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"Blogging While Brown" Amid a Hair Issue

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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Air Force Woman Visits "Sisterhood of Bloggers"

Joseph Williams Moves from Boston Globe to Politico

N.Y. Times Picks 4th White Male Public Editor

85 Journalists Fled Home Countries in Last Year

Reporter Accused of Running Over Cop's Foot

Opposition Prevailed in Media War Over Health Care

Short Takes

"Blogging While Brown" organizers compiled a "highlights reel" that included this scene. (Video)

Air Force Woman Visits "Sisterhood of Bloggers"

It was near the end of the "Blogging While Brown" conference on Saturday when a woman in the Air Force stepped to the microphone to tell the group that she blogged about natural hair and that there were "so many restrictions" on it in the military. If you have "relaxed" hair, she said, a new rule says one can't have two inches of new growth showing.

Black women were told they couldn't wear braids, cornrows or locs. "It's like singling us out," she said.

"I'm here because I don't know what to do."

Given that it was a conference of bloggers and the room was equipped for wireless, the twitterverse lit up.

"Makes me wonder what other indignities black military endure but does not complain about? #bwb," read one tweet, using the "bwb" "hashtag" for the conference.

Another wrote, "So apparently, the military has banned women from having more than 2 inches of new growth. The whole room just went 'WTF?!?' #bwb"

The founder and executive director of the conference committee, Gina McCauley, was reassuring. "You're not alone. You have a sisterhood of bloggers," she told the military woman. McCauley also gave out the Web address of a site with information on how to blog anonymously.

The Air Force attendee - who was wearing civilian clothes - was in the right place. The 206 official registrants for the third annual Blogging While Brown conference, held at Washington's Walter E. Washington Convention Center, were mostly other women, mostly black, less interested in looking like the latest hair-weaved video star than concerned about making a difference.

"To see so many women with natural hair here," marveled Patrice Yursik of the blog Afrobella, which is devoted to the topic. "Not to mention natural hair blogs. There seems to be an explosion of that." Sitting next to Baratunde Thurston of (and formerly of the Onion, the satirical newspaper and website), and Lola Adesioye of Britain's Guardian, formerly of the New York Times and CNN, Yursik announced that as of July 1 she was launching a broadcast counterpart, Afrobella Radio.

That was just one panel. Also represented were blogs such as Racialicious and blackWeb2.0, Scott Hanselman of "Ways to Make Your Blog Suck Less," Facebook, Comcast, Afronetizen, the Federal Trade Commission and former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, among others. They served up expertise and inspiration. "Don't let your job interfere with your career," a quote from panelist Anil Dash, was a popular retweet.

McCauley reminded the audience that it was the black blogosphere that helped keep alive indignation about the racially charged beatings in Jena, La., in 2007, until the issue became a cause and caught the attention of the mainstream media.

One panel followed up that thought with lesser examples of black-blogger activism: Creating an AIDS-awareness campaign called the Red Pump Project, whose ideas were picked up by the Centers for Disease Control; monitoring a Hollywood that rewrote Asian, black or brown characters into white ones; or conversely, raising the idea that the next screen Spider-Man did not have to be white.

In the eyes of McCauley, an Austin, Texas, lawyer, African Americans who blog don't get enough respect. She showed a clip of a blogger being honored by Rush Limbaugh at February's Conservative Political Action Conference, known as CPAC. "When was the last time a blogger got an award from the NAACP or the Urban League, even by an intern?" she asked.

Nevertheless, Curt Johnson of the NAACP, his organization ridiculed by tweet after McCauley's comment, stepped up to the microphone to announce his presence and support. ("i stand corrected - rep from @naacp comms dept is here at #bwb. (tiny digital applause) --> lol, fair enough," tweeted one attendee.)

Corey A. Ealons, who coordinates African American media outreach for the White House, arranged for the crowd to meet in the Executive Office Building Friday with Melody Barnes, head of the Domestic Policy Council, and himself. He told the group that the White House was working on how best to get its message out "so it is easily digestible" on the Web, and that he viewed theirs as an ongoing conversation.

"Social media should be used to get the word *in,* Dash, of Expert Labs and of Indian background, said on another panel. "Sending input to the White House."

J. Jioni Palmer, communications director for the Congressional Black Caucus, did not fare as well. After explaining that he had more than 40 members to represent and thus did not see how he could tweet messages that would satisfy all of them, Palmer was ridiculed: "Comm Dir of Congressional Black Caucus is defending his cluelessness about twitter to crowd of black tweeters - incredible #bwb."

But he delivered some truth-telling: "I've been burned by bloggers more than by traditional reporters," he also said.  

Though the day saw little of the us-against-them posturing that once routinely marked bloggers' mentions of the "mainstream media," Palmer's remark pointed out that there are still stark differences in training and background between the two.

On Monday, an Air Force spokeswoman was asked for details about the change in guidelines about black hairstyles.

"For your clarification:" Maj. Cristin L. Marposon, USAF, said in an e-mailed response.

"The Air Force has not issued new guidelines for African American women's hair. The Air Force does not establish appearance guidelines based on an individual's ethnicity."

The woman who raised the issue at the conference stood by her statement, but said the directive against braids and cornrows, proposed about 2005, was never implemented after an uproar. "what i was saying is reality," she wrote to Journal-isms. "A lot of it is at the discretion of your supervisor. If they feel like your hair is 'faddish' or it does not look within regulations then you will be told to change it or face the consequences.

"A lot of the people that are making the decisions don't understand our hair. It's not a fad, it's not something that can be just slicked back and everything is alright depending on our texture."

What will the bloggers do about that?

Joseph Williams Moves from Boston Globe to Politico

Joseph Williams Joseph Williams, formerly deputy Washington bureau chief for the Boston Globe, will become Politico's deputy White House editor, arriving Wednesday, the website and print newspaper told staff members on Monday.

He will be Politico's first African American originating editor. Another black journalist, Michael Schwartz, is director of photography. Politico launched in 2007.

Williams arrives as the operation expands its staff and tries to shake a reputation for lacking racial diversity. In April, the Washington Post hired away Nia-Malika Henderson, Politico's only African American reporter. Later that month, Politico announced "lots of exciting staff moves," including the hiring of a black reporter who works on the Harvard Crimson, former Politico intern Abby D. Phillip.

Politico recently announced it would select three one-year reporting fellows "from a diverse pool of applicants interested in working as Washington-based journalists covering national politics."

Williams spent five years as deputy bureau chief for the Globe.

"He edited breaking national political news, assigned, wrote and edited political enterprise stories, and covered the Obama administration's urban affairs agenda," the announcement said. "Before then, Williams was the deputy managing editor for local news at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis. A 1996 Nieman fellow, he began his career at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and worked in Miami and Boston. A 1984 University of Richmond graduate, Williams misspent his youth playing for losing football teams in high school and college. He is an Air Force brat who grew up on military bases in California, Washington state and D.C., and in Athens, Greece."

N.Y. Times Picks 4th White Male Public Editor

Arthur S. Brisbane "The public editor of The New York Times is meant to be the so-called reader's representative — the official at the paper whose sole job is 'to serve as an advocate for the interests of readers,' in the words of executive editor Bill Keller," Jeff Bercovici wrote Monday for "But Times readers — and Times employees, for that matter — come in every combination of sex, race and religion, whereas its public editors to date have only come in one flavor: white, middle-aged men.

"The paper just named veteran newspaperman Arthur S. Brisbane to the job, replacing Clark Hoyt, who recently finished his term of service. Brisbane is only the fourth person to hold the post at the Times, which didn't see the need for a public editor (which many papers call an ombudsman) until after scandal caused by Jayson Blair's fabrications. Hoyt and his two predecessors, Byron Calame and Daniel Okrent, are all white males.

"Although the public editor technically reports only to the paper's readers, not to its executives, Keller was in charge of making the hire. I asked him why a newspaper as committed to diversity as the Times normally shows itself to be has yet to hire a non-white and/or female public editor. 'I can assure you that the pool of candidates we considered was large and very diverse, and we gave considerable thought to the issue you raise,' he says. 'In the end, Art stood out as the strongest candidate. And I fully expect him to represent the interests of all readers.'

"Art, I think you have your first column topic already." 


In “From Captivity to Exile," Canadian journalist Amanda Lindhout talks about the plight of Somali cameraman Mohamed Abdifatah Elmi. The two were abducted along with three others in 2008. Freed after many months, Elmi remains at risk and is now in exile. (Video)

85 Journalists Fled Home Countries in Last Year

"At least 29 Iranian editors, reporters, and photographers fled into exile over the past 12 months, the highest annual tally from a single country in a decade, a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. CPJ also found a significant spike in the number of journalists fleeing violence and harassment in East Africa," the Committee reported last week, releasing a special report by Mar??a Salazar-Ferro.

" 'My photos were seen as political criticism of clerics in Iran,' said photographer Mohammad Kheirkhan, who, like other Iranian journalists, went into exile after being harassed and interrogated by authorities for coverage of the unrest that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election. 'The punishment for criticizing clerics is prison, torture, and even execution.'

"Worldwide, at least 85 journalists fled their home countries over the past 12 months, CPJ found in its annual survey, which marks World Refugee Day, June 20, and highlights the plight of journalists who are forced to leave their homes in the face of attacks, threats, or the possibility of imprisonment. This year’s total, which counts journalists who went into exile from June 1, 2009 to May 31, 2010, is double the number recorded in the prior 12-month period. The tally is comparable to the decade’s previous high of 82, which CPJ recorded in 2007-08."

Reporter Accused of Running Over Cop's Foot

Eileen Jones (Montgomery, Ala.,  Police Department) "Local television news reporter Eileen Jones was arrested Thursday after running over a police officer’s foot and then driving off after being told she was under arrest, police said," Scott Johnson reported Friday for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser.

"Jones said Friday she does not believe that she ran over the officer's foot.

"She is charged with assault third degree, a misdemeanor, and escape third degree, a felony. She was placed in the Montgomery County Detention Facility on $3,000 bond.

"Jones was driving to the scene of a tanker truck accident at U.S. 31 and Hyundai Boulevard at about 6 p.m. Thursday, said Capt. Keith Barnett, a police spokesman.

"She apparently was driving toward the WSFA live remote truck, past where other vehicles had stopped, Barnett said.

"An officer approached her and she initially stopped, Barnett said.

"The two had an exchange and the officer told her to hold on, Barnett said. Jones instead started driving and at that point ran over the officer's foot, he said.

"The officer yelled at her to stop and at that point she did, he said.

"The officer told her she was under arrest, reached inside her vehicle and placed a handcuff on one of her wrists, Barnett said. Jones never identified herself as a news reporter for WSFA, he said.

"Jones said that she did identify herself as soon as the officer approached her.

"Barnett said Jones drove away with the cuff still on her wrist. . . ."

Opposition Prevailed in Media War Over Health Care

"How did the press cover the most divisive issue of the past year and President Obama’s top domestic priority?" the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism asked in a report released Monday.

"A comprehensive study of more than 5,500 health care stories in the mainstream media from June 2009 through March 2010 finds six basic facts worth understanding about how the media handled the debate. It may also offer some lessons for future coverage of other Beltway battles which are sure to follow.

"First, health care coverage followed a roller coaster trajectory, spiking dramatically at times and plunging at other points. And the media platforms best suited for ideological debate proved to be especially interested in the subject — particularly the liberal talk media. In the war of words over health care, however, the opposition seems to have prevailed, as their terms and ideas showed up far more often than the key ideas of supporters of the Democrats’ reform plans. The media also seemed to focus far more on the politics and the passions that drove the debate than the health care system it was trying to reform.

"Finally, President Obama’s presence as a key figure in health care coverage vacillated markedly over the 10 months studied, lending credence to the idea that he did, at times, lose control of the narrative."

Short Takes

  • "The U.S. rights-holders continue to rack up Nielsen gains with their coverage of the 2010 FIFA World Cup from South Africa," Mike Reynolds reported Saturday for Multichannel News. "Univision notched its best delivery with the tournament to date with its presentation of the Group A match between Mexico-France on June 17, while ESPN netted its highest household soccer total ever with the U.S.-Slovenia game the following day."

  • "In a strategic move to enter the television broadcasting space, Anil Ambani Group firm Reliance Broadcast Network Ltd will form an equal joint venture with US media conglomerate CBS Corp to own and operate TV channels," the Times of India reported on Sunday.

  • Jason Samuels Jason Samuels, broadcast news producer and New York University journalism professor, is leaving BET News for CNN's "In America" unit, Samuels told Journal-isms on Monday. "i start wed. i enjoyed my year at bet but wanted to accept this new challenge at cnn. it should be noted that virtually all of the various projects i led at bet were nominated for or won journalism awards," he said via e-mail. He previously worked at ESPN, ABC and NBC.

  • The Hispanic market represents "$1.3 billion of economic power that is about to explode," Don Browne, president of Telemundo Communications Group, which includes the flagship network, 16 O&Os, Telemundo Studios, news and sports, told Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting & Cable. "There is a lingering misperception of the vitality and power of this economic group. I think that‚Äôs where the sea change is taking place. I think that the opportunity is becoming so compelling that it is removing the reluctance or the misinformation about what a powerful opportunity this is. . . . what people are realizing is that the single fastest way to grow any business in the next two to five years is understanding, embracing and acting on the Hispanic marketplace."

  • Desiree A. Fontaine In Connecticut, "Desiree A. Fontaine, a WTNH-TV morning news traffic reporter, was arrested Saturday for allegedly shoplifting in the Sears store at the Westfield Connecticut Post mall at 1201 Boston Post Road in Milford," Linda Conner Lambeck of the Connecticut Post reported on Sunday.

  • Herb Boyd, a native Detroiter, author and contributor to the New York Amsterdam News, is screening "Cri de Coeur" ("Cry of the Heart"), a 45-minute documentary on Haiti that he wrote and directed, on Friday in Detroit. The film was directed by Eddie Harris and produced by Don Rojas, executive director of Free Speech TV, an independent, publicly supported nonprofit. The screening, followed by a panel discussion, takes place at 151 W. Fort St., near Shelby. The DVD can be purchased from

  • "Less than a week after the successive killings of two radio broadcasters, a reporter for a newspaper in the southern Philippines was shot dead on Saturday evening, officials and colleagues said on Sunday," Carlos H. Conde reported for the New York Times. "Nestor Bedolido, a reporter for the weekly tabloid The Kastigador in Digos City, was buying cigarettes from a roadside vendor when a gunman approached and shot him six times. . . . Mr. Bedolido‚Äôs killing brought to 140 the number of Filipino journalists killed since democracy was restored in the Philippines in 1986."

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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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Joseph Williams to POLITICO

This is beyond ironic. Politico finally deigns to bring a qualified editor of color into its fold, and it selects........a black "man" of such questionable character as Joseph Williams? Come on. Everyone in DC knows that Williams was fired by the Boston Globe in DC for poor performance. It is also well known that he owes his former wife many thousands of dollars in child support and alimony and that in dealing with her and with his children he shows only childish immaturity and not any integrity at all. Guess he will make a great addition to the Frat Boy atmosphere over there at Politico, come to think of it.

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