Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

"I'd Like to Thank Them for My Life"

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Woman Finds News Crew That Forced Cops to Act

A New Orleans woman who lay bleeding in the street after the levees broke in New Orleans on Aug. 30 wrote to a television news tip sheet this week searching for a television crew that saved her life by forcing police to take her to medical aid.

The day after her plea was posted, she received a response – members of the crew were reporter Carl Quintanilla, then of NBC News, now of CNBC, and producer Doug Stoddart, a free-lancer who works out of NBC's Atlanta bureau.

"I was surprised the journalist community doesn't have any kind of award for people who go above and beyond, and not just the story," Cynthia Salerno told Journal-isms today.

When the two men came close, "I was terrified that I was going to see pictures of myself" on television, she said. "I look like everybody's mom, a middle-class white lady," and it would have been a natural story. "But they just came over to help. They didn't abuse the situation." It was one of many instances where journalists helped Gulf Coast residents, but this was an immediate case of life and death, Stoddart told Journal-isms.

Salerno gave this version of the incident in her letter to Don Fitzpatrick's Shop Talk, published in its Thursday edition:

"Having conned our way out of the Superdome Monday, my fiancé and I attended a neighborhood meeting Tuesday where I was assigned the task of finding a working phone. I [rode] my bike to a store on St Claude St, which had been dry on Monday but was now flooded. Throngs of people were wading down the street from the Lower Nine. Learning of the [levee] break, I decided I had better wait in line for the phone anyway because it may be my last chance for a while.

"Suddenly I was attacked. Thrown into the flood water, I cut my calf down to the bone with muscles hanging out and blood gushing every where. I tried to get up, but couldn't use my leg. Long story goes here, but suffice it to say that with scores of people around, including police and fire, only three private citizens came to my aid. They slowed my bleeding and forced a van to stop by lying across the road and refusing to move. To the protests of the driver, they threw me in his van and one of them jumped in with me.

"By now I am very weak and things are blurry. I remember the driver stopping in the 500 block of Canal St. and refusing to go further. My helper grabbed me under my arms and pulled me out of the van. I looked across Canal. It is still daylight, but it must be late afternoon.

"A reporter was standing in front of a camera in the neutral ground and a couple of police cars were parked across the street in front of the Sheraton. I remember being dragged between the photographer and the reporter and I think I hear the reporter say something like 'and they continue to bring in the wounded'. The next thing I remember is my helper, a young man with long brown hair, and a woman pleading with a police officer to help me. The cop was saying I got that far, I could get to the Superdome on my own and the woman was telling the cop she was a nurse and I would die if I didn't get immediate medical assistance. The cop threatened to arrest everyone if we didn't leave right then. I remember thinking I was going to die. In the United States of America, surrounded by thousands of people, I was going to bleed to death on the street.

"Suddenly there was a camera pointed at the cop and me. I lost focus, but I heard a male voice saying he knew his rights, it was a public street and he wanted video of a police officer refusing to help a seriously injured woman. The voice exchanged heated words with the cop's voice for what seemed like forever, but I don't remember the words. What ever the reporter or photographer said, it worked, because the cop put me in his car and took me toward medical aid. Another long story goes here, but the end result was I got the medical help I needed in the nick of time. I am here and I am alive."

Stoddart told Journal-isms today that he and Quintanilla were between stories when the incident happened. "She had dried blood over her face; her leg was cut open," and "two police officers weren't doing a thing. We were like, 'you gotta be kidding; she's bleeding,'" Stoddart recalled. "They were bothered that we were doing anything. That's when we got a little upset" and called for a photographer to take the officers' pictures. At that point the officers changed their minds. "They put her in a squad car and took her away." He said he hadn't known what happened to Salerno until this week.

Quintanilla, who now co-hosts CNBC's morning "Squawk Box" and was one of the emcees for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists' awards banquet in September, "was a little more diplomatic than I was," Stoddart said. "He was just as upset but didn't yell as much." After all, Stoddart said, "his face is on the air."

Salerno said Quintanilla called her to say that "no thanks were necessary and that they were glad they could be there and be of help." She said she was working on identifying the police officers who at first refused to help her. "We just don't need that kind of people on the N.O.P.D.," she said.

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Reporters Debunk Notions About Katrina Victims

"Four months after Hurricane Katrina, some widely reported assumptions about the storm's victims appear incorrect," according to a report today by Knight Ridder reporters John Simerman, Dwight Ott and Ted Mellnik.

"For example, a comparison of locations where 874 bodies were recovered with U.S. census tract data indicates that the victims weren't disproportionately poor. Another database, compiled by Knight Ridder Newspapers of 486 Katrina victims from Orleans and St. Bernard parishes, suggests they also weren't disproportionately African-American," they wrote.

"Both sets of data are incomplete; Louisiana state officials have released no comprehensive list of the dead. Still, they provide the most comprehensive information available to date about who died in the storm.

"The one group that was disproportionately affected appears to have been older people. Those 60 and older account for only about 15% of the population in the New Orleans area, but the Knight Ridder database found that 74% of the dead were 60 or older. Nearly half were older than 75.

"Many of those were at nursing homes and hospitals, where nearly 20% of the victims were found.

"Lack of transportation was assumed to be a key reason that many people stayed behind, but at many addresses where the dead were found, their cars remained in their driveways, flood-ruined symbols of fatal miscalculation."

Simerman writes for California's Contra Costa Times; Ott for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Mellnik for the Charlotte Observer in North Carolina.

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Toledo Reporter Played Varied Roles During Riot

"Journalists tout themselves as dispassionate observers – seasoned professionals uniquely able to chronicle society's triumphs and ills," Mary Sanchez wrote Dec. 22 on the Poynter Institute Web site.

"Try that posture during a riot.

"Clyde Hughes of The Toledo Blade did, and found the experience among the most challenging of his career.

"The scene involved Toledo police lobbing tear gas and wooden pellets, Neo Nazis angered because their march was canceled, and agitated citizens throwing rocks.

"'In a situation like that, it's tough to remain the reporter,' Hughes commented later in a phone and e-mail interview.

"So he didn't.

"Hughes adopted personas as the story unfolded.

"First and foremost, he was a reporter – as his later pieces show.

"But during the October riot, Hughes also became an older black man who attempted in vain to dissuade younger black people from burning down a local business.

"He was an alarmed colleague who saw a photographer attacked for her cameras.

"He was a good citizen who turned other drivers away from the dangerous area.

"And, he was a man watching out for his own safety."

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Indiana Paper Hires Black Editorial Cartoonist

Indiana's South Bend Tribune has hired Ron Rogers as likely the only African American editorial cartoonist at a general-circulation daily newspaper.

"Rogers, 51, usually does three editorial cartoons a week – but that's only about 25% of his total Tribune output. He also does a collection of mini-cartoons called 'Rewind: The Week in Review' and illustrates various stories and columns for the Sunday newspaper," Dave Astor wrote for the January print edition of Editor & Publisher.

"It sounds like a lot of work – and it is," said Rogers in the piece. "But it's fun."

"He added that he learned to draw quickly while working as a graphic artist and designer for various other newspapers before coming to the Tribune. At some of those papers, Rogers functioned as a one-man art department," Astor continued.

Late last summer, "Rogers was hired by the Tribune after turning 50 – an unusually long wait for someone to land [his] first editorial-cartooning post.

"Rogers doesn't offer a definitive answer about why most editorial cartoonists are white, but he does know that being African- American has some effect on the topics he chooses and the way the resulting cartoons come out. For instance, there was a stark poignancy to his work after Hurricane Katrina, which hurt blacks in disproportionate numbers.

"'Ron is always aware of diversity. The characters in his cartoons are more diverse than in other cartoons,' said Tribune Managing Editor Tim Harmon," Astor's piece continued.

The low numbers of African American cartoonists have been attributed to the shrinking nature of the field. "In 1980 there were more than 150 full-time editorial cartoonists at newspapers throughout the country; today the figure is about 80, according to Clay Bennett. He's the president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists," Anthony Violanti wrote Wednesday in the Buffalo News.

Rogers began contributing to the Tribune in 2002. His wife, Donna, is the Tribune's night editor.

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Eugene Robinson Picks Up Bill Raspberry Clients

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson has picked up 85 of the 132 papers that carried longtime commentator William Raspberry, who is retiring this month, according to the Washington Post Writers Group.

Raspberry, a 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner, is leaving after more than 43 years at the newspaper. His column entered syndication with the Washington Post Writers Group in 1977, as Dave Astor reported Dec. 22 in Editor & Publisher.

Alan Shearer, editorial director and general manager of the Writers Group, said Robinson had tripled his client total from 42 to 127. "We might have 15-20 more conversions by January," he told Astor, noting that "roughly 10% of Robinson's list overlapped with Raspberry's." James S. Hill, managing editor of the Writers Group, told Journal-isms today that those numbers remain current.

"Shearer emphasized that Robinson entered syndication this March on his own merits, not as a Raspberry replacement, and that Robinson discusses some topics that Raspberry doesn't write about. But the WPWG executive said their two columns have enough similarities to bring Robinson many of Raspberry's papers," Astor wrote.

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Black Film Critics Name "Crash" Best of Year

The African-American Film Critics Association has named "Crash" as the top film of 2005, the organization announced this week.

Its other top films of the year were: "The Constant Gardener," "Good Night and Good Luck," "Brokeback Mountain," "Syriana," "Walk the Line," "Hustle & Flow," "Capote," "Batman Begins" and "North Country."

"The films selected for 2005 boldly reflect a bridge towards tolerance," Gil Robertson IV, the association's president, said in a statement.

The news release did not list members of the association, but at its formation in 2003, they were:

Shawn Edwards, film critic for FOX-TV (WDAF) in Kansas City; Wilson Morales, chief film critic for based in New York; Robertson, syndicated columnist and feature writer, "The Robertson Treatment," based in Los Angeles and Atlanta; Stephanie Frederic, contributing correspondent for "BET Nightly News" based in Los Angeles; Karu F. Daniels of the syndicated "The Ru Report," based in New York; Mike Sargent, chief film critic for WBAI-FM in New York; and Greg Russell, film critic for WDWB-TV in Detroit.

"Jawn Murray, Black Voices contributor and AAFCA member, believes that the list may have missed a few marks," Karu F. Daniels wrote Wednesday in his AOL Black Voices column.

"Our list captures an amazing ensemble of cinematic masterpieces without question, but I'd be remiss by not recognizing films that speak to the African-American experience and showcase our talents both in front of and behind the camera. While theatrically released films like 'Rize,' 'Hitch,' 'Get Rich or Die Tryin,' 'Rent,' 'Coach Carter,' 'Diary of a Mad Black Woman' and others were not among the collective's top ten list, those movies deserve recognition for the value they bring to African-American film-going experience. More so, Taraji P. Henson gave a brilliant performance in 'Hustle & Flow' and though she wasn't honored by the AAFCA or the Golden Globes, let's hope that Oscar doesn't forget," Murray said in Daniels' column.

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TV One Audience Didn't Want News, Rodgers Says

Johnathan Rodgers, CEO of the African American-oriented TV One cable network, said Tuesday that Black Entertainment Television's experience with news "was not a good indicator to us at TV One that our audience was craving a daily news broadcast – perspective, yes. A daily news broadcast of which they have numerous other opportunities to see was not something that we found that our audience wanted."

Rodgers was speaking on National Public Radio's "News and Notes," hosted this week by Tony Cox. He was joined by Loretta Rucker, who heads the African American Public Radio Consortium, which co-founded "News and Notes" and the Tavis Smiley NPR show that preceded it, and Pluria Marshall Jr., publisher of the Los Angeles Wave Newspaper Group.

"The raw cost of news-gathering is such that unless you are doing it 24 hours, you really cannot afford to do it, which is why no cable networks other than the news networks have news," Rodgers said.

"I mean, TNT doesn't have news or Lifetime doesn't have news or USA Network doesn't have news. BET really made a noble attempt to do news, and they made that noble attempt over two decades almost and they probably lost millions and millions of dollars. The audience either didn't want to watch it solid and rejected it, but, you know, that was not a good indicator to us at TV One that our audience was craving a daily news broadcast – perspective, yes. A daily news broadcast of which they have numerous other opportunities to see was not something that we found that our audience wanted," said Rodgers, whose background is in television news.

"I completely agree," said Rucker, "because to speak to the point that the African American audience is not monolithic, I've sat and observed focus groups where African Americans were in a room and this group was familiar with seeing a commentator/information person in [an] entertainment- type setting but providing some tidbits of information. When we let that same group hear that same person in a newsmagazine format, they weren't interested in that. That was more information than they were interested in hearing."

But Marshall said, "Black people want news and information . . . pretty much the same way as the general market. Yes, there is an audience. It's a very, you know, large audience. It's growing. It's diverse. It's tech- savvy. It's on the Web. Our people want the same things that all of Americans want. They just happen to want it from our perspective. They tend to want to hear us talk about us. And we're more credible to our people."

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Vernon Jarrett Medal Established, With $5,000 Award

A medal to honor work in the mold of pioneering black journalist Vernon Jarrett has been created by the Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies at North Carolina A&T University, DeWayne Wickham, USA Today/Gannett News Service columnist and director of the Institute, has announced.

"The Vernon Jarrett Medal for Journalistic Excellence is awarded annually by the Institute for outstanding coverage of people of African descent and the issues that impact their lives. The award is intended to promote greater diversity in the coverage of domestic and foreign news by media organizations in the United States," reads an announcement. Winners in each category receive the Jarrett medal and a $5,000 cash award.

Jarrett, a legendary Chicago journalist, a president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a founder of the organization, died in May 2004.

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Short Takes

  • The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser's commemorations of Rosa Parks and the 50th anniversary of the Montgomery Bus Boycott created revenue, Executive Editor Wanda Lloyd told Gannett colleagues yesterday. "The publication of two special sections, a book, a new Web site, a mid-year foray into video journalism, a teachers' guide and extensive coverage of live events – helped the newspaper reach out beyond Montgomery, Ala., to repurpose products to bring substantial revenue through the first quarter of 2006," Lloyd wrote in Gannett's Newswatch.
  • Gary Avey, publisher of Native Peoples magazine and member of the Native American Journalists Association, died Dec. 20 after suffering complications from lung cancer, NAJA reports. Although not Native American himself, Avey, 65, founded the magazine dedicated to "the sensitive portrayal of the arts and lifeways of the Native peoples of the Americas" in 1987 while deputy director of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz., NAJA said.
  • "In what may be a first for network television, CBS is developing a prime-time soap revolving around a Chinese-American family," A.J. Frutkin reported Thursday in Mediaweek. "Based on the 2005 indie film Red Doors, the project will be produced by Paramount Network TV and exec-producer Steven Tao, with the original film's writer-director Georgia Lee writing the pilot script."
  • "James A. Moss, president and publisher of the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., has been appointed chairman of the paper," according to Editor & Publisher. "Moss, 62, has been president and publisher of the Times Herald-Record since joining Ottaway in 1996. He will assume corporate responsibilities in the new position of chief franchise development officer for Ottaway Newspapers in January." Moss is a former president of the National Association of Minority Media Executives.
  • Kwanzaa and Hanukkah fell during the same week this year, providing a bonanza for black Jews. Robin Washington, editorial page editor of Minnesota's Duluth News Tribune, and a black Jew, wrote about that convergence in his newspaper and in a commentary for National Public Radio's "News and Notes".
  • Christian Farr, weekend anchor at Fox-owned WTXF-TV in Philadelphia, is expected to sign on in February as a correspondent for "Chicago Tonight" on Chicago's public television station WTTW-TV, Robert Feder reported Thursday in the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • The Asian American Journalists Association wrote the New York Times Dec. 15, "We're chagrined to see the use of a racial stereotype to illustrate the story, 'Calling Out the Cable Guy' (Nov. 27). The image of a snake charmer, turban and all, not only perpetuates a hackneyed caricature of Indians but also appears irrelevant for an article about two Baby Bells' forays into the TV business." Sunday Business Editor James Impoco, to whom the letter was addressed, did not respond to a message from Journal-isms today.
  • "Comcast Corp. has signed a programming agreement to broadcast TV Azteca's Azteca America Spanish-language network in U.S. Hispanic markets not covered by over-the-air stations," Cara Marcano reported Dec. 22 for Marketing y Medios.
  • Demetrius Patterson, whose 2001 firing from the Gannett Co.'s Journal News in suburban New York has been linked to stories he wrote there detailing charges that General Motors sabotaged its African American auto dealers, told Journal-isms, "I will officially resume my journalism career as a staff writer with the Chicago Daily Defender" on Jan. 3. Patterson's story was recounted in November on ABC-TV's "Nightline."
  • In South Africa, "where commercial radio and TV lean toward the tastes of an affluent, largely white consumer class, Soweto Community Television provided glimpses of life in the townships where most black South Africans live," Craig Timberg wrote Dec. 22 in the Washington Post. He reported on the station's 25th and final broadcasting day.
  • "Veteran newsman Jerome Gray has resigned as anchor/reporter at KHOU and will move across town to KPRC, where he will become a news manager and anchor, Mike McDaniel reported Dec. 23 in the Houston Chronicle. "Gray will join a newsroom recently the target of a boycott by a coalition of community leaders upset with, among other things, the move of Linda Lorelle and Khambrel Marshall, two African-Americans, to lower-profile anchor positions.
  • "Nielsen Media Research will include in its national ratings shows aired by Univision Communications Inc. starting next week, a move that is expected to better measure the nation's growing Latino audience," Meg James reported Dec. 20 in the Los Angeles Times.

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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