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J-Groups Outraged by Jailing

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Tuesday, July 5, 2005

NABJ, ASNE Back Federal Shield Law

New York Times reporter Judith Miller was jailed today for refusing to submit to questioning by a special prosecutor investigating possible wrongdoing by the Bush administration, but Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper avoided jail at the last minute by agreeing to cooperate with the government, as Richard B. Schmitt reported today on the Los Angeles Times Web site.

The jailing prompted outrage from journalism organizations on a day that saw both the National Association of Black Journalists and the American Society of Newspaper Editors support a federal "shield law" to protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources. The Newspaper Guild held two minutes of silent protest in newsrooms around the country and planned vigils and protests today in several Guild cities.

"This is a major setback to freedom of the press," said Rafael Olmeda of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, in an NAHJ statement. "That a reporter can be held accountable for a story that was not even written sends a dangerous message both to journalists and to potential whistleblowers."

NABJ President Herbert Lowe said, "Many journalists, particularly during the civil rights movement, have risked their jobs, their safety and their lives to protect the identity of a source. It is sad that we now need legislation to ensure what has always been a fundamental tenet of a free and open American press."

The NABJ statement noted that "As black journalists, NABJ and its members have a particular interest in these protections," citing the cases of Pierre Thomas, Earl Caldwell and Linn Washington Jr.

Thomas, of ABC News, and three other reporters face $500-a-day fines after the recent ruling by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court that the reporters must answer questions about their confidential sources on their stories about former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee," the NABJ statement said.

"In a case that led to the founding in 1970 of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, then-New York Times reporter Earl Caldwell was ordered to reveal to a federal grand jury his sources in the Black Panther organization, threatening his independence as a newsgatherer.

"More recently, Philadelphia Tribune columnist Linn Washington Jr., along with then-Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden, faced fines of $40,000 each after Pennsylvania courts decided that the state's shield law did not apply. The reporters reluctantly chose last year to turn over their notes," NABJ noted.

The ASNE board has approved a resolution stating: "RESOLVED that the ASNE Board supports the concept of a federal shield law for reporters as embodied in the 'Free Flow of Information Act' [H.R. 581/S. 340] provided that the final draft of such legislation offers sufficient protection against the compelled disclosure of sources without eroding freedom of the press," ASNE announced.

The Los Angeles Times reported: "U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan ordered Judith Miller imprisoned until she agreed to testify in an investigation into the illegal outing of a CIA operative, declaring that the rights of journalists to gather news and protect confidential sources must occasionally yield to the power of prosecutors to demand testimony and investigate crimes.

"Miller's lawyers had contended that the 57-year-old Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter should not be sent to jail because she was exercising her rights under the 1st Amendment. But Hogan said journalists had no greater rights than other citizens when called upon to testify in federal proceedings. Miller faces at least four months in jail unless she agrees to testify.

"Hogan's order culminated an emotional court hearing where the fates of the two journalists took dramatically different turns. While Miller headed for incarceration, Time reporter Matthew Cooper surprised the court by announcing that he would cooperate."

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Memphis Guild: Only 8% Getting Merit Pay Are Black

"Male employees are nearly twice as likely as female employees to get a merit raise, or any pay beyond the traditional annual cost-of-living adjustment," according to a pay survey conducted at the Memphis Commercial Appeal by the Memphis Newspaper Guild.

"Pay disparity is even greater among blacks and whites. Although African Americans comprise slightly less than 30 percent of the employees in the newspaper's 371-member bargaining unit, as few as 8 percent of employees with merit pay are black."

The October survey was conducted amid labor negotiations at the Scripps Howard paper. Management has proposed that a merit-pay system replace a pay scale with guaranteed minimums based on years of service.

Henry Stokes, director of administration and planning for the paper, today called the Guild survey "terribly flawed," and "a snapshot of people who were here at one time" He said there were "minorities and women who are not in the study" and said that it included only current employees.

Asked whether there were no pay disparities between men and women and whites and people of color, Stokes told Journal-isms that, "we're subject to the same historical factors as most every newspaper. . . . I don't see that women and minorities will do any worse" under a merit-pay plan.

Shannon Duffy, who carries the title of "mobilizer" of the Memphis Guild, said the union stood by its study, which was performed by the Washington firm of Labor Bureau, Inc. "They are completely trying to obfuscate" the issue, he said of management. In a survey of the newspaper staff on the merit-pay proposal, he said, 96 percent were "totally opposed to it in any way, shape or form."

The issue of pay disparity has also surfaced at other papers over the years, and has been the basis for lawsuits or complaints to equal employment opportunity commissions.

The Guild unit at the Washington Post found last year that "even within a given single department where contractual pay scales apply uniformly to all, Blacks and Hispanics tend to earn less than their white and Asian counterparts." Leonard Downie Jr., the Post's executive editor, said in December that "the goal is to eliminate the disparity based on race or sex."

Nationally, "We haven't done any formal studies," Debbie Thomas, human rights director for the Newspaper Guild, told Journal-isms. "A lot of times, we can't get that information, unless we get it from the employees, or the company" volunteers it.

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Janet Rollé of VH1 to Head AOL BlackVoices

Janet Rollé, a former vice president at VH1 and onetime marketing and new media director for HBO Home Video, is to be named vice president and general manager of AOL BlackVoices, an AOL spokeswoman confirmed tonight.

[Added July 7: "In this new role, Rollé will be responsible for developing the AOL BlackVoices service across all AOL platforms and products. In addition, Rollé will lead the day-to-day programming activities and set the editorial tone and direction for the African American category, reporting to Bill Wilson, Senior Vice President and General Manager for AOL Programming," the official announcement said Thursday.]

As reported last month, less than six months after shut down its Web site and merged into AOL BlackVoices, the editor of the merged site, Gary Dauphin, resigned and his deputy, Barbranda Lumpkins Walls, left as well.

AOL Black Voices, based at AOL's Dulles, Va., headquarters, represents a merger of AOL's Black Focus;, formerly based in Cambridge, Mass.; and Black Voices, founded in Orlando, Fla., then based in Chicago and acquired by AOL last year from the Tribune Co.

Combining the three cultures has been difficult, staff members said then.

Unlike Dauphin, Rollé does not come from an editorial background. At VH1, where she was named vice president in 2001, she oversaw audio, video, licensing, publishing and radio for VH1 and Country Music Television.

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Black Journalists Said to Be "Exhaling" Too Soon

When Maureen Bunyan was a young reporter in the 1970s at the tail end of the civil rights movement, she looked at her job "as something bigger than myself," the anchor at Washington's WJLA-TV said Tuesday night. She recalled saying then, "I must make a contribution to this movement."

Today, she told the Washington Association of Black Journalists, "I'm afraid that some of us are jumping the gun, and thinking that we can just exhale and party and have a good time."

Bunyan, Dorothy Gilliam, a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Paul Brock, a co-founder of both NABJ and the Washington association, were speaking as NABJ prepares to commemorate its 30th anniversary next month at its Atlanta convention.

As the nearly 4,000-member organization redefines itself in the context of 2005, said Gilliam, "you have to correctly identify the problem: The gap between the haves and the have-nots. You have to wake up the sleeping public, and the sleeping black public. You can tell [the stories of the have-nots] in a way that lets you understand the context in which they live."

The news media, said Bunyan, another co-founder of NABJ, "plays up this division between the haves and have-nots in our community, and promoted a tendency among black journalists to distance themselves from the have-nots. We're not in touch with the people who were left behind," she said.

And while the journalists themselves cannot improve the education, housing, nutrition or safety of those have-nots, "we can make sure the people who can do those things are supported by us though our reports," making sure that the public is aware of the problems, Bunyan said.

The speakers were seeking support for a permanent tribute to Maurice Williams, a 24-year-old reporter for Howard University radio station WHUR-FM who was killed in 1977 as he headed to his beat at Washington's city hall.

He was shot, along with Marion Barry, then city councilman, later mayor, as Hanafi Muslims overran and commandeered the building.

It was that crisis that brought local anchor Max Robinson, who served as a mediator, to national attention; on ABC, he soon became the first African American to regularly anchor a weeknight network newscast.

Gilliam, Brock and Bunyan said creating a fellowship for journalists to study politics in Washington would be an appropriate tribute.

Moreover, Gilliam said, "in honoring Maurice Williams, you also are honoring our foreparents, along with our foremothers, and also those journalists who went before." Williams is "a symbol of the black reporter doing his job," said Bunyan. "It was a shock to think you could actually get killed on the way to work."

Brock said Williams' mother is ailing, but "she will not die until her son is recognized."

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Native Journalists Rip Wall St. Journal, N.Y. Post

"The Native American Journalists Association is asking the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post to become more culturally sensitive after recently publishing articles that carelessly stereotyped Native people," the association said in a news release today.

"Above a June 30 Wall Street Journal article by Brett Duval Fromson about the Shinnecock tribe's recent claim to 3,600 acres on Long Island, the Journal used the demeaning headline, 'Hamptonites on the Warpath.'

"For years, The Associated Press Stylebook has specifically cautioned against the careless use of certain words that - when used out of context - can be offensive. 'Warpath' is on that list."

Robert H. Christie, director of corporate communications for Dow Jones, the paper's parent company, told Journal-isms,"We are not going to comment."

Of the New York Post, NAJA said that in a July 1 column, Ralph Peters, a retired Army officer who writes for the paper, "compared the Taliban to Apache Indians in the following passage: 'Apache raiders would strike in our southwest, then flee across the border to Mexico - just as the Taliban flees into Pakistan. The Apaches remained a local problem for decades, but they never threatened our government's survival. And the Taliban won't return to rule in Kabul. But the Taliban have an ally the Apaches never dreamed of - the media.'

"Peters and the Post should apologize for drawing such a preposterous and offensive analogy," NAJA President Dan Lewerenz said. "The Taliban supported, then helped to hide, a terrorist organization that reached halfway across the world to kill thousands of innocent civilians. The Apaches were defending their homeland - a homeland, I might add, that at times the U.S. government was treaty-bound to protect."

Suzanne Halpin, a spokeswoman for the New York Post, had no immediate comment.

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Bill Clinton to Speak at NABJ Convention

"Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote address at the National Association of Black Journalists, 30th Anniversary Convention and Career Fair in Atlanta, NABJ President Herbert Lowe announced today," the association said.

In 1992, Clinton became the first major U.S. presidential candidate to speak to the organization when he addressed its convention in Detroit. Five years later, in Chicago, he became the first sitting U.S. president to address the association.

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Novelist Terry McMillan Again a Hot Topic

Novelist Terry McMillan is again setting tongues wagging and commentators writing with the revelation that she is seeking a divorce from a young Jamaican man who now says he is gay.

National Public Radio's "News and Notes" with Ed Gordon aired commentaries on successive days, first on Tuesday from Jimi Izrael of AOL Black Voices, then today from Betty Bayé of Kentucky's Louisville Courier-Journal.

"I'm not convinced that the increase of AIDS cases among black women reflects an increase in homosexual activity among black men as much as it suggests an increase in irresponsible sexual behavior among black women--like black women going on vacation and picking up Jamaican cabana boys, for instance," Izrael said. "But it doesn't seem anybody needs an excuse to accuse and abuse black men."

Bayé said McMillan deserved her chance to seek and fail at love: "To Terry McMillan, I say this: You made a mistake. So what? You let your heart lead your head. So what? You bet on love and you lost. So what? It's going to cost you some money to get rid of this boy. So what? You've got it like that. . . . From one woman of a certain age to another, what I know for sure is that no matter how painful it is, living in the truth is an infinitely better place to be than to be living in a lie."

"If half of what McMillan alleges really happened, she should have sent him back to Jamaica on a one-way ticket years ago," Tammerlin Drummond wrote Sunday in California's Contra Costa Times.

Jasmyne Cannick of the Black AIDS Institute opined, "The 'down low' exists because of every deprecating and hateful comment ever made about gays in the workplace, at the dinner table, in line at the grocery store, at the nail shop, on the courts and everywhere else." She urged McMillan to get on with her life.

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Vernon Stone, 75, Tracked Broadcast Diversity

Vernon A. Stone, who tracked the progress of women and people of color in his 22 years of research on television and radio news, died June 15 after complications from surgery. He was 75, the Missourian in Columbia, Mo., reported the next day.

"He was a stickler for data and detail, " Jill Geisler of the Poynter Institute wrote in a letter to Don Fitzpatrick's Shop Talk newsletter today. "I recall that in a 1993 RTNDA careers booklet, he wrote that my 1978 appointment to News Director of WITI in Milwaukee made me the first woman to head a major market network affiliate newsroom in the U.S. Foolishly, I doubted him. How did he know?

"He immediately sent me a copy of his '1975 Directory of Women in Radio and Television News Directors in the United States' which he compiled for RTNDA. He had notes about each of the four, count 'em, four women leading TV newsrooms at the time, including news staff size and affiliate status. That's how he knew. And I never doubted him again."

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Short Takes

  • John Arthur Mogale Maimane, who started his career in the newsroom at South Africa's Drum magazine and became BBC Television's first black journalist, died in London on June 28, the Independent of London reported today. He was 72.
  • "Rosalee Polk Rhodes, 59, of Clementon, a reporter for The Inquirer who enjoyed writing about centenarians, died Friday of cancer at Virtua-West Jersey Hospital Voorhees," Kera Ritter reported Sunday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the National Association of Black Journalists Scholarship Fund."
  • Hodding Carter III steps down on July 18 as president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Alberto Ibargüen, former publisher of the Miami Herald, begins his term that day. Initial plans had called for a longer transition, but Carter suggested shortening the transition time, the foundation announced today.
  • "Too much TV-watching can harm children's ability to learn and even reduce their chances of getting a college degree, three new studies suggest in the latest effort to examine the effects of television on kids," Lindsey Tanner of the Associated Press reported today. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reported in March, African American and Hispanic children are more likely to have televisions in their bedrooms and generally use media more.
  • "Later this month, WVTM-NBC13 will shake up its early morning newscast, 'Today in Alabama,' with sports director Jim Dunaway taking over the anchor spot. He will be joined by former Pittsburgh anchor Gina Redmond," the Birmingham Business Journal reported Tuesday. "Redmond, you may recall, was sentenced to community service in Pittsburgh after pleading no contest to 'bitch slapping' a former WPXI producer, Roberta Petterson, during a station party," the subscription-only NewsBlues site added today.
  • "Ending a six-year partnership with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, WMAQ-Channel 5 has dropped its 'Wednesday's Child' mission to promote adoption," Robert Feder reported today in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The stories of 265 eligible adoptees have been featured. Of those, 90 are reported to have found permanent families, 71 are moving toward placement and 15 are in the pre-placement process."
  • "As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice preaches the gospel of democracy to Latin America, she reaches back to her Alabama roots in the Jim Crow South to make the case for patience with flawed governments," began a story in the Miami Herald Tuesday by Audra D.S. Burch and Pablo Bachelet. "Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is aggressively using her background as an African American to reach out to Latin America's downtrodden," a headline said.
  • "American Media Inc. will add another Spanish-language magazine to its Hispanic division come March 2006, Hombre Actual," Nancy Ayala reported Friday for Marketing y Medios. "But it's not to be seen as following in the footsteps of another AMI male-targeted magazine, Men's Fitness."
  • Author Norman Mailer dismissed criticism from the Asian American Journalists Association as "an excellent example of high-octane political correctness," columnist Lloyd Grove reported Thursday in the New York Daily News. In commenting about Michiko Kakutani, "The 82-year-old novelist . . . in an interview with Rolling Stone called the Japanese-American critic 'a one-woman kamikaze' and 'a token minority hire.'"
  • The St. Louis American won the coveted John B. Russwurm Award for best newspaper at the Chicago convention of the National Newspapers Association, Makebra M. Anderson of the NNPA News Service reported.

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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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