Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Obama Had Facts Right, If Not Always Math

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tea Partier's Assertions Found "Barely-" to "Half-True"

Ex-Essence Editor Shepherding HuffPost's Black Site 

N.Y. Times Considers "EZ Pass" Lane for Leakers

Journalists Attacked as Egypt Tries to Squelch Protests

Anchor, Producer Each Charged in Station Fracas

Some Writers Note Lack of Blacks Among Oscar Nominees

Maxine Waters Knocks FCC Approval of NBCU-Comcast Deal

There Were Some Things Leon Wynter Couldn't Get To

Chinese Don't Realize Coverage of Flaws Is What We Do

"President Obama’s State of the Union address met its promise for civility but the math behind his proposals didn’t entirely add up," John Solomon wrote for the Center for Public Integrity. (Photo illustration: Andrea Smith. Photo credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Tea Partier's Assertions Found "Barely-" to "Half-True"

President Obama's statements during his State of the Union address were mostly true, an assertion in the Republican response by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., was completely true and statements by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who responded on behalf of the tea party, were barely to half-true, according to the fact-checking operation Politi-Fact.

Politi-Fact, owned by the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, compiled "A scorecard separating fact from fiction" and posted it on its home page after the Tuesday night speech.

Separately, The Center for Public Integrity collaborated with the Sunlight Foundation, Huffington Post and the National Journal to fact-check the president’s speech live.

"President Obama’s State of the Union address met its promise for civility but the math behind his proposals didn’t entirely add up," John Solomon wrote for the Center for Public Integrity.

The Associated Press agreed, writing, "The ledger did not appear to be adding up Tuesday night when President Barack Obama urged more spending on one hand and a spending freeze on the other."

Solomon said, "For all his talk of reining in federal spending and cutting the deficit, Obama proposed an ambitious spending spree ranging from new clean energy technologies to expensive bridges and high-speed rail projects. He offered very few specifics about where spending cuts would come from, and one of the ideas he offered for offsetting some of his spending — eliminating oil and gas tax breaks — couldn’t get passed by Congress when the Democrats controlled both chambers. Now Republicans, typically more friendly to industry, are in charge of the House."

Almost 43 million viewers tuned in to the address Tuesday evening, according to Nielsen Media Research, Andrea Morabito reported for Broadcasting & Cable.

"That viewership number is down 11% from his 2010 State of the Union address and 18% from his address to the joint sessions of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009, shortly after he took office."

A CBS News Poll of State of the Union Address watchers, conducted online by Knowledge Networks immediately after the State of the Union address found viewers generally positive about the economic proposals Obama laid out in the speech and the prospects for bipartisanship, CBS News reported.

"Overall, 91% of speech watchers approve of the proposals the President made in his speech. Just 9% disapprove – typical of the high support a president generally receives among those who choose to watch the State of the Union," CBS said.

"Americans who watched the speech are more Democratic than the nation as a whole. That is not surprising; historically, a President’s supporters are more likely than his opponents to watch State of the Union addresses. 44% of speech viewers in this poll are Democrats and 25% are Republican. In the most recent CBS News poll of all Americans, the breakdown is more even between the parties: 34% Democrat and 27% Republican.

"82% of speech watchers approve of the President’s plans for the economy, up from 53% who approved before the speech.

"The sight of Democrats and Republicans sitting side by side gave speech watchers more confidence about cooperation: 62% say they expect more bipartisanship now than in years past."

As per custom, network anchors and cable hosts had lunch with the president to receive a preview of what to expect in the speech under an agreement not to report on the details until it was delivered, Michael Calderone reported for Yahoo News.

Six or seven black journalists met for a briefing with senior aide Valerie Jarrett and Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

They included April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, Michael Cottman of, Cynthia Gordy of, Sophia Nelson of Jet magazine, Leutisha Stills of Jack and Jill Politics and Casey Gane-McCalla of NewsOne, according to participants.

["Jarrett, who is perhaps Obama’s most trusted confidant, said the administration understands the growing impatience among Americans – and African-Americans in particular, who are faced with a 15.8 unemployment rate," Cottman wrote on Thursday. "The problem is this: The black unemployment rate is rising as the overall unemployment rate is dropping.']

Politi-Fact concluded that Obama was correct when he said that, "The United States has "one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world" and that "As many as a quarter of our students aren’t even finishing high school" was "mostly true," calling it "A dicey statistic, but prefaced with needed caution."

Ryan's statement that "The debt will soon eclipse our entire economy" was judged true, but Bachmann's claim that the federal government "now tells us which light bulbs to buy" was called "barely true," "a low-voltage notion."

Ex-Essence Editor Shepherding HuffPost's Black Site

Angela Burt-Murray

Angela Burt-Murray, who left Essence magazine in November after editing it for five years, is serving as point person for the new Huffington Post effort to launch "HuffPost GlobalBlack," which Huffington has called "a new online platform offering news, politics, culture, opinion, and video through the lens of the black experience."

When Burt-Murray left the magazine, John Huey, editor-in-chief of Time Inc., said she planned "to leave her post and relocate with her family to Atlanta."

However, job seekers at GlobalBlack, which plans to hire eight staffers during the first half of the year, according to Huffington Post spokesman Mario Ruiz, are being referred to Burt-Murray.

The Essence alumna did not respond to requests for comment, and Ruiz declined to speak on the record.

[Ruiz said on Thursday, "we're not yet announcing our editorial team, which we're currently putting together."]

Huffington Post, based in New York, announced plans for the site last week with Sheila Johnson, entrepreneur and co-founder of Black Entertainment Television. The site was described as "a two-way partnership, with HuffPost GlobalBlack content and vision informing all of HuffPost's coverage, and HuffPost's editorial and reporting team covering stories shaping the black community.

". . . HuffPost GlobalBlack will focus on current events and cultural trends from a black perspective from across the globe — from politics and economics to music and sports — and will feature content ranging from dynamic storytelling to investigative reporting," the announcement said. "The section will feature culturally and topically relevant news and views, information, exclusive interviews, compelling original and curated content, and a group blog with leading thinkers, newsmakers, personalities and provocateurs. HuffPost GlobalBlack will serve as both destination and viral launching pad for web and mobile users."

N.Y. Times Considers "EZ Pass" Lane for Leakers

"The New York Times is considering options to create an in-house submission system that could make it easier for would-be leakers to provide large files to the paper," Michael Calderone reported Tuesday for Yahoo News.

"Executive editor Bill Keller told The Cutline that he couldn't go into details, 'especially since nothing is nailed down.' But when asked if he could envision a system like Al Jazeera's Transparency Unit, Keller said the paper has been 'looking at something along those lines.' "

" . . . The New Yorker's Raffi Khatchadourian — who profiled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange before the Afghanistan, Iraq and State Dept. megaleaks — asked Monday whether Al Jazeera had 'taken the first step in a journalism arms race to begin acquiring mass document leaks."

Meanwhile, Assange has given a lengthy interview to Steve Kroft for a segment to be broadcast on "60 Minutes" on Sunday, CBS News announced Wednesday.

In Cairo, protesters stopped traffic, set Dumpsters on fire and chanted "Down, Down Mubarak!" The BBC reported that at least 700 people were arrested throughout Egypt in a crackdown against the protests. A reporter for Britain's Guardian newspaper made an audio recording while locked in the back of a security forces truck. (Video)

Journalists Attacked as Egypt Tries to Squelch Protests

"Reporters Without Borders firmly condemns the arrests and physical attacks that journalists suffered while covering demonstrations yesterday and today in various Egyptian cities," the press freedom group said on Wednesday. "The authorities have been doing everything possible to keep the media at a distance in order prevent the circulation of images of protesters demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s departure. No TV station was able to film yesterday’s big protest in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

"The authorities began jamming mobile phone communications early yesterday afternoon in places where protesters had gathered in Cairo. Representatives of the Vodafone and Mobile Nile phone companies today denied any involvement in the disruption of service, blaming the Egyptian authorities.

"The social-networking website Twitter and the livestreaming service were both blocked yesterday afternoon. The hashtag #jan25, referring to protest, was widely used on Twitter yesterday.

"Access to Facebook was intermittently blocked today, with the degree of blocking varying from one ISP to another. Egyptian dissidents and civil society groups have been using Facebook for years to disseminate information and organize protests, including the 6 April 2009 strike."

Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Wednesday that "Jack Shenker, the Guardian's reporter in Cairo, was beaten and arrested alongside protesters in the capital last night. He made this remarkable recording while locked in the back of a security forces truck next to dozens of protesters."

Anchor, Producer Each Charged in Station Fracas

Edward Boyce Jr., left, and Brien Blakely"Former Fox Charlotte anchor Brien Blakely was charged with assault Tuesday, a week after he was involved in a scrap with a news producer at the station's studios," Mark Washburn reported Wednesday in the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer.

"Blakely posted $300 bond and was released.

"On Monday, the other man in the fracas, Edward Boyce Jr. of Charlotte, was charged with assault and also released on a $300 bond.

"Boyce, 31, and Blakely, 47, were in a supervisor's office Jan. 18 at WCCB (Channel 18) about three hours before the 10 p.m. newscast to discuss issues that had caused friction between the two. Their dispute turned physical, and afterward Blakely got six stitches in his nose at Carolinas Medical Center and had bruises on his chest and back."

Among the African Americans who failed to receive nominations was Halle Berry, who starred in "Frankie and Alice" (Photo retouched to cover exposed breast.)

Some Writers Note Lack of Blacks Among Oscar Nominees

The phenomenon had not occurred in 10 years. Check the story used in your favorite news outlet to see whether the writer noticed. Patrick Goldstein of the Los Angeles Times homed in on it.

"It's a wonder that the security guards at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences didn't stop Mo'nique and make her show ID when she arrived to help announce the Oscar nominations early Tuesday at the organization's Beverly Hills headquarters," Goldstein wrote on Tuesday. "After all, she was the only person of color involved with the extravaganza, since the 83rd annual Oscar nominations have the dubious distinction of being an all-white affair.

"Setting aside the more obscure, technical categories, when it comes to the best picture award along with the major nominations for acting, writing and directing, there are, ahem, zero people of color in the Oscar race this year.

"There are so few significant African-American characters in any of the 10 films nominated for best picture that comedian Aziz Ansari did a bit about it at the Producers Guild Awards on Saturday night, wondering why there couldn't have been at least one black kid checking his Facebook account in 'The Social Network,' adding that things were so white that in '127 Hours,' when James Franco's hiker character cuts off his arm, it doesn't even turn black."

Why? "The Oscars reflect what's happening in the marketplace. And the cold truth is that black talent rarely receives Oscar opportunities because it works in one of the most minority-free industries in America. . . .

"If you don't have a person of color in the room where the decision-making happens, fervently arguing why a film should be brought into the world, it's awfully hard for a project revolving around African-American characters to emerge with a greenlight or any substantial financial backing."

On, Javier E. David offered this explanation:

"The principal problem is that for every emotional Eve's Bayou or Precious, there's a proportionately farcical Soul Plane or a Lottery Ticket. In short, much of what is considered marketable fare in Hollywood skews toward the comedic or romantic variety with an urban (and often buffoonish) flavor.

"While many laudable and noteworthy independent black films (such as the little-seen Night Catches Us) do get made, they often debut to minuscule audiences, virtually non-existent industry buzz and sharply limited distribution. Many have talented yet unknown actors and directors that lack name recognition and track record that brings in audiences. Suffice to say, most well-made black movies are hard-pressed to find financial success and mainstream accolades."

Maxine Waters Knocks FCC Approval of NBCU-Comcast Deal

"Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), one of the stronger critics of the now-approved Comcast/NBCU joint venture, said that after vetting the 279-page Federal Communications Commission order, she has concluded that both the commission and Department of Justice failed to craft 'substantive conditions,' calling the agency order 'meaningless,' " John Eggerton reported Tuesday for Multichannel News.

"In a statement released Tuesday, Waters said that there was nothing in the FCC conditions that Comcast had not already promised to do or offer up as public interest commitments themselves."

Among the promises Comcast made to critics of color were adding four cable networks owned, or partly owned, by African Americans over the next eight years, as well as a new English-language channel aimed at Asian Americans.

But Waters said, "I do not believe the American public can have much confidence in Comcast-NBCU's commitment to launch 10 new independent channels when current networks have had so many challenges negotiating reasonable carriage terms with the cable giant. And while discount broadband, 'limited-time' special offers, and philanthropic endeavors are commendable efforts we strongly encourage the private sector to embrace, they are irrelevant to promoting diversity among broadcast viewpoints and FCC license holders."

". . . Waters said that she did not think public input on the deal translated to FCC action. 'Unfortunately, despite the amount of public participation and input in the Commission's proceedings, it does not appear that the depth of analysis was reflected in the prescribed final conditions,' she said.

"NBCU has said the deal will officially close Friday Jan. 28."

There Were Some Things Leon Wynter Couldn't Get To

Leon E. Wynter Leon E. Wynter, the journalist and author of the "Business and Race" column than ran in the Wall Street Journal from 1989 to 1999, was buried Wednesday after services at Eastchester Presbyterian Church in the Bronx, N.Y.

"I spoke, and James DeGraffenreidt, who met Leon while they attended Yale, spoke the longest and captured best the essence of Leon's character," Michel Marriott, the former New York Times writer who teaches at Baruch College of the City University of New York, told Journal-isms.

"He mentioned that he saw him last at the hospice where he passed away and noted that he told Leon that lots of people loved him and were trying to reach him, so much so that his voicemail had backed up."

DeGraffenreidt "said Leon looked at him with those smiling eyes of his and said that there are some things I'm not going to get to."

Wynter, 57, died Jan. 18 after treatments for brain cancer at the National Institutes of Health in the Maryland suburbs of Washington. The church counted 239 people in attendance, including others who spoke.

Chinese Don't Realize Coverage of Flaws Is What We Do

Howard W. French Howard W. French, the former New York Times Shanghai bureau chief who teaches at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, was asked by the Columbia Journalism Review to assess press coverage of Chinese president Hu Jintao’s four-day U.S. trip.

Joel Meares asked, "What are some of the complaints that people in China have about the American media?"

French replied, "The most typical complaint is that the American media is excessively critical of China. I’ve worked as a journalist in China for five years and I’ve taught in China for the last couple of years, and I’ve had more of these conversations with Chinese journalists and ordinary Chinese people than I care to remember.

"There is an element of truth to the notion that Western journalism about China tends toward the negative. But there’s a danger in seeing this in isolation. There are two factors here that need to be kept in mind. One is that American news coverage as a general proposition is about problems. You don’t see front-page news articles about how all of the mail was delivered on time in Akron, Ohio, today. But if the mail doesn’t get delivered in Akron, Ohio, today, then that’s going to be a big story somewhere. This is a predisposition in the American press that is poorly understood in China.

"The second thing is that Chinese people see the question of how the U.S. media covers China in isolation from how the American media covered the Soviet Union in the past, or Russia today, or country X, Y or Z. The same proposition of looking for the problem applies. . . .

"The final thing I’d say about China is that if you stopped one hundred people on the street right now, and you asked them, 'What are the first three things you know about China?' I can guarantee you that the first one — and maybe all three — would have to do with the country’s recent successes. The first thing they would say is not that China is a country of awful human rights, or is a country of 500 million poor people. I can almost guarantee you that they would emphasize the success of the recent rich before they would emphasize the continued existence of the poor.

"The question then becomes something else. Most of these people you stop have never been to China. Which means they have had to receive these viewpoints from somewhere. I would posit that they got these viewpoints from the media. . . ."

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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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