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"If It's Africa, It Must Be a Tribe"

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Some Outlets Discourage Term as Stereotypical

Children at the Nairobi Kids Academy might not fit Western images of tribal members. (Credit: Global Literacy Project)The use of the word "tribe" to describe groups of people in Africa is being discouraged at some major news organizations, including the world's largest, the Associated Press, where the international editor acknowledges that "the description of a conflict as tribal, rather than ethnic, may carry a pejorative meaning or evoke old stereotypes from the 19th century and early 20th century colonial era."

The issue has arisen again because of election-related violence in Kenya that has killed more than 500 people. President Mwai Kibaki won re-election last week after a flawed vote count, and the tensions in the country have been described in many news accounts — including those in Kenya — as tribal.

The issue is as much about the connotation of "tribe" in the West, and it is not new.

In 1990, the old Africa News Service wrote an editorial headlined, "If It's Africa, It Must Be a Tribe."

It began, "Imagine how an Associated Press account of Soviet conflicts might read if the dateline were Africa:

"A state of emergency was declared in eastern Uzbekistan Friday because of tribal warfare over the distribution of plots of land, and the president of the republic asked the Kremlin to help stem the wave of white-on-white violence.

"If the story is about the Soviets or the Irish or the Afghans, or about Greek and Turkish Cypriots or Hungarians and Rumanians, the word used is ethnic. Similar conflicts in Africa are almost invariably labeled tribal."

Spokesmen and editors at the New York Times, Washington Post, the AP and, the successor to the Africa News Service, all told Journal-isms they were restricting the term, though a check of their stories shows "tribe" still to be in widespread use.


"In light of the unrest in Kenya, AP International Editor John Daniszewski has cautioned AP editors and writers to be aware, as John puts it, 'that the description of a conflict as tribal, rather than ethnic, may carry a pejorative meaning or evoke old stereotypes from the 19th century and early 20th century colonial era. Therefore we should use it sparingly and carefully, without ruling it out in all cases, and include in the text needed context such as any other actual basis for conflict,'" AP spokesman Paul D. Colford told Journal-isms.

"John adds, 'It would, however, be a distortion to ban the terms "tribes" and "tribal" entirely, especially when ethnic groups or nations in Africa also often refer to themselves as tribes.'"

Don Podesta, the Washington Post's assistant managing editor for copy desks, who was traveling, said via e-mail he assumed the paper's stylebook did not address the issue. But "to me, tribe sounds outmoded and somehow Eurocentric. Ethnic group would seem to be the better term," he said, adding, "But I wouldn't mess with 'the 12 tribes of Israel.'"

At the New York Times, "we have just conducted a preliminary review of the term 'tribe' on the foreign desk, particularly in relation to the post-election crisis in Kenya," Greg Winter, an assistant foreign editor at the paper, told Journal-isms. "After consulting with a number of historians and scholars on Africa, we have determined that 'ethnic group' is a more accurate term for most of the large groups we write about on the continent, including the Kikuyu, the Kalenjin and the Luo, all of whom have figured prominently in the crisis."

Those who discussed the term say the issue is more than semantic; it affects how the continent and its problems are perceived.

From South Africa, John Allen, managing editor of, which collects Africa-related news reports from around the world, told Journal-isms, "Because of copyright, we cannot change copy received from our African publishing partners, whose content we post under contractual arrangement on our site. In our own copy, we try to avoid using 'tribes' or 'tribalism' because we believe the term often reflects simplistic stereotyping of Africans and their polities. We prefer 'ethnic group' and 'ethnicity', but even those terms are often used too loosely in the Western media to assert or imply that conflicts on the continent are related to ancient animosities rather than contemporary conflicts over access to land and resources."

"Many of the differences between various ethnic groups do not date back centuries or even decades, but occurred AFTER independence," added Sunni Khalid, managing news editor at Baltimore's WYPR-FM. He has studied and reported on Africa for 30 years, including as an intern in the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi in the summer of 1982, when he witnessed an attempted coup.

In a discussion of Kenya last week on National Public Radio's "The Diane Rehm Show," which originates at Washington's WAMU-FM, former House Africa subcommittee chair Howard Wolpe, D-Mich., director of the Africa Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, said that while Africans might use the term, it has a different connotation when Westerners do. "Tribe connotes something that's traditional, that's backward in some respects, that is not modern and that's a collection of the racial indoctrination in our own society," he said. "So I think the term 'tribe' in our context can be very misleading."

The New York Times has not concluded its examination of the term, Winter said.

"The word 'tribe' is obviously fluid and subjective, but in academic circles it has largely been used to describe people who have clear kinship ties, who live in a proscribed geographic area and who live under a commonly-recognized traditional authority, namely a chief," he said.

"Given that many large ethnic groups in Africa are geographically mobile and dispersed, have had a fair amount mixing as a result of that mobility, have sometimes shifted their identities for political reasons and don't always live under a traditional tribal authority, many academics argue that 'tribe' is not the best term. There is no perfect term, they acknowledge, and there are certainly people who still meet the traditional definition of tribe, not to mention the many more who refer to themselves that way. But, in general, many academics say 'ethnic group' is a more accurate term, since it incorporates more of this dynamism and change.

"We are still consulting with other scholars, and have not made any ruling that the term 'tribe' should never be used. After all, it has specific legal connotations in the United States. But we will avoid using it in relation to most groups, particularly those to whom the traditional definition of 'tribe' does not apply.

"There is, of course, another layer of inquiry with regard to 'tribe,' that of whether the word itself, being a colonial term that arouses strong feelings among many readers, is appropriate. All of us may have opinions on that matter, but our first priority has been to determine whether the term has a legitimate, academic use in the context of Kenya's election crisis. Once this process is concluded, it would probably be worthwhile for masthead level editors, who rule on questions of taste and style for the paper, to take that on."


      Editorial, Business Daily, Nairobi: Foreign Media Must End Bias

      Emeka-Mayaka Gekara, The Nation, Nairobi: Foreign Media's Harsh Verdict of Disputed Election

      Rhonda Chriss Lokeman, Kansas City Star: Kenya quickly slides from calm to chaos

      Nedra Pickler, Associated Press: Obama contacts Kenyan leaders

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After N.H., Media Wonder How They Got It Wrong

On the day after Sen. Hillary Clinton proved victorious in Tuesday's New Hampshire Democratic primary, confounding days of predictions that Sen. Barack Obama would win handily, members of the news media wondered how they could have gotten it so wrong.


The conclusion seemed to be that polls missed lots of voters — particularly women— who made up their minds in the last days before the primary, that reporters thought a win by Obama would make a better story, and that journalists spent too much time trying to predict the outcome.

Some, such as NBC Political Director Chuck Todd, said on the air that the possibility of the "Bradley effect" — that some whites will tell pollsters they would vote for a black candidate but do otherwise in the voting booth — must be put on the table. In the 1980s, former Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder and others were victims of this "effect," and unlike in the Iowa caucuses, where declarations were made publicly, New Hampshire voters cast secret ballots.

"This was delicious," Howard Kurtz wrote in the Washington Post. "The coverage had been so out of control there was speculation about when Hillary might have to drop out. Polls giving Barack Obama an 8- or 10-point lead were accepted as fact. The news surrounding the former first lady had been uniformly negative for days. She's done everything wrong, Obama has done everything right. She got too emotional in the diner. People just didn't like her. She campaigned in boring prose and Obama in soaring poetry (to use her analogy). Bill was hurting her. A campaign shake-up was on the way. An era was ending. Some pundits were predicting a 20-point Obama margin.

"And then the voters actually went to the polls.

"The result: Dewey Defeats Truman."

But just as some in the media were accused of fawning over Obama, others wasted no time in painting him unfavorably when they smelled blood. "Stunned Barack Obama Loses Luster," proclaimed the New York Daily News. "Faced with a stinging defeat, Barack Obama climbed onto the stage before a cheering crowd and managed to keep his supporters fired up while barely masking his disappointment," Michael Saul's story from Nashua, N.H., began.

In fact, the New Hampshire vote was close enough — 39 percent for Clinton to Obama's 36 percent — for each to win nine delegates, according to the Associated Press. Monroe Anderson reported from Nashua Wednesday for the Afro-American newspapers, "It was a miss, but a miss so close that (to) many it doesn't seem to matter." Still, this was about more than delegate count.

Analyzing the polls in the Washington Post, Jon Cohen and Jennifer Agiesta wrote that most "accurately reflected the large bloc of likely Democratic voters yet to make up their minds or who said they were open to switching their support in the closing days. . . . However, the late polls missed on how votes divided by gender. Pre-election polls from CNN-WMUR-University of New Hampshire and USA Today-Gallup showed Obama and Clinton about evenly splitting female voters and Obama winning men by a margin of 2 to 1. But Clinton won among women by 12 percentage points, exit polls showed, and she lost among men more narrowly than suggested, drawing 29 percent to Obama's 40 percent.

"Yesterday's result is sure to fuel debate among poll-watchers about the accuracy of polls in contests with African American candidates," they continued. "In several well-known past examples, pre-election polls of such campaigns underestimated support for the white candidates. But a strong showing by polls in 2006 in elections with black candidates seemed to put that notion finally to rest.

"Other factors that are more probable than the role of race include 'likely voter' modeling, with pollsters perhaps over-counting the boost of enthusiasm among Obama supporters following his victory in Iowa last Thursday.

"Independents may have opted at the last minute to participate in the Republican primary, depriving Obama of voters."

Clinton said in live television interviews Wednesday from her home in Chappaqua, N.Y., that Saturday's debate — in which Obama and former North Carolina senator John Edwards appeared to be ganging up on her — was the turning point.

While Obama would become the first African American president, the fact that Clinton would be the first female president had sometimes been overlooked in the coverage, though apparently not by women.

Feminist Gloria Steinem wrote Wednesday in the New York Times: "So why is the sex barrier not taken as seriously as the racial one?

"The reasons are as pervasive as the air we breathe: because sexism is still confused with nature as racism once was; because anything that affects males is seen as more serious than anything that affects 'only' the female half of the human race; because children are still raised mostly by women (to put it mildly) so men especially tend to feel they are regressing to childhood when dealing with a powerful woman; because racism stereotyped black men as more 'masculine' for so long that some white men find their presence to be masculinity-affirming (as long as there aren't too many of them); and because there is still no 'right' way to be a woman in public power without being considered a you-know-what."

The campaign now turns to states with larger African American populations. Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore's presidential race in 2000, predicted on CNN that the decisions made by black women over whether to vote their race or their gender would prove critical, particularly in South Carolina.

Brazile hinted earlier Tuesday that she was racially offended by some of former president Bill Clinton's recent attacks on Obama, as Brad Wilmouth reported on the Newsbusters Web site.

On MSNBC, Tom Brokaw and Chris Matthews had this exchange:

"Brokaw: You know what I think we're going to have to go back and do?

"Matthews: Yes sir?

"Brokaw: Wait for the voters to make their judgment. (Laughs) What a novel idea.

"Matthews: Well, what do we do then in the days before the balloting? We must stay home then, I guess.

"Brokaw: No, no we don't stay home. There are reasons to analyze what they're saying. We know, from how the people voted today, what moved them to vote. We can take a look at that. There are a lot of issues that have not been fully explored during all this.

"But we don't have to get in the business of making judgments before the polls have closed, and trying to stampede and affect the process.

"Look, I'm not just picking just on us, it's part of the culture in which we live these days. But I think that the people out there are going to begin to make some judgments about us — if they haven't already — if we don't begin to temper that temptation to constantly try to get ahead of what the voters are deciding, in many cases, as we learned in New Hampshire, when they went into the polling booth today or in the last three days. They were making decisions very late."

Two black journalists, Sam Fulwood of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and Ernest Holsendolph, who retired from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, discuss the media coverage at the end of today's posting.


      Anthony D. Advincula, New America Media: Ethnic Media Journalists Cover New Hampshire Primary

      Sheldon Alberts blog: Barack Obama —not 'white enough' for New Hampshire?

      Ed Bark blog: Oh shaddup: But Chris Matthews' credibility yap keeps growing

      Lou Dobbs, CNN: Pundits take it in the teeth

      Maureen Dowd, New York Times: Can Hillary Cry Her Way Back to the White House?

      Martin C. Evans, Newsday: Double-digit turnaround stuns Obama campaign

      Pamela Gentry, The Spin Is On [Jan. 10]

      Amy Goodman, "Democracy Now!," Pacifica Radio: Barack Obama and the African American Community: A Debate with Michael Eric Dyson and Glen Ford

      Jason Horowitz and John Koblin, New York Observer: Clinton Recovers, Press Reconsiders Plans for Breakup

      Earl Ofari Hutchinson, Huffington Post: Richly Deserved Bad Night for Hillary Haters in New Hampshire

      Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Message for Obama

      Steve Kornacki, New York Observer: Why Obama's Loss Wasn't About Race

      Roberto Lovato, New America Media: McCain Win Puts Latino Vote Back In Play

      National Hispanic Institute: New Survey of Latino Professionals, Ages 18-39, Reveals Shift Toward Democrats, Support for Obama, Guiliani and McCain, and Lack of Influential Latino Leaders on 2008 Campaign

      New York Times: In Harlem, a Tough Choice Between Clinton and Obama

      Colin Powell says he's "taking joy" in Obama's success (PBS' "Tavis Smiley Show," via YouTube)

      Butch Ward, Poynter Institute: A Lesson from New Hampshire: Cover, Don't Predict

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Columnist Said Richardson Was in Trouble at Home


"New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson ended his campaign for the presidency Wednesday after twin fourth-place finishes that showed his impressive credentials could not compete with his rivals' star power," Nedra Pickler reported from New Hampshire Wednesday night for the Associated Press.

Her report comes not only after Richardson's poor showing in the New Hampshire primary, but after his former speechwriter, David Roybal, now a columnist for the Albuquerque Journal, wrote Tuesday, "N.M. Isn't Bill's for the Taking."

"For most of the campaign leading up to last week's Iowa caucuses, Bill Richardson said he needed to beat 'someone of substance' in The Hawkeye State to stay in the Democratic presidential race," Roybal wrote, speaking of Iowa. "He did, although it's not who Richardson had in mind. He beat Joe Biden. Biden promptly withdrew from the contest while Richardson plows on, his purpose uncertain.

"Richardson will likely continue campaigning at least through Feb. 5, when Democrats in New Mexico and 22 other states cast votes. Understandably, Richardson might want to give New Mexicans the extraordinary opportunity to vote for one of their own in the sweepstakes for the U.S. presidency.

"But results in Iowa suggest Richardson could well be embarrassed when votes from his home state are counted."

The AP's Pickens wrote, "Richardson planned to announce the decision Thursday, according to two people close to the governor with knowledge of the decision. They spoke on a condition of anonymity in advance of the governor's announcement."

Richardson is the only Latino in the presidential race, but as Marisa Treviño has written on her Latina Lista blog, he failed to pick up support from other Latinos.

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Golf Channel Anchor Suspended for Two Weeks

"Golf Channel suspended anchor Kelly Tilghman for two weeks on Wednesday for saying last week that young players who wanted to challenge Tiger Woods should 'lynch him in a back alley,' " Doug Ferguson reported Wednesday for the Associated Press.

"Tilghman was laughing during the exchange Friday with analyst Nick Faldo at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, and Woods' agent at IMG said he didn't think there was any ill intent.

"But the comments became prevalent on news shows Wednesday, and the Rev. Al Sharpton joined the fray by demanding she be fired immediately. Golf Channel didn't know who would replace Tilghman in the booth this week at the Sony Open or next week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.

"'There is simply no place on our network for offensive language like this,' Golf Channel said in a statement."

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Glitch Could Leave Some TV Screens Blank

"Owners of thousands of small television stations that reach rural populations or specialize in community affairs and minority programming are worried the digital transition is going to leave their audiences watching a blank screen," John Dunbar reported Wednesday for the Associated Press.

"It's all because of a little-noticed exemption in the congressionally ordered, nationwide migration of the television industry to digital broadcasting.

"On Feb. 17, 2009, owners of full-power television stations will turn off their old-technology analog signals and broadcast in digital only. Viewers who receive their signals through an antenna who don't have a digital-ready TV will have to buy a converter box.

". . . If a viewer who watches programming broadcast on a low-power or translator station buys the wrong box, he may be in for a frustrating experience.

"Signals from full-power stations will come in fine. But most of the boxes that have been certified for sale will block the low-power signal if it is being broadcast in an analog format."

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Short Takes

      "Twenty-nine newsroom employees at The San Diego Union-Tribune have taken the company's buyout offer, further cementing cutbacks that have trimmed the paper's news staff at least 10 percent in the last year," Rob Davis reported Monday for the Voice of San Diego. "Eleven news reporters took the buyout, including some of the paper's best known writers. Two arts critics accepted the offer, as did four editors, two photographers, two food writers and a travel writer. A newsroom source who accepted the buyout provided the list to A company spokesman refused to confirm its accuracy. The cuts leave the Union-Tribune with two reporters covering immigration issues as well as Tijuana — down from five. Gone are border reporter Anna Cearley and Mexico business reporter Diane Lindquist. Lynne Walker, a Copley News Service reporter based in Mexico City, has also left."

      At the Chicago Sun-Times, negotiations to try to lessen the impact of planned layoffs were to resume Wednesday between management and the union that represents reporters, copy editors and columnists, Barbara Rose and Robert Manor reported Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune. "The Chicago Newspaper Guild was notified Thursday of management plans to eliminate 35 of the Sun-Times newsroom's 188 jobs as part of efforts to slash operating costs by $50 million this year. The number later was reduced to 32. Sources say that five non-Guild management positions could be cut too."


      Linda Williams will become senior editor for news at the Raleigh News & Observer in a reorganization announced Monday. "Williams, 55, will oversee the metro, business, sports and features sections and the paper's news copy desk . . . She worked at The N&O as a reporter in the 1970s and returned in 1997 after stints at The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. She served as metro editor before becoming deputy manager for local news in 2005," Marti Maguire reported on Tuesday.

      A week ago, the Dallas Morning News editorial board published its annual choice for "Texan of the Year." It chose the "Illegal Immigrant," and life hasn't been the same since, Marisa Treviño reports on her Latina Lista blog. "According to their editorial page editor, Keven Ann Willey, the newspaper has been inundated with emails, blog comments and Letters to the Editor. Willey reports that 95 percent of the public's reaction to their selection was negative."

      Genarlow Wilson, who spent two years in prison for having consensual sex while a teenager, will attend Morehouse College this spring, thanks to a gift from the Tom Joyner Foundation, an educational non-profit founded by the nationally syndicated radio personality, the foundation announced early Thursday. Wilson, who was freed from a Georgia prison in October, is to begin classes as a part-time student at the 140-year-old predominantly male liberal arts college in Atlanta. The 10-year-old foundation is paying for Wilson's education, including tuition, books, and campus room and board, an announcement said. Wilson was to appear on Joyner's show Thursday morning.

      Public Radio International received $600,000 from the Skoll Foundation to support on-air and online coverage of remarkable individuals who have identified sustainable solutions to global problems, the network announced on Wednesday. The coverage will air partly on "The World," produced with BBC World Service and WGBH-FM in Boston.

      "Is Benazir Bhutto America's best hope against al-Qaeda?" read the headline on the cover of Parade magazine, an insert that goes out weekly in scores of newspapers. Some papers included a note to readers explaining Parade's decision to proceed with the already-printed issue despite Bhutto's Dec. 27 assassination, but at the Los Angeles Times, "Not everyone saw the note, and even the readers who did weren't happy about the decision to distribute Parade in light of the leader's death," the Los Angeles paper said. In Chicago, "Dozens of readers wrote scorching e-mails" criticizing the Chicago Tribune's decision to distribute the issue, Public Editor Timothy J. McNulty wrote on Tuesday.


      Cari Champion, who won her job back at WGCL-TV in Atlanta after being fired for saying what she maintained was "mothasucker," returned to work Monday as a reporter. Her lawyer, Daniel Kobler, told Journal-isms he had negotiated for Champion "to get a second chance and return to the same position." She had been both reporter and weekend anchor, and he said he expects her to return to the weekend anchor job soon.

      "Laila Ali, a world-class athlete and champion of health and fitness, has been named a contributing correspondent for THE EARLY SHOW," CBS announced on Wednesday. Ali, the daughter of boxing legend Muhammad Ali, made her professional boxing debut in 1999. She is the current undefeated Super Middleweight Boxing Champion of the world with a 24-0 record and 21 knockouts." She serves as co-host of "American Gladiators," which premiered on NBC this month, and will host the upcoming Nickelodeon broadcast, "The N's Student Body," which follows a group of teens as they attempt to change their lives through diet, exercise, volunteer work and academics, CBS said.

      "In the last seven years in Mexico, 35 journalists were killed and six went missing, 84 media workers filed complaints of insults or attacks in 2007, and in the first few days of 2008, the prestigious independent radio commentator Carmen Aristegui, who has often criticised the powers that be, was fired," Diego Cevallos wrote Monday for Inter-Press Service. "Given that outlook, many analysts wonder whether the media in Mexico is really as free as the government of conservative President Felipe Calderón claims."

      Police in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, said Monday that they had two suspects in custody after armed men stormed the newsroom of a popular vernacular newspaper and seriously injured two top journalists, according to local reporters and news accounts, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Tuesday. "Managing Editor Saed Kubenea of the Kiswahili-language Mwana Halisi and veteran journalist Ndimara Tegambwage, a consultant with the weekly, were preparing this week's edition when three men armed with a machete and an unidentified chemical broke down the newsroom door and assaulted them."

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Feedback: What I Learned as a Political Reporter

From my old political reporting days, I learned a couple things that applies to last night's NH primary:

      Reporters talk to each other more than they talk to voters, who don't tell reporters the truth when you do talk to them. So to develop a story line, other reporters collude to create one that "sings" with editors back in the office. I think that definitely happened since Iowa.

      Polls are notoriously unreliable. They sucker reporters by being on target one day and veer off the next day. The public is grossly misinformed when reporters get into horse-race mode using polls to base their stories on. Better to mention polls deep, say, 15-20 paragraphs deep in a political analysis story. If the story isn't that long, then leave out the polling data. (Of course, this doesn't work because editors will force the polling material higher into the story.)

      Editors are the bane of all reporting. They push for stories when reporters don't have the facts. Every day there must be a new story, even when on-the-ground reporters have nothing new to report. So reporters talk to each other and the process begins anew.

      This is why political journalists and junkies ought to take lots of deep breaths. Yoga would help, too. Don't hyperventilate when things look one way or another. None of it is static.

      Obama is exactly where he should be in this race. A strong second. Hillary is a weak first. This was how it was a year ago and how it probably will finish. But there will be a lot of twists and turns to get to the finish line. If a reporter is covering this, he/she shouldn't lose sight of the fact that voters — those pesky, fickle, largely know-nothings — will ultimately decide. Voters aren't confused. They make up their minds early and rarely change positions. (Note: We're just like them; is there any among us who doesn't know— and hasn't known for weeks, months? whom they will vote for?) But I learned that voters don't like telling reporters their secrets. So we have to wait until election day to see what they've known all along.

      Trust me. This election is decided, we just don't have the results yet.

Sam Fulwood


Jan. 9, 2008

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Feedback: The Astonishing Thing Is What Happened

I really believe it was not "the media's" fault that today's story has to be an Ooops story. The problem was less that they were overly exuberant than that Hillary Clinton did something extraordinary. She confounded her own highly paid experts, who had already packed their bags to move on. Truth be told, she almost surely confounded herself.


She did something to give those undecided people reason to flock to her. It may have been the tear, as Maureen Dowd says, or it may have been a revised message written on the fly.

If there was an oversight, it was that people did not believe the New Hampshire people who said repeatedly they were still making up their minds and, incredibly, many went in the booth undecided! To many of us the yarn about undecideds is boring. But it clearly can be true. Some folks, and I have been tempted to believe it, believe the problem is white voters lie to pollsters. Well, why didn't they lie in Iowa, where the prediction was on the money?

I think the astonishing thing is what happened, not so much how the story was projected or told.

Ernest Holsendolph Atlanta?Jan. 9, 2008

Feedback: It Was Never "Tribal" Cleansing

This one I am so glad you mentioned. This whole "tribe" deal is so fundamental to the racism of Western culture. The situation in Kosovo/Bosnia, etc. was always ethnic. Never was it "tribal" cleansing. The black world's inability to control the dialogue is part of it, as the Western media machine is so accepted as truth.

Brian Gilmore Freelance writer?Contributor, Progressive Media Project?Washington?Jan. 10, 2008

Feedback: Eugene Robinson Deserves Credit

Regarding NBC Political Director Chuck Todd's mention of the "Bradley effect":

The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson deserves credit for being the first to mention the "Bradley effect" in the New Hampshire context. He mentioned it Tuesday night on MSNBC. He mentioned it tentatively, and Joe Scarborough kind of slapped him down for it.

By the next morning, Robinson's point about a "Bradley effect" was part of the conventional wisdom. And by Wednesday afternoon, even Joe Scarborough was acknowledging on the air that Eugene Robinson was the first to mention it.

David Mills Glendale, Calif.?Jan. 10, 2008

Feedback: U.K. Is Effectively a Collection of Tribes

The article about using the word tribe in African conflicts is very poignant. I believe the term "tribe" should be substituted with "ethnic group" or "ethnicity." The word "tribe" conjures up images of Africans running around with loincloths and spears.


I'm a member of the Yoruba tribe, but I prefer to use the words "ethnic group." My identity is similar to the way that a white American may describe himself as Irish or Italian. Those are ethnic groups, and no one would think to describe them as tribes.

The United Kingdom is divided into four main ethnic groups (there are several minority groups such as Afro-Caribbeans and Asians); English, Irish, Welsh and Scottish. No one calls those groups tribes, even though that is what they are effectively. There are still tensions among the groups. It's called the United Kingdom, but the English have dominated the political scene for decades, although the current Prime Minister Gordon Brown is Scottish. (However he has muted his Scottish accent so much, you would think he is an Englishman.)

In the early part of the 20th century, the Irish were subject to a lot of discrimination and there were shops with signs saying no dogs, no blacks, no Irish.

Also, the war in the old Yugoslavia was referred to as an ethnic conflict, even though the Serbs, Bosnians and Croats could easily be described as tribes.

Manny Otiko Media relations associate ?WunderMarx | PR ?Tustin, Calif.?Jan. 10, 2008

Feedback: Two Books for Additional Reading

Might I suggest that contemporary journalists would do well to read, or re-read, literature critically examining their profession. And they must resist the knee-jerk tendency to negatively characterize the work of peers who don't simply circle the wagons and lob bombs at independent thinking.

Serious reformers might well learn to respect what others see if they bother to devour the contents of two important volumes published awhile ago:

1. "Boys on the Bus," by Timothy Crouse who, incidentally, coined the phrase, "pack journalism," a perfect description of what embarrassed the media the day after the New Hampshire primary election.

2. "Breaking the News: How the Media Undermine American Democracy," by James Fallows, the title of which constitutes a serious indictment of media behavior in the political arena.

John H. Britton Special Assistant to the President?Meharry Medical College?Nashville, Tenn.?Jan. 10, 2008

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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