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"Dark-Skinned Male" Report Highlights Errors

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Updated April 18

Some Use Experts of Color to Comment on Boston Bombing

Brazile Says CNN Owes Apology Over "Dark-Skinned" Report

Senate Defeats Measure on Background Checks

Talk Radio Ramps Up Volume Against Immigration Reform

2,000 Pay Last Respects to Margaret Thatcher


Bryant Gumbel Acknowledges Debt to Wendell Smith


More Viewers of Color Turning to Netflix, Hulu, Roku

Zucker Is Asked About Diversity at Atlanta Meeting

Play Dramatizes Plight of Mexican Journalists


Short Takes


In his first report for ABC News, Byron Pitts, right, interviews Carlos Rosario on the Boston Marathon bombings. (Video)

Some Use Experts of Color to Comment on Boston Bombing

On a day highlighted by false reports that a suspect had been arrested in the Boston Marathon bombing, CNN's John King was singled out for reporting that law enforcement officials had identified "a dark-skinned male" as the suspect, and at least four news organizations demonstrated that it is possible to put people of color on the air as experts if one makes the effort.

"CNN's John King caused some controversy on Wednesday when he said that a potential suspect in the Boston bombings was a 'dark-skinned male,' Huffington Post reported.

"Eventually, of course, King's entire thesis turned out to be false. Federal authorities made clear that there was no suspect in the attacks yet. At the time,though, he appeared to have a scoop.

"King was the first to report that law enforcement officials had identified a suspect in Monday's bloody attacks.

" 'I want to be very careful about this, because people get very sensitive when you say these things,' he said. 'I was told by one of these sources who is a law enforcement official that this is a dark-skinned male.'

"He said that there had been a further description given, but he was refraining from sharing it with viewers.

" 'There are some people who will take offense for even saying that,' he said. 'I understand that.'

" 'We can't say whether the person spoke with a foreign accent, or an American accent?' Wolf Blitzer asked. 'That would be premature.' . . . "

"PBS anchor Gwen Ifill tweeted her disapproval of King's choice:

"Disturbing that it's OK for TV to ID a Boston bombing suspect only as 'a dark-skinned individual.' "

Ifill's concerns were later echoed by the Rev. Al Sharpton on his "PoliticsNation" show on MSNBC and by the National Association of Black Journalists, among others.

"Sharpton railed against King’s 'offensive, coded language,' " Noah Rothman reported for Mediaite. "He said that, in that moment, King turned every minority in the city of Boston into a terror suspect."

Media blogger Erik Wemple of the Washington Post called King's description of the suspect "useless information that borders on inflammatory."

NABJ issued a news release calling attention to its style guide and said, "NABJ in no way encourages censorship but does encourage news organizations to be responsible when reporting about race, to report on race only when relevant and a vital part of a story. Ultimately this helps to avoid mischaracterizations which might encourage potential bias or discrimination against a person or a group of people based on race or ethnicity."

King was not alone in reporting bad information. "Mistaken sources led CNN, Fox News, the Associated Press and the Boston Globe to report at various times this afternoon that a suspect had been identified and arrested in connection with the crime," Eric Deggans reported for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times. Ironically, CNN reported, "JUST IN: Man sought as possible suspect is WHITE MALE, wearing white baseball cap on backwards, gray hoodie and black jacket."

The Daily News in New York altered an original photo, left, to erase a gory wound (Cred

Deggans continued, "Other news outlets, including NBC and CBS insisted that no arrest had taken place; eventually sources in the Boston police department and Department of Justice denied an arrest had taken place, issuing official statements to quell the furor.

" 'Despite reports to the contrary there has not been an arrest in the Marathon attack,' read a terse post on Twitter by Boston police, issued about an hour after CNN's initial report that a suspect has been arrested."

The misinformation prompted the FBI to issue what was described as a scathing statement in mid-afternoon: "Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack. Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels before reporting."

Meanwhile, NPR and the Spanish-language television networks Telemundo, Univision and CNN en Espanol demonstrated how experts of color can be called upon to comment on such major stories as the marathon bombings.

The gender, ethnicity and political leanings of guests asked to comment on news events has been as much a diversity issue as the choice of journalists, particularly on the Sunday morning talk shows. A survey this month by Media Matters for America shows that apart from Melissa Harris-Perry's Sunday show on MSNBC, "No other program had a guest pool that was less than 82 percent white . . ."

Journal-isms asked the television networks and NPR whether they had used experts of color, and NPR, Univision, Telemundo and CNN en Español responded affirmatively.

NPR spokesman Emerson Brown said that on Thursday, "Talk of the Nation" would feature Khaled A. Beydoun, adjunct faculty member and critical race studies teaching fellow at the UCLA School of Law and author of "Boston explosions: 'Please don't be Arabs or Muslims' " on aljazeera.com. In addition, "Tell Me More," which specializes in multicultural discussions, spoke with the Right Rev. Gayle Harris of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts about churches' plans to help people cope with the aftermath of the attack.

Univision said it spoke with Emilio Viano, an expert in transnational crime who is a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University, and Judge Cristina Pereyra, its own legal analyst, who was running in the marathon.

NBC-owned Telemundo spoke with Eric Rojo, a retired U.S. Army colonel with field experience in vulnerability, site and risk management reviews, spokesman Camilo Pino said, along with Octavio Pérez, a retired U.S. Army colonel who worked with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and Manuel Gómez, a former principal relief supervisor and special agent with the FBI. Gómez investigated terrorism and espionage cases as an agent in the National Security Division.

"Most of our experts have been Latinos," Isabel Bucaram, spokeswoman for CNN en Español, told Journal-isms by email on Thursday. "We have also had American experts that speak Spanish, former military and terrorists experts. Some of the experts we had are: Latino runners. Latino family members of injured. Latino eyewitnesses. Latino trauma 
experts."

She named Rojo, security analyst Stephen Donehoo, managing director at Kissinger McLarty Associates and military analyst Joaquin Marquez.

CNN quoted Tom Fuentes, former FBI assistant director.

On "CBS This Morning," former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, now a CBS contributor, said terrorist attacks such as the one that rocked the Boston Marathon present presidents with a leadership dilemma.

A spokeswoman for the "PBS NewsHour" did not respond to a request for comment, but another PBS spokeswoman noted that "NewsHour's" first report was provided by Noreen Nasir of the show's production staff, who was near the scene when the explosions took place.

She added, "You can see Ms. Nasir's report at: http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/04/explosions-rock-finish-line-at-boston-marathon.html (scroll down to the second video clip, after the still image she tweeted from near the Boston Public Library)."

ABC News spokesman David Ford likewise did not respond when asked about a diversity of news sources on the story, but supplied this information about its correspondents:

  • "Linsey Davis was our first Correspondent on the scene in Boston and has been closely following the stories of the victims and their families over the past two days (WATCH).

  • "ABC News Senior Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas has been one of our leading reporters covering the investigation by federal authorities (WATCH).

  • "Senior National Correspondent Jim Avila has been contributing to our coverage, last night he reported on the search for answers as experts analyze shrapnel and fragments left over from explosion (WATCH).

  • "Our new Chief National Correspondent Byron Pitts filed his first piece last night on 'World News' on the new meaning to the injunction 'see something, say something' has for Americans in light of this week's tragic events (WATCH).

  • "On Monday, Alex Perez and Cecilia Vega reported on the increased law enforcement presence at sporting events, travel centers and malls (WATCH)." 

The bombings have dominated the news since Monday. [Updated April 18.]

Brazile Says CNN Owes Apology Over "Dark-Skinned" Report

Donna Brazile, the Democratic party strategist and CNN contributor, said Thursday that her network should apologize for its report Wednesday that law enforcement officials had identified "a dark-skinned male" as the suspect in the Boston bombings.

"I cringed when I heard it," Brazile told an audience at George Washington University after keynoting an address on "Race and the Race for the Presidency." "Without a picture. . . . just putting that statement out. It brought me back to my childhood, when they would always describe the color of a person's skin." Brazile, 53, was born in Louisiana in the waning days of the Jim Crow era.

Donna Brazile "I believe an apology is owed, not just to dark-skinned people," she added.

Brazile spoke before the FBI released video and photos of two men who are suspected in Monday's deadly Boston Marathon terror bombings. They were not been described as dark-skinned, and by Friday morning, the suspects were identified by authorities as Caucasian

Brazile was responding to a question from Frank Sesno, director of George Washington's School of Media and Public Affairs and former CNN Washington Bureau Chief. Sesno asked whether Brazile had seen a statement from the National Association of Black Journalists Wednesday that called the "dark-skinned individual" description "not only offensive," but offering "an incomplete picture of relevant facts about the potential person of interest's identity."  Brazile said she had.

After commentator Roland Martin disclosed last month that his contract with CNN had not been renewed, heightening concerns that diversity had become less a priority at CNN, a CNN spokeswoman said that Brazile had re-signed her agreement with the network.

The "Race and the Race for the Presidency" event featured panels on "How Campaigns and Media Deal With Race" and "The Role Race Played in Shaping the 2012 Vote."

Among the points made:

  • "Journalists don't always hear dog whistle" racial statements by candidates and were not inclined to write about racial issues if the candidates themselves did not raise them for fear of being accused of introducing campaign issues. (Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay [Fla.] Times columnist).

  • Americans are in a transitional time in race relations, "dealing with older concepts of race that aren't helping us" (Andrew Rojecki, associate professor of communication at the University of Illinois, Chicago).

  • One reason for having a diverse reporting pool: "If we can't count on someone asking the questions that need to be asked, then we're losing out" (Charlton McIlwain, associate professor in New York University's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication).

  • The surfacing of racial animus by some whites during the Obama era has made it clear that "there is a lot of racial grievance left in America" (Carole Bell, assistant professor of communication studies at Northeastern University).

  • That open display of grievance has allowed race to be dealt with openly in the era's television programs and movies, such as "Scandal," "Deception," "Lincoln," "The Help" and "Django Unchained," as well as the recent "Accidental Racism" recording by Brad Paisley and LL Cool J  (Bell).

  • Racial appeals such as the Willie Horton ad of 1988 are not effective today (Tom Edsall, Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer More Professor of Journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism).

  • The existence of a black president means that even though African Americans "took the biggest hits" during the recession, their outlook about the future is more positive (Edsall).

From the audience, William Douglas of McClatchy News Service, who covered the 2012 campaign, challenged the notion that reporters did not initiate stories about racial issues during the campaign. (Added April 18)


Accompanied by parents who lost schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., President Obama speaks from the Rose Garden Wednesday after the Senate's vote to block measures on gun violence. At left is shooting victim and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz. (Credit: White House) (Video

Senate Defeats Measure on Background Checks

"In angry remarks following the defeat of a bipartisan amendment on background checks that presaged the broader collapse of an effort to pass more stringent gun control legislation, President Obama promised the fight would go on," Chris Cillizza wrote Wednesday for the Washington Post.

" 'I believe we're going to be able to get this one,' he said. 'Sooner or later we are going to get this right.' He added: 'I see this as just round one.'

"Is Obama right? Are we in the first round of a 10-round fight on guns? Or does what happened on the Senate floor Wednesday amount to a knockout for the forces pushing for more gun control measures? . . . "

Talk Radio Ramps Up Volume Against Immigration Reform

"Hours after a bipartisan group of eight senators introduced a sweeping overhaul of the nation’s immigration system, conservative radio talk show hosts took over two floors of a Capitol Hill hotel on Wednesday and denounced the proposal on the country's drive-time airwaves as nothing more than a reward for lawbreakers," Michael D. Shear and Julia Preston reported Wednesday for the New York Times.

"On a Florida station, WFTL, the host Joyce Kaufman called it 'pure amnesty.' Jim Sharpe, a talk show host on KFYI in Phoenix, promised that 'Arizonans are still not taking this sitting down.' On Denny Schaffer's show in New Orleans, callers demanded deportations.' . . . "

Hearing Margaret Thatcher's name, "some shudder with anger while others pound th

2,000 Pay Last Respects to Margaret Thatcher

"The Queen has led mourners in St Paul's Cathedral at the funeral of Baroness Thatcher, Britain's longest serving prime minister of modern times," the BBC reported Wednesday.

"More than 2,000 guests from around the world paid their last respects at the biggest such occasion since the Queen Mother's funeral in 2002.

"Thousands of members of the public and the armed forces lined the funeral procession route through London.

"PM David Cameron said it was a 'fitting tribute' to a major figure.

"Four thousand police officers were on duty in central London but, despite concerns about demonstrations, only a small number of protesters voiced their opposition to Lady Thatcher's policies and there were no arrests."

Jermaine Haughton, writing for Britain's Voice newspaper, which considers itself a spokesman for Britain's black community, wrote of Thatcher, "Upon hearing her name, some shudder with anger while others pound their fists with pride. What side of the fence are you on?"

In "42," Andre Holland, center, plays Wendell Smith, a sportswriter who wasn't a

Bryant Gumbel Acknowledges Debt to Wendell Smith

Bryant Gumbel closed his HBO program, "Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel," with this tribute on Tuesday:

"Finally tonight, a personal note. Like millions of Americans, I'm applauding last night's 66th anniversary of Jackie Robinson's debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers. But for admittedly selfish reasons, some of them obvious and some not so much.

Wendell Smith (Credit: Teenie Harris Archives, Heinz Family Fund, Carnegie Museum of Art)

"Since success has many fathers, there's praise aplenty on this anniversary — for Jackie, his wife Rachel, and of course for Branch Rickey. But indulge me for giving the lion's share of my personal applause to a relatively forgotten hero named Wendell Smith.

"It was Smith, a sportswriter for the now-defunct Pittsburgh Courier who made black opportunity in the majors a personal crusade. It was Smith who brought Robinson to the attention of Branch Rickey. And it was Smith who co-wrote Jackie's autobiography and documented his exploits in the crucial days that led to greater integration of the game.

"More importantly to me, it was Smith, who in 1964 became a local sports anchor with WGN-TV in Chicago — the first person of color in a position of authority ever seen on television by yours truly, who at the time was an impressionable sports-minded teenager on the south side of the city. Given my limited skill set, I knew back then that while I couldn't be a Jackie Robinson, I could become a Wendell Smith. Of such small occasions are big dream borne, and memories made, some of which still linger.”

Two columnists writing for the National Sports Journalism Center — Ed Sherman and Eric Deggans — argued that the "42" film, which finished first at the box office last weekend, does not give Smith his due.

More Viewers of Color Turning to Netflix, Hulu, Roku

"Don't look now cable operators, but multicultural viewers are increasingly using over-the-top services to access their favorite Tv shows and movies," R. Thomas Umstead reported Tuesday for Multichannel News.

"Nearly 85% of African-American, Hispanic and Asian-American viewers have access to services such as Netflix, Hulu and Roku, and 46% of all urban viewers use such services on a weekly basis, according to new data from Horowitz Associates' Focus Latino 2013 report.

"Hispanics are on the front end of that trend, with more than half (56%) using OTT services on a weekly basis, according to Horowitz. Further, among 18-24 year old Hispanics, OTT penetration is a whopping 96%, with viewers in the demo using such services an eye-popping 86% on a weekly basis. . . ."

Zucker Is Asked About Diversity at Atlanta Meeting

New CNN President Jeff Zucker spoke before the Atlanta Press Club Monday, his first such talk since he began his new job "exactly three months ago today," Maria Saporta wrote for Atlanta Business Chronicle.

She added, "In a particularly sensitive exchange, Zucker was asked about the recent departure of two African-American CNN brands — Soledad O'Brien and the Roland Martin — and whether the network was committed to diversity.

Zucker said that CNN had just hired five correspondents and four of them were 'diverse.'

"Long-time television anchor Monica Pearson called out from the back of the room how many of them were black. Zucker answered that two of them were African Americans. . . ."

Zucker hired Michaela Pereira as a newsreader for his new morning show, promoted George Howell to full-time correspondent and hired Alina Machado. Howell and Pereira are black.

Play Dramatizes Plight of Mexican Journalists

"An estimated 70,000 people have been killed in Mexico's brutal drug-cartel wars over the past six years," Reed Johnson wrote last week in the Los Angeles Times.

Marcela Toledo

"Those costs are horrific enough. But there are also collateral damages, including a precipitous drop-off in tourism that has dented Mexico's otherwise robust economy; a chilling effect on the Mexican media, which faces constant threats, kidnappings and worse from the warring cartels; and frequent indifference or ineptitude from the country's legal authorities.

"That lamentable combination has led international press-rights groups to name Mexico the world's most dangerous place to be a reporter in years past — even worse than Iraq or Afghanistan. Dozens of Mexican journalists have been among the drug violence's victims, and virtually all of their killers are still at large because the nation's legal system generally fails to identify, let alone prosecute, the assassins.

"Playwright Marcela Toledo dramatizes that disturbing situation in her first play, 'Silenced Screams,' which will premiere this weekend at the Arena Theatre of Cal State Los Angeles. The play is one of four works written and performed by MFA candidates in theater, film and television.

" 'Silenced Screams' takes place in a Mexico City newsroom and focuses on two newspaper crime reporters, Libertad and Hermes. Toledo, a professional journalist herself, has worked for newspapers, magazines and radio stations on both sides of the border. . . ."

Short Takes

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Comments

Sure don't look 'dark' to me

After reading your column, I fired off an email blasting CNN's John King. Now I am looking at the FBI news conference that clearly shows their "suspects." Neither one of them is dark complected.

I am again sadly reminded that the news media has learned virtually nothing in more than 40 years of covering race in America beyond the riots of the '60s and '70s. At that time, the Kerner Commission blasted the media, especially TV news, for marginalizing black America. Years later, and less than two hours after the Oklahoma City federal bureau bombing, I heard news reports proclaiming the suspect was of "Middle Eastern descent." That, too, proved highly inflammatory and erroneous. 

Indeed, the FBI is looking for two white males as key suspects. Two ordinary looking, white men who blend in so well in America's everyday fabric of non-inclusion.

Two things: 

First, the need to have wizened news managers -- specifically people of color -- is once again clear in an effort to avoid such tragic portrayals. These people can and will be gatekeepers who will work to be both accurate and sensitive in their coverage, rather than the knee-jerkish, rube reporting I have seen of late.

Secondly, I am grateful for "Journal-isms" for trying to hold people's journalistic feet to the fire. Because I fear that this nation is a couple of blasts away from rounding up American citizens as it did immediately after Pearl Harbor, when hysteria -- fueled by the media -- ruled and hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans were illegally imprisoned until war's end. 

Dwight

 

 

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