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Fired ESPN Headline Writer Says He Didn't Intend Slur

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lin Forgives: "I Don't Even Think That Was Intentional"

Do Members of One Marginalized Group Relate to Others?

GLAAD Praises Martin Comments on "Washington Watch"

Seniority Will Be Watchword in Philly Layoffs, Not Diversity

Journalist Anthony Shadid Also Recalled as Arab American

AP Cites Nekesa Moody as First on Whitney Houston Story

Black History Month Related to Mexican-American Struggle

Short Takes

Not too long ago, security guards at Madison Square Garden did not recognize Jeremy Lin., left. (Credit: buzz60.com) (Scroll down for video)

Lin Forgives: "I Don't Even Think That Was Intentional"

"The ESPN editor fired Sunday for using 'chink in the armor' in a headline about Knicks phenom Jeremy Lin said the racial slur never crossed his mind — and he was devastated when he realized his mistake," Irving DeJohn and Helen Kennedy reported Monday for the Daily News in New York.

" 'This had nothing to do with me being cute or punny,' Anthony Federico told the Daily News.

" 'I'm so sorry that I offended people. I'm so sorry if I offended Jeremy.'

"The headline — 'Chink in the Armor: Jeremy Lin's 9 Turnovers Cost Knicks in Streak-stopping Loss to Hornets' — appeared on ESPN's mobile website at 2:30 a.m. on Saturday and was removed by 3:05 a.m.

"Battling to contain a furor, the sports network fired Federico and suspended anchor Max Bretos for 30 days because it turned out he had used the same expression on the air last week. ESPN offered profuse mea culpas and promised to be 'better in the future.' "

Federico, 28, said he has used the phrase "at least 100 times" in headlines over the years and thought nothing of it when he slapped it on the Lin story, the Daily News story said.

". . . A gracious Lin, who led the Knicks to another dazzling hardwood victory Sunday, gave Federico and Bretos the benefit of the doubt.

" 'They've apologized, and so from my end, I don't care anymore,' Lin said. 'You have to learn to forgive, and I don't even think that was intentional.' "

"Bretos, too, said he didn't think of the slur Wednesday when he asked Knicks legend Walt (Clyde) Frazier about Lin on the air. . . ."

The Daily News story did not say so explicitly, but it appears that Federico's headline did not go through another set of eyes before being posted.

During the controversy over the ESPN headlines, a few commentators in social media raised the possibility that the slur could have been unintentional.

"I wonder if this could be a (stretched) scenario: Is there any possibility that the author was totally ignorant of the word in question as a slur?" one wrote to the New York Times. "In which case, could that be considered a 'good' thing? that such a word was so totally out of the writer's realm of experience.

"On the other hand, I would imagine an older, experienced editor should have caught the word and excised it, at the same time giving a lesson to the writer."

The network apologized Saturday and said it was "engaged in a thorough review." It also apologized for a question Bretos asked Wednesday night: 'If there is a chink in the armor, where can Lin improve his game?"

ESPN issued this statement on Sunday:

"At ESPN we are aware of three offensive and inappropriate comments made on ESPN outlets during our coverage of Jeremy Lin.

"Saturday we apologized for two references here. We have since learned of a similar reference Friday on ESPN Radio New York. The incidents were separate and different. We have engaged in a thorough review of all three and have taken the following action:

  • "The ESPN employee responsible for our Mobile headline has been dismissed.

  • "The ESPNEWS anchor has been suspended for 30 days.

  • "The radio commentator is not an ESPN employee.

"We again apologize, especially to Mr. Lin. His accomplishments are a source of great pride to the Asian-American community, including the Asian-American employees at ESPN. Through self-examination, improved editorial practices and controls, and response to constructive criticism, we will be better in the future."

The statement did not address whether the headline went through an editing process and if so, whether the editor was disciplined.

Spokesman Josh Krulewitz told Journal-isms by email: "Not going beyond our public comment."

Rebecca Carroll, formerly managing editor at HuffPost BlackVoices, posted this message on Facebook:

"How this headline was able to post in the first place is among the most poignant examples of the click-driven, exploitative and editor-less direction in which 'web journalism' has taken us. Sigh."

On Saturday, Rob King, ESPN.com editor-in-chief, also tweeted a message about the slip-up.

"There's no defense for the indefensible. All we can offer are our apologies, sincere though incalculably inadequate. . . ."

The network later produced a short video apology.

The Asian American Journalists Association replied:

"New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin had a bad night Friday. Regrettably, so did ESPN. Using 'a chink in the armor' to describe Lin’s poor performance was inexcusable.

"We at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) find it hard to fathom how such an offensive headline appeared on your publishing platforms. The phrase was even spoken on-air.

"We are glad ESPN has recognized its mistake, and we appreciate the quick apology for the transgression.

"Many people, not just in Asian American communities, are shocked that a news company with a long tradition of excellence would use a racial epithet. It's particularly galling because of the weeks of discussion about Lin, his heritage and even the wave of outright racism surrounding his stardom. . . . "  

Do Members of One Marginalized Group Relate to Others?

Eric Deggans, media writer for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times, reflected Wednesday on two purportedly jocular Twitter postings that landed Jason Whitlock of FoxSports.com and Roland Martin of CNN in trouble with Asian Americans and gay activists, respectively.

"As someone who has written a lot about prejudice in media, I was surprised and intrigued by what happened here. Two African American commentators who have often written about prejudice and race issues themselves, fell into the kind of public mistakes you might expect from people who hadn’t spent any time thinking about these issues at all," Deggans wrote for the National Sports Journalism Center.

Deggans, who also chairs the Media Monitoring Committee of the National Association of Black Journalists, continued, "A measure of how far we have to go hit me after a visit to the Facebook page maintained by the AAJA’s MediaWatch group, where followers were criticizing a CNN panel discussing [NBA phenom Jeremy] Lin and race issues in which no Asian commentators were featured." He was referring to the Asian American Journalists Association.

"I thought back to how I felt seeing African American issues dissected on some TV shows — I remember a debate on a Sunday politics show about controversy over public use of the word 'niggardly' which included no African Americans — and I felt like I was hearing a broken record replay yet again.

"These incidents are humbling reminders that those of us who have spent lots of time thinking about how prejudice affects some marginalized groups, still need to spend effort on how similar problems affect other types of people differently," Deggans wrote, adding a few recommendations:

"Expand the voices making commentary — Just as sports media outlets worked hard to find more black reporters and commentators to better cover issues and avoid stereotypes, [it's] time for the pool to expand in other ways, too.

"Where are the Asian voices in sports media, who can help explore what it means to see a breakout player like Lin subvert so many stereotypes about Asian Americans? Hey media executives — if you can’t find them, it’s time to start developing them. Just like you did with African Americans, once upon a time.

"Avoid the wordplay, it just invites trouble . . ."

GLAAD Praises Martin Comments on "Washington Watch"

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation said Sunday it was pleased with a statement by commentator Roland Martin on his TV One news analysis show, "Washington Watch With Roland Martin," which it said made "clear that he understands how serious the issues of anti-LGBT bullying and violence are." GLAAD said Martin also agreed to meet with other organizations.

Roland Martin CNN suspended Martin a week ago over tweets Martin sent during the Super Bowl that GLAAD said were anti-gay. After retailer H&M's Super Bowl commercial featuring soccer player David Beckham, for example, Martin tweeted, "If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl" Martin, a contributing political analyst at CNN, denied his tweets were about homosexuals.

Martin said in his "Perspectives" segment:

"In his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke of a 'table of brotherhood' where people from different backgrounds could sit down, break bread and discuss their differences, all in a hope to get to know one another better.

"Well, this week in Los Angeles, I sat down with Herndon Graddick," senior director of programs and communications at the Gay & Lesbian  Alliance Against Defamation. 

"And so we did.

"Over breakfast for over 90 minutes, Herndon shared his thoughts with regards to my tweets and why he deemed them offensive to the LGBT community, and I reiterated my apology that — that if anyone who construed my comment[s] as being anti-gay or homophobic, or advancing violence, that was not my intent, and for that I was truly sorry.

"It was a discussion that touched on many other areas, and as GLAAD expressed in a statement afterwards – and a sentiment with which I concur – 'Both parties came away with a better understanding of one another and look forward to continuing this dialogue.'

"Some might say this is just semantics; but, really, it isn’t. When anyone has a disagreement – whether public or private – there should be a call to sit down and sort it out, as opposed to both backing into corners, ratcheting up the noise to the point where no one hears one another. That benefits no one.

"Now, do we agree on all issues? No. But, ironically, I have historically supported many of the issues important to the GLAAD agenda, such as ending [the] 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy; gay adoption; and including gays in hate crimes laws. Those, folks, are facts. But it is only through dialogue do we get an opportunity to see each other’s perspective and learn what it is like to walk in that person’s shoes.

"So what now?

"Well, first, it is important to understand that I operate in the role of a journalist – not an activist – one who is used to participating in and leading the difficult discussions, whether on TV, radio, in print, or online. As I said to Herndon, on this show, we speak to the African-American community. And as I’ve said on many occasions, the Black community should, and must, discuss the issues involving sexual orientation – whether it’s personal, with regards to the church, in our families, or our schools. And I’ve been a vocal opponent of bullying, whether that involves heterosexuals or gay youth.

"Now, have we had these discussions? Yes. Will we continue to have these discussions? No doubt. My goal as host and managing editor of 'Washington Watch' is to shine a light on the issues and then peel back the complex layers so we all have a much better understanding.

"Now, if you’re gay or straight, your voice matters. If you are a pastor or activist, your voice matters. I have no plan to abandon my goal as a truth teller on a variety of issues; and, yes, that includes those that may be on the LGBT agenda. I am confident that this table can serve as an example of Dr. King’s 'table of brotherhood,' and I and this excellent team will do all we can to advance the dialogue so we all can learn, grow and prosper together.

"That’s my perspective.

"What’s yours?"

GLAAD replied on Sunday:

"On his show, Washington Watch, Martin today took another important step, acknowledging that his words had a negative impact, and making it clear that he understands how serious the issues of anti-LGBT bullying and violence are. This incident, along with recent incidents of violence directed at LGBT people, sparked a national dialogue centered around why the issue of anti-LGBT violence needs to be taken seriously.

"GLAAD’s meeting with Martin on Tuesday, February 14, was a good introduction. He has committed to meeting with GLAAD and other organizations in the near future for a more substantial dialogue. We support Martin’s commitment to use his media platforms to shed light on the harms of hate-inspired violence and look forward to continuing this dialogue.

"GLAAD was one of several organizations and LGBT advocates who originally called on Martin to take responsibility for his tweets. We will be reaching out in hopes of working with and involving members of the community in this ongoing discussion.

"Following our call in regard to Martin, there has also been discussion around issues of race and the LGBT community. Against the best interest of everyone, racial epithets and homophobic language were used in online attacks against Martin and GLAAD. GLAAD unequivocally condemns racist language or behavior. The LGBT community is made up of people from all races, genders, faith groups, and all walks of life. The fundamental belief in equality for all people is at the very core of all that we strive to accomplish.

"Part of GLAAD's job as an organization is to hold the media accountable for the words it presents and to help create a society in which every person can live without fear of violence on the basis of their identity. GLAAD welcomes Martin and his willingness to engage with us around these issues. It's not easy to sit down with a group that has just spoken out publicly in the way we did. It speaks to his character that he is willing to have this dialogue with us and for the comments he made today. We thank him for that and look forward to working with him and continuing to talk with him about how we can achieve our mutual goals together."

Seniority Will Be Watchword in Philly Layoffs, Not Diversity

Seniority, not diversity, will be the prime consideration when the Philadelphia Media Network reduces the newsroom staffs of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com by 37 positions, the company and the Newspaper Guild told Journal-isms on Friday.

"I hope something is done to stop the wholesale loss of blacks and Latinos," said Vernon Clark, an Inquirer reporter who represented the Guild in talks with the company's human resources managers on Wednesday. "Every time we've gone through a downsizing, diversity has taken a big hit."

The declarations brought to mind the tumult created in 2007, when the Inquirer's then-parent company laid off up to 71 newsroom employees, or about 17 percent of the editorial staff. When the current sale process is completed, the papers will have their fifth owner in six years, Julie Moos noted for the Poynter Institute.

The National Association of Black Journalists, and then the Asian American Journalists Association and Unity: Journalists of Color Inc. protested the disproportionate numbers of journalists of color on the 2007 layoff list. Black journalists were twice as likely to be there. Management and the Guild each blamed the other for that outcome.

Then, after renewed negotiations between management and the Guild, at least nine newsroom employees on the Inquirer's layoff list — including two African American journalists — were reported coming back to work.

On Wednesday, Mike Armstrong reported for the Inquirer, "In a cost-cutting move, the parent company of The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com said it will reduce the number of newsroom positions by 37 — through buyouts, it hopes — by the end of March."

Asked whether diversity would be taken into consideration in making layoffs, the Guild and management reached the same conclusion.

"Our last contract cites that the employer must review its diversity hiring practices but there is no language regarding protecting diversity in the event of any layoffs," Dan Gross, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia/CWA Local 38010, said in an email. "Those are done by seniority."

Mark Block, vice president for external relations at the Philadelphia Media Network, said, "Our contract with the Guild requires layoffs in seniority order — length of service. We are not permitted to take into account any demographic factors or job performance."

Clark said he raised the diversity issue during union talks with the human resources managers. "They're concerned, but always the same issue with seniority," he said.

Newsroom employees said privately it was too early to tell where cuts would be made. Staffers have until Feb. 29 to apply for a buyout. "Based on response to the voluntary program, the company might then resort to layoffs of Guild members to reach its goal of eliminating 37 positions by March 31," the Inquirer story said.

In any case, another staffer said, "Diversity was lost a long time ago."

Separately, "Nearly 300 newsroom employees of Philadelphia Media Network Inc. signed a public statement Friday calling on the current and any future owners of the media company to protect the integrity of their reporting," Armstrong reported.

". . . The three-paragraph statement addresses both the ramifications of a possible change in ownership for Philadelphia Media Network (PMN) and employees' 'dismay' over how coverage of the sale process had been 'compromised and censored' by management.

". . . Greg Osberg, PMN chief executive officer and publisher, responded with his own statement, expressing support for the journalists' 'clear message,' but disagreeing that censorship had occurred."

Anthony Shadid

The Oklahoman in Oklahoma City produced a video on the life of its native son. (Video)

Journalist Anthony Shadid Also Recalled as Arab American

Anthony Shadid, the New York Times Mideast correspondent who died in Syria at age 43 Thursday after an asthma attack, was hailed by journalists Friday as "one of the best journalists of his age," in the words of David Kenner, associate editor at Foreign Policy magazine.

Shadid was the grandson of Lebanese immigrants, and as such was also the object of pride among Arab journalists and Arab Americans.

In a story headlined, "Tributes flow for deceased Lebanese-American journalist Anthony Shadid," the Beirut-based Al-Akhbar quoted high-profile Egyptian blogger Issandr el-Amrani, or The Arabist, calling Shadid "the Godfather of Arab-American journalism."

An official of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the leading civil rights group for Arab-Americans, mentioned Shadid's ethnicity before his profession when quoted in the Detroit Free Press.

" 'It's a huge loss, not just for Arab-Americans, but for journalists,' said Abed Ayoub, of Dearborn, [legal] director of ADC. 'He embodied what journalists should be,' " Niraj Warikoo wrote.

Sami Moubayed, a university professor, historian, and editor-in-chief of Forward Magazine in Damascus, Syria, wrote for the Huffington Post:

"I looked up to Tony — as any aspiring journalist would, when I first met him in 2003. I was new in my career, and he was on his way to winning his first Pulitzer.

"He had everything that we lacked as Arab journalists covering the Middle East. He did not have to humor anybody and was unafraid to say the truth. He couldn't care less if government authorities hated him — the most they could do was revoke his visa, or expel him from the country in 24 hours. He didn't have the 'I Can't Write That Complex.' He wrote what he saw and felt, with no restrictions. Tony sympathized with ordinary people of the Middle East, admired their struggles, and since December 2010, was overwhelmingly supportive of the Arab Spring that ripped through the Arab World.

"Tony learned Arabic as an adult, but claimed that he always bonded with the Lebanese emigrant community in Oklahoma, where he grew up. He spent most of his professional life covering the region, first with the Associated Press, and then with the Boston Globe and the Washington Post, for which he famously won Pulitzer Prizes in 2004 and 2010. Those awards never affected his ego — not the slightest bit. They were actually the least thing he was comfortable discussing, so as not to let other journalists feel that he was, in any way, superior to them."

Al-Akhbar also reported, "Shadid's sister-in-law told Al-Akhbar that the family had yet to decide whether to bury the esteemed journalist in Lebanon or in the United States."

Whitney Houston

AP Cites Nekesa Moody as First on Whitney Houston Story

Nekesa Mumbi Moody, music editor for the Associated Press, was awarded the news cooperative's Beat of the Week Award for her coverage of Nekesa Mumbi MoodyWhitney Houston's death Saturday night, the result of a tip from Houston's publicist, Kristen Foster.

". . . no one even came close to Moody," Jack Stokes, editor of the AP's internal Connections newsletter, wrote in the publication Thursday. "From TMZ to The New York Times, from MSNBC to Drudge to the Los Angeles Times, AP was credited across the board for an hour. Quite simply, no one else had the story."

"The beat was so big that other media were asking as to how AP got it," Stokes continued.

"The answer is journalism basics:

  • "Preparation pays off hugely. And, prepare for the worst.

  • "Strong source work is essential, including all of those phone calls and emails and coffee dates that don’t seem to yield anything notable at the time but whose effect gets layered and multiplied until just that moment when it matters most.

  • "Fast action among diverse journalists working as a team is critical.

  • "Being good at what you do helps a whole lot, too. . . ." 

The prize comes with $500.

 

Black History Month Related to Mexican-American Struggle

Freedom's Journal Cover Page As February began, Gary Younge, U.S. correspondent for Britain's Guardian newspaper, related the observance of Black History Month to the shutdown of the Mexican American studies program in Tucson, Ariz.

Younge wrote, "Black history month, which begins today in the US, gives us all a chance to rescue stories that have been discarded, correct stories that have been mistold and elevate stories that have been downplayed.

"Black history is not a subgenre of history. Nor does it stand apart from other histories. It makes no more or less sense than American history, Jewish history or Tudor history. Nor is it any more or less diverse — black historians don't agree on everything just because they're black. Partial, interconnected, necessary, it is simply the world's history told either about or through the prism of a particular group of people.

"Recent events in Tucson, Arizona pose a direct threat to the very logic on which black history month (not to mention to mention the 'heritage months' dedicated to Hispanic, Asian Pacific and Native American histories) now stands.

"The Tucson Unified School District, where 60% of the students are Latino, will today be forced to shut down its Mexican American studies program or lose as much as $14m of funding from Arizona state. A few weeks ago, officials went into schools and 'confiscated' seven books from the classrooms deemed to promote 'ethnic resentment'. Among them were several classics including Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire, and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 [Years], by Bill Bigelow.

". . . One of the most salient lessons of black American history is the effectiveness of solidarity. As in its policing (the state's stop-and-search laws were copied in more stringent form in other states), so in education: Arizona could set a dangerous precedent that might be used against women's studies, queer studies and, yes, black history month. In short, these measures seek not to teach history but to preach nationalist mythology, aimed at raising not so much open-minded critical thinkers as blind patriots. We have been here before."

Meanwhile, in the Huffington Post on Tuesday, Jack Mirkinson introduced readers to Freedom's Journal, the first black newspaper in American history. "Founded in 1827 in New York City, the first edition of the Journal summed up a great many of the reasons for the continuing, vital existence of the black press.

" 'We wish to plead our own cause,' the editors wrote. 'Too long have others spoken for us. Too long has the publick been deceived by misrepresentations, in things which concern us dearly.'

"Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm served as the top two editors of the Journal, which was founded the same year that slavery was abolished in New York. They were explicit in their desire to counter the steady stream of racist reporting coming out of the city's other papers. Subscriptions cost $3 a year, and the paper tried to give a comprehensive look at the day's news."

All 103 issues of Freedom's Journal have been digitized and are available on the Web site of the Wisconsin Historical Society, Mirkinson noted.

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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