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Barbering While Black, Clipping While Latino

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reporter Follows Story of Questionable Barbershop Raids

Police Say Meteorologist Blames Hispanic in False Report

Bloomberg Is Hiring, but Won't Disclose Diversity Figures

Gambian Editor, Resettled in U.S., Wins Torture Case

Trial Watcher Says Rebecca Aguilar Overplayed Her Hand

"Illegal Alien" on the Rise, "Undocumented Immigrant" Use Falls

Mainstream Scarce When Journalists of Color Act Together

Fox News Viewers Found to Be More Misinformed

Racial Kinship an Attraction for Entrepreneurial News Site

Short Takes

Brian Berry of Strictly Skillz Barbershop in Orange County, Fla., says required licenses were in plain view when authorities raided his shop. (Credit: Orlando Sentinel) (Video)

Reporter Follows Story of Questionable Barbershop Raids

Jeff Weiner's stories in the Orlando Sentinel, starting last Jeff Weinermonth, would seem natural candidates for the wry "(fill in the blank) while black" tales that sprouted after "driving while black" took hold 20 years ago, inspired by racial profiling of African American motorists.

"As many as 14 armed Orange County deputies, including narcotics agents, stormed Strictly Skillz barbershop during business hours on a Saturday in August, handcuffing barbers in front of customers during a busy back-to-school weekend," Weiner wrote on Nov. 7.

"It was just one of a series of unprecedented raid-style inspections the Orange County Sheriff's Office recently conducted with a state regulating agency, targeting several predominantly black- and Hispanic-owned barbershops in the Pine Hills area.

"In 'sweeps' on Aug. 21 and Sept. 17 targeting at least nine shops, deputies arrested 37 people — the majority charged with 'barbering without a license,' a misdemeanor that state records show only three other people have been jailed [for] in Florida in the past 10 years.

"The operations were conducted without warrants, under the authority of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation inspectors, who can enter salons at will. Deputies said they found evidence of illegal activity, including guns, drugs and gambling. However, records show that during the two sweeps, and a smaller one in October, just three people were charged with anything other than a licensing violation."

The uproar was immediate, and by last week, Weiner was reporting:

"Three members of a state licensing agency — including regional and statewide program administrators — have been fired after an internal review of a series of unorthodox Orange County barbershop inspections with sheriff's deputies.

". . . Just days after an Orlando Sentinel report on the operations, described by barbers and customers as SWAT-style raids, the state licensing agency announced it was suspending all joint operations with law enforcement pending its internal review.

"The Sheriff's Office also is investigating its role in the operations, which included major sweeps Aug. 21 and Sept. 17 and a smaller operation Oct. 8."

In an e-mail exchange, Weiner, a breaking news/crime reporter, explained how he came upon the story and how he thinks race played into it.

"In a way, I actually discovered this story by being beaten to it," he began. "I was watching the local nightly news (as I typically do each night to see if we missed anything breaking during the day) on Aug. 21, the day of the first set of sweep operations. One of the local news stations . . . had a camera crew at one of the operations, and captured on camera deputies in ski masks loading barbers into a police van. The report said the barbers were facing an unlicensed barbering charge.

"I found all of this odd, particularly because I had never heard of anyone being arrested for cutting hair without a license. So I called a Sheriff's spokesman, who said the operations were targeting not drugs, but unlicensed barbers, and were a joint effort with a state licensing agency to crack down on unlicensed activity. The TV station gave the story a few minutes that night, and then dropped it. I found it strange enough to begin investigating. It took more than two months to get the records and interviews necessary to write the Nov. 7 article, and I have been covering the story ever since.

"As for the racial aspect, it is difficult to say. A lot of people, including many of the barbers themselves, have insisted that the nine or so shops that were specifically targeted in the operations were chosen because, as one of their attorneys put it, 'The stereotype is that young black men sell drugs, and where will you find young black men? You will find them in a barber shop.' The barbers targeted believe the Sheriff's Office used the authority of the state licensing agency to search area shops without needing warrants.

"The Sheriff's Office and the state agency have said that the shops chosen had a history of either uncooperative or even threatening behavior toward licensing inspectors (though the evidence for the latter is dubious at best). They said they visited other shops in the area, including white-owned establishments, with a lesser force 'to avoid any inference that anyone was being 'targeted' by the detail,' in the words of Sheriff's spokesman Capt. Angelo Nieves. They have also questioned the descriptions of barbers and customers that the operations were overly theatrical, or were carried out like raids.

"I can't tell you conclusively that race was involved. What I can say is this: The shops targeted in the two sweeps were all either black- or Hispanic-owned and operated. Of the 39 people arrested, 38 were either Hispanic or black. The checks at other area establishments involved a deputy or two, while the ones at the targeted shops involved in some cases more than a dozen, including narcotics agents. A review by the licensing agency involved revealed details of property damage, the use of canine units during inspections and, in some cases, the failure of inspectors to document entire operations. The review also determined that a licensing inspector forced his way into locked areas of barbershops during the operations, despite having no authority to do so, using tools provided by deputies. The results of that review led to three people at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation being fired, including regional and statewide program administrators."

But what about the race of the authorities?

"The Sheriff's Office says the operations stemmed from a chance encounter," Weiner continued. "Sheriff's Cpl. Keith Vidler saw a DBPR licensing inspector standing near her car. He approached her, and she complained that she'd been having difficulties with some area shops. He told his supervisor, Lt. Ron Chapman, and the two agencies got together to plan the operations." Vidler and Chapman are white.

"However, one of the oddities revealed in the DBPR report was that, though they said they realized early on that the show of force and the choice of targets (several minority owned shops in a notoriously high-crime area) could be controversial, neither the sheriff nor the head of the DBPR were told about the joint operations." Sheriff Jerry Demings is black. "In fact, DBPR Secretary Charlie Liem later told the Florida Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council that he learned of the joint effort when he read my first article."

The next exchange of e-mails mentioned barbers packing heat.

"The difficulties described by licensing inspectors in area shops ranged from general complaints of uncooperative behavior to feelings that barbers were behaving menacingly towards them," Weiner said.

"For example, since inspectors are not law enforcement officers and have no arrest authority, they said some unlicensed barbers had a habit of walking out of shops when they saw an inspector coming. It was mostly that type of behavior, plus general rudeness and a sense that inspectors were unwelcome in the shops.

"However, there were times when inspectors said they felt genuinely threatened by barbers. The example most often cited by the sheriff's office is that on one occasion, an inspector said she left a shop after she saw that a barber had a handgun in his waistband.

"The Sheriff's Office tells that story a bit differently. Sheriff's officials have said the barber with the gun showed it to the woman and threatened her. However, the inspector in question said in her internal report of the incident that she saw it in his waistband and became uncomfortable, not that he specifically threatened her.

"According to DBPR internal documents, that incident happened in a shop in Casselberry, which is not in Orange County. The shop where that incident was alleged to have occurred was not among those targeted in these operations, though its sister shop (Just Blaze) in Orange County was. And though the inspector said she felt threatened, she did not call 911, as would be agency policy in such a situation."

All in all, not a bad tipoff from the nightly local news.

Police Say Meteorologist Blames Hispanic in False Report

'You guys ready for the arctic chill?' WABC meteorologist Heidi Jones posted on her Facebook page Monday, the day she was arrested, the New York Post reported.<br>"A New York City TV weatherwoman has been unfairly caught in the eye of a media storm ever since police accused her of filing a false assault report, her lawyer said Friday," MSNBC reported Friday night, citing NBC and wire reports.

WABC meteorologist Heidi Jones, who is white, claimed she was accosted by a Hispanic man, according to press accounts.

Jones "never told police she was the victim of rape or attempted rape and has been portrayed wrongly and even defamed in 'disturbingly one-sided and unfair' press accounts about her arrest, attorney Paul Callan said in a statement obtained by NBC News.

"Callan branded as a 'complete lie' allegations in a Friday New York Daily News article based on anonymous sources that police gave Jones round-the-clock protection after she told them she was accosted twice by a Hispanic man.

"Police ticketed Jones Monday for false reporting. They said she had told them she was accosted by the same man on two occasions, while jogging in Central Park and again near her apartment. She claimed her assailant was a stocky Hispanic male in his 30s wearing a black jeans jacket and blue jeans, about 5 feet 9 inches tall.

"Jones was given a desk appearance ticket, which is akin to a traffic violation and does not require the suspect be taken into custody. The charge is a misdemeanor and she was scheduled to appear in court Jan. 15. If convicted, she could face a year in prison and fines," MSNBC reported. ". . . WABC said it has suspended Jones pending the outcome of an internal investigation."

The New York Post had quoted sources reporting that "Jones said she concocted the tale in a plea for sympathy to counter some unknown setback that she was experiencing in her personal life."

If true, Jones' fabrication of a Hispanic attacker would add to a disturbing list of racial hoaxes. Law professor Katheryn Russell-Brown, author of "The Color of Crime," documented 67 such cases that occurred between 1987 and 1996.

In 2005, Jennifer Wilbanks, "the runaway bride," on the lam from her pending nuptials, falsely reported she had been sexually assaulted by an interracial couple, a white woman and a Hispanic man.

"The majority of perpetrators were someone white falsely accusing someone black," Russell-Brown said then. "You typically don't see the Hispanic criminal in terms of a hoax case, but she put this duo together and it's got this resonance... It's still this idea of a criminal element that is colored."

The stories "work because they tap into widely held fears about crime and about who one's likely attacker might be," Russell-Brown said.

The Hispanic media in New York did not appear to be emphasizing Jones' characterization of the assailant as Hispanic.

Bloomberg Is Hiring but Won't Disclose Diversity Figures

Michael RileyThe Bloomberg financial reporting operation will not disclose how diverse or not diverse its journalists are, a spokeswoman said Friday, but it is hiring.

"While it is our policy not to disclose private information about employees or our workforce, Bloomberg LP is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and we have dedicated diversity efforts across the company," the spokeswoman said.

The question arose as Bloomberg News, part of a company created by Michael R. Bloomberg, now New York mayor, is "making an aggressive push into the Washington media terrain long dominated by trade publications and news outlets like Congressional Quarterly and National Journal, which charge high subscription fees to provide lobbyists and Capitol Hill insiders with information on the nuts-and-bolts of lawmaking and government regulation," as Jeremy W. Peters reported in October for the New York Times.

"The service, called Bloomberg Government, is based on the same guiding principle that spawned the original Bloomberg financial data machine: people need an aggregator and filter for information, and they will pay a lot of money for that convenience.

"Bloomberg Government is an information behemoth — a news aggregator, government contract database, Congressional staff directory and source for policy research and analysis all in one Web site.

"Unlike the Bloomberg financial information service, Bloomberg Government will not require separate hardware to operate. For $5,700 a year for each user (a discount will be available for government users), subscribers will be able to gain access to the system through their personal computers."

Michael Riley, managing editor of Bloomberg Government, said, "I can tell you that hiring for difference is vitally important to me, and it's something I've focused on in previous jobs with some success."

Job opportunities for Bloomberg Government are listed on this website.

The American Society of News Editors has urged that diversity numbers be shared since 1978, when its Minorities Committee recommended, "There should be at least an annual accounting by ASNE of minority employment, including not just total jobs but types of positions held" and set a goal of achieving parity with the general population by 2000. That was later amended to 2025 or sooner.

Gambian Editor, Resettled in U.S., Wins Torture Case

Musa Saidykhan

"Musa Saidykhan, who was detained for three weeks in 2006 by Gambian state security agents, was tortured and must receive compensation, a West African regional court ruled on Thursday," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Friday.

Saidykhan, editor-in-chief of the now-banned private biweekly The Independent, resettled in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2008 but returned to West Africa for the trial.

He "was detained for 22 days without charge by the Gambian National Intelligence Agency (NIA) during a brutal government crackdown following a purported coup plot. He said he was tortured during his detention and brought a lawsuit at the Nigeria-based Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) demanding compensation for illegal detention and torture," CPJ explained.

"On Thursday, a panel of four judges ruled in his favor in a lawsuit filed by the Ghana-based press freedom group Media Foundation of West Africa. The court ordered the Gambian government to pay Saidykhan damages of US$200,000. The ruling is final without possibility of appeal, the foundation’s executive director, Kwame Karikari, told CPJ.

"In the court papers, Saidykhan alleged that NIA agents administered 'electric shocks on his body including his genitals' in order to extract a self-incriminating confession of involvement in the purported coup. NIA agents also allegedly threatened to bury him alive in a graveyard near the detention center.

" 'As a result of the physical, mental, and psychological torture inflicted on me, I am left with scars on my back, legs, arms, and a bayonet cut on my left jaw,' Saidykhan stated in his affidavit."

In a first-person story for CPJ last year, Saidykhan said he had been living "a normal life" in Michigan, "though freezing temperatures and several inches of snow have taken a great toll on us. Our resettlement process was smooth, especially with the help of our agency and its sponsors who network us with people in all walks of life. I have yet to start working in journalism again."

[He said by e-mail early Saturday, the "United States remains my home until the dictatorial regime back home is removed from power."]

Trial Watcher Says Rebecca Aguilar Overplayed Her Hand

Rebecca Aguilar

"So, upon further review, did the jury decide wisely? Should it have rejected former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar's claim that race and retaliation were the motivating factors behind her suspension and the eventual non-renewal of her contract?" Dallas television writer Ed Bark, apparently the only reporter to cover Aguilar's charges when they went to trial, wrote Wednesday on his blog.

". . . Aguilar's principal claim against Fox4 was that the station continually ignored her written and verbal lobbying on behalf of hiring more minority newsroom managers. Specifically, Hispanic news managers. She ultimately paid the price for being a 'thorn in the side' of management, as one of her attorneys, Chris Raesz, told jurors in his closing argument.

"That's a hard argument to sell. [Maria] Barrs, who is Asian-American, remains the only minority news director at any of D-FW's television news providers — NBC5, WFAA8, CBS11, TXA21 and CW33. And in a 'University of Diversity' article posted on this site in May 2008, Fox4 was found to have more minority reporters — nine — than any other news room. Its overall grade of B-minus was the second highest given, behind WFAA8's A-minus for its wealth of high-profile minority anchors." "D-FW" refers to Dallas-Fort Worth.

". . . In the end, she was a dogged, outspoken reporter who won many awards but in the end overplayed her hand. As a prospective, ultimately unchosen juror said at the very start, 'It's just that corporate usually wins out.'

"Corporate won out. They had the best cards, and they played them."

"Illegal Alien" on Rise; "Undocumented Immigrant" Use Falls

"Four years ago, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists launched a campaign to change the terms that news organizations use to refer to people who enter the country illegally. Rather than referring to them as 'illegal immigrants,' as the Associated Press Stylebook recommends, or the more loaded 'illegal alien,' NAHJ proposed using the term 'undocumented immigrant'," Karen Carmichael and Rabiah Alicia Burks wrote for the December/January issue of American Journalism Review.

". . . A recent analysis of the frequency with which 'illegal immigrant' turns up in U.S. newspapers and wire services reveals that usage has declined since 2006 — but the term still shows up fairly frequently, as it has for decades.

". . . Ivan Roman, executive director of NAHJ, "says he's not surprised by the continued presence of 'illegal immigrant' and 'illegal alien,' which some publications still use. But he adds that the NAHJ campaign has made an impact.

"That impact, though, didn't translate into an uptick in use of NAHJ's preferred term, 'undocumented immigrant.' Between October 10 and October 16, the phrase was used 36 times in newspaper and wire service accounts — down from 69 times in October 2006, and nearly even with the 33 times in 2000.

"Meanwhile, news outlets' use of the term 'illegal alien' was on the upswing. It appeared 110 times in U.S. newspapers and wire services in that week in October 2010, up from 28 times in 2000."

Mainstream Scarce When Journalists of Color Act Together

Richard Prince

"Reading the Fishbowl blogs about the media — there are three of them, for New York, Washington and Los Angeles, all part of — one sometimes gets the impression that media people of color exist merely as window dressing. They rarely do anything collectively on their own," this columnist wrote Friday for the Poynter Institute, expanding on an earlier Journal-isms item.

". . . It’s important to note that the Fishbowls are not unique." When they act collectively, "Most of the substantive activities of journalists of color are ignored by the mainstream media, blogs included. That includes black journalists going to Haiti to help fellow journalists impaired by the earthquake, or the revelatory stories chronicled by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists at its annual awards dinners, which until recent budget problems were held in Washington.

"We see journalists of color at a National Press Club event or a bookstore signing, but black bloggers held a national 'Blogging While Brown' conference in Washington; the national black press comes to town every year as part of the National Newspaper Publishers Association conference; and the various journalists of color organizations hold mixers, dinners and ceremonies that herald the achievements of their peers. The mainstream generally leaves these kinds of events unreported, along with the story tips those activities could generate.

"The issue seems more acute in cyberspace. Unlike their predecessors in print and broadcast, online operations haven’t felt the sting of boycotts, lawsuits and EEOC complaints."

Fox News Viewers Found to Be More Misinformed

"News organizations can educate voters about public policy and economic conditions, but they can also misinform voters. As if to prove the point, a study released Friday found that 'substantial levels of misinformation' seeped out to the electorate of the United States at the time of the midterm elections this year," Brian Stelter reported for the New York Times.

"The study was conducted by, a project that is managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland.

"According to the study, which can be reviewed online, in most cases, the more a person watched and read the news, the less likely they were to have been misled about the facts. But 'there were however a number of cases where greater exposure to a news source increased misinformation on a specific issue,' the study’s authors wrote. In particular, they found that regular viewers of the Fox News Channel, which tilts to the right in prime time, were significantly more likely to believe untruths about the Democratic health care overhaul, climate change and other subjects.

"The study found other cases where greater exposure to media meant greater misinformation on a subject. Regular viewers of MSNBC, which tilts to the left in prime time, were 34 percentage points more likely than non-viewers to believe 'that it was proven that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was spending money raised from foreign sources to support Republican candidates.' Consumers of public broadcasting were 25 points more likely to believe the same.

"But the study found many more instances that involved Fox News."

Racial Kinship an Attraction for Entrepreneurial News Site

"Glenn Burkins has an impressive journalism background: In Glenn Burkinsa previous life he was deputy managing editor at the Charlotte Observer, White House correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, and foreign correspondent for the Philadelphia Inquirer," Andrew Pergam wrote for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation's Knight Citizen News Network.

". . . he now runs two community news sites specifically designed to reach African-American readers in Charlotte:, which he launched in December 2008, and, launched in mid-2010. Both allow him to cover his community in a fundamentally different way. And he has plans for more.

"In all his time in large newsrooms, something struck him: The papers wrote about the local African-American community in a fundamentally different way. For example, when mentioning a particular mega church, editors often added a comma and a descriptor: the largest African-American church in the community. At the same time, editors did not add a line after the name of a large, historically white church. That difference, Burkins believed, gave readers a hint at the paper’s intended audience.

"It wasn’t just historically black institutions. Instead of writing John Smith, a 23-year-old man, was shot and killed in West Charlotte, the lead on Burkins’ story may be less formal, like Johnny Smith was shot and killed.

" 'Those subtle things are telling readers that they’re not writing for you. And on, I don’t have to explain what Friendship Baptist Church is.' The roughly 27,000 people a month who read know the church well.

"Burkins considers race a natural niche for an entrepreneurial news site."

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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