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Black Press Takes Free Trip to Morocco

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Arab Government Reaches Out to African Americans

. . . News Groups' Policies on Expenses-Paid Trips

Armond White Expelled From New York Film Critics Group

In Light of Massacre, Media Portrait of Sharon Questioned

"A Black Man" Did It in West Virginia

Kevin S. Lewis Leaving White House for Justice Department

Medsger Details Reporting Early Inklings of COINTELPRO

Boston's Bay State Banner Unable to Repay City for Bailout

Short Takes

Black press delegation in The Town on Dakhla, Morocco, described by the New York

Arab Government Reaches Out to African Americans

A 14-person delegation from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the nation's black press, returned Sunday from a week-long government-sponsored trip to Morocco as the North African country reaches out to African Americans.

"This is part of series of no-strings attached government-sponsored trips by African American organizations to Morocco to give them a first-hand look at the country," Cloves C. Campbell, chairman of the NNPA and publisher of the Arizona Informant in Phoenix, told Journal-isms by email.

"No limitations have been placed on what we can write or discuss and we're under no obligation to write anything. This is the outgrowth of a trip Jesse Jackson took to Morocco in August during which he urged Moroccan leaders to reach out to Black organizations so that they can gain a better understanding of the country and the challenges it faces."

Kierna Mayo of Ebony magazine asks a question about women's rights to the minist

Leading mainstream news organizations prohibit employees from accepting free trips from governments or other potential sources.

However, journalists not affiliated with those organizations sometimes find such offers too good to resist.

The New York-based America's Voices in Israel, for example, has been flying Latino journalists to that country in an effort to influence the United States' growing Latino population, Irwin Katsof, director of the group, has told Journal-isms.

In January 2012, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. told Journal-isms that by focusing more and more on local issues, the news industry is less likely today to support such travel. "The end result is you end up not going," he said, as happened to him at the paper that laid him off in 2010, the San Diego Union-Tribune, now U-T San Diego. "If I don't get a trip, I don't get an education. I don't grow, and the column doesn't prosper." Besides, Navarrette said, "if you can't sort out the ethical problems in this, you're in the wrong business."

On the Morocco trip were Campbell; Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher, Washington Informer, Washington; Michael H. Cottman, Washington-based senior correspondent for;  George E. Curry, editor-in-chief, NNPA News Service and, Washington; James E. Farmer, NNPA Corporate Advisory Board, Detroit; James Gomez, director of international affairs for Rainbow/PUSH Coalition; Bobby R. Henry Sr., publisher, Westside Gazette, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Hiram Jackson, CEO, Real Times Media and publisher, Michigan Chronicle, Detroit; Kierna Mayo, editorial director, digital,, New York; Askia Muhammad, news director, WPFW-FM, Washington; Francis Page, Jr., publisher, Houston Style magazine; Houston; Elizabeth Ragland, NNPA photographer, Washington; Ingrid Sturgis, journalism professor, Howard University; and Chida R. Warren-Darby, managing editor, San Diego Voice & Viewpoint, San Diego, Calif.

Gary L. Flowers, former executive director and CEO of the Black Leadership Forum, Inc., told Journal-isms by telephone that he went on such a trip with the forum in September and had urged the National Bar Association to undertake a similar trip because he believes "there's been a culture chasm between Morocco and Black America." The black lawyers' group plans to pay its own way to Morocco as about 130 members stage their annual mid-winter meeting. Flowers said African Americans should travel to as many countries as possible.

Morocco rarely figures in American news reports. According to the CIA's World Factbook, "Influenced by protests elsewhere in the region, in February 2011 thousands of Moroccans began weekly rallies in multiple cities across the country to demand greater democracy and end to government corruption. Overall the response of Moroccan security forces was subdued compared to the violence elsewhere in the region. King Mohammed VI responded quickly with a reform program that included a new constitution and early elections. . . ."

The State Department reported in May, "There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, mainly involving converts from Islam to other religions. Christians continued to report societal scrutiny and pressure from non-Christian family and friends. Jews lived in safety throughout the country. . . ."

A State Department report on human trafficking last year said, "Morocco is a source, destination, and transit country for men, women, and children who are subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Some Moroccan girls from rural areas as young as six or seven years old are recruited to work as maids in cities and often experience conditions of forced labor, such as nonpayment of wages, threats, restrictions on movement, and physical, psychological, or sexual abuse; however, an NGO reports that the incidence of child maids has decreased since 2005, in part due to government-funded programs promoted in primary school, especially in rural areas, and awareness programs funded by UN agencies and NGOs . . . "

Conflicts with Western Sahara, a Morocco-occupied, mainly desert territory that has been the subject of a decades-long dispute between Morocco and the Algerian-backed Polisario Front, have also made news.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said in September, "For nearly 30 years Morocco has embarked on an ambitious plan to bring the Western Sahara territory to a developmental level comparable to the national level, with the political objective that development would bring both domestic acceptance of Morocco's rule within the territory and tacit international acquiescence of its claim over Western Sahara," Jacques Roussellier wrote in September. Flowers said he did not know about the Western Sahara dispute.

. . . News Groups' Policies on Expenses-Paid Trips

  • Associated Press:

    Spokesman Paul Colford said by email, "Excursions and junkets are no-no's at AP.

  • "There could be some exceptions involving trips, if, for example, flying with a CEO on his or her plane is the only way to get access to the person, such as an extended interview, or if there's no other way to reach a news scene, such an offshore oil rig, except via an oil company's own helicopter. But these are rare cases.

    "See the last item, marked 'Trips,' herein:"

  • New York Times:

    The Times' ethics policy reads, "Staff members may not accept gifts, tickets, discounts, reimbursements or other inducements from any individual or organization covered by The Times or likely to be covered by The Times."

  • Society of Professional Journalists:

    SPJ's ethics policy reads, in part, "—Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.

    ". . . Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity. . . ."

  • Washington Post:
  • "We pay our own way," according to the Post stylebook.

    "We accept no gifts from news sources. We accept no free trips. We neither seek nor accept preferential treatment that might be rendered because of the positions we hold. Exceptions to the no-gift rule are few and obvious — invitations to meals, for example, may be accepted when they are occasional and innocent, but not when they are repeated and their purpose is deliberately calculating. Free admissions to any event that is not free to the public are prohibited. The only exception is for seats not sold to the public, as in a press box. Whenever possible, arrangements will be made to pay for such seats. . . ."

Armond White Expelled From New York Film Critics Group

Armond White

"This morning, the members of the New York Film Critics Circle, including me, voted to expel Armond White, the former critic of the now-defunct New York Press (and currently the editor and movie critic of CityArts), from the group," Owen Gleiberman reported Monday for Entertainment Weekly.

"To me, it was a sad moment — pathetic, really, though Armond brought it on himself. A week ago, at the Circle's annual awards dinner, White made a rude and bellicose spectacle of himself, as he did the year before, by heckling one of the winners — in this case, Steve McQueen, the director of 12 Years a Slave, a movie that White, in his review, had dismissed as 'torture porn.' Make no mistake: He has every right to dislike 12 Years a Slave, a movie that he considers not a powerful historical docudrama but a sensationalist feel-bad fantasy that is subtly designed to make white people feel good about their own guilt.

"That's a provocative view of an acclaimed film (Armond tosses out provocations like grenades and eats acclaimed films for breakfast). But last Monday night, during the awards ceremony, when McQueen got up to the podium to accept his award for Best Director, there were loud and disdainful comments coming from White's table, and a number of witnesses who were within earshot quoted him as calling McQueen an 'embarrassing doorman and garbageman,' and saying, 'F— you, kiss my ass!' White has claimed, to writers from The Hollywood Reporter and The New York Times, that he wasn't heckling, that he and others at his table were just talking amongst themselves. (He has also denied that he said any of those words.)

"But I was sitting about 40 feet away from him, and though I couldn't make out everything that was said, I can testify: Everyone at my table lurched around to see where the loud, jeering, disruptive comments were coming from. This unquestionably fit the definition of heckling. It was all meant to be heard by the room at large. When White later claimed that his comments were 'sotto voce' (a musical term that literally means 'soft voice'), he was either lying or lying to himself, or perhaps both. . . ."

Palestinian refugees living in the the Shatila refugee camp in the Lebanese capi

In Light of Massacre, Media Portrait of Sharon Questioned

On Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!" on Monday, Rashid Khalidi, Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University and author of several books, was asked about Ariel Sharon, the former Israeli prime minister who died at 85 on Saturday after eight years in a coma.

"We look at one of the most shocking incidents in the career of the late former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon: the Sabra and Shatila massacre," host Amy Goodman said. "Up to 2,000 Palestinians died on Sept. 16-17, 1982, when the Israeli military allowed a Christian militia to attack the camp. Then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was forced to resign after a special Israeli investigative panel declared him to be 'personally responsible' for the massacre."

Goodman said to Khalidi, "You were just talking about The New York Times and how they covered what happened at Sabra and Shatila, and the direct responsibility that Ariel Sharon — linking to documents of Sharon's responsibility and U.S. responsibility. Elaborate further on that and then how it's — his life is being described today in the same pages."

Khalidi responded, "Well, I describe it as the apotheosis of Ariel Sharon. He's being turned from a war criminal and a mass murderer, which he was, into a god, in the American —in much of the American media.

"The New York Times has played an enormous role in this. Instead of, for example, running their own op-ed, which was published a little over a year ago, which lays out in damning detail, from documents in the Israel State Archives, Israeli and American responsibility, notably Sharon's responsibility, for this massacre, they republished on their — in their online edition yesterday an op-ed by Sharon in which he justifies the war. It has been a degrading spectacle to watch the American and the Israeli media turn this man into, as Avi [Shlaim] said, a man of peace, something that he could never possibly have been described as. . . ."

In another segment, Shlaim, professor emeritus of international relations at Oxford University and author of "Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations," said of Sharon, "His enduring legacy in Israel's history is that he empowered and emboldened some of the most xenophobic, aggressive, racist, expansionist and intransigent elements in Israel's dysfunctional political system."

Harriet Sherwood wrote from Jerusalem for Britain's Guardian newspaper, "Debate over Sharon's record and legacy, centred on the polar opposites of war hero or war criminal, intensified following the announcement of his death. Israelis, however, were in no doubt that the loss of the man known as 'the bulldozer' further weakened the remaining links to the generation that fought militarily and politically for the creation of their state. His death was the end of an era, said many. . . ."

"A Black Man" Did It in West Virginia

"The big news out of West Virginia over the weekend is obviously the chemical spill that left nearly 300,000 people without water.

"But in the city of Morgantown, in the north-central part of the state near West Virginia University, a three-paragraph news item in the local paper, The Dominion Post, has caused a bit of a stir," Corey Hutchins wrote Monday for Columbia Journalism Review.

"On Saturday, Jan. 11, the paper published this item under the headline 'Sheriff’s department looking for suspect':

"The Monongalia County Sheriff's Department is asking for help identifying a man involved in some suspicious activity.

"The person is described as a black man.

"If anyone has information he or she is asked to contact Deputy J.D. Morgan at 304-291-7260.

"On Sunday, John Cole at the blog Balloon Juice posted a photo of the item along with some sarcastic commentary:

"ATTN: EVERY BLACK MAN IN MORGANTOWN! Don't be suspicious, because we are onto your shit. . . . "

On Saturday, the Dominion Post published another item with a photo of the suspect and added, "According to information provided by the sheriff’s department, the man is black, between 5-foot-8 and 6-feet tall and appears to be in his late 30s to mid 40s." On Monday, it attributed the initial wording to a copy editor's error.

According to the Associated Press stylebook, "Identification by race is pertinent: . . . For suspects sought by the police or missing person cases using police or other credible, detailed descriptions. Such descriptions apply for all races. The racial reference should be removed when the individual is apprehended or found."

Others have required that the descriptions be as detailed as possible to avoid characterizations that could describe large numbers of people.

Kevin S. Lewis Leaving White House for Justice Department

Kevin S. Lewis

Kevin S. Lewis, "who originally came to Washington under a special program then-Sen. Obama set up to train young minorities who wanted to work in politics and rose to become a spokesman in Obama's White House, is departing this month to become the press secretary at the Department of Justice," Perry Bacon Jr. reported Monday for the Grio.

"Lewis, 30, served first in the White House as an aide to Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and then has spent the three years as the director of African-American media, coordinating the administration’s outreach to black outlets. In addition to speaking to reporters, the Brooklyn native has organized off-the-record sessions in the Roosevelt Room between Obama and radio hosts like Tom Joyner and the Rev. Al Sharpton, set up the first ever African-American bloggers conference at the White House and traveled with both the First Lady and the president to South Africa. . . ."

The previous Justice Department press secretary, Adora Andy Jenkins, has joined the Information Technology Industry Council as its vice president for external affairs.

Medsger Details Reporting Early Inklings of COINTELPRO

Betty Medsger (Credit: Joyce Ravid)"On March 24, 1971, I became the first reporter to inform readers that the FBI wanted the American people to think there was an 'FBI agent behind every mailbox," Betty Medsger wrote for Saturday's print edition of the Washington Post.

"That rather alarming alert came from stolen FBI files I had found in my own mailbox at The Washington Post when I arrived at work the previous morning.

"It was the return address on the big tan envelope that prompted me to open it first: 'Liberty Publications, Media, PA.' I had worked at the Evening Bulletin in Philadelphia before coming to The Post in January 1970, so I knew of Media, a small town southwest of Philadelphia.

"The letter inside the envelope informed me that on the night of March 8, 1971, my anonymous correspondents — they called themselves the Citizens Commission to Investigate the FBI — had broken into the Media FBI office and stolen every file. They did so, I learned later, in the dark and as the sounds of the first Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier boxing match filled the streets. . . ."

Medsger, a former chair of the Department of Journalism at San Francisco State University and founder of its Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism, tells the story in her newly published "The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI."

Medsger told Journal-isms by email, "The racial files that emerged initially and later are, to me, the most important aspect of what we discovered about Hoover's secret FBI. As long as he was alive, black people never had a chance to have their case for basic rights taken seriously."

Boston's Bay State Banner Unable to Repay City for Bailout

"Over the years, Melvin B. Miller plowed thousands of dollars of his own money into the Bay State Banner to shore up the weekly newspaper he founded and owned," Edward Mason reported Sunday for the Boston Globe. "But by the summer of 2009, the longtime voice of Boston's African-American community was on the brink of failure.

"Then, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, in the midst of a contentious reelection campaign, threw a lifeline to the Banner, engineering a pair of loans totaling $200,000 from an arm of the Boston Redevelopment Authority.

"Some four years later, Menino has completed his fifth and final term, and left office. But the Banner has made only one payment on the loans, which, with interest, have ballooned past $280,000, according to documents obtained by the Globe through the state's public records law. Those documents also show that the paper continued to lose money in subsequent years even as its debt to Miller, from earlier loans he provided to the paper, shrank by more than $200,000.

"This history has not only spurred concerns from a city financial watchdog about how the Banner loan was made and administered, but also raises the broader question of under what circumstances taxpayer money should be risked to support private enterprises. At the same time, it shows that the economic forces battering daily newspapers across the country are also squeezing weekly and community publications.

"The Banner lost more than $400,000 between 2009 and 2012 before returning to profitability last year, when it earned about $40,000, according to financial records. Miller, meanwhile, has put a second home in New Hampshire up for sale to pay back the city. Miller did not respond to repeated interview requests, and, when finally reached, hung up on a reporter. . . ."

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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