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JFK Cemented Ties With Blacks

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Journalists Shared in Determined Hope of the Era

Kennedy Wooed Ebony, Jet Publisher John H. Johnson

Al Ortiz, CBS News Exec, Assigned to Investigate Misstep

Al Jazeera America Ratings Too Low to Be Reported

Armstrong Williams Wins OK to Purchase Two TV Stations

Like It or Not, David Gregory's Going to Say "Obamacare"

Rapper Kendrick Lamar Boycotting GQ Over Compliment

USA Today Revises "Race-Themed" Headline on "Best Man"

Short Takes

President John F. Kennedy speaks at a news conference on April 12, 1961, in the

Journalists Shared in Determined Hope of the Era

Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, it's easy for some to dismiss his brief presidency, as conservative commentator Brit Hume did on "Fox News Sunday." Hume, a senior political analyst for FOX News Channel, said of Kennedy on Sunday, "despite the thinness of the record . . . he has been the subject of the most successful public relations campaign in political history. . . . it is a legend bordering, I think, on myth."

But Kennedy's ties with blacks and Latinos were no myth during those tumultuous years when the civil rights movement was gaining steam and African Americans, particularly, were seeking allies in the White House. Black journalists, some of whom were in the trenches covering the movement of which they were necessarily a part, shared in that hope.

"Even though he would leave no new civil rights laws as his legacy," Simeon Booker, the retired longtime correspondent for Ebony and Jet magazines, wrote this year in his autobiography, "Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement," "JFK nevertheless captured the heart of black America, becoming the best-loved chief executive in history.

"Applauded for appointing Negroes to high offices, Kennedy went even further, breaking down many racial barriers in informal ways. He probably hosted more blacks at White House events than had ever entered the mansion in all previous administrations combined. His appointment of top black leaders including the NAACP's top lawyer, Thurgood Marshall, whom he named to the federal bench, for awhile had some blacks wondering if the new president was actually trying to stall the civil rights movement by a brain drain of its key resources. . . .

"These and other things so entwined with his personality enhanced JFK's standing in the black community, just as they established a new code of race relations for the administration. As many blacks saw it, 'Lincoln freed us, FDR gave us jobs, and JFK gave us pride in ourselves.' "

Something similar happened with Latinos, according to Nadra Kareem Nittle's essay, "The Chicano Movement: Brown and Proud," published on the race relations page of

"Prior to the 1960s . . . Latinos lacked influence in the national political arena," she wrote. "That changed when the Mexican American Political Association worked to elect John F. Kennedy president in 1960, establishing Latinos as a significant voting bloc.

"After Kennedy was sworn into office, he showed his gratitude toward the Latino community by not only appointing Hispanics to posts in his administration but also by considering the concerns of the Hispanic community. As a viable political entity, Latinos, particularly Mexican Americans, began demanding that reforms be made in labor, education and other sectors to meet their needs."

Consider these black journalists who went to work in the Kennedy administration:

  • Andrew Hatcher, a former editor of the San Francisco Sun-Reporter who had worked in the Adlai Stevenson presidential campaigns of 1952 and 1956, was named associate White House press secretary, the first African American to hold the position. He pressed on "in a climate of hostile whites," Ebony magazine wrote, after he issued a news release that misspelled the name of Tufts University.

  • Louis E. Martin, editor of the Chicago Defender from 1947 to 1959, became an adviser to Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter and was deputy chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 1960 to 1969. Martin "was able to wield considerable influence inconspicuously," the New York Times wrote in his obituary, as when he helped persuade Kennedy to place a telephone call to Coretta Scott King to express dismay over the jailing of her husband, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., during the 1960 presidential campaign.

  • Carl T. Rowan, who would become the pre-eminent black columnist of subsequent decades, left the Minneapolis Tribune to become deputy assistant secretary of state for public affairs. In his 1991 "Breaking Barriers: A Memoir," Rowan described how, with both men using blunt language, he persuaded Kennedy to soften proposed guidelines that would bar American reporters from traveling on U.S. helicopters to battle areas in Vietnam. The proposal arose after a journalist who accompanied U.S. advisers angered the administration by reporting growing American involvement in the war against the Viet Cong. Rowan was later appointed ambassador to Finland.

  • Alice Allison Dunnigan, Washington reporter for Associated Negro Press, a national black news service, became the first African American accredited to cover Congress in 1947. But she could not survive forever on an Associated Negro Press salary, and when Kennedy won the presidential nomination in 1960, she went to work as a press aide for him. Dunnigan was inducted posthumously this year into the Hall of Fame of the National Association of Black Journalists.

  • Samuel F. Yette, author of "The Choice: The Issue of Black Survival in America" and journalism professor, reporter, photojournalist and Newsweek's first black Washington correspondent, became the Peace Corps' press liaison for director Sargent Shriver's visit to Africa in 1963. Yette left the Dayton (Ohio) Journal-Herald, where in 1962 he became its first black reporter. At Rowan's recommendation, Yette was appointed executive secretary of the Peace Corps in 1964, moving on to special assistant for civil rights to the director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, a position he held until 1967. The Peace Corps, created in 1961, was one of Kennedy's signature domestic achievements.

Ted Poston of the New York Post, then a liberal paper, was one of few black journalists covering the 1960 presidential campaign for a mainstream newspaper. His friendship with Robert C. Weaver enabled him to be the first to report that Kennedy would appoint Weaver to "the highest federal post ever held by a Negro . . . Administrator of the U.S. Housing and Home Finance Agency." It was originally intended to be a cabinet department, but southern congressmen abhorred the idea of a black cabinet member. The agency did become the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1965.

In her book "Ted Poston: Pioneer American Journalist," Kathleen A. Hauke quotes Poston's wife, Ersa:

"The night when Kennedy offered Bob Weaver the spot, Bob was at our house. We were having a dinner party — Ken Clark and his wife, Whitney Young and his wife, and Bob Weaver and his wife.

" Oh, you couldn't have a more interesting gathering; you wouldn't want to leave the table.

"But we knew the call was coming, everybody except Bob and Ella Weaver. When it came, we all laughed. The agreement was that if we could keep Bob Weaver at the table until the president called, then Pierre Salinger," Kennedy's press secretary, "would let Ted have the exclusive.

"Ted, naturally, went into his room then and started writing."

The January 1965 issue of Ebony carried an advertisement for the Ebony Book Shop's

Kennedy Wooed Ebony, Jet Publisher John H. Johnson

John F. Kennedy went straight to the publisher of the most widely read publications in black America in his bid to broaden black support for his 1960 race for the presidency.

In "Succeeding Against the Odds: The Autobiography of a Great American Businessman," written with Lerone Bennett Jr., John H. Johnson, publisher of Ebony and Jet, explained that at the time "some people thought [Kennedy] was a rich playboy with little or no understanding of Black America" and few thought he had a chance of winning.

But Kennedy invited Johnson and his wife, Eunice, to dinner with the senator and his wife, Jacqueline, at their Georgetown home.

"The main reason Senator Kennedy wanted to see me was to express concern about coverage in Jet. He mentioned specifically stories which said he didn't have a Black secretary in his Washington office," Johnson and Bennett wrote. "The stories neglected to mention that Nixon didn't have a Black secretary anywhere," referring to the GOP candidate, Vice President Richard M. Nixon.

"'I don't think that's fair,' " he said, drawing out the vowels in fair in the unique Boston accent that would soon become world-famous.

"I agreed with him and told him I would see that he got fair coverage in Jet.

" 'I'm glad you're fair-minded,' he said, pulling his chair closer. 'Now that you're going to do this for me, what can I do for you? You know, I'm going to be president. Would you like to be an ambassador? Would you like a high government post? What do you want? I believe in paying my political debts.' "

Johnson replied that his only ambition was to succeed as a publisher. "I understand your father is active in the liquor business. Maybe you could speak to him and he could pass the word around so I could get some advertisers, which I need at this time."

Less than a month later, Henry Ford II, CEO of Ford Motor Co., called Johnson and said he would begin advertising "because of Senator Kennedy." The wooing of Johnson didn't end there. "The Kennedys never missed a trick," Johnson and Bennett wrote. In 1961, Kennedy asked Johnson to represent the United States at the independence ceremony of the Ivory Coast. Johnson went. A White House dinner followed, along with an appointment to the delegation representing the United States at the independence ceremony for Kenya. He would have the rank of special ambassador.

That ceremony was scheduled for December 1963. Kennedy did not live to see it.

Al Ortiz, CBS News Exec, Assigned to Investigate Misstep

"CBS News' apparent decision to have one of its own producers conduct an internal 'journalistic review' of the network's discredited 60 Minutes Benghazi report — and effectively investigate the decisions of his boss — is drawing harsh criticism from newsroom veterans and media experts," Joe Strupp reported Monday for Media Matters for America.

"The critiques follow a damaging week for the network as it received constant hits for its airing of a report that featured a former British security consultant who apparently lied about witnessing the 2012 attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, a lackluster apology aimed at ending the scandal, and an unwillingness to explain how or whether it plans to investigate itself and reveal how it blundered so badly.

"The latest word came today via Politico's Dylan Byers, who reported that he had learned, in spite of the efforts of the network, that Al Ortiz, a CBS News executive producer for special events, would be conducting what CBS has termed an ongoing 'journalistic review' of the segment. Ortiz reports to CBS News Chairman Jeff Fager, who is also the executive producer of 60 Minutes. Ortiz's conflict of interest, Byers noted, is especially relevant as Fager's dual role has been cited as a factor that may have contributed to the flawed report. . . ."

Kevin Tedesco, a spokesman for "60 Minutes," told Journal-isms by email, "We decline to comment."

Ortiz is a longtime CBS employee who in 1996, when he was Washington bureau chief, was cited as an example of a Hispanic in a significant position at the network.

Al Jazeera America Ratings Too Low to Be Reported

"Seemingly anemic ratings"

"A New York Post article on Al Jazeera America's seemingly anemic ratings got a lot of people in media-land talking on Monday — and prompted a conversation about how, exactly, we should look at a network's viewing figures," Jack Mirkinson reported for the Huffington Post on Monday.

"Claire Atkinson's article was a dramatic one, with some eye-popping numbers about just how many people are watching Al Jazeera America on a given day:

"'The US offshoot of the Mideast news outfit managed fewer than half of the viewers who tuned in to its predecessor, Al Gore's Current TV.

" 'Al Jazeera America has averaged just 13,000 viewers a day since its Aug. 20 launch — on par with a public access channel. In the 25- to 54-year-old audience sought by advertisers, it drew 5,000 viewers.

" 'The ratings are so low, they are considered a "scratch" and aren't reported by Nielsen.'

"Yipes! Those are bad numbers. But 'total day' is just one of the ways networks like to measure their ratings. Often, a network will highlight how its biggest shows are doing, rather than tout its total day ratings, which bring in numbers from daytime as well as primetime. . . ."

Dawn Bridges, a spokeswoman for Al Jazeera America, told Journal-isms by email, "We are confident with our aggressive growth plans. We are making large investments in programming and marketing. Reaction to our programs since the launch two months ago has been extremely [positive]."

Armstrong Williams Wins OK to Purchase Two TV Stations

Armstrong Williams

Commentator and entrepreneur Armstrong Williams won approval from the Federal Communications Commission to buy WEYI-TV, an NBC affiliate in the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Mich., market, ranked no. 67, and WWMB-TV, a CW affiliate in market 103 in the Myrtle Beach/Florence, S.C., market, near Williams' hometown of Marion, S.C., Williams said Monday.

The stations were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., and turned over to Williams, who said he secured a loan of more than $50 million.

He also plans to acquire WMMP-TV in Charleston, S.C., from Sinclair. Allbritton Communications announced in July that it had agreed to sell its seven television stations to Sinclair for $985 million.

Williams said he intends to develop programming for the stations "exclusively for the demographics in that market," creating at least three shows that would include one for children. He noted that Waccamaw Indians are part of the South Carolina market, and that "we want people to understand that history."

The commentator said that initially, he would manage the stations.

African American ownership dropped from 12 stations in 2009 to 10 stations in 2011, or less than 1 percent of the nation's 1,348 full-power television stations, the Federal Communications Commission said in November 2012.

NBC's David Gregory presses House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on implementati

Like It or Not, David Gregory's Going to Say "Obamacare"

Other media may be pulling back on using the term "Obamacare" in discussing the Affordable Care Act, but not so much on the Sunday talk shows. On NBC's "Meet the Press," moderator David Gregory used the term five times Sunday before House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., responded with, "The Affordable Care Act, as I call it, as I always called it . . ."

The Associated Press, NPR and the New York Times are among news outlets that have decided to limit use of the "Obamacare" term.

Tom Kent, the AP's deputy managing editor and standards editor, has explained, " 'Obamacare' was coined by opponents of the law and is still used by them in a derogatory manner. It's true that the White House, and even [President] Obama himself, have used the term on occasion. But the administration hasn't totally embraced 'Obamacare' and still uses the Affordable Care Act much of the time. We're sticking with our previous approach to 'Obamacare': AP writers should use it in quotes, or in formulations like 'the law, sometimes known as Obamacare, provides for …' "

On Sunday's show, Gregory mostly ignored Pelosi's preference. "Are you and others going to go campaign on Obamacare in swing districts around this country? And if so, what's the message going to be?" he asked.

Pelosi replied, 'Well, the fact is I'll get back to the Affordable Care Act, and the 'affordable' is named that because it makes it affordable. And the experience in states where it is working, in Kentucky and California and the rest where we have our own state marketplace, it's working very well. . . . "

In Sunday's interview, Pelosi continued to call the law the "Affordable Care Act" and Gregory alternated between that name and "Obamacare."

On the NBC News website, however, Pelosi didn't get to choose her own words. "Nancy Pelosi: Democrats don't see Obamacare as threat in midterm elections," read the website headline.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar Boycotting GQ Over Compliment

When GQ magazine named Kendrick Lamar one of its "Men of the Year," it was meant as a compliment, but the way it was done rubbed the rapper the wrong way, the Grio reported on Monday.

" 'Kendrick doesn’t smoke weed or drink booze. In the time I spent with him, I never witnessed anyone roll even the thinnest spider leg of a jay (joint), nor did I see Kendrick so much as glance at the many, many girls around him,' wrote Steve Marsh, who also marveled at how 'disciplined' Lamar's backers are.

"The rapper's label, Top Dawg Entertainment, has since called out the 'racial overtones' of the piece which they deemed 'offensive.' And Lamar has declined to appear at the magazine's November 12th Man of the Year party. . . ."

On, kris ex added, "Though the article referred to Lamar as 'one of the best rappers ever to come out of the place that has produced many of the best rappers ever' and spent a paragraph gushing about his debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city ('practically a Black Ulysses'), most of the piece’s 2,300 words [were] dedicated to the not-quite drama surrounding Kendrick these past few months: his verse on Big Sean's 'Control,' his tension with Drake, a supposed altercation with Sean Combs at an MTV VMA after party in NY.

"It also couched the first half of the story within a story about one of Lamar's homies who died as result of a drive-by shooting. It's all the kind of zoological observations and sensationalism cherished by cultural tourists when they decide to come sightseeing in Black affairs."

The piece added, "There’s also an ancillary point about the level of access rap artists tend to give White publications. Thinking that the White man’s ice is colder, Rick Ross allowed GQ to hang out at his home and accompany him to the strip club for a 2011 story. Likewise, Jay Z bestowed 'unprecedented access' upon Vanity Fair for a cover story this year. Marsh got to hang out with Kendrick on a cross-country plane ride and hang with him during the VMA's — a far cry from the 'interview them at the photoshoot' opportunity I was given when recently interviewing the entire TDE roster for an XXL cover story. And that's not sour grapes — that's just facts."

USA Today Revises "Race-Themed" Headline on "Best Man"

"USA Today set off a social media storm Sunday with a headline on its box-office story that many found racially insensitive," Todd Cunningham wrote Sunday for the Wrap.

" ' "Holiday" Nearly Beat "Thor" as Race-Themed Films Soar' was the original headline that the publication posted online and sent out on Twitter. Universal's romantic comedy sequel from writer-director Malcolm D. Lee did surprisingly well with $30.5 million this weekend, as it debuted against the Marvel superhero sequel, which took in $38.4 million.

"When that headline drew a blast of complaints, it was soon changed, to ' "Holiday" Nearly Beats "Thor" as Ethnically Diverse Films Soar.' The original tweet was deleted, too.

"Most of the complaints struck a similar chord.

" 'USA Today calls movies with black people in them race-themed' Cos black people are a genre. Like superhero movies' tweeted Sindi Nikosi.

" 'So according to USA Today any any movie showing Black people acting like humans is considered a race-themed movie,' said T. Brown via Twitter."

"Why are movies that star people of color 'race-themed' but movies starring whites are not USA Today?" tweeted April. "Is friendship a race theme?"

Ultimately, the headline read: " ’Best Man Holiday’ Nearly Beats Mighty 'Thor.' " An editor's note explained the change in headlines.

Short Takes

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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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