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IRS Scandal "Not So Black-and-White"

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Updated May 16, 2013

Investigative Journalist Says Context Is Missing

Shield Law Talk Revived Amid Uproar Over AP Phone Records

Black Columnists Bailey, Drummond Awarded Nieman Fellowships

Emcee at Al Neuharth Service Is . . . Al Neuharth


. . . Duke Answered Journalism Call "With Wisdom, Grace"

ESPN: "Personal" Views Didn't Belong in Gay Discussion

Sam Davis Named Baltimore Sun's AME for News

Whites 79% of All Guests on Cable News Shows

Short Takes


Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. testifies Wednesday before the House Judiciary Committee. (C-SPAN video)

Investigative Journalist Says Context Is Missing

"The burgeoning 'scandal' over how the IRS chose for review 75 applicants for tax-exempt status puts on full display an unfortunate tendency in journalism — to quote people accurately without explaining the underlying context," David Cay Johnston wrote Wednesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

"Yes, it is as wrong for IRS employees to select groups to scrutinize based on their names as it is for police to stop and frisk young people based on the color of their skin. Still, the facts here are not so black-and-white as with racial profiling."

President Obama, saying Wednesday that he was "angry" at IRS officials who inappropriately targeted conservative groups for scrutiny, announced that his administration had sought and accepted Steven Miller's resignation as interim commissioner of the IRS, Michael O'Brien reported for NBC News.

Meanwhile, "Georgetown University professor and MSNBC contributor Michael Eric Dyson revealed on MSNBC's Now on Wednesday that he has been the target of political intimidation by the Internal Revenue Service during the administration of President George W. Bush," Noah Rothman reported for Mediaite. "Dyson claimed that, after criticizing Bush on television for his government's response to Hurricane Katrina, he was audited for five consecutive years by the IRS. . . ."

Also, Joy-Ann Reid wrote for the Grio: "NAACP members and leaders watching the excitement over the IRS' alleged targeting of Tea Party groups might be wondering where the outrage was in 2004, when the IRS, then during the George W. Bush administration, not only targeted the NAACP for extra scrutiny, they hit them with the tool that has made Americans fear the revenue agency most: an audit. . . ."

In his Columbia Journalism Review piece, Johnston, president of Investigative Reporters and Editors and a specialist in tax and regulatory law, continued, "There is a scandal in all of this — several, actually, and some are more significant than the one that is getting all the attention. As the story unfolds, here are some important points to keep in mind:

  • "Missing from much coverage is the relevant recent history — the role of the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision and how it prompted a deluge of requests from new organizations seeking tax-exempt status under tax code Section 501(c)(4) as 'social welfare' organizations — despite the fact that many of these are blatantly political operations.

  • "Congress requires [PDF] the IRS to review every application for tax-exempt status to weed out organizations that are partisan, political, or that generate private gain. Congress has imposed this requirement on the IRS, and its predecessor agencies, since 1913.

  • "When it comes to 501(c)(4) organizations, what the IRS is supposed to do is draw a distinction between groups that are 'primarily engaged' in politics and groups that really are primarily engaged in 'social welfare' — somehow 'promoting the common good and social welfare of the community.' It's kind of mushy. Brad Plumer has a good explainer about this on The Washington Post's Wonkblog.

  • "The first scandal here, meanwhile, is that the social welfare tax exemption is being used by existing 501(c)(4) organizations, including some very large ones, to promote partisan political interests — the very activity Congress has explicitly prohibited for a century. The New York Times, after a weak political piece on Saturday, had a clear and useful explainer about this on Tuesday.

  • "Also worth pointing out: None of the organizations that the IRS scrutinized as a result of the ill-considered screening-by-name regime was denied tax exempt status.

  • "The second — and widely ignored — scandal in this unfolding story is that the IRS is drowning. Congress is demanding that the agency do more and more with less and less, as we have reported here and elsewhere . . . . "

Other commentary:

Shield Law Talk Revived Amid Uproar Over AP Phone Records

"Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he plans to reintroduce the Free Flow of Information Act, the federal shield law bill that twice passed the Congress over the past few years before being stalled in the Senate," John Eggerton reported Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable.

"That move was prompted by the Department of Justice's seizure of AP reporter and editor phone records, according to AP, without informing the news operation.

"At a Justice Department oversight hearing with attorney general Eric Holder, Conyers said he was 'troubled by the notion that our government would pursue such a broad array of media phone records over such a long period of time.' . . ."

Media organizations were nearly unanimous in denouncing the Justice Department's action.

Black Columnists Bailey, Drummond Awarded Nieman Fellowships

Issac Bailey, metro columnist and senior writer for the Sun News in Myrtle Beach, S.C., and Tammerlin Drummond, metro columnist for the Oakland Tribune/Bay Area News Group, have been chosen for the Nieman fellowship class of 2014 at Harvard University, the program announced on Thursday.

"We had 126 U.S. applicants for Nieman Fellowships this year. Of the 12 American journalists chosen for the fellowship, two are African American and one is Iranian-American," Ellen Tuttle, a spokeswoman for the program, told Journal-isms by email. "As you may recall from past years, not all candidates identify their ethnicity when applying."

Last year, the program chose an incoming class devoid of African Americans.

Bailey and Drummond are African Americans. However, Tuttle said the program had not secured permission from the applicants to identity them by race or ethnicity.

The John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program at Stanford University topped its own fellowship diversity record last year, when seven of its 13 U.S. fellows were people of color. Next year there will be eight of 12, the program announced last month. 

The Knight-Wallace Fellows program at the University of Michigan chose four journalists of color for its 12 slots.

Bailey is the author of the 2008 collection "Proud. Black. Southern. (But I Still Don't Eat Watermelon in Front of White People.") He "will study the intersection of race, sports and the economy in the American South, with a goal of using the research to understand efforts to battle illiteracy and improve cross-racial understanding in the region. He is the 2014 Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow in Community Journalism," the Nieman announcement said.

Drummond, daughter of veteran journalist William J. Drummond, a professor at the Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, is a 1985 graduate of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education's Summer Program for Minority Journalists. She "will study urban gun violence as a public health emergency, prevention strategies and practices and ways that digital platforms can be used to disseminate information in urban communities plagued by gun homicides and other violent crimes."

The class will also include Susie Banikarim, a network television and video producer; Tyler Cabot, articles editor at Esquire; Leslie Hook, Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times; Alison MacAdam, senior editor of NPR’s "All Things Considered"; Ravi Nessman, South Asia bureau chief for the Associated Press; Tim Rogers, editor of the Nicaragua Dispatch; Rachel Emma Silverman, a management reporter at the Wall Street Journal; Wendell Steavenson, Jerusalem-based staff writer for the New Yorker; Dina Temple-Raston, counterterrorism correspondent for NPR; and Jeffrey R. Young, senior editor and writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education. [Added May 16.]

In a video, Al Neuharth, the late Gannett Co. CEO, introduces his memorial service Wednesday

Emcee at Al Neuharth Service Is . . . Al Neuharth

Who better to know how Al Neuharth would want to be remembered — and celebrated — than Al Neuharth?

And so Neuharth, who led the Gannett Co., founded USA Today and became the CEO of both the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, planned his own memorial celebration. The second installment took place Wednesday at the Newseum — "the house that Al built," in the words of his colleague Charles Overby, who succeeded him as chairman and CEO of the Freedom Forum, for an audience of about 500.

It was dubbed the "Celebration-capade" by Overby and the "Funeral-capade" by another compadre, John Seigenthaler, former editor of the Tennessean in Nashville and USA Today's first editorial page editor. They were references to the "buscapade," "jetcapade" and other "-capades" that Neuharth took around the world, filing reports for USA Today readers as he traveled.

The service opened with a 10-minute, high-definition video in which Neuharth recounted some highlights of his life, including a "-capade" interview with Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, whom he called "the toughest, meanest and perhaps the smartest foreign leader I've known."

Castro asked Neuharth whether it was true that USA Today had lost money, and if so, where he got the money to pay its bills. When Neuharth replied that it was with the profits from other Gannett properties, Castro proclaimed that they had something else in common: socialism. Neuharth diplomatically exclaimed "touché!" and was rewarded with a lengthy conversation.

Allen H. Neuharth led the newspaper industry in championing diversity and made it possible for Robert C. Maynard to become the first African American publisher of a mainstream newspaper. He died April 19 at his home in Cocoa Beach, Fla., at 89.

His insistence on diversity and his belief in following one's dreams despite the naysayers were never far from the list of attributes his devotees recalled for the audience.

Madelyn Jennings, retired senior vice president of personnel at the Gannett Co. and co-chair of the Executive Committee of the Freedom Forum, referred to the recent "42" film about Jackie Robinson's integration of Major League Baseball. "Al was our Branch Rickey, but better looking," Jennings said, referring to the Brooklyn Dodgers owner who guided Robinson into history.

"Long before Sheryl Sandberg, he was championing women," said Judy Woodruff of PBS, a Freedom Forum board member who secured Neuharth's support in creating the International Women's Media Foundation in 1990. Sandberg is the author of the current best-selling "Lean In," about women and mentoring. "For you guys, I'm glad there was affirmative action," Woodruff joked.

Six graduates of the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Scholars program, displaying multiple ethnicities, expressed gratitude for the professional boost Neuharth's program had given them. "He taught me that words are only as useful as they are easy to understand," one said.

Neuharth appeared again at the end of the 90-minute service. "I'm still around," he said from the screen. "Does that make you wonder whether you'll ever be rid of me?" For a final five minutes, Neuharth imparted more of the lessons life taught him.

They were neatly packaged into a 50-page, pocket-sized book of aphorisms printed on the pumpkin-colored paper used for his infamous notes to staffers. "See the glass half-full, not half empty," page 41 read. "Honk your own horn," it said on page 42.

The "celebration-capade" began Tuesday at the Florida Today building in Cocoa Beach, Fla., and continues Friday at his alma mater, the University of South Dakota.

. . . Duke Answered Journalism Call "With Wisdom, Grace"

By Jeannine F. Hunter

As a crowd heavy with Gannett, Newseum and Freedom Forum executives honored Allen H. Neuharth at the Newseum Wednesday night, a gathering similarly populated by current and former black journalists paid tribute to reporter and editor Lynne Duke blocks away at the Washington Post building.

Lynne Duke

Joined by Duke's former Post colleagues and family friends, they called her courageous, tenacious, bold and compassionate, a dynamo whose tiny feet left big footprints.

"Lynne Duke cared, and she made the rest of us care,” Leonard Downie Jr., former Washington Post executive editor, told the crowd of more than 200. A woman who once aspired to a career in dance and theater, she "wrote as gracefully as she moved," deftly and sensitively showcasing the dignity of ordinary people living extraordinary lives, Downie said.

Described in the program as a "journalist who brought an emotional clarity to the most trenchant stories," Duke died April 19 at age 56 after battling lung cancer, as Adam Bernstein reported in the Post. The Los Angeles native worked at the Post from 1987 to 2008, "retiring as an editor in the Style section after assignments reporting from Johannesburg and New York," Bernstein reported. She was the paper's first African American female foreign correspondent.

Jackson Diehl, the Post's deputy editorial page editor, supervised Duke as foreign editor. The "Duke of Africa" captured the pulse and spirit of the people in her dispatches, he said. They included expert coverage of the conflicts in the Congo and resulted in her 2003 memoir "Mandela, Mobutu, and Me: A Newswoman's African Journey."

The New York Times' Marcus Mabry, editor-at-large at the Times' International Herald Tribune, worked in southern Africa as bureau chief for Newsweek while Duke was the Post's Johannesburg bureau chief. She "made an impression on Africa," said Mabry, her "little brother." He said Duke reminded him of another woman's affected and influenced by Africa. He read that writer's poem, "Phenomenal Woman," the work of Maya Angelou. But Duke did not suffer fools, Mabry added. A white woman in Africa who asked whether white women or black men had a tougher time on the continent was told, "I don't discuss race with white people," Mabry recalled.

Duke began her career at the Miami Herald after graduating in 1985 from Columbia University’s journalism school. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a 1987 feature about life at a public housing project overrun by the crack cocaine epidemic.

She stood just under 5 feet tall, but "when she stood up for the values she held dear, Lynne Duke was at least 8 feet tall," said her husband of 13 years, Phillip Dixon, a former Post city editor who chaired the journalism department at Howard University and held editing positions at the Los Angeles Times and Philadelphia Inquirer.

In addition to Dixon, Duke's survivors include her father, Hubert Duke; her mother, Constance Duke-Allston; a brother, Gbonde Duke and two sisters, Charlene Duke-Simpson and Karen Duke; and a stepson, Phillip Charles Dixon, and stepdaughter Jessica Dixon.

ESPN analyst Chris Broussard's mistake was offering "personal comments," accord

ESPN: "Personal" Views Didn't Belong in Gay Discussion

"Just over two weeks after Chris Broussard, who covers the NBA for ESPN, made controversial comments about the NBA player who had announced that he is gay, the network’s president said it erred in its coverage," Cindy Boren reported Wednesday for the Washington Post.

" 'I think we did great other than we made one mistake: The mistake was not being more careful with Chris Broussard, and there is a collective responsibility there,' John Skipper said (via Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch) Tuesday at ESPN's upfront presentation in New York. 'Chris Broussard's job was to come on ['Outside the Lines'] and talk about the news of the league, how the league was representing it, and through a series of events he made personal comments, which was a mistake."

Deitsch tweeted, "I asked Skipper if he spoke to Broussard and the producers of Outside The Lines:

"I had a discussion with everybody. They said, 'Look, we brought [ESPN.com columnist] LZ Granderson [who is gay] on to talk from a personal point of view, and we brought Chris on as a reporter and it was a mistake for him to cross the line into a personal point of view there.' We don't quarrel with his right to have any personal point of view, although we do assert as a company that we have a tolerant point of view, we are a diverse company, and that does not represent what our company thinks."

As Scott Collins reported at the time in the Los Angeles Times, Broussard, a basketball analyst and former New York Times writer, was discussing NBA player Jason Collins, "who in a landmark move just became the first active player in one of the major pro sports to come out as gay. Collins revealed his sexual orientation in a first-person Sports Illustrated story.

" 'I'm a Christian. I don't agree with homosexuality,' Broussard said. 'I think it's a sin, as I think all sex outside of marriage between a man and a woman is.

" 'If you're openly living in unrepentant sin ... that's walking in open rebellion to God and to Jesus Christ,' he added.

"He also expressed some irritation that those who disapprove of homosexuality are, he says, labeled as intolerant and bigoted."

The Broussard incident is not the first time ESPN has had trouble determining the bounds of discourse on its talk shows.

In January, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald wrote, "In the wake of Rob Parker's racially insensitive comments about Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, Skipper said he's creating a new checks-and-balances system to prevent this type of embarrassment from happening again on ESPN's First Take and other studio programs. And he wants the debate among Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless to be spirited but thoughtful, not outrageous. . . ."

Jackson further quoted Skipper: " 'It's a debate show and we get a lot of criticism for it,' Skipper said. 'I personally don’t have any problem with doing a debate. You just have to figure out where you walk the line [between] being provocative and stepping over it and saying something stupid. We've done that once or twice on this show. We’re going to add more checks and balances.'

"How tough is it to find that line? 'Apparently, pretty tough.'

Some Facebook fans agreed.

One said recently:

"So how many sports commentators have commented approvingly of Collins coming out? Are they any more qualified to judge upon it than Broussard? Or is Broussard not allowed to bring his non secular view to the table when everyone else if free to bring their secular one?"

Another added: "I do think that Chris' comments were well within the context of a show that is about issues beyond x's and o's."

Asked how Skipper would respond to those fans, ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz referred Journal-isms to Skipper's most recent remarks and ESPN's original statement calling what Broussard said a "distraction."

Sam Davis Named Baltimore Sun's AME for News

Sam Davis

Sam Davis, a 33-year veteran of the Baltimore Sun, has been named assistant managing editor for news.

Trif Alatzas, who became senior vice president and executive editor in March, said in a staff memo:

"In this role, Sam will oversee our daily coverage and serve as our A1 editor to ensure that our news offerings are urgent, compelling and engaging. He will supervise our editors in sports, features and visuals. Sam also will continue to work with me in overseeing the newsroom's financial budget. Sam joined The Sun in 1980 as a sports clerk and moved up the ladder as a sports reporter, sports editor, AME for sports and most recently as our A1 editor and director of administration. He will report to me and oversee much of the day-to-day news gathering across the room."

Davis started his new job last week. He was page one editor/director of administration, and before that had also been assistant managing editor for recruitment and staff development.

Whites 79% of All Guests on Cable News Shows

"Tune in to any cable news network in the evening hours and chances are that, no matter the topic, you'll be watching a white guy," Rob Savillo reported Tuesday for Media Matters for America. "Our recent study of diversity on 13 evening cable news shows revealed that white men were hosted 58 percent of the time during April 2013. And this is as true today as it was five years ago.

"Back in 2008, we conducted a similar study of evening cable news shows for the month of May, and we found nearly identical results.

"Ethnic diversity has improved slightly. In May 2008, white people made up 84 percent of all guests, but that has dropped a bit to 79 percent for last month."

Savillo added, "The proportions of non-white guests, though, rose for all three networks. But most of the gains happened on MSNBC, where the proportion of non-white guests increased from 17 percent to 27 percent. By contrast, Fox only increased by 5 points, and CNN only increased by 2 points.

"While we see some small improvement in ethnic diversity between these two snapshots nearly five years apart, all three networks still have a long way to go. National discussion on evening cable news shows still remains primarily the domain of whites and men."

Short Takes

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Comments

Media Whinners

I have little pity or interest in the tale with the media's concerns arising out of the inflated AP phone saga which now has some in Congress seeking to legislate some type of shield law for the media. My rant with the media is decades old and wide from the media's willingness to be a propaganda conduit for the government to its racist portrayal of Black folks for centuries. The media remains an underachieving proposition full of failed opportunities and overrated personalities. A industry that continues to betray its potential awesome responsibility.

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