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2,500 Journalists Descending on S. Africa

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Commentators Warn Against Turning Mandela Into Mush

300 Celebrate Elaine Rivera as a "Kick-Ass Journalist"

Glossing Over the Racism, Sexism of the 1970s Newsroom

Did Obama Take a Swipe at His Admirer, Chris Matthews?

Cuban Media Offering Glimpses of Candor

Clarence Page on Ladder to Lead D.C.'s Gridiron Club

Short Takes

Columnist Bob Herbert decried efforts to turn Nelson Mandela "into a lovable, pl

Commentators Warn Against Turning Mandela Into Mush

"More than 2 500 foreign press are expected to visit South Africa to cover the memorial services and funeral this week of the man described as 'the father of the nation'," according to South Africa's Channel 24.

The memorial service began Tuesday at 4 a.m. EST (11 a.m. Johannesburg time) and was scheduled to be repeated at 8 p.m. EST on C-SPAN. About 1 500 journalists had been accredited to cover it, the South African Press Association reported. 

Journalists were warned of government guidelines stating that: "Any member of the media believed to be intoxicated, under the influence of mood-altering substances or acting in an unprofessional manner will have their media accreditation revoked and be escorted out of the media area with possible denial of future accreditation to individual perpetrators and/or their affiliated media organisation,” Babalo Ndenze reported for the Star in Johannesburg.

In the United States, commentators cautioned against turning Nelson Mandela into a Gandhian figure who single-handedly topped apartheid and was devoid of revolutionary roots. Others urged more attention to the role of the United States in labeling Mandela and the African National Congress as terrorists and asked whether the global media could have done more to hasten apartheid's end.

The media attention given the death of South Africa's first black president, which came Thursday at age 95, led to the unusual sight of four African American women appearing together on "Face the Nation," which like the other Sunday talk shows on broadcast television rarely has more than one person of color, if that, at a time.

The four were Gayle King, co-host of "CBS This Morning"; Michele Norris, NPR host and special correspondent; Lorraine Miller, interim president of the NAACP; and Gwen Ifill, co-anchor of "PBS NewsHour." They were joined by Rick Stengel, a Mandela biographer and former managing editor of Time magazine, and host Bob Schieffer.

Bob Herbert, former columnist for the New York Times, expressed views seconded by such commentators as Roland S. Martin and Cornel West when he wrote Sunday for, "I knew that the tributes would be pouring in immediately from around the world, and I also knew that most of them would try to do to Mandela what has been done to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: turn him into a lovable, platitudinous cardboard character whose commitment to peace and willingness to embrace enemies could make everybody feel good. This practice is a deliberate misreading of history guaranteed to miss the point of the man.

"The primary significance of Mandela and King was not their willingness to lock arms or hold hands with their enemies. It was their unshakable resolve to do whatever was necessary to bring those enemies to their knees. . . . "

Ta-Nehisi Coates, blogging for the Atlantic, wrote, "For many years, a large swath of this country failed Nelson Mandela, failed its own alleged morality, and failed the majority of people living in South Africa. We have some experience with this. Still, it's easy to forget William F. Buckley — intellectual founder of the modern right — effectively worked as a press agent for apartheid . . ."

Buckley founded the conservative magazine National Review, where Betsy Woodruff reported Sunday that "Face the Nation" produced a revelation. "Former secretary of state James Baker told Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation this morning that [President Ronald] Reagan probably regretted his veto of the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act," Woodruff wrote.

Media critic Howard Kurtz wrote for Fox News, "I was struck by this National Review column by Deroy Murdock, who admits he thought the freed political prisoner 'would create a Cuba' in South Africa."

Blogger Jon Friedman, writing for, a site for independent filmmakers, asked, "Could journalists all over the world have done more to assist Mandela while he was imprisoned for 27 years? Let me repeat the crucial fact: Mandela was in prison for TWENTY-SEVEN years. Where were the justice-seeking media during most of this time? . . ."

Elaine Hernandez speaks in front of a drawing of Elaine Rivera Saturday at a mem

300 Celebrate Elaine Rivera as a "Kick-Ass Journalist"

By Jackie Jones

At a Unity: Journalists of Color reception some years ago, Elaine Rivera dragged Juan Gonzalez, a well-established columnist for the Daily News in New York and a co-host of Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!," over to meet Walter Isaacson, then the top editor at Time magazine.

"I had had three or four drinks by then and didn't want to talk to any media executive," said Gonzalez, but Rivera, then a correspondent at Time, wouldn't take no for an answer.

After the introductions and some small talk, Gonzalez said, "Isaacson said, 'So, what do you do?,' And Elaine lost it. 'You don't know who Juan Gonzalez is? And she went on for about five minutes giving my bio." She urged Isaacson to hire Gonzalez and chastised her boss about the lack of diversity at Time Inc., but, even more important, his lack of knowledge about diversity.

Isaacson, not surprisingly, was visibly uncomfortable and looked for an escape route, but there was none.

"I never felt so sorry for a media executive in my life," Gonzalez said.

The late Elaine Rivera was fierce, funny, loyal, supportive, generous and intolerant of intolerance. She had a secret that few friends of the feisty, independent, feminist journalist knew — she was homecoming queen at John Marshall High School in Cleveland.

About 300 friends, students and family members, including her father, brother, nephew and nieces, celebrated Rivera's life at a memorial service Saturday at Lehman College in the Bronx, where she had been teaching journalism until she succumbed to liver disease on Oct. 26.

She was 54.

Rivera started her career as an intern with the Hispanic Link News Service, training ground for young Latino journalists, doing what she loved best, covering underserved communities, said former colleague Patricia Guadalupe.

Guadalupe also spoke of Rivera's tenacity to get answers.

Rivera was in Washington covering a story and had been trying to get a response from then-Mayor Marion Barry. Suddenly, a black limo pulled up, and Barry was getting into the car. Rivera ran and jumped into the car with the mayor and, according to Guadalupe, told Barry, “I am not getting out of this car until you answer me."

"Elaine was a kick-ass journalist and a confronter of injustice," said Bob Liff, a public relations professional and a former colleague of Rivera's at the now-defunct New York Newsday.

"She believed journalism was a noble, if not a lucrative profession."

"She was a fighter. She could care less about the industry, really," said Miguel Perez, formerly of the Daily News and of the Record in Hackensack, N.J., and now a professor at Lehman College. He persuaded Rivera to take up teaching.

"It was all about the people the industry was supposed to serve."

Rivera joined Lehman in 2009 as a substitute lecturer, but within a year was promoted to distinguished lecturer. Perez said she quickly became the most popular faculty member in the program and Phineas Azcuy, a student who spoke at the service, said Rivera was more than an instructor. She befriended students, providing nurturing and support.

Friends and family have created the needs-based Elaine Rivera Memorial Scholarship at Lehman through the college's Division of Institutional Advancement.

"We are all much better because we had the chance to know her," Perez said, "and no one can take that away from us."

The memorial was filmed by the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.

Jackie Jones, Department of Multimedia Journalism chair at the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University, worked with Elaine Rivera at New York Newsday.

Harry Rosenfeld, running the Washington Post foreign desk, confers with colleagu

Glossing Over the Racism, Sexism of the 1970s Newsroom

The Washington Post of the early 1970s will forever be known as the place that broke the Watergate scandal, and Harry Rosenfeld, then the paper's metro editor, was central to the action. But there was also unrest in the newsroom then among the relatively few women and journalists of color, former Post journalists noted Monday as they reacted to Rosenfeld's new memoir, "From Kristallnacht to Watergate: Memoirs of a Newspaperman."

Rosenfeld was interviewed by Leonard Downie Jr., the Post's former executive editor and once Rosenfeld's deputy, at the Newseum on Saturday before a capacity crowd of about 125 people, according to John Maynard, manager of exhibit programming and a former Post journalist [video]. As in his book, Rosenfeld glossed over the sexism that helped define those times, according to the journalists' recollections.

In 1972, seven black reporters on the Metro desk, known as the Metro Seven, filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. [Disclosure: This columnist was one of the seven.] In the same general era, the local alternative weekly ran a headline quoting Rosenfeld: "I may have problems with my car, but not with women," although Rosenfeld no doubt denied having ever uttered those words. Still, female Post staffers filed a discrimination suit, which the newspaper settled in 1980 with five-year hiring goals.

Rosenfeld devotes two paragraphs of the 319 pages to those subjects and doesn't mention any of these specifics.

Here are the two paragraphs:

Rosenfeld, right, with Executive Editor Ben Bradlee, left, and Dustin Hoffman, w

"These were times of challenge, as old habits were giving way, but much too slowly for the people directly affected. This was especially felt by women and blacks, whom we intensely recruited. There were black and women's caucuses protesting the scarcity of both on the paper's staff, among other complaints — which impacted Metro in the first instance as it was the gateway into the paper. The fact that the Post employed more black reporters than any other mainstream newspaper did not assuage their disappointment. Management over time tried many different approaches to increase minority representation throughout all levels and departments of the paper.

"The results were lackluster. Once, I was assigned to attend a meeting in Boston convened by a newspaper consultant who was black. The meeting drew a handful of participants from metro newspapers. The upshot was that the consultant had a solution: hire his firm and he would work to deflect the rising tide of criticism. My proposal to management was that we pick up qualified young minority students in high school, put them on the payroll part-time during the school year, and set up training that would see them through college. Eventually, the individuals who successfully completed the program would be eligible for full-fledged jobs on the Post. That was just too ambitious a remedy. For all the real problems of disconnect between black and white viewpoints over what constituted racism, I received an award from the Black United Front of Washington." [Actually, it was the Black United Fund.]

The Post was by no means alone in the way it treated its female employees and those of color, and neither was the news business. Yet succeeding generations might be shocked to hear what was considered routine then.

Thomas W. Lippman, who went on to become a Post foreign correspondent, explained to Journal-isms by email Monday, "Management did not establish any incentive to hire women and expedite their careers, or even to be considerate to the few who were hired. I was hired in 1966. That was early in the Ben Bradlee era, and he was basically hiring any white male Ivy Leaguer who talked tough. At that time and for quite a few years afterward, it was open season on the few women in the newsroom. I don't just mean that they faced discrimination in assignment and promotion . . . but that there was kind of locker room or frat house atmosphere. Things were said openly that would be totally out of the question today."

As an example, Lippman said, "for some inexplicable reason we hired an eager but inexperienced young woman right out of Radcliffe. She was attractive, but because of some arthritic condition she walked with a stiff-legged gait. The assessment of Harry Rosenfeld: 'What good is a broad who can't bend her knees?' I'll bet that's not in his book.

"I had one huge verbal brawl with Harry, but in general he was good to me and supportive of my ambition to get on the foreign staff. We frequently played tennis in the mornings before work. But I can't say he showed much interest in, or spent much energy on, rectifying the status of women in the newsroom. There just wasn't much incentive for him or other senior editors to do so. . . ."

William R. MacKaye, now 79, recalled by email, "When I came to the Washington Post as chief religion writer in 1966, I had had some experience working with women reporters at the Minneapolis Star and at the Bascom Timmons News Bureau, where I was stationed as Washington correspondent for the Houston Chronicle. Naif that I was, though, I was really unaware of discrimination against women until Ken Dole retired and I had the opportunity to hire a second religion writer. I interviewed several candidates and decided Betty Medsger was the reporter I wanted. I told Ben Bradlee my choice, and was stunned by his first question to me: 'Are you sure you want to hire a woman?' "

Medsger, who became a Post reporter, might be best known for her tenure at the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University, which she founded in 1990.

Joanne Omang, who also became a Post foreign correspondent, messaged, "The worst thing Harry said to me was during my hiring interview in 1972: 'Well, Ms. Omang, your clips certainly aren't very impressive.' But I assumed (and still hope) this was an interview tactic. I know for a fact however that I was hired because I had five years of UPI experience and Harry et al were afraid I would file suit (or perhaps join the EEOC complaint — thank you again, my predecessors) if I were rejected. I was nowhere near smart enough to have thought of that, accustomed as all women were at that time to routine discrimination. And sexual harassment. Rubbing, fanny pats, lip-smacking, leering and come-ons were daily facts of life at the Post that we all just ignored as part of coping on the job. One day soon after I arrived, [name omitted] said to me, 'Lots of people around here are curious about you.' And I said oh, what do you mean, and he said, 'They're wondering if you ever put out.' I like to think I responded, 'Only for people I like,' but that is probably l'esprit d'escalier on my part."

Karlyn Barker, a Rosenfeld hire who is praised for her reporting in the book and attended the Newseum presentation, messaged, "It's fair to say that several women at the program who were at the Post in early 70's thought Harry (in his book and Newseum comments) glossed over that hiring/promotion push by women and Afro-Americans. But I battled guys who were much worse before I even got to the paper and my personal frustration over career options at the Post certainly wasn't due to Harry. Like I said, he hired me and I shall be forever grateful to him for that."

Bob Levey, who later became a local columnist, said by email, "I do think Harry was biased toward male reporters because he thought they were more likely to run over their grandmothers in search of a Page One story." But Levey added, "Harry had enormous energy and perseverance as an editor. That — and what they produced during Watergate — will be remembered for a very long time."

Of course, memoirists are entitled to give their side of the story. But none of the book's reviewers has mentioned the racial and sexual climate in which this part of the book takes place or attempts to measure how much has changed. "The larger story was pretty well told by Nan Robertson in her book 'The Girls in the Balcony,' focusing on the NY Times and its suit," Omang said in her message.

Tracy Thompson, another former Post journalist who recently authored "The New Mind of the South," published this year, drew another conclusion. "I guess it's also a terrific example of how flawed and often blind human beings can accomplish major feats. Gandhi slept with young girls, MLK cheated on his wife, who knows what Nelson Mandela did that we haven't found out about yet....not comparing Harry to those folks but it's a good reminder that we're all just human beings."

Did Obama Take a Swipe at His Admirer, Chris Matthews?

"During his interview with MSNBC’s Chris Mathews" Thursday, "President Obama told the MSNBC host that he believes the media prefers to focus on negative stories because 'that's what gets attention,' "Dorsey Shaw reported Saturday for BuzzFeed.

"Obama specifically cited the critical reaction of 'some so-called progressives' to accusations that the White House or Democrats had directed Internal Revenue Service to target certain conservative groups.

" 'By the way, Chris, I’ll point out there's some so-called progressives [PAUSES] and, you know, perceived to be liberal commentators, who during that week were just were outraged at the possibility that these folks, you know, had been, at the direction of the Democratic party, in some way discriminated against Tea Party folks. You know, that is what gets news. That's what gets attention.'

"But let's talk about that pause the president took. Just take a look at how that pause went down and try to guess who on earth Obama could possibly be talking about . . .

"Could Obama have been talking about this Chris Matthews appearance on Morning Joe back in May? . . . "

Cuban Media Offering Glimpses of Candor

"It is a rare day in Cuba when the Communist Party's triumphalist newspaper suggests that the government — just maybe — messed up. Or when the party's chief ideologist renounces government secrecy," Victoria Burnett reported Saturday for the New York Times. "Or a salsa star, performing at an official concert, calls for the freedom to vote and to smoke marijuana.

"But such gestures of openness are becoming more common.

"Glasnost it is not, say Cuban intellectuals and analysts. But glimpses of candor in the official news media and audacious criticism from people who, publicly at least, support the revolution suggest widening tolerance of a more frank, if circumscribed, discussion of the country’s problems. . . ."

Clarence Page on Ladder to Lead D.C.'s Gridiron Club

Clarence Page

Clarence Page, the syndicated Chicago Tribune columnist, was elected vice president of the fabled Gridiron Club of Washington on Saturday. "If all goes well, knock on wood, this development puts me on the ladder to be elected president next December for 2015," Page told Journal-isms by email.

"As a historical milestone, I am both honored and humbled to note that this puts me in line to become the third Gridiron president-of-color — following my late column-writing colleagues and role models Carl Rowan and Bill Raspberry — since the organization's founding in 1885," Page continued.

"FYI, The Gridiron Club and Foundation is Washington's oldest and most historically prestigious journalists' organization. Every US president since Grover Cleveland has attended its annual white tie Spring Dinner which features skits spoofing political and media elites, many of whom are in attendance.

"Its 65 active members, originally limited to newspaper and wire services, also have included major broadcast, newsmagazine and Internet media representatives since 2003."

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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How Elaine Rivera Introduced Me to My Future Husband

How Elaine Rivera introduced me to my future husband:

Friday the 13th will forever be a blessed day.

Memorial service remarks by Lee Llambelis 

Dec. 7, 2013

Elaine and I were friends for over 30 years. 

I, the Nuyorican from the South Bronx; she, the Boricua from Ohio. We shared three decades of laughter; three decades of drama.

You have heard about Elaine the hard-nosed journalist; the loyal friend and confidant; the loving daughter, sister and Titi; Elaine the teacher and mentor. Elaine the crusader for justice. I will speak about Elaine the matchmaker, La Ada Madrina, the Yenta. Elaine was a Puerto Rican fairy god mother, una Ada Madrina. Someone, who with or without pixy dust, and with a silk scarf in lieu of a magic wand, was determined, a las buenas or a las malas, to bring happiness to the lives of those she loved. In a few instances the outcome was spectacular. In most instances the outcome was spotty. In all instances, it was I Love Lucy, hilarious. 

To Elaine I have always been Lee-Lee; never just Lee, always Lee-Lee. Our conversations always started…Lee-Lee, it’s ELAINE! I was one of Elaine’s Nenitas; Elaine was a true believer in the power of the sisterhood. 

One afternoon, in early February over two decades ago, Elaine calls me excitedly. Lee-Lee, there’s this guy you’ll REALLY, REALLY Like! 

Emphasis on REALLY, REALLY, REALLY! I take a deep breath. I roll my eyes. Having been down this road before with Elaine, I respond dismissively. I don’t want to meet any more of your friends. The last two guys you introduced me to were duds. In fact, it took me a VERY long time to get rid of that last one. He was a stalker. 

Elaine mumbles something about well, you know, maybe that wasn’t the right fit and completely ignores my dismissiveness. But Lee-Lee, you’re REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, like him. Now she’s begging, PLEASE, PLEASE, trust me on this one! I respond, Elaine, I’m not interested. Realizing she wasn’t gaining much traction Elaine says, Ok, well how about a BIG group of us (emphasis on BIG) meet up and we ALL go out to dinner. I skeptically ask, AND JUST WHO is going to be in this BIG group? 

Elaine rattles off a long list of names that include Larry Bivens, Ron Howell, and an assortment of VERY colorful characters from the New York Newsday Newsroom, and she also mentions the legendary Evido de La Cruz from El Diario la Prensa. If nothing else, she says, it will be a very entertaining evening. I hadn't focused on the fact that the date Elaine was suggesting was Friday the 13thGiven this was an Elaine proposition that most certainly was not a good omen. Ok Lee-Lee? I mumble, OK, but I don’t plan to stay very long if he's another one of your duds. Elaine hangs up before I can protest further. 

She immediately reaches out to the subject of her matchmaking efforts and tells him virtually the same thing. 

He responds equally dismissively and makes it clear that he has ZERO interest in her matchmaking efforts. Nonetheless, he agrees to host Elaine’s motley crew. 

Friday the 13thappointed hour. For two hours I am the ONLY  arrives and I show up [as] the other person at this supposed group gathering. 

I am not pleased. 

Elaine claimed it was a fluke; said they all got stuck on deadline. While I have my doubts, that was her story and she was sticking to it. 

Well, thanks to Elaine, I had arrived at the home of the man who was to become the love of my life, the great journalist and author Ellis Cose. 

When she finally showed up with her posse, la ada Madrina whispers to me, Nenita, now tell me I didn’t get it right this time? I roll my eyes and say we shall see. We ordered Chinese food and talked and laughed into the wee hours of the night. Elaine went on to dance at our wedding. In the hospital when our daughter Elisa was born, she cradled her proudly and crowed loudly to ANYONE who would listen that she was responsible for getting us together and Elisa was the beautiful result of her exemplary match making efforts. 

Elaine, because of you Friday the 13 will forever be a blessed day. I count on you to be our guardian angel and I call on you to watch over us en las buenas y en las malas.

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