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Herman Cain Out; Says Media "Spin Hurts"

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Has Infidelity Been Elevated as Electoral Issue?

2012 Could See an "Epic Clash of Ideologies and Ideas"

ProPublica: Blacks Least Likely for Presidential Pardon

Why Black Writers Have a Mandate to Be Scribes With Style

. . . "The Whiter You Can Make Yourself," the Better for TV

Medill Trio on Cross-Country Trip in Homage to Mark Twain

City Editor On Duty With Guard Unit in Afghanistan

An Even Longer Shot? Washington Post Magazine Turns 25

Short Takes


Georgia businessman Herman Cain, Republican presidential candidate, said Saturday that the accusations about his infidelity and harassment are being 'spinned in the media,' and 'that spin hurts.' (Video)

Has Infidelity Been Elevated as Electoral Issue?

"All along, the Herman Cain campaign — which Politico called 'one of the most hapless and bumbling operations in modern presidential politics' — has been riveting but improbable," Edward Wasserman, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Va., wrote Sunday in the Miami Herald.

"Yet whatever the ex-restaurant executive’s other misdeeds and missteps, Cain’s bid seems finally to have crumbled because of extensive coverage of a woman’s allegations that she had a 13-year extramarital romance with him.

"Some Cain supporters have cried foul: 'Private, alleged consensual conduct between adults,' said his lawyer, Lin Wood, is 'not a proper subject of inquiry by the media or the public.' That’s a point worth examining. Why isn’t this private? How much should the news media care about a past amorous liaison? As Brad Hirschfield asked in his Washington Post column, 'Does it matter if Herman Cain had an affair?'

Wasserman concluded: ". . . I fear the lesson of the Cain campaign is to elevate infidelity as an electoral issue and move coverage a big step farther from civic purpose and closer to celebrity-mad tabloid TV."

Cain pointed a finger at the news media. "With his wife Gloria standing behind him and cheering him on, Cain said the accusations about his infidelity and harassment are being 'spinned in the media,' and 'that spin hurts,' " Faiz Shakir wrote Saturday on after Cain's news conference announcing the suspension of his campaign.

S.E. Cupp, columnist at the Daily News in New York, senior writer at the Daily Caller, and a political commentator, was one of many who weren't buying it.

"He can't blame the media for his fumbles on foreign policy, or his inability to explain his own position on abortion. Nor can he blame Democrats or his alleged victims for his failure to sell his 9-9-9 plan as the solution to all of our ills," she wrote on

Don Lemon, anchoring Sunday on CNN, said, "Long story short — maybe it's time for politicians who get caught in unflattering situations or who might have a bit of trouble with the truth to take responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming the media."

President Obama is joined onstage Friday by his adoptive Native American parents, Hartford "Sonny" Black Eagle and Mary Black Eagle, during the 2011 Tribal Nations Conference at the Department of Interior. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

2012 Could See an "Epic Clash of Ideologies and Ideas"

"Richard Stevenson, the political editor who has overseen national election coverage for The New York Times since 2006, was explaining why this presidential contest was not the stunted affair I told him I thought it was," Arthur S. Brisbane, public editor of the New York Times, wrote for Sunday's editions.

" 'If 2008 was an epic clash of personalities and historical figures,' he said, '2012 is very possibly an epic clash of ideologies and ideas at a moment of palpable crisis, both in terms of the immediate economic situation and in terms of a vision of the place of America in the world. So this election really is going to mean a lot.'

"In an interview last week, Mr. Stevenson discussed The Times’s campaign coverage strategy. The big questions, as he sees them, are whether President Obama will experience 'one of the most dramatic rise-and-fall stories in the history of American politics,' and whether the Republicans, knowing they have a real chance to unseat the president, will seize the opportunity or fumble it."

Meanwhile, Gabriel Sherman, writing in New York magazine, reported that "when six GOP primary contenders descended on Fox News' midtown headquarters for a 'candidates forum' with a trio of red state attorneys general on Saturday night, the candidates probably expected tough questions about their positions. But they certainly didn't expect to find a New York Times reporter roaming backstage.

"Fox's decision to allow Times scribe Jim Rutenberg into the building to confront the candidates in person threw campaign aides off guard, especially in the Romney camp, which went into 'defensive mode immediately, insisting that the reporter stay far away,' as Rutenberg later wrote.

"But the decision was just the latest example of what Fox head Roger Ailes recently called a 'course correction' in an interview with Howard Kurtz of Newsweek."

As for the president, Joseph Williams of Politico wrote this Monday: "Stung by summertime allegations that they neglected their bedrock African-American constituency, the White House and President Barack Obama’s reelection team have cranked up their outreach to black voters, selling the president’s first-term achievements as accomplishments that will pay long-term dividends for the black community."

On Friday, Obama courted Native Americans. "After a morning no-show at the White House Tribal Nations Conference he was supposed to be hosting, President Barack Obama made a grand entrance to the afternoon portion of the event held December 2 at the U.S. Department of the Interior headquarters," Rob Capriccioso wrote for Indian Country Today.

"Like Santa Claus, the president came bearing good tidings, a jolly laugh, and even a gift: He told the hundreds of assembled tribal leaders that he had earlier in the day signed an executive order meant to bolster Native education and tribal colleges and universities.

"When Obama was present, the energy in the room came alive."

ProPublica: Blacks Least Likely for Presidential Pardon

It was reported in this space in August that the Obama administration flatly rejected a request for a presidential pardon for Jamaica's first national hero, black nationalist Marcus Garvey, "and earlier refused to issue a pardon for black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, despite a 2009 congressional resolution introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

It turns out that those historical figures have plenty of company among the living.

"White criminals seeking presidential pardons over the past decade have been nearly four times as likely to succeed as minorities, a ProPublica examination has found," Dafna Linzer and Jennifer LaFleur reported in front-page story Sunday in the Washington Post.

"Blacks have had the poorest chance of receiving the president’s ultimate act of mercy, according to an analysis of previously unreleased records and related data.

"Current and former officials at the White House and Justice Department said they were surprised and dismayed by the racial disparities, which persist even when factors such as the type of crime and sentence are considered."

On Monday, Linzer reported in a follow-up, "A statistical analysis of nearly 500 pardon applicants during the [George W.] Bush administration suggests that advocacy makes a difference. Applicants with a member of Congress in their corner were three times as likely to win a pardon as those without such backing. Interviews and documents show a lawmaker’s support can speed up a stalled application, counter negative information and ratchet up pressure for an approval."

Given such a racially freighted story, one reader wondered how much diversity existed at ProPublica.

Spokesman Mike Webb, who is African American, told Journal-isms by email, "We have 2 African Americans on the staff and one that we've just hired, but I'm not sure if she's told her employer she's leaving yet. So 3 as of 2012. We also have 3 full time Asians, 1 part time Asian, 2 Latinos and 2 people of Middle Eastern descent."

However, it appeared that only A.C. Thompson, Joaquin Sapien and Marian Wang, also a blogger, are identified as full-time reporters.

The others are Dan Nguyen, news application developer; Minhee Cho, communications manager; Chisun Lee, part-time contributor; and Sergio Hernandez, Habiba Nosheen and Assia Boundaoui, who are not identified on the website.

However, Webb said, "Our news application developers are VERY involved with the journalism we do. Nguyen essentially conceived our Dollars for Docs investigation (one of our most-trafficked pieces) and did the pain-staking work to pull all the data together. Cho has written numerous pieces that appear in our @ProPublica section — And Lee is part of the team that has been working on our 'coroners' series. The next story in that series will be published before Christmas.

"Sergio is an intern, but he's written several pieces for us —

"Habiba is a reporter and producer for us — . And she produced a BBC World segment that accompanied one of the Pakistan stories we published.

"Assia is an intern and she is creating a new podcast that we hope to air soon. Her background is in radio production, so she has not written anything for the website.

". . . We could not function as we do without them."

Why Black Writers Have a Mandate to Be Scribes With Style

 Touré "Blackness dumps a heavy weight on your back but we know the benefits of being in this family are worth it," Touré writes in "Who's Afraid of Post-Blackness?: What It Means to Be Black Now," named one of the "100 Notable Books of 2011" in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

". . . As a writer I'm inspired by the stylish excellence of the peerless Black artists who preceded me — not just Ellison and Baldwin and Morrison and Greg Tate, but also Nas and Miles and Monk and Sonia Sanchez.

"We are a people who know it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing: style matters. That ethos runs through every aspect of Blackness from music to dance to cooking to clothes to language. As a Black writer I've got to confront the reality that a well-built sentence full of substance may permeate the mind, but style is also required to impress minds that have already been penetrated by Baldwin's sheets of sound and the poetics of the Black pulpit and the everyday linguistic gymnastics of so many non-famous Black folk."

As reported in a recent column on books by journalists of color, more black writers are tackling questions of identity.

That is less so in print or on the Web, but over the weekend two writers broached the subject with contrasting views.

In the Boston Globe, reporter James H. Burnett III wrote about his 10-month-old son.

"Our household will be an intimate case study for my son, as I’m black and my wife white," he said. "But what I’m hoping — right along with my dreams of a stable economy, a revival of basic civility, and the invention of beer that has no calories and doesn’t taste like kindergarten glue — is that by the time my Max is an adult, skin color just won’t be important anymore."

In the Detroit Free Press, Rochelle Riley began her column:

"Twenty-two students were honored Saturday at a downtown gala for acting black.

"Yeah, it sounds funny. They're usually described as acting white. They make straight A's and perform at the highest level of athletic and musical ability while excelling in class. So their classmates harass them.

"But they were acting black ... upholding the academic excellence of W.E.B. [Du] Bois.

"Seeking the exceptionalism of Marian Anderson. . . ."

Riley concluded, "Between now and June, I plan to write about students who are beating the odds, who are striving daily for excellence, who are acting black in the traditions of education and excellence that guided my childhood. I hope you will be as glad to meet them as I will be to introduce them to you."

. . . "The Whiter You Can Make Yourself," the Better for TV

Melissa Harris-PerryAs part of his research, Touré asked 105 African Americans, most of them prominent, to name the most racist thing that had ever happened to them. For many, the answer was that it was impossible to know since it likely happened out of eyesight. But the question led to discussions of the psychic costs of racism, "acting white," in-group use of the N-word, the value of friendships with people of different races, and even the origin of the epithet whose most prominent letters are "MF."

He also writes that issues of skin color, while not discussed much publicly, are still very much with us. "When I asked light-skinned people if there was an advantage in being lighter they had one of two responses. They either hemmed and hawed in a way that admitted they knew it was socially inappropriate to discuss the advantages of light skin, similar to the way it is to talk about being born into money, or they began listing the many advantages. 'I am a light-skinned, pretty Black girl, so my experience is everybody loved me,' said Professor Melissa Harris-Perry," a substitute talk-show host on MSNBC this summer. "She said the assumptions about light-skin-ness went beyond intelligence and into an expectation of being attractive, well behaved, and from a good family.

". . . 'I can even,' Harris-Perry continued, 'ramp up or down my light-skinned privilege depending on whether I'm wearing a perm or braids. Or whether I'm wearing my hair long or short or coloring it or not. There's all kinds of weird things you can do, like the whiter you can make yourself the more likely, for example, they'll put you on television. The privileges of light-skin-ness are real and tangible and they're tangible within the community, maybe even more so within the community than outside of it.' "

Rosalind Withers-Guzman, daughter of the late civil rights photographer Ernest Withers, is president of the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery. Loren Ghiglione asked, "What about Ernest Withers, FBI spy?" (Video).

Medill Trio on Cross-Country Trip in Homage to Mark Twain

"A Medill student, a 2011 grad and I are completing a three-month, 13,500-mile drive around the United States for a book, web and documentary project titled 'Traveling with Twain in Search of America's Identity,' " writes Loren Ghiglione, who teaches global journalism and media history at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

"We're following the path of Mark Twain as a young man as he traveled east to New York, south to New Orleans and west to San Francisco (we're adding Seattle to our long list of cities and towns)," Ghiglione told Journal-isms. "We're interviewing Americans about contemporary hot-button identity issues, including race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and immigration. We're posting regularly to our website,

The junior is Dan Q. Tham; the 2011 grad is Alyssa Karas. The most recent posts, from Memphis and Mississippi, are "Trying to pinpoint a spy from the Freedom Summer: Our visit to Rust College in Holly Springs, MS," Non-profit “Baby Steps” is a success story in mostly poor Okolona, Mississippi," "Tri-State Defender celebrates its 60th anniversary of keeping the African-American voice alive in Memphis," "David Beckley transforms Rust College and its student body" and "Ernest Withers: Civil rights photographer and FBI informant?"

City Editor On Duty With Guard Unit in Afghanistan

Ismail Turay Jr., city editor for the Springfield (Ohio) News-Sun, was called up for duty by the Ohio Army National Guard and left last month for a year-long mission providing security in Afghanistan.

Ismail Turay Jr."He will be writing occasional updates on his unit," according to an editor's note.

In a story posted Monday, Turay wrote, "After nearly a month of shadowing their active duty counterparts in an effort to become familiar with their mission, Columbus-based Task Force 1-134 Field Artillery Regiment of the Ohio Army National Guard officially took over security duties for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan on Thursday afternoon." The regiment is Turay's unit.

"In doing so, Task Force 1-134 — or Task Force Roc — became the first National Guard unit in the decade-old war to be tasked with protecting civilian and military dignitaries. The security duties, which Task Force Roc commander Lt. Col. Craig Baker called the cornerstone to the success of the NTM-A mission, normally goes to active duty units."

The unit is nicknamed Task Force Roc, after a mythical bird so large it could carry off elephants in its talons, according to an Oct. 23 story by Matt Sanctis of the Dayton Daily News.

Sanctis reported, "Some joined to help pay for college, while others wanted to travel and learn new skills. Many of the soldiers in the Columbus- 1st Battalion, 1-134th Field Artillery Regiment had parents and grandparents who served. But each of those who spoke said they felt a need to serve their country."

In his Nov. 25 story, Turay said of Thanksgiving, "The food was delicious and I enjoyed the fellowship with my fellow service members. And while I enjoyed those things, it didn’t quite make up for not being at Thanksgiving dinner with my family at home and, of course, the annual Thanksgiving football game. Those memories made me homesick. Despite missing my typical Thanksgiving traditions, I’m grateful to be in a relatively safe environment."

An Even Longer Shot? Washington Post Magazine Turns 25

The Washington Post Magazine marked its 25th anniversary on Sunday celebrating "25 Moments That Shaped Washington." Its controversial origins went unmentioned, but editor Lynn Medford told Journal-isms, "We were focusing on events that changed Washington, not the magazine. We had a 20th anniversary issue that focused on the magazine so we wanted to explore outward, not inward."

The magazine did recall in its Dec. 3, 2006, issue, "In the fall of 1986, the shiny new Washington Post Magazine launched amid a flurry of promotion and great expectations. But one thing happened that — stunningly, in retrospect — nobody expected: For three long months, "African Americans protested, outraged by that first cover story featuring a rap artist accused of murder and a column arguing that it was reasonable for upscale shopkeepers to be suspicious of young black males. The climax came when protesters dumped thousands of copies of the Magazine on the steps of The Post building as a crowd chanted, 'Take it back, take it back.'

"Boy, did we wish we could have.

"That might have been a good time to call a bookie and place a large bet that the magazine would still be around in 2006. Talk about long shots."

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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Washington Post Turns 25

I was not impressed will the Washington Post's magazine's 25th anniversary edition. The selections and the contents reflect the same tired and myopic theme of MSM journalism that is so prevalant and pervasive in our nation of late. The few notable stories about Black folks were negative other than the obligatory acknowledgement of BO's historical feat there was nothing in the magazine that warranted any applause.

It is obvious the editors of the magazine lack depth and the capacity to value inclusion and diversity. Hopefully it won't take 25 years to make this a reality at the Washington Post Magazine . What a disappointing read!

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