Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Hugo Chávez No Friend to a Free Press

Send by email
Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Critical Broadcaster Is in U.S. Seeking Asylum

Radio Journalist Brenda Box Dies at 58

New Fox Sports Network Is Hiring, Will Challenge ESPN

Time Inc. Now Planned as Independent Company

Rick Hancock to Join Atlanta Paper's Digital Team

AP's Rochester to Be Deputy Managing Editor in Pittsburgh

Story Alleging Menendez Paid Prostitutes Begins to Unravel

Indian Country Sees Deep Impact From Budget Cuts

Why Some Groups Still Need Their Own Spaces

Short Takes


Interviewed by CNN en Español's Patricia Janiot in 2010, Guillermo Zuloaga of Venezuela's Globovisión said charges against him are another attempt to silence his 24-hour news channel.

Critical Broadcaster Is in U.S. Seeking Asylum

As the news media assess the tenure of Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez, who died of cancer Tuesday at age 58, one fact is clear: Press-freedom organizations say Chávez was no friend of a free press.

Hugo Chávez

"Venezuela's private media wither under Chávez assault," was the headline over an assessment last year from the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The most recent comprehensive report from Reporters Without Borders said in 2010, "The country’s broadcast media have been under great strain during years of conflict with Chávez since the short-lived coup against him in April 2002."

Chávez's pursuit of the press has been influential beyond Venezuela's borders, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Mr. Chávez's moves against media in Venezuela have created a blueprint for other populists in the region, who have gone after powerful media groups and reduced freedom of the press, analysts say," the Journal's Ezequiel Minaya wrote last month.

" 'It's a model of governing that has spread among these Bolivarian countries,' like Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador, said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch. 'The president changes the law to control broadcast media and then uses the bully pulpit to go after any media that opposes them.' "

In 2010, the head of Venezuela's last openly critical television station, Globovisión President Guillermo Zuloaga, sought asylum in the United States.

Jim Wyss wrote then in the Miami Herald, "Chávez and Zuloaga have been feuding for years as Globovisión has fought off efforts to close it and refused to pull punches. The channel has been slapped with millions in fines and more than 40 court cases."

Minaya wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Chávez has repeatedly waved off criticism from international media watchdogs and human-right groups who accuse his government of restricting free speech, saying these organizations are attempting to undermine his government and are aligned with the U.S. and its allies."

The CPJ report, by Monica Campbell, said, "To sidestep the potential fines or prison terms, many journalists and publications censor their own coverage.

"The administration has also blocked critical coverage, closed broadcasters, sued reporters for defamation, excluded those it deems unfriendly from official events, and harassed — with the help of government allies and state-run media — critical journalists. The result is that key issues — Chávez’s health, rising unemployment, overcrowded prisons, and the condition of Venezuela’s vital state-run energy sector — are not receiving in-depth, investigative coverage at a critical moment for the country, as Chávez grapples not only with cancer but with an unprecedented challenge for his office from Henrique Capriles Radonski, the governor of the state of Miranda.

"The gradual dismantling of Venezuela's more critical and independent press and the building up of a vast state-run media empire is a remarkable reversal of the media landscape prior to Chávez's rule. Then, major newspapers and television and radio stations were dominated by a private-sector, business-oriented elite determined to shield its audience from leftist and socialist views. When critics accuse Chávez of a media power grab, his loyalists counter that the government effectively democratized the press by wresting control from a powerful oligarchy with its own agenda."

Chávez's stance toward a free press has not figured prominently in the assessments of his rule. Most have focused on his energizing of poor people and his posture toward the United States, Cuba, rogue states around the world and other Latin American nations. Business-oriented publications such as Forbes noted that Venezuela "has arguably the biggest hoard of oil reserves in the world, at more than 500 billion barrels."

In fact, Greg Grandin, writing in the Nation, argued that Chávez's posture toward the press was beside the point.

"Chávez was a strongman. He packed the courts, hounded the corporate media, legislated by decree and pretty much did away with any effective system of institutional checks or balances," Grandin wrote. "But I’ll be perverse and argue that the biggest problem Venezuela faced during his rule was not that Chávez was authoritarian but that he wasn’t authoritarian enough. . . ."

Columnist Juan Gonzalez wrote in the Daily News in New York, "On the day of his death, though, even his enemies had to concede that Chavez did what he set out to do — change Latin America like no one had before."

In Miami-Dade County, Fla., where more than 47,000 Venezuelans live, according to the 2010 Census, Chávez's death was bigger news than elsewhere in the United States.

Patricia Mazzei and Daniel Chang reported for the Miami Herald, "television and radio stations ramped up their news coverage, in what could be a preview of how Miami reacts to the eventual death of Fidel Castro.

The story added, "Shortly after Chávez’s death was announced, Spanish-language radio talk stations interrupted their regular programming and began non-stop coverage. Local TV stations in both English and Spanish devoted most of their evening broadcasts to the news, with some extending special coverage into the night."

The New York Times offered website viewers a video essay on Chávez narrated by Simon Romero, the Times’ former Caracas bureau chief.

Some of the reporting was future-oriented. The Times' William Neuman reported, "Mr. Chávez, 58, changed Venezuela in fundamental ways, empowering and energizing millions of poor people who had felt marginalized and excluded. But his rule also widened society’s divisions, and his death is sure to bring vast uncertainty as the nation tries to find its way without its central figure."

Radio Journalist Brenda Box Dies at 58

Radio journalist Brenda Box Johnson died Thursday morning after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, according to her friend, Geri Coleman Tucker, an editor at USA Today. She was 58 and died at her home in Springfield, Va., surrounded by family and friends, Tucker said.

Brenda Box

Brenda Box, as she was known, was as an editor and newscast producer at NPR, was a longtime member of the National Association of Black Journalists and was a founding member of its radio task force. She was on medical leave from NPR.

According to her LinkedIn bio, Box had been at NPR since 2004 and before that had been a bureau chief at West Virginia Public Broadcasting. From 1980 to 1986, she worked as a correspondent for the Gannett Co., and from 1986 to 1990, was an anchor and correspondent for United Press International.

Her mother, Lillie Vaden of Pensacola, Fla., told Journal-isms that she knew her daughter wanted to be a journalist since she was a seventh-grader in Denver and grilled Gov. John Arthur Love on a "Voice of Youth" television show. "She was letting him have it," Vaden said, but after the show she and the governor were all smiles.  Box went on to win her share of trophies and honors throughout middle and high school, Vaden said.

Box's friend Jackie Jones, another veteran journalist, messaged Journal-isms, "The day she found out about the cancer, I called her and she said she was knocked back on her heels a bit, but had told our mutual friend Mireille Grangenois that she was going to take a little time to feel sorry for herself and then 'get on with my life.' She said Mireille asked her how long she was going [to] mourn and Brenda said she told her, 'Oh, until about 8 o'clock when the (NBC show) "Community" marathon comes on. I've already sent Steve out for ice cream.'

"That was Brenda. She was a miraculous presence and I'm just so grateful she shared herself so willingly, even in these last months, when she could just have easily closed the door to all but immediate family."

At NPR, Newscast Executive Producer Robert Garcia posted a tribute online under the headline, " NPR's Brenda Box, An Excellent Editor, Wicked Wit And True Friend, Dies."

Box's colleague Jonathan Blakley a producer, messaged Journal-isms, "The Newscast Editor is the one on the receiving end of blame when copy is wrong, but seldom thanked when copy is corrected seconds before air.  It takes a special person to manage the daily stress of that job, and it takes an even more special person to do that job with a smile and a wonderful sense of humor.  Brenda embodied the perfect person to be a Newscast Editor.  To many reporters working at NPR or any one of our 600+ member stations, Brenda was only known as a voice on the phone, but her voice was exactly what a nervous rookie reporter or stressed out veteran reporter on a breaking news assignment needed to hear."

Services have not been set. In addition to her mother, Box leaves her husband, Steve Johnson, three children and two sisters. NPR said that the family requests that by way of remembrance, contributions in  Box's name may be made to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. [Added March 7]

March 8 update:  Geri Coleman Tucker reports: "The Celebration of Life Service for Brenda Box will be from 7-9 p.m. Tuesday 3/12 at Demaine Funeral Home, 5308 Backlick Rd, Springfield, VA (703) 941-9428."

New Fox Sports Network Is Hiring, Will Challenge ESPN

"Fox, in announcing Tuesday that it will launch the 24-hour Fox Sports 1 network on Aug. 17, is mounting what executives say will be a direct challenge to ESPN," Michael Hiestand reported Tuesday for USA Today.

"Our hope is that we can be equally professional" with ESPN, says David Hill, who led Fox Sports when it launched 20 years ago and is overseeing the new channel. "It's going to take us a while. We're not expecting to knock ESPN off in the first week or two. It's going to take two to three years. It will be a slog."

"FS1 will debut in about 90 million TV households compared to about 99 million on ESPN and ESPN2. It will have a daily 11 p.m. ET Fox Sports Live show meant to directly challenge ESPN's SportsCenter. Hill, noting that head-to-head competition said, 'The quality of sports journalism on ESPN is world-class. It's not going to be easy. But we'll give it a shot.'

Hiestand also wrote, "FS1 will also take on ESPN, as well as HBO Sports, in sports documentaries. Its Being series begins in the fall with a film on Mike Tyson."

Lou D'Ermilio, spokesman for the network, told Journal-isms, "I'm told we will have positions to fill. Interested parties should log on to No one has been hired yet for our news operation."

Time Inc. Now Planned as Independent Company

Time Warner "announced it would spin off its Time Inc. magazine unit into a separate, publicly traded company, a move that will allow the media conglomerate to focus entirely on its cable television and film businesses," Amy Chozick reported Wednesday for the New York Times.

"The announcement came hours after Time Warner and Meredith Corporation ended negotiations on a proposal that would have joined in a separate company many Time Inc. titles with magazines published by Meredith."

Chozick added, "The deal with Meredith fell apart in part because of Time Warner’s concern over the fate of four of Time Inc.'s famous but struggling magazines — Time, Sports Illustrated, Fortune and Money, according to three people with knowledge of the negotiations who could not publicly discuss private conversations."

None of the statements or news stories referred to the two Time Inc. magazines that target people of color, Essence and People en Español, and a Time Inc. spokeswoman did not respond to an inquiry about them.

The Publishers Information Bureau reported in January that the number of advertising pages in Essence dropped by 10.3 percent during 2012, while those for People en Español increased by 18.6 percent. Industrywide, ad pages were down by 8.2 percent.

Rick Hancock to Join Atlanta Paper's Digital Team

Rick Hancock, digital platform manager at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, is joining the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's digital staff as "subscriber products editor," Monica Richardson, AJC managing editor of the Digital and Beats departments, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Rick Hancock

"He will oversee the digital staff devoted to the production of our digital subscriber products. The AJC's digital staff recently reorganized to provide more focus and better meet needs of its digital suite of free and subscriber products," Richardson said in an emailed statement.

"In January, Cynthia DuBose was named AJC.COM Editor. Hancock will work closely with DuBose and other newsroom leaders on our digital platform.

"In December, the AJC released a new suite of digital news apps including 'Today's Paper,' which offers subscribers total access to the day's newspaper — all news stories and ads plus the comics, obituaries and more. Readers can page through each section, just like the printed paper, on tablets and smartphones."

AP's Rochester to Be Deputy Managing Editor in Pittsburgh

Mark J. Rochester, assistant West Coast bureau chief of the Associated Press, is joining the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette as deputy managing editor, David M. Shribman, the paper's executive editor and vice-president, told staff members.

Mark J. Rochester"A former assistant managing editor and Sunday editor of The Denver Post, he has special expertise in digital platforms for journalism, computer-assisted reporting, and newspaper investigations," Shribman's announcement said. "He is currently responsible for AP business development and marketing services in California, Nevada and Hawaii. He's been on the national board of directors of Investigative Reporters & Editors and is on the national advisory board of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University."

Rochester told Journal-isms by email, "Pittsburgh is such a great news town, and one of the few competitive newspaper markets left. On top of that, The Post-Gazette position will allow me the unique opportunity to lead efforts on digital strategy as well as parts of the traditional print news operation. The publisher and executive editor are both committed to a robust print edition that provides high-impact watchdog journalism and breaking news, while continuing to grow its digital audience on multiple platforms. It’s going to be an exciting challenge."

Nexis de los Santos Santana, a Dominican, was one of three women who claimed in a Skype interview with ABC News to have been paid for sex with Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J. Santana was later identified by a Dominican official as the woman who signed an affidavit saying she was actually paid to make up the story. (Credit: ABC News) (Video)

Story Alleging Menendez Paid Prostitutes Begins to Unravel

"The Daily Caller, Tucker Carlson’s conservative version of Huffington Post, is at the center of a media controversy. And loving it," Jeff Sonderman reported Wednesday for the Poynter Institute.

"In November, the Caller published a story based on two anonymous Dominican women claiming that New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez had paid them for sex.

"ABC News says it received similar information at the same time, as Republican operatives organized interviews with those two women, plus a third woman the Caller did not talk to, all of whom said the senator paid them for sex. But ABC News didn't run with the story, because 'none of the women could produce identity cards with their names, and they all provided the same story almost word for word, as if they had been coached.'

"After the Caller’s story was published, things started to unravel. . . ."

Menendez, 59, one of two Latino senators, has been an advocate of media diversity and was recently honored by the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council. In 2010, he released a "Corporate Diversity Report" with the results of a survey of 537 companies that appeared in the Fortune 500 in 2009 and 2010. "At the five media/entertainment/marketing companies that responded, says the report, 13 of the 59 board seats are held by women and 11 by minorities. On those companies' executive teams, 11 of 58 positions are held by women and three by minorities," RadioInk reported at the time.

Meanwhile, Carlson told Michael Calderone of the Huffington Post in an interview that racial diversity is "by far, the shallowest and least interesting kind of diversity." He prefers "cultural and ideological diversity."

Carlson, the Daily Caller's co-founder and editor-in-chief, said, "Maybe the unintended consequence of professionalizing journalism is that all journalists come from the same background and think the same things and have the same assumptions. There's no diversity at all. And I'm not talking about racial diversity, which is, by far, the shallowest and least interesting kind of diversity. But I mean cultural and ideological diversity. And I don't think you should hire right-wingers. I don't care if they have some affirmative action program for right-wingers. That's stupid. But just make sure every third person's from North Dakota. That'll fix it."

Indian Country Sees Deep Impact From Budget Cuts

"Indian Country is an asterisk in the federal budget," Mark Trahant wrote Monday for "Yet the impact of this austerity will impact our communities deeply and fairly soon. By my count, there will be at least $386 million in direct service budget cuts between now and the end of September.

"As the National Congress of American Indians said last week, 'forced spending cuts will undermine the trust, treaty, and statutory obligations to tribal governments that are funded in the federal budget. Not only would it sacrifice the federal trust responsibility to tribes, but it would thwart tribes' ability to promote economic growth or plan for the benefit of future generations.' . . . "

Why Some Groups Still Need Their Own Spaces

Denene Millner

" has grown by leaps and bounds since it launched. Why was it important to create an online space specifically for African-American mothers?" Janelle Harris asked Denene Millner, described as "an award-winning journalist and the author of 21 books and counting," for MediaBistro.

"My last job inside of an office was working at Parenting. I loved what the magazine did, but I just found that the brand didn't necessarily speak to black mothers," Millner replied in a Q-and-A published Wednesday.

"When I moved to Atlanta, they gave me a column called 'Reality Check,' and every month I would give advice on parenting ethics and etiquette. But during the 2008 election, there was a conversation about Bristol Palin, and I just remember getting the impression from newspapers and websites that we weren't supposed to talk about her decision to have a baby or her getting pregnant.

"I just felt like, you know what? This is not the conversation that my black mom friends and I are having. As a matter of fact, we're all walking around saying if that was Sasha or Malia who wound up knocked up during the presidential election, they would've buried Obama under the bus, under the White House, and the whole discussion would've been about the irresponsibility of black women, teenagers, the high rate of single motherhood in our communities. It would've been about irresponsibility or our aversion to protection.

"So I said, 'Since nobody else is going to say it, I'll go on ahead and say it. I wrote something basically to that effect and emailed it to all of my friends and said, 'I managed to set up a blog on Blogger. You need to read it and leave comments.' It felt good to me. I got to write from a very specific black mom perspective in a way that you won't find anywhere else. It was a huge hit right off of the bat, because nobody was talking about what it means to raise black children in America and what it means to constantly be thrown under the bus when we're talking about black mothers but never being invited to the conversation. . . . "

Short Takes

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter @princeeditor

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.




Whoa, what a great article. Chavez was certainly not a very transparent leader..

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.