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Do Media Give Racist Hockey Fans a Pass?

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Beat Writers Say Incidents Get Coverage, but Not Enough

9 Die as Militants Attack Nigerian Newspaper Offices

"Red Tails" Film Set for May 22 DVD Release

USC Annenberg Evicting Chicano Journalists After 33 Years

The Night That Looters Went Inside the L.A. Times Building

NBC Miami Reporter Fired Over Edited Zimmerman Tape

Jeffery Reid, Producer of "Black in America," Leaves CNN

The Washington Post's Metro Seven (NABJ Journal, 2002)

Short Takes


Joel Ward of the Washington Capitals, center, celebrating victory, said of the racist tweets, 'I know what I signed up for. I’m a black guy playing a predominantly white sport,' according to the Washington Post. 'It just comes with the territory. I would be naive or foolish to believe or think that it doesn't exist. It's part of life.' (Credit: John McDonnell/Washington Post)

Beat Writers Say Incidents Get Coverage, but Not Enough

Racist tweets greeted the series-ending overtime goal Wednesday by Joel Ward, the first black player in the National Hockey League to accomplish that feat. Did the tweets betray a bigoted disposition among hockey fans that has been undercovered by the news media?

One read, "The fact that a nigger scored the winner goal make this loss hurt more."

"Can’t believe Boston just let a sand nigger beat them," another tweeted.

"Two Twitter punks who fired off racist rants about Washington Capitals hero Joel Ward are facing possible disciplinary action from their schools while another who apologized said he’s getting death threats," Dave Wedge reported Friday in the Boston Herald.

Certainly the comments about the Washington Capitals player were an embarrassment that prompted the NHL and both teams to apologize. John Thompson Jr., who at Georgetown University became the first African American coach to lead a team to an NCAA championship, happened to be on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on Washington's WAMU-FM the next day.

As a former Celtic, Thompson is familiar with Boston, where Ward's goal ended the Boston Bruins' quest for the Eastern Conference semifinals. Thompson said of the tweets, "It rips a scab off. You reflect on what has happened to you in the past. You say, 'Oh, my God, this still happens.' " He added, "It's really disgusting because it reflects on people that it shouldn't reflect on in some instances."

Two journalists who cover hockey — one African American, the other black and Hispanic — told Journal-isms that such embarrassments do get reported — but not the way they should.

"Well, I'm glad the story is getting coverage," Cecil Harris, author of Cecil Harris"Breaking the Ice: The Black Experience in Professional Hockey" (2003), said by email. "It shames people who deserve to be shamed, although we'll never know the names of those racists unless they admit to it. But I suspect that the mainstream sports media decided to cover this story once Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis made it an issue.

"Racist incidents in hockey don't always get media coverage. Case in point: an NHL game on February 3, 1990 at Madison Square Garden during which black player Graeme Townshend tackled white player Kris King on the ice after King called Townshend 'nigger.' It wasn't treated as a major story, although I thought it was. And it happened in New York City.

"(I'm digressing, but it's fascinating to read the mainstream newspaper accounts on April 16, 1947, the day after Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier. The racial aspect was deliberately downplayed. I find that mainstream sports media still would rather not deal with issues of race. I've long believed that the vast majority of sports journalists would rather stick to fun & games.)"

Harris, a black journalist, devoted "The N-Bomb," a chapter in his book, to such incidents.

The insults extended even to him. "When I returned to my hometown of New York City to cover my first hockey game at Madison Square Garden in October 1998, a white hockey fan approached me as I went to my seat in the press section. Holding a large beer, he said, 'What the fuck you doin' here? The Knicks ain't playin'.' Fourteen years later, it still feels like cold water thrown into my face."

Ryan S. ClarkRyan S. Clark covers the United States Hockey League and Minnesota high school hockey for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota.

"It's not a Boston issue, it's an issue which I have seen with hockey fans on the whole," Clark, who is black and Hispanic, said by email. "Some just don't have any respect when it comes to people of different races. The NHL has had multiple incidents this year where race has been an issue. Wayne Simmonds had a banana . . . thrown at him in a pre-season game. Simmonds, weeks later, then used a homophobic term towards Sean Avery, a gay rights advocate. Then another black player was called a racial epithet by another player. Even the team I cover had a white kid call a black kid 'a monkey.' The black kid's teammates responded by assaulting the white kid and his grandfather following a game the next day. Weeks later, the black player's teammates were criminally charged with assault."

The subject "gets attention because whenever this happens, it does get reported. Though that's just it. No one really delves into why this continues to be a problem in hockey. I'd say most people feel that it's just a few bad eggs but when it continues to happen, it raises the questions of 'Is it a problem that expands across the game?' Really, the way hockey media deal with this is when a former player, who is black, writes a column about it and it's seen as it will not be a problem until the next time it happens.

"I've written stories about the number of black kids playing junior hockey and why we don't see more and someone responded by saying, 'We shouldn't be seeing race and hockey stories in the paper.' Granted, I live in Fargo, N.D., and this is a state where people feel the NCAA is wrong for telling the University of North Dakota to get rid of the Sioux nickname. People have actually said up here, 'How come Notre Dame can be the Fighting Irish but we cannot be the Fighting Sioux?'

"Race issues in hockey will never get the attention for reasons I think we already are well aware of. I still have people in shock when they find out my goal is to cover the NHL."

As Frederick Cosby noted Friday for, "Black players are a small but growing number in the NHL. Some 38 minority players had permanent spots [on] NHL rosters during the 2011-12 regular season. Of that group, 18 players were black, eight were Native/Aboriginal, four were Hispanic, two were West Asian/Arab, one was Inuit, one was Haitian/West Indian and one was East Asian, according to league figures."

Cosby also wrote:

"Several NHL teams, including the Capitals and the Bruins, assist minority-oriented youth hockey programs in their cities that help expose the often expensive game to inner-city children at no cost.

"Last month, the NHL announced a partnership with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to provide full scholarships for academically eligible children in NHL-supported youth hockey programs to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

"As part of the partnership two HBCU’s — Howard University and Cheney University of Pennsylvania are currently working on establishing club hockey programs on their campuses this fall.

"Last September, the NHL sent a group of representatives — including Ward — to Washington to participate in the Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Week.

"Ward's goal had a touch of irony that wasn't lost on a lot of black hockey fans. He scored against Tim Thomas, who snubbed President Barack Obama by refusing to accompany his Bruins teammates to the White House to celebrate their championship for political reasons."

Hardest hit in a series of bomb attacks on Nigerian newspapers was ThisDay, whos

9 Die as Militants Attack Nigerian Newspaper Offices

"For the first time since it began a series of deadly bomb attacks, the Boko Haram sect yesterday turned its attention to the media. It unleashed a string of coordinated attacks on three media houses in Abuja and Kaduna, killing no fewer than nine people in the process," the Nigerian newspaper Leadership reported on Friday.

Boko Haram, a group of militants based in northern Nigeria, aims to establish a government in the north functioning under a strict interpretation of Sharia law [PDF], according to the U.S. State Department.

"The three media houses attacked by the bombers were the Abuja office of ThisDay Newspaper, and then The Sun and The Moment offices in Kaduna which were hit almost simultaneously by the blasts," the Leadership story continued.

"Hardest hit was ThisDay whose office in Jabi, Abuja, was almost brought down by the impact of the blast that swept through the area at about 11:03am.

"Witnesses said that a suicide bomber forced his way through the back gate of the Jabi office of the media empire and rammed his black Isuzu Jeep into the main building housing the printing press and other facilities. Everything went up in flames, as the bomb went off."

The attack was denounced by Nigerian journalists and publishers, by international press-freedom organizations and by President Obama.

". . . The Boko Haram sect has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing that rocked the Kaduna and Abuja offices of ThisDay, saying that the Nigerian media should expect more suicide bombings from them," the Leadership story said.

"It said it carried out the attack to sound a note of warning to media houses that it would no longer tolerate reports which misrepresent them in the media or blame them for attacks they know nothing about."

President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama greet Tuskegee Airmen before a screening of “Red Tails” in the Family Theater of the White House on Jan. 13. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

"Red Tails" Film Set for May 22 DVD Release

The "Red Tails" movie about the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II went on sale in Blu-ray/DVD and DVD formats Wednesday for release May 22, Home Media Magazine reported, after a U.S. theatrical release in January that included a White House screening and promotion by black media outlets and such African American organizations as the National Association of Black Journalists.

A spokeswoman for Lucasfilm, which produced the movie, denied a report last month by Hollywood writer Roger Friedman for that the film was "one of the biggest turkeys of all time" and that producer George Lucas, who had put up his own money, lost "something close to $70 million."

The spokeswoman pointed to upcoming DVD and syndication and noted that, according to, the film ranked No. 10 on the list of top-grossing World War II movies. "Saving Private Ryan" (1998) was first. "Red Tails" ranked ahead of such films as "The Thin Red Line" (1998) and "Flags of Our Fathers" (2006).

The Blu-ray version of "Red Tails" is to feature technology used for the home version of "Star Wars," which was also produced by Lucas. The THX Media Director is described as "a technology that transforms digital media into smart content, enabling CE devices (i.e., Blu-ray players, set-top boxes, AVRs, HD displays) to automatically select the audio and video settings that best represent the director's vision, vastly simplifying the home entertainment experience and preserving artistic intent," an announcement said, ". . . so fans will be able to sit back and enjoy the high-flying, action-adventure film as its creators intended."

Home Media Magazine added, "Bonus material includes the documentary Double Victory: The Tuskegee Airmen at War; featurettes about Lucas, director Anthony Hemingway, composer Terence Blanchard and the cast; and more."

USC Annenberg Evicting Chicano Journalists After 33 Years

CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California, which in its 40th year calls itself the nation's oldest organization of journalists of color, is looking for new office space after being asked to vacate the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. It has been on that Los Angeles campus since 1979.

"We were notified a couple of weeks ago that USC Annenberg needed our current space for another program and that Annenberg did not have any other space for us at this time. We need to vacate by Aug. 1," Executive Director Julio Moran told Journal-isms via email.

"We have begun contacting other area universities to see if they can Julio Moranprovide free office space for CCNMA, and also will explore media companies and other nonprofits."

The school told Journal-isms, also by email: "USC Annenberg regrets that after providing CCNMA office space pro bono for more than a dozen years, we will no longer be able to accommodate their office at our School. We have been faced with a shortage of space at USC Annenberg for years, and we have juggled many of our faculty and staff, doubling up their offices to be able to accommodate CCNMA. We have also had to move a dozen of our centers and programs off campus due to space constraints. As a result, we've been in ongoing conversations with CCNMA about space shortages for more than a decade.

"Unfortunately, this coming academic year, with the addition of some new faculty, we are no longer able to hold space for the association. USC Annenberg continues to support CCNMA, its programs and scholarships, and we will continue to work with them in multiple endeavors to ensure the success of their organization and the very important work they do for journalists and the media."

Moran added, "We are saddened that our partnership with USC Annenberg is coming to an end, but we appreciate the support Annenberg has provided CCNMA for the past 33 years, and that we were able to help Annenberg achieve some of its diversity goals, exemplified in its recent national Equity & Diversity Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication."

The organization was formerly known as the California Chicano News Media Association.

The Night That Looters Went Inside the L.A. Times Building

"The rocks smashed my office windows just after dark — broken glass all over the carpets of the Los Angeles Times's proud fortress on Spring Street," Shelby Coffey III wrote Thursday for the Daily Beast. "Down the block, two buildings were on fire. I remember how red the flames looked against the black sky. Chemical fire?, I wondered. Way too close to us, in any case, as were the sirens.

". . . At the end, more than 50 were dead, scores of buildings were burned, looting had become near-epidemic, and the newsroom of the Times had been stretched beyond all previous limits. But the end was, as always, not the end.

". . . What was not up for debate that opening night was that we at the Times needed police help. As editor, I called Parker Center (police headquarters), hoping the title might get a little notice on what was looking like a bad night for the fabled LAPD. (Worst ever, it turned out.) The phone rang endlessly, without answer.

"Next call was to our own uniformed security guards across the street. In the afternoon, the usual couple-of-hundred protestors had marched at Parker Center, two blocks away. By night, the crowd (multihued, it should be noted) had become a broiling mass. More than a few ripped up pavement from a street project unluckily right beside the Times and were hurling away.

" 'We're pinned in,' said our security guard. An unarguable but disheartening reply.

"Then I got a call that looters were inside on the street floor. With one of our bravest newsroom administrators, I headed down to defend our…what? Our computers? Our sense of order? Our flammable mass of paper?

"One intruder was coming through the broken windows. I grabbed a pair of scissors and shouted, 'Get out!' Luckily for me, he did. . . ."

NBC Miami Reporter Fired Over Edited Zimmerman Tape

"WTVJ reporter Jeff Burnside was fired Friday after being involved in editing a tape of George Zimmerman's 911 call before he shot Trayvon Martin," Andrew Beaujon reported Thursday for the Poynter Institute. "Burnside, who has been with the NBC owned and operated Miami station for 13 years, still has a bio page on its website.

" 'As anybody in the news business knows, something that seems very clear is often very, very complicated,' Burnside said by phone this evening. 'I have nothing but great things to say about the NBC team.'

"The WTVJ video, though edited similarly, was not the one that aired on NBC’s 'Today' show, according to two people with knowledge of the matter. The video that aired on the 'Today' show actually came from NBC’s Southeast headquarters, also based in south Florida.

"The 'Today' show video removed context from Zimmerman's conversation with a 911 operator. The original call transcript said:

"Zimmerman: This guy looks like he's up to no good. Or he's on drugs or something. It's raining and he's just walking around, looking about.

"Dispatcher: OK, and this guy — is he black, white or Hispanic?

"Zimmerman: He looks black.

"The edit changed Zimmerman's words to: 'This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black.' "

Jeffery Reid, Producer of "Black in America," Leaves CNN

Jeffery Reid, a veteran broadcast journalist who as executive producer for CNN Productions oversaw editorial content for the network’s long-form programming that appears in programs including "CNN Presents" and "CNN: Special Investigations Unit," left CNN on Friday, he told Journal-isms.

Jeffery Reid"Today is my last day. I'm just ready for a new adventure," he said by email. "I have a few irons in the fire and hope to share the news soon."

In  his LinkedIn profile, Reid says, "Reid’s last projects, Black in America I and 2: took a hard look at the myths, the facts, the stereotypes and the realities of being Black in America.

"Reid also produced Martin Luther King: Words that Changed a Nation. This documentary gave viewers a rare look inside the U.S. civil rights movement and used King's own writings to explore his philosophy and theology. Words that Changed a Nation and Black in America were both nominated for an NAACP Image Award. Reid's other documentary work for CNN includes programs about the Virginia Tech massacre, the Iraq war, the Oklahoma City bombing, among other topics. Reid along with Soledad O'Brien was named to Ebony Magazine’s Power 150 in 2009. Among the 15 named in the media category Reid and O’Brien ranked third behind Oprah and Tavis Smiley."

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 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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