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How Did "No Angel" Line About Ferguson Victim Get Through?

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Writer Says Having More Black Editors Might Help

N.Y. Times Columnist Blow Says He's Bisexual, Sort Of

Women, People of Color to Gain 6 Full-Power TV Stations

HuffPost BlackVoices Seeks New Editor as Cadet Moves On

Michigan State, Foundations Rescue High School J-Program

Ex-Editor Ottey, Traveling Globe, to Stop at China Daily

Turner to Trim 6 Percent With Voluntary Buyouts

William Greaves, Pioneering Documentarian, Dies at 87

Short Takes

Writer Says Having More Black Editors Might Help

In many ways, the reaction last week to a New York Times writer's profile of Michael Brown, the 18-year-old whose death at the hands of a Ferguson, Mo., policeman prompted national outrage, was a black journalist's nightmare.

Two words in the fifth paragraph describing Brown — "no angel" — became the focus of ridicule, abuse and claims that the Times was stereotyping young black men in a racist way. Could more black journalists in the editing process have helped? The reporter, John Eligon, says yes. An editor, Marc Lacey, who is also black, says no.

"I think one thing that a black editor could have brought to the process was maybe a more shrewd eye on the message and tone that the article was conveying," Eligon, 31, told Journal-isms by email. "i fully stand by my feeling that i believe the article portrayed michael brown as an ordinary human, and someone who had his life pointed in the right direction — certainly not a thug or a bad guy. but perhaps a black editor would have been able to give me a better sense of whether that sentiment was in fact conveyed to the readers properly and could have helped make tweaks to ensure that the message was not obscured. i believe 'no angel' simply obscured the overall tone of the piece. . . ."

Separately, Lacey, the associate managing editor for weekends, said in an email that diversity had nothing to do with it.

"While there is no doubt in my mind that a more diverse news staff is a better news staff, diversity does not create perfection. In this case, the 'no angel' line was ill advised, no doubt about it. But it should be noted that the article in question, which I thought was well-done overall, was written by an African-American correspondent and passed through editors both black and white. While those words were debated and ultimately qualified, it would be simplistic, and wrong, to say diversity had anything to do with this. . . ." Lacey's message did not say how many black editors had seen the piece before publication and did not discuss how the phrase was debated.

While the Times has an African American as executive editor in Dean Baquet and a black journalist originated the story, the success of efforts at diversity often rise and fall on the actions of those who are neither at the top nor the beginning of the process. In addition to passing judgment on word choices and headlines, they provide context to the finished product if only by timing and story placement.

The Times' public editor, Margaret Sullivan, acknowledged as much the day the article appeared in print. "In my view, the timing of the article (on the day of Mr. Brown's funeral) was not ideal. Its pairing with a profile of Mr. [Darren] Wilson," the police officer who shot and killed Brown, "seemed to inappropriately equate the two people. And 'no angel' was a blunder," Sullivan said.

However, Sullivan concluded, "In general, though, I found Mr. Eligon’s reporting to be solid and thorough. I came away from the profile with a deeper sense of who Michael Brown was, and an even greater sense of sorrow at the circumstances of his death."

That, Eligon said, was his aim. As Midwest correspondent for the Times, based in Kansas City, Eligon wrote for the Times last November about the north side of St. Louis, "a poor, mostly black community, where, as in similar neighborhoods across America, residents are fed up with persistent gun violence. Victims die one by one, or in clusters."

On Aug. 20, he tried to explain the mood of young African American men in Ferguson. "It is a place where the emotions of young black men run raw and real, where they say their voices are finally being heard. They hope the fallout from the death of Mr. Brown, 18, will change the way the police treat them," Eligon wrote.

All of that seemed to be undermined by the statement that Brown "was no angel." The phrase was actually intended to play off Eligon's lead paragraph, in which the reporter described a vision Brown had seen of Satan chasing an angel who ran into the face of God.

"The generally respectful article has unwittingly demonstrated the media's unconscious bias," Joanna Rothkopf wrote for Salon on Aug. 25.

Rothkopf cited this passage:

" 'Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel, with public records and interviews with friends and family revealing both problems and promise in his young life. Shortly before his encounter with Officer Wilson, the police say he was caught on a security camera stealing a box of cigars, pushing the clerk of a convenience store into a display case. He lived in a community that had rough patches, and he dabbled in drugs and alcohol. He had taken to rapping in recent months, producing lyrics that were by turns contemplative and vulgar. He got into at least one scuffle with a neighbor.'

"In an article that purports to be about the spiritual curiosity of a doomed teen, why is it necessary to hedge the writer's argument with harmless details of his allegedly fraught youth? Because certain media outlets have aggressively spread certain details of Brown's life, it seems that every news outlet needs to include details of Brown's drug use and petty theft (which are normal teenage offenses) in order to remain 'objective.'

"In reality, the inclusion of these details represents the public will to say that maybe, just maybe, Brown's fate was unavoidable. Expectedly, people have taken to Twitter to express their outrage at the piece, zeroing in on the phrase 'was no angel.' "

"#No angel" became a Twitter hashtag, with Vanity Fair cataloging other people to whom the Times has applied the term. They included Nazi Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and mob boss Al Capone.

Many saw the issue in racial terms. From the Twitter account of African American historian Peniel E. Joseph came this: "#noangel insults on day of #MichaelBrownFuneral highlights importance of #BlackEquality to our national discourse. We've lost our way."

Journal-isms asked Eligon by telephone if he had advice for other black journalists.

"Be careful with every single word," he said. "And don't be afraid to speak up to your editor if you feel that what is portrayed in your article can be taken the wrong way in your community. Don't be afraid to speak up."

N.Y. Times Columnist Blow Says He's Bisexual, Sort Of

Charles M. Blow, the only African American op-ed columnist at the New York Times and a cable news pundit, says he is bisexual but has problems with how the term is defined. He also says fighting the idea of his sexual attractions almost ruined his life.

Blow, 44, father of three, makes the revelation in "Fire Shut Up in My Bones: A Memoir," to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Sept. 23.

In blurbs accompanying the book — a coming-of-age story that also reports on an incident of childhood sexual abuse that haunted Blow for most of his life and on abusive hazing at Grambling State University, his alma mater — Blow is praised for his forthrightness.

Alice Walker, the novelist, writes, " 'Fire Shut Up in My Bones' is a luminous memoir that digs deep into territory I've longed to read about in black men's writing: into the horror of being submerged in a vast drowning swirl of racial, spiritual and sexual complexity, only to somehow find oneself afloat, though gasping for breath, and then, at long last and at great cost, swimming. I believe both Ancestors and Descendants will cheer."

Blow writes in the book, "In addition to being attracted to women, I could also be attracted to men. There it was, all of it. That possibility of male attraction was such a simple little harmless idea, the fight against which I had allowed to consume and almost ruin my life. The attraction and my futile attempts to 'fix it' had cost me my dreams. The anguish, combined with a lifetime of watching hotheads brandishing cold steel, had put me within minutes of killing a man. . . ."

He also wrote, "while the word 'bisexual' was technically correct, I would only slowly come to use it to refer to myself in part because of the derisive connotations. But, in addition, it would seem to me woefully inadequate and impressionistically inaccurate. It reduced a range of identities, unbelievably wide and splendidly varied, in which same-gender attraction presented in graduated measures — from a pinch to a pound — to a single expression. To me it seemed too narrowly drawn in the collective consciousness, suggesting an identity fixed precisely in the middle between straight and gay, giving equal weight to each, bearing no resemblance to what I felt. In me, the attraction to men would never be equal to the attraction to women — in men it was also closer to the pinch — but it would always be in flux . . ."

In a 2005 article in the Journal of the National Medical Association, Gregorio Millett, David Malebranche, Byron Mason and Pilgrim Spikes write, "black men who are currently bisexually active account for a very small proportion of the overall population of black men (2%) ."

Women, People of Color to Gain 6 Full-Power TV Stations

Gray Television, Inc. has agreed to transfer six full-power television stations to women and people of color in what David Honig, whose Minority Media and Telecommunications Council brokered the deal, called the "best day for diversity in television ownership in 10 years!"

Honig told Journal-isms in an email, "One of the winners is 50% owned by an Hispanic woman and 50% owned by an Asian American; the GM of another of the winners is an African American woman (the controlling parties of that firm are two women); and the third firm is owned by an Indian (subcontinent) American. I think we did pretty well. No one has ever tried this before."

The Indian American is Ravi Kapur, vice president of broadcast for the San Francisco chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association. In an essay last year for Unity: Journalists for Diversity, he wrote that KAXT-CD, the Bay Area low-power station he owns with his family, "is America’s most diverse television station, a point of a pride every time we walk into master control.

"We've broadcast 24/7 channels for the Hispanic, African-American, South Asian, Filipino, Taiwanese, Vietnamese and Korean communities and were nominated as 2010 Station of the Year by Broadcast Engineering, the first ever such designation received by a low-power television station."

Gray retained the brokerage arm of the MMTC to find owners for the stations it has acquired in multi-station deals and previously operated under shared service agreements, vehicles now frowned upon that allow "same market stations to share resources, such as employees, administrative services, or hard assets, such as a news helicopter," as the FCC defines it.

Michael Malone explained Wednesday in Broadcasting & Cable, "Legacy Broadcasting, owned by Sherry Nelson and her daughter, Sara Jane Ingram, takes over KHAS Hastings/Lincoln (Neb.), KAQY Monroe (La.), KNDX Bismarck (N.D.) and KXND Minot (N.D.). Both have extensive experience in local television. In Grand Junction, Colorado, husband and wife duo Jeff Chang and Gabriela Gomez-Chang will acquire KJCT. The couple owns stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles through its Chang Media Group.

"Major Market Broadcasting acquires KXJB Fargo (N.D.). Its president is Ravi Kapur. . . ."

The National Hispanic Media Coalition approved.

"This is a perfect example of something we've been saying for years: if the FCC makes serious efforts to stem the tide of media consolidation, more ownership opportunities will be created for women and people of color," Jessica J. González, executive vice president and general counsel of the coalition, said in a statement.

"With current ownership levels approaching near-record lows, we need more success stories like the ones we see here to ensure the diverse communities have a voice on our nation's airwaves," González continued. "Hopefully, the FCC will continue steps towards fully enforcing its ownership limits and the next slate of transfers includes new Latino owners."

Honig told Journal-isms, "We had several African American and Hispanic firms in the mix, but on this occasion it didn't quite break their way."

The FCC reported in June that racial minorities owned 41 of the U.S.'s 1,386 full-power commercial TV stations in 2013, up 32% from the 31 they owned in 2011. Women, according to the report, owned 87 of the full-power commercial stations in 2013, down 4% from the 91 they owned in 2011.

HuffPost BlackVoices Seeks New Editor as Cadet Moves On

Danielle Cadet

The Huffington Post is seeking a new editor for HuffPost BlackVoices, "someone who is plugged into the community and is passionate about smartly covering both hard news AND social commentary — and everything in between," according to a job announcement.

Editor Danielle Cadet told Journal-isms that she is leaving the company after three years "to pursue an exciting new opportunity that will be announced in the coming weeks."

HuffPost BlackVoices recorded 37,341,000 U.S. unique visitors in 2013 , according to the comScore, Inc. research company, outranking such sites as MediaTakeOut.com, Bossip.com, MadameNoire.com, The Grio and The Root.

Cadet told Journal-isms by email, "I am saddened to be leaving an organization full of journalists that I not only respect and admire, but who I have also come to embrace as a family. I am eternally grateful to Arianna [Huffington] and senior leadership for helping me grow as an editor and giving me the opportunity to pursue my passion at such a prominent digital company.

"I'm so proud to have been a part of the Black Voices team, and I will miss working with them as they continue to engage readers and provide content that highlights the most pertinent issues affecting the black community."

Huffington Post spokeswoman Lena Auerbuch messaged Journal-isms, "We aren't planning changes to the section beyond hiring a fantastic editor to replace Danielle."

Michigan State, Foundations Rescue High School J-Program

"Michigan State University has joined forces with the Detroit Free Press and well-known foundations to help secure the future of the High School Journalism Program, which for almost three decades has helped Detroit high school students hone their skills," Cassandra Spratling reported Aug. 24 for the Detroit Free Press.

"The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan and the Knight Foundation have agreed to make a combined, one-time donation of $50,000 to Michigan State University’s School of Journalism to house the program this year."

Spratling also wrote, "Michigan State will take over management of the program in partnership with the Free Press, which periodically brings the high school students into the newsroom. Free Press staff members help design student newspapers and the freephigh.com website. And in the summer, the Free Press runs a paid internship program for students from metro Detroit.

"Funding from the Knight and Community foundations will help MSU run the program for at least a year while MSU and the Free Press seek long-term sources of funding to supplement a long history of support by the Ford Motor Co. Fund, which donates about $60,000, including an annual $24,000 college scholarship to an outstanding graduate to study journalism. Ford also hosts an annual gala that recognizes and encourages program participants. . . ."

"Over nearly 30 years, the program has helped Detroit students land journalism jobs here and across the country, including Free Press reporter Marlon Walker, ESPN commentator Jemele Hill and Jamila Robinson, now features editor at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. . . ."

A July report in the Columbia Journalism Review said the project was "abruptly ending" within weeks, but Paul Anger, Free Press editor and publisher, said then that instead, he was trying to save it.

Ex-Editor Ottey, Traveling Globe, to Stop at China Daily

Since Mike Ottey was laid off as assistant world editor of the Miami Herald in the economic turmoil of 2009, he has traveled the world, teaching English and Spanish, writing as a freelancer and publishing a blog, "Mike Tends to Travel."

Ottey announced to social-media friends last week that he has signed a one-year contract to work with the China Daily, based in Beijing. He also said that in his travels he has encountered "all the U.S.- exported stereotypes you can imagine" about African Americans.

Ottey messaged Journal-isms, "I jumped at the opportunity to edit the international section of the China Daily and to work with Chinese correspondents for whom English is a second language because I absolutely love learning about cultures vastly different from mine and exploring their brand of journalism.

"I know Chinese journalists are as curious as American journalists, but I bring to the table an African American perspective that I believe will benefit my Chinese colleagues. Since I left the Miami Herald I have been traveling the world and it's stunning, but not surprising, how the world views America, but African Americans in particular, thanks to Hollywood, Hip Hop culture and portrayals in mass media. I hope my Chinese colleagues will learn a thing or two from me as I from them. I look forward to my time in a newsroom in China."

Asked to elaborate, Ottey added, "I've been toying with the idea of writing a blog about traveling the world while black. All the U.S.-exported stereotypes you can imagine. If we are not gun-toting thugs dealing drugs, we are shiftless and living off the state. Some of us are great entertainers in the sports and music arenas, but that's it. We are not journalists, not teachers, not lawyers, not doctors, not technology professionals, not CEOs.

"When I tell people from any given country that I am a journalist and i once was a foreign correspondent and an editor who once managed reporters, they are taken aback because that's not what they expect from an African American. And the fact I can find Kazakhstan or India or any given country on the map and discuss current world issues....I wait for it and the words soon come spilling out of their mouths: 'Wow, you're not like other Americans. You're different.' Well, not really. I know many Americans — and African Americans — like me."

Turner to Trim 6 Percent With Voluntary Buyouts

"Seeking to reduce costs at channels like TNT, TBS, Adult Swim and CNN, Turner Broadcasting today announced a voluntary buyout program for about 6% of its U.S.-based employees," Brian Stelter reported Aug. 26 for CNNMoney.com.

"The buyout offers are taking place as part of a far-reaching effort to increase profitability across Turner's portfolio of cable channels. The effort is expected to eventually involve layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, as well.

"Given the current focus on reducing costs and prioritizing investments to maximize company performance, Turner will also undertake additional reductions in staffing," an internal memo said on Tuesday morning.

"But the buyouts come first. They will be offered to Turner staffers age 55 and older who have been with the company for 10 years or more. . . ."

William Greaves,  Pioneering Documentarian, Dies at 87

"William Greaves, a producer and director who helped bring an African-American perspective to mainstream America as a host of the groundbreaking television news program 'Black Journal' and as a documentary filmmaker, died on Monday at his home in Manhattan," Mel Watkins reported Aug. 26 for the New York Times. "He was 87.

"His daughter-in-law Bernice Green confirmed his death.

"Mr. Greaves was well known for his work as a documentarian focusing on racial issues and black historical figures. In his later years he was equally known for his most uncharacteristic film, 'Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One.' Made in 1968, it mixed fact and fiction in a complex film-within-a-film structure that made it a tough sell commercially, and it waited almost four decades for theatrical release. When it finally had one, in 2005, it was warmly praised as ahead of its time.

' a monthly hourlong National Educational Television newsmagazine that made its debut in 1968 in response to a call by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders to expand coverage of black affairs. It was the only nationally telecast series devoted to black issues in the 1960s.

Watkins also wrote, "He went on to write, produce or direct films including the well-received PBS documentaries 'Ida B. Wells: A Passion for Justice' (1989) and 'Ralph Bunche: An American Odyssey' (2001), as well as explorations of contemporary political and cultural issues like 'Black Power in America: Myth or Reality?' (1986) and 'That’s Black Entertainment' (1989). His work won awards at numerous festivals. . . ."

Short Takes

  • "This week's Newsweek magazine cover features an image of a chimpanzee behind the words, 'A Back Door for Ebola: Smuggled Bushmeat Could Spark a U.S. Epidemic'," Laura Seay and Kim Yi Dionne reported Aug. 25 for the Washington Post. "This cover story is problematic for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that there is virtually no chance that 'bushmeat' smuggling could bring Ebola to America. . . . "

  • George Kiriyama"Former KNTV Reporter George Kiriyama is moving behind the camera and into news management (talk about going to the dark side)," Scott Jones reported Friday for ftvlive.com. "Later next month, Kiriyama will become the Managing Editor at KCOY in Santa Barbara. " 'For so many years, I have been the one hitting the pavement and reporting the stories from the field. Now, I will be a leader in the newsroom guiding the reporters as we tell and share the stories of our communities,' Kiriyama said in a Facebook post talking about his new job. . . ." Kiriyama is former vice president/broadcast of the Asian American Journalists Association. 

  • "A Georgia FBI agent and his wife filed a defamation lawsuit Wednesday against Chicago-based Johnson Publishing Co. and a freelance writer, claiming a series of articles that ran in Ebony magazine falsely implicated their sons in the death of a high school classmate," Robert Channick reported Thursday for the Chicago Tribune. "Richard and Karen Bell are seeking at least $5 million in damages from Johnson Publishing and author Frederic A. Rosen for linking their sons, despite the use of pseudonyms, to the death of Kendrick Johnson, who was found dead inside a rolled-up gym mat at his high school in January 2013, according to the suit. . . ."

  • "Blacks have ten times as many black friends as white friends. But white Americans have an astonishing 91 times as many white friends as black friends," according to Christopher Ingraham, writing Aug.25 in the Washington Post. Ingraham was summarizing research by Robert Jones of the Public Religion Research Institute.

  • Funeral services are scheduled  Saturday for Jerry Phillips, a Washington broadcast journalist who died Friday at age 75. Phillips worked in D.C. media for more than 50 years, hosting public affairs programs on local issues. Visitation will be at 10 a.m. and a funeral Mass at 11 a.m. at the Franciscan Monastery, 1400 Quincy St. NE in Washington. Aisha Karimah, a colleague at WRC-TV, told Journal-isms on Monday. [Sept. 3 death notice.]

  • "For the first time since [Florida International University] created a football team, the Miami Herald will not cover the Panthers' home season opening game Saturday because the school has refused to provide a press credential to the newspaper's beat reporter," Linda Robertson reported Friday for the Herald. "FIU athletics officials denied the Herald's request for a game pass for reporter David J. Neal, who has been covering FIU sports since June, 2011. Passes were granted for a Herald columnist and photographer. . . . "

  • "Civil rights activists called for an ordinance prohibiting racial profiling in Beverly Hills on Friday in the wake of last week's arrest of a black film producer who was mistaken for a bank robber," KTLA-TV in Los Angeles reported. "Charles Belk spent about 6 hours in custody before Beverly Hills police investigating a nearby bank robbery realized they had the wrong man. . . ."

  • "A Media Matters analysis found that four major broadcast television stations in New York City gave disproportionate coverage to crime stories involving African-American suspects over the past three months," Daniel Angster, Salvatore Colleluori and Todd Gregory reported Aug. 26 for Media Matters for America. "The stations' late-night news broadcasts on weeknights covered murder, theft, and assault cases in which African-Americans were suspects at a notably higher rate than the rate at which African-Americans have historically been arrested for those crimes in New York City. . . ."

  • " 'Thank you Jacksonville. Next game-winning plays and hard hits …' After 14 years behind the anchor desk — the last seven at Action News JacksonvilleMark Spain bid farewell to viewers with those words at 11:11 p.m. Friday while introducing 'Friday Night Blitz,' Action News' roundup of the night’s high school football action," Gary T. Mills reported Saturday for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.

  • "The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) are demanding action from Fox News after a host linked all Muslims to terrorists and advocated for violence against practitioners of the faith," Alexandrea Boguhn reported Thursday for Media Matters for America. "In an August 27 statement, the Asian American [Journalists] Association condemned Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros for making blanket statements conflating all Muslims to the Islamic State and advocating for violence against them. AAJA called on the network to apologize' . . ."

  • Aneesh Raman, a former CNN international correspondent who is now senior editor and head of public relations and marketing for OZY, was the subject of Mediabistro's "So What Do You Do?" interview on Aug. 25. "There are a lot of people begrudging the decline in journalism — the decline in quality in journalism, the decline in standards in journalism, [and] claiming that the best of journalism is behind us," Raman told Janday Wilson. "I fundamentally disagree with that. I think that the best is yet to come for news because I think we have an engaged public like never before through social media. And the ability for news to lead to action exists more now than it did before. It's so much fun to figure this out. And there are no right answers or wrong answers right now. There are just the answers that work. . . ."

  • Former ABC newsman Ken Kashiwahara, who retired in 1998 at age 58, was the subject of a "Where Are They Now " item by Alissa Krinsky of TVNewser. " 'I watch CBS News every night,' he says, citing the Scott Pelley-led newscast's more 'traditional' approach. 'It's kind of the closest to the way news was when I was working.' . . .” Kashiwahara and NBC's Connie Chung were the first Asian American correspondents on network television.

  • '"NBC’s TODAY and Telemundo are teaming up for 'Viva TODAY,' a special series to air before the start of National Hispanic Heritage month," NBC announced Thursday. "All next week, beginning Monday, September 1, TODAY will celebrate the rich and diverse Hispanic culture. From food and fashion to entertainment and style, 'Viva Today' will highlight the positive impact Hispanic and Latino Americans have had on society. . . ."

  • "Two journalists and an accountant of a news agency were shot dead here on Thursday," Saleem Shahid reported Friday from Quetta, Pakistan, for dawn.com. "Armed men barged into the bureau office of Online news agency at about 7.45pm and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing its bureau chief Irshad Mastoi, reporter Abdul Rasool Khajak and accountant Mohammad Younis on the spot. The killers escaped. . . ." Meanwhile, in Islamabad, "Pakistan's political crisis deepened on Monday when protesters stormed the headquarters of the state-run television network, causing a temporary lapse in transmission until army troops regained control and secured the building," Salman Masood and Declan Walsh reported Monday for the New York Times.

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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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