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Jury Weighs "Loud-Music" Killing: "Florida Again, Seriously?!"

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Media Await Verdict in Death of Teenager Jordan Davis

International Agencies Failing to Protect Journalists

Writers Say Race Complexities Can Affect Sense of Self

Art Fennell Exit, Chris Peña Return Mark Media Moves

Lemon Unsurprised by Jackson-Fishburne Confusion

5 Things Not to Say About Michael Sam Coming Out Story

Health Care Reporters "Have Forgotten" Who's Uninsured

Compensating for "Parachute Journalism" on Other Cultures

Short Takes, website of the Florida Times-Union, provides background on Jor

Media Await Verdict in Death of Teenager Jordan Davis

"In the national coverage of the first-degree murder case of Michael David Dunn, Jacksonville itself hasn't really been a focus of the story," Matt Soergel wrote this week for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

"Instead, attention has been squarely on larger targets — the state of Florida, its stand-your-ground law and the case's echoes of George Zimmerman's shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford in 2012.

"Typical was a CNN headline last week: 'The Next Trayvon Martin Case? Another dead teenager in Florida, another controversial self-defense case.'

"Stories also have taken note that State Attorney [Angela] Corey, whose office is in Jacksonville, headed the prosecution in each case.

Jet magazine featured Jordan Davis on its Jan. 14, 2013, cover."Dunn, from Satellite Beach, is a 47-year-old accused of killing 17-year-old Jordan Davis during a dispute over loud hip-hop music in a convenience-store parking lot.

"His trial is among the high-profile criminal cases in Florida that have helped create, for some, an unsavory image of the state, as seen in the comments section of a story on the HLN network's web page:

" 'Florida again, seriously?! ... Florida needs to be snapped off of the rest of the country and allowed to float out to sea, there's something wrong with the water over there!!'

"HLN, formerly known as Headline News, has been all over the trial, which is tailor-made for its emphasis on crime-related stories. . . ."

Derek Kinner wrote Wednesday for the Associated Press, "The jurors asked to go home three hours into their deliberations Wednesday night. Earlier, they had asked to see a convenience store security video that captured sounds of the gunshots, but said they wanted to watch the video on Thursday. . . ."

A new report by The Citizen Lab, a digital watchdog group,suggests that the Ethiopian go

International Agencies Failing to Protect Journalists

"Umar Cheema, a Pakistani journalist, wrote often about the military. Then one night masked men hauled him from his car and during six hours of torture, sexual humiliation, and threats, they made it clear that the reporting should stop," Rob Mahoney wrote for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Cheema not only refused to stop writing, he went public with his ordeal. 'I wanted to send a message that I had not cowed down,' Cheema said of his response to the 2010 assault. 'I did nothing wrong, and that kept me strong.' The Committee to Protect Journalists awarded him its International Press Freedom Award in 2011.

"The assault spurred him on to do more reporting, and, in December 2012, he launched the Center for Investigative Reporting in Pakistan. To mark the opening, he published a list of members of Parliament who paid no taxes and ignited a political firestorm. Despite his success in unearthing wrongdoing and corruption — some might even say because of it — Cheema has few powerful domestic allies or financial backers to develop his work.

"There are Umar Cheemas in most countries, ferreting out land titles, company accounts, and public records, in an effort to hold governments and businesses accountable and serve the public interest. But many are under-funded and exposed. They are harassed, threatened, or lose their jobs. An increasing number are imprisoned, and many are simply murdered.

"Their work and the broader role of journalists and media organizations as a voice for the poor and powerless, a provider of information and ideas, a forum for politics and culture, and an engine of change is acknowledged by economists and political scientists as vital to economic development and democracy.

"But multilateral institutions from the United Nations to the World Bank, along with individual Western donor nations and agencies, have a mixed record in providing the sustained support, protection, and investment that journalists in repressive or impoverished countries or regions require. . . ."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Wednesday in a news release, "Digital surveillance, the unchecked murder of journalists, and indirect commercial and political pressures on the media are three of the primary threats to press freedom highlighted in the Committee to Protect Journalists annual assessment, Attacks on the Press, released today.

" 'The primary battlegrounds for press freedom used to be contained within the borders of authoritarian states. While those battles continue, new technologies have made it possible to realize the right to freedom of expression regardless of frontiers,' said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. 'Attacks on the Press describes the threats and explores strategies to safeguard the free flow information.'

"Three pieces in this year's Attacks, including a foreword to the print edition by Jacob Weisberg, analyze the damaging effects to press freedom caused by the U.S. mass surveillance programs. Governments' capacity to store transactional data and the content of communications undermines journalists' ability to protect sources. The scope of the NSA's digital spying raises doubts about the U.S. commitment to freedom of expression and strengthens the hand of China and other restrictive nations in their calls for more government control over the Internet. . . ."

Also on Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders released its 2014 Press Freedom Index. It reported "major declines in media freedom in such varied countries as the United States, Central African Republic and Guatemala and, on the other hand, marked improvements in Ecuador, Bolivia and South Africa. . . ."

The United States fell 13 places on the index and the United Kingdom three. "In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistleblowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world's leading power. The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) has followed in the US wake, distinguishing itself by its harassment of The Guardian," the report said.

Writers Say Race Complexities Can Affect Sense of Self

Rebecca Carroll and Noah Cho

"It's an odd feeling, as an adult, to look at a photo of your parents and feel perplexed by it," Noah Cho wrote last week for NPR's "Code Switch" blog. "As a young child, I believed that most sets of parents looked like mine — a Korean man, a white woman — and it never registered to me that other parents looked different, or that their love could be something culturally undesirable.

"But as I have moved through 32 years of looking at myself in the mirror, a time in which the vast majority of interracial couples I have known have looked nothing like my parents, I have come to see their love as something rare. Most men in interracial couples I have encountered do not look like my dad. They do not have his skin tone, or his combination of dark hair and dark eyes. My mom often tells me stories about when she began dating my father in suburban New Jersey in the 1970s, and I could only infer from her stories that her predominantly white community felt confused and unsure why a white woman would find an Asian man attractive.

"I learned, slowly, painfully, over the course of my life that most people shared the opinion of my mother's community. I know this, because I look like my father. . . ."

Cho, a Bay Area junior high school teacher who writes about film for Hyphen magazine, appeared Wednesday on NPR's "Tell Me More."

Cho's was not the only recent piece on the complexities of race. Rebecca Carroll, managing editor of and a former editor of HuffPost BlackVoices, posted Friday on under the headline, "Dear White Friends Who Are Upset By The Way I Write About Race."

"As most people who know me already know, I was raised in a white family and grew up in an almost entirely white environment throughout my teen years. Subsequently, and because I place a high premium on friendship and loyalty, that means I have a disproportionate amount of white friends from my youth.

"It also means that sometimes these white friends from my youth lay claim to feelings of alienation at my admittedly somewhat intransigent efforts at forging racial awareness and encouraging a more inclusive, far-reaching cultural dialogue. . . ."

The two pieces were published as others contemplated Black History Month.

From left: Alina Machado, Polo Sandoval, Roberto Lacayo, Michael Luo, A

Art Fennell Exit, Chris Peña Return Mark Media Moves

"By now many of you have no doubt heard that after more than a thousand shows on the air, 'Art Fennell Report' has been cancelled!" Fennell, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, wrote Wednesday to Facebook followers. "For those of you who are familiar with the show and for the hundreds of guests who have been featured on it, you know that my report was a candid and interactive look at not only stories in the news, but the stories behind the story. . . ." Manuel McDonnell Smith of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists covered the story.

These other personnel moves were announced this week:

Lemon Not Surprised by Jackson-Fishburne Confusion

Don Lemon, left, and T.J. Holmes (Credit:"CNN's Don Lemon said he wasn't surprised that LA entertainment reporter Sam Rubin confused Samuel L. Jackson for Laurence Fishburne during a live interview,' reported Wednesday.

" 'I'm probably going to get in trouble here — people do look alike!' he said. 'There are features that African Americans have that are similar, there are features that white people have that are similar, there are features that Hispanic people have that are similar.'

"He described to CNN's Erin Burnett how he himself has been mistaken for former CNN anchor [T.J.] Holmes several times. . . ."

5 Things Not to Say About Michael Sam Coming Out Story

After Missouri defensive end Michael Sam's announcement Sunday that made him the first openly gay participant in the NFL draft, Tony Jovenitti, a hockey writer and member of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, listed "five things that you should never say when you’re talking about this story."

They are:

  • 1. " 'This shouldn’t be news.' . . .

  • 2. " 'I don’t care if he's gay, but why does he have to announce it?' . . .

  • 3. " 'I don’t care about what he does in the bedroom.' . . .

  • 4. " 'But won't that make his teammates uncomfortable?' . . .

  • 5. " 'What if he checks out teammates in the showers?' . . ."

Sharif Durhams, treasurer of NLGJA, recommended Jovenitti's piece in a short essay on the NLGJA website.

Health Care Reporters "Have Forgotten" Who's Uninsured

"When it comes to summarizing the key findings of the latest Kaiser Health Tracking Poll, this Washington Post headline neatly does the job: 'Americans don't know what's in Obamacare, do know they don't like it.' Trudy Lieberman wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

Lieberman also quoted Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation, who said, "Media coverage has been vulnerable to death by anecdote from the start."

"I've written plenty about that, including identifying six questions reporters should ask before using an Obamacare anecdote," Lieberman continued.

"Obamacare, Altman said, 'is in large part a program for low income people who are not conversant with the principles of insurance.' When you consider that this group — the uninsured — likely knows little about the interplay of deductibles, coinsurance, copays, and premiums, the Kaiser numbers make some sense. 'The social mission of the law is the uninsured,' Altman said. 'We have forgotten who the uninsured are.' Reporters included.

"Consider how few good stories there have been on Medicaid, particularly stories focused on the poorest Americans left out of the expansion. . . ."

Compensating for "Parachute Journalism" on Other Cultures

Journalists who parachute into foreign countries to cover global health and human rights issues are susceptible to a "culture gap" they might not realize, Jill Filipovic wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

That culture gap "is the new normal. With global health and human rights coverage increasingly funded by foundations that organize reporting trips, Western journalists who don't understand the nuances of a place are parachuting in for a week, charged with covering some of the most complex and distressing aspects of human existence," Filipovic wrote.

"These trips are invaluable resources, and global health reporting would simply not have the reach it does without them. But this setup also has many potential pitfalls that can prevent well-meaning reporters from accurately conveying the subtleties of their sources' experience, and it's our professional obligation to address them. Admitting our own fallibilities can be terrifying, but remaining alert and self-aware can help mitigate the problem.

Filipovic also wrote, " 'One mistake I kept seeing people make is starting interviews with the answers they're hoping for,' says Sarika Bansal, a freelance reporter focused on global health, and who has been on five international reporting trips in the past two years. 'For example, starting with, "Do you breastfeed your child exclusively?" People know what the right answer is. There’s a real danger with the people you're interviewing answering the way they know the journalist wants them to, instead of feeling like they're being really honestly engaged with.'

"On organized reporting trips, arranged sources often see you not just as a journalist asking questions, but as an extension of the organization funding valuable services and programs. There's often a desire to give the 'right' answer in order to show that the program is working, and that more funding is needed. Directing a question toward a particular answer — 'Do you breastfeed your child exclusively?' versus 'How do you feed your child?' — unintentionally guides your source into offering what they think you want to hear.

"Think not only about the sources you speak to, but how those sources got to you, and who you're not talking to, especially when you're speaking with sources pre-selected by the foundations and nonprofits underwriting the trip. . . ."

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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