Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Bill Cosby Pushes the Buttons

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Sunday, July 11, 2004

Remarks Could Be Cultural Story of the Year

Bill Cosby is on his way to having created the cultural story of the year for people of color.

His remarks about the conduct of some lower-class blacks continue to prompt an outpouring of news stories and commentary, with white columnists and editorial pages joining in on a subject debated at first primarily by African American columnists and a few other columnists of color.

As recapped by Martin C. Evans today in Newsday: "While being honored in Washington by the NAACP, [Cosby] blamed parental failures for high dropout rates, teen pregnancy, foul-mouthed behavior and a lack of respect within the black community. He made similar remarks July 1 at a Rainbow/PUSH Coalition convention in Chicago."

Letter-writers to the New York Times yesterday scolded one columnist who took a tack echoed by others. "Mr. Cosby is not attacking black youth but is holding their parents accountable for irresponsible parenting and for not setting clear expectations and priorities," Carol R. Cook of Seattle wrote. But others insisted Cosby was blaming the victim.

The controversy has transcended U.S. borders. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, local businessman and broadcaster Wayne Adams recalled in an op-ed piece that, "Last Sunday morning, student pastor Ernest Simmonds of North Preston addressed a crowd of 400 at the Annual African Baptist Youth Fellowship Conference at East Preston, saying the same thing yet again . . . extolling the pain of a cultural and moral decay ravaging our black society. He cited the movies, TV, and modern hip hop music as factors in dismantling Christian values and morals."

Writing in the Guardian of England, U.S. correspondent Gary Younge, who is black, wrote that Cosby "echoed sentiments I have heard, argued and contested countless times in all-black company on both sides of the Atlantic." He went on to quote W.E.B. DuBois as saying, "Our worst side has been so shamelessly emphasised that we are denying that we ever had a worst side. In all sorts of ways, we are being hemmed in."

Cosby kept the fires hot by continuing to make news. In England, "Mr Cosby, 66, told The Sunday Telegraph that black people in Britain were doing themselves a disservice" by speaking patois in the classroom.

"People need to hear this. In London, in places like Brixton, you need to hear this. In these neighbourhoods, people are taking the English language and making it their own language. But it isn't a language that has anything to do with the credentials of higher education," he was quoted as saying.

Last week, it was announced that Cosby was paying for the college education of two Springfield, Mass., youths who became honor students and stand-out athletes "even as they worked to keep a roof over their heads," as the Springfield Republican reported.

The entertainer did not back down from his critics, and said, according to the Hartford Courant: "It is not for media or anyone of this time anymore to say whether I'm right or wrong. It is time, ladies and gentlemen, to look at the numbers. Fifty percent of our children are dropping out of high school. Sixty percent of the incarcerated male happens to be illiterate. There's a correlation.

"Tell the media to stop asking me what I think about people who don't believe what I'm saying or feel that I'm too harsh or feel that I'm just running my mouth because I'm old. Seventy percent of the teenagers pregnant happen to be African American girls. Don't ask me to soften my message. . . That's epidemic."

He later issued a news release correcting his figures on teenage pregnancy.

The controversy should have special relevance for journalists.

Two years ago, this column noted that "Project Excellence, a scholarship program founded by Carl T. Rowan to help local black students attend college, is ceasing operations after 15 years because the economic downturn has made it harder to raise funds, the late columnist's son said, the Washington Post reports.

"Since its 1987 inception, the program has awarded about $109.5 million in scholarships, including as much as $700,000 a year in cash grants, to more than 4,200 District of Columbia and suburban high school seniors. The organization will fulfill its financial obligations through 2005, but it will not award new scholarships after the current school year.

"Rowan wrote in May 1987 that 'children caught up in anger and frustration are embracing a new kind of racism that says a black youngster who excels at speaking and writing is "using Whitey's language,"' and proposed that black journalists chip in to fund scholarships for the best high school achievers in writing and speaking. The program eventually was funded by foundations and others."

News stories


  • Ken Davis, Hartford Courant: Cosby Does Serious Stand-Up


  • Brian DeBose, Washington Times: Black leaders back Cosby's straight talk


  • Martin C. Evans, Newsday: Cos and effect: Comedian's remarks spark debate


  • Julie Henry, London Telegraph: Cosby backs school's ban on street slang




  • Ronnie Ratliff Jr., Virginian-Pilot, Norfolk: Hampton Roads activists concerned with black youth





  • Jamal Watson, Chicago Tribune: Cosby brings his frank talk to town

Staff columnists

  • Lawrence Aaron, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.: Cosby needs to show more compassion


  • James H. Burnett III, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: It's not what Bill Cosby said - it's the reaction to it



  • Howard Goodman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Bill Cosby was politically incorrect, but honest



  • Roger T Jones, Cleveland Free Times: Bill Cosby's racial slurs are beyond mean-spirited


  • Gregory Kane, Baltimore Sun: Oblate nuns get deserved praise from Cosby's wife


  • Gregory Kane, Baltimore Sun: Officer's killing makes black leaders' misplaced


  • Wil LaVeist, Daily Press, Newport News, Va.: Wrong delivery hurts Cosby's message


  • Acel Moore, Philadelphia Inquirer: The Praise and Blame of Bill Cosby


  • Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Cosby's `deal' to quell poverty cuts both ways






  • James Werrell, The Herald, Rock Hill, S.C.: Will Cosby remarks give fodder to racists?




  • Gary Younge, The Guardian, London: Space for the embattled

Other Commentary


  • Editorial, Boston Herald: Cosby's tough words need deeds to follow


  • Editorial, Florida Today (Melbourne): Bill Cosby's critique


  • Editorial, Louisville Courier-Journal: Caring for children




  • Theresa Nance, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.: Creating a future for black kids


  • Star Parker, Capitol Hill Blue: Bill Cosby and the Bitter String of Truth


  • Ron Walters, Black Press USA: Unreconstructed Bill Cosby -- Part I

Asian-Black Anchor Team Now History

KSPT-TV Minneapolis caused a stir 14 months ago when it paired Kent Ninomiya, a Japanese-American man, with Harris Faulkner, an African American woman, in the anchor chair. The Star Tribune said the move made Ninomiya the highest-profile Asian American male newscaster in any local market.

Now they're history. On Thursday, both left the station only hours before they were to have appeared on the 10 p.m. news.

"Newly rehired anchor Cyndy Brucato will solo anchor the 6 and 10 p.m. news shows for the time being.

"The departure of Ninomiya and Faulkner was anything but unexpected," Brian Lambert reported in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

"KSTP has endured a disastrous fall-off in ratings during the past two years. In May, the station experienced the loss of more than 25 percent of its audience compared with the previous year. Since then, the newsroom has been rife with rumors of major changes.

"The abrupt manner of the two anchors' departures will not help KSTP's efforts to reverse its reputation as a station chronically self-hobbled by odd hiring choices and impatient upper management.

"'Certainly, we are saddened by the way she was treated (at KSTP),' said Faulkner's agent, New York-based Greg Willinger. "We are looking at opportunities both in and outside the (Twin Cities) market."

"Faulkner is married to WCCO-TV reporter Tony Berlin, and was hired at KSTP-TV by Ed Piette, for whom she also worked in Kansas City, Mo. Piette is now general manager of WCCO.

"Whether Piette would hire Faulkner at WCCO is an open question."

Deborah Caulfield Rybak wrote Saturday in the Star Tribune that neither Ninomiya nor Faulkner returned calls for comment. Moving to D.C.; 2 Leave as Editors is moving from its roots in Cambridge, Mass., to the home of its corporate owner AOL in Dulles, Va., outside Washington, prompting Kate Tuttle, senior editor, and Zakia Munirah Carter, another editor at the Web site, to leave "to pursue other dreams," in the words of the Web site's Friday "A-List" column.

The column did not mention the move, but Gary Dauphin, editor of, told Journal-isms this evening that it is scheduled for July 23. The relocation means that africana, and AOL Black Focus will be combining into one site in September, Dauphin said.

AOL acquired from the Tribune Co. in February.

Dauphin, who has the new title of director of African American programming for AOL, said the new site would have two faces, one on the Web and another for AOL subscribers.

Tuttle, one of the longest-serving employees and the only white staffer in the editorial section. told Journal-isms she planned to take a month off and had no plans after that.

"I've been here since 1999, when Philippe Wamba tapped me to help him turn a tiny little marketing vehicle into a full-fledged online magazine. We were never sure it could really be done," she told readers.

Carter wrote, "God knows, I've written about all kinds of things that I love, and hate, hate to love and love to hate -? like bean pies, hip hop, public school, feminism, politicians, holy rollers, vegans, crocheted suits, money, sex and death ? all while repping Bklyn ?- for the A-List and truthfully, I'll miss the opportunity to do so."

NBC Banking on Telemundo

"Telemundo is the biggest thing we've got going now," Bob Wright, the chairman of NBC Universal, said in a recent interview with Bill Carter of the New York Times on Wright's first visit to the Spanish-language television network's studios.

"Telemundo? Though it has long been an also-ran in the Spanish-language television market, Telemundo Communications Group Inc., which NBC acquired in 2001 for $2.7 billion and is pumping tens of millions of dollars into each year, is a bet on the future of American television, one Mr. Wright says media companies ignore at their peril," Carter writes.

"The inability to reach Hispanic audiences would have over time taken a serious toll on us," Wright said in the story.

Rick Sanchez Leaving S. Florida for CNN

"Former MSNBC anchor Rick Sanchez has been named as a new Atlanta-based anchor for CNN's domestic channel," England's DigitalSpy Web site reports.

"Sanchez was most recently an anchor at WTVJ-TV in southern Florida.

"Princell Hair, executive VP and general manager of CNN/U.S., said: 'Rick developed a reputation as one of the most dynamic anchors among the diverse television audiences in South Florida through several distinct news shows and talk shows.

"'I am immensely impressed with his dedication to solid reporting.'"

"The key, [Sanchez] said, is that he will return to anchoring the news," Tom Jicha wrote Friday in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"The Cuban-American Sanchez has been anchoring the WBZL-Ch. 39 10 p.m. newscast, which is produced by WTVJ, on an interim basis for the past couple of months. However, his primary duty at WTVJ has been as host of a morning lifestyles-oriented magazine. It has been an uncomfortable fit for Sanchez, who made his name as a crime reporter and opinionated anchor at WSVN-Ch. 7, and the South Florida audience has not responded well. Ratings hovered at about 1 percent of the audience."

D.C.'s Post Hires Spanish-Speaking Baseball Writer

When Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, assistant managing editor/sports at the Washington Post, announced Thursday that he had hired Jorge Arangure Jr., New York Mets beat writer for The Record in Bergen County, N.J., Garcia-Ruiz wrote, "he gives us something we have always wanted: a Spanish speaker covering a major league baseball beat, an especially critical thing for the Orioles, whose franchise player is from Latin America."

The sentiment is significant.

"Spanish-speaking players often are reluctant to speak to the media, fearful that their relatively limited English skills will make them look foolish. They're afraid of being laughed at by reporters, fans, even their American teammates," Steven Krasner wrote last year in a Providence Journal-Bulletin series called, "A whole new ballgame -- The changing culture of baseball."

Boston Red Sox pitcher pitcher Pedro Martinez prevailed upon the Players Association to put pressure on Major League Baseball to have interpreters at the ready for all Latin players, Krasner wrote.

Martinez acted after the Associated Press quoted Sammy Sosa after umpires found cork in his shattered bat: ``But when you make a mistake like that, you got to stood up and be there for it.'' The AP eventually apologized.

The subject of quoting those for whom Spanish is the native language was discussed at last year's National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention.

Don Rojas Leaving as GM at New York's WBAI

"I have informed Pacifica's executive director Dan Coughlin that I intend to move on to other pursuits around the end of the year because the stress resulting from the huge demands of the job of General Manager is taking a heavy toll on my health and on the well-being of my family. I also informed Dan that I will be available to serve Pacifica in another capacity after I leave WBAI," Don Rojas writes on the Web site of the often-embattled New York Pacifica station.

Rojas is founder of The Black World Today Web site, has been editor of the New York Amsterdam News and director of communications of the NAACP, and he edited the government newspaper for Grenada Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, who was gunned to death in 1983.

Michael Powell Starts a Blog, Gets Varied Replies

"U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell has started his own Web log, or blog, to reach out to the high-tech community and bypass the scores of Washington lobbyists who typically skulk around his office," Reuters reports.

"But, in typical blogger fashion, replies covered subjects well beyond his inquiry, including the FCC's recent crackdown on indecent antics on radio and television.

"'Simple question for you: Why is Howard Stern's discussion of anal/oral sex fineable, and Oprah's isn't?' asked one Tony Pierce."

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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