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Ferraro's "Unapologetic Bigotry"

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

NABJ Knocks Comment About Black Journalists

Geraldine Ferraro, the 1984 Democratic vice presidential candidate and supporter of Hillary Clinton's candidacy, has demonstrated "unapologetic bigotry" in suggesting that black journalists are surrogates for the Barack Obama campaign, the National Association of Black Journalists said on Friday.

"NABJ is outraged that a former vice presidential candidate would suggest that all black reporters are mouthpieces for the Obama campaign. To suggest this shows not only a stunning lack of judgment but also her unapologetic bigotry," Barbara Ciara, president of the organization, said in a statement. "Ms. Ferraro used her appearance on Fox News to reinforce stereotypes that suggest that black reporters can't be trusted to cover another person of color without bias and favoritism."

Ferraro, who earlier in the campaign had suggested that Obama had succeeded chiefly because he is black — a statement that was widely criticized — had this exchange on Tuesday with Shepard Smith of Fox News:

FERRARO: "Well yeah...I know all the surrogates that they had out there from the black journalists...have you read Bob Herbert recently in the past six months? There wasn't one column that had anything decent to say about Hillary."

SMITH: "Well, that's more media though. Is that the campaign?"

FERRARO: "Well, well...yeah...if you have conference calls with these people every week and you give them your message and they put your message in the paper, that to me is campaign. But I'll go further than that. When he...and, by the way, this is not an issue any longer in this campaign. I've been speaking about sexist behavior in this campaign since December."

Ferraro might have been referring to conference calls that all the campaigns have with reporters.

To suggest that black journalists have done anything less than cover this campaign fairly and objectively "is a direct attack on not only their integrity, but the integrity of all journalists who work every day to provide good, honest journalism," said Ernie Suggs, vice president of print, in a news release.

"African Americans make up a tiny fraction of journalists covering this historic campaign. We are more than qualified to handle the job objectively," said Kathy Times, vice president of broadcast.

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 Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., made her reference to the Robert Kennedy assassination Friday in a meeting at the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader. (Lara Neel/Argus Leader)

Clinton Causes Stir With Assassination Reference

Hillary Rodham Clinton caused a stir Friday when she made a reference to the June 1968 assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in discussing why she is remaining in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

She made the comments in a meeting with the editorial board of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader, which posted a partial transcript and video on its Web site.

Clinton apologized, and the newspaper's executive editor, Randell Beck, issued this statement:

"The context of the question and answer with Sen. Clinton was whether her continued candidacy jeopardized party unity this close to the Democratic convention. Her reference to Mr. Kennedy's assassination appeared to focus on the timeline of his primary candidacy and not the assassination itself."

This is the partial transcript:

CLINTON: "This is the most important job in the world. It's the toughest job in the world. You should be willing to campaign for every vote. You should be willing to debate anytime, anywhere. I think it's an interesting juxtaposition where we find ourselves and you know, I have been willing to do all of that during the entire process and people have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa and I find it ---


CLINTON: I don't know. I don't know. I find it curious because it is unprecedented in history. I don't understand it and between my opponent and his camp and some in the media, there has been this urgency to end this and you know historically that makes no sense, so I find it a bit of a mystery.

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: You don't buy the party unity argument?

CLINTON: I don't, because again, I've been around long enough. You know my husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere around the middle of June.


CLINTON: We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. Um you know I just I don't understand it. There's lots of speculation about why it is.

In Clinton's apology for the remarks, she said, "The Kennedys have been much on my mind the last days because of Senator Kennedy and I regret that if my referencing that moment of trauma for our entire nation, and particularly for the Kennedy family was in any way offensive."

But in many quarters, that was not enough.

On MSNBC's "Race to the White House with David Gregory," Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson said, "The apology, actually, kind of adds insult to injury, as far as I'm concerned. It was an apology to the Kennedys. It wasn't an apology to Obama. Words like 'appalling' and 'reprehensible' are the ones that are coming to my mind. And I don't know why everyone is being so polite. If you listen to what she said, I think the meaning is clear. And it's pretty outrageous — here's why I should stay in the race and nobody should force me out.

"Things happen in June. Something bad could happen to the guy. . . . I mean, it's very clear. And I understand she regrets that she said it, but she did say it. It's outrageous."

On MSNBC's "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," panelists said Clinton's statement was not only offensive, but historically and politically inaccurate. The primary season started later in 1968, so June 1968 cannot be compared with June 2008, for example. And should anything happen to her opponent, she could always get back in the race if she had dropped out, they noted.

But there was a greater offense, Olbermann said. "To not appreciate, immediately — to still not appreciate tonight just what you have done today is to reveal an incomprehension of the America you seek to lead," Olbermann said in a commentary. "This, Senator, is too much because a senator, a politician, a person who can let hang in mid-air the prospect that she might just be sticking around, in part, just in case the other guy gets shot has no business being, and no capacity to be, the president of the United States."

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Ga. Weekly Features Obama in the Cross Hairs

A Roswell, Ga., newspaper "is defending a controversial cover illustration that placed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in a rifle's cross hairs." Christian Boone wrote Thursday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Weekly's May 15 issue
"An influential liberal blog featured a post Tuesday on the provocative cover art, triggering a flood of complaints to the Roswell Beacon, a nascent free weekly distributed to about 65,000 north Fulton residents. The article was published May 15th.

"A diarist named 'spiralstairs' wrote on Daily Kos, 'The article itself is not offensive, but the cover is beyond the pale. As indicated by the article, there are some serious racists in the area, and Obama's candidacy has brought out the worst in a lot of people. The last thing we need is a newspaper to suggest assassination with an incendiary cover such as this.'

"Readers — Kos receives more than 1.3 million visits a day, according to — were encouraged to contact the newspaper and its advertisers. By day's end, Holiday Inn announced it would no longer do business with the Beacon, though the paper's publisher, John Fredericks, said editorial decisions would not be influenced by 'liberal blogger thuggery.'"

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Vickie Walton-James Leaving Tribune Co. for NPR

Vickie Walton-James, senior Washington editor for Tribune Co. since 2005, is leaving the company after nearly 20 years to direct coverage of the Midwest and South for National Public Radio.

"NPR called and the opportunity sounded exciting," Walton-James told Journal-isms.

"In her new job she'll jump right into some of the major news stories in the U.S., directing our coverage across 24 states,"

Vickie Walton-James
Steve Drummond, senior national editor at NPR News, said in a memo. "The Midwest and South region is a central point for the housing and foreclosure crisis, the Southern drought, and the continuing rebuilding efforts in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, and will of course play a big role in the coming election.

"Vickie will be working with a team that includes six NPR staff reporters, scores of member stations, and two veteran editors: Ken Barcus and Russell Lewis."

In his own memo, Gerould Kern, Tribune Co. vice president/editorial, noted that in her current post, Walton-James "helped orchestrate the work of staff representing nine Tribune newspapers. She played a key leadership role on the team that unified all of Tribune's D.C. bureaus into the new Tribune Media Center in December 2005.

"She joined the Chicago Tribune in October 1989 as a copy editor on the national and foreign desks. In 1995, Vickie moved to the Washington bureau as deputy bureau chief. In September 2001, she was promoted to bureau chief just a week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and immediately plunged into coverage of the aftermath and the unfolding war on terror."

Her husband, Frank James, remains in the Chicago Tribune Washington bureau, where he created the bureau's blog, "The Swamp."

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Lee Thornton Named Interim Dean at Maryland

Dr. Lee Thornton, a onetime CBS News White House correspondent, National Public Radio program host and CNN public affairs program producer who began teaching at the University of Maryland 11 years ago, has been named interim dean of the university's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

Lee Thornton
Thornton holds the Richard Eaton endowed chair, created to help raise the national reputation and visibility of the college in broadcast news, as the university announced on Thursday. The appointment is effective June 11.

The college is looking for a permanent dean to succeed Thomas Kunkel, who becomes president of St. Norbert College in Wisconsin on July 1.

A study last summer by Kunkel found "the people who run the nation’s journalism and mass communication schools are overwhelmingly white, and two-thirds of them are male — even though about two-thirds of JMC students today are female."

African American leaders of majority-white journalism schools include Ernest James Wilson III, dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California, William T. Slater, professor and dean of the College of Communication of the Schieffer School of Journalism at Texas Christian University, and Branham. Neil Henry is interim dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. Lorraine Branham, director of the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, has been named dean of Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, effective July 1.

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NAHJ to Help Laid-Off Members Attend Unity

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is following the Asian American Journalists Association and the National Association of Black Journalists in offering financial assistance to members who wish to attend this summer's Unity convention in Chicago.

"All applications will be considered on the basis of financial need, with a priority given to journalists laid off during the past 14 months and to members who work in Spanish-language media," an announcement said.

The assistance will come in the form of convention registration and/or air transportation.

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Dobbs Berates Watchdog Group's Report as "Pitiful"

CNN's Lou Dobbs, taken to task by a liberal media watchdog group for "advancing baseless urban legends and wild accusations targeting the immigrant community," along with cable hosts Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, berated the watchdog group and said the study was "an absolute, pitiful joke."

Lou Dobbs
Dobbs had the report's author, Paul Waldman, on his show Thursday and told him, "Yours is a scurrilous attack, and you pretend that it has some scholarly basis.

"Let's do in. Shall we do this? Do you recall the 60 — 60 illegal aliens who were rescued from drop houses in Los Angeles and Phoenix last week?" Dobbs said.

WALDMAN: Mm-hmm.

DOBBS: Where else did you see that reported besides here?

WALDMAN: I'm not sure, Lou. But the point is...

DOBBS: Because that's a positive story.

WALDMAN: That's terrific. And I'd like to see more of that...

On Wednesday night, the day the report was released, Dobbs said Media Matters "basically buys in with the Hispanic Caucus and ethnocentric interest groups that, you know if that if you are against illegal immigration, if you want borders secure, you are . . . a racist, for crying out loud. The mindset and the level of thinking and openness here on the part of these advocates is just pitiful."

Dobbs' reporter, Lisa Sylvester, answered, "Yes that's a very valid point, if fact we have the group, You Don't Speak For Me, I mean this is a Hispanic group and they are clearly against illegal immigration because they said they played by the rules, their family played by the rules, and now there are groups of people who want to break those rules and then reward folks for breaking the rules."

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School Defends Sludge Test in Black Neighborhood

The dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is challenging as inaccurate a March Associated Press story that said, "Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil. Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients."

Fertilizer said to be made from treated human and industrial waste was placed on lawns in poor, black neighborhoods. (Southwestern Illinois Construction & Development Inc.)
"This article was filled with inaccuracies and misrepresentations, which creates the wrong impression that children were targeted for some experimental toxic treatment," Dr. Michael Klag said on Friday on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" "Nothing could be further from the truth."

The AP story, by John Heilprin, said, "Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass. In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department."

Klag, whose school is based in Baltimore, said, "Here's what was done. What was done is, people went to a composting facility and got compost that you or I could buy in a store that's approved by the federal government for unlimited use and is approved by the Maryland Department of the Environment for unlimited use, and they have much more stringent guidelines than the federal government. That was put on lawns to grow grass. The interview you just ran," with Heilprin, "creates the impression that we were feeding fertilizer and human waste to children. The idea was that if you reduce the dust in the yards, because the yards, as you said, had no grass, then that dust would not be tracked into the house, where it becomes part of the house dust and toddlers and small infants can ingest it by crawling around. So there are many inaccuracies in this story. That's one."

However, Dr. Caroline Snyder, professor emeritus at the Rochester Institute of Technology, challenged Klag.

"This so-called compost, which really is a polluted material — I think a lot of people don't realize what sludge is," she said. "It is all the toxic and harmful stuff that's taken out of wastewater, so the wastewater can be returned to the environment. It's all that material that's concentrated in sludge. The federal Clean Water Act defines sludge as a pollutant. And you shouldn't put pollutants on soil, and you certainly shouldn't be putting it on in residential areas that are already polluted by lead."

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No Black "Voice of Reason" Quoted on Gay Unions?

"Out of all of the mainstream media coverage in Los Angeles from last week's ruling on gay marriage, with the exception of the anti-gay protesters, there were no Black faces or voices," Jasmyne Cannick wrote Tuesday for New America Media.

"What bothers me is that almost never is the voice of reason on gay issues an African-American's," wrote Cannick, a writer on black gay issues. "If I didn't know any better, I'd think there wasn't a Black church in the country that supported equal rights for lesbians and gays.

"With the gay groups, I know that their reasons for exclusion have to do more with the fact that unless they can use Black gays to carry their message to the larger Black community, for the most part we're no good to them, except for the occasional Web site profile, mailer, or grant application.

"With the mainstream media, there seems to be no real interest in thinking outside the box that has been drawn for them by said gay groups. . . . Nationally, the list of prominent Black clergy supporting the right of lesbians and gays to marry has grown exponentially over past several years to include: Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. William Sinkford, President, Unitarian Universalist Church, Rev. Peter Gomes, Harvard University Chaplain, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, his wife Rev. Marcia Dyson, and Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ."

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Sylvia Moreno Takes Washington Post Buyout

Sylvia Moreno, who covers affordable-housing issues in the District of Columbia and worked for three years as the newspaper's Texas-based Southwest correspondent, is the 11th newsroom employee of color to confirm that he or she has taken the company's buyout offer.

Sylvia Moreno
Moreno told Journal-isms she would remain at the paper until about mid-July to finish a project and then did not know what she would do.

As Frank Ahrens reported in Friday's Post, "More than 100 Washington Post reporters, editors, photographers, artists and other journalists will take early retirement packages offered by the company as a way to cut costs, reducing the newsroom staff by at least 10 percent." The deadline for accepting the offer was May 15, but employees had a grace period to change their minds.

Moreno joined the Post in 1997 after covering the Texas Legislature for the Dallas Morning News for 4 1/2 years. For 16 years, she worked for Newsday and New York Newsday as a reporter and editor in New York City and on Long Island. She began her career in 1975 with United Press International, working for the wire service in the Austin, Kansas City and Dallas bureaus for two years.

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Short Takes

  • "'For the final time, goodnight,' Dwight Lauderdale told viewers at the end of WPLG-ABC 10's newscast Wednesday night — and with those five little words, ended 35 years in South Florida television," Glenn Garvin reported Friday in the Miami Herald. "A long goodbye that began in February, when the 56-year-old announced he would retire at the end of the May Nielsen ratings sweeps, was finally over." The final 21 minutes of the 11 p.m. program were devoted to collages of some of his memorable stories as well as so-long-pal messages — both from colleagues and newsmakers like Gloria Estefan ('You are the only other man in my life for 32 years')." See the video.

  • "RiseUp, a weekly magazine with race-related content, is set to launch June 22 in major newspapers, carrying a four million circulation," Jason Fell reported Thursday for Folio magazine. "RiseUp, which will be driven by national advertising, has secured several newspapers — including the New York Daily News, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and the Houston Chronicle — to distribute the magazine."

  • Karl Rove, the former chief political operative at the Bush White House and now the No. 1 political pundit in the United States, according to the London Telegraph, was issued a subpoena Thursday by the House Judiciary Committee, pressing its investigation of possible political influence in Justice Department prosecutions, as Neil A. Lewis of the New York Times reported. Newsweek magazine and Fox News Channel did not respond to inquiries from Journal-isms about whether Rove would continue as a pundit or whether that represented a conflict of interest. A spokeswoman for the Wall Street Journal said the paper would decline to comment. Rove's lawyers said Rove "in these matters is not a free agent" and must comply with instructions from the White House not to testify.

  • "WNBC anchor Sue Simmons will be joining her 11 p.m. co-host Chuck Scarborough on the 6 p.m. broadcast, bumping David Ushery (who will join Simmons at 5 p.m.) and Lynda Baquero, who will stay at WNBC as a reporter," Sam Theilman reported Thursday in Variety, referring to the New York television station. "Simmons has been on WNBC since 1980, but her profile rose last week when . . . the anchor ended a live tease for the 11 p.m. show by loudly asking someone off-camera, 'What the f--- are you doing?' The gaffe spread on the Web and landed on the front page of the New York Post."

  • "As the battle over media consolidation heats up, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., has launched a new anti-consolidation offensive. On Wednesday the senator requested that the Government Accountability Office launch an inquiry into the state of media in the U.S. and the impact of media consolidation on independently produced and owned content," Ron Orol reported on

  • "In a highly unusual move, a judge Tuesday held a closed hearing over a motion filed by Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's defense team to keep thousands of text messages out of public view, then sealed transcripts of the hearing," Suzette Hackney reported in the Detroit Free Press. "Kilpatrick's attorneys had requested the protective order to prevent evidence from being publicly disseminated."

  • "The Chicago judge in R&B singer R. Kelly's high-profile child pornography trial has barred the Chicago Tribune's sketch artist from the courtroom for the duration of the proceedings," Molly McDonough reported for the ABA Journal. "Judge Vincent Gaughan asserted that the artist, Cheryl Cook, violated his strict order not to create images of jurors for publication, the Tribune reports in its Gavel to Gavel coverage of the case online."

  • "There is currently an unprecedented interest in news from Africa, according to Barry Moody, Africa Editor for Reuters," Janine Du Plessis reported Friday for South Africa's BuaNews. "'Africa is no longer a distant curiosity, now it's a place of expanding potential,' the editor told local and international media and government communicators at the International Media Forum South Africa." CNN Africa bureau chief Kim Norgaard lashed out at critics at the two-day conference, saying there is nothing better than reporting on the full picture of Africa to help change people's lives, according to Issa Sikiti Da Silva of South Africa's Biz-Community.
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Feedback: Ferraro Can't See Her Own Racism

As a 66-year-old white man, I'm ashamed that you even have to dignify those racist remarks with a column. No journalist who covers a story well needs to apologize for anything. Like Hillary Rodham Clinton speaking about what the Clintons have done for Afro-Americans, Ms. Ferraro can't see her own racism.

You shouldn't have to waste your time on her. Unfortunately, whites are still privileged; and so what Ms. Ferraro says makes news.

By the way, Sen. Obama's mother was white. Do white journalists favor him 50% unfairly? Oh, I forgot about the one drop rule. Sorry.

Steve J. Shlafer
Mill Creek, Wash.
May 23, 2008

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (Full disclosure: Richard Prince works part time at the Washington Post.) 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.

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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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