Double Standard in Ray Nagin Verdict?
Friday, February 14, 2014
Most Americans — journalists included — remember C. Ray Nagin only as the face of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. But to Jarvis DeBerry, local columnist for NOLA.com and the Times-Picayune, Nagin was additionally a disappointment and the victim of a double standard.
At least, that's what DeBerry wrote in his three columns this week on Nagin.
As Campbell Robertson reported Wednesday for the New York Times, "C. Ray Nagin, a former corporate executive who became mayor in 2002 pledging to modernize city government and instead became an emblem of government dysfunction in the months and years after Hurricane Katrina, was found guilty in federal court on Wednesday on 20 counts of bribery and fraud.
"The verdict marks a dubious milestone in a city long associated with an ethically loose style of politics: It makes Mr. Nagin the first New Orleans mayor to be charged, tried and convicted of corruption. . . ."
DeBerry wrote Thursday, "Right about now Ray Nagin is probably wishing that some way, some how, he could transform himself into Peter Galvan, the corrupt former coroner of St. Tammany Parish who was harshly finger-wagged Wednesday in federal court. Galvan was so arrogant, so full of contempt for the community that he served, that when Tammany residents cried foul over his wasting their money, he wasted more of their money lawyering up against them. He took St. Tammany Parish for a ride. Nix that. Galvan took himself for one, using the office's credit card to buy boat equipment, aviation charts and an in-flight GPS.
"As outrageous as his crimes were, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan concluded Wednesday that Galvan is sorry, and she sentenced him to an awfully short two years in prison and fined him $5,000. On top of that, Galvan's expected to pay back the nearly $200,000 he stole. I bet Nagin, who was convicted Wednesday on 20 of 21 corruption charges, is wishing the judge in his case, Ginger Berrigan, will give him a similarly short sentence and just let him pay back the half-a-million bucks he stole. But he shouldn't count on it. Nagin is bald. Galvan has a full head of hair.
"You'd think that in 2014 it wouldn't be this way, that the alopecia set could count on finding as much sympathy at a federal courthouse as the Absalom facsimiles. But it seems certain that Nagin is looking at a long stretch behind bars. The estimated sentence you hear most often thrown about is 20 years — if not more. Or 10 times what Galvan got.
"You doubt it was the hair that softened Galvan's sentence? Hmmm . . ."
On Friday, DeBerry took a different tack:
"It's not supposed to be that way, is it? We are supposed to maintain a binary view of the world: good people, bad people. The good folks and their families are worthy of our empathy; the bad folks and their families are not. Well, sue me for not following the script. As I sat in a federal courtroom Monday before closing arguments in the trial for former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, I ached for his family: his mother and father, his wife Seletha."
DeBerry also wrote, "it shouldn't be surprising that I ache for Nagin's family as they brace themselves to be separated from him. Even when he was flying high, Nagin's wife, Seletha, never seemed comfortable with the public gaze. Though never unpolite, the shy Seletha Nagin seemed to be making public appearances grudgingly, like she'd rather be somewhere else — by herself.
"So imagine what she must have been feeling Wednesday, having first had to tell their son Jeremy on the phone that his father had been found guilty and then walking out into a scrum of photographers documenting the scene.
"I'm just as upset as any other New Orleanian that Nagin sold his office and that a man as talented as he is would disgrace himself and hold our city up for ridicule. Despite his humble beginnings, he had made a great rise and was making a good deal of money before he became mayor. He traded that money for power. Then he decided that he still wanted the money, too.
"We are all justified in being angry at Nagin for that. But I find myself just as angry at him for putting his family through this ordeal."
- Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Ray Nagin went from railing against corruption to committing it
- Carlie Kollath Wells, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Ray Nagin trial: What the national media are saying about his conviction, Feb. 13
- Grace Wilson, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Video: Ray Nagin guilty verdict gets Taiwanese animation treatment
"Don’t listen to your friends back home saying the Winter Olympics are just for white people who like the cold and vacation in Aspen," Mike Wise, sports columnist at the Washington Post, wrote on Wednesday from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. "This is the most inclusive Winter Games ever. Why, there are Caucasians here from almost 88 different nations.
"Bada-bing! I’ll be here all week.
"Actually, I will be here the next 10 days. And in that time, I will encounter no more than a dozen people of African American descent. They are the same ones I see over and over.
"Speedskater Shani Davis, Lolo Jones and the U.S. women’s bobsled team, NBC correspondent Lewis Johnson and about three other black journalists, one of whom I sang backup for in a Salt-N-Pepa karaoke gig at the media dorm at 3 a.m. the other night. (I was Salt.) . . ."
Wise's column prompted a retort from the conservative NewsBusters site. Ken Shepherd bemoaned Wise's "obsession with skin tone," and added, "P.S.: As my colleague Tim Graham pointed out to me today, if Wise is really so concerned with diversity, he should look no further than the Post's sports desk, where Jason Reid is the Shani Davis of the bunch."
However, Post Sports Editor Matt Vita told Journal-isms that his sports staff includes black reporters Michael Lee, Tariq Lee, Mike Jones and Brandon Parker in addition to Reid, and African American editors Keith McMillan and Alexa Steele.
NewsBusters wasn't Wise's only critic. "I got so many emails on this Winter Olympics thing that begin, 'How come you don't write the NBA is too black?,' " Wise told Journal-isms by email. "And, [your] problem is you have white guilt.'
"Billy Hunter, the former NBA players union chief, said it for me years ago: 'The NBA needs another white, American-born superstar like [Larry] Bird to get to the next level. That's the truth.'
"Billy's point was: a white-paying audience occasionally wants to racially identify more with the product.
"I don't think many people get that racially identifying, finding interest in rooting for someone who looks like you, is so far from racism. Now if a person only watches people of his color and finds nothing else interesting, that's different.
"I always say, I don't have white guilt. I have contempt for anyone of any color who thinks that talking about race equals race-baiting.
"I also find the diversity issue in America always becomes a white-black narrative. I've met many diverse people over here, most of whom happen to be white. I've also met a lot of Asians here. And they qualify as a minority."
Wise, who grew up in Hawaii, was last mentioned in Journal-isms after he defended white columnists' right to weigh in on whether black people should call themselves the N-word.
Wise also disclosed that the "Pepa" in the karaoke gig was Sam Sanders of NPR. He also clarified another reference in his column. William Douglas of the McClatchy Washington bureau was the black journalist who greeted Lawrence Murray, an intern for the U.S. Olympic Committee finishing up his master's in journalism at Southern California.
"He's the only one I've seen or talked to," Murray said of Douglas and African Americans.
Sanders tweeted on Tuesday, "Olympics were wearing me down, but then I found a karaoke bar. And then I sang 'Push It.' And then life was good. #nprsochi #saltandpeppa."
"The Federal Communications Commission is quietly changing course on a controversial study after parts of the methodology were roundly criticized by GOP lawmakers and commissioner Ajit Pai for encroaching into editorial decisions and content at TV stations," Katy Bachman wrote Wednesday for adweek.
"The Multi-Market Study of Critical Information Needs, which aimed to help the commission figure out how to lower entry barriers for minorities in broadcasting, may now be on hold. At the very least, the controversial sections of the study will be revisited under new chairman Tom Wheeler and incorporated into a new draft. Regardless of the study's intent, it's hard to fathom why the FCC sent its minions into newsrooms of the stations it licenses and ask questions about how stations exercise their First Amendment right.
" 'The government has no place pressuring media organizations into covering certain stories,' wrote Pai in a Wall Street Journal op ed earlier this week. As Pai described it, the FCC would be sending in researchers to 'grill reporters, editors and station owners about how they decide which stories to run.' . . ."
Pai quoted the FCC on the purpose of the study: to ferret out information from television and radio broadcasters about "the process by which stories are selected' and how often stations cover 'critical information needs,' along with 'perceived station bias' and 'perceived responsiveness to underserved populations.' . . ."
- Michael J. Copps, Columbia Journalism Review: From the desk of a former commissioner: Journalists need to generate a national discussion on the future of the internet
- Nancy Graham Holm, Huffington Post: Bring Back the Fairness Doctrine: I'd Rather Have Debate Than Ranting-and-Raving Journalism
- Leah Sakala and Peter Wagner, Huffington Post: FCC Bests Prison Telephone Industry Just in Time for Valentine's Day
"Telecom regulators may never have a better opportunity to regulate," Gautham Nagesh wrote Friday for the Wall Street Journal.
"Even before Comcast's . . . $45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable . . . was announced on Thursday, the telecom industry was anxiously watching the Federal Communications Commission for action on how Internet providers can treat traffic on their networks.
"Now, the proposed acquisition gives the commission additional leverage to act — and may even force its hand — on the issue, also known as 'net neutrality,' as well as a host of other policy matters. The decision could further a trend in which regulators make telecommunications policy on merger approvals rather than through traditional rulemaking processes.
"As they review the merger, regulators must address the question of whether the combined company would hold so much power in the marketplace that it could favor certain content providers and limit consumers' choices. . . . "
Nagesh also wrote, "As part of its 2011 agreement to acquire NBCUniversal, Comcast agreed to treat all content traveling over its broadband networks equally. Last month the D.C. Circuit Court struck down net neutrality rules the FCC issued in 2010, opening the door for broadband providers to start charging Web companies like Netflix . . . or Google a toll to reach consumers at the fastest speeds. . . . "
Journalists of color organizations have endorsed the concept of "net neutrality."
Meanwhile, the National Association of Black Journalists said in a statement Thursday that it was disappointed that Comcast/NBC has decided to cancel "Art Fennell Reports," a program that reported news in the Philadelphia region for the past seven years.
The statement quoted Craig Robinson, executive vice president and chief diversity officer of NBCUniversal, telling NABJ, "At the broad view, the Comcast Network is being closed down and will now be used as a second sports network for Comcast Sportsnet Philadelphia. Leadership at Comcast has been in discussion with Art for over a year about the upcoming change as he notes in his interview. While I appreciate that there are those who will miss the show, the parting was respectful and amicable. The show's cancellation is in no way an indication that Comcast is going back on its promise to add more programming for people of color in general."
- Dawn C. Chmielewski, Los Angeles Times: Comcast-Time Warner Cable deal may heighten calls for net neutrality
- Editorial, Chicago Tribune: Why Comcast-Time Warner deal makes sense
- Free Press: Comcast + Time Warner Cable = Disaster
- Harry A. Jessell, TVNewsCheck: Wheeler Needs A Lesson From U.S.Grant
- Edward Wyatt, New York Times: Industry Shifts May Aid Comcast in Takeover Bid
"Although the photographer Hugh Bell had been part of 'The Family of Man' exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, he later realized inclusivity went only so far when he called to pitch a story to an editor at Esquire," David Gonzalez reported Tuesday for the New York Times' Lens Blog.
" 'I had a beautiful, poetic, romantic idea,' he recalled. 'She said: "That’s great. Come up and tell me about it." '
"When he got there, the editor looked around.
" 'She said, "Where's Hugh Bell?" I said, "Ah, I got it. You didn’t expect me to be a black photographer." '
"The disappointment of that painful epiphany lingered in his voice and eyes as he recounted it decades later for the documentary 'Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People,' which has been well received at the Sundance Film Festival and elsewhere.
"The film, which was directed, co-written and co-produced by Thomas Allen Harris, is a sweeping narrative that traces from the 19th century to the 21st how African-Americans presented themselves in their own photos, often in stark contrast to how they were demeaned and stereotyped by the larger society. Inspired by 'Reflections in Black,' a book by Deborah Willis — one of the film’s producers — it deftly blends historical images from before and after the Civil War, with family albums and photographs by such luminaries as Gordon Parks Jr. and Carrie Mae Weems. . . ."
- Sarah Barness, Huffington Post: Striking Photos Challenge The Way We See Blackness
The number of people applying for the 12 U.S. John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford University rose from 100 last year to 139 this year, and is "one of our most diverse pools ever, with 43 percent identifying themselves as people of color and 50 percent identifying as white (7 percent declined to state)," Jim Bettinger, director of the program, wrote for the program's website on Tuesday. "Nearly two-thirds are women."
Bettinger began his message by saying, "We're constantly striving to expand the reach of the Knight Fellowships program, and the number of people applying to be fellows is one way of assessing how effective we are. The numbers this year tell us that we’re doing something right. . . ."
The ruling by a federal judge striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage made headlines Thursday and Friday, but less attention was given to the judge who wrote it: the first black woman to serve on the federal bench in Virginia.
In her opinion, U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen, who has been on the bench for less than three years, quoted Abraham Lincoln and made reference to Virginia's onetime ban on interracial marriage.
"Tradition is revered in the Commonwealth, and often rightly so," Wright Allen wrote. "However, tradition alone cannot justify denying same-sex couples the right to marry any more than it could justify Virginia's ban on interracial marriage."
Credit Matthew Barakat of the Associated Press for providing a profile of Wright Allen, which moved Feb. 6. "The judge deciding what could become a landmark gay marriage case in Virginia defies easy characterization: She was a prosecutor, but also a public defender. She was appointed by President Barack Obama, and she also served in the military as a Navy lawyer. . . ." Barakat also noted, "She is married to Delroy Allen, a former pro soccer goalie in the old North American Soccer League. . . ."
David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post followed with a profile on Friday.
- Askia Muhammad, a participant in the National Newspaper Publishers Association's expenses-paid trip to Morocco last month, wrote Thursday for the Washington Informer, "The future of world food security is in Africa, both in terms of available land and in the fertilizer which will be needed to make that land [productive. Still,] up until now, investors, except for some in China, have a 'hands off Africa' policy. And for good reason. Unless your country has a powerful military like China, Russia, or the United States, investment in a war-torn continent might seem frightening to most with money. Furthermore, the traditional gateways to Africa are themselves in ruin. . . ."
- "Unlike the theme of the hit television show he helped create, the brouhaha involving Jerry Seinfeld and comedians of color is not about nothing," columnist Ruben Navarrette Jr. wrote this week for the Washington Post Writers Group. Navarrette also wrote, "Apparently, there are those comedians who are funny — the vast majority being white males. Imagine the odds of that. And then over here, in a separate pile, there are those comedians who are African-American, Latino, Asian-American or Native American. . . ."
- "Mexico is a dangerous country for journalists," the Los Angeles-based La Opinión editorialized Friday. "The state of Veracruz, led by Governor Javier Duarte, is the best example of reporters lacking protection and armed groups, who intimidate and murder those journalists, going unpunished." The paper urged President Obama "to express his concern about this problem to his Mexican counterpart during their next meeting. . . ."
- "Drake has apologized for a pair of tweets he posted and soon deleted on Thursday criticizing Rolling Stone's decision to give its latest cover to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman instead of the Toronto rapper," Huffington Post reported on Friday. " 'I completely support and agree with Rolling Stone replacing me on the cover with the legendary Phillip [sic] Seymour Hoffman. He is one of the most incredible actors of our time and a man that deserves to be immortalized by this publication,' Drake wrote on his blog, October's Very Own. 'My frustration stemmed from the way it was executed. . . ."
- In Dallas-Fort Worth, "CBS11 weekend anchor/weekday reporter Sharrie Williams is moving up a notch in TV market size, from No. 5 to No. 4," Ed Bark reported Wednesday on his television news blog. "The station confirms that Williams will be joining Philadelphia's ABC-owned WPVI-TV as a 5 p.m. weekday anchor and reporter on 11 p.m. newscasts. Ken Molestina, who recently joined CBS11 as weekend co-anchor, will now be going solo. . . ."
- "Tony Pipitone, one of the finest reporters in Orlando TV history, is leaving WKMG-Channel 6," Hal Boedeker reported Wednesday for the Orlando Sentinel. "He will become an investigative reporter next month at WTVJ, the NBC-owned station in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale market." Boedeker also wrote, "He will join his wife, Myriam Marquez, who works in South Florida for The Miami Herald. Marquez, a former columnist at the Orlando Sentinel, was named executive editor of the Herald's Spanish-language daily, el Nuevo Herald, in October. . . ."
- The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) has hired Bobby Caina Calvan, a former national political writer in the Boston Globe's Washington bureau, as the lead reporter for the Heartland Project, a joint initiative led by AAJA and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) to increase media coverage of minorities and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities in Nebraska," AAJA announced on Thursday. Calvan heads AAJA's Media Watch committee.
- "Multiplatform Hispanic media publisher impreMedia posted a 31-percent year-over-year increase in Web traffic across its stable of titles, according to comScore [Inc.] The company now reaches a total audience of 12.3 million nationwide, which is up from 9.4 million in 2012," Caysey Welton reported Tuesday for Folio:.
- "When Hussien Mohamed, director of Sagal Radio, went to work last Wednesday, what he saw shocked him: a fire had completely burned down the two-story building housing his station in Atlanta, Georgia," Anthony Advincula wrote Feb. 6 for New America Media. Advincula also wrote, "Since Sagal Radio was established 15 years ago, it has offered news and information in six languages — Amharic, Bhutanese/Nepali, English, Karen, Somali and Swahili, serving the refugee community in metro Atlanta and other parts of the state. . . ."
- Hugh Lamont Douglas, who was fired by ESPN as an analyst last summer after he got into a fight with his "Numbers Don't Lie" co-host Michael Smith during a party thrown by the National Association of Black Journalists in Orlando, Fla., was convicted of a reduced charge stemming from a September domestic clash in a Hartford, Conn., hotel, Christine Dempsey reported for the Hartford Courant.
- "As soon as Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index this week, the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda department issued a directive banning its publication and dissemination, the press freedom organization reported on Friday.
- Gene Policinski, chief operating officer of the Newseum Institute and former senior vice president and executive director of the First Amendment Center, challenged Arizona State University's decision to cut ties with Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity over a party that the local chapter hosted on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The party featured racist images. "There's also little doubt that the students' 'speech' — as repugnant as it is — is protected by the First Amendment," Policinski wrote Wednesday for Gannett Central Wisconsin Media. "Better that the university community and the community-at-large use their own First Amendment rights to loudly condemn racist stereotypes and thoughtless insults. . . ." Another opinion from Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition.
- " 'Cosmos' host Neil deGrasse Tyson is the latest celebrity of color whose skin appears lightened on the cover of a magazine — and this time, he called the magazine out for it," James Crugnale and L.A. Ross wrote Thursday for the Wrap. " 'Nothing like being overexposed,' the famed astrophysicist tweeted on Wednesday, referring to a particularly bright photo of him that appears on the March/April cover of Mental Floss. . . ."
- "'Today' show weatherman Al Roker apologized for a tweet predicting New York City mayor Bill de Blasio would only hold office for one term," Chris Ariens reported for TVNewser. "While he was having dinner with Willie Geist and other 'Today' show colleagues last night in Sochi, Roker fired off several tweets calling out the mayor for keeping schools open during yesterday's snowstorm. . . ."
- "Venezuelan authorities took a Colombian news station off the air on Wednesday after the station aired coverage of anti-government protests that have left three people dead and dozens injured, according to the station and news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Thursday.
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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