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Ben Bradlee Wrestled With Racial Issues

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fabled Editor, Dead at 93, Acknowledged His Ignorance

Autopsy Indicates Michael Brown Reached for Cop's Gun

Debate Questioners Overwhelmingly White Men

Poynter to Host African Journalists University Turned Away

David Plazas to Lead Tennessean Editorial Board

NAHJ Says Free Regional Conferences Pay Off

"A Limited View of Boys From the Bronx"

Short Takes

Fabled Editor, Dead at 93, Acknowledged His Ignorance

After Benjamin C. Bradlee entered hospice care in mid-September, this columnist asked a few female reporters and black journalists who worked under Bradlee in the Washington Post of the 1970s to assess him, anticipating the inevitable. Most declined.

It is clear, however, that while the Bradlee era has been defined as one of the Pentagon Papers and Watergate, it was also one of black struggle and women's liberation, areas in which Bradlee had a steep learning curve. It is a tribute to Bradlee, who died Tuesday at age 93, that those who were willing to comment gave him the benefit of the doubt for lessons learned.

"Like many people of his class and era, he thought suing your employer was basically rude, and unions were there only to protect the incompetent," said Megan Rosenfeld, a Style section writer during that time.

"He favored women (as employees) who could out swagger him. But eventually he got it, and while I never heard him express regret over the way women had been treated — as opposed to minorities, which I think he did express regret for ignoring — I believe that deep down he knew we’d had a bad deal and had to fight and unite to be heard." Women at the Post filed charges of discrimination in 1974, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled in their favor.

Ivan C. Brandon, one of the Metro Seven, black reporters who took the Post before the EEOC in 1972, said, "Ben Bradlee was brash, arrogant, loud and demanding, all of which helped make him one of the best newspaper editors of his time. He was fearless and every reporter who worked for him knew that he had their back. [I was] a young reporter who had little experience in a newsroom, [and] Bradlee set the example of what an editor should be. He set the bar very high and I doubt if there will ever be another one like him.

"No matter what you thought of him personally, you had to admire his style, his dedication and his love of the business."

Consider Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee's roots.

"To be blunt about it," he wrote in his 1995 autobiography, "A Good Life: Newspapering and Other Adventures," "I didn't know anything about blacks, or the black experience, and I was about to become involved in the leadership of the number-one newspaper in a city that was 70 percent black, and a readership that was 25 percent black. I had had no black friends growing up.

"There were no blacks in my boarding school, only three blacks in my class at college, none of whom I knew at all. I had only one black friend as a grown-up . . . my Newsweek colleague, Lionel Durand, in Paris. He was Haitian and French, and he didn't know all that much about American blacks. At Newsweek I had known a handful of black leaders, like Roy Wilkins, A. Philip Randolph, Louis Martin, but I knew no ordinary black people. . . . "

Bradlee, who first came to the Post as a reporter in 1948, was describing his return to the newspaper in 1965 as deputy managing editor for national and international affairs. Fast forward to 1971, when Bradlee was executive editor. Jeff Himmelman, who had access to Bradlee's papers for his 2012 book, "Yours in Truth: A Personal Portrait of Ben Bradlee," wrote this passage:

"Every year, starting in 1969, Ben invited the top editors at the Post to a retreat at his country house on the Cacapon River in West Virginia. They called it, with some irony, 'Pugwash,' after the nuclear disarmament conferences started by Bertrand Russell in the fifties. It became a yearly and much larger tradition over time. A look at the proceedings from one of the early Pugwashes gives you some sense of what black reporters at the Post were up against:

"During the Pugwash of 1971, one of the major topics that the editors took up was the issue of race at the paper. Thankfully, somebody brought a tape recorder and used it.

" 'Certainly on the question of blacks Gene [Patterson, managing editor] and I have been deeply involved and deeply depressed,' Ben said at the start of the discussion. 'I had a black news aide that the fourth floor [composing room] ran out because they kept calling him a nigger.' A pretty concise description of the problem.

"Others had similar experiences. Harry Rosenfeld said simply, 'I want to see some white faces doing the menial jobs.' Howard Simons: 'I also find that we are racist in the sense that we regard the blacks at the Washington Post in a monolithic way. We talk about them as blacks. We don't talk about the whites that way — we talk about the whites as individuals.'

"Everybody agreed that they needed to offer more and better training for black reporters, and then a debate ensued about newsroom culture. Should reporters be allowed to wear black power necklaces and that kind of thing? 'If a guy goes out with a black fist or a button, he's telling people what he thinks, he's taking a position,' one editor said. 'I don't think he should.'

" 'More than an Afro hairdo and those sharp flared pants?' Ben interjected. 'My God.'

"It sounds like what it is, a bunch of World War II-era white guys talking about black people as if they were Martians. But reading through the whole transcript, I was struck by how genuine and thoughtful the debate was, despite the cultural barriers and some of the paternalistic terminology. They didn't have the answers for the racial problems at the Post, but their effort to try to figure it out feels sincere. 'We were all trying very hard,' Gene Patterson told me, 'but we were learning together, and we were learning very slowly.' . . . ."

The Post has always had a higher-than-average percentage of journalists of color on its staff. But as the late Post columnist William Raspberry said, "When you do more, more is expected of you."

The year after the 1971 Pugwash, the Metro Seven, which included this columnist, presented Bradlee with a plan for goals and timetables at the Post newsroom. Bradlee rejected it, calling it a quota system. "The only quota appropriate for this newspaper is a quota on quality," the editor said.

Five years after the Post rejected goals and timetables, Robert C. Maynard, who had been the Post ombudsman, left the newspaper, saying he knew he would never rise to the top job. He later became editor and publisher of the Oakland Tribune and co-founder of what is now the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

The racial issue blew up for Bradlee again in 1980, when black reporter Janet Cooke, who had impressed Bradlee with false claims that she had graduated from Vassar and studied at the Sorbonne, fabricated a story about an 8-year-old heroin addict. "Jimmy's World" won a Pulitzer Prize, which the Post returned when the fabrication was uncovered.

"How come we never checked" her credentials? Bradlee asked in his autobiography. He answered, "Simply put, Janet Cooke was too good to be true, and we wanted her too bad."

Writer Jill Nelson noted Bradlee's interest in the credentials of the privileged in her 1993 book "Volunteer Slavery: My Authentic Negro Experience." Maida Odom wrote then in the Philadelphia Inquirer, "On the day she was interviewed for a writing job at the Washington Post's new magazine in 1986, she recalls, the conversations seemed less about her work and more about her.

"Editor Ben Bradlee, who has since retired, warmed up, according to Nelson, only after she told him she'd summered each year at Martha's Vineyard. The privileged background that Nelson had alternately enjoyed and eschewed had given her an 'in.' . . ."

In 1998, after Bradlee had stepped down as top editor, he wrote to Katharine Graham, the publisher who was his partner in the Post's greatest moments.

"When I got to the Post, I knew that I wasn't a racist — I just knew it — and therefore I could not get my arms around the concept that intelligent people thought I was. And of course from their point of view I was. Because of my totally white perspective, because of my total removal from the black experience, because of my unawareness of the common denominators of the black experience — like poverty, like inferior educations, like unequal opportunities . . . I began, just barely began, to grasp the fact that there was a white version of the truth and a black version of the truth, and they had damn little to do with each other."

Indeed, by 1986 the Post, which had rejected goals and timetables as quotas, embraced the idea that a newspaper should reflect the demographics of its circulation area. That has also been the goal, on a national level, of the American Society of News Editors.

Ben W. Gilbert, a former Post city editor who worked at the Post from 1941 to 1970, quoted Roger Wilkins, whose Watergate editorials helped win the Post the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for public service, on what Wilkins saw as two versions of the truth.

"Roger Wilkins, a candid black observer who served as a U. S. assistant attorney general in the 1960s and worked as an editorial writer on the Post and other newspapers, viewed some of the problems facing African American journalists as cultural," Gilbert wrote in a history of race relations at the Post in the fall/winter 1993/1994 edition of Washington History, published by the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

" 'Traits which are valued in whites (and which make people good journalists) are discouraged in blacks,' Wilkins wrote the author. "The black youngster is apt to hesitate a step, to be cautious, to look for clues that are reinforcing and supportive.' Wilkins urged a 'sustained and intelligent interest and pressure from the publisher' coupled with thoughtful training of editors. 'A publisher should never underestimate the ignorance of his supervisors — or their residual bigotry.' . . ."

Bobbi Bowman, a member of the Metro Seven whose Post afterlife included time as diversity director for ASNE, chose to look beyond racial issues when asked to evaluate Bradlee.

"I will always thank Ben Bradlee for teaching me what it takes to run a newspaper that's fearless in pursuit of news for its readers," she said. "A fearless publisher and a fearless editor."

Services, which are open to the public, are scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 11 a.m. at the Washington National Cathedral.

Autopsy Indicates Michael Brown Reached for Cop's Gun

"The official autopsy on Michael Brown shows that he was shot in the hand at close range, according to an analysis of the findings by two experts not involved directly in the case," Christine Byers and Blythe Bernhard reported Wednesday for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

"The accompanying toxicology report [PDF] shows he had been using marijuana.

"Those documents, prepared by the St. Louis County medical examiner and obtained by the Post-Dispatch, provide the most detailed description to date of the wounds Brown sustained in a confrontation Aug. 9 with Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson.

"A source with knowledge of Wilson's statements said the officer had told investigators that Brown had struggled for Wilson's pistol inside a police SUV and that Wilson had fired the gun twice, hitting Brown once in the hand. Later, Wilson fired additional shots that killed Brown and ignited a national controversy.

"The St. Louis medical examiner, Dr. Michael Graham, who is not part of the official investigation, reviewed the autopsy report for the newspaper. He said Tuesday that it 'does support that there was a significant altercation at the car.'

"Graham said the examination indicated a shot traveled from the tip of Brown's right thumb toward his wrist. The official report notes an absence of stippling, powder burns around a wound that indicate a shot fired at relatively short range.

"But Graham said, 'Sometimes when it's really close, such as within an inch or so, there is no stipple, just smoke.'

"The report on a supplemental microscopic exam of tissue from the thumb wound showed foreign matter 'consistent with products that are discharged from the barrel of a firearm.'

"Dr. Judy Melinek, a forensic pathologist in San Francisco, said the autopsy 'supports the fact that this guy is reaching for the gun, if he has gunpowder particulate material in the wound.' She added, 'If he has his hand near the gun when it goes off, he's going for the officer's gun.'

"Sources told the Post-Dispatch that Brown's blood had been found on Wilson's gun.

"Melinek also said the autopsy did not support witnesses who have claimed Brown was shot while running away from Wilson, or with his hands up. . . ."

In a Univision forum on Thursday, President Obama tells   moderators Jorge Ramos,

Debate Questioners Overwhelmingly White Men

"The journalists questioning candidates in this fall's biggest campaign debates are overwhelmingly white men, according to an msnbc analysis of the nation’s most contested Senate and gubernatorial races," Krystal Ball and Anne L. Thompson reported Wednesday for

"In the closest [Senate] races, 7 out of 10 of debate moderators and panelists were men, while 92% were white. In the closest gubernatorial campaigns, 7 out of 10 debate moderators and panelists were men, while 79% were white.

"These numbers were calculated based on publicly available data on 71 debates held to date in the 24 senate and gubernatorial races ranked as tossups by RealClearPolitics as of Monday.

" 'The numbers are disappointing but not surprising,' said former Chicago Tribune editor Ann Marie Lipinski, who currently heads up Harvard's Nieman Foundation for Journalism. 'Debate moderators are chosen from newsrooms where the representation of women and minorities in senior political or editing roles is decidedly low.'

"Like Lipinski, Bob Butler, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, was also disappointed by the lack of diversity. 'Those are awfully low numbers for a country that is around 35% people of color,' said Butler. . . ."

Ball and Thompson also wrote, "At an Illinois gubernatorial debate last week co-hosted by the Urban League, African-American journalist Perri Small opened the debate by asking Republican candidate Bruce Rauner about diversity in his own workplaces. 'You earned $63 million last year yet there are no African-Americans in the companies where you have been a decision maker,' said Small. 'Why should the African-American community trust you for their vote?'

"Questions like this one, posed by a black woman on an issue of concern to a minority community, have been few and far between in top Senate and gubernatorial races across the country.

"Richard Prince, chair of the Diversity Committee of the Association of Opinion Journalists, said the debate moderator's perspective matters. . . ."

Meanwhile, Nedra Pickler reported Wednesday for the Associated Press, President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person. . . ."

Pickler also wrote, "The Democratic National Committee is using Obama's popularity among blacks in a seven-figure advertising campaign targeted at minorities and young voters. An ad targeted for black newspapers reads 'GET HIS BACK' in large letters over a picture of Obama and urges readers to stand with the president by voting for Democrats.

"In a DNC commercial airing on radio stations popular among black listeners, an Obama speech touting his economic agenda is set to jazz and ends with a voiceover urging listeners 'to stand up for our community and vote Nov. 4.' . . ." 

Poynter to Host African Journalists University Turned Away

"The Poynter Institute will host a group of Edward R. Murrow journalists from African countries whose visit to the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg was canceled because of concerns about spread of the Ebola virus, Poynter president Tim Franklin announced today," Benjamin Mullin reported Tuesday for the Poynter Institute.

"In an impromptu meeting, Franklin told Poynter staff that the decision to host the journalists — who are not from Ebola-affected countries — is rooted in the best traditions of the institute. . . ."

David Plazas to Lead Tennessean Editorial Board

"Longtime journalist David Plazas will be joining The Tennessean as its new lead engagement editor, leading the editorial board and voice of The Tennessean," the Tennessean reported in Nashville on Wednesday.

"Plazas was most recently the digital engagement editor at the Fort Myers [Fla.] News-Press. He will start in Music City on Nov. 24. Here he will be a primary face of The Tennessean, leading community engagement efforts, writing editorials and connecting with and building audiences on all platforms. . . ."

Plazas has been a student project mentor and leader for Unity: Journalists for Diversity and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, is a member of Gannett Leadership and Diversity Council and a board member of the Florida Association of News Editors. He has also written for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association and been a recruiter for the  Gannett Co. at the NLGJA convention.

A June count found only two Hispanic editorial page editors at mainstream U.S. newspapers, Brian Calle of the Orange County Register in California and John Diaz at the San Francisco Chronicle.

NAHJ Says Free Regional Conferences Pay Off

After a successful regional conference in Mexico City over the weekend, Mekahlo Medina, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, announced that members henceforth could attend regional conferences without charge.

Former board member Manuel De La Rosa objected in a message to Journal-isms.

Regional conferences were supposed to be "a way to get more revenue into NAHJ, but if members aren't are those events going to make money," De La Rosa asked. "We also at NAHJ in the past had discussed going away from a national conference due to the lack of attendees or hosting conferences with other groups that limits the amount of money we can make. The recommendations were to go to four super regional conferences. I would imagine they are doing this....they must believe in the national conferences again. I understand . . . they say it's part of our benefits, but having a conference for free means you value it at $0.

"Nothing should be free, especially a conference. A lot of hard work is put into those events and it's worth something. This NAHJ administration is going to drive the group into [a] big problem financially with this type of decision making. We worked hard as [an] NAHJ Board to get us out of the red, but these last two administrations are doing everything to put us back there. It's disappointing."

Asked to comment, Medina messaged Journal-isms:

"NAHJ looked at a four things before making the decision to offer regionals free to members.

"First, we looked at the what we wanted to achieve with regionals: to provide training and development for more members.

"Second, we looked at the profit of the last four regionals and conducted a profit projection for future regionals. We concluded regionals brought less than .8% of yearly budget.

"Third, we looked at the time and effort [in] the national office on preparing and executing regionals.

"Fourth, we tested it out at our last regional in Mexico City. We had a record registration of nearly 400 attendees.

"In the end, we concluded Regionals, which are sponsored, should be first and foremost a benefit of membership to NAHJ. We are [focusing] regionals to be stronger training and development opportunities for members.

"As a result, we are using regionals to attract new members as well.

"Growing our membership will help us better attract sponsorship and that will cancel out or [supersede] any minor monetary gain we achieved with charging for regionals.

"Bottom-line, Regionals are part of what you get for being a member of NAHJ. We are committed to your growth and development as a journalist. Regionals [give] us an opportunity to provide that training and attract new members in the process."

Medina also said, "It's not free. Members pay $75 a year and this is part of their membership. Mr. De La Rosa should do research on the facts before making statements regarding NAHJ financial well-being. We are in the best shape financially we have been in five years. Since he left office, we [doubled] membership and [tripled] our revenue."

"A Limited View of Boys From the Bronx"

"In 1936, Aaron Siskind, a founding member of the Photo League, brought together a group of young photographers to survey New York's neighborhoods," Maurice Berger wrote Wednesday for the New York Times "Lens" blog.

"The 'Harlem Document' would become their most famous study. Its principal objectives were to produce evidence of a neighborhood in peril — from substandard housing to inadequate health care — and to promote reform. One of the document's most important artifacts, a photo essay published in Look magazine in May 1940, offers insights into the way the largely white documentary team represented the African-American community from the outside.

"The article's view of Harlem was unremittingly grim. It stressed the community's misfortune while ignoring its rich history, cultural life and the many residents who endured, and even flourished, in spite of hardships. . . ."

Berger also wrote, "Seventy-four years later, a new book by the photographer Stephen Shames titled 'Bronx Boys' (University of Texas Press) rekindles questions about the responsibilities inherent in documenting a community.

" 'Bronx Boys' chronicles a group of young men coming of age in an environment besieged by poverty, drugs and gang warfare. It focuses on a subculture of 'crews,' informal associations of mostly adolescent men teamed together for protection and companionship.

"Mr. Shames began the project in 1977 photographing the Fordham Bedford and Bathgate sections of the Bronx while on assignment for Look magazine. Mr. Shames frequently returned to the area over the next 22 years and continued to photograph the men. . . ."

Short Takes

  • "This breakup is for the best," Ruben Navarrette Jr. wrote Tuesday for the Washington Post Writers Group, discussing the rift between CNN and the National Association of Black Journalists. "CNN should not support the NABJ's convention. It should also not give a dime to the other organizations that claim to represent journalists of color. These groups should never have accepted money from media companies to begin with, since it compromised their ability to be industry watchdogs. . . ."

  • Chuck Todd, the new host of NBC's "Meet the Press," told Joe Strupp of Media Matters for America that diversity is "a front-burner issue for us, not a back-burner issue." Strupp wrote Wednesday, "While Todd said he had so far sought to make his weekly roundtables diverse, he warned of challenges in providing a balanced slate of interview subjects. Todd highlighted how, for instance, '90 percent of the generals and the military experts out there' are white men. 'Some of this stuff is out of your control. At the end of the day, you want to put the best people on. You want to put the best, smartest people on,' Todd said. . . . "

  • "MPR News today is pleased to announce a new addition to its leadership teamJonathan Blakley. and new audio programs for its audiences," Minnesota Public Radio announced on Thursday. "Jonathan Blakley, formerly of NPR, will join the newsroom as its new program director, beginning next week. He will oversee radio programming and audio content development within the newsroom. Part of his new portfolio will include a variety of new podcasts that will showcase new voices discussing a range of topics. . . . At NPR, Blakley worked as a producer/editor overseeing its Baghdad bureau operations during the war. He has produced stories from the Philippines, Egypt, Libya, Lebanon, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti. . . ." [Added Oct. 23]

  • "The Guardian announced today that it is further expanding its US opinion section with the addition of nearly a dozen columnists and contributing opinion writers. The announcement was made by Guardian US editor in chief Katharine Viner," the news organization announced Thursday. Viner identified those of color as Roxane Gay, Steven Thrasher, Reza Aslan, Rebecca Carroll, Syreeta McFadden and Hannah Giorgis. "The Guardian has passed the New York Times to become the world’s second most popular English-language newspaper website, according to the latest monthly traffic figures from comScore," Mark Sweney of the Guardian reported Tuesday. [Added Oct. 23]

  • "These Negroes aren't necessarily house Negroes but they are getting close," Wayne Bennett wrote Monday on his blog, the Field Negro. "I suppose that these [Negroes] could be referred to as porch (or patio) Negroes, since they aren't quite in the house as yet, but they sure as hell aren't out here in the fields with the rest of us," Bennett added, listing NBC corrrespondent Lester Holt; "Live! with Kelly & Michael" co-host Michael Strahan; entertainers Nelly, D.L. HughleyKanye West and Key & Peele; hip-hop business magnate Russell Simmons; Fox News analyst Juan Williams; BET Chairman and CEO Debra Lee; and Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J. Bennett gave honorable mentions to actress Zoe Saldana; music superstars Jay-Z and Beyonce; Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ronald C. Johnson and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D).

  • "Cal State L.A. will celebrate the life and career of pioneering Mexican American journalist Rubén Salazar with the opening of a multimedia exhibition, entitled 'Legacy of Rubén Salazar: A Man of His Words, a Man of His Time,' on Thursday, Oct. 23," the university announced. The notice explained, "Salazar was an accomplished journalist, foreign correspondent and columnist for the Los Angeles Times and news director for Spanish-language KMEX-TV. He was killed by a tear-gas missile fired by a Sheriff's Department deputy in East Los Angeles during the National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War on Aug. 29, 1970." The exhibit runs through March 27.

  • "CBS News 24-hour digital news channel will be called CBSN, Capital has learned, and the network is preparing to launch a marketing campaign around it, a source told Capital, featuring the tagline 'CBS News. Always On,' Alex Weprin reported Wednesday for Weprin also wrote, "The channel, which will stream live to TV sets, P.C.s and mobile devices, mimics the look of cable news channels, but in a less formal newsroom setting. CBS News correspondents Jeff Glor and Elaine Quijano are among the anchors for the service, which will also feature original reporting from all of CBS' reporters. . . .”

  • "Harlingen High School Head Football Coach Manny Gomez on Thursday apologized for explosive remarks he made during a videotaped interview following the Cardinals' stunning loss to San Benito in the classic Battle of the Arroyo last Friday," Fernando Del Valle reported Friday for the Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas. Gomez's outburst followed a question from Manuel [De] la Rosa of High School Sports Magazine, 'Does this loss hurt?'  Gomez responds with an angry, 'C'mon, man, are you serious? Are you frickin' serious? Are you frickin’ serious?' He repeats the phrase a few more times, and ends by telling [De] la Rosa, 'Don’t ever come to my game again — understand that.' . . ." 

  • "Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett just signed a new law that allows convicted prisoners to be sued by their victims for 'seeking publicity or money,' Todd Steven Burroughs wrote Wednesday for The Root. The law is aimed at prison journalist and convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Burroughs also wrote, "what one needs to know about the case today is simple: Abu-Jamal's supporters think him innocent and framed (in one way or another) and want him free, and his opponents want him dead. This is a struggle for life, all puns intended. No compromise is possible. . . ."

  • "Think white privilege doesn't exist in America?" Kevin Short asked Tuesday for the Huffington Post. "Consider just how much the color of a child's skin changes his or her odds of escaping poverty later in life. Roughly 16 percent of white children born into the poorest one-fifth of U.S. families will rise to become a member of the top one-fifth by the time they turn 40 years old, according to a new study by Brookings Institution researchers for the Boston Federal Reserve. Those are fairly bleak odds, but for poor black children the odds of making it to the top are even longer: Only 3 percent of black children born into the poorest one-fifth of families will ever make the leap to the top income group, according to the study. . . ."

  • "Just days after Univision Puerto Rico shut down its news operations, WAPA Televisión announced it's launching a new Spanish-language primetime newscast produced specifically for the U.S. market," Veronica Villafañe wrote Tuesday for her Media Moves site. " 'Noticentro América,' debuts next Monday, October 27. The one-hour newscast will air live on WAPA’s U.S. sister cable network, WAPA América, Monday-Friday at 8pm ET/5pm PT. . . ."

  • Dallas Morning News correspondent Alfredo Corchado's "Midnight In Mexico" documents his experiences as a journalist during the peak of the Mexican drug war. On Oct. 16, NPR's "Alt.Latino" hosts Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd discussed the book, "the music that inspired its author, and the state of the Mexican drug war today. . . . [audio] "

  • The International Federation of Journalists said Tuesday that it joins its regional group "to express its deep shock at the murder of Paraguayan journalist, Pablo Medina Velasquez. According to reports, Medina, 53, a regional correspondent for Paraguay's largest independent newspaper, ABC Color, was returning from a reporting trip outside the eastern city of Curuguaty last Thursday, 16 October, when his vehicle was stopped by two gunmen on a motorcycle. He was shot four times and died at the scene. His assistant Antonia Maribel Almada, 19, was also killed in the attack. Four suspects are said to have been detained. . . ."

  • Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it was appalled that newspaper publisher Mike Mukebayi of the Democratic Republic of Congo "has been held without any justification for the past two months because of a libel suit. The length of his pre-trial detention is out of all proportion, especially as judicial examination of the case has not yet begun. . . ."

  • Nguyen Van Hai, a citizen journalist better known by the blog name of Dieu Cay, was released Tuesday, Reporters Without Borders reported with approval, but the group added that "26 other citizen journalists are still held in Vietnam, the world's third biggest prison for netizens. The Vietnamese authorities confirmed this afternoon that Dieu Cay, who had been held since 19 April 2008, was taken to Hanoi's Noi Bai airport and was put on a flight to the United States. . . ."

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From Former Post Reporter-Editor Don Baker on Ben Bradlee

Don Baker Dick: A very thoughtful piece. When Bradlee interviewed me in the spring of 1970, one of the questions he asked, in an awkward sort of way, was “can you get along with blacks?” I was hoping to be hired as a reporter, but at that point I had been a city editor or assistant in Indianapolis and Cleveland for 6 of the previous 10 years, and Bradlee basically said, “If you want to be a reporter, get in line; if you want to be an editor, let’s talk.” Wisely, I said, “So I’m an editor.” He went on to say that the Post was committed to increasing the meager number of blacks in the newsroom, and thus it was likely that I would be working with some of those new hires. Atlhough my experience around blacks was quite limited--I grew up in West Virginia and graduated from college, in 1954, without ever having had a ‘Negro’ in any of my schools, I knew what he wanted to hear, so I said “sure,” and went on to exaggerate my friendship with a black colleague at The Cleveland Press, where I was then working.

Ben Bradlee Wrestled With Racial Issues

Growing up in Detroit, a youngblood could make a few dollars at the local Detroit News paper station by picking up routes.  

Whenever a paperboy got sick or couldn't make the check-in, the Station Manager would pay you to help deliver the route with him OR for him depending on how large the route was and who you were.  I was fortunate enough to be one of those youngbloods on the day AFTER Coleman A. Young was elected as "The Mayor of the City of Detroit".  I don't remember the headline.  Nor, who wrote the story.  (Of course, I suppose I could Google it later.)  All that mattered to me was the powerful imagery of the Detroit News front page with someone who looked like me, arms raised in victory.

When I got to Howard University in 1980, I was amazed by seeing people of all economic backgrounds glued to Ben Bradlee's Washington Post along the 7th Street/Georgia Avenue NW strip.  These folks were not necessarily checking out international affairs or the goings-on at the White House.  But, they damn sure read the "Metro" section.  Reading about the Metro Seven today and remembering Janet Cooke's "Jimmy's World" serves as a reminder of the vital role the media has in "informing" about the truth.

And, nothing but the truth.

Stay Tuned....

Bradlee's racial excuses do not impress

From my optics as an activist and not a journalist Ben Bradlee's explanations about the role of race read like the garden variety chatter nonsense one in my shoes encounters from the usual garden variety bigots one encounters far to often in America .

I imagine when the bigot is a famous journalist their legacy and body of work is spared the harsh portrayals normal mortals get upon their deaths.

Bradlee gets no pity or quarter from me..

"Field Negro's" Disparaging Terms -- from Joe Boyce

I wonder if Mr. Bennett and those disparaging other blacks as "house negroes" and field negroes" are aware of the layers of irony implicit in this kind of categorizing and what it says about their own state of mind?

To succumb to this regressive terminology in describing other blacks whose public behavior may not meet some arbitrary standard reveals the presence of a plantation/slave mentality that is more in the mind of the critic than in the criticized. What's more, regardless of what one may think of the excoriated individuals personally, those on the list of "almost" house negroes are blacks who have made considerable achievements in their fields, in all likelihood while facing and overcoming significant racial and professional obstacles.

So then what is the purpose of this labeling of house, field and almost negroes? Is it to enlighten? To instruct? To persuade those admonished to change their behavior? To present them for public vilification?

Does this mean the next black person who runs for a major office with a majority white constituency should bow out? Should Lester Holt resign from his anchor position; or perhaps end each broadcast with a black power salute?

For centuries, blacks have labored under negative and indiscriminate categorization by racist whites. Now it seems that that role is being taken over by those who look as we do. Those responsible for such backwards thinking are still on the plantation, they just don't realize it. I don't know if they should be called house negroes or field negroes, but I'll wager they are prime candidates to fill both jobs.

Joseph Boyce

Ben Bradlee

After wading through days of the all too familiar riff on Bradlee's history at the Post, this provided much needed insight into an institution whose paper even now can be frustrating to pick up on any given day. As Dubois would say, One is ever mindful of one's twoness -- an appreciation for Bradlee's recognition of how woefully inadequate his understanding of the people who made up the greater part of the City and the efforts to address that, and dismay over his awkward and embarassing perception of who black people are. Thank you for looking at what so many news organizations reviewing his long history didn't address.

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