Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Murdoch Calls Post Cartoon "a Mistake"

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Updated February 24

credit: Tim Jackson

Activists Still Plan to Target Company Before FCC

Media baron Rupert Murdoch, owner of the New York Post, apologized for last week's chimpanzee cartoon on Thursday, issuing a statement in the newspaper and online that called it "a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted." 

However, activists said the apology should be the beginning, not the end of the discussion, and that they would proceed with plans to use government agencies to challenge Murdoch's company on media consolidation and diversity issues.  They linked the Post's policies with those of Fox News, its sister news organization.

Murdoch's was the newspaper's second statement on the cartoon, made as critics declared they would target Murdoch's media empire before the Federal Communications Commission. The first statement, made in an editorial in Friday's Post, was seen as halfhearted and grudging.

Thursday's statement continued, "Over the past couple of days, I have spoken to a number of people and I now better understand the hurt this cartoon has caused.

"I have had conversations with Post editors about the situation and I can assure you - without a doubt - that the only intent of that cartoon was to mock a badly written piece of legislation. It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, it was interpreted by many as such.

"We all hold the readers of the New York Post in high regard and I promise you that we will seek to be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community."

Scott Ross of MSNBC said, "Murdoch has a well-earned reputation for never backing down, but he clearly respects and admires President Obama and has always aligned himself with those in power. For him to issue an apology is a rare thing indeed.

"Rev. Al Sharpton, who has declared war on the Post, said at a rally later on Thursday, "The tactics of civil rights are to not just get apologies, but to get a fair and even policy," according to the NY1 cable channel. "And we're sure that people that talk 'fair and balanced' can come up with fair and balanced policies. So the apology, I hope, is the beginning of the conversation, not the end. "

"'We are currently planning for dozens of actions in dozens of cities across the country,' said NAACP President Benjamin Jealous. 'Our members will be protesting outside their local Fox affiliates, to say, "Join us in this moment of reconciliation in sending a moment with your boss that he needs to deal with this problem."'

"Until then, they are continuing their call for a boycott by readers, advertisers, and the city."

In a statement, Jealous said:

"The New York Post and Fox News have a history of racially insensitive reporting. With the support of the editor in chief, the cartoonist Sean Delonas has published numerous vile cartoons tinged with racism. Fox News was widely criticized during the elections for calling Michelle Obama 'Obama's baby mama' and terming the affectionate and common fist bump between then-candidate Obama and his wife, a 'terrorist fist jab' at a time when death threats against the candidate were at an all time high for any presidential candidate.

"The New York Post stands alone from most daily newspapers in refusing to report its diversity numbers to the American Society of Newspaper Editors. One has to wonder how many Hispanic or African American reporters and editors are working at the New York Post? Clearly, with more diversity in its newsrooms, it's likely the paper would have been able to understand the deeply offensive nature of the cartoon. Our guess is that the numbers are abysmally low for a newspaper serving a city with a population as diverse as New York."

"Sharpton says tomorrow he will meet with the Federal Communications Commission to urge the agency to review waivers its issued to the New York Post's parent company, NewsCorp, allowing it to own more than one television station and newspaper in the city.

"Council members say they will also be introducing legislation calling on the paper to publish information like its employment numbers and diversity numbers."

Murdoch's intervention is sure to increase speculation about the future of editor Col Allan, who was not mentioned in Murdoch's statement.

Sharpton and several New York City Council members cited concentration of media ownership on Sunday in saying they wanted the FCC to yank a waiver allowing Murdoch's News Corp. to run two newspapers and two TV stations in the city, Erin Durkin and Meredith Kolodner reported in the rival New York Daily News.

"'You can stem protests because you own so much of the media. People can't question you,' Sharpton said on his weekly radio show on 98.7 KISS FM. 'Advertisers are reluctant to pull out because you own so much of the media market.'

"In addition to the Post, which last week ran the cartoon that critics say compares President Obama with the face-mauling chimp shot dead by cops, News Corp. owns The Wall Street Journal and local Fox 5 (WNEW) and My9 (WWOR). It also owns the Fox Network and online networking site MySpace."

The cartoon, drawn for the Post's Page Six gossip section by Sean Delonas, shows two policemen, one with a smoking gun, looking at a dead chimpanzee. One says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." Though the president did not write the stimulus bill, the chimpanzee was widely taken to represent him. The Post denied the cartoon referred to Obama and issued a half-hearted apology.

"Sharpton said he hopes to get a million signatures online this week to show regulators the depth of opposition," the Daily News story continued.

"At Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, meanwhile, students burned copies of the Post and encouraged classmates to boycott the paper and shut down their MySpace pages. 'We are the ones who are putting money in their pockets,' said Marie Antoine, a senior and president of the student government association. 'They have treated us like animals.'"

Meanwhile, Jealous, president of the NAACP, Saturday urged readers to boycott the newspaper, calling the cartoon an invitation to assassinate the president, Verena Dobnick reported for the Associated Press.

Jealous called on the tabloid to remove both editor Allan and cartoonist Delonas.

"Jealous said the cartoon was 'an invitation to assassination.'

Some talk shows paired the cartoon controversy with one over a statement by new Attorney General Eric Holder that, "Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards." Holder, the nation's first black attorney general, was speaking during a Black History Month celebration Wednesday at the Justice Department.

Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

"I don't think Eric Holder was trying to call anybody a racist," commentator Juan Williams said on "Fox News Sunday," "but I think that when you say things - and especially in this country, when you speak about race, I think to white ears, oftentimes it sounds condemnatory, like you're saying, 'Oh, you want a real conversation, so you're going to guilt-trip me, you're going to call me a racist. And . . . especially given the power of liberal orthodoxy in this country - if you say the wrong thing, we're going to punish you, and put you in a box and call you a racist.

"And let me say that sitting here as a black person, if I say the wrong thing, they say I'm a sellout, and a Tom, and a - I can't - you wouldn't believe the kind of crap."

On "the Diane Rehm Show" on public radio's WAMU-FM in Washington, which is transmitted to National Public Radio, black self-help advocate Robert Woodson said that while others were discussing the New York Post cartoon and Holder's comments, the media were ignoring a Luzerne County, Pa., case in which prosecutors say Judges Mark A. Ciavarella Jr. and Michael T. Conahan took payoffs of more than $2.6 million to send juveniles, without sufficient cause, to two privately run youth detention centers. The two men's plea agreements call for sentences of more than seven years in prison.

The New York Post controversy also called attention to the lack of editorial cartoonists of color in the mainstream media, as Tim Jackson points out in his accompanying cartoon. [Updated Feb. 24]

At Washington Post, a Need to Say It Isn't New York's

"Last week I received 11 e-mails or phone calls from people who were beside themselves with anger at The Washington Post for running the cartoon," Andy Alexander, the new Washington Post ombudsman, told Journal-isms. He was referring to the now-infamous Sean Delonas cartoon on the stimulus package and the dead chimpanzee.

"In each case, I had to inform them that it was produced by, and appeared in, the NEW YORK Post. That yielded a few red-faced apologies, as well as one classic retort from a woman who said 'it doesn't matter. . . all you Posts are owned by the same people.'

The Washington Post is owned by the Graham family and the New York Post by News Corp., headed by Rupert Murdoch.

"I guess when some people hear the word 'Post' they naturally think of The Washington Post. Notoriety has its drawbacks," Alexander said. 

. . . An Editor's Note Doesn't Stop Complaints

This image, printed before the notorious chimp assault in Connecticut, ran in Sunday's Washington Post Magazine. (Credit: Eric Shansby)An unusual editor's note appeared in Sunday's editions of the Washington Post.

"The headline, illustration and text of 'Below the Beltway,' a column in The Washington Post Magazine today, may cause offense to readers," it began.

"The magazine was printed before a widely publicized incident last week in which a chimpanzee attacked and badly mauled a woman in Stamford, Conn. In addition, the image and text inadvertently may conjure racial stereotypes that The Post does not countenance. We regret the lapse."

The note was there for two reasons, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli told Journal-isms. "First, the magazine had gone to press before the chimp-assault incident in Connecticut. We wanted readers to understand that, so they wouldn't think us callous in our choice of words and images.

"Second, some people in our newsroom thought the illustration and some language in the article was potentially problematic. We debated internally whether the illustration or the piece could be interpreted by anyone, even in a stretch, as racially insensitive. We concluded, regretfully, that such an interpretation might be made, and we wanted to let readers know that The Post neither intended nor tolerates the use of racial stereotypes. And we did hear complaints, editor's note notwithstanding."

[On Tuesday, Gene Weingarten, author of the magazine piece, said he thought "the editor's note was a mistake, but a well-intentioned one. 

["I fear that the conjuring of racial stereotype was entirely the work of the apologizer, here. I don't think that any reasonable reading of this column, or the headline, or the illustration, would find any racial implications at all, nor did I intend any," Weingarten said in an online chat.]

Verdine White, Philip Bailey and Ralph Johnson, original members of Earth, Wind & Fire.

Earth, Wind & Fire Won't Let Dumb Questions Linger

Apart from a dirty look, you have nothing to fear from asking Earth, Wind & Fire a stupid question. "Every now and then you get a dumb one," allowed Ralph Johnson, percussionist and original member of the supergroup that ruled black pop music in the 1970s. The group played the White House at President and Michelle Obama's first formal dinner on Sunday night and Johnson spoke to Journal-isms afterward.

"You'll tell from the reaction you get from us whether it was a dumb question. You try to forget the dumb ones," Johnson said. The not-dumb ones: "A question that comes to mind, and this is a while back, but 'how are you affected by the changing technology, the sampling?' Questions like that, and of course all day today the questions were, 'Are you excited about doing the White House?

"The sampling really helped us, because they started sampling stuff from the old-school acts, Earth Wind and Fire, James Brown, Sly and the Family Stone, so really it was a cool way to market our stuff at a time when we weren't really on the radio. Because as these samples were going out, people were saying, 'Wait a minute, where'd you get that sample from?' 'Earth, Wind,' an old-school group."

As for playing the White House, before a president who counts himself among their biggest fans, "It was incredible, but you know, the whole day was incredible — from the time that we got to the White House for the sound checks, plus we did some interview stuff this morning from MSNBC, it's just been one — incredible — day.

"We were told by the social secretary the governors never dance," speaking of the governors who were the president's guests. "They danced tonight. It was a good thing! Mr. and Mrs. Obama have a way of making you feel very relaxed. We took pictures with the first lady earlier before our sound check, and then as we were doing the sound check, in walked Mr. President. And he came up on stage and met the horns and us, and everybody, just a great thing. He said, 'let me meet the horns, and that cymbal over there.' Very, very down to earth.

"When we went out and hit the stage, they were standing right up front, ready for us to hit the first note, and when we did, the smiles that came across their faces . . . It was good."

The set by the 13-member group lasted 50 minutes, but alas, the news media didn't get to see all of it.

"The band was lively; a percussionist waved his drumsticks at the crowd, trying to get them dancing," the pool reporter, Mike Madden of, wrote for his colleagues. "POTUS and FLOTUS were at the front of the crowd on the dance floor, smiling and talking with guests," he wrote, referring to the president of the United States and the first lady. "Your pool was ushered out of the room after about three minutes, and with the TV cameras gone, the lights were lowered. As we walked through the crowd and out the front door, Earth, Wind & Fire was starting to play 'September.'"

BET to Cover President's Address to Congress

BET News, which broke away from its regular programming for live Election Night coverage and then for the inauguration of Barack Obama, is doing so again for Obama's address to a Joint session of Congress Tuesday night — on one of its networks, at least.

BET will host a live special on BET J carrying the speech, followed by a half-hour analysis hosted by Jeff Johnson, a network spokeswoman said. Guests will include Michel Martin of National Public Radio, commentator Keith Boykin, conservative pundit Sophia Nelson, presidential aide Valerie Jarrett and Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C. The special will  re-air on BET at 11 p.m. EST, she said.

A spokeswoman for TV One, which also covered Election Night and the inauguration, said the network had no similar plans this time. Viewers are to be directed to the Web site to blog about the speech while it is happening.

Series on Disappearing Languages Wins Award

Lillian Nelson, a revered Menominee elder who died in July, was one of the few remaining native speakers of her tribe's language. (Credit: Menominee Tribal Historic Preservation Office/Wisconsin State Journal.)A series in the Wisconsin State Journal on the impending loss of the state's five Native American languages won the Distinguished Writing on Diversity Award from the Freedom Forum and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, ASNE announced on Sunday.

"The first languages of Wisconsin, the vessels bearing ages of American Indian history, song, medicine and prayers, could be as little as a generation away from an all-abiding silence. Languages that are grafted to the land and that together once counted tens of thousands of native speakers in the state, now have only an aging few here," Jason Stein wrote in June in the Madison, Wis., newspaper.

"Without unprecedented action, the state's tribes will test the Ho-Chunk belief that the fate of a people is tied to their native tongue."

Among the other winners of ASNE's annual awards for distinguished writing and photography:

  • Robyn Dixon of the Los Angeles Times won the Batten Medal for a collection of stories spotlighting the cruelties, hopes and fears of the people of Zimbabwe.
  • Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald won in the commentary category for a compilation of columns that included pieces on the historic election of President Obama.
  • Ames Alexander, Kerry Hall, Franco Ordo?±ez, Ted Mellnik and Peter St. Onge of the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer won the distinguished writing award for local accountability reporting for a series of stories revealing how officials in the poultry industry ignored and threatened injured workers.
  • Joanna Connors of the Plain Dealer of Cleveland won the distinguished writing award for nondeadline writing for stories of her rape 20 years ago and her search to find the man who did it. Connors is white and the rapist was black. "Connors speculates that she might have run away in the awkward moments before David Francis attacked her had it not been for the fear that she'd appear racist," as Keith Woods recalled in a piece for the Poynter Institute.

Immigration Prompts Jump in Latino Federal Prisoners

"Sharp growth in illegal immigration and increased enforcement of immigration laws have altered the ethnic composition of offenders sentenced in federal courts," the Pew Hispanic Center reported last week.

"In 2007, Latinos accounted for 40% of all sentenced federal offenders — more than triple their share (13%) of the total U.S. adult population. The share of all sentenced offenders who were Latino in 2007 was up from 24% in 1991, according to an analysis of data from the United States Sentencing Commission (USSC) by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center.

"Moreover, by 2007, immigration offenses represented nearly one-quarter (24%) of all federal convictions, up from just 7% in 1991. Among those sentenced for immigration offenses in 2007, 80% were Hispanic.

"This heightened focus on immigration enforcement has also changed the citizenship profile of federal offenders. In 2007, Latinos without U.S. citizenship represented 29% of all federal offenders. Among all Latino offenders, some 72% were not U.S. citizens, up from 61% in 1991. By contrast, a much smaller share of white offenders (8%) and black offenders (6%) who were sentenced in federal courts in 2007 were not U.S. citizens."

Trial for Suspect in Bailey's Killing to Begin May 18

Chauncey BaileyIn Oakland, Calif., Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobson on Friday scheduled the murder trial of Devaughndre Broussard, the only person charged in the 2007 slaying of journalist Chauncey Bailey, to begin May 18, Thomas Peele of the Chauncey Bailey Project reported on Monday.

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported on Sunday that the Bailey project, a collaboration among several journalism organizations that originated with a note to the message board of this column. "has had a deep impact on the city's public life, revealing a jailhouse videotape that suggested a wider conspiracy in the murder and which the police seemingly ignored, and helping force the resignation of the Oakland police chief, Wayne Tucker."

"Rebecca Kaplan, a City Council member, publicly credited the group of reporters with airing the police's dirty laundry," the Times' Tim Arango wrote.

"Even if everything was an honest mistake, the Chauncey Bailey case is shining a light on what we need to be looking at," Ms. Kaplan said.

Sensitivities Abound in Coverage of Beheading

"An Orchard Park man who founded an American-Islamic television station is charged with murder. Police say Muzzammil Hassan beheaded his wife," WGRZ-TV related on Saturday.

"2 On Your Side has learned that the same day Aasiya Hassan was murdered, there was a 911 hang call placed from the Bridges TV station," where her body was found.

"Police responded and determined the caller misdialed. The assistant Orchard Park Police Chief says it happens from time to time at Bridges as the operator attempts to make an international call."

Coverage of the crime has been fraught with sensitivities.

In the Toronto Star on Saturday, public editor Kathy English wrote that reporter John Goddard was wrong to include in his account of the beheading "two paragraphs about Islamic sharia law and divorce and those crimes that, Goddard reported, 'under Islamic law' are punishable by "beheading, stoning, amputation of limbs or flogging."

"Is this beheading related to sharia?" English wrote. "We don't know that yet. But the tenets of ethical journalism certainly demand that to raise that question required a fair and more balanced reflection of the diversity of the sharia debate. The Star's story, unlike that of other major newspaper reports I examined, did not do a full job of presenting the many sides of this."

Earlier, conservative Los Angeles Times columnist Jonah Goldberg and Marcia Pappas, New York state president of the National Organization for Women, accused the media of playing down links between the crime and Islamic teaching.

"“This was apparently a terroristic version of honor killing, a murder rooted in cultural notions about women’s subordination to men,” said Pappas, according to Fred O. Williams, writing in the Buffalo News.

"One can run through a long list of contortions and double standards when it comes to Muslims: Honor killings swept under the rug, theater productions canceled, books shelved by publishers, thought-crime tribunals in Canada, death threats over political cartoons. Chin-strokers at the State Department will tell you U.S. foreign policy needs to cater to the 'Muslim street,' which chants 'death to America' as a voice warm-up exercise," Goldberg wrote.

Short Takes

  • "Acci??n Latina, a San Francisco non-profit organization, is developing a multimedia project chronicling the history of the Latino press in the United States. The initial film is expected to be finished this year to commemorate the bicentennial of El Misisipi, the first Spanish-language newspaper in the U.S.," Christina R. Hernandez wrote¬†Monday for the Guardian at San Francisco City College. "'Voices for Justice: The Enduring Legacy of the Latino Press in the U.S.,' will also include an interactive Web site based at University of Houston's Arte P??blico Press and a companion book. Working on the project are Juan Gonzales, Dr. F?©lix F. Guti?©rrez, Dr. Nicol?°s Kanellos, Raymond Telles, Eva Mart??nez and Jon Funabiki."
  • "The most anxious reactions by the Native victims of sexual abuse at Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian mission boarding schools are: 'Where in hell is the outrage?'" Tim Giago wrote¬†in his column Monday for "It seems that most of America doesn‚Äôt give a damn and news that should be on the front page of every major newspaper is strangely absent. Where in the hell is the outrage? Last week the Jesuits of Oregon Province in Alaska filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy. Why were they forced into this action? Because more than 60 lawsuits alleging sex abuse by Jesuit priests have been filed against them and in all, there are 200 known claimants in the five western states covered by the Province. Most of the victims are from Alaska."
  • "ESPN has decided after two seasons that former Dallas Cowboys great Emmitt Smith doesn't cut it as an NFL analyst," the Associated Press reported. "Spokesmen for the all-sports television network told The Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that Smith's contract, which expired this month, would not be renewed."
  • "Geraldo Rivera, who anchors Fox News' 'Geraldo at Large,' was issued a trespass warning Saturday by the Putnam County Sheriff's Office, after confronting Ronald Cummings with questions about his missing 5-year-old daughter, Haleigh," Joe Byrnes and Karen Voyles wrote¬†Monday for the Gainesville (Fla.) Sun. "Rivera came to Satsuma to interview Haleigh's family. The fireworks began when the anchor started to pepper Cummings with allegations of drug use and physical abuse of Haleigh and Haleigh's mother, Crystal Sheffield. Rivera said he received some of the information from Sheffield's side of the family," according¬†to WJXX-TV.
  • "We're in 12 million households in the USA, UK and Caribbean. Three million of those households are in the USA and that will rise to 4-5 million by mid-year," Jacob Arback, president of the Africa Channel, said in an interview with Russell Southwood published Sunday in England's Balancing Act.

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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Which is the crime: the act or the quote?

From the first story: "A spokeswoman for the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, which advocates for the young people, said a majority of the juveniles involved were not black or Latino, however." That sentence took my breath away. Does that mean it's okay because the white kids were the canaries in this sick human trafficking sale? How can you advocate for young people and say something so stupid?

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