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For Diversity, a Rat in Baghdad Press Corps

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Thursday, September 25, 2003

For Diversity, a Rat in Baghdad Press Corps

The presence in Baghdad of the Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Keith B. Richburg notwithstanding, the lack of diversity in the print press corps during the war in Iraq was a topic of discussion among journalists of color earlier this year. But that lack might have had its good side, it now turns out; a witch hunt could be brewing.

"If the interview New York Times reporter John F. Burns gave to the editors of Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq is completely on the level ?- and I have no reason to think it isn't ?- the Times is sitting on a daisy-cutter of a scoop about perfidy and malfeasance by a member of the Baghdad press corps," writes Jack Shafer in Slate, the online magazine. "And it's not just the Times holding back. Few in the mainstream press seem interested in identifying the reporter Burns says ratted him out to the Iraqi ministry of information.

"It's not unprecedented for TV correspondents to bribe their way into a country or for reporters to flatter their handlers to win a visa extension," Shafer goes on, "but Burns does visit new territory with his shocking claim that a correspondent 'with a major American newspaper,' seeking the favor of the Iraqis, printed copies of his and other reporters' stories and gave them to the ministry of information 'to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state' ?- namely Burns," Shafer continues.

"The Burns accusation places under a cloud every journalist who reported for a 'major American newspaper' from Baghdad at the same time Burns did."

Journal-isms is accepting all leaks on who this might be.

Unfortunately, the accusations of toadying don't stop with Hussein.

"On last week's Topic A With Tina Brown on CNBC, Brown, the former Talk magazine editor, asked comedian Al Franken, former Pentagon spokeswoman Torie Clarke and [CNN war correspondent Christiane] Amanpour if 'we in the media, as much as in the administration, drank the Kool-Aid when it came to the war,'" wrote Peter Johnson earlier this week in USA Today.

"Said Amanpour: 'I think the press was muzzled, and I think the press self-muzzled. I'm sorry to say, but certainly television and, perhaps, to a certain extent, my station was intimidated by the administration and its foot soldiers at Fox News. And it did, in fact, put a climate of fear and self-censorship, in my view, in terms of the kind of broadcast work we did,'" Johnson reported.

Other print journalists of color who covered Iraq at the height of hostilities were Lynette Clemetson of the New York Times, who was aboard the U.S.S. Lincoln, and George E. Curry of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, who was in Doha, Qatar.

Hispanic Journalists' Project Goes to Naples, Fla.

Florida's Naples Daily News will become the third newspaper to partner with the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in its new Parity Project, NAHJ announces.

"The Parity Project, initiated in April by the NAHJ, aims to improve rapidly the quality of news coverage about Latinos as well as the hiring of Latino journalists in target cities around the nation. The project is a key part of NAHJ's five-year strategic plan, which aims to double the percentage of Hispanics working in the nation's newsrooms by 2008.

"The first two papers to participate in the project have been the Rocky Mountain News and the Ventura County Star. Like the Naples Daily News, both of those papers are owned by the E.W. Scripps Co., the first major media chain to join NAHJ in this effort.

"As part of the Naples launch, the Daily News and NAHJ staff will convene a meeting of Latino community and business leaders in Naples on the evening of Oct. 1 to assess the quality of the paper's news coverage. In addition, NAHJ staff will conduct cultural awareness sessions with the staff of the newspaper and work with top executives to fashion a plan to improve coverage, hiring, as well as to develop programs to create a "bigger pipeline" of Hispanic students in journalism education.

"In addition to the Scripps chain, Denver's KCNC-TV, a Viacom-owned station, and the North County Times, a Lee newspaper in Southern California, have also agreed to partner with NAHJ later this year," the release continued.

Lerone Bennett Changes Mind, Not Ready to Retire

It seemed all set last month: "Ebony magazine managing editors Walter Leavy and Lynn A. Norment will share the duties of retiring executive editor Lerone Bennett Jr., who is stepping down this fall after 50 years with Johnson Publishing Co., the magazine announces," we wrote.

But now comes this in the Washington Post:

"Those waiting in the wings for promotions at Ebony magazine will just have to keep waiting, reports The Post's Robert E. Pierre. Lerone Bennett Jr., executive editor for 50 years, is not retiring after all. Bennett had planned to turn over the reins of the magazine next month, when he turns 75. But not anymore. After a discussion with his boss, publisher John H. Johnson Jr., Bennett is staying in the hot seat. According to a magazine spokesman, no new retirement date has been set."

Lester Holt Officially Anchors "Weekend Today"

"It's official: Former WBBM-Ch. 2 anchor Lester Holt is the new anchor, along with NBC News White House correspondent Campbell Brown, of NBC's 'Weekend Today," reports John Cook in the Chicago Tribune.

"Holt, who has been MSNBC's go-to anchor on breaking stories ever since his tireless performance during the 2000 recount struggle, has been filling in on the weekend show since the death of David Bloom in Iraq in April. (Brown has been filling in as well following Soledad O'Brien's departure for CNN last summer.) Holt had been rumored for months to be the top candidate for Bloom's replacement.

"'It certainly wasn't a done deal' until now, said Holt. 'There were, frankly, a lot of issues to work out in terms of my continuing role at MSNBC.'

"It's a role that MSNBC, which has been lagging far behind competitors CNN and Fox News Channel in ratings for years, was eager for Holt to continue. His ubiquitous presence on the cable news channel during breaking news stories has been one of MSNBC's few bright spots. So Holt will continue to anchor 'Lester Holt Live,' weekdays from 4 to 5 p.m., and he will still be on call anytime news breaks out." the Tribune story continued.

Jesse Lewis a Deputy ME at Wall St. Journal Europe

Jesse Lewis, global copy chief, has been appointed deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Europe, based in Brussels, the company announces.

"In his new position, Jesse, who will report to WSJE Managing Editor Raju Narisetti, will work with the existing Brussels editing team to help shape daily news coverage in Europe for the Global Journal. In addition . . . Jesse will assume operational responsibility for managing WSJE's relationship with South Brunswick-based editing and production operations," Managing Editor Paul Steiger wrote to the staff.

Earlier this year, Lewis, 48, participated in the National Association of Black Journalists' Region II conference, "Empowering Journalists For the Future."

But the most memorable moment of his career must have been putting out the paper on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Journal's office across the street from Ground Zero was evacuated after the terrorist attacks and an emergency newsroom was created in South Brunswick, N.J.

As Jim Pensiero, vice president, news operations, recounted in the American Editor of the American Society of Newspaper Editors:

"The techs had set everything up. It was Jesse Lewis and me. We had no idea where anybody else was. I had no idea where Paul [Steiger] was. I had no idea where Barney [Calame, deputy managing editor] was. First thing, the techs told me the system was working. We had a production system. The e-mail system was working. We could communicate with the other bureaus or anybody who had a BlackBerry. I sought out somebody from the advertising department and the production department, and we had a short meeting. We said, 'We?re going to proceed with making a newspaper. It?s about 12:20 p.m. We ought to be able to get ourselves organized in a reasonable time to make a newspaper.'?

They did. The Sept. 12 edition of the Journal was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News.

Lewis joined the Journal's copy desk in 1987 and served as national copy chief from December 1997 to 2002. His other assignments have included senior special writer with Page One; and as an assistant news editor and news editor on the News Desk.

. . . But Wall St. Journal Lays Off 12 Other Editors

The Wall Street Journal announced the layoffs of 12 editors as part of its plans to combine news desk operations in New York, Brussels and Hong Kong into what a memo termed a "24-hour Global News desk," Advertising Age reports.

An editor of color is reported to be among those laid off, but Managing Editor Paul Steiger did not return telephone calls seeking more details.

Steiger's memo said the changes, including the layoffs, will "become fully effective" by Jan. 1.

A Journal spokeswoman told Ad Age that because of the more explicit linking of the news operations, "we simply need fewer editors."

Suit Settled, Beverly Williams Back on Philly TV

"Beverly Williams, 56, who left KYW in June after settling her age-, race- and sex-discrimination suit against the station, launches her weekly current-affairs show at 8:30 a.m. Sunday," reports Gail Shister in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Eye on Philadelphia, developed and hosted by Williams as an independent producer, will be 'an eclectic mix of personality profiles, local issues and places of interest,' KYW says.

"A KYW anchor, off and on, for nearly two decades, Williams bears no grudge against her ex-employers," Shister continued.

"'It's just business. Sometimes you get "the business" in the business. It's tough for everyone in broadcasting.'

"Would Williams have been given her own show if she hadn't sued KYW? Says she: 'I can't speculate on what would have been.'"

FCC Names Its Diversity Committee

The Federal Communications Commission has announced 25 members of its "Advisory Committee on Diversity for Communications in the Digital Age," which is supposed to assist the FCC in formulating new ways to "create opportunities for minorities and women in the communications sector."

The committee will be focused on ownership issues, executive advancement issues "because they can lead to ownership," and "where are the new opportunities," Jane Mago, chief of the FCC's Office of Strategic Planning and Policy Analysis, told Journal-isms.

Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, president, Women in Cable and Telecommunications, and Maria Brennan, executive director of American Women in Radio and Television, come closest to representing the interests of journalists, she said.

Members include two African Americans -- Alfred C. Liggins, president and CEO of Radio One, and Jim Winston, president and general counsel of the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters -- who testified at the FCC's media ownership hearings.

The committee is scheduled to meet on Monday at 2 p.m. in the Commission Meeting Room in a session open to the public, the FCC announcement said, adding that Real Audio and streaming video access would be available at

The group is chaired by Julia Johnson, former Florida Public Services Commission chairman.

Also named were:

Decker Anstrom, president, COO, Landmark Communications; Andrew Barrett, managing director, Barrett Group, Inc., and a former FCC commissioner; Mathew Blank, chairman, CEO, Showtime Networks; Benita Fitzgerald Mosley, president, Women in Cable and Telecommunications.

A. Anthony Gee, general partner, Carthage Venture Partners; Ricky Temple, partner, Halprin, Temple, Goodman & Maher; Lauren Tyler, partner, Quetzal/JP Morgan Partners, L.P.; Kelvin Westbrook, president, CEO, Millennium Digital Media; Roscoe Young, CEO, COO, KMC Telecom.

Joan Gerberding, president, Nassau Radio Network, and national president, Women in Radio and Television; Steve Hilliard, president, CEO, Council Tree Communications; Priscilla Hill-Ardoin, senior vice-president, Regulatory Compliance, SBC; David Honig, executive director, Minority Media and Telecommunications Council; Jamie Howard, CFO, BigBand Networks, Inc.

Ginger Lew, CEO, Telecommunications Development Fund; Vonya McCann, Senior Vice President, Federal External Affairs, Sprint; Francisco R. Montero, Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth; Terdema Ussery, president, CEO, Dallas Mavericks, and CEO, HDNet.

Alex Wallau, president, ABC Television Network; Jenny Alonzo, president, National Association for Multiethnicity In Communications, and vice president, production and inventory operations, Lifetime Television; Riley Temple, partner, Halprin, Temple, Goodman; Henry Rivera, partner, Vinson & Elkins; Roscoe Young II, CEO, KMC Telecom.

Proceeding with the committee was one of the recommendations of Unity: Journalists of Color on Aug. 1, after the Radio-Television News Directors Association produced dismal diversity figures.

Powell Says He'll Stay at FCC through '04

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell, under fire for his handling of media ownership rules, on Tuesday dismissed reports that he will quit, reports David Ho of the Associated Press.

"I intend to stay and lead the commission until the end of the president's administration," Powell told Ho in a telephone interview. Asked if he would stay if President Bush is re-elected, Powell said he would stay "at least until the election and we'll see what the results of the election are," Ho reported.

Editor in Blair Drama Named AME at N.Y. Times

Jonathan Landman, metropolitan editor of The New York Times whose memo stating "We have to stop Jayson from writing for The New York Times. Right now" -- said to have been ignored -- made him a hero to some in the Jayson Blair scandal, has been appointed assistant managing editor for enterprise, the Times announces.

"In his new position, Mr. Landman, 50, will oversee long-term coverage of major news events and reporting projects involving multiple newsroom departments. He will report to [Executive Editor Bill] Keller and Jill Abramson, managing editor for news gathering," the Times said.

At the National Association of Black Journalists convention in August, former Managing Editor Gerald M. Boyd, who lost his job in the events that followed the Blair fiasco, zeroed in on "at least one editor [who] evidently found it difficult to talk to me about Jayson because I am black, this despite the fact that I have never been viewed and evaluated as unapproachable."

The New York Times group that investigated the Blair scandal and its aftermath, a panel known as the Siegal committee, reported that "The metro editor, Jonathan Landman, didn't think Blair ready for the full-time staff, but after registering his opinion, he didn't press the matter because he 'thought it would be futile.' He told our committee: 'It was clear that Gerald felt pressure to promote Jayson and that he thought it was the right thing to do. The racial dimension of this issue and Gerald's obvious strong feelings made it especially sensitive; in that sense it is fair to say that I backed off a bit more than I would have if race had not been a factor."

At another point, the committee report said, "Two months after the earlier critical evaluation [of Blair in February 2002], Landman sent his widely quoted memo to [Associate Managing Editor Bill] Schmidt and Nancy Sharkey, the staff development editor. The memo declared: 'We have to stop Jayson from writing for The New York Times. Right now.' It has somehow come to be believed that the memo was ignored. That is not true. Blair was indeed stopped, if only briefly. The next day he was given a letter and an oral warning that he was putting his job in peril. That letter began a formal disciplinary track (which could have led to dismissal under union rules). The outside members of our committee believe the track should have been commenced long before."

Landman joined The Times as a copy editor in 1987 after being deputy city editor at The Daily News in New York and as a reporter for Newsday, the Times said.

Media Argue for Open Hearing in Kobe Bryant Case

The defense team for NBA superstar Kobe Bryant has not proved that his Oct. 9 preliminary hearing must be closed to the public to protect his right to a fair trial, attorneys for the news media argued in court filings, the Associated Press reports.

"Rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Colorado Supreme Court make it difficult to close such hearings, attorneys for organizations including The Associated Press, CNN, The Denver Post, NBC and the New York Times said in the filing."

Documented: TV Becoming More Vulgar

"Television is cussing up an increasingly blue streak, according to a study of the major broadcast networks," reports the Associated Press.

``During the 2002-2003 season, the broadcast networks attempted to rewrite the book on language standards for television,'' the Parents Television Council, a watchdog group, said in a report released Monday.

"The council said it studied all primetime entertainment series from a two-week period in 1998, 2000 and 2002 and found a jump in profanity on 'virtually every network' and in every time slot," said AP.

Lynette Holloway Piece "Obviously Was Opinion"

The Press Notes column of the Society of Professional Journalists issued a clarification today after linking to a Keith J. Kelly column in the New York Post that asserted without evidence that Holloway, who now has resigned from the paper, had been "moved into the media section by Raines in an affirmative action move that apparently backfired."

"The item, as most are in PressNotes, is a direct link to content on the Post site. The item obviously was opinion, and in the future all such items will be clearly identified as such," a clarification today read.

On May 21, SPJ had issued a statement saying that the association of professional journalists "takes issue with those media critics who link affirmative action and diversity programs to the journalistic failures of Jayson Blair, the former reporter for The New York Times who resigned over charges of plagiarism and lying in his stories."

And of course, the New York Post does not routinely link such successful African Americans as Colin Powell or Condoleezza Rice with affirmative action.

A number of other journalism Web sites also linked to the Kelly piece as their primary reporting on the Holloway case.

The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information.

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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