Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Cosby Challenges Washington Post

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Activists Say "Black Man" Portrayals Ignore a Crisis

Bill Cosby, the star speaker on a panel of experts, lambasted the Washington Post Tuesday for its continuing "Being a Black Man" series as painting too upbeat a picture.



"I'm not interested in hearing that things aren't as bad as they seem. They're horrible," Cosby said at "Paths to Success: A Forum on Young African-American Men," sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Post and Harvard University.

The three groups jointly conducted a survey that, in June, began the Post series.

Among other findings, eight in 10 black men said they were satisfied with their lives, and six in 10 reported that it was a "good time" to be a black man in the United States.

That sentiment – and an opening series of video sound bites from black men in Washington – first drew Cosby's wrath.

"The Washington Post ran a clip and then they edited it and they had in what they wanted us to see these men saying," he said. "Unless I missed it, I heard not one black man say anything about being a father. I heard not one black man say, 'my responsibility,' not one. The edited version of these people with a camera on a drive-by – I'm looking to media. I don't like people who see and can't tell the truth. . . . A man tells me, 'It's not as bad as it seems.' I don't want to hear that shit."

Cosby, who with the others spoke at Kaiser's offices in downtown Washington in a presentation transmitted over the Internet, also blasted the paper over its initial coverage of his May 2004 remarks that set off his two-year crusade to address black personal responsibility. What wasn't reported, Cosby said, were his comments that "our children were trying to tell us something and we're not listening." He similarly criticized the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The actor, comedian, activist and holder of a doctor of education degree, consistently addressed as "Dr. Cosby" by moderator Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School, became exasperated when Steven A. Holmes, a Post national news editor, said the series would not resume until the fall.

"How can you take off the summer?" Cosby asked, saying that is when young people can be idle and angry. "Don't you have some junior people who would love to" step in?

"I'm holding the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Washington Post – all the white newspapers – to look at us and take us seriously. You had your Judas who reported Jesse Jackson saying Hymietown," he said, referring to Post reporter Milton Coleman's quoting of Jackson's reference to Jews as "Hymie" and to New York as "Hymietown" in an informal conversation during Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign.




Philip Bennett, the Post's managing editor, told Journal-isms today:

"I think Bill Cosby was confusing our ongoing coverage of issues affecting African Americans in the Washington region, which we are committed to pursuing on an ongoing basis, and the next round of profiles of individuals in this series. He was also making a rhetorical point about the urgent need to cover the problems he was discussing, which we recognize.

"The profiles take months to develop and we are in the reporting phase for the next round. That's why they'll resume in the fall. One of the reasons that we've organized the series this way is to learn as we go. We learned some important things at the Kaiser-Post conference that we'll apply to future stories."

At bottom, the conflict over the series was in large part over which view of black men should be presented. It was a role reversal, considering that activists have long argued that the media choose to emphasize the negative.

Even though most speakers did not mention the Post series, their repeated warnings about an emergency among African Americans contrasted with the assertion that 70 percent of black men said they were doing fine.

"When you have 30 percent of any population group in trouble, it's a crisis," agreed the Post's Holmes. "I have no argument about that. But it gives a distorted picture of black men" to focus only on the 30 percent. "Accuracy is what we should strive for," Holmes told the group. "My responsibility is to present the truth whatever that truth is."

Replied Cosby, "The 30 percent that's not" doing well "could shoot some of the 70 percent."

Mayor-elect Ron Dellums of Oakland, Calif., the former congressman, added later, "What is accurate?" citing varying perspectives on accuracy and the need for context. "Don't just say 'accurate,' but be accurate in a way that mobilizes people to deal with the problems of black males in America, because they're being ground up like glass."

Many of the panelists agreed that the real problem was the black family. Dr. Alvin Poussaint of Harvard Medical School pointed to a Yale study that showed that black males were expelled at twice the rate of others in pre-school, and that "young black males are much more likely to show up with internal problems," such as attention deficit disorder and dyslexia. He said there were "very high levels of child abuse and neglect in the black community," and that produces an early anger.

That speaks to the decline of black families and in appropriate parenting, speakers contended.

Larry Levitt, the Kaiser foundation's vice president for communications, said Kaiser did not yet know how many watched the Webcast, "though we do know that it was more traffic than we've ever had (including for some very high profile webcasts), and enough to overwhelm and crash our servers for a time."

C-SPAN taped the event. A C-SPAN spokeswoman said she did not yet know when it would air.

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Madison Named NBCU's Executive VP of Diversity

Paula Madison, president and general manager of KNBC-TV, the NBC owned-and-operated station in Los Angeles, has been named executive vice president of diversity for NBC Universal, as the company is now known.

Madison continues in her roles as NBC/Telemundo Los Angeles regional general manager for the Los Angeles Telemundo stations, KVEA-TV and KWHY-TV, and at KNBC.

However, she told Journal-isms today, "I'll be assisted in running KNBC by Mike McCarthy who I've appointed station manager, reporting to me as president and general manager."

While at KNBC, Madison doubled as senior vice president of diversity for NBC until 2002, when Michael Jack, general manager of WRC-TV in Washington, was named to the job.

Since NBC bought Vivendi Universal Entertainment in 2004, said Kathy Kelly-Brown, NBC Universal's senior vice president for corporate communications, nearly half the company's business takes place on the West Coast, requiring a high-ranking diversity presence there.

Jack will remain on the company's Diversity Council, Kelly-Brown said.

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Pearl Stewart Wins Editorial Writers' Diversity Award

Pearl Stewart, founder/director of Black College Wire, an online student news service, is the recipient of this year's Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship honoring a faculty member "who has shown great initiative in mentoring minority college students," the National Conference of Editorial Writers Foundation announced (PDF) today.

"Ms. Stewart was nominated for the award by her colleague Jean E. Thompson 'because her tireless efforts on behalf of minority students have produced long-ranging results that will ripple through our industry for years to come. Almost eight years ago, Pearl Stewart conceived a way to help those African-American students who aspire to be reporters, copy editors, designers and photographers but who for lack of preparation, finances or mentors, could not attend the best journalism schools. It took several years and countless hours of research and discussion with students and other educators, and finally, grant applications, to make good on this vision. Today, the Internet-based news service founded by Pearl Stewart thrives as a training tool for aspiring student journalists."

Stewart, who became the first black woman to edit a mainstream newspaper at the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune in 1992, also teaches at the University of Southern Mississippi.

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First American Indian Cable Channel Planned

Jay Winter Nightwolf, a Washington-area radio personality, "has joined a group of Virginia broadcast journalists and other media professionals to launch Native American Television, joining a handful of groups racing to establish the United States' first American Indian cable channel," Dionne Walker reported from Richmond, Va., Tuesday for the Associated Press.

"NATV, which the group hopes to launch by year's end, will feature programming aimed at the nation's indigenous tribes: News specials and cooking shows, films and historic documentaries, video of drumming, powwows and even stand up comedy.

"A program tentatively titled 'Meet Native America' would mirror NBC's 'Meet the Press,' bringing together a panel of Indian journalists to interview Washington D.C. lawmakers. 'Talk to Native America' would explore issues like economic development in Indian country, Nightwolf said.

"Indian Country Today on TV would be a televised version of the popular Indian newspaper by a similar name.

"While a handful of tribes have set up regional channels in the past, a cable network would be a first, according to a spokeswoman at Native American Public Telecommunications.

"At least two others have not gotten past the planning stages."

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65% Don't See Their Blogging as Journalism

"A new, national phone survey of bloggers finds that most are focused on describing their personal experiences to a relatively small audience of readers and that only a small proportion focus their coverage on politics, media, government, or technology," the Pew Internet and American Life Project reported today.

"About 34 percent see their blogging as a form of journalism; 65 percent disagreed. Just over a third of bloggers said they engage often in journalistic activities such as verifying facts and linking to source material," Reuters added in a story headlined, "Storytelling, Not Journalism, Propels Most Blogs."

"Related surveys by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that the blog population has grown to about 12 million American adults, or about 8% of adult internet users and that the number of blog readers has jumped to 57 million American adults, or 39% of the online population," the Pew news release continued.

A workshop called "the Blogger Buzz" is scheduled for the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Indianapolis at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18. This columnist will be among the panelists, explaining why he resists calling "Journal-isms" a blog.

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Short Takes

  • "A series of raids in Oklahoma last week led to the arrests of 127 criminal aliens, fugitives and other immigration violators despite a TV station's news report that not only exposed the operation to the public, but also described the people and the vehicles being used in the effort," Randy Hall reported on Tuesday for the Cybercast News Service.
  • "Fox Television Stations and Twentieth Television announced Tuesday the launch of a new, live, national morning show featuring entertainment and general interest programming. Scheduled to debut January 2007, the hour-long show will be cleared by all 25 owned-and-operated Fox stations," Katy Bachman reported Tuesday in Mediaweek.
  • Columnist Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald, DeNeen L. Brown of the Washington Post and Dai Huynh of the Houston Chronicle are among the winners in the annual writing contest of the American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors.
  • "'The Voice of the Lakota Nation' is back on the airways after being silenced for two months when an April lightning bolt destroyed its antenna on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation," Jomay Steen reported today in the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal.
  • "A judge Monday admonished the defense lawyers and prosecutor in the Duke University lacrosse rape case to watch what they say to the news media," Benjamin Niolet and Anne Blythe reported Tuesday in the Raleigh News & Observer. "By ordering the defense team and prosecutor to follow the rule that limits what lawyers can say in an active case, Superior Court Judge Kenneth C. Titus put everyone in the case on notice that the constant news coverage could imperil a fair trial."
  • "A jury took only a few hours to convict a South Korean national, Tongsun Park, of acting as an unregistered agent of Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The conspiracy of which he was a part ran for 10 years, ending in late 2002, and helped one of the world's worst regimes maintain its grip on power," Niall Stanage writes in the New York Observer edition dated July 24. "But The New York Times did not assign a reporter to his trial. . . . Of the other major national dailies, The Washington Post ran a single news-brief item, the Los Angeles Times not a word."
  • Nigerian journalist Shola Oshunkeye was awarded the top prize at the CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2006 Awards ceremony, CNN reported. Oshunkeye's TELL Magazine article "Niger's Graveyard of the Living" "pulled no punches, and attacked the Niger government's attempt to play down the famine, claiming there was no starvation in the country, merely 'poverty' and 'food shortages'," UPI reported.
  • "No newspapers were published in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) on Tuesday in protest at the killing of a reporter 10 days ago," the UN Integrated Regional Information Networks reported Tuesday. At least 1,000 journalists took part in a demonstration on Monday in the capital Kinshasa, during which they presented a memorandum to the U.N. mission seeking its protection, the story said.
  • NBC has signed filmmaker Spike Lee to develop a new drama series for NBC Universal Television, but details of the project and Lee's exact role are yet to be announced, Ben Grossman reported on Tuesday in Broadcasting & Cable.
  • "CW President Dawn Ostroff says that the new network will rely on its commitment to diversity to help it find its audience when it launches in the fall," Ben Grossman wrote Monday in Broadcasting & Cable. CW is replacing or incorporating the WB and UPN networks, which had hosted numerous shows popular with audiences of color, Grossman wrote. Ostroff pointed to the network programming a Sunday night African American comedy block and a drama loosely based on the life of singer Alicia Keys.
  • Muckraking radio broadcaster Armando Pace was gunned down Tuesday in the southern Philippines as he was riding home on a motorcycle, the latest victim in a series of killings of journalists, police said, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.

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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