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David Mills, Journalist-Turned-TV Writer, Dies

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Brain Aneurysm Claims "The Wire" Contributor at 48

Whites Among Latinos: Innovative or Vain?

Omb Says Newsrooms Should Ask, "Can We Talk?"

Malcolm Poindexter Dies, Pioneer Philly Broadcaster

Ex-Prisoner Roxana Saberi Says Publicity Aided Her

Job Fair Uses Skype to Link Students, Recruiters

5 Journalist Killings in Honduras Raise Alarm

Short Takes

  

David Mills on the New Orleans set of the HBO drama "Treme," of which he was a staff writer and co-executive producer. On Monday, he told readers of his "Undercover Black Man" blog that the show's debut was less than two weeks away. (Credit: Paul Schiraldi/HBO).

Brain Aneurysm Claims "The Wire" Contributor at 48

David MillsDavid Mills, a print journalist turned television writer and producer for such crime dramas as "The Wire" and "Homicide: Life on the Streets," died on Tuesday, Dave Walker reported Wednesday for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, quoting a press representative for HBO. He was 48.

Mills was in New Orleans as a staff writer and co-executive producer of the upcoming HBO drama "Treme," about a historic black section of New Orleans. It was only on Monday that Mills blogged on his "Undercover Black Man" site that Treme's debut was less than two weeks away and posted a 14-minute preview.

HBO spokesman Diego Aldana told Journal-isms that Mills' death was sudden, noting that Mills just appeared on Sunday with other Treme writers - including Lolis Eric Elie of the Times-Picayune - at New Orleans' Tennessee Williams festival.

"Mills was on the set of the post-Katrina drama as it filmed a scene at Caf?© du Monde in the French Quarter when he was stricken," HBO said in an obituary prepared on Wednesday.

"He was rushed to the downtown Tulane Medical Center where he died without regaining consciousness. Doctors there said he suffered what appeared to be a brain aneurism. Mills was on the film set as a writer and executive producer, monitoring filming of an episode of the series, which is slated to premiere on HBO in little more than a week.

"Cast and crew of 'Treme' held a memorial service in Washington Square park this morning and then suspended filming for the day."

"After Mr. Mills made his television writing debut with 'Homicide,' which his friend, David Simon, helped to create, he wrote for 'NYPD Blue' and 'ER.' He was also a co-writer and co-producer on 'The Corner,' adapted from Mr. Simon's book about drug abuse and poverty in Baltimore, which won three Emmys. Mr. Mills also created the NBC series 'Kingpin,' about a Mexican drug cartel, which was shown in 2003," as Dave Itzkoff wrote in the New York Times.

In a 1998 profile in the NABJ Journal, publication of the National Association of Black Journalists, Tammy Carter noted that Mills was a University of Maryland graduate who interned for the Wall Street Journal "before working full time at the Washington Times (where he made news by quoting anti-Semitic remarks by Public Enemy's Professor Griff), and then the Washington Post (where his Style section interview with Sister Souljah became a 1992 presidential campaign issue).

"Saying that 'the feature section is the place to play with language, to use unusual writing techniques,' Mills said his Style experience paid off when, two years ago, he began pursuing a TV-writing career," she wrote.

"In college, I had a vague ambition to write for TV. But my school didn't have a curriculum, for that, so I just sort of followed the journalism career" track, Mills told her. "In 1992, a college friend, David Simon, had written the book 'Homicide' that the TV show was based on. They gave him a script to do. In the fall of '92 we just sat down cold and wrote an episode for fun. Had I not gone to school with David Simon, had he not written the book 'Homicide' and had he not asked me to write a script with him, I probably wouldn't be doing this. I was not mapping out a career or strategy to get to Hollywood."

Carter asked, "What advice can you give other journalists who aspire to follow your lead?"

He replied: "It may sound stupid, but it's what I truly believe: just concentrate on becoming excellent. There's so many other forces that you don't have control over. It's totally up to you to have control of your game."

Mills came to the Washington Post in 1990 after making news with an interview he conducted for the competing Washington Times, quoting anti-Semitic remarks by Griff, who subsequently left the iconic Public Enemy. At the Post, his interview with Sister Souljah became a 1992 presidential campaign issue. He also spent three years documenting Jewish involvement in the slave trade, which resulted in a Sunday "Outlook" section piece in the Post.

"His coverage of race and popular culture for the Style Section of the Washington Post in the 1990s was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize by the newspaper," HBO said.

On his "Undercover Black Man" blog - its title referring to his light complexion - Mills indulged his passion for blues, jazz and '70s funk, posting overlooked music. He assembled a virtual band composed of Web sites, and "Journal-isms" was honored to be listed as one of his drummers.

The Times-Picayune said, "Mills had come to love New Orleans and its music during his time here writing for 'Treme.'

"I knew next to nothing about 50s and 60s New Orleans R&B, let alone the earlier jazz that grew in the city, so this has been a very, very cool musical education for me, the particular joy of knowing stuff newly," he said.

"Mills said he approached his New Orleans musical education with a new fan's fervor, and spoke enthusiastically about 'walking into Louisiana Music Factory and coming out with $100 of music CDs, almost like letting the spirits guide you as to which ones to pick,' he said. 'There will be no end to it, it's so deep.' "

HBO said services were planned for the Washington area but that details were unavailable.

Whites Among Latinos: Innovative or Vain?

Under the headline, "Journalists abandon comfort zone, embrace a very different America," Lori Todd wrote Friday for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation that, "Community news startups and bloggers have begun to fill in the gaps left by traditional media but is it enough?

"Two women in Los Angeles are taking a different approach: Devin Browne and Kara Mears have moved in with a Mexican family in the MacArthur Park/Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. They're renting an entryway in a townhouse, shared with 8 other people. They're learning Spanish. Their new neighbors are suspected gangsters (at least they claim to be — on MySpace). They've left the L.A. that's familiar to them to fully immerse themselves in a world most don't understand. This isn't drive-by-reporting. It's something wholly different."

But Daniel Hernandez, a former Los Angeles Times and L.A. Weekly writer who now blogs from Mexico City, doesn't see much different in the Entryway, which is "supported through Spot.us, a nonprofit community funded reporting startup and 2009 Knight News Challenge winner," according to the foundation.

"The authors are wasting an incredible journalistic opportunity, in the service of their own vanity," Hernandez wrote on Tuesday.

"The Entryway is not about the immigrants living there but about how two 'white people' intrepidly enter an unknown space — what I'd call the home of any regular working real-life Angeleno, nothing more, nothing less — and manage to 'survive' there."

Omb Says Newsrooms Should Ask, "Can We Talk?"

Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander tackled the diversity issue Sunday and Monday, telling readers, "Here's the problem: Minorities are 43 percent of The Post's circulation area, and a large part of the region is edging toward 'majority minority' status. For The Post, being 'good on diversity' isn't enough.

"Back when newspapers generated huge profits, altruism often drove diversity efforts. Today, there's an urgent business imperative. For The Post, struggling to regain profitability and retain subscribers, reaching expanding minority audiences represents opportunity — and perhaps survival."

On his Monday blog, Alexander wrote about differences in perception among whites and others over what is an acceptable level of diversity, and he called for more talk among staffers and between the news organization and its readers.

"These types of casual discussions inevitably are informative and expand awareness. They help reduce misconceptions and can foster an environment in which racial and cultural differences can be discussed openly. The result is more honest dialogue in the newsroom, which leads to coverage that is more sophisticated and, ultimately, more accurate," he said.

On Monday in Washington, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism co-sponsored an afternoon-long discussion of its "State of the News Media" report for 2010, complete with marquee media observers.

Neither the discussion nor the report, released March 15, mentioned diversity. Tom Rosensteil, the Project for Excellence in Journalism director, told Journal-isms that people in the news business were too preoccupied with financial concerns, missing Alexander's point (and that of Journal-isms) that diversity and financial concerns are intertwined.

Malcolm Poindexter Dies, Pioneer Philly Broadcaster

Malcolm P. Poindexter Jr., a groundbreaking broadcast journalist who in 1948 had to interview delegates to the Republican and Democratic Conventions in Philadelphia in the hallways because black reporters were denied floor credentials, died yesterday, four days before his 85th birthday," Sally A. Downey wrote Wednesday for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Malcolm P. Poindexter Jr." 'Back then, there were no black journalists covering major conventions,' Mr. Poindexter — who went on to an award-winning career spanning more than 50 years, including more than 30 years with KYW-TV — told The Inquirer in 2000. 'It never made me angry, because I expected it. I just kind of turned the other cheek. Wherever I wasn't permitted, I didn't push the issue. The job gave me a golden opportunity to bear the prejudice, and perhaps make a change.'

"Mr. Poindexter, of Center City, died of Alzheimer's disease at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

"In 1947, he began his career as a reporter with the former Associated Negro Press and at the Philadelphia Tribune, where he was a reporter and later a columnist, city editor, and controller. In 1960, he joined the Bulletin as a reporter.

"When KYW NewsRadio was launched in 1965, he was one of the first reporters hired. To research a five-part series on the plight of migrant workers, he became one of them. The series won the station an Associated Press award and the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Community Service.

"In 1967, Mr. Poindexter joined KYW-TV (Channel 3). In the 1970s, in addition to reporting for KYW and occasionally coanchoring the newscast, he also hosted the weekly program Black Edition. As KYW-TV's editorial spokesman from 1985 to 1990, he won four local Emmys for his commentaries on such issues as urban blight and Philadelphia's dog laws."

"Malcolm was a renaissance journalist, ahead of his time," said Sarah J. Glover, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and photographer at the Philadelphia Daily News.

"He was a multi-media journalist when there wasn't such a concept. He was able to master the various forms of media — print, broadcast and radio — and excelled in all that he did journalistically. Today's journalists should take a cue from Malcolm and his legacy. He not only blazed a trail as a black journalist, he accomplished more than most journalists might be capable of in two lifetimes."

Fargo, N.D., station KFYR-TV shows Roxana Saberi reporting for the outlet as it tells viewers of her new book about her stay in an Iranian prison.

Ex-Prisoner Roxana Saberi Says Publicity Aided Her

Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was jailed for four months in Iran last year on charges of espionage, says in a memoir that coverage of her case abroad "strengthened me to stand up to my captors," who subjected her to "white torture," or psychological "manipulation and intimidation."

Saberi was released last May and is now promoting "Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran."

On National Public Radio's "Fresh Air" on Tuesday, Saberi said she learned of efforts around the world to aid her from her parents, who visited her in Iran in April 2009.

She said of her interrogators, "I remember, on a few occasions, they tried to tell me or my parents, you know, this media coverage is bad for your daughter. You must know this is not to her benefit. And they threatened my parents basically that — Javan," one of the interrogators, "reminded my parents, you're in Iran on Iranian passports. God forbid a problem arise for you. So tell the foreign media not to talk so much about Roxana. And if you talk to the media, make sure you talk to the Iranian media, like the state-controlled media.

"And one day, also, Javan brought me into the room and he was showing me all these news articles that he had printed off the Internet. And at that point, I had learned that it's best just not to engage with these people at all and not to talk to them. . . .

"And so he was showing me all these articles like, BBC, CNN, Associated Press. He had highlighted the important parts for me, he said. And he kept reading off these headlines, like such-and-such organization has called for Roxana Saberi's release, and he was trying to get me to be afraid that these people were speaking out for me. But on the contrary, it was strengthening me, and I felt so humbled — a little embarrassed, too, that there was so much of an outcry for me, but so thankful. And it strengthened me to stand up to my captors."

Job Fair Uses Skype to Link Students, Recruiters

Isaac Elster, a junior at  the Wayne State University Journalism Institute for Media Diversity, is interviewed via Skype by Sheila Solomon, who is at her desk at the Chicago Tribune. (Credit: Wayne State University Journalism Institute)Wayne State University's Spirit of Diversity Internship Fair usually includes roundtable discussions where students are addressed by professional journalists and receive feedback on their resumes, clips and career plans.

"When budgeting considerations curtailed the annual workshop and interview sessions, the Institute decided to make it happen anyway — virtually," the institute said. The job fair took place Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Alicia Nails, director of the institute, told Journal-isms that 18 members of the institute drove the virtual concept. Walter Middlebrook, assistant managing editor of the Detroit News, enlisted five recruiters to undertake three interviews, each using Skype technology: Sheila Solomon of the Chicago Tribune; Will Chang of City University of New York; Brent Jones of USA Today; Don Hudson of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger; and Denise Bridges of the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va.

With Skype, laptops are equipped with cameras, microphones and headsets so that conversations can take place over the Internet. The students had already e-mailed 15 r?©sum?©s and clip packages to the five recruiters.

While those conversations took place, the remaining students worked with Middlebrook, Detroit News reporter Darren Nichols; Desiree Cooper, a former Detroit Free Press columnist and multimedia blogger; and Frank Witsil, an editor at the Free Press and board member of the Asian American Journalists Association, Nails said.

"Sharp students," Hudson said afterward. "It forced me into getting on the Skype train!" Bridges added.

5 Journalist Killings in Honduras Raise Alarm

"Nine months after a military-led coup plunged Honduras into political turmoil, human rights groups are denouncing what they see as an alarming spate of attacks on journalists, including the killings of five in March alone," Alex Renderos and Tracy Wilkinson reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

"No one has been arrested in the slayings, and speculation on motives has run the gamut. The violence illustrates the depth to which Honduras remains unsettled and on edge, even after a new president was elected in November and installed in January amid promises to heal national divisions.

". . . The five journalists killed this month were victims of drive-by shootings in Tegucigalpa, the Honduran capital, and other cities. Some were known to be sympathetic to ousted President Manuel Zelaya; others had no public political leanings.

"Independent of politics, Honduras has a high homicide rate, and several of the journalists worked in parts of Honduras rife with drug-trafficking and smuggling rings."

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 BugMeNot.com 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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Comments

David Mills- Regret We had big time quarrel

Richard, I feel so terrible right now just down right awful..David and I had a very angry public spat on his website .I called him a one drop rule brother for his comments about Haiti and his willingness to always use Black fokks as a foil for his white friends to gain favor etc... I feel like shit right now;-((((((((( Greg

The death of David Mills

What a shock! I feel as if I've lost a friend. I played a (minor) role in David Mills's career. I interviewed Professor Griff on "Evening Exchange" at Howard University Television shortly before David interviewed him for the Washington Times. On our show, Griff made a number of disparaging remarks about Jews. David called me up after seeing the interview and indicated that he'd like to use what he saw on the show in his interview with Griff. Of course he didn't need our permission, it was basically a courtesy call, but that's the kind of guy he was, besides being a terrific writer. His name in the credits always meant two things for me: that it was going to be a great show, and a sense of pride that I once gave some small assistance to this skilled and talented young man. He will be sorely missed. Kojo Nnamdi Host, The Kojo Nnamdi Show WAMU 885FM, Washington DC

Passing of David Mills

Great friend. Helped launch a brotha into the blogsphere. Will miss our chats and catching up. Thanks for this.

David Mills ~ Gone too soon.

Words cannot express how sad I am to learn of the loss of my dear friend. David Mills was beyond talented, kind, funny, smart, and an exceptional writer who created characters with depth and substance that actors really wanted to play. We first met while working on Homicide: Life on the Street. He was so supportive of my work and cast me in the HBO original series "The Corner" which led to me being cast in "The Wire" as well. I will always cherish the memories of David and I chitting and chatting about our careers over heaping plates of chicken and waffles at Roscoe's (David always brought his own (super spicy) hot sauces, and always shared) while in LA, and when in DC, we were all about the original pancake house ~ Yummy! I was worried and wondering why I had not heard from David this week (I assumed he was swamped with work on Treme) but now I know; and now I understand what they mean when they say that only the good die young. Goodbye Friend, rest well. Xoxo E. Dawn Samuel Actress/Producer

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