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Black Conservative Blasts Washington Post Writers

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Sunday, September 15, 2002

Black Conservative Blasts Washington Post Writers

The Wall Street Journal editorial page gave space Friday to John McWhorter, a black California professor now affiliated with the conservative Manhattan Institute, to attack the work of three black journalists at the Washington Post.

McWhorter's 1,163-word Weekend Journal piece was called "Racial Profiling."

"To judge by many reviews, books like Bernard Goldberg's 'Bias' and William McGowan's 'Coloring the News' are just overblown rants, maliciously exaggerating a liberal slant in the press when they are not simply inventing it," the piece began.

"But the contrast between two recent profiles in the Washington Post, of Clarence Thomas and Cornel West, affirms the sad truth that these books try to present. The naked prejudice on view in the profiles -- published only a week apart -- shows a kind of journalism barely advanced beyond the casual slander that was ordinary in Gilded Age newspapers.

"Post reporters Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher drown Justice Thomas in savage dismissals.

"Lynne Duke Washington [a reference to Lynne Duke, whose newspaper has "Washington" in its name], the author of the West profile, offers a paean to her subject, catching him after the 'ordeal' of his run-in with Lawrence Summers, Harvard's president, and his relocation to Princeton. She sums up the criticism of Mr. West as a 'monsoon of vitriol.' Otherwise Mr. West is draped in words like 'dignity,' 'confidence' and 'style.' "

McWhorter is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an associate professor of linguistics at Berkeley, and author of "Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America."

Gentler Shock Radio -- But What About Imus?

Perhaps shock radio is behaving a little bit better these days. But how long will that last? asks the New York Times.

The Times' question has been raised by Infinity Broadcasting's firing last month of two star radio hosts - Gregg Hughes, who is known as Opie, and Anthony Cumia - after they broadcast a live account of a couple having sex in the vestibule of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan last month. The incident was part of a contest to see who would have sex in the riskiest place.

The piece does not address the racist rants on shock-jock Don Imus' show, a favorite of well-known journalists. Imus-watcher Philip Nobile tells Journal-isms that Imus sidekick, producer Bernard McGuirk, discussing the CBS NFL pre-game show today says of the African American Deion Sanders, Boomer Esiason and another white ex-player: "Basically, you have a pimp and two meatheads."

Kojo Nnamdi: I'm Looking Ahead

Kojo Nnamdi, whose "Public Interest" talk show is being dropped by National Public Radio effective Sept. 30, says listeners can register their opinions by e-mail at, or

But he told Journal-isms that "I view change in this case as opportunity, the opportunity to make 'The [renamed] Kojo Nnamdi Show,' which starts airing on September 30th on [Washington's] WAMU-FM from noon till two in the afternoon, a show that will serve the listening audience in a special way.

"We're going to create a space where global becomes local and vice versa, a vehicle for engaging our listeners with the world, and with regional concerns. We've already planned a number of joint ventures with Howard University Television, so I've been pretty busy with the planning."

Michel Martin Wins Seat on "This Week" Roundtable

Michel Martin, correspondent for ABC-TV's "Nightline," has won a permanent seat on ABC's "This Week" roundtable after a summer of tryouts by people of color in ABC's effort to end the all-white complexion of the program segment.

Prior to that, the show "had a group of people who always turned out to be these white middle-age guys. We are insisting that the pool be expanded," ABC News spokesman Jeffrey Schneider told Journal-isms in June. Martin had the most appearances in the rotation this summer. She was introduced as a permanent panelist Sunday as the show began its new incarnation with host George Stephanopoulos. With Martin and continuing regular George Will was Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek.

Jay Harris to Lead Media Center in L.A.

Jay T. Harris, the former publisher of the San Jose Mercury News, has been named director of the Center for the Study of Journalism and Democracy, a recently created center at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, the director of the journalism school announced. The center will focus on journalism's efforts to offer information important to citizens at a time when there is intense economic competition for public attention, reports the New York Times.

Harris had been on a short list earlier this year as a candidate for the deanship of Columbia University Journalism School, but he took himself out of the running, reportedly because he did not want to leave the West Coast.

Broadcast Power Held by Too Few, Critics Say

The National Association of Broadcasters, meeting in Seattle, drew fire from groups condemning what they saw as a corporate takeover of the public airwaves. Protesters planned to converge on Freeway Park Saturday to attend workshops and talk about what they saw as a disturbing trend: giant companies buying up local broadcast stations and failing to be accountable to local communities. They billed the get-together as a Reclaim the Media gathering, the Seattle Times reported.

Black Broadcasters Anxious Over Declines

As Chairman Michael Powell and his colleagues at the Federal Communications Commission were putting final touches on plans to rewrite nearly all of the government's broadcast-ownership limits, a few blocks away, anxious African American broadcasters and policymakers were questioning whether such broadcasters have a future in an industry increasingly dominated by conglomerates, reports Broadcasting & Cable.

The decline in minority ownership of broadcast stations, particularly by African Americans, was the leading topic at a conference hosted by the Black Broadcasters' Alliance, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters, and the Black Entertainment & Telecom Association in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus.

NABJ to Resolve Chicago Chapter Dispute

National Association of Black Journalists President Condace L. Pressley says Chicago will have an NABJ chapter again by mid-October, Editor & Publisher reports.

The chapter, one of the largest in the nation, has been decertified since early August because of improprieties in the elections process. Two factions have elected separate leadership slates and have submitted separate constitutions and applications to be recognized as the legitimate Chicago Association of Black Journalists.

In a letter to Chicago-area NABJ members, Pressley said the national board's offer to oversee a third and final election in the chapter has not been accepted by either side. "I anticipate that the competing leadership teams will continue to operate independent of each other and will submit a new application for recognition as an NABJ affiliate chapter," she wrote. "Between now and Oct. 12, 2002 the NABJ Board of Directors will receive, review, and take action to establish an affiliate chapter in Chicago.

Elinor Tatum, Example of "Multiracial Jew"

For the past several weeks, Elinor Tatum, editor in chief of New York's Harlem-based weekly Amsterdam News, says she has been counting the days to her favorite holiday of the year - Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, reports Newsday.

"It is the most important day of the year because you get to atone for everything you have done wrong," she says.

Her words are thoroughly Jewish - just as she is, part of a growing number of multiracial Jews in this country. Her parents allowed her to choose her religious identity, Tatum says. Her father, Wilbert Tatum, an African American who is a Christian, owns the News. Her mother, Susan Kohn Tatum, a white Jew from Czechoslovakia, is a children's fashion designer.

Best-seller List for Books in Spanish

To shed more light on the rapidly growing Spanish-language book market, Criticas has just launched a monthly national best-seller list for books in Spanish, reports Publishers Weekly.

"Currently, there are a few regional lists, published by newspapers and bookstores, but no regularly published national list," said Adriana Lopez, editor of Criticas. "We expect that the list will have an effect similar to other best-seller lists. Bookstores and libraries will stock against it, and customers will use it as a list of recommendations. Further, the simple act of displaying the list in a store or library will help to publicize that books in Spanish are available there. It's circular--you can't know if there is demand for books in Spanish unless you offer a reason for Spanish readers to come through your doors."

The list was being featured Friday on a new monthly book segment on Univision's popular morning talk show "Despierta America" ("Wake Up, America"). The segment, "Despierta Leyendo" ("Wake Up Reading")," is hosted by evening news anchor Jorge Ramos. Called the "Tom Brokaw of Spanish-language television," Ramos was interested in creating the segment to encourage reading among Hispanics and to give Spanish readers more information on what is available.

"Contrary to what many people assume, [Spanish speakers in the U.S.] read in Spanish," Ramos said.

The list is dominated by titles written originally in Spanish, rather than Spanish translations of popular American authors, like John Grisham or Danielle Steel.

'Barbershop' Clips Box Office Rivals

Movie-goers might want to phone ahead for an appointment to get into "Barbershop," which had its preview at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Milwaukee this summer.

The ensemble comedy starring Ice Cube as reluctant proprietor of his late father's business debuted in first place at the box office with $21 million over the weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday, reports the Associated Press.

Lesbian and Gay Journalists Present Awards

The annual National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association Excellence in Journalism awards, which honor writers who have written compelling news stories about issues affecting that community, were announced at the group's convention in Philadelphia.

In the opinion/editorials category, freelance writer Abigail Garner won first place for her column about growing up with a gay father, "Don't 'Protect' Me; Give Me Your Respect," which appeared in the Feb. 11 issue of Newsweek. Garner said that after the article was published, readers immediately began to e-mail her, which she wasn't expecting.

Other first place winners include Orlando Sentinel writers Jeff Kunerth, Mark Schlueb and Kelly Brewington, for their series, "Coming Out, Blending in: Being Gay in Central Florida" (news/feature category).

In new media, Susan Hogan/Albach won first place for "The Gay Divide." In the video award category, ABC News Nightline reporters Ted Koppel, James Blue, Mary Claude Foster, Cathy Barosky and Russ Freeman won for their series on gay Americans called "A Matter of Choice?"

And in the audio category, Eric Beauchemin won for "The Nigerian Closet."

Pioneer, Current Black Journalists Compare Notes

Two generations separated the four journalists at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association panel, but all faced similar obstacles of overcoming stereotypes about what it means to be black in America.

The session, "Pioneers for Freedom: 175 Years of the Black Press," was presented in a hall where seats sat mostly empty and 12 people were in attendance. Despite the turnout, the panelists said they were pleased to talk about both the historic role and current issues of the black press, reports the Digital Reporter student convention newspaper.

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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