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Journalists Downplay "Topic A" in Philly Debate

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Thursday, October 9, 2003

Journalists Downplay "Topic A" in Philly Debate

"Topic A -- the City Hall bug and a developing federal corruption probe -- did not even arise until the end of the first televised debate between Mayor [John] Street and challenger Sam Katz last night, a civilized encounter that diverged sharply from their raucous campaign," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports, writing about the event last night sponsored by the local chapters of the journalists of color organizations and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.

But the press conference afterward "was a pier-six brawl," columnist Elmer Smith wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News.

"The mayor spent a half-hour on the hot seat and left looking like his suit had been steam-pressed with him in it. He tried to answer every question. But they questioned every answer," Smith wrote.

Not so during the debate.

"Nia Ngina Meeks, a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune who was among the questioners, said the panel agreed to delay asking about the FBI investigation until near the end because it was important to ask about other issues affecting the city first," Thomas Fitzgerald and Angela Couloumbis reported in the Inquire.

"Most of the questions dealt with highly focused issues, which mayors often leave to staff to handle: the need for an official city 'welcome center' for immigrants; obesity in the African American community; locating supermarkets in poor neighborhoods; gentrification; the role of minority-owned businesses; and health benefits for same-sex partners employed in the city's private sector.

"And the major-party candidates were confined to one-minute answers. The format, moderated by Comcast anchor Arthur Fennell, did not allow for rebuttal."

Photos, opening and closing remarks

Abu-Jamal Loses Challenge to Murder Conviction

Pennsylvania's state Supreme Court "has rejected Mumia Abu-Jamal's most recent challenge to his murder conviction, saying the petition from the death-row inmate was not filed in time," the Associated Press reports today.

"Abu-Jamal, a one-time radio reporter convicted in the 1981 shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer, has sought to have his conviction overturned on the grounds that his defense counsel was ineffective.

"'Merely filing a petition in a capital case or couching claims in ineffective terms does not save an untimely petition,' Justice J. Michael Eakin wrote in an opinion released Wednesday," reported AP.

Meanwhile, supporters of Abu-Jamal, who was president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists when he was charged in the shooting of Police Officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981, have been alerting supporters to his health problems.

"Mumia has had disturbing episodes where his feet and ankles are dangerously swollen, deeply discolored and sore. After this latest crisis, he has not yet been seen by a physician, he is requesting outside medical attention. At the moment, the swelling in his ankle has subsided and his coloring is better. IFFMAJ [International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal] ( are requesting that people call the prison and demand that Mumia be allowed to see an outside physician to diagnose and determine appropriate treatment," a bulletin reads.

NABJ Moves Convention from Detroit to Indy

"Detroit's efforts to attract large conventions and special events took a step backward when the National Association of Black Journalists announced this week that it is pulling its 2006 annual convention out of the Motor City and taking it to Indianapolis," the Detroit Free Press reports.

"NABJ held its convention at the then-Westin Hotel in the Renaissance Center in August 1992 and the event was scheduled to return to the RenCen Aug. 9-13, 2006.

"But renovations to the RenCen in recent years have reduced its convention space. That lack of space was one of the key problems NABJ cited for dumping Detroit. Also, NABJ leaders claimed that Cobo Hall was an inadequate meeting space because it was too far away from the RenCen.

"'It had absolutely nothing to do with the people of Detroit or the city; we loved both,' said NABJ Vice President Bryan Monroe on Thursday.

"'We were standing to lose as much as $100,000 because of the reduced amount of job fair booth space. We usually have more than 200 booths at the job fair and the best configuration at the RenCen would have given us 120 booths,' Monroe said.

"'Also the size of the booths would have been smaller so we would have had to charge less,'" the story continued.

"The presence of General Motors Corp. in the RenCen also was a factor, NABJ board members said. Since the Marriott Hotel is housed in the General Motors World Headquarters, key automotive sponsors like Toyota might opt to pull their sponsorship of the conference, board members said.

"'We're shocked by this decision and we don't understand why,' said Howard Hughey, spokesman for Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. "Certainly if the NFL and Major League Baseball think that we have adequate space, I really want to challenge NABJ's national board to explain their decision,'" the Free Press reported.

The Detroit chapter of NABJ was making a last-minute appeal in a lengthy conference call this afternoon with NABJ national officers.

Judge Issues Gag Order on Racial Profiling Study

"University of Cincinnati researchers have completed their study of whether Cincinnati police target African-American motorists -- but have been ordered by a federal judge not to disclose their findings," the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Merz "issued a gag order on the racial-profiling report Monday.

"Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit against the city had argued against disclosure, saying the parties need additional time to analyze the report," the Tuesday story said.

The newspaper reported yesterday that Mayor Charlie Luken wants the city to appeal, calling the order "the height of judicial arrogance." Luken said the secrecy surrounding the University of Cincinnati study of police contacts would lead to suspicions that lawyers were "massaging the numbers," the Enquirer reported.

"Luken introduced a motion in City Council on Wednesday to instruct the city solicitor to appeal the order. The mayor said that if he had access to the report, he would defy the court order and release it."

L.A.'s La Opinión, Tribune Co. Seeking Divorce

"Tribune Co. and Lozano Enterprises -- who each own 50% of La Opinión in Los Angeles, the biggest-circulation Spanish-language daily newspaper in America -- announced Thursday morning they intend to dissolve their partnership," Mark Fitzgerald reports in Editor & Publisher.

"The split was not surprising, because Chicago-based Tribune and the Lozano family have been on an uncomfortable collision course since it became obvious that Tribune intended to expand its very successful Spanish-language daily tabloid Hoy from New York City into other markets where it publishes dailies. In the four years since it was created by Tribune's Newsday, Hoy's circulation has soared to 91,156, quickly surpassing the 52,601-circulation daily el diario/La Prensa in New York -- and becoming second nationally only to the 125,862-circulation La Opinión.

"A Chicago edition of Hoy was introduced last month, and while Tribune won't comment on its future plans, it is widely expected to begin publishing an Hoy edition in the heavily Hispanic Los Angeles market, where it owns the Los Angeles Times," Fitzgerald wrote.

Nashville's Churchwell, 86, to Be Lauded in D.C.

"Nashville's first African-American reporter at a major daily newspaper will be honored at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington next week, along with about 100 other African-American luminaries including author Maya Angelou and actor Ossie Davis," writes Anita Wadhwani in the Nashville Tennessean.

"Robert Churchwell Sr., 86, worked at the now-defunct Nashville Banner for 31 years, covering education and the civil rights movement and breaking the color barrier at a white-owned Southern newspaper for the first time.

"The Washington-based Visionary Leadership Project will recognize the contributions of Churchwell and others ? all at least 70 years old ? at the Oct. 17 event.

"The project collects oral histories of African-American 'living legends' to preserve and pass along to a younger generation, according to the group's Web site.

'''I was supposed to have opened the way for young black journalists and people who would like to be journalists,' Churchwell said. 'I'm proud of that.'" the story continued.

"But in Churchwell's case, the stories were not always happy. During the 1950s many of the articles he wrote about civil rights activists planning to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville were never published."

Black Student Journalist Claims Harassment

The only African American reporter at The Minnesota Daily says University of Minnesota police harassed him Wednesday at the Bursar?s Office while he was reporting a story, the Daily reported.

"Koran Addo said he was in Williamson Hall waiting to speak with officials from the Bursar?s Office when he was approached by a University police officer who demanded he give her his student identification card.

"Addo said he identified himself as a Daily reporter and asked why she needed identification, but she would not answer and continued to demand identification.

"Two other University police officers then approached the scene, and the three officers surrounded Addo with a railing at his back, continuing to demand identification. Addo showed them his identification and his Daily business card, but he said police denied he was either a University student or a Daily reporter.

"Addo ? who is black ? said he doubted Bursar?s Office employees reacted to his skin color.

?'It?s possible,' Addo said. 'I don?t think so, but maybe.'

"Daily Editor in Chief Shane Hoefer said he will meet with University police to discuss the incident.

?'We feel the police treatment was excessive and inappropriate,' Hoefer said. 'Koran happens to be our only black reporter, and to my knowledge, this has never happened to a white reporter,'? the story continued.

Photog's Husband Tries Pinning Murder Elsewhere

"In his final, dramatic moments of testimony Thursday, Raymond Houston tried pinning the murder of his wife on a man he couldn't identify, as he cursed at the prosecutor and accused him of a shoddy investigation," reports Roxanne Stites in the San Jose Mercury News.

'''I don't get out of control. I don't murder people. That's a mad man. That's a crazy man,' Houston said. 'I'm a loving man. I'm a caring man.'''

"Thursday's testimony in Alameda County Superior Court in Oakland ended 13 hours of cross-examination in which Deputy District Attorney John Brouhard has tried to prove that Houston shot Luci Houston in their bedroom, plastered over the bullet hole and stuffed her body in the back seat of her car."

"Luci Houston, 43, worked as a photojournalist for the Mercury News," Stites reported.

Violent death should not overshadow a vibrant life (commentary)

N.Y. Times Journalists to Discuss Blair at Hampton

Six prominent newspaper and television journalists, including Kathleen McElroy, currently the highest ranking African American in the New York Times newsroom, are expected at Hampton University?s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications Oct. 16 for a day-long examination of challenges to newsroom ethics and diversity in the wake of the New York Times Jayson Blair scandal, the school announces.

The journalists are Andy Barth, a reporter at Baltimore?s WMAR-TV; Joseph Davidson, editor of Focus magazine of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; Jonathan Glater, a reporter at the New York Times, who helped produce the paper?s May report about Blair and served on the Times committee established to examine the paper?s procedures; McElroy, an associate managing editor at the Times who is in charge of the Sunday and Monday papers; Andrea Parquet-Taylor, news director of WMAR-TV; and DeWayne Wickham, a columnist for USA Today.

The journalists are to visit Scripps Howard classes throughout the day on Thursday, consult with faculty during a working luncheon seminar and speak to a broader audience at a 7 p.m. forum in the Scripps Howard auditorium that is open to the public. The event is sponsored by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation of Oklahoma City.

Funding from that foundation has also allowed Scripps Howard to invite 12 journalism educators from other historically black schools to attend the event on fellowships of $1,000 apiece. Carolyn Phillips, visiting professor in the Scripps Howard School and a former assistant managing editor responsible for staffing and training at the Wall Street Journal, authored the grant and is coordinating the event.

?We hope with this initiative to dispel any lingering question about diversity as a hindrance to ethics and to show it, in fact, as a critical component of the best journalistic practices,? Phillips said. ?We want that message spread across as many historically black campuses as possible,? she said in a news release.

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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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