmful, or illegal, I have a responsibility to say something."

Capehart also defended President Obama's failure to repeal the military's policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." "Look, the president's not a king, he's a president. If he were King Obama, this would be done. But 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' is an act of Congress and the president has done as much as he can do," he said.

Rep. Bobby Rush Praised, Panned for Key Committee Post

Is Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., the onetime Black Panther, a hero or a villain when it comes to protecting access to the Internet for people of color?

Rush "has gotten a strong vote of confidence from some big-name groups for his bid to be ranking member on the House Communications Subcommittee," John Eggerton wrote Tuesday for Multichannel News.

"Current chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) was defeated for re-election.

"In a letter dated Tuesday, the NAACP, Urban League and Rev. Jesse Jackson's Rainbow PUSH Coalition were among the almost two dozen signatories to a letter expressing their 'strong, unwavering support' for Rush as ranking member."

But Bruce A. Dixon of the black leftist website Black Agenda Report wrote, "While there is much to like and admire about the congressman's long career, Color of Change's James Rucker points out, putting Bobby Rush in charge of safeguarding a free and open internet is putting a corporate-funded fox in charge of the people's henhouse. . . ."

Rucker put Rush among black politicians bought by the telecommunicatons industry. He said in the piece, "It's true that the congressman has done some great things in his career. But low-cost access to broadband and the internet are not luxuries, some corporation is entitled to sell us for whatever the market will bear. . .

"At every turn since at least 2006, Congressman Rush has aligned himself with Comcast, with AT&T, with Verizon, with the telecom industry to make broadband internet less accessible and more expensive to our communities, and to give telecom corporations more absolute control over what we can hook up to the internet, and what we can send and receive through it."

Rush's supporters, however, wrote current speaker and soon-to-be minority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., "Congressman Rush understands and is able to balance the concerns of traditional and emerging communications technology with the need for strong consumer protections."

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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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Rochelle Ritchie's Hair story

Rochelle Ritchie's natural hair story really hit home for me. After a stay in the hospital two years ago, my hair fell out. I decided then no more chemicals, I was going natural. One of the things that impressed me about Rochelle's story was that she had the support of her news director and general manager. See outside of a few women (Monica Kauffman Pearson is one) there are not a lot of African American women in TV News with their natural hair. As you know, our world is shaped by the images we see; young black girls need to see more women in high profile jobs sporting their natural hair. I wrote the general manager of WPTV, Steve Wasserman, thanking him for supporting Rochelle. If you would like to, here's his email address.

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