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Columnist Rob Parker Out at Detroit News

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Monday, January 5, 2009

Sportswriter Took Heat for Question to Coach

Detroit News sports columnist Rob Parker has resigned from the newspaper, the paper's managing editor told Journal-isms on Tuesday. Parker had been demoted to general assignment sports reporter, the Newspaper Guild disclosed, in the fallout from a news conference question to the coach of the Detroit Lions NFL team that drew criticism from management, readers and other sports journalists. 

Rob Parker "He doesn't work here any more," Managing Editor Donald Nauss said. He said Parker resigned on Friday. Asked whether this followed a suspension of his column, Nauss said, "I can't talk about personnel matters."

Parker, who had been at the paper for eight years, could not be reached for comment and has not responded to previous requests.

[On ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike" show on Wednesday, Parker said, "I asked the people for a buyout and they granted me one.

["The newspaper is changing," and "this situation came along and I just thought it was time for me to leave because I just thought we were not on the same page as far as reporting and how to get a story," he said.]

Lou Mleczko, president of the Newspaper Guild of Detroit, said grievances filed on Parker's behalf might remain in place. "We've got some policy issues," he told Journal-isms.

At a postgame news conference on Dec. 21, Parker asked Lions coach Rod Marinelli whether he wished his daughter had married "a better defensive coordinator."

Fox television showed the question, prompting analyst Terry Bradshaw to say: "You know, Rob, you're an idiot. You're just a flat idiot." Others chimed in.

Parker defended himself in a column that Monday, saying, "What might have seemed like a personal attack wasn't. . . . I respect what Marinelli is trying to accomplish as Lions coach, and he respects what I do as a sports columnist - ask questions, tough ones, to get at the root of his team's woes."

But Marinelli said the next day, "Anytime you attack my daughter, I've got a problem with that . . ." and, asked whether the question crossed the line, replied, "big time."

The Lions fired Marinelli on Dec. 28, a day after the team became the first in NFL history to finish with a record of 0-16.

But Parker's troubles remained. The column of apology was the last one Parker would write for the paper. Nauss said in a News story that Parker's question was inappropriate and unprofessional.

"The News is taking this matter seriously and will deal with it promptly in an appropriate manner," Nauss said.

It wasn't the first time Parker had been in hot water.

Less than two months before that, Parker apologized for implicating Michigan State University backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in an off-campus assault. Parker made the statement in October on WDIV-TV's "Clubhouse Confidential."

Mleczkc said Parker was suspended without pay for "several days" and then demoted to sports general assignment reporter for "several weeks." The Guild filed a grievance on Parker's behalf on Nov. 24, saying Parker made the comments as a freelancer, not as a News employee.

Back in 1991, Parker was brought up on charges by the Newspaper Guild for crossing picket lines during a bitter strike at the New York Daily News. The charges were later dropped and Parker moved on to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

Even though Parker never joined the Guild, the Detroit union just on Monday filed another grievance on Parker's behalf. It said the penalty for his question to the coach was disproportionate, and challenged the News' assertion that Parker's behavior was unprofessional and harmed the newspaper's reputation nationally, Mleczko said.

"We have a legal as well as ethical responsibility to people who are in our jurisdiction to represent them" even if they do not join the Guild, the union president said.

Parker started at Newsday in 1995, one month after he had been suspended for a day for making a joke on a radio program he co-hosted on WDFN-AM, a Detroit all-sports station. He jokingly said in a discussion of cats, "everyone needs a little pussy."

According to Wikipedia, "The African-American Parker is not shy to discuss the racial aspects of current sports events, such as the NBA off-court dress policy, or the lack of African-Americans in NFL coaching positions. He penned a much-debated column where he called Hank Aaron a 'coward' for declining to attend when Barry Bonds would break the career Major League home run record."

Last year, Parker declared on ESPN's "First Take" that he had low expectations for college players Tyler Hansbrough and Kevin Love in the NBA, because they are white.

Parker is a regular on "First Take" and is next scheduled to be on the show on Jan. 16. 21, 22 and 23, an ESPN spokesman said.  [Updated Jan. 7.]

Obama Wants Journalist Gupta as Surgeon General

"President-elect Barack Obama has offered the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and correspondent for CNN and CBS, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation," Howard Kurtz reported on Tuesday on the Washington Post Web site.

"Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer. 

Sanja Gupta

"When reached for comment today, Gupta did not deny the account but declined to comment.

"The offer followed a two-hour Chicago meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice, the sources said. Gupta later spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama's White House health czar and nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the president-elect.

"The Michigan-born son of parents who were born in India, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy."

The Associated Press reported, "Two Democrats with knowledge of the discussions over the surgeon general spot said Gupta was under consideration but cautioned there was not yet a final decision on who would fill the post . . . Gupta declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter who visited his home in an Atlanta suburb."

[However, a story in Wednesday's Washington Post, by Ceci Connolly and Kurtz, was more conclusive.

["He has also been offered a top post in the new White House Office of Health Reform, twin duties that could make him the most influential surgeon general in history," the story said.]

CNN issued this statement: "Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the U.S. surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health-care policy or any matters involving the new administration."

Gupta is a member of the South Asian Journalists Association, which offered this coverage on Wednesday.

Chideya to Leave "News & Notes" Early

January 5, 2009

NPR Wouldn't Pay for Show to Cover Inauguration

Farai Chideya, host of National Public Radio's canceled "News & Notes," said on Monday she will leave the show earlier than expected because NPR decided it was "not feasible" for the California-based show to be in Washington to cover Barack Obama's historic Jan. 20 inauguration. She will be in Washington for Inauguration Week in any event, she told Journal-isms.

Tony Cox and Farai Chideya host NPR's 'News & Notes'

"Today, I announced that I will end my work as host of 'News & Notes' and leave NPR on Friday, January 16," Chideya said. "As you know, 'News & Notes' was one of two shows recently cancelled, effective March 20, by NPR management as part of broader layoffs and budget cuts. While I had planned to stay with the show until its conclusion, NPR's decisions to curtail resources and cut coverage plans made me reconsider my timing."

NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher said it had been decided early in the fall, "prior to our announcement to end 'News & Notes,' to not have 'News & Notes' come out here to cover it from D.C. because of limited production space and production capacity."  The show may cover the Inauguration from California, she said. Christopher added that no decision had been made on filling the host's slot for the remaining weeks.

NPR announced Dec. 10 it was canceling "News & Notes" and the midday afternoon magazine show "Day to Day" and reducing its work force by 7 percent. It said a projected $2 million deficit for fiscal 2009 had become $23 million with the downturn in the economy.

"Neither program was attracting sufficient levels of audience or national underwriting necessary to sustain continued production under these tough financial circumstances," Dennis Haarsager, interim president and CEO, said in a message to NPR affiliates.

Chideya said she did not have a contract with NPR and thus was free to leave.

In her statement, she continued, "I cannot thank 'News & Notes' staff enough for their gifts of creativity, moxie and hustle. To quote a colleague, 'We made miracles every day.' As the only daily national public radio show devoted exclusively to the African-American experience, we didn't let lean resources sap our ambitions to be inclusive and insightful. I'm proudest of our coverage of the 2008 election: from candidate interviews to the convention floor, the debates and finally election night. I appreciate our loyal audience; our family of experts, journalists and bloggers; our African American Public Radio Consortium partners; and the many NPR member stations who supported us.

"I look forward to hosting another project that blends broadcast and multimedia and offers a fresh approach to culture and diversity. Over the coming months, I hope to meet many of you in person as I tour the country for the publication of my first novel, Kiss the Sky. In the meantime, keep passing on the love on to the News & Notes crew."

"News & Notes" had its origins in a collaboration in 2000 between NPR and African American affiliates, known as the African American Public Radio Consortium. The collaboration came up with the "Tavis Smiley Show," which became "News & Notes With Ed Gordon." Smiley and Gordon both left questioning NPR's commitment to a multicultural audience. Chideya, a multimedia journalist who has written three books, was substitute host for Gordon and became the principal host when Gordon left.

Tony Cox, who has been with the show through all three incarnations, currently co-hosts.

FCC Fines Stations Over Inadequate EEO Records

The Federal Communications Commission fined radio and television broadcasters for failing to keep adequate equal-employment opportunity records and two commissioners accompanied the notices with a declaration that "lax EEO enforcement has yielded less diversity in employment.

"Commission enforcement of EEO rules has been inconsistent and, as one consequence, employment in broadcasting does not reflect America," a joint statement from Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein said. "It is clear that the Commission's recent efforts to promote employment diversity have been woefully inadequate."

Cumulus Licensing LLC received a $14,000 notice of apparent liability related to several Georgia stations, including a cluster in Macon.

"Fox Television Stations received an NAL," a notice of apparent liability, "for $20,000 for alleged EEO violations at its Washington, DC, stations; Dickey Broadcasting received an NAL for $7,000 for alleged violations at WCNN-AM/Atlanta and WFOM-AM/Marietta, GA; and Urban Radio was sent an NAL for $8,000 for alleged EEO violations at WLIB-AM and WBLS-FM/New York. With WLIB's NAL came a grant of its application for renewal.

"Also hit with NALs related to EEO rules: W.S. Communications, which received a $14,000 NAL related to two Colorado radio stations, and Puerto Rico Public Broadcasting, which received an $8,000 NAL for its TV and radio stations."

Of the black-owned New York stations, the FCC's notice said, "The Licensee reports that it is unable to locate the required records, and the human resources employee responsible for collecting and managing the records has left the employment of the Licensee."

Of the Fox stations in Washington, it said, "We find that the Licensee's inadequate recruitment efforts for 39 openings noted above did not result in sufficient public outreach to inform jobseekers who were unconnected to Licensee staff that positions at the Stations were available."

Of the Puerto Rico stations, it said, "Because of the Licensee's lack of records of interviewees and referrals, we find that it was not possible for it to have adequately analyzed its recruitment program to ensure that it was effective in achieving broad outreach."

A spokeswoman for Fox's WTTG-TV and WDCA-TV told Journal-isms, "We are reviewing everything related to the notice of apparent liability." Lawyers for other broadcasters did not respond to requests for comment. 

Correspondents of Color Low on Most-Viewed List

Byron PittsWith 108 and 107 minutes of airtime, respectively, CBS correspondents Byron Pitts and Bill Whitaker were the most "heavily used" journalists of color on the broadcast-network evening news programs last year, according to broadcast-industry watcher Andrew Tyndall's Tyndall Report.

But Pitts and Whitaker ranked only No. 30 and No. 32. No journalists of color cracked the top 25.

The top five were Andrea Mitchell of NBC News' Washington Bureau, with 355 minutes; Jake Tapper of ABC News, on the campaign trail, 313 minutes; Dean Reynolds, CBS News, campaign trail, 262; Robert Bazell, NBC News, medicine beat, 261; and Betsy Stark of ABC News, the economy, 245.

"2008's network news agenda was dominated by just two questions. Who would be the next President? And how deep would the recession be that confronts him," Tyndall wrote. 

Andrea Mitchell
"The lame duck President became an afterthought. Astonishingly, the White House correspondents at ABC and NBC did not even earn enough assignments to rank in the year's Top 20. Coverage of foreign policy was the lowest in 21 years and domestic policy ranked 18th out of 21." 

Rankings of other journalists of color were: No. 60, CBS News' Hari Sreenivasan, 75 mins; No. 62, ABC News' Stephanie Sy, 73 minutes; No. 63, NBC News' Rehema Ellis, 73 minutes; No. 67, NBC's Ann Curry, 71 minutes; No. 69, NBC's Ron Allen, 70 minutes; No. 71, ABC News' Ron Claiborne, 68 minutes; No. 72, NBC's Carl Quintanilla, 66 minutes.

Noting that this was the second year that no journalists of color were among the most visible reporters, Eric Deggans of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times asked Monday, "Isn't it time the media establishment caught up with the voting public already?"

Demise of Printed AsianWeek Said to Signal Trend

The demise of the print version of the San Francisco-based AsianWeek newsweekly "leaves an even bigger hole in the coverage of Asian Americans in a city where one-third of residents are Asian American. And, even though one-fifth of the Bay Area's population is of Asian descent, Asian Americans' voices will be harder to find in local newspapers or on the radio dial, as most mainstream media outlets from San Francisco to Oakland to San Jose have shed their Asian-American affairs reporters and radio programs," Ngoc Nguyen, editor of New America Media, wrote on Monday.

"AsianWeek is just the latest in a string of Asian-American media closures, including KQED's Pacific Time, AZN Television, and the San Jose Mercury News' Vietnamese-language supplement Viet Mercury.

"Janice Lee, deputy executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association, said the reorganization of major news media has resulted in the layoffs and buyouts of thousands of journalists, including Asian Americans. The staff reorganizations have included the loss of Asian-American affairs reporters at the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle, a columnist at the Mercury News, a veteran broadcaster at CBS-affiliate KPIX, and three Asian-American editors at the Chronicle, Lee said.

"'We're seeing a climate of risk in in-depth coverage of Asian Americans,' Lee said. She said all ethnic groups should be concerned about shrinking coverage of their communities.

"As newspapers become thinner, readers may not notice how the staff cuts are affecting coverage, but, Lee said, community organizations that monitor Asian-American issues will be the first to feel the impact."

"Seek Out the Stars on the Paper Who Do Those Jobs" 

Ernest Holsendolph
"Minorities are still underrepresented on business desks. How can this issue be solved?" Chris Roush, UNC-Chapel Hill journalism professor, asked Ernest Holsendolph, a trailblazer for other black business journalists.
"I think blacks and other minorities interested in communication need to be sold on business and economic reporting as a specialty," replied Holsendolph,  who worked at the Cleveland Plain Dealer, New York Times and Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"They need to be knocking on the doors, or listing business in their job reviews as a preference down the road. Both SABEW and NABJ" — the Society of American Business Editors and Writers and the National Association of Black Journalists — "need to encourage their members to talk up business as a specialty — and right now is really the time to strike. Nearly everybody, from frazzled consumers to nervous workers, testify that they are more interested than ever in reading or hearing business news, and if people are reading it, those stories become stronger candidates for the glamour position on the front of the paper, or on section fronts in both business and features."

"What would you recommend today to a black journalist who was interested in covering business?" Roush asked.

"I would counsel young blacks who are interested in business or any other specialty, from arts criticism to science to politics, to seek out the stars on the paper who do those jobs," Holsendolph said. "Talk to them about how they got there, what about the specialty that turns them on. The youngsters must solicit the aid of the senior writers. Not enough of our senior writers are inclined to mentor and actively serve as role models, but we ALL are flattered to be asked questions by someone who admires us from afar. That kind of inquiry can awaken the mentoring instincts in some cases. I say seek out the BEST in the specialty because among them you will find that kind of inspirational enthusiasm you seek."



Roland Burris, former Illinois attorney general, insists he should be seated.

Burris Continues Media Blitz in Quest for Senate Seat

Roland Burris, picked by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, continued his media blitz on Monday, appearing on CNN's "The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer" to insist that he should be seated despite the opposition of Senate Democrats, who said they would not accept any appointee of Blogojevich, who has been arrested and charged with influence peddling.

On Sunday, said Blitzer, Sen. Dick Durbin, "the senior senator from Illinois, and the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, they both said they were open to, quote, 'negotiating' with you on this. So tell me, what there is to negotiate?"

"Well, I am the legally appointed senator," Burris replied. "And what we've been trying to get everyone to recognize [is] that the governor of Illinois has serious problems. God knows he has problems, but he is still the governor. He made a legal appointment. And that's, you know, the end of it. Close the books. That is a legal appointment.

"And based on that, I'm hoping that the Senate of the United States will honor that. I mean, it's just that simple."

However, Senate officials Tuesday morning rejected Burris's effort to be seated, telling him he lacked the requisite approval of state officials to be sworn in with the rest of the class of 2008 in today's launch of the 111th Congress, as Paul Kane reported for the Washington Post.

Short Takes

  • Fran Ham, a writer and producer at WWOR-TV News, died in her Brooklyn, N.Y., apartment on Sunday, Gary Anthony Ramsay,president of the New York Association of Black Journalists,said.Fran Ham "The circumstances of her death are still unclear pending an autopsy, but her family believes Fran, who was young, may have succumbed to an Asthma attack at home. She had been sick for several days, but kept working according to co-workers." Before joining WWOR in 2005, Ham had been a writer for WCBS-TV.
  • "Essence, the top-selling magazine among black women, will have a full-time White House reporter for the first time. Ebony magazine will add a White House reporter, either full time or as needed. Its sister publication, Jet magazine, will have a weekly two-page Washington report in every issue," Nia-Malika Henderson reported¬†Saturday in Politico, in a story headlined, "Obama brings firsts for black press."Sheila Harris, a spokeswoman for Essence, said the correspondent had not been chosen and could not say whether it would be a current staff member. Hazel Trice Edney, who edits the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, which serves black-community newspapers, told Journal-isms, "We've been in constant conversation with the Obama transition team and we've been assured that the NNPA News Service will continue its White House coverage with significantly greater access. At the moment, we're working to get through the inaugural coverage."
  • "After ten years in the employ of the Philadelphia Daily News, I have decided to leave the newspaper and pursue other options," Damon C. Williams, a native Philadelphian, wrote¬†on his blog Friday. He told Journal-isms, "In short, I left the paper because I ended up caring too much about the heartbreaking stories, and I often took those stories home with me, allowing them to affect other aspects of my life. That, and the unusual demands thrust on reporters by a largely thankless populace made my decision an easy, although bittersweet one. You can also add in the decline of journalism on the business end; I think I bowed out at the right time."
  • The National Union of Somali Journalists and Reporters Without Borders welcomed the release Sunday of British reporter Colin Freeman and Spanish photographer Jos?© Cendon, both employed by the London-based Daily Telegraph. Freeman and Cendon were kidnapped as they left from their hotel in Bosasso, in the northern semi-autonomous region of Puntland, on Nov. 26. They had been in Bosasso for about a week to report on piracy, Reporters Without Borders said.
  • In Somalia, "a government soldier killed Radio Shabelle reporter Hassan Mayow Hassan, shooting the veteran journalist twice in the head after stopping him in the Somali town of Afgoye on Thursday morning, three local journalists told the Committee to Protect Journalists today," the organization reported¬†on Friday. "The journalists said they had interviewed witnesses to the killing."
  • "Pint-size TV broadcaster Damon Weaver, 10, has been denied media credentials to President-elect Obama's inauguration ‚Äî a tough lesson for the local fifth-grader in the competitive game of Washington journalism," Kimberly Miller wrote Dec. 30 for the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. "But Damon isn't about to let the snub derail his coverage of the historic event. With about $8,000 in donations, Damon, his K.E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary School teacher Brian Zimmerman, a student cameraman and two parents will travel to Washington on Jan. 18 to prepare for a KEC-TV special inauguration broadcast."
  • "The sad reality in countries with large black populations, such as Brazil, and those with tiny communities, such as Mexico, is that Afro-Latinos have typically been relegated to the sidelines of politics and high finance," Oscar Avila wrote Thursday for the Chicago Tribune. "But when it comes to race relations, the U.S. is once again casting its shadow on the Americas ‚Äî this time in a positive way, with the election of Barack Obama as president, according to politicians and experts in the region."
  • Photojournalist Pete Souza has accepted the position of official White House photographer for President-elect Barack Obama, News Photographer magazine said¬†on Sunday. "Souza received the offer for the position from Robert Gibbs, the new president's longtime spokesman who is also Obama's incoming White House press secretary. It won't be Souza's first time in the Oval Office. He was also a White House photographer during President Ronald Reagan's second term."

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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