Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Ifill Hits Jackpot as VP Debate Moderator

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ex-Newsday Pulitzer Winner Plans All-Africa Paper

Palin Interviews, Parodies Ratchet Up Interest

"Being selected the moderator for a vice presidential debate is something like opening a suitcase on 'Deal or No Deal' and finding $1,000. Nice prize, but it's no jackpot," David Bauder wrote for the Associated Press.

"Not this year. The Oct. 2 showdown between Joe Biden and Sarah Palin will likely put Gwen Ifill before the biggest TV audience of her life.

"Given the extraordinary attention paid to the campaign and Palin's surprise selection as John McCain's running mate, it stands a strong chance of becoming the most-watched vice presidential debate ever. The standard was the 56.7 million viewers in 1984, when Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman ever selected for a major party ticket."

Bauder wrote those words a week ago, before Palin, the Republican nominee for vice president, sat down with Katie Couric on the "CBS Evening News" for a performance in which Palin came across as so unprepared for the office that the interview was parodied on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" -- using her own words.

On Monday, Couric, whose stock rose after the interview, spoke again with both the Alaska governor and her running mate, John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, in Ohio.

"Governor Palin, since our last interview, you've gotten a lot of flak," Couric said. "Some Republicans have said you're not prepared; you're not ready for prime-time. People have questioned your readiness since that interview. And I'm curious," she said.

"Yeah," Palin replied.

"To hear your reaction," Couric continued.

"Well," Palin said, "not only am I ready but willing and able to serve as vice president with Senator McCain if Americans so bless us and privilege us with the opportunity of serving them, ready with my executive experience as a city mayor and manager, as a governor, as a commissioner, a regulator of oil and gas."

McCain and Palin accused Couric of "gotcha journalism" when Couric asked why Palin had publicly told a voter that the United States should launch cross-border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan, a position McCain had said should not be articulated out loud.

On Fox News on Monday, Nancy Pfotenhauer, senior strategist for the McCain campaign, urged "the moderator" of the vice presidential debate not to lean heavily on foreign policy, which she said would give Biden an unfair advantage.

"I'm not joking about this," James Fallows wrote for the Atlantic on Sunday. "In the wake of her catastrophic performance in the Katie Couric interview, Sarah Palin has set expectations so low that she is very likely to do 'surprisingly' well against Joe Biden on October 2."

Gwen IfillThe AP's Bauder continued, "The format offers Ifill great freedom. Questions on domestic or international issues are allowed, and it's up to her to decide the mix.

"Colleagues suggest questions. So do viewers, people at her gym or folks she meets on the street. She politely takes them all, recognizing she has no monopoly on wisdom, but it doesn't necessarily mean she'll use them. Her goal is to help viewers learn something about the candidates they didn't know.

"People sometimes forget it's a debate, not an inquisition, Ifill said.

"'People who watch these debates are incredibly engaged,' she said. 'I don't have to chase the candidates around the table to make them answer questions. The people will know whether a question has been answered or not.'

"One competitor said he expects Ifill to do well. Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent, said Ifill would be one of the people he recommends to succeed him as 'Face the Nation' host.

"'Gwen knows what she's doing,' Schieffer said. 'It's pretty hard to slip one past her. I think she'll do a great job.'"


McCain Said to Win "Spin War" With Reporters

"Obama may have won the insta-polls after Friday's debate here at the University of Mississippi, but the McCain team won the spin war, a postgame ritual that quickly seeps into the punditry enveloping such events," the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz wrote from Oxford, Miss., on Monday, speaking of Sens. Barack Obama, the Democrat, and John McCain, the Republican.

"What was equally striking, inside the massive media tent, was that some of the journalists who profess to want an elevated debate on the issues -- which is precisely what they got, courtesy of moderator Jim Lehrer -- seemed unusually interested in style points."

Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher magazine, had a different take:

"It often happens that the pundit 'scoring' of a presidential debate ends up quite at odds from the polls of viewers that soon follow," Mitchell wrote on Saturday.

". . . here's the key to the viewer/pundit disparity. It took awhile for McCain to build up to it but then he hammered it home near the end: Obama, he charged, lacked the 'knowledge and experience' to be president.

"Pundits highlighted that and said it was the key to McCain gaining at least a tie. But I didn't hear a single person on TV point out: McCain just picked Palin for vice president! How, then, could he make such a charge against Obama?"

On CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday, Chris Cillizza said the candidates made it difficult for the media to pick a winner. "They were trying to do different things in this debate," Cillizza said. "I think Barack Obama was intentionally trying not to sort of get the zinger off, or, you know, go for the swing -- because the problem with swinging big is if you miss, you're off balance. And I think Barack Obama wanted to stay on balance, show that he was sober and serious.

"His goal in some ways was to make this hard for us to cover. His goal was to be substantive, policy-oriented, and not attack John McCain in these ad hominem attacks. So it complicated the way that we typically score this . . . you know, check box here, check box here, and add them up at the end."

AP Writers Explore Detroit's Racial Divide

Errin Haines"How can it be that in 2008 — 143 years after slavery was abolished, decades after the civil rights movement — an AP-Yahoo News poll could find that racial misgivings could cost Sen. Barack Obama the election?" read an Associated Press story by Ron Fournier, the Washington Bureau chief, who is white, and Errin Haines, an AP reporter who is African American.

"In search of explanations, two Associated Press reporters — one black, one white — listened to people of both races along Detroit's divides: Alter Road, which separates the city from the tony Grosse Pointes near Lake St. Clair, and 8 Mile Road, the vast northern border between a mostly black Detroit and its mostly white suburbs.

"They found people of both races living just blocks apart who nonetheless spoke of each other like strangers. There was suspicion, contempt — and yet, for many, a desperate hope that Obama's candidacy might be the final step in America's long path to racial equality. For whites, their support of Democratic economic policies forces them to confront their racial prejudices."

Who Missed Wall Street Crisis -- Writers or Readers?

"Oy vey," began Steven Pearlstein, Pulitzer Prize-winning business columnist at the Washington Post, writing for Tuesday's newspaper.

"That is the technical economic term that best sums up a day in which the House of Representatives refuses to pass a $700 billion rescue plan pushed by the White House and congressional leaders from both parties, Wachovia is taken over in a deal that will have the government potentially owning 10 percent of Citigroup, a few European banks fail, the Federal Reserve and other central banks are forced to inject an additional $300 billion into the global banking system, the Dow Jones industrial average plunges 777 points, and investors everywhere rush to the safety of gold and short-term Treasury bills.

"The basic problem here is that too many people don't understand."

Including, some have been charging, the news media.

"It was immediately assumed that there really is a crisis," David Cay Johnston, a former New York Times reporter, said Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "And that because the president said so, this must be the fact. And the coverage went to questioning around the edges of the plan instead of the premise." Johnston is author of "Free Lunch: How the Wealthiest Americans Enrich Themselves at Government Expense and Stick You with the Bill."

"Reporters who cover business matters start to absorb the values of the people they're covering," added David Brancaccio, host of the "Now" newsmagazine show on PBS. "Business reporters were not inclined to ask the tough questions."

On public radio's "On the Media," Andy Serwer, managing editor of Fortune magazine, disagreed.

"If you go back and you look at our magazine and the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, we've all done stories that say this company or that company or this financial product is a ticking time bomb," he said.

"The problem with those stories is that unless the bomb goes off, people forget about them and say, oh, that's not true. You know, we wrote a story, for instance [laughs], going all the way back to 1994, saying that derivatives were this hidden time bomb that had the potential to undermine our entire financial system. Gee, did it really take 14 years to happen? Well yeah, it did.

"There are stories like that. I think that we're guilty of not doing enough of them, but I think also people are guilty maybe of not paying enough attention a little bit."

David Carr wrote on Monday in the New York Times, "After large-scale financial disasters, the press is usually criticized — often justly — for ignoring the problem, but it's hard to make that case with the subprime mess. If no one saw this coming, they were not looking."

In his online chat, Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz told a reader on Monday, "Read Steve Pearlstein's columns in The Post. Not only is he a sharp-eyed analyst who punctures a lot of the hype, but he was out there a year ago warning that the financial system was getting overextended. He won a Pulitzer for those columns."

An Al-Jazeera documentary tells the story of cameraman Sami Al-Haj while he was in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. What will the presidential candidates do?

Cameraman Survives 6¬? Years in Guantanamo

"Both John McCain and Barack Obama have said they would shut the U.S. military detention facility at Guant?°namo Bay, where about 250 men remain behind bars ‚Äî some in their eighth year of captivity," Vivienne Walt wrote Thursday for Time magazine. "But neither presidential candidate has outlined when and how they plan to do it.

"One man ready to offer them some free advice on the problem of Guant?°namo is Sami Al-Hajj, an al-Jazeera TV cameraman recently freed, without facing charges, after six and a half years at Guant?°namo. 'It's worse than the fire of Hell,' he wrote two years ago from his cell to his British attorney, Clive Stafford Smith. 'It makes people lose their senses. Death may come at any time.'

"Al-Hajj survived Guant?°namo, although he wrote his son a farewell letter from the prison camp and says he nearly went insane. Like almost all of the approximately 770 detainees who have been held there, Al-Hajj ‚Äî the only journalist known to have been detained at Guant?°namo ‚Äî never had the opportunity to answer charges against him in any legal proceeding. . . .

"Although Al-Hajj is still trying to comprehend how his life was so drastically transformed, he says he believes he was targeted simply because he worked for Al Jazeera."

Ex-Newsday Pulitzer Winner Plans All-Africa Paper

Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger, left, presents Dele Olojede with a 2005 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting. (Credit: Columbia University.)Dele Olojede, a former Newsday foreign editor who was named co-winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 after he took a reporter's look at the effects of the Rwanda genocide 10 years afterward, is in Africa planning a continent-wide daily newspaper, according to the New Times newspaper in Kigali, Rwanda.

"Olojede plans to launch a continental daily newspaper called 'Next' that would be distributed across the entire African continent from early next year," Eugene Kwibuka reported for the paper on Monday.

"He said that the paper will be first launched in Nigeria in January and then open offices in Nairobi, Johannesburg, Accra, Cairo, and Kigali.

"The paper will be covering issues that range from politics, business, to the continent's development achievements."

Olojede, the first African-born journalist to win a Pulitzer, took a buyout from Newsday in 2003 and moved to South Africa. Interviewed in Rwanda, the Nigerian native told Kwibuka, "I love this place, I love coming back, I have many friends here. We want to be able to build a home here so that we come more frequently and spend more time with our friends."

Short Takes

  • Sheryl McCarthy, columnist for 16 years at Newsday and an employee for 18 when she took a buyout offer in 2005, returned to the paper in 2006, writing a column on Mondays for Newsday's New York City pages. "Newsday eliminated the pages on which my column used to run, so I'm no longer with them," she told Journal-isms on Monday. "But I am on the Board of Contributors of USA Today, for whom I write op-eds."
  • This summer, the glossy English-language monthly KoreAm Journal put a call out to the public to solicit subscriptions, advertisements and advice to keep from folding. "The 18-year-old publication, which relies almost entirely on contributing writers, slashed its freelancing budget by half and cut the salaries of an already small staff by 20 percent," Wendy Leung wrote Monday for AsianWeek. A moving letter written by Julie Ha, senior editor, about the state of the magazine and the ethnic press, which was published in the August issue, "seemed to have worked for the time being," Leung said.
  • Spike Lee's "Miracle at St. Anna,'' the story of black soldiers in Italy during World War II, based on a book by former journalist James McBride, "grossed a paltry $3.5 million for a ninth spot in the rankings" after its weekend opening, Entertainment Weekly reported. It was released in only 1,185 theaters.
  • "One of the casualties in the smaller newsrooms is covering poor people in this country," according to Anne Hull of the Washington Post. "And our coverage of class has dropped off the radar." Hull is visiting the Colby College campus to receive the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award in recognition of her work, Joel Elliott reported Monday in the Kennebec (Maine) Morning Sentinel.
  • "Made in L.A." won the Emmy for outstanding continuing coverage of a news story - long form at the 29th annual news and documentary Emmy awards last week, Veronica Villafa?±e wrote in her Media Moves site. The 70-minute film, produced by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, follows the journey of three Latina immigrants working in Los Angeles' garment sweatshops and their struggle in bringing a major clothing retailer to the negotiating table. The documentary had its national broadcast premiere on the PBS series P.O.V. in September.
  • "For Time Warner Cable, diversity in the workplace is more than a feel-good strategy ‚Äî it is a business imperative," K.C. Neel wrote Monday for Multichannel News. An expansion that required the hiring of 40 new executives presented the company with chance to build a more balanced and varied workforce. "We took it as an opportunity to focus on our ethnic, geographic, gender and industry diversity," said Tom Mathews, Time Warner Cable executive vice president of human resources. "We needed to think and act differently. We did and it has worked well for us."
  • "The Oregonian today distributed to its Portland area subscribers, as paid advertising, the controversial DVD titled 'Obsession' that raises alarms about the threat of radical Islam. It joined at least 75 other newspapers across the country in doing so -- despite a plea by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and a coalition of community members," Editor & Publisher reported on Monday.
  • "Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnist and graduate of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, wrote this on Sunday about Nancy Hicks Maynard, who died Sept. 21: "In many ways, I guess you can 'blame' Nancy Hicks Maynard for my Journal Sentinel column; everything I do in this business is intended to make her proud of me." A memorial service is scheduled in New York on Friday for Maynard, co-founder of the Maynard Institute and a former co-publisher of the Oakland Tribune.
  • "Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association are overjoyed by today's release of leading Burmese journalist U Win Tin after 19 years in detention. He emerged from Insein prison still dressed in prisoner clothes after benefiting from an amnesty announced by the military government for thousands of detainees ahead of elections promised for 2010," the press freedom group said last week.
  • An Egyptian appeals court on Sunday upheld a guilty verdict against Ibrahim Eissa, editor of the independent daily al-Dustor, who wrote stories questioning the president's health. The court sentenced him to two months imprisonment, Sarah El Deeb reported for the Associated Press.
  • "When businessmen want to shut up a newspaper they usually resort to the laws of libel -- but one Mozambican entrepreneur this week thought he could literally buy the silence of the weekly paper 'Zambeze'," according to Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique. "According to 'Zambeze' journalist Luis Nhachote, a businessman of Pakistani origin, Mohamed Macsud Ayoob, on Wednesday sent his employees to the printing company Cegraf to buy all the copies of this week's issue of the paper before it could hit the streets." That didn't accomplish the goal. "'Zambeze' reacted to the sudden demand just by printing more copies, and by Friday morning it was back on the streets."

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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The nation already is skeptical about the fairness and objectivity of the mainstream media regarding election coverage ... so, why in the world is Gwen Ifill the debate moderator, when she is writing a book about Obama? The moderator in a debate ... especially one of this importance and magnitude ... should be seen as completely fair, objective and above reproach. This is a terrible choice, and could easily have been remedied by choosing from hundreds of other more objective potential moderators. I can imagine the outcry if Michelle Malkin, or Ann Coulter was chosen as the moderator for the first Vice Presidential debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden.

Gwen Ifill

Going after Gwen is just too much. Wonder why nobody made a fuss when George Stephanopoulos boy, who used to work for the Clintons, moderated the debate between Obama and Hillary, wherein he and Charlie Gibson asked that politically riveting question of Obama: "Why aren't you wearing a flag pin, my man?" These people make me so freakin' tired! --Audrey Edwards

Gwen's Not Color Blind

I have always thought both Gwen and Juan Williams ( he is worst) go out of their way to be racially noble and give the perception to whites they are colorblind.... I find this posture not only shallow but a intentional applause seeking posture on their parts it does a great disservice to many of us who champion the principle of being true to your voice . Of course as a Black woman Gwen has a personal interest in the Obama story just as the white male moderators have a racial connection with McCain and Palin. To be color blind rejects objective reality. Gwen should not be compelled to deny she is a Black woman with an opinion just to validate and appease white folks or Black apologists. I hope she has the courage to not run away from her footprints and embrace her truths. She was the author of a book which affirms the new Black political paradigm ..I think her theme of the book is wrong but it is her opinion and she should not from from it.....

Gwen Ifill

Let's get one thing clear folks-especially you members of the younger generation who think you are in the vangaurd of a colorblind society: this election is about RACE. Not experience, not "change," not Sarah Palin, not the issues. The closer America comes to the gripping reality that a black person may actually become the most powerful figure in the land, not to mention the world, the more its inherent, visceral and disfunctional preoccupation with skin color oozes to the surface. And in the next 30 days, it's only going to get worse. This attack on Gwen Ifell's integrity is just a foretaste. In the next 30 days, we all--including you younguns--will see what degree of difference there is between the American myth and the American reality. I too, used to think America is better than that. My life's experiences, however, including the "two sets of rules" phenomenon, have disabused me of that wishful thinking. I sincerely hope I'm wrong.

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