Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Black Farmers Battled for Media Attention

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Updated December 2

Congress' Vote to Award $1.2 Billion Follows 27-Year Fight

Kevin Riley Replacing Julia Wallace at Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Philly Columnist Announces Oprah-Style Giveaway

With WikiLeaks, Tense Scenes Imagined in Arab Newsrooms

Radio's "Thembi's AIDS Diary" Lives On in Film, Video

Minnesota Public Radio Proud of Somali-American Sources

NABJ, NAHJ Offer Very Early Convention Registration

Short Takes 

Protests by black farmers to gain public attention have included horse-drawn carriages in the nation's capital. (Credit:

Congress' Vote to Award $1.2 Billion Follows 27-Year Fight

This is how the Associated Press put it: "American Indian landowners and black farmers who for years have waited for Washington to address their claims of government mistreatment won a hard-fought victory Tuesday as Congress cleared legislation to pay the groups $4.6 billion to settle a pair of historic class-action lawsuits."

This is what John W. Boyd Jr., founder and president of the National Black Farmers Association, said: "We haven't had a whole lot of national play until recently."

Asked how long he had been pressing for redress, Boyd recalled, "John Conyers said 27 years," referring to the veteran Detroit congressman who has risen to chair the House Judiciary Committee. In 1984, Conyers and Rep. Don Edwards, D-Calif., listened as Arthur Campbell, a black former regional director of the Agriculture Department's Farmers Home Administration, told their House subcommittee, "The truth of the matter is that the FmHA . . . is helping stimulate the decline in farm and rural home ownership by blacks."

In the intervening years, black and Indian farmers won agreement that they had been wronged, but the restitution was long in coming. It took years of lobbying, mule trains in Washington — and efforts to get the news media involved.

"We're poor black people," Boyd told Journal-isms on Wednesday. "We don't have money to give to congressional campaigns, and when you don't have that, your message is difficult to get out there. Even our own black people didn't seem to get behind [it] until recently."

The Associated Press reported, "The package would award some $3.4 billion to American Indians over claims they were cheated out of royalties overseen by the Interior Department for resources like oil, gas and timber. Another $1.2 billion would go to African-Americans who claim they were unfairly denied loans and other assistance from the Agriculture Department."

Like most stories, the saga of the black farmers and news media coverage has heroes and villains, though in this case the villains were guilty mainly of indifference. In Boyd's view, the victory came after the black press and others kept the issue alive so that the mainstream media could put it in the broader public consciousness.

The background: As the Associated Press story noted of Tuesday's development on Capitol Hill, "For the black farmers, it is the second round of funding from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999 over allegations of widespread discrimination by local USDA offices."

Boyd remembers going before the editorial boards of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Wall Street Journal and getting solitary stories in those publications afterward. In 1999, the farmers' plight made the front page of the New York Times with a story by David Firestone, "Agriculture Dept. to Settle Lawsuit by Black Farmers." All along, the black press was supportive.

But it wasn't enough.

"It's hard to get it out in the media three or four days in a row," Boyd said. That's what was needed for sustained attention, he said. That — and television.

In 1998 and 1999, the late Ed Bradley did two stories on the black farmers' plight on CBS' "60 Minutes."

"It is virtually impossible today for any small farmer to stay in business without access to credit," Mike Wallace explained in setting up Bradley's first piece. "Most are dependent on loans from the United States Department of Agriculture to get them through from crop to crop. But while the money for those loans comes from Washington, the Agriculture Department officials who approve them are elected in local counties. And for black farmers, that has been a problem, because they say the white-controlled local committees discriminate against them by not granting them loans they, in fact, qualify for."

"60 Minutes" is the kind of showcase Boyd said his movement needed. "You really need the white mainstream media. Get into living rooms when people are eating at 6:30 at night."

That didn't begin to happen until recently, he continued, until April Ryan, White House reporter and Washington bureau chief for American Urban Radio Networks, began asking questions about the black farmers at the daily White House news briefings. "I been knowing April longer than I can remember," Boyd said. "She worked on it during the Clinton years."

April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks interviews John W. Boyd Jr. at an October rally in Washington. (Credit: NBFARally's photostream/Flikr)Ryan continued during the Obama administration. "The mainstream media jumped on this after I kept asking about it and couldn't get answers," Ryan told Journal-isms.

At issue was Boyd's complaint that the administration had not earmarked money to pay a $1.25 billion discrimination settlement with the farmers. She took the question to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and to Obama himself at a September presidential news conference.

After her questioning, others in the White House press corps, "people like Ed Henry," the CNN White House correspondent, "took an interest," Ryan said. "A lot of white reporters didn't touch it because they didn't understand it," she said. Once they realized the farmers had been awarded the money more than 10 years ago and hadn't received it, they began to report the story, she said.

Boyd also credits Washington Post reporters Michael Fletcher and Krissah Thompson and in an appearance Monday on radio's "The Michael Eric Dyson Show," thanked Dyson for previously acknowledging the farmers' quest.

The struggle isn't over. As Ryan noted in her blog Wednesday, "Outgoing, House Majority Whip Congressman James Clyburn has mixed emotions about the passage saying the black farmers settlement bill is not 'clean' as the black farmers are relegated to 50 thousand dollars each in discrimination awards and women and Hispanic farmers can get countless amounts of an award from the Judgment fund. He also feels some of the language placed in the bill could cause intimidation to black farmers."

Boyd also went on MSNBC's "The Ed Show" Wednesday to respond to Republican critics, such as Rep. Steve King of Iowa.

King "likened the black farmers program to 'modern-day reparations' for African-Americans and argued along with Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., that the claims process is rife with fraud," Ben Evans reported in the AP story cited above.

Kevin Riley Replacing Julia Wallace at Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Julia Wallace, editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has been named senior vice president of news and programming for Cox Media Group Ohio, also part of the Cox media company, the company announced on Thursday.

Kevin Riley, editor-in-chief of Cox Ohio Publishing, will become editor of the Journal-Constitution. The changes are effective Jan. 1.

The announcement said, "Wallace brings a wealth of experience to Dayton, said Alex Taylor, group vice president of CMG’s Dayton and Louisville operations. She started with Cox 10 years ago and became editor of the Journal-Constitution in 2002. Since then, the company has won numerous awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes.

"Wallace was named Editor of the Year by Editor & Publisher, a trade publication, in 2004 and received the Alumni Merit Award from Northwestern University," the announcement continued.

"In addition to newspaper experience, she has spent much of her time and energy on growing digital products, Taylor said. has logged more than a billion page views every year since 2007."

The alternative newspaper Creative Loafing noted that Wallace "oversaw the AJC's redesign and shifted its resources and focus on the northern 'burbs."

Other changes under Wallace involved black journalists.

In February 2007, James Mallory, managing editor for operations and initiatives, was promoted to senior managing editor and vice president/news, and in April 2009, the paper announced a change in  leadership of the editorial page.  Cynthia Tucker, the editorial page editor and syndicated columnist, took a new role as political columnist based in Washington, and Andre Jackson, the AJC’s senior editor for business, federal and state news, was named editorial editor. Mallory, Tucker and Jackson are black journalists.

"Riley, who started his newspaper career in 1983 as copy editor for the Dayton Daily News, was named Cox Ohio’s Editor-in-Chief in January 2007. During his tenure in Dayton, Riley served as sports editor, online general manager and publisher of the Springfield News-Sun," the announcement continued.

"As Editor-in Chief, Riley was responsible for the Dayton Daily News, the Springfield News-Sun, the Middleton Journal and the Hamilton JournalNews, as well as Cox’s weekly newspapers. He 'has overseen vast changes to our newsroom and has been a great community leader in and around Dayton,' Taylor said." [Dec. 2]

Philly Columnist Announces Oprah-Style Giveaway

Contest was launched with a front-page splash."I was listening to Gayle King talk on the radio about how . . . Oprah had just broadcast her final 'My Favorite Things' show," Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News columnist, explained to Journal-isms on Wednesday.

"Like everyone else, I'd always wanted to be in the audience when she's giving away cars and flat-screen TVs. Then, it dawned on me that if Oprah was walking away from it, I could step into her shoes and do the same thing for my readers, albeit on a smaller scale. That was a little more than a week ago and here we are."

With a front-page promotional splash, Armstrong announced in her column Wednesday that, "I've decided to take up the tradition and share My Favorite Things. Unlike Oprah, though, I'm limited to the confines of these news pages. But other than that, Jen's Top 10 works the same. I'll tell you about the products that I really like and then give them away to randomly selected Daily News readers.

The gifts include scented candles manufactured in a local studio, chocolate-covered mints that made her knees buckle, a "Heart of Philadelphia necklace," cashmere sweaters, Oprah's favorite luggage tags, spiced apple wine, a women's training camp hoodie, a Ralph Lauren throw, a family photo water globe and behind-the-scenes tickets to the Philadelphia Flower Show.

"We've had a tremendous response. When I came in this morning and checked, we had about 300 emails," Armstrong said via e-mail. "I haven't looked back again, but I know there are going to be hundreds more."

With WikiLeaks, Tense Scenes Imagined in Arab Newsrooms

"Thus far, most of the mainstream Arab media seems to be either ignoring the [WikiLeaks] revelations or else reporting it in generalities, i.e. reporting that it's happening but not the details in the cables," Marc Lynch wrote in a Wednesday update for Foreign Policy.

"I imagine there are some pretty tense scenes in Arab newsrooms right now, as they try to figure out how to cover the news within their political constraints.

"Al-Jazeera may feel the heat the most, since not covering it (presumably to protect the Qatari royal family) could shatter its reputation for being independent and in tune with the 'Arab street.' So far, the only real story I've seen in the mainstream Arab media is in the populist Arab nationalist paper al-Quds al-Arabi, which covers the front page with a detailed expose focused on its bete noir Saudi Arabia.

"Meanwhile, the details are all over Arabic social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, forums, and online-only news sites like Jordan's Ammon News. This may be a critical test of the real impact of Arabic social media and the internet: can it break through a wall of silence and reach mass publics if the mass media doesn't pick up the story?"

The WikiLeaks story broke a day after Rana Sabbagh reported from Jordan for Gulf Times that, "In the largely autocratic region, where media freedoms are declining, a new generation of bold Arab investigative journalists is drawing a significant line in the sand, exposing human misery and standing up to higher powers. . . .

"Those journalists –hailing from private and public media — are working under the umbrella of Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism (ARIJ) — the only media support network in the region promoting the culture of in-depth reporting across Arab newsrooms."

From Jisoo Kim's "Thembi's AIDS Diary" animation

Radio's "Thembi's AIDS Diary" Lives On in Film, Video

"Thembi’s Diary is an animation made from a true audio documentary (NPR Radio Diaries)," reads the legend below a video by Jisoo Kim. "It is recorded by Thembi a South African girl with Aids. Although her disease is harsh for a 17 year old, Thembi talks to her virus every morning. With a calm voice she says that as long as it leaves her alone she will do the same."

"Today is World AIDS Day and we wanted to share some news about Thembi Ngubane, our friend and diarist who died last year," Joe Richman, executive producer of "Radio Diaries" wrote in an e-mail on Wednesday. "A new film about Thembi's life has just been released in South Africa and shown at a few festivals in the US. It was made by the wonderful filmmakers Jo Menell (Mandela) and Richard Mills (Street Talk). You can find information about the film here.

"We also highly recommend that you watch this amazing animation of Thembi. Artist Jisoo Kim was inspired by Thembi's diary and decided to illustrate our radio story with images. It's beautiful.

"And....Unicef's latest report on children and AIDS has Thembi on the cover, along with her boyfriend, Melikhaya, and their daughter, Onwabo. Melikhaya and Onwabo are both healthy and doing well. I will be visiting them in South Africa over the Christmas holiday. Please contact me directly (joe [at] if you would like to send them messages or support them in any way.

"You can listen to Thembi's AIDS Diary and learn about her life here."

Minnesota Public Radio Proud of  Somali-American Sources

The Somali community in Minnesota is struggling with poverty and violence but there are also many stories of success,' Minnesota Public Radio said in its series, 'Civil War Kids: Young Somalis in Minnesota.' (Credit: Minnesota Public Radio)Minnesota Public Radio would like it known that the Star Tribune's efforts to cover its Somali community, recounted here on Monday, haven't been the only ones undertaken by the Twin Cities mainstream news outlets.

"Reporters Laura Yuen and Sasha Aslanian spent months knocking on doors in Somali neighborhoods as they reported on the investigation into whether Somali-American men left Minneapolis to fight with hard-line Islamists in Somalia ’s civil war," Bill Gray, MPR communications director, wrote to Journal-isms.

"They developed sources who wouldn’t tell their stories to other media outlets, or even to the FBI. Their coverage also led to a series, 'Civil War Kids', which broke new ground on the turmoil inside the young generation of Somali-Americans who were born into Somalia’s escalating violence and forced to flee their homeland at an early age. They escaped the chaos of Mogadishu, only to find new perils in Minnesota. No other media outlet has explored the young generation’s struggles with identity issues, mental illness, and absent fathers.

"Our coverage has gone beyond exploring links to terrorism, and the most recent case of an alleged prostitution ring involving Minneapolis-based Somali gangs, to highlight the human stories and successes of the Somali community. Several links to such stories are below:

Meanwhile, the Oregonian in Portland has provided a link on its home page to all of its stories about Somali-born Mohamed Osman Mohamud, "the 19-year-old man accused of trying to ignite a van full of fake explosives near Pioneer Courthouse Square last week."

The alternative Willamette Week provided what it called "the five most noteworthy pieces of this puzzle."

NABJ, NAHJ Offer Very Early Convention Registration

The national associations of black and Hispanic journalists are offering earlier-than-ever discounts to those who register for their summer conventions by Dec. 31.

The National Association of Black Journalists promises a $50 savings for its Aug. 3-7 convention in Philadelphia.

NAHJ plans a "holiday special" of $50 off for all professional members (not students) for its June 15-18 gathering at Disney's Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando.

Kathy Chow, executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association, said, "Our early bird registration is already available online, but we are not offering any additional incentives to register before the end of the year." The AAJA convention is Aug. 10-13 in Detroit.

Jeff Harjo, executive director of the Native American Journalists Association, said his group is also offering an early bird registration but did not have details. The NAJA conference is planned for Fort Lauderdale, Fla., July 13-17.

Short Takes

Memphis disk jockey George Klein says goodbye to meteorologist Leon Griffin, right. (Credit: WHBQ-TV)

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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Milloy Traces Issues to Race, Class (Bill Alexander)

From Bill Alexander:

Re: Milloy Creates Buzz Tracing Issues to Race and Class

Courtland is one of the few columnists (outside of yourself) who used to get emails from me when he did a particularly bang-up whale of a I told him back in the early part of this century, he expends shoe leather to great benefit and rewards.  His column takes on the tone and nuance of people who are directly impacted by the [. . .] who, on a daily basis, rob, rape, pillage, sack and loot the conscience, boundaries and treasury of our city.

This is difficult to capture if you are not trusted by folks who represent potential interviews.  He does the grunt work AND he exudes warmth when it needs exuding.  His choice of earth-tone adjectives and adverbs can make all the difference between a vampire making a quick visit and a dude who understands the total dynamic of the city as both a cesspool of polluted power and a viable community of vital folks -- no matter what their income.  It takes years of concentration to master this understanding of your surroundings.

This is something the City Paper vampires will never accomplish because their attitude is white smugness and superiority.  They only warm up to topics they know about. Their investigative stories have merit, but they tend to be Black-on-Black crime (fine with me, but it shows their bias). And they will instill it in any Black who joins their staff.  Why do you think Jonetta Rose Barras' excellent columns disappeared?  They couldn't assimilate her, because she was determined to preserve her identity and report what she saw (Now at the Examiner, I truly pity her . . .).  The Courtland piece got major input from the white editors at the paper (they tend to rewrite whole paragraphs -- and they certainly have control of the put-down graphics).

City Paper will laugh and giggle over Black misfortune (the homeless, etc.).  And that is why their vampires and their coldness missed Courtland's value to the city.  He was here before they were.  They made a point of isolating him and inferring, through the term "raw," that his copy is primitive, that he is an oddity.  They missed the fact that whereas Juan Williams sold his soul to the devil, Courtland did not.

The above is the nut graph that should have driven that piece (which Courtland DID deserve).  But the reporter freighted it more toward the white critics than to Courtland.  And he missed the goddam story.

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