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Jackson Jr.'s Media Counteroffensive

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Thursday, December 11, 2008
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Congressman Seeks to Ward Off Taint of Scandal

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. shocked a Chicago television reporter with his early-morning eagerness to be interviewed.Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., turned to the news media Friday in an effort to save his reputation as he continued his quest to be appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

"Jackson told FOX News on Friday that any reports suggesting that he or other family members tried to offer money" to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich - "in exchange for Blagojevich's appointing Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. to Barack Obama's Senate seat - were based on 'unfounded accusations' and 'rumors,'" Fox News reported.

"'While I would be honored to serve the people of this state, it is clear to me that I am [in] no capacity to serve them if there is a cloud over my head that seems to suggest that I am involved in some unscrupulous scheme to be a United States senator or anything else,' Jackson told CNN's Don Lemon," CNN reported.

On WFLD-TV, the Fox station in Chicago, Anne Kavanagh said of Jackson, "I was shocked when he came up to the truck" before dawn to consent to an interview. Previously, her anchor said, Jackson had been "all lawyered up" and said he could not speak on orders of counsel.

Jackson had reason to worry. Although he has said that federal prosecutors have "shared with me that I am not a target of this investigation, and that I am not accused of any misconduct," the Chicago Tribune reported on Friday:

'Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is shown driving away as Wednesday's Chicago Sun-Times proclaims, 'Shame.'"As Gov. Rod Blagojevich was trying to pick Illinois' next U.S. senator, businessmen with ties to both the governor and U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. discussed raising at least $1 million for Blagojevich's campaign as a way to encourage him to pick Jackson for the job, the Tribune has learned.

"Blagojevich made an appearance at an Oct. 31 luncheon meeting at the India House restaurant in Schaumburg sponsored by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak, a major Blagojevich supporter who also has fundraising and business ties to the Jackson family, according to several attendees and public records," continued the story, by David Kidwell, John Chase and Dan Mihalopoulos.

The reporters wrote that their sources were "two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity.

"Iftekhar Shareef, past president of the influential Federation of Indian Associations, said he attended the Saturday fundraiser for the governor at the invitation of Bedi and Nayak," referring to Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi. "Shareef said the congressman's brother Jonathan also attended," they said.

"Despite the parallels, it could not be determined if the actions outlined by the Tribune were the same as those discussed in the FBI affidavit that accompanied the pay-to-play charges against Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris. But the details, gathered from more than a dozen interviews, make clear that some political operatives were connecting support for Blagojevich to his choice for the Senate seat."

Kavanagh told her Fox Chicago viewers, "it was freezing, it was dark. He offered us coffee. He was eager to talk about a wide range of allegations. He was forthright and answered every question I asked him." In his interview with her, Jackson said, "I am confident that no one on my behalf made a single offer to anyone for anything, and I would not take the post under those circumstances."

Jackson's father, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, has also said he played no role and was not "an emissary" in alleged efforts to make a deal with Blagojevich, as Thomas Giusto and Brian Ross reported on

Meanwhile, the Daily Kos posted a clever "must-read," purportedly leaked, expletive-filled FBI transcript of a conversation between Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, and Blagojevich.

Merida to Lead National Desk at Washington Post

Kevin MeridaKevin Merida, a Maynard Institute graduate and "Journalist of the Year" of the National Association of Black Journalists in 2000, Monday was named assistant managing editor for national news at the Washington Post. He is currently associate editor.

"Kevin is one of the newsroom’s most talented and versatile journalists," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and Managing Editor Philip Bennett said in a staff memo.

"In his 15 years here and before that as an editor and reporter at the Dallas Morning News, Kevin has covered the White House, Capitol Hill and national politics. At The Post, he has worked for National and Style, has written for virtually every section of the paper and for a time wrote a syndicated column. He’s done memorable profiles of people across the political and social spectrum, from Hillary Clinton to the 18-year-old NBA rookie, Tracy McGrady. He has been involved in a number of projects, including the 'Being a Black Man' series, and has co-authored two books, a biography of Clarence Thomas, written with Michael Fletcher, and, most recently, a book on Barack Obama, with the photo historian Deborah Willis. Kevin is one of The Post’s finest writers, and while we will miss his voice, we look forward to seeing how he shares his vision as an editor."

"For now, Kevin will assume control of National as it is constituted. Ultimately, he will have responsibility for how we present national news across platforms. We will work closely with him to develop different structures to ensure that we are agile and responsive to our digital audience and that we preserve the authority, originality and depth of coverage our readers have come to expect from The Post."

Merida, 51, is a 1979 graduate of the Summer Program for Minority Journalists. He succeeds Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who held the job on an interim basis after the widely publicized removal of Susan Glasser in April. Chandrasekaran, best known for his Post coverage of the Iraq war and the resulting book, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City," will "become an associate editor, writing and helping to conceive and direct projects on national-security and related matters," the memo said.

The appointment of Merida is one of the first significant ones to be made by Brauchli, who succeeded Leonard Downie Jr. at the Post three months ago. It comes less than a month after Steven A. Holmes, a veteran black journalist who was deputy national editor for domestic affairs, left to join CNN''s office of standards and practices. Voices of color at the AME level were depleted by one last week with the departure of Deborah Heard, the editor of the Style section, who took a buyout.

"I don't see a contradiction between finding economic efficiency in newsrooms and reducing costs and trying to be diverse," Brauchli, formerly of the Wall Street Journal, told Journal-isms when he was named in July. [Added Dec. 15]


. . . Governor's Contact on Tribune Firings Identified

Nils Larsen "As Tribune Co. acknowledged Thursday that it received a federal subpoena as part of criminal charges against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sources confirmed that a close associate of company chief executive and chairman Sam Zell has been interviewed by the FBI," Todd Lighty and Robert Becker reported Friday for the Chicago Tribune.

"The Tribune also has learned that the associate, Nils Larsen, is the unidentified financial adviser who allegedly was asked to help get Chicago Tribune editorial writers fired.

"Larsen, a Tribune Co. executive vice president, is a 38-year-old financial whiz who was instrumental in Zell's takeover of Tribune Co."

"In their subpoena to the Tribune, federal authorities are seeking memos about potential staff cuts or changes to the Chicago Tribune editorial board, a source said.

"A company spokesman has said that neither Tribune Co. executives nor their advisers did anything inappropriate.

"No Chicago Tribune editorial writers were fired."

Curry Says He's Thinking Twice About Urging J-Career

George Curry"It's been 15 years since I worked for the Chicago Tribune, but this week's announcement that its owners have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection has intensified my concerns about the nation's unemployment woes," veteran journalist George Curry wrote Thursday in the Philadelphia Inquirer. "It's also given me second thoughts about having encouraged hundreds of teenagers to become journalists.

". . . Despite protestations to the contrary, the net result of trying to operate on the cheap is a weakened product. Papers are foolishly eliminating many of the features that attracted readers in the first place. While that might help finances in the short term, it could spell more disaster down the road.

". . . I became a journalist not only because I could write, but also because I thought newspapers did a poor job of covering the poor, and I wanted to help change that. Though there has been some improvement, it looks as if much of that progress is about to be eroded."

CNN Sending Malveaux, Lothian to Obama White House

Dan Lothian and Suzanne Malveaux join a small but growing number of black journalists from the mainstream press covering the White House in the upcoming administration.After covering the presidential campaign, Suzanne Malveaux will return to the White House and will be joined by Dan Lothian, another black journalist, CNN announced on Friday. Lothian has been Boston bureau chief and correspondent.

The appointments add to the small but growing number of black journalists in the mainstream media who will be assigned to the White House for the beginning of the Obama administration. The Associated Press has announced that Darlene Superville will be on its White House team; Wendell Goler of Fox News Channel, currently White House correspondent, said he had not been told his assignment will change; the New York Times has assigned Helene Cooper, the Washington Post is sending Michael Fletcher and will have Nia-Malika Henderson.

Among other journalists of color, Zain Verjee, a native of Kenya who has been CNN's State Department correspondent for the past two years, becomes news anchor for "The Situation Room" and will also file special reports for the program; Christopher Lawrence, a general assignment correspondent in CNN's Chicago and Los Angeles bureaus, becomes a Pentagon correspondent; and "Elaine Quijano shifts from the White House to general assignment correspondent to cover other Beltway issues."

CNN said Ed Henry, who has covered the Obama transition, will become senior White House correspondent after covering the past two years of the George W. Bush White House and spending two years as CNN's congressional correspondent.

CBS News has named Chip Reid chief White House correspondent and ABC News has appointed Jake Tapper as senior White House correspondent.













Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama, left, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards at a debate in Las Vegas on Jan. 16. They share a laugh with their questioners from NBC News, the late Tim Russert and Brian Williams. (Credit: MSNBC)

Obama's Chief: Clinton Worried Too Much About Press

David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign chairman, says part of the reason Obama triumphed over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary season was that the Clinton campaign spent too much time worrying about the press.

In an interview with Lloyd Grove of Portfolio magazine, Plouffe was asked whether Clinton had an Achilles' heel.

"Just that the country was looking for change and that Obama represented change more than she did, and it became clear as the campaign went on, that they probably didn't have as good a grasp about how this would unfold as we did," Plouffe said.

"They ran much more of a national campaign, much more concerned about what the national press had to say. We were much more driven by what was happening in Iowa, New Hampshire, or Wisconsin.

"The press narrative of the day was important to them. We were surprised," Plouffe, 41, said at another point.

Grove said, "You personally had a limited degree of contact with reporters."

"I did talk to reporters, but only when we thought it served a purpose," Plouffe replied. "I did plenty of it, but I didn't spend my day on the phone with reporters, unless our press folks or I thought it served a purpose.

Grove: "At one point during the primaries, you sent out a memo which had a great impact, and what you said was, that it was virtually impossible for Hillary to catch up.

Plouffe: "Yeah, we did that in mid-February, and I did a conference call with reporters. That was out of character for the campaign, and for me, because we were fairly provocative. We thought the race was not being covered in an accurate fashion. It was being covered as a dead heat, and the reality was, we had turned a corner on the campaign, where it was extraordinarily unlikely that we would not win.

"So we thought it was important to send that message to the press, and to the superdelegates, at that point it was more and more about superdelegates. And we needed it to take hold — in fact, this was not a tied race, we had gained a foothold that was going to be very hard to shake loose."

Meanwhile, Foreign Policy magazine published "The 10 Worst Predictions for 2008."

Heading the list was this one from William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, uttered on "Fox News Sunday" on Dec. 17, 2006:

"If [Hillary Clinton] gets a race against John Edwards and Barack Obama, she's going to be the nominee. Gore is the only threat to her, then. … Barack Obama is not going to beat Hillary Clinton in a single Democratic primary. I'll predict that right now."













In Johnson Publishing's deal with Google, Black World and Ebony Jr. are "hidden jewels."

Now You Can Google Archived Johnson Magazines

Johnson Publishing Co. has announced a partnership with Google in which, "through Google Book Search, anyone can search the covers and content of Ebony and Jet and the defunct Negro Digest and Ebony Jr. "and see the original pages, in their full context and in full color," Eric Easter wrote Friday on

"For now you can view issues of Ebony from 1960 until 2007, all the issues of Jet since its launch in 1951, issues of Black World/Negro Digest after 1960 and all the issues of Ebony Jr. Pre-1960 issues of Ebony and Negro Digest will come later, but we're going to need your help in uncovering some rare issues. We'll be announcing that project at a later date.

"We all know Ebony and Jet, but also take a look at the hidden jewels in this collection — Negro Digest and Ebony Jr. These are lost treasures containing critical social and political writing done by some of the most famous thinkers of their — and any — time."

Easter joined Johnson two years ago as chief of digital strategy, arriving from Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive. "It's a major deal, something I've been working on since I got here," he told friends.

The Johnson publications are the first and only African American magazines participating in Google's initial efforts to digitize magazines, the company said.

Conservative Talker Larry Elder Off the Radio

Larry ElderLarry Elder, the black conservative talk-show host whose program was syndicated by ABC Radio Networks from 2002 to 2007, broadcast his last show on his home station, KABC-AM in Los Angeles, on Friday.

"Elder's reportedly lucrative contract was up for renewal. Although no one would say, the tone of the announcements suggested KABC wanted to keep Elder, but today's business economics did not make that possible," Gary Lycan wrote Thursday in the Orange County (Calif.) Register.

"Known as 'The Sage of South Central,' Elder has been with KABC since March, 1994. He has also flirted with TV, filling in on MSNBC cable and hosting his own show 'Moral Court,'" Lycan wrote.

Elder, 56, told listeners, "I am looking forward to the other opportunities ahead of me, and I will post them on my web site,, when I'm ready to announce them. In the meantime, rest assured I'll still be fighting the good fight, and I won't back down."

Elder was No. 67 on the 2008 "Heavy Hundred" list of radio talk-show hosts compiled by Talkers magazine.

"Although he's sharp, well-informed and engaging, Elder often toes the well-worn conservative party line on such topics as taxes, crime and politics. But such a stance coming from an African-American makes the novelty value of his show high," Fred Shuster wrote in 1999 for the Los Angeles Daily News.

"On other stations, such views are usually trumpeted by old white guys."

Short Takes

  • "There is mounting anger at the US military's refusal to free a Reuters photojournalist ‚Äî despite a release order by an Iraqi court. A military spokesman told Reuters that Ibrahim Jassam Mohammed would be freed after the end of the year, depending on his 'threat level'," Roy Greenslade wrote Thursday in his media blog for Britain's Guardian newspaper.
  • "Jasiri Whipper, a reporter at The Post and Courier, died early this morning. Whipper, 24, succumbed to injuries sustained after being struck by a vehicle Jasiri Whipperon Interstate 95 in Florence County," Jill Coley wrote for the Charleston, S.C., newspaper. "Whipper is the son of state Rep. Seth Whipper and Carrie Whipper, and he is the grandson of Lucille Simmons Whipper, who served for 10 years in the S.C. House. . . . The 24-year-old reporter covered North Charleston and Berkeley County community news for The Post and Courier. He is a 2002 graduate of the Charleston County School of the Arts and holds a bachelor's degree in English from Morehouse College in Atlanta."

  • Doug Mitchell's Facebook page is piling up messages of encouragement, gratitude and solidarity after the news that Mitchell, who has trained scores of students of color as founder of National Public Radio's Next Generation Project, is being laid off. "Hey Doug, I know you have WAY more comments than you'll probably read, but I just wanted to say ‚Äî this sucks! I've told you this before, but you are one of the few people who really made me feel comfortable at NPR. When I saw the Native books on your wall, I knew I wasn't alone. You are an advocate and teacher to so many people. You'll be missed big time!" read one comment. "Doug would like to deeply thank everyone for their support. One step back, two steps forward," Mitchell replied at one point. He has said he will continue to work with the journalist organizations at their summer conventions.
  • Jeffrey Ballou, Washington-based deputy news editor of Al Jazeera English, was elected this week to the Radio-Television Correspondents Association Executive Committee, coming in third among six candidates, the association announced on Friday. The top four vote-getters win a two year term on the committee. Like the White House Correspondents Association, the group is best known for its annual dinner. Also elected were Peter Slen of C-SPAN, Jill Jackson of CBS and Chad Pergram of Fox.
  • Wilson Morales of, a film blogger for AOL Black Voices, will be president of the African-American Film Critics Association for 2009, the organization announced. Morales was one of the founders of the group in 2003.
  • Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell asks of the Republican Party, "Can we continue to listen to Rush Limbaugh? Is this really the kind of party that we want to be when these kinds of spokespersons seem to appeal to our lesser instincts rather than our better instincts?" CNN's Fareed Zakaria interviewed Powell, a Republican, for his "GPS" show, which airs Sunday. Talk-radio host Limbaugh was among the right-wingers who disparaged Powell in September when he endorsed Democrat Barack Obama for president. Limbaugh said it was "all about race" for the two African Americans.
  • An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked Americans their favorite politicians of each party, Chuck Todd, NBC News political director, said on "NBC Nightly News" on Wednesday. "The favorite ‚Äî the top-rated Republican and the top-rated Democrat, neither one of them are white. Both of them African Americans. Condoleezza Rice leaves with very high approval ratings among Republicans; and Barack Obama, of course, is the country's most popular Democrat," Todd said.
  • Jeanne Mariani-BeldingThe Asian American Journalists Association added its voice to those urging news industry leaders to consider the value of diversity when making cutbacks. Jeanne Mariani-Belding, AAJA's national president, said, "Demand for the news we produce depends on how relevant our coverage is to our audience," an AAJA release said on Wednesday.
  • "Time Warner Inc. says Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes is replacing Richard Parsons as chairman of the board," the Associated Press reported. "Parsons will step down Dec. 31 and Bewkes will take his place the next day. The move was widely expected. Bewkes took over from Parsons as chief executive in January."
  • "During a conference last month hosted by the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), reporters and bloggers assessed the coming inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama, who has vowed to make technology a priority in his administration, and considered how black journalism might fit into the new digital era," Talia Whyte wrote for the Bay State Banner. "With more writers blogging and more readers consuming online content, the $64,000 question has become: Should the traditional media call it a day?"
  • Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr. said Thursday he is "exploring his legal options" after enduring daily verbal attacks from WCHB-AM "News Talk 1200" personality Mildred Gaddis, saying her political commentary is approaching "character assassination and slander," Christine MacDonald and Leonard N. Fleming reported Friday in the Detroit News. "He said Gaddis is fixated on criticizing his wife, Kimberly, and the alleged role she has in the mayor's office."
  • Jason Whitlock, Kansas City Star sports columnist, is being attacked in the blogosphere over a column some are calling anti-Catholic. "There's a theory in football that the key to playing defense begins and ends with stopping the run," wrote Whitlock. "Pretty much no one questions the premise. It's sort of like questioning Mary's virginity. You mention the rumors you heard about her and Joseph at Noah's Party Cove bash, and you're likely to be escorted out of church by force." The column ran on Dec. 8, the day of the Roman Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
  • "Ten years ago on Saturday, the bullet-ridden bodies of investigative journalist Norbert Zongo and three friends were found in Zongo's burned-out car outside the capital of Burkina Faso," Mohamed Keita wrote for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The 10th anniversary of Zongo's unsolved assassination will pass with his killers still at large; a judge dismissed charges in 2006 against the only suspect in the case. Nevertheless, Zongo's widow, colleagues, and human rights activists are using the occasion to demand justice."

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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Thinking twice about urging J-career

I'm urging my students to pursue journalism careers. About 10 percent of my freshman and sophomores are in the print sequence; the rest are about evenly split between broadcast journalism and public relations. This week I told my intro to mass media students that the social contract changed. For my generation of the '70s and '80s, we were to go to college, do earnest work and then there would be work [and mission, journalism is a calling, right?] at institutions like Gannett, Knight-Ridder, Tribune and the TV networks and affiliates. Today unfortunately those companies are under siege like buidings under attack in Baghdad, Kabul and Mumbai. Yet unequivocally, I urge students to pursue journalism. Yes, newsrooms will be much smaller compared to what us old heads were accustomed to in the '80s and '90s. My job then is to prepare students to be multiplatformed, able to write, report, edit and design, whether the medium is online, digital video [on-air is sooo pre February 2009], or something else that's gonna hit us next month. And it's very likely these aspiring professionals will own these small businesses. What stays constant is journalism practice -- curiousity, persistence, and that odd instinct to run toward trouble when everyone else is running away, to paraphrase an award-winning foreign correspondent. Most of my students appear to be pursing media careers. At least a dozen out of the 130 I teach each school year are passionate about civic minded, watchdog journalism. Those young women and men warm my heart and convince me this is no time to lower the flag.

Thinking twice about urging J-career (Lewis Diuguid)

It is imperative that students of color continue to be directed by us old heads into journalism. We are getting beat up, pushed around and pushed out of this profession. But we were never fully wanted or welcomed. This is the cycle and the game. Every generation of blacks has been through the difficult times on back to slavery, and Lord knows they had it far worse than we have. But the pipeline into these journalism jobs must be fed now with new generations of word warriors so that when hiring starts to occur there will be qualified journalists of color to step in and fill the positions. Even in the 21st century, no one can tell our story better than we can. To back up now from that commitment is the worst possible thing any of us could ever do. Lewis Diuguid Author of "Discovering the Real America: Toward a More Perfect Union"

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