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Elizabeth Taylor Tributes Touch on Race

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Story Includes "Cleopatra," Civil Rights, Michael Jackson

. . . Chris Brown Apologizes for Outburst on "GMA"

Worldwide, Women Are 27% of Main Media Decision Makers

Al Jazeera Hopes Libyans Free Crew; Yemen Shuts Bureau

Rocker Ted Nugent Says No African Country Respects Law

30 AOL Sites Dropped as Huffington Consolidates

Trial in Chauncey Bailey Case Opens With Gunplay Evidence

Stations Warned Against Discriminatory Ad Contracts

Short Takes 

Elizabeth Taylor in an undated PBS photo, on Time's cover in 1949 and in "Cleopatra" (1963).

Story Includes "Cleopatra," Civil Rights, Michael Jackson

"I did a short story on her when she held a news conference in D.C. to promote the play, 'The Little Foxes' that she was starring in at the Warner Theater," Brenda Wilson, then reporting for NPR, recalled for Journal-isms on Wednesday. "The then Mrs. Warner was a hoot, characterized herself as a 'bitch,' charmed us all. The eyes were extraordinary. It was impossible not to be affected by her. Washington must have bored her to tears. And so she didn't stay. It was back to Hollywood."

Wilson was talking about Elizabeth Taylor, who died Wednesday of congestive heart failure. Or, as the Daily News in New York put it, "Elizabeth Taylor, the violet-eyed femme fatale whose smoldering talent and eight marriages made her a legend of Hollywood's golden era, died on March 23, 2011. She was 79."

Taylor was in Washington in the early 1980s, making her first serious stage debut and participating in what was described as a largely unhappy marriage to then-Sen. John Warner, R-Va.

Few black journalists were commenting on Taylor in the mainstream media on Wednesday, an indication perhaps of how few have access to film critic's perches in those outlets. There were also indications that Taylor's appeal might be generational.

On NPR's "Tell Me More," guest-hosted by Farai Chideya, Latoya Peterson, creator of the blog Racialicious said, "You know, Farai, what's interesting is that I don't know much about Elizabeth Taylor. I'm working my way through a Netflix queue that has 'Giant' in it and other things like that. But the only thing I know her for is 'Cleopatra,' and it's only because of the racial implications of her actually playing Cleopatra that I took such a long view at that movie." There is talk of remaking the epic with Angelina Jolie in the role.

The discussion, with Galina Espinoza, editorial director of Latina magazine, and Marcia Dawkins, visiting scholar at Brown University,  turned to beauty standards.

"Most scholars tend to point to coins that were minted in the time of Cleopatra that showed her with cornrows, right, and what they describe as a hook nose, which automatically means she's less beautiful than what people thought," Peterson said. "And I'm, like, wait a minute, was that — was she less beautiful according to our norms now, or according to the norms in ancient Egypt? Or even the norms in Greece or Rome? I think it's really interesting to see how we are shaping ideas of beauty even now, as we're looking back."

Still, Taylor did appeal to audiences of color. Gil Robertson IV, founder and president of the African-American Film Critics Association, said in a statement, “Elizabeth Taylor was a rare example of an entertainer who crossed racial boundaries. Although many in the African American community were highly critical of her for portraying Cleopatra, I think she eventually won us over. She appeared to live her life so [authentically] — going through weight issues, sickness and of course, marriages, marriages and more marriages. It made her seem just like the rest of us and that made her really special."

On AOL's Black Voices, Ruth Manuel-Logan paid homage to "the last of the few remaining film goddesses" and called Taylor "an avid defender of civil rights," noting that "Taylor strongly believed in equality for all even during a time in Hollywood when blacks were treated like second-class citizens. She was known to selflessly donate monies to various grassroots organizations to further the cause of racial justice."

And of course there was her friendship with Michael Jackson. "Theirs was a solidified friendship that withstood all of the turbulent media lynchings that Jackson went through during the later stages of his career," Manuel-Logan wrote.

In a "Tell Me More" blog headlined, "Taylor Gave Black Fans Lots To Talk About," Jimi Izrael wrote, "unless you were a classic movie buff (like me), most black folks in my generation remember Taylor for the part she played as widow Helena Cassadine on the soap opera 'General Hospital'. . . when Luke and Laura were hot in the streets. Her role fueled an era when it was actually cool to star on a soap opera."

Izrael also said, "Taylor's friendship with Michael Jackson was a curiosity of the 80s no one could quite figure out — then or now."

Taylor starred in the 1956 film "Giant," in which the subplot was about racism against Mexican-Americans. She served on the board of Hampton University from 1980 to 1985, during part of her marriage to Warner. (They divorced in 1982).

No obituary was complete without mention of Taylor's early attention to the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s at a time when President Ronald Reagan did not utter the word. The epidemic went on to disproportionately affect people of color.

"The final word," Robertson concluded, "is that Elizabeth Taylor is a legend and an icon who will be tremendously missed."

. . . Chris Brown Apologizes for Outburst on "GMA"

Chris Brown, left, and Charlie Sheen (Credit: theGrio.com)In many sectors of the blogosphere, the celebrity news wasn't about Elizabeth Taylor, but Chris Brown.

"This morning on 'Good Morning America' Robin Roberts said she was 'shocked' by Chris Brown‘s behavior following her interview with him yesterday," Chris Ariens reported Wednesday for TVNewser.

The Hollywood Reporter wrote that Brown "has apologized for storming off the set of ABC's 'Good Morning America', throwing a cooler and allegedly breaking a window because he was so angry about being asked about ex-girlfriend Rihanna. . . . He has claimed he was caught off guard by the questions and was under the impression the interview would focus on his new album."

However, Ariens added, "Roberts also pulled back the curtain to explain the booking process; that Brown knew he’d be asked about the violent end to his relationship with Rihanna. 'Anytime we have a guest here on the program, we let them know ahead of time the subject matter and the topics we will discuss. I was shocked like anyone else, because we’ve had a wonderful relationship,' said Roberts of Brown, adding 'We’d love to have him back.' "

On theGrio.com, Ronda Racha Penrice wrote, "Shortly after Brown's reported meltdown Tuesday morning, The View's Sherri Shepherd opened up a much-[needed] discussion touching upon race when she overheard a cameraman refer to Brown as a 'thug.' Shepherd noted that neither Sheen nor Mel Gibson had been called 'thugs' though their actions certainly warranted such characterization.

"So can Chris Brown not escape his past history with Rihanna because young, black men are seen as thugs and, therefore, are expected to behave in a violent manner? Do Charlie Sheen, Mel Gibson and other white male celebrities continue to avoid public scrutiny when it comes to their domestic violence incidents because such incidents are viewed as aberrations on their part?"

Worldwide, Women Are 27% of Main Media Decision Makers

Catherine Hughes"Women represent less than one third of the main decision makers at news companies worldwide as gender inequality leaves top management and governance dominated by males, the International Women’s Media Foundation said," Romaine Bostick reported Tuesday for Bloomberg News.

"Women occupy about 27 percent of the leading managerial jobs such as chief executive officer and about 26 percent of governing board positions, according to a survey of 522 newspaper, radio and television companies by the Washington-based advocacy group. Women hold 39 percent of the senior management positions that include managing editor and bureau chief, the two-year study released today shows.

"A so-called glass ceiling exists at companies in 20 of the 59 nations studied, mainly for senior jobs and in middle management, which includes chief correspondents and design directors, the IWMF said. The foundation, which surveyed 170,000 people, said it will discuss strategies to 'level the playing field' at the conference in Washington this week.

". . . Women are close to reaching parity in news-gathering, editing and writing jobs, representing 41 percent of those positions, the study shows. Overall, women represent 35 percent of the full-and part-time journalism workforce worldwide.

"Female media executives in the U.S. include New York Times Co. President and CEO Janet Robinson and Radio One Inc. Chairman Catherine Hughes. In the U.K., Rebekah Brooks is CEO of News International, the unit that oversees News Corp. (NWSA)’s newspaper titles in that country.

"In the U.S., women hold about 23 percent of top-level management jobs and 35 percent in governance."

Al Jazeera Hopes Libyans Free Crew; Yemen Shuts Bureau

"First, the four New York Times reporters came home.

"Next, Colonel [Moammar Gaddafi's] supporters released two AFP correspondents and a Getty photographer," Noah Davis reported Wednesday for businessinsider.com, referring to Agence France-Presse.

"Now it is Al Jazeera's turn.

"According to the news source, 'Libyan authorities say they will release Al Jazeera's reporting crew within 24 hours, after they were detained in west Libya last week. The crew includes two correspondents, one Tunisian and another Mauritanian, and two cameramen, one Norwegian and one British.'

"The move comes two days after Amnesty International called on Libyan officials to let the four go.

"The group — correspondents Ahmad Val Wald-Eddin and Lutfi Al-Massoudi and cameramen Ammar Al-Hamdan and Ammar Al-Tallou from Britain — was captured more than two weeks ago near Zantan.

"An Al Jazeera cameraman, Hassan Al Jaber, was killed in action."

In Yemen, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Tuesday, "Plainclothes gunmen raided Al-Jazeera's Sana'a bureau early this morning, confiscating equipment and obstructing operations, the Qatar-based news channel reported today as a drumbeat of anti-press attacks continued in the region. Arrests, attacks, and harassment were also reported in Libya, Syria and Bahrain in recent days.

"Al-Jazeera said around 20 armed men, their faces obscured by head scarves, forcibly entered the Sana'a offices before dawn. The station said some gunmen remained on the roof of the building housing the bureau late today, obstructing Al-Jazeera's local operations. The gunmen's identities were unclear, although Al-Jazeera said uniformed police witnessed the raid and did not intervene."

". . . In Bahrain, police fired pellets at CBS Radio correspondent Toula Vlahou as she covered demonstrations in the capital, Manama, on Thursday, CBS News said. Vlahou reported that police fired as she and her local driver tried to leave a confrontation in which police were using tear gas to disperse demonstrators. 'The riot police showed no mercy, they did not stop to ask us who we were. They just saw a camera and they started firing,' Vlahou said in her report."

Ted Nugent

Rocker Ted Nugent Says No African Country Respects Law

Rocker Ted Nugent, who rose to fame in the 1970s and by 2008 had played his 6,000th concert, has become noteworthy in other circles for his conservative views.

"Africa isn’t called the Dark Continent for no reason. Africa has forever been a political nightmare full of overt corruption, tribal warfare, genocide, murderous regimes and brutal dictators," Nugent wrote in an op-ed published Monday in the Washington Times.

"There is no country in Africa that truly respects freedom or the rule of law. The majority of countries in Africa are in economic ruin because of political corruption and a history ugly with cruel despotism. That’s why starvation and disease are rampant. AIDS is projected to kill as much as half the populations of some countries. Genocide is a way of life. There is little light in Africa."

30 AOL Sites Dropped as Huffington Consolidates

"First it was the people. Now it’s the brands," Jeff Bercovici reported Tuesday for forbes.com.

"AOL just notified staffers of a major consolidation of its portfolio of content sites, undertaken as part of its merger with the Huffington Post. All told, some 30 brands will be 'integrated' into other properties seen as stronger by editor in chief Arianna Huffington. Among those to be absorbed are Politics Daily (folded into HuffPost Politics), Walletpop (folded into Daily Finance), Urlesque (folded into HuffPost Comedy), Luxist (folded into Stylelist) and TV Squad (folded into AOL TV)."

Jaweed Kaleem

"But once the great clean-up is over," Ujala Sehgal wrote for FishbowlNY, "who are they looking to hire for their newer, bigger, and (hopefully) better joint brand?

"TechCrunch is reporting that AOL HuffPost is looking to hire from its freelancers, but only professional journalists this time around.

"Peter Goodman, editor for business and technology news for the Huffington Post, held a conference call for freelance business writers. One of his main points was that they are looking for freelancers who are professional journalists (not bloggers) to become staffers."

Sehgal also reported the announcement of six more hires at the Huffington Post, now owned by AOL, including Rebecca Carroll as culture editor of Black Voices and the Miami Herald’s Jaweed Kaleem as religion reporter.

"Rebecca Carroll will provide thought-provoking coverage of black culture; and Jaweed Kaleem will bring to our religion section the fresh take on religion for which he is known," the AOL announcement said. Carroll "has held editor positions at Uptown and Paper magazines, as well as at Contentville.com and Africana.com, where she was the founding editor."

Kaleem, who had been at the Herald for 3½ years, told Journal-isms, "I'll cover the religion beat under national news editor Tim O'Brien. I'm sad to leave the Herald, but also very excited about this next chapter. I'm South Asian — parents are from Pakistan — and active in AAJA and SAJA," he said, referring to the Asian American Journalists Association and the South Asian Journalists Association.

"I grew up in a Pakistani Muslim family, so I'm familiar with Islam. My own beliefs and practices are harder to describe. My background helps with access to some stories, but beyond that, I don't have any big advantage over other religion reporters on covering Islam. Any good reporter who does his or her research and approaches stories with a sincere, honest and open mind should be able to navigate his or her way through religion reporting, whether on Muslims or other religious groups."

Trial in Chauncey Bailey Case Opens With Gunplay Evidence

"A spent shotgun shell fired from the gun used to kill journalist Chauncey Bailey in 2007 and matching one left at the scene of his killing was found in the bedroom of former Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV the next day, a prosecutor said Monday," the Associated Press reported.

"Deputy District Attorney Melissa Krum made the revelation to jurors about an hour into her opening statement in the triple murder trial of Bey IV and co-defendant Antoine Mackey."

Thomas Peele added Wednesday for the Chauncey Bailey Project, "Mackey and Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV are facing murder charges in connection with Bailey’s death on Aug. 2, 2007, and the deaths of two other men in the summer of 2007. They have pleaded not guilty. Bailey, the editor of the Oakland Post, was working on a story about financial troubles at the bakery when he was killed.

"Prosecutor Melissa Krum told jurors in her opening statement that evidence will show that firearms and ammunition were pervasive in the bakery compound."

Stations Warned Against Discriminatory Ad Contracts

"The FCC Tuesday advised TV and radio stations that they must certify that their ad contracts are nondiscriminatory or face losing their licenses," John Eggerton reported for Broadcasting & Cable.

"The FCC's Enforcement Bureau released the advisory and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said '[i]t should be clear from today's advisory that the Commission will vigorously enforce its rules against discrimination in advertising sales contracts.'

". . . The requirement is aimed at 'no Spanish or urban' dictates in contracts, by which advertisers try to avoid urban or Latino stations.

"That certification was required as part of FCC Media Ownership rule changes adopted by the FCC in December 2008 as part of the FCC's attempt under Chairman Kevin Martin to loosen the newspaper-broadcast cross ownership ban.

"The FCC took some heat last month from the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council for what it said was inaction on diversity issues, including enforcing advertising nondiscrimination rules passed in 2007. It was those rules that the 2008 certification requirement was meant to put some teeth into."

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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