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Journalism Still a Good Career Choice?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Question Posed to 5 of "Most Respected" Latinos



"Is journalism still a smart career choice for bright Hispanic college graduates who want to make a difference?

"We sought out answers from some of the most respected veterans in the once-proud profession," writes the Hispanic Link in its current edition, in the column that uses the pseudonym Kay Barbaro.

Queried were Ricardo Chavira, former State Department reporter and foreign correspondent, now a a professor and soon-to-be author; Tim Chàvez, an editorial columnist at the Nashville Tennessean who is being treated for leukemia and was told his job was eliminated; Carolyn Curiel of the New York Times editorial board; Mercedes Lynn de Uriarte, University of Texas-Austin journalism professor; Félix Gutiérrez, "also an icon among the nation's limited supply of Hispanic journalism professors," who is a former senior vice president of the Freedom Forum and is now a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.



Chavira said, in part, "Not at all. The business has turned hostile toward us. I suggest to Latino students that they will need to think long and hard about dealing with this changed atmosphere."

Chàvez: "In good conscience, I could not make that recommendation."

Curiel: "Yes, there's a future for journalism, and the people who get in now can help figure out what that is. It could be a really exciting time."

De Uriarte: "I concentrate on critical thinking skills because that is a survival skill wherever one is. And I always discuss the need to strategize for alternative career paths."



Gutiérrez: "Two major trends make this the best time ever for young Latinas and Latinos to go into journalism and other media fields": the growth in the number of Latinos and the advance of technology. "With the growth in both demography and technology, there will be more opportunities to get into media and then move up or move on to other media as careers evolve."

"Kay Barbaro" said the question was prompted by "the abrupt, voluntary departures of two of our still-young stars, Rick Rodrìguez as executive editor of The Sacramento Bee, and Gilbert Bailòn, from his stratospheric positions with the Belo chain — executive editor of The Dallas Morning News and editor/publisher of its bold, Spanish-language daily offspring, Al Dìa." Bailon left to become editorial page editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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Simpson Offered to Quit Over Clinton Endorsement



"It was an unorthodox political endorsement, to be sure. And in throwing her support behind presidential candidate Hillary Clinton with an unprompted, heartfelt speech at a New Hampshire rally last month, Carole Simpson, the longtime ABC news anchor-turned-Emerson College journalism instructor, flung herself into the partisan fires," Peter Schworm wrote on Monday in the Boston Globe.

"Simpson, 65, said she immediately regretted her actions and offered her resignation the next day, which university officials refused to accept. Now Simpson is considering an offer from the Clinton campaign to stump for the candidate, namely before black audiences in the South. She and other university officials have agreed she will not teach political journalism courses if she campaigns for Clinton.

"'I know I made a mistake. It was definitely the wrong venue for my first foray into free speech,' Simpson said. 'But I'd really like to see her win. After being a reporter for so many years, where you wish you could do more than you can, it would be nice to make a difference.'

"Jerry Lanson, an Emerson journalism professor who co-teaches the course with Simpson, said he immediately told Simpson her actions were inappropriate.

"'As faculty members if we're teaching journalists, we need to model the behavior we're teaching in the classroom,' he said.

"Janet Kolodzy, acting chairwoman of Emerson's Department of Journalism, said she was startled by the endorsement, but felt it was within ethical bounds.

"'The presence of her students is what raised concerns,' she said. 'But we are a college that advocates free expression.' Kolodzy said the event has sparked discussion on campus on the 'gray area between the rights of a private citizen and a journalist's responsibility.'"

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How Good is Bonds Case? How Much Is Racial?

"With a few simple words like 'no' and 'not at all,' former San Francisco Giants slugger and home-run king Barry Bonds may have left himself vulnerable to the federal government's most potent legal fastball — a conviction for lying to a grand jury," Howard Mintz and Elliott Almond wrote on Friday in the San Jose Mercury News.

"Legal experts say convicting Bonds will not be easy.



"In a five-count indictment that could sully the once surefire Hall of Famer's legacy, federal prosecutors Thursday ended years of suspense by charging Bonds with perjury and obstructing justice in connection with his December 2003 testimony to a grand jury probing a steroids operation that rocked the sports world," the story explained by way of background.

"If Bonds goes to trial, the case will transcend whether he committed perjury. The evidence could finally resolve whether the poster boy for baseball's suspected steroids era actually used performance-enhancing drugs as he assaulted his sport's most hallowed records — the most home runs in a season and a career."

Meanwhile, two sports columnists — of different ethnicities — were among those raising the racial dimensions of the Bonds indictment.

"Just about every NFL player hit with unprecedented conduct penalties is black," Dan Le Batard, who has written that he is Cuban-American, wrote Saturday in the Miami Herald. "NFL dictator Fidel Goodell, who is white and making up the rules as he goes along and not even waiting for facts to come in, is being celebrated by a primarily white media.

"This has created a knee-jerk culture where the Bears take Tank Johnson's job for driving drunk, even though he wasn't drunk, and Pac Man loses at least a year for what turns out, after the media hysteria, to be a misdemeanor.

"Racist? No. Goodell would have hit Jones the same way if he were white. But, given this country's history, you can't blame black people for distrusting a system run by white people.

"Let's make it Jews instead. Let's say a German commish and German owners were hitting Jews with unprecedented penalties while cheered by an it's-about-time German media and audience. You don't think Jews might feel suspicious and distrustful and alone?"

In the New York Times on Monday, William C. Rhoden, who is black, wrote, "Let's be clear: I don't have an issue with the zeal and intensity of an investigation. Heaven knows that reporters go to great lengths to get a story. "My issue has to do with an apparent double standard that has focused, thus far, on black athletes. I'm waiting for the dragnet to pull in a more diverse bounty of high-profile athletes." He mentioned Bonds, Michael Vick, the suspended Atlanta Falcons quarterback who surrendered to authorities Monday on dogfighting charges, and Marion Jones, "once the world's most famous female athlete," who "wept in front of a courthouse last month shortly after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs and making false statements in two separate government investigations."

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Pew Defends Asking Whether Blacks Are One Race



The Pew Research Center's survey question asking respondents whether they agree that "Blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race because the black community is so diverse" raised eyebrows from many who questioned the validity of dividing blacks by "race."

On the Journal-isms message boards, for example, Ken Cooper, a Boston freelance writer who is former national editor at the Boston Globe, wrote, "What is troubling about the Pew poll, if I might paraphrase my college roommate, is not the answers, but the questions."

The center reported last week, "African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and nearly four-in-ten say that because of the diversity within their community, blacks can no longer be thought of as a single race."

Cooper wrote, '"The first statement introduces a preposterous concept and goes too far in prompting interviewees. Find me one poll ever taken in America that asked whether whites had become more than one race because they have become 'diverse,' whatever that means (undefined) in this context. Class? Ancestry? Ideology? Religion? All of those, and perhaps other characteristics?"

Paul Taylor, executive vice president of the Pew Research Center, defended the question in response to a query from Journal-isms. He wrote:

"Ken Cooper raises some good questions about the 'Are Blacks Still a Single Race?' question that was part of a Pew Research Center survey we released last week.

"Before I respond, a little background about the survey. It was a representative nationwide survey of all adults, but it included an over-sample of black respondents because we wanted to focus on the attitudes and experiences of blacks on a wide range of subjects, including black economic progress; racial discrimination; values; politics; race relations; integration; segregation; immigration; affirmative action; the criminal justice system; popular culture, life satisfaction, community problems; black leadership, and more. In total, we interviewed 3,086 adults, of whom 1,007 were African Americans.

"One of the topics we wanted to explore in particular is what blacks make of the economic divisions within the black community — which, data from the US Census Bureau show (see p. 13 of our report at, have been growing in recent decades. So we asked blacks (and whites, too) whether they think the values of middle class and poor blacks have become more alike or more different in the past decade. By a margin of 2-1, black respondents to this survey said more different. By contrast, when this same question was asked of blacks in a 1986 survey done by Gallup and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (a black think tank), roughly the same number of blacks said more similar (40%) as said more different (44%).

"We also asked blacks how much they think poor and middle class blacks share values in common. We got a broad range of responses to that question, with 23% saying 'a lot'; 42% saying 'some'; 22% saying 'only a little' and 9% saying 'almost nothing.'

"The survey then posed a battery of questions about the prevalence of anti-black discrimination in everyday life, and about the basic fairness of various aspects of the criminal justice system.

"Then we posed the question that Ken said he finds troubling. The question was worded as follows: 'Which of these statements comes closer to your view — even if neither is exactly right: Blacks today can no longer be thought of as a single race because the black community is so diverse OR Blacks can still be thought of as a single race because they have so much in common?' Some 53% of blacks said single race; and 37% said no longer a single race. Another 3% volunteered neither/both; and 7% said they didnâ??t know or refused to answer the question.

"Ken says the question is a 'muddle' because the concept of diversity is not defined, nor is the concept of commonality. He wonders what this question is trying to get at: Class? Ancestry? Ideology? Religion? Something else?

"Ken is right that we didnâ??t define the terms of the question. Instead, as we often do, we left it to respondents to interpret the question in whatever way makes sense to them. Because this particular question came after a battery in which we had probed for feelings about economic and values differences within the black community, and about experiences with discrimination, we think itâ??s not unreasonable to assume that some of those concepts may have been in the minds of respondents when they were asked this 'single race/not a single race' question. But we canâ??t know for sure.

"So we would certainly concede that the meaning of the responses to this particular question would be better illuminated had we asked additional follow-up questions. But we disagree with Kenâ??s assertion that that the question itself makes no sense. And we take issue with his observation that the question was flawed because there were no blacks at the table when the question was drafted.

"We consulted with a number of black scholars and journalists as we drew up this questionnaire (though the Center itself is solely responsible for the question wording and the analysis of the findings). We also looked at two variants of this particular question that had been asked in the past by other reputable survey organizations. And, as we always do with sensitive questions, we 'pre-tested' the questionnaire — meaning we asked it of a limited sample in a preliminary survey and listened in on their responses to see if people were having trouble figuring out what we were trying to get at. This particular question stood up well during this pre-test. Also, the relatively small percentage of black respondents (7%) in the full survey who either refused to answer this question or said â??donâ??t knowâ?? suggests to us that the question did indeed make sense to the vast majority of blacks we surveyed.

"Admittedly, this question is by no means the last word on a complex and sensitive topic. But we hope and believe that it â?? along with the more than 60 other questions we posed in this survey —helps shed some light on black views on a range of important matters."

Taylor was also asked about the races of the interviewers used to pose the questions. "The short answer is that we made an effort to match the two (our batting average was about 80%) and weâ??re now analyzing the findings with that factor in mind," Taylor said. "Weâ??ll be issuing a report about that shortly. Stay tuned."

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. . . As Study Prompts Discussion of Land Ownership

"I have been studying the family trees of 20 successful African-Americans, people in fields ranging from entertainment and sports (Oprah Winfrey, the track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee) to space travel and medicine (the astronaut Mae Jemison and Ben Carson, a pediatric neurosurgeon)," Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates wrote Sunday in the New York Times. "And I've seen an astonishing



pattern: 15 of the 20 descend from at least one line of former slaves who managed to obtain property by 1920 — a time when only 25 percent of all African-American families owned property.

"Sometimes the government helped: Whoopi Goldberg's great-great-grandparents received their land through the Southern Homestead Act. 'So my family got its 40 acres and a mule,' she exclaimed when I showed her the deed, referring to the rumor that freed slaves would receive land that had been owned by their masters.

"Well, perhaps not the mule, but 104 acres in Florida. If there is a meaningful correlation between the success of accomplished African-Americans today and their ancestors' property ownership, we can only imagine how different black-white relations would be had '40 acres and a mule' really been official government policy in the Reconstruction South."

Gates was commenting on the study released last week by the Pew Research Center that showed, among other findings, that African Americans see a widening gulf between the values of middle class and poor blacks, and that growing numbers of blacks say they're worse off than five years ago and don't expect their lives to improve.

Gates made other observations, and he was not the only one to zero in on property ownership. On National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" on Monday, Alfred Edmond, editor-in-chief of Black Enterprise magazine, said he was not surprised by the finding that "for many black children born to middle-class parents in the late 1960s, it's been more of a downward spiral than upward mobility. Nearly half of those surveyed have a family income near or below the poverty rate," as host Cheryl Corley summarized it.

"I'm not shocked, nor am I particularly discouraged," Edmond said. "Income is a measure of wealth, but it's not wealth itself. And what we believe we're seeing here and what we focused on in Black Enterprise for the last 30 or so years is that it's what you do with your income that determines whether wealth will be accumulated during the course of your lifetime and passed on to future generations.

"And we're really talking about a generation of African Americans that are first — are the first and largest group to achieve high incomes, but have not necessarily adopted the habits necessary to manage that income to acquire assets such as home ownership, for example — where we lag behind whites in rates of home ownership — that are necessary to actually pass on wealth to future generations."

Meanwhile, some newspapers, such as the Philadelphia Daily News, the Kansas City Star and the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City, reported on the story from the perspective of their own communities.

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Black Columnist Bucks Trend, Praises Sharpton

"The Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to preach at Tuesday's funeral for Khiel Coppin, the troubled 18-year-old from Bed-Stuy who was killed in a hail of police gunfire under tragic, confusing circumstances," Errol Louis wrote Sunday in the New York Daily News.

"The very mention of Sharpton's name is enough to send many New Yorkers into eye-rolling fits, sputtering accusations like 'fraud,' 'charlatan' and 'publicity hound.' But the hate ignores an important point," Louis said.

"What Sharpton's many critics never mention, and perhaps don't know, is that his organization, the National Action Network, is one of the few groups anywhere that step forward in times of crisis to help the families of violent crime victims handle the tangle of emotional, logistical, legal and financial problems that come crashing down on them in an instant.

". . . In the minds of many, Sharpton can never live down his role in the Tawana Brawley case or at Freddy's Fashion Mart. Fine, they're entitled to their opinion.

"But those who believe Sharpton's assistance to victims' families is some kind of scam should put their time and money where their mouths are. Sharpton himself regularly challenges his critics to put him out of business by figuring out how to step up and help families and communities shattered by violence.

"So far, no takers. It's a lot harder than it looks on TV."

Louis' defense of Sharpton's work contrasts with criticism from other black commentators that Sharpton gets too much attention.

"Any other public figure with such a comic resume and dubious traction among his constituency would find himself swiftly jettisoned from the Rolodex of reporters and network anchors," Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote three weeks ago in the Washington Post's Outlook section. "But Sharpton endures. He is black America's first virtual leader, a product of a collective longing for the romance of the 1960s and an inability to cope with the complexities of 21st century African Americans."

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Detroit Photographer Hugh Grannum Takes Buyout


Hugh Grannum

Veteran Detroit Free Press photographer Hugh Grannum is one of 21 newsroom employees to take a voluntary buyout offered at the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News, according to newsroom sources. He is apparently the only journalist of color in either newsroom to do so.

The Detroit Media Partnership, which runs the business operations of the two papers under a joint operating agreement, announced Oct. 12 it would offer buyout packages as part of an effort to cut 110 positions, or about 5 percent of the overall staff.

The buyouts were being offered to employees who were 50 or older with at least 10 years of credited service as of Oct. 12, Joe Guy Collier wrote then in the Free Press.

Susie Ellwood, executive vice president and general manager for the Detroit Media Partnership, told Journal-isms on Monday that the buyout applications of 110 people were accepted. In the two newsrooms, she said four were at the Detroit News and 17 at the Free Press.

She said in Collier's story that the need for staff cuts was driven by two major factors.

"The overall newspaper industry has suffered circulation and advertising declines, Ellwood said in the story.

"I think you double our situation here because of the economy," Ellwood said. "The whole newspaper industry is experiencing declines and then add our situation here" in Michigan.

Grannum, born in 1940 in Brooklyn, N.Y., joined the Free Press in 1970.

"Grannum has had one-man exhibitions at the Studio Museum of Harlem, N.Y.; Arts Extended Gallery; Your Heritage House (Children Museum), and the Children's Hospital of Michigan. He contributed pieces to the Black Photographers Annual, a touring exhibit seen in the United States, Europe and Russia from 1973 to 1975; the National Conference of Artists in Dakar, Senegal, in 1985, and the 'Spirit of Dance' tour of 1986-1990," according to a biography.

"His work is part of the permanent collection of the Del Pryor Gallery in Detroit. His books include 'Collection of African American Art,' about the collection of Detroit physician Dr. Walter O. Evans. His works are in the collection at the Detroit Institute of Arts."

Grannum was also part of a team of Free Press photographers that in September won a national Emmy award. They produced what was described as a gritty, riveting video showing Michigan Marines training for the war in Iraq.

Grannum was not in the office on Monday and could not be reached for comment.

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Prez, VP Debates Announced for General Election

The Commission on Presidential Debates on Monday announced the sites, dates, formats and candidate-selection criteria for the debates of the 2008 general election, but said moderators for the four debates would not be chosen until the summer.

Journalists of color have discussed becoming involved in an organized way at least since 2004, when Unity: Journalists of Color considered proposing that coalition as a sponsor of the 2008 debates. In September, talk-show host Tavis Smiley said after his Republican "All-American Presidential Forum" at Morgan State University that he had lunch with Frank J. Fahrenkopf Jr., co-chair of the commission, about including journalists of color in the three general-election presidential debates.

The details announced Monday are: first presidential debate, Sept. 26, University of Mississippi; vice presidential debate, Oct. 2, Washington University, St. Louis; second presidential debate, Oct. 7, Belmont University, Nashville; and third presidential debate, Oct. 15, Hofstra University, Hempstead, N.Y.

Meanwhile, Los Angeles Times media critic Tim Rutten, criticizing the primary debates sponsored by the cable networks, wrote over the weekend:

"It all would be darkly comedic if CNN's descent into hyperbole and histrionics simply represented a miscalculation in reportorial style, but it signals something else — the network's attempt to position itself ideologically, the way Fox and MSNBC already have done. In fact, we now have a situation in which the three all-news cable networks each have aligned themselves with a point on the political compass: Fox went first and consciously became the Republican network; MSNBC, which would have sold its soul to the devil for six ratings points, instead found a less-demanding buyer in the Democrats. Now, CNN has decided to reinvent itself as the independent, populist network cursing both sides of the conventional political aisle — along with immigrants and free trade, of course."

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Short Takes



  • As Charles Tisdale, editor of the Jackson (Miss.) Advocate, lay dying, Richard Barrett, the man known by most local residents as the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, came to "pay his respects to the . . . man against whom he had fought for years over one of the nation's most intractable issues, race, in a place, Mississippi, that for many African-Americans still symbolizes one of the darkest chapters in America's history," Valencia Mohammed wrote Nov. 7 in the Afro-American newspapers. "We told it just like it was to each other," Barrett said in the story. "And I admired him for that." Tisdale died in July.
  • "CBS News writers authorized their union leaders to call a national strike, the Writers Guild of America said Monday, escalating a labor impasse," Jeremy Herron reported for the Associated Press. "About 500 CBS News television and radio writers— who work in New York, Los Angeles, Washington and Chicago — have been working under an expired contract since April 2005."
  • Tim Page, the Washington Post's renowned classical music critic, "embarrassed The Post and himself last week with an angry e-mail to Andre Johnson, an aide to D.C. Council member Marion Barry" that called Barry, the former mayor, a "crack addict" and "useless," Post ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote on Sunday. Page and the newspaper apologized, but "The online comments on Post media writer Howard Kurtz's story on the flap were overwhelmingly anti-Barry. Page said his mail and phone calls have run about 125 to 3 in support," Howell wrote.
  • "The latest National Endowment for the Arts report draws on a variety of sources, public and private, and essentially reaches one conclusion: Americans are reading less," Hillel Italie reported for the Associated Press on Monday. NEA chairman Dana Gioia called the decline in reading "perhaps the most important socio-economic issue in the United States," and called for changes "in the way we're educating kids, especially in high school and college. We need to reconnect reading with pleasure and enlightenment," she was quoted as saying.
  • "Syndicated hustler Michael Baisden, eager to become kingpin of Jena Six fundraising, launched a slanderous campaign against every Black group that doesn't have access to ABC radio's corporate reach," Glen Ford wrote Wednesday on Black Agenda Report. "Baisden's principal target: Color of Change, the mass-based Internet organization that raised and distributed over $200,000 for Jena defendants' legal fees in record time. Baisden used his 50-station network to defame Color of Change, in 'reckless disregard of the truth,' and was soon forced to issue a fraction of an apology. But Baisden's crimes only serve to dramatize the fact that near-extinction of Black radio news — the mechanism that could have stopped the junkyard dog in his filthy tracks — has left African Americans at the mercy of 'media leadership.' We must reclaim the commercial airwaves that reach 80-90 percent of Blacks," Ford said. Baisden's business manager, Pamela Exum, did not respond to a request for comment.


Michelle Valles

  • "It was all over the web Friday but only made it into one or two local station's newscasts that I know of. Michelle Valles, main co-anchor for KXAN, was stopped by police and arrested for allegedly driving under the influence. KXAN didn't run the story although there was a mention on their web site. We didn't run the story on our newscasts either," Fred Cantu wrote for the Web site of KEYE-TV in Austin, Texas. "For my part let me say we could debate all day as to whether this story is 'news.'"
  • "At the initiative of Reporters Without Borders, TV news executives and editors around the world have come out in support of the privately-owned Pakistani TV news stations that had been banned from broadcasting," the advocacy organization for journalists reported on Saturday. "In a joint statement, they have condemned the fact that 'millions of Pakistanis have been deprived of independent news' since the declaration of a state of emergency on 3 November."
  • Mark Trahant, editorial page editor of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, urged readers on Sunday to watch a 26-minute YouTube video, "Islam and America Through Eyes Of Imran Khan." "It's a powerful look at the region from the inside — and explains why ordinary Pakistanis see America the way they do. He starts the documentary at a rock concert in Pakistan, the very place that is a symbol of America. . . . It's a powerful film. One that helps us Americans see ourselves through the eyes of Pakistanis. That is a good enough reason to watch it. But more important, right this minute, we should watch this work as an act of defiance against tyranny," wrote Trahant, who is also board chairman of the Maynard Institute.
  • USA Today ran a series on diabetes last week that noted, "American Indians, blacks, Asians and Latinos are believed to carry a higher genetic risk for type 2 diabetes. That, along with increasingly fatty diets, has helped to trigger an explosion of diabetes in those communities — even as treatments for complications from diabetes have improved." In the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald on Sunday, Dorreen Yellow Bird interviewed Dr. Monica Mayer, a physician in private practice, on the Fort Berthold Reservation.
  • Historian William Loren Katz explored the racial history of "waterboarding" in a piece posted Friday on the Web site The Black World Today.
  • Columnists Les Payne in Newsday and Barry Saunders in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer took on the film "American Gangster" over the weekend. Payne's column was headlined, "Black hoods in '70s sold out their own race" while Sanders' was called, "Not so glorious gangsters."
  • Alejandro Bodipo-Memba, a reporter at the Detroit Free Press for the last seven years, is leaving for the Detroit-based company DTE Energy, where he is to be supervisor of communications planning in corporate communications.
  • "Two Sudanese journalists from the independent Al-Sudani newspaper were jailed on Sunday after refusing to pay a fine for an article about the arrest of other journalists, the paper said," Agence France-Presse reported. "Editor Mahjoub Ourwa and his deputy Noureddine Madani had been ordered to pay a 10,000 Sudanese pound (5,000 dollar) fine or face two months in prison after security services filed a complaint for libel."

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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