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3 Others Disciplined at Dallas Station

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Short-Term Suspensions, Warning in Aguilar Case

Dallas station KDFW-TV, criticized for indefinitely suspending reporter Rebecca Aguilar but not taking action against anyone else who handled her controversial story, has now disciplined three other staffers in connection with the piece, a spokeswoman for the Fox network, which owns and operates the station, told Journal-isms.



One person was suspended for three days, a second for two days, and a third received a warning, the spokeswoman said on Monday. She did not identify the employees, but blogger Ed Bark, a veteran Dallas television critic who reported on Friday that the station had taken further disciplinary action, wrote that "reliable sources" told him they were a managing editor, an editor and the story's photographer.

"My position is that no one should have been suspended," Rafael Olmeda, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Journal-isms.

Aguilar's suspension came after viewer protests over an interview she conducted with James Walton, 70, who shot dead two would-be burglars who entered his salvage business. They complained that Aguilar seemed insensitive to his plight, zeroing in on her questions, "Are you a trigger happy kind of person? Is that what you wanted to do, shoot to kill?"

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which awarded her Broadcast Journalist of the Year honors this month, rose to Aguilar's defense, and later Unity: Journalists of Color; the Dallas LULAC Council, which is part of the League of United Latin American Citizens; the alternative newspaper Fort Worth Weekly; Bark; and the Dallas-Fort Worth Association of Black Communicators backed Aguilar as well.

The station has never said exactly why Aguilar was suspended. The spokeswoman said the situation is "still being investigated."

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Sinclair to Appeal Fines Over Armstrong Williams



The Armstrong Williams scandal of 2005 isn't over yet, with one of the broadcast companies targeted for fines by the Federal Communications Commission saying on Monday it plans to appeal.

Williams, meanwhile, told Journal-isms he has ridden out the storm and said of his current status, "it's like you can come back from the abyss."

Williams' firm accepted $240,000 from the Education Department to promote the No Child Left Behind Act while he served as a commentator and syndicated columnist speaking favorably of the program. After that revelation, his column was dropped by Tribune Media Services and he was removed from the lineup on the syndicated "America's Black Forum." Free Press, an anti-big-media group, said it had sent 12,500 complaints to the FCC. The agency's rules require people to disclose if they have been paid to broadcast information.

In the resulting uproar, the commentator's reputation was badly sullied.

The FCC this month declared Sonshine Family Television Inc., licensee of WBPH-TV in Bethlehem, Pa., liable for a fine of $40,000 for airing five episodes of "The Right Side with Armstrong Williams" in which Williams spoke about the education law, the Associated Press reported. Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc., headquartered north of Baltimore, was hit with a proposed fine of $36,000 for airing an episode of "America's Black Forum" in September 2004.

"In Sinclair's case, Armstrong appeared on an episode entitled '2004 Election Countdown,'" the AP story said. "While the company was not paid to air the program, the FCC said the fact that the program was political in nature meant it required sponsorship identification.

"Sinclair argued that 'it simply did not know, and had no reason to know, that the program required any identification.'"

Barry Farber, vice president and general counsel of Sinclair Broadcasting, told Journal-isms on Monday that the company plans to appeal the fines. "I think it's just a mistake by the FCC," Farber said. According to Farber, the FCC accused Sinclair of violating its payola and "plugola" rules, but the television stations did not receive any money for airing the program. A spokesman for Sonshine Family Television did not return telephone calls from Journal-isms.

Meanwhile, WWRL-AM radio in New York, which aired "The Sammy and Army Show," co-hosted by Williams and Sam Greenfield, dropped the program last week, as David Hinckley reported Thursday in the New York Daily News.

Williams said he did not know the show would be canceled, but that he had asked to leave it. "I got my life back," he said, after having to rise at 3 a.m. for 4 a.m. production meetings before going on the air at 5 from Washington. He said he had nothing but praise for the station's management.

Williams said his newspaper column is now self-syndicated to 62 papers and that he does another radio show in the afternoons that airs on 16 Southern stations.

He enjoyed coverage on society pages this month after hosting a successful book party for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, his longtime friend, at Williams' Capitol Hill home.

While Williams said he wanted to be considered a journalist, he said he would still create commercials and serve as a publicist, only this time mindful of conflicts of interest.

"People thought I would be a footnote," Williams told Journal-isms. After the last two years, he added, "I have a soft spot for people who go through the wilderness."

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Obama Gets Most Favorable Media Treatment

"In the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, the media had already winnowed the race to mostly five candidates and offered Americans relatively little information about their records or what they would do if elected, according to a comprehensive new study of the election coverage across the media," the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy reported on Monday.

"The press also gave some candidates measurably more favorable coverage than others. Democrat Barack Obama, the junior Senator from Illinois, enjoyed by far the most positive treatment of the major candidates during the first five months of the year— followed closely by Fred Thompson, the actor who at the time was only considering running. Arizona Senator John McCain received the most negative coverage— much worse than his main GOP rivals.

"Meanwhile, the tone of coverage of the two party front runners, New York Senator Hillary Clinton and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, was virtually identical, and more negative than positive, according to the study.

"In all, 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects of the campaign. That is nearly four times the number of stories about the personal backgrounds of the candidates (17%) or the candidates— ideas and policy proposals (15%). And just 1% of stories examined the candidates' records or past public performance, the study found."

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Freed Genarlow Wilson Has Day of Media Interviews

"Genarlow Wilson, freed last week after spending almost three years in prison for having consensual oral sex with another teenager, said Monday he plans to use his newfound celebrity to warn teens about the dangers of risky behavior," Shannon McCaffrey reported Monday for the Associated Press. It was one of several media interviews Wilson gave on Monday.

"I feel like I have a testimony I can share with other young men and women," Wilson said in an interview with the AP at his family's home in an Atlanta suburb.

"Wilson said that he had no idea he was breaking the law when he had oral sex with a 15-year-old at 2003 New Year's Eve party. He was 17 at the time," McCaffrey reported.

Wilson said on CNN's "American Morning," "You can't let everything that you have been through you know, get the best of you and turn you bitter, because you will never achieve anything. I feel like everything I've done and everything that I've endured is all made me stronger as a person. You have to be very open-minded to the situation. Of course, I believe that it was absurd, but you know, I had to look at it as these gentlemen were doing their job, and they felt like they were carrying out the law."

He also appeared on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin, ABC's "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today" show. Wilson, 21, said he wants to pursue a college degree in sociology or business.

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Cops Ignore Request to Interrupt News Conference

A news conference on Capitol Hill to promote an immigration bill could have turned ugly — with police showing up to arrest some of those participating — had not authorities ignored a request from Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., a long-shot presidential candidate, that the authorities attend, too.

Three students were present at the news conference, held Oct. 23 by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to promote the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, known as the DREAM Act. It would have allowed undocumented students "of good moral character" who graduate from high school or get their GED to receive the residency status needed to attend college or enlist in the military, as Suzanne Struglinski reported in the Deseret Morning News in Utah.

"After two years of college or military service, the students would earn legal permanent residency, commonly known as a green card, which would put them on a path toward citizenship," Struglinski wrote.

"To be eligible, the undocumented students must have been in the United States for more than five years, have been under 16 years old when they first arrived and be under 30 years old when the bill becomes law."

Tancredo had his office call the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency and the Capitol Police to have any illegal immigrants at the news conference arrested. "Just because these illegal aliens are being used for political gain doesn't mean they get immunity from the law. If we can't enforce our laws inside the building where American laws are made, where can we enforce them?" he said in a statement that Durbin read.

However, Tancredo spokesman T.Q. Houlton told Journal-isms on Monday, the authorities did not respond to Tancredo's request. None showed up.

In fact, the students had been granted temporary legal status, according to Sandra Abrevaya, a Durbin spokeswoman.

On Wednesday, with a 52-44 vote, the Senate failed to give the DREAM Act the 60 votes it needed to get full consideration by the Senate. That drew commentary.

Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Crushing Dream of top students in U.S. illegally

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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