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2 Black Editors Celebrate Pulitzer Day

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Michael Days, Greg Moore See Staffers Win Honors

Muted Response to ASNE Diversity Census

Broadcasters More Pessimistic Than Print Counterparts

Ombudsman Wants More Reporting on Slur Incidents

Mills Wrote Believable Characters, White and Black

Don Imus: No Longer News, but on the Rebound

Reuters Cameraman Shot Dead Covering Thailand Clash

Short Takes

Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker, left, and Wendy Ruderman, and Daily News Editor Michael Days react to the news of their honor. Laker, 52, and Ruderman, 40, are the third and fourth journalists to win a Pulitzer in the paper's 85-year history. (video) (Credit: Sarah J. Glover/Philadelphia Daily News)

Michael Days, Greg Moore See Staffers Win Honors

"The newsroom was quiet this afternoon, save for the sound of a nervous editor repeatedly clicking his mouse while staring at a computer screen," David Gambacorta wrote Monday for the Philadelphia Daily News. 

"Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

"Finally, at 3 o'clock, the silence was pierced by a euphoric cry of, 'YES!'"

"With that, word spread instantly: Daily News reporters Barbara Laker and Wendy Ruderman were named winners of the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting for the 'Tainted Justice' series, their takedown of allegedly corrupt narcotics cops."

It was one of two Pulitzer Prizes won on Monday at newspapers with African American top editors. Michael Days is executive editor at the Daily News; Gregory L. Moore leads the newsroom at the Denver Post.

Of the Daily News stories, Gamborcorta continued, "Their investigation into Officer Jeffrey Cujdik and other members of the Narcotics Field Unit began last February, when an informant told the reporters that the cops sometimes lied on search warrants.

"Other serious allegations were uncovered during their reporting, which prompted an FBI investigation and numerous changes to police policy.

"More than 50 convicted drug dealers are now fighting for new trials, alleging that officers fabricated evidence against them.

"Laker, 52, and Ruderman, 40, are the third and fourth journalists to win a Pulitzer in the Daily News' 85-year history

"Daily News editor Michael Days said he believed all along that Laker and Ruderman deserved the Pulitzer Prize for the investigative work they did on 'Tainted Justice.'"

The work "was built on the kind of grit and shoe-leather reporting that journalists often neglect in the Internet age," Days wrote in his nominating letter, adding that the pair "proved that pure investigative, watchdog journalism is not only irreplaceable, but is often the only avenue to right the wrongs suffered by the powerless," the Associated Press reported.

[Ruderman told Journal-isms by e-mail on April 21, "the series would NOT have happened without Michael Days, who backed and supported the story 100 percent and showed a lot of guts and grit, in the face of strong criticism from the Fraternal Order of Police and its police membership."]

At the Denver Post, photojournalist Craig F. Walker, "who chronicled in intimate, affecting detail a young man's journey from a high school student in Lakewood to a soldier fighting in Iraq and then back home," won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography, the Post reported.

"It sure feels good to win one," Moore was quoted as saying.

Journalists of color also were among the finalists:

  • The Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, edited by Hollis Towns, was a finalist for the public service prize "for its exhaustive examination of how an archaic property tax system harms New Jersey's economy and ordinary families, using stories and interactive databases to spark pledges of statewide reform.
  • In the commentary category, Phillip Morris of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland was a finalist "for his columns that close the distance between the reader and the rough streets of the city, confronting hard realities without leaving people to feel hopeless."
  • In international reporting, Borzou Daragahi of the Los Angeles Times was a finalist "for his coverage of the disputed election in Iran and its bloody aftermath, marked by firsthand knowledge and close-up portraits of individuals caught up in events."
The Philadelphia Daily News shared the investigative reporting prize with Sheri Fink of ProPublica, in collaboration with the New York Times Magazine.

"Fink was honored for her work chronicling the 'urgent life-and-death decisions made by one hospital's exhausted doctors when they were cut off by the floodwaters of Hurricane Katrina,' the prize board said," according to the Associated Press. "In the piece, employees at the hospital acknowledged administering lethal drug doses to severely ill patients."

For editorial writing, Tod Robberson, Colleen McCain Nelson and William McKenzie of the Dallas Morning News won for "their relentless editorials deploring the stark social and economic disparity between the city's better-off northern half and distressed southern half," in the words of the Pulitzer board.

Muted Response to ASNE Diversity Census

Response from the journalists of color associations was muted Monday to the latest diversity census from the American Society of News Editors, with Unity: Journalists of Color and the Asian American Journalists Association asking, "How can we help?"

[The board of directors of the National Association of Black Journalists "is scheduled to meet in the Washington, D.C.-area this weekend to discuss the recent ASNE findings and develop an action plan for improving newsroom hiring and retention of black journalists," NABJ said on Tuesday.]

The survey showed that overall, the percentage of minorities in newsrooms totaled 13.26 percent, a decline of .15 percentage points from a year ago.

There were 929 fewer black journalists in the 2010 survey than were recorded in 2001, a drop of 31.5 percent.

"Today, UNITY and its alliance partners want to reach out and simply ask: How can we help?" Unity said in its statement.

"We stand ready to partner with ASNE and other organizations to build a new working relationship, get to the root problems and to help rebuild our newsrooms with diversity as a key strategic value. Any news organization that wants to build a sustainable financial future and diverse revenue streams must reflect and serve the changing demographics of its community."

AAJA issued a similar statement.

[NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said, "It is a travesty that minority journalists would be targeted disproportionately in staff cuts. Despite the economy we must keep our newsrooms and voices at least on parity with the communities we serve."]

Last year's census likewise showed the newspaper industry less and less likely to meet its goal of parity with the percentage of people of color in the general population by 2025. That percentage is now 33 percent. In response to that survey, 25 to 30 industry leaders gathered at the AAJA summer convention and decided that the diversity discussion must be moved away from newsrooms to the broader issue of the "accuracy of the report" via whatever messenger the consumer receives it.

However, facilitator Keith Woods, now at National Public Radio, said then, "three hours is not a lot of time" to redefine what diversity looks like, and that it was too soon to tell where the conversation would lead.

At the ASNE convention in Washington on Monday, the Nashville Tennessean, Glens Falls (N.Y.) Post-Star and El Nuevo Herald, sister paper of the Miami Herald, were recognized as winners of Diversity Pacesetter Awards. [Updated April 13]

Broadcasters More Pessimistic Than Print Counterparts

Broadcast news executives are more pessimistic about the future of journalism than their counterparts at newspapers, according to a Pew Research Center/Project For Excellence in Journalism study.

"Almost two-thirds of broadcast execs said they thought their profession was 'headed in the wrong direction,' vs. only about half of newspaper editors," John Eggerton reported Monday for Broadcasting & Cable. "The question was: 'Thinking about journalism overall in the U.S. today, do you think it is generally going in the right direction or the wrong direction?'

"When asked to get specific, most appeared worried about loosening standards (67% of broadcasters polled), including declining accuracy and the related issues of un-sourced reporting and a decrease in fact-checking. But they weren't blaming that accuracy-lite designation on the rise of citizen journalists. Only 5% of news execs mentioned them as a source of changing values."

The study was conducted in conjunction with the American Society of News Editors and the Radio-Television Digital News Association.

"The incidents are weeks old, but it's worth assigning Post reporters to find the truth," Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander said about the slurs uttered at Washington protests on March 20. (credit: Huffington Post)

Ombudsman Wants More Reporting on Slur Incidents

The Washington Post ought to assign reporters to find the truth about the anti-black and anti-gay slurs that members of Congress say were hurled at them on March 20 when the health-care overhaul legislation came up for a vote, the Post's ombudsman, Andrew Alexander, wrote on Sunday.

"Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, a black Democrat from Missouri, said a protester spit on him. Rep. Barney Frank, the openly gay Democrat from Massachusetts, was heckled with anti-gay slurs. Two black Democrats, Reps. Andr?© Carson of Indiana and John Lewis of Georgia, said protesters subjected them to racial epithets. The episodes were recounted for days in Post stories and columns. Much blame was directed at Tea Party activists.

"But many readers, echoing conservative broadcasters and bloggers, insist the reports were exaggerated or that the events simply never took place.

"Conservative commentator and blogger Andrew Breitbart has accused Lewis and Carson of fabricating claims of racial epithets to 'create the impression that the "tea party" movement is racist.' He initially offered $10,000 to the United Negro College Fund for video evidence of the slurs. It's now $100,000. 'They didn't expect someone would challenge them on this,' Breitbart told me. 'What idiot would challenge John Lewis,' a civil rights movement icon? 'Well, I'm that idiot.'

". . . Breitbart's $100,000 challenge may be publicity-seeking theater. But it's part of widespread conservative claims that mainstream media, including The Post, swallowed a huge fabrication. The incidents are weeks old, but it's worth assigning Post reporters to find the truth. After all, a civil rights legend is being called a liar. That aside, there's serious money at stake."

"Treme" team members Tom Piazza, left, David Simon, Lolis Elie, Eric Overmyer and David Mills. (Credit: Mary Howell/HBO)

Mills Wrote Believable Characters, White and Black

After journalist-turned-screenwriter David Mills died at 48 two weeks ago, collapsing on the New Orleans set of his latest project, HBO's "Treme," Angie Chuang used Mills' television career to discuss "the racial politics of authorship."

"Does it matter if a white person writes a person of color's story? Our conclusion: It shouldn't matter, but it does," she wrote.

At Mills' funeral service Monday at the University of Maryland, his friend and creative partner, producer David Simon, told those assembled that such questions irritated Mills.

"He felt he had an absolute right to write anyone he wanted," Simon said. So it was a challenge for him to hold back his temper when an interviewer asked whether Mills wrote the black characters and Simon the white ones as they collaborated on such dramas as "Treme," "The Wire," "E.R.," 'NYPD Blue,' and "Homicide," Simon especially recalled a speech Mills wrote for the "NYPD Blue" character Andy Sipowicz, a white cop whom Jason Gay of the Boston Phoenix described as a "drunken, racist goon with a heart of gold." Its believability was a testament to Mills' professionalism, he said.

Simon was the main eulogist at the service, held at University of Maryland Chapel in College Park, held on the campus of their alma mater. He recalled his friend as one who "did not have interests — he had obsessions," and who "believed disagreement was a creative act." Yet, oddly, was an introvert.

Mills' love for the Funkadelic, the band about whom he wrote a book, was evidenced not only by references from the pulpit but by the attendance of a colorfully dressed woman who called herself the "Space Lady" and said she designed the group's outfits.

Attendees — Mills' nephew, Clifton J. Porter II said there were about 250 — included colleagues from Mills' former employers, the Washington Post and the Washington Times, from HBO and from some of the Simon television series. They included novelist George Pelecanos, "The Wire" producer Ed Burns and actor Erik Todd Dellums from "Homicide."

Porter told Journal-isms that Mills' "Undercover Black Man" Web site would continue and would open to contributions from readers.

Don Imus: No Longer News, but on the Rebound

"Three years after his career imploded over racially charged comments he made about the Rutgers women's basketball team, and more than two years after his return to radio on WABC-AM," Don Imus "is finally getting some traction," Matthew Flamm wrote Monday for Crain's New York Business under the headline, "Don Imus Gets His Mojo Back."

"Though Mr. Imus no longer creates much controversy, he continues to attract more serious, high-profile guests, from both the left and the right, than any other radio host."

In addition to New York Gov. David Paterson, "recent guests have included Mitt Romney, Sen. Chris Dodd, and New Yorker Editor David Remnick, who was there to talk about his new book on President Barack Obama, 'The Bridge.' Imus remains among the best shows in any medium for helping authors hawk books.

"The show is also a draw for advertisers. WABC General Manager Steve Borneman says that ad revenue for Imus was up slightly in 2009 over the prior year, despite the overall New York radio market's being down nearly 20%."

Reuters Cameraman Shot Dead Covering Thailand Clash

Hiro Muramoto"A Reuters television cameraman was shot dead on Saturday during a violent clash between Thai troops and anti-government protesters in Bangkok that killed 12 people," Reuters reported.

"Hiro Muramoto, a 43-year-old Japanese national, was shot in the chest and arrived at Klang Hospital without a pulse, hospital Director Dr. Pichaya Nakwatchara said.

"Muramoto, who had worked for Reuters in Tokyo for more than 15 years, was married with two children.

" 'Journalism can be a terribly dangerous profession as those who try to tell the world the story thrust themselves in the center of the action. The entire Reuters family will mourn this tragedy," said Reuters Editor-in-Chief David Schlesinger.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said it was saddened and outraged by the killing.

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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