Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Another Cartoon Uproar

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Thursday, September 6, 2007

Some Say Cleveland Paper Deepened the Pain

An editorial cartoon in the Cleveland Plain Dealer intended to jab at the city's mayor caused an uproar inside the city and out over its depiction of a little girl that some took to be a tasteless portrayal of a 12-year-old murder victim.

"I can understand why people are upset," Editorial Page Editor Brent Larkin told Journal-isms on Friday. The paper published a box Friday that read, "We very much regret any pain the cartoon has caused in the community or, most especially, to family members and friends of Asteve'e Thomas," the murder victim.

"It's 2007. You have to be very careful . . . and we're paying a price for that," Larkin told Journal-isms. "The cartoon was in no way (intended) to depict this 12-year-old."

Staff cartoonist Jeff Darcy's work showed a black girl walking in an inner-city neighborhood wearing a T-shirt that said, "Don't shoot. I'm a friend of a friend of a friend of Mayor Jackson's daughter."

The reference was to the killing of Asteve'e "Cookie" Thomas, who was shot when she walked into the middle of a street gun battle on Sept. 1. More than 400 people attended her funeral on Friday.

In a column Thursday, Plain Dealer columnist Phillip Morris explained the controversy over Mayor Frank Jackson's response to a string of killings in the city, which Darcy and Plain Dealer editors say was the intended subject of Darcy's cartoon.



"In an unprecedented display of mayoral honesty and indifference, Jackson revealed why he chose to break his disturbing habit of not publicly reaching out to victims," Morris wrote.

"A bullet finally hit close to home.

". . . The mother of the deceased child attended school with the mayor's daughter. The two have remained friends. The death was 'personal,' Jackson said.

"So the mayor grieved with the family in front of the cameras.

". . . But the problem here is obvious: A mayor can't cherry-pick victims.

"A mayor can't remain largely silent over 211 homicides (the number the city has experienced since Jackson became mayor), and then weep for one."

But something was lost in the translation.

Larkin said, "We should have had a bunch of little children, boys and girls, wearing the T-shirt."

The cartoonist was wrong in "using the image of a child to make a political point," Editor Susan Goldberg told Journal-isms. She said the community reaction — almost all "quite negative" — has led to "introspection" in the newsroom.

The newsroom also heard from the cartoonist, who told his colleagues he thought he had been hung out to dry.

"The child in the cartoon is not Cookie. The child in the cartoon is a generic representation of every child endangered in Cleveland," Darcy wrote. "It could be anyone's child.

"It would have been nice if that false statement in those letters been edited out instead of further perpetuating the false hood that the child in the cartoon is cookie. It would've been nice if the Editors note that ran with the letters cleared up that misconception which is driving much of the readers anger. But it would also be nice to be working in a city were a 12 yr. old doesn't get shot buying candy. As those poets Richards and Jagger once said 'you can't always get what you want.'

"Having lived in Cleveland all my 44 years I'm sorry it has reached a low point [where] it is not at all an exaggeration that a child might feel the need to wear a T-shirt that says 'Don't Shoot Me'. I'm sorry we have a Mayor who only seems to care when senseless violence touches his family. Had I it to draw over again I would have drawn the child as a little boy to avoid any confusion that it was Cookie. But other than that. I stand by my work!

"It seems like I've been hung- out- to -dry a bit, but I'm 6'4" and it's getting to be the cool season, so I'm going to take a long time to dry!"

Journalists who saw the cartoon commented on the e-mail lists of the National Association of Black Journalists. The artist "mocked the girl and the people who have come together to keep this from happening anew," one said. Another said the child in the cartoon looked like Buckwheat in the old "Our Gang" comedies.

"Why do I get that feeling that someone was snickering when they wrote this apology," asked another. "This cartoon was simply another slice of the Don Imus controversy. Sure people have a right to say anything but to what extent are divisive, mean-spirited comments going to be tolerated and backed by the news entity. Like the Imus situation, the apology was just a self-serving soft shoe by the PR department. The time for action was further upstream somewhere around the time when the cartoonist first submitted it. Now after they've all had their chuckles comes the apology.'Oh sorry my thin-skinned afro-american community, my bad.'"

"Not enough diversity in upper management of newspapers. that's the whole problem," said another.

Goldberg, who recently arrived as editor from the San Jose Mercury News, called diversity important. The paper, which once had an African American top editor in Thomas Greer and which helped forge the careers of such black journalists as Denver Post Editor Gregory Moore and Orlando Sentinel Managing Editor Mark Russell, is now bereft of news managers of color.

Managing Editor Tom O'Hara leaves on Sept. 13, and Goldberg said she believes that "every vacancy is an opportunity to look at a diverse candidate pool."

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Lack of Diversity Persists on Campus Papers

"Right now, top editors at college newspapers everywhere are gearing up for the annual fall recruiting push," Justin Elliott of Brown University wrote Thursday for

"Before the grind of putting out a daily paper consumes their schedules and wreaks havoc on their social lives, this is the moment when they may pause, consider the monolithic racial makeup of the staff and wonder, what is to be done? There are lessons to be learned from several papers around the country that have begun to deal with racial and socio-economic disparities. But it's far from clear whether these new efforts will work. History seems to be against them."

Elliott went on to list the factors: "bad blood between newspapers and minority groups on campus. . . . the not insignificant financial commitment of putting in volunteer hours at the campus newspaper . . . campuses that are often more self-segregated than we'd like to admit" — and lack of interest.

"Gerrick Lewis, a junior at Ohio State, believes he is the first African-American editor-in-chief of the Lantern, OSU's student newspaper. He's also the only black student currently on the paper's staff. Lewis knows firsthand the outsized influence a small number of editors have on what makes the paper every day, and how stories are played," continued Elliott, who was executive editor last year of the Brown Daily Herald.

"'We've dropped the ball on so many things, it's almost embarrassing,' he says. 'That's changing now, of course, because now that I'm in this position I have my friends who I need to answer to. They say, 'Gerrick, why aren't you covering this or that?' This year, for example, Lewis plans to send a reporter to the school's special graduation ceremony for black students. He doesn't think the Lantern has ever covered the event, and he only knows about it because his brother participated.

"But several editors told me that attracting and retaining black and Latino students has proved stubbornly difficult. Last year Lewis started a chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, but the response has been lackluster. 'I have personally e-mailed every black journalist at this school and I attracted three or four people to this meeting.' Lewis thinks the problem may be a general lack of interest in extracurriculars."

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"Bobby" Ghosh Named Time's World Editor



"A double SAJA move, folks." Sree Sreenivasan reported on Monday to his colleagues in the South Asian Journalists Association. " Romesh Ratnesar, who has been the world editor of Time since 2004, is going on book leave and is being succeeded by Aparisim 'Bobby' Ghosh, who's been in the magazine's Baghdad bureau for four-plus years (Ghosh, who was born and raised in India, is the first Indian and first non-American to hold the world editor title at Time; Ratnesar is an American born to Sri Lankan parents).

"Once again, the top two American newsweeklies have South Asians in charge of editing the international news for their domestic editions. Nisid Hajari is the foreign editor for Newsweek, and is Ghosh's counterpart. Fareed Zakaria, on the other hand, is editor of all the international editions."

The SAJA site links to one of Ghosh's most chilling reports from Baghdad, an interview with a suicide bomber.

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Story About NBA Father, Son Moves Some to Tears



"As the service ends, and as the many who've come to remember two-time NBA All-Star Jimmy Walker exit the Kansas City funeral home, Jalen Rose remains seated, his head partially bowed, his emotions visibly scrambled," Jerry Bembry began his story Thursday for ESPN: The Magazine.

" . . . Rose, had he stood to speak, would have represented Walker's athletic gene. Had he addressed the crowd, Rose could have bragged about how for a long time the two were the top father/son scoring duo in NCAA Division I history, or boasted about how they are the only father and son tandem to each score over 10,000 points in their NBA careers.

"Rose, however, sat silent.

"His bewildered state is for good reason. Unlike the nearly 100 people gathered, Rose never knew Walker. Never even met him."

As of Friday night, Bembry's story about how Rose was inspired by the father he'd never met had drawn 76 responses on the ESPN Web site.

"WOW....what can you say?" wrote a reader who signed as drescher-conway. "Im a 29 year old man, I met my father once when I went looking for him at age 21 to tell him he had a grandson I named after him. I understand how Jalen felt growing up, and its tough. This story almost sends me to tears because his young life was just like mine was, and as irresponsible as my father was, I dont wanna meet him like Jalen met Jimmy. I have a new-found respect for Jalen, and Jimmy for that matter, makes you realize that these successful people in our society arent any different from you and I, and that they struggle with lifes situations just as we do. Much love Jalen, Im sorry you had to meet your father that way, but I just want you to know that your story touched me, and thanks to you I think Im gonna go find my father again soon....thanks Jalen and Jimmy..."

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Study Finds Evening News Tunes Out the Poor

"An exhaustive search of weeknight news broadcasts on CBS, NBC and ABC found that with rare exceptions, such as the aftermath of Katrina, poverty and the poor seldom even appear on the evening news — and when they do, they are relegated mostly to merely speaking in platitudes about their hardships," the media advocacy group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting said on Thursday.

"FAIR's study examined the three weeknight network newscasts — ABC 'World News,' 'CBS Evening News' and 'NBC Nightly News' — over a 38-month period (9/11/03 — 10/30/06). We considered every story mentioning the words 'poverty,' 'low income,' 'homeless,' 'welfare' or 'food stamps,' compiling a list of all stories that dealt with issues of poverty in more than a passing manner," wrote Steve Rendall and Neil deMause.

"It was a short list. During the more than three years studied, there were just 58 stories about poverty on the three network newscasts, including just 191 quoted sources. . . .

"Among individual networks, NBC ran the most stories related to poverty, with 25, followed close behind by CBS with 22. ABC aired only 11 stories addressing poverty in the 38-month study period — a rate of about one every 15 weeks."

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Univision Moves GOP Debate; Only McCain Said Yes

"The debate was to be broadcast from coast to coast, with questions in Spanish and simultaneous translations piped into candidates' ears. Analysts touted the invitation as a landmark opportunity for Republican presidential hopefuls to woo a huge Hispanic audience and collect their contributions," Ruth Morris reported Friday in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"But prominent Spanish-language network Univision conceded last week that it would postpone a Sept. 16 forum among Republican presidential contenders after only one candidate — Arizona Sen. John McCain — announced he would attend. Now, as a full house of Democratic hopefuls gear up for their Spanish-language debate on Sunday, political observers question whether the GOP is turning a cold shoulder to a crucial voting bloc.

"Univision spokeswoman Brook Morganstein said the broadcaster had not canceled the Republican forum and hoped to host the event sometime in the fall.

"That most GOP candidates didn't clear their calendars raised eyebrows, particularly in Florida, a swing state where Republicans have strong support from Cuban-Americans and an edge among Puerto Ricans."

Meanwhile, "Fox News Channel delivered the largest audience for this year's series of presidential primary debates, drawing 3.21 million viewers with Wednesday's Republican contest," Anthony Crupi reported Friday for MediaWeek.




The Fox debate was moderated by Brit Hume, with Carl Cameron, Wendell Goler and Chris Wallace as panelists.

Fox is having little luck with Democrats.

In August, the Fox network canceled a Democratic presidential debate co-sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus Political Education and Leadership Institute after the leading candidates in that field said they would skip it. Like Univision, organizers cited "scheduling challenges," the Sun-Sentinel story noted.

Univision's postponement of its GOP forum comes as it is demonstrating increasing clout, according to Toni Fitzgerald, writing Friday on

"This Sunday, Univision will premiere its first Sunday morning current affairs program, 'Al Punto' ('To the Point'), which is essentially 'Meet the Press' with Jorge Ramos hosting instead of Tim Russert," she said.

"The show, which will air weekly at 10 a.m., boasts an impressive roster of politicians for its debut, including Republican National Committee chairman Mel Martinez and four other congressmen.

"But the signficance of 'Punto' goes well beyond its guest list. It's a statement about just how much Univision has come to rival the major English-language networks as a shaper of opinion, at a time when Hispanic voices and issues are assuming a larger role in public debate heading into the 2008 presidential election."

In the Washington Times on Friday, Stephen Dinan wrote, "Sunday's Spanish-language Democratic presidential debate is a coming-of-age that underscores a new political reality: Spanish broadcast news has persuasive power, it differs markedly from English-language programs, and thanks to the immigration debate, it has hurt Republicans."

Meanwhile, newly declared GOP candidate Fred Thompson is expected to make his first debate appearance at the second of the "All-American Presidential Forums on PBS" moderated by Tavis Smiley, scheduled for Sept. 27 at Morgan State University in Baltimore, according to a news release Thursday from Smiley. "11 other candidates are expected to participate with the exception of former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney who have thus far declined the invitation," the statement said.

However, the same day, Paul West reported in the Baltimore Sun, "A campaign source said that Thompsonâ??s 'current plan' is still to be at the debate—but that whether he will be there was subject to 'events.'"

In another development, Nielsen//NetRatings reported Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to be the leader among all the presidential candidates in campaign Web site visitors, according to With 717,000 unique visitors in July, was far ahead of Democrats Hillary Clinton, with 437,000, and John Edwards, with 348,000.

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Little Coverage When Athletes Are Victims

"Hey, did you hear the one about the celebrities who were tied up, held hostage at gunpoint and lived to tell about it? It goes something like this," LZ Granderson wrote for the Sept. 10 issue of ESPN: The Magazine.

"CHICAGO (AP) — Two hulking NBA stars were bound with duct tape and robbed of cash and jewelry by masked gunmen in separate holdups that have Chicago-area detectives wondering whether someone is targeting professional athletes.

"On July 9, Antoine Walker and a family member were held hostage in Walker's town house while four armed men made off with valuables and his Mercedes-Benz. Less than three weeks later, Eddy Curry and his family were victims of a similar break-in.

"Don't be embarrassed if you've already forgotten about the two players' brushes with death this summer or if you missed them altogether. Neither was a big story. The Washington Post stuck Walker's news on the notes page of its sports section, right between Greg Oden's tonsillectomy and the signing of Wolves rookie Corey Brewer. The St. Petersburg Times ran a brief on Walker and Curry after a Croatia Open update. That's tennis, for those out of the loop.

"Two relatively famous athletes are bound and robbed at gunpoint, and it barely cracks the sports page. I have to wonder if the story would be fighting for space with the [Michael] Vick saga right now if Curry and Walker were the masked gunmen and not the innocent victims. That's right — innocent victims."

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Links Between Undocumented, Poverty Challenged

"Picking on undocumented immigrants has become chic in this country," Marisa Trevino wrote Wednesday on her Latina Lista blog.

"From politicians to cable talk show hosts, all have figured out they score brownie points if they blame undocumented immigrants with such vices as propelling poverty stats or contributing to growing crime rates.

"The sad aspect of this trend is that now newspapers want to follow suit.

"But for a business that relies on accuracy as a benchmark for a job well done, it's a violation of pubic trust that some newspapers would rather be chic than totally truthful."

"Crime IS NOT rising among undocumented immigrants," Trevino wrote.

She challenged the McClatchy Newspapers, which wrote such a story, as well as an op-ed piece in the Washington Post by Robert J. Samuelson that said, "The stubborn persistence of poverty, at least as measured by the government, is increasingly a problem associated with immigration. As more poor Hispanics enter the country, poverty goes up. This is not complicated, but it is widely ignored."

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Short Takes

  • "A Syracuse University graduate student taking photographs outside the VA Medical Center says she was questioned and ordered to delete several images by hospital security officers Thursday," Michele Reaves wrote Friday in the Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard. Mariam Jukaku, 24, is a graduate student in SU's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications who writes for the Post-Standard as part of a fellowship program. She "said the officers also photocopied her university ID and driver's license and asked if she was a U.S. citizen. She wonders if her appearance played a part in how the incident was handled. Jukaku, a U.S. citizen of Indian descent, said she is Muslim and wears a head scarf."
  • "The Detroit television market is about to have three 11 p.m. newscasts for the first time since 2002," James Broggs wrote Thursday in the Oakland (Mich.) Business Journal. "Detroit's Fox affiliate, Southfield-based WJBK-TV (Channel 2), is launching 'News Edge' Sept. 24, which will compete in the late-news slot with WDIV-TV (Channel 4) and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7). Detroit's CBS affiliate ceased its news broadcast five years ago, leaving only two 11 p.m. shows in the market."
  • "The United Church of Christ is appealing to the whole Federal Communications Commission an FCC staff decision rejecting its license renewal challenges to NBC's WTVJ-TV and CBS's WFOR-TV in Miami," Ira Teinowitz reported Friday in TV Week. "The church filed its renewal challenges after NBC and CBS in 2004 refused to sell the church network time to run ads about religious tolerance. The church said it was told the ads, which used a 'God is still speaking' theme, were too controversial."
  • "The Bush Administration's Justice Department is going on record opposing network neutrality requirements on Internet providers. Justice on Thursday warned the Federal Communications Commission against listening to consumers, consumer groups and companies including Google, which are urging the agency to act to ensure consumer choice," Ira Teinowitz reported Friday in TV Week. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is among those supporting network neutrality, "which preserves a free and open Internet and will ensure that all Internet users can access content or run applications and devices of their choosing without manipulation or discrimination. "
  • Commenting on Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves'


Eddie Griffin

  • decision to cut off the microphone during a profanity-laden performance last weekend by comedian Eddie Griffin, Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette asked Friday, "what would happen if every executive in a position to pull the plug on an Eddie Griffin did so without a second thought? Imagine how much better off black folks would be if someone with a conscience at VH1 had smothered 'Flavor of Love' at its development stage a few years ago. . . .BET may be a lost cause, but imagine the good the once black-owned cable network could have done if it had taken its influence on the culture seriously."
  • An Iranian-American journalist, who was banned from leaving Iran for the last seven months, is reported to have been given permission to leave, the BBC reported on Tuesday. Parnaz Azima works for the U.S.-funded Radio Liberty.
  • "In what I imagine is a first for any American newspaper, The Houston Chronicle now has a Hinduism blog on the community-run section of its website: 'Exploring Hinduism: Describing and Discussing Dharma.' Just to be clear, it wasn't started by the Chronicle but by Arun Shankar, an IT consultant, and Ravi Raghavan," Arun Venugopal wrote Tuesday on the South Asian Journalists Association Web site.
  • "I would say that the media are the most exclusionist institution in this country," said Palagummi Sainath, speaking of India. He is winner of this year's Ramon Magsaysay award in the journalism, literature, creative communication and arts category, and "believes that while India has a free press there is a growing disconnect between mass media and mass reality, arising from monopolistic trends," the Inter-Press Service reported Monday from New Delhi.
  • Celebrity journalist Jawn Murray has joined Court TV's new 'Star Jones Show' as an entertainment and pop culture contributor. Murray is to appear every other week beginning the week of Sept. 10.
  • "Religious conservatives in Uganda are clamoring for deportation of Stanford University journalism student Katherine Roubos, who covers gay issues for the Kampala-based Daily Monitor newspaper on a university-sponsored summer internship," Lisa M. Krieger reported Monday in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News. "Roubos has not been directly threatened or detained, and continues to work in the East African nation, where homosexual activity is illegal and carries a prison sentence."
  • Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard held a news conference in Casablanca about the decline in press freedom in Morocco, condemning a lack of progress in press freedom since King Mohammed VI succeeded his father. "When we met the Moroccan authorities a year ago, they showed an unprecedented interest in establishing a dialogue but today we have the impression that we were conned," Ménard said, the organization reported on Thursday. "Above all, we deplore the cynicism of a government that talks of reform and yet imprisons and censors journalists."
  • "The outspoken editor of an independent Egyptian newspaper was accused on Wednesday of spreading rumours and false information about the health of President Hosni Mubarak, judicial sources said," Mohamed Abdellah reported for Reuters. "The two separate offences could lead to prison terms of three years and one year, they said."

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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