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Debate Begins Over Dr. Journalist Gupta

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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

One Joke: How About a Cabinet of TV Experts?


Sanja Gupta

Some critics, such as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, questioned Gupta's reporting of health issues, pointing to a back-and-forth between Gupta and filmmaker Michael Moore over Moore's 2007 documentary, "Sicko," about which Gupta was accused of making misleading claims.

CNN anchors noted the substantial pay cut Gupta would be taking, and the New York Times' Mark Leibovich said the prospective nomination had "inspired a parlor game among people who have too much free time (a k a media types): What if Mr. Obama were to assemble his administration entirely from TV experts?

"Scary thought, granted," he continued, but went on to list nominees, beginning with Martha Stewart as interior secretary.

Others applauded the choice, among them former surgeon general Joycelyn Elders, famously ousted by President Bill Clinton in 1994 when she raised the subject of masturbation.

"The most important thing - his communication skills - are perhaps some of the best," said Elders, 75, in a telephone interview from Little Rock, Ark., according to Aliza Marcus and Justin Blum of Bloomberg News. "In the past, we've looked a lot at administrators as opposed to public-health communication skills."

CNN's John King reported, "They have made the pitch to Dr. Gupta that he could help with the communications effort, travel the country, go on television, try to explain the arcane nature of health care policy to the American people much like he does on our network just about every day," as Marisa Guthrie reported for Broadcasting & Cable.

A neurosurgeon, Gupta is a former White House fellow who worked with Hillary Clinton on health care policy in the 1990s. "Dr. Gupta acts as a doctor in chief for CNN, appearing frequently on the company's portfolio of channels and hosting a weekend show about medicine. He presides over a mini media empire that, in addition to his regular work on CNN, includes appearances on the "CBS Evening News" and columns in Time magazine. His first book, about the search for immortality, was published last year," Brian Stelter noted for the New York Times.

Fox News quoted a later surgeon general, Richard Carmona, now president of Canyon Ranch Institute and a distinguished professor of public health at the University of Arizona's College of Public Health. Carmona, who was President Bush's surgeon general from 2002 to 2006, said the job is meant for someone with a "pretty robust Rolodex," who has given decades of service, writes policy papers, speaks out publicly, is a medical practitioner and is "well-known, respected and sought after by the peers as an owner of intellectual property," Sharon Kehnemui Liss reported. That description would seem to rule out Gupta, who is 39.

Friends and fellow South Asians rose to Gupta's defense. Jaye Watson of Atlanta's WXIA-TV found supportive urologic oncologist Dr. Nikhil Shah, who grew up with Gupta in a tight-knit East Indian community in Michigan and now lives, like Gupta, in Atlanta.

Sunita Sohrabji, reporting for India-West, wrote that Dr. Hemant Patel, immediate past president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, said his organization lobbied the administration on Gupta's behalf and will continue to lobby for him through the confirmation process.

Sohrabji also quoted Gupta's mom, Damayanti Gupta, who said from Northville, Mich., that her son's career has been completely focused on health care and that Gupta would likely concentrate on obesity and fitness if appointed, along with stem cell research.

Networks, Journalists Finalize Inaugural Plans

"With less than two weeks to go until a historic presidential inauguration, the nation's television networks are finalizing ambitious coverage plans, but the camera platforms will be more crowded than usual," Brian Stelter wrote Tuesday for the New York Times.

"At least a dozen networks, including relative political neophytes like BET and MTV, will be broadcasting from Washington. Nickelodeon is even sending two pint-size reporters, and QVC, a shopping channel, is setting up at one of the inaugural balls while it tries to sell memorabilia associated with the swearing-in of Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American president, on Tuesday, Jan. 20."

Meanwhile, Washington Post Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli told staffers in a memo. "The 10 official inaugural balls scheduled for Jan. 20 to mark the beginning of the Obama administration are partisan political celebrations. Washington Post journalists should attend them only as journalists, not as participants. This is the same policy The Post has had in the past on such events, and similar ones, including the Million Man March. We should be equally prudent regarding other inaugural events, avoiding appearances that would be or suggest a conflict of interest."

Still, journalists will have some role in the celebrations. Dr. Uche Onyebadi, a journalism professor at Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, serves as vice president of corporate affairs at the African Foundation, which is organizing the Jan. 18 African Inaugural Ball.

Teresa Rodriguez, anchor of Univision' s "Aqu?? y Ahora," is mistress of ceremonies for the 2009 Latino Inaugural Celebration on Jan. 19.

The National Association of Black Journalists has sold out for its Jan. 19 "Witness to History" celebration featuring Gwen Ifill of PBS, author of the new "Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama."

Stelter's piece continued, "As in previous years, the coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC and the cable news networks will run from 10 a.m. until the early evening. The day will be bookended with special editions of morning shows and special reports in prime time. Fox will offer a feed of the Fox News Channel to its affiliates.

"Networks also see entertainment value in the inauguration week. HBO will be the exclusive broadcaster of an 'opening celebration' on Sunday, Jan. 18, the inaugural committee said on Tuesday. That concert event will be available to all cable subscribers. Such a deal is not unprecedented: in 1993, for instance, HBO paid to carry part of a Sunday concert celebrating Bill Clinton's first inauguration."

New Yorker's Election Cover a Sales Winner

Big-selling New Yorker cover The New Yorker magazine's post-election edition — the cover with the distinguished and solemn Bob Staake illustration named "Reflection" with a glowing, moonlike "O" rising over the Lincoln Memorial — was as historic for the magazine as the historic election editions were for newspapers, John Koblin reported Tuesday for the New York Observer.

"The magazine sold 84,000 copies off the newsstand, the second best issue in the Remnick era, and the third biggest issue since 1996, according to the magazine's spokeswoman," Koblin wrote, referring to New Yorker editor David Remnick.

And, like the New York Times, "which hasn't been shy about making a profit" from Barack Obama's success, the story continued, "you can buy the Nov. 5 edition of The Times online for $14.95, or an Obama keepsake box for $79.95! — The New Yorker is offering an enlarged framed copy of its post-election cover for $350 on its Web site.

Roy S. Johnson led team of journalists"Likewise, Time magazine's Nov. 17 issue was its best issue of the year — so far (Time hasn't finished tallying up the count on its Person of the Year edition, also an Obama cover) — with 575,000 copies sold. They went to press with 775,000 copies of an Obama book, which reached No. 16 on the Times best-seller list and has been selling for $11.99 in soft cover and $19.95 in hardback."

Meanwhile, American Media Inc. announced that Roy S. Johnson, editor in chief of Men's Fitness magazine, led a team that produced a 100-page "collector's issue" called "America's Hope: Barack Obama, How He Will Change Our World." It features "the exclusive full texts of the five most pivotal speeches of the campaign: Declaring his Candidacy, Victory in Iowa, Race in America, Accepting the Democratic Nomination and Election Night."  Nick Charles, New York journalist formerly of AOL Black Voices, and, was editor.

Also included are pieces by black journalists Terence Samuel, about the campaign, Omar Wasow on Obama's use of technology and Kelly E. Carter on first lady-to-be Michelle Obama. The issue hits newsstands on Monday.

Blacks, Latinos Gain in Settlement With Arbitron

"Arbitron said today that it has signed consent agreements to resolve lawsuits brought by the states of New York and New Jersey in October that alleged the rating company had engaged in deceptive marketing in the deployment of its portable people meter in the New York radio market," Steve McClellan reported Wednesday for Adweek.

"The New York suit also charged that Arbitron had failed to disclose flaws in the New York PPM that resulted in the underrepresentation of African-American and Hispanic radio listeners, causing financial harm to minority broadcasters in the market. The New Jersey lawsuit alleged violations of that state's consumer protection and civil rights laws relating to the marketing and commercialization of the portable people meter.

"As part of the agreements, Arbitron pledged to recruit more people for its listenership panels in cell phone only homes and to make greater attempts to recruit people in person. The original lawsuit charged that Arbitron's failure to do so resulted in the disproportionate exclusion of African Americans and Latinos from its ratings panels.

"The company also agreed to pay $200,000 in settlement of the claims and $60,000 for costs. The company will pay $100,000 to the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) for a joint radio project between NABOB and the Spanish Radio Association to support minority radio.

"Arbitron also agreed to fund an advertising campaign in the New York market (of at least $25,000) promoting minority radio and to include a disclaimer on promotional material indicating that PPM ratings are based on audience estimates and should not be relied on for precise accuracy or precise 'representativeness' of the New York radio market."

Amid Gaza Controversies Comes "Joe the Plumber"

 Joe Wurzelbacher (Credit: WNWO-TV) The Committee to Protect Journalists on Tuesday called on the Israeli government to explain the blanket restrictions on international media entering the Gaza Strip and certain areas inside Israel along the Gaza border.

Then, on Wednesday, Jennifer Taylor of Toledo's WNWO-TV reported that "The world's most famous plumber will travel to Israel to report on the fighting.

"On the campaign trail he's known as 'Joe the Plumber.' When he heads to the Gaza Strip, he'll be Joe Wurzelbacher, 'war correspondent,'" she said.

Wurzelbacher, who became as a supporter of Republican presidential candidate John McCain in the general election campaign, plans to spend 10 days reporting for the conservative website "He intends to get the, often lost, Israeli reason for the offensive against Hamas," Taylor wrote.

Danny Seaman of the Israeli government press office told CNN's Anderson Cooper on his "360" show on Tuesday that reporters are kept from the fighting because "There is too much exposure and it had an effect on our ability to achieve strategic goals. That's one of the lessons we learned from the war in Lebanon."

From a hilltop overlooking Gaza, Cooper told viewers, "It's a strange sight to see so many reporters and camera people clustered together on this one tiny hill watching a battle that's being waged miles away.

"It's not how most of us would like to cover the story. But the Israeli government won't allow international reporters to go into Gaza. This is as close as most of us can get."

Also in its letter to Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Committee to Protect Journalists said it "urgently demands an explanation for the bombing of Al-Aqsa TV headquarters in Gaza City by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Sunday."

Another journalist-protection organization, Reporters Without Borders, said Bassel Faraj, a Palestinian cameraman who worked for Algerian television station TV Alg?©rie, died Tuesday from injuries he received while covering Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27.

Furnell Chatman Leaves KNBC-TV After 35 Years

Furnell Chatman, veteran reporter and weekend anchor at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles, left the air on Monday after 35 years at the NBC-owned station. He said he would retire to New Orleans and help rebuild the Katrina-damaged homes of family members.

"The end of an era indeed. 35 years at KNBC — the newsroom is still in shock," one colleague told Journal-isms in an e-mail.

Kevin Roderick of LA Observed wrote that Chatman began at the station "in the era when Tom Snyder and Tom Brokaw were local anchors, Ross Porter and Bryant Gumbel did sports, and reporters like John Marshall made the station a major news force in L.A."

He quoted from Chatman's farewell note:

"I have decided to trade my weekend anchor chair and my weekday reporter's microphone for a seat along a Louisiana bayou and a mint julep. Forty years in the trenches is enough — five years with Screen Gems in New Orleans and thirty-five years with NBC.

"I earned by stripes in the Deep South during a painful time in history by breaking the racial color barrier in TV News. It left me with deep and lasting scars which I trust I have worn with pride, dignity, and professionalism. Our business evolved over the years from film and black bags to videotape cameras to computer keyboards and hard-drives. What has been a noble profession is also a very profitable business. It's our job to continue to accept the onslaught of change, but also fight to preserve the principles we cherish as journalists.

"As some of you know, Hurricane Katrina claimed several of my family members. Rebuilding my home and those of my extended family members will now be a top priority in my retirement years.

"You are a very talented team. Remain a team. Your talents will see you through the tough times. And do me a favor, please ! Have more FUN with what you do."

Les Payne Deserved Better, Onetime Colleague Says

Peter Eisner (Credit: PBS). "With scant warning and no praise, the management of Newsday last week cast off the column written by Les Payne on its opinion pages after a 28-year-run. Undoubtedly, the column's disappearance is mixed in with a collapse of the news business in general and the budget cuts faced by Newsday and most of its peers," Payne's former Newsday colleague Peter Eisner wrote Tuesday in an essay that appeared on the Web sites of both the Maynard Institute and the Nation.

"Yet I am driven to provide some context in this special case about a man whose vision guided Newsday's journalistic and moral compass. Les Payne deserves a far better send-off."

"He was the conscience and unacknowledged leader of the Newsday that was . . . A founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, Les was once described as the best and most influential African American editor and columnist in the United States. True enough, but the statement unduly confines the scope of his influence."

Short Takes

  • "This time the editors mean it: Al Martinez's last column is scheduled to run in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 19," Kevin Roderick reported Wednesday for LA Observed. "He asked to go until his 80th birthday in July, but the suggestion was rejected. Martinez has been at the Times 36 years, much if not most of that time as a columnist. You might remember that in 2007, Times editors summarily terminated his column and employment, but relented after a barrage of adverse reaction from readers and Martinez hitting the radio circuit." Martinez confirmed the development, sadly, with Journal-isms.
  • The Tulsa (Okla.) World terminated 28 employees, citing deteriorating economic conditions nationwide and in the media business, the paper reported¬†on Tuesday. Among the casualties was Native American journalist Kevin Shanks, a copy editor, colleagues told Journal-isms.
  • Ray Quintanilla, a 14-year veteran of the Chicago Tribune who was among 40 laid off, has landed as director of communications for the Illinois State Council of the Service Employees International Union in Chicago, he told Journal-isms. "I started the new job about three weeks ago, and it has been a lot of fun. It's a wonderful opportunity to advocate on behalf of this wonderful organization and its members," he wrote.
  • Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications has struck a deal for carriage of its owned-and-operated TV stations and its affiliate stations with Comcast, affecting 20 million subscribers, officials said Tuesday," Linda Moss reported¬†for Multichannel News. "Terms of the agreement, which is effective immediately, were not disclosed."
  • Wendy CoronaIn Houston, "Wendy Corona¬†has been laid off at KPRC (Channel 2), where she has worked as an anchor since April 2006, as the station moves to tighten its budget," David Barron reported¬†Tuesday for the Houston Chronicle. "Corona came to Houston from WPLG in Miami, which, like Channel 2, is owned by Post-Newsweek. She also worked for stations in California and Arizona."
  • "Some of Boston's black leaders are outraged over WBZ radio's decision to ax longtime talk host Lovell Dyett and are demanding that the station put him back on the air," Jessica Heslam reported¬†Tuesday for the Boston Herald. "The 73-year-old Dyett had been at WBZ-AM (1030) for 37 years until he was unceremoniously laid off last week along with overnight talk-show host Steve LeVeille and sports anchor Tom Cuddy."
  • Television journalist Rene Syler, who is co-anchoring BET's inauguration coverage, created, "a social-networking site Syler started about a month ago for anyone who's lost their job. She describes it as 'a clearinghouse to vent. 'My hope was to help people as they process the curveballs life throws you. When you lose a job, it's like the five stages of grief. Ultimately, you come to accept it,'" she said, Gail Shister reported¬†Tuesday for TV Newser.
  • Dan Ponce, a reporter at Chicago's WLS-TV since 2006, is leaving to pursue his musical career with the a capella group Straight No Chaser, Lewis Lazare reported Wednesday in the Chicago Sun-Times. "WLS President Emily Barr said Ponce's last day will be Jan. 16. His group's 'The Twelve Days of Christmas' has been a YouTube hit. "Ponce's father, Phil, has been a fixture on Channel 11's 'Chicago Tonight.' Brother Anthony is a reporter at Channel 5."
  • National Public Radio, criticized by some for canceling "News & Notes," its only daily show specifically targeting African Americans, is to be honored by Stevie Wonder for NPR's work in making digital radio and broadcast services accessible for the 650 million people worldwide who are sensory impaired, the FishBowl NY Web site reported on Wednesday. The Vision Free Award will also be presented to Apple and Google. Wonder hosts the Vision Free Awards reception on Friday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
  • A reception for those paying tribute to Mark Griffith, the longtime journalist for CBS News who died¬†of heart disease on Dec. 18, is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Havana Central, Broadway and 113th Street in Manhattan. The memorial service takes place at 1 p.m. at St. Paul's Chapel, Columbia University, 116th Street and Broadway, according to the New York Association of Black Journalists.
  • Reporters Without Borders said¬†it was "stunned to learn that President Mwai Kibaki signed the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 into law" on Jan. 2. The organization called it "a major step backwards in the history of press freedom in Kenya." The legislation provides for heavy fines and prison sentences for press offenses. "It also gives the government, above all the information and interior ministries, authority over the issuing of broadcast licences and the production and content of news programmes," the organization said.

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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