Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Mark Griffith Died From Heart Disease

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Even at 48, "Not as Unusual as You Might Think";
Memorial Service Now Planned for January

Mark Griffith, the longtime journalist for CBS News who died Thursday in New York, succumbed to heart disease, officially "hypertensive, cardiovascular disease," the New York Medical Examiner's office has ruled, a spokeswoman said Monday. 

Mark Griffith (credit: Jason Miccolo Johnson)Griffith, 48, had been dealing with issues of "high blood pressure and hypertension for a while," according to William Felling, national editor at CBS News, who hired Griffith as a producer on the assignment desk.

A spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that for African Americans, death from the disease at 48 "is not as unusual as you might think."

The overall death rate from high blood pressure in 2005 was 18.4 percent, but there were distinct differences by race and gender. The death rate was 15.8 for white men, 52.1 for black men, 15.1 for white women, and 40.3 for black women, according to the American Heart Association.  In other words,  52.1 percent of black men who have high blood pressure die of it.

"The prevalence of hypertension in blacks in the United States is among the highest in the world, and it is increasing," the heart association says. "From 1988-1994 through 1999-2002, the prevalence of HBP in adults increased from 35.8% to 41.4% among blacks, and it was particularly high among black women, at 44.0%. Prevalence among whites also increased, from 24.3% to 28.1%.

"Compared with whites, blacks develop HBP earlier in life, and their average BPs are much higher. As a result, compared with whites, blacks have a 1.3-times greater rate of nonfatal stroke, a 1.8-times greater rate of fatal stroke, a 1.5-times greater rate of heart disease death, and a 4.2 times greater rate of end-stage kidney disease."

"Lifestyle choices- such as not smoking, eating right and exercising- are key factors in controlling the disease," CDC spokeswoman Karen Hunter told Journal-isms. There is "not a lot of research" on the effects of stress, she added. However, Felling said, "Mark was one of the few guys around who didn't get stressed out." He handled stress and deadline pressures "extremely well." Friends said he had stopped smoking years ago.

With the medical examiner's ruling, rendered Friday, Griffith's family plans to proceed with funeral arrangements, according to Gary Anthony Ramsay, president of the New York Association of Black Journalists. Griffith had been an officer in both the National Association of Black Journalists and its local chapter. 

"His family has decided to have cremation for Mark in the next few days.   There will be a Private family service for that," Ramsay said late Monday.

"His brother says he wants to have a public memorial in January.  He is aiming for Jan 10th either at Columbia or the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn.

"He wants Mark's family and friends from across the country to be able to attend without overlapping the holidays or the election.

"He has asked NABJ/NYABJ to work with Columbia to set up a scholarship in his name at the undergrad program.  I will be working to make that happen and any guidance or help will be appreciated."

Griffith was a staff employee at CBS for many years but since 2004 had been a freelancer for the network, working five or six days a week, "literally full time," Felling said. Freelancers are generally outside of a company's health-insurance plan, and it could not be determined whether Griffith had health coverage. Police found medication nearby when his body was discovered in his bed on Thursday. 

One of his co-workers was Chris Dinan, who started at CBS as a desk assistant in 1985 and Griffith, already a desk assistant, showed him the ropes. Dinan is now senior broadcast producer on the "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric," and he arranged for a salute, with Griffith's birth and death dates, at the end of Friday's broadcast. "It was the right thing to do," he told Journal-isms.

Dinan also led a meeting Friday at which staff members reflected on Griffith's contributions.

Sentiment "Almost Unanimously" Slams Rob Parker

Rob ParkerPublic sentiment is running "almost unanimously" against Detroit News columnist Rob Parker after his questions Sunday to Detroit Lions coach Rod Marinelli, Managing Editor Donald Nauss told Journal-isms Tuesday, but he said "the matter is not settled yet — what may or may not evolve here; whether there's discipline or not." 

Reaction in the hundreds has been coming to himself, to the editor, to the Detroit Newspaper Agency, which publishes both the News and Detroit Free Press under a joint operating agreement, to the sports editor and in letters to the editor. They're coming by e-mail and by telephone, he said.

"It's almost unanimously critical of Rob and the way he conducted himself at that press conference, and they felt his apology was less than sincere."

Nauss also credited "the power of the Internet" and the blogosphere for spreading the story. Parker asked Marinelli whether he wished his daughter had married "a better defensive coordinator" after the Lions lost 42-7 to New Orleans.

Nauss said he was still discussing the incident with Parker but indicated that as a personnel issue, its resolution might not be made public.

Parker appeared on "ESPN First Take," where he is a frequent guest, to talk about his question and subsequent column, ESPN said. It was also a topic on other sports-talk shows.

The latest controversy comes less than two months after Parker apologized for implicating Michigan State University backup quarterback Kirk Cousins in an off-campus assault.  Parker made the statement in October on WDIV-TV's "Clubhouse Confidential."

"I have reached out to the student-athlete's family and apologized. They have accepted. I also apologize to the Michigan State community," Parker said then. [Added Dec. 23. Earlier item below.]

Detroit News' Rob Parker in Hot Water Over Comment

Did Detroit News columnist Rob Parker cross the line? 'Big time,' Detroit Lions Coach Rod Marinelli said.Was Detroit News columnist Rob Parker just having fun with Detroit Lions Coach Rod Marinelli on Sunday? Or did Parker act like a jerk and push Marinelli's buttons? 

There are at least three answers.

The Associated Press' Larry Lange had one:

"Rod Marinelli was as angry publicly on Monday as he's been in three seasons as coach of the Detroit Lions," Lange wrote.

"Leading the NFL's first 0-15 team didn't do it.

"A question from a columnist did.

"Detroit News columnist Rob Parker asked Marinelli if he wished his daughter married a better defensive coordinator, taking a shot at his son-in-law Joe Barry, after Sunday's 42-7 loss to New Orleans.

"Marinelli didn't answer the question during his news conference, saying it wasn't the right stage for a response, but lashed out after thinking about the exchange.

"'Anytime you attack my daughter, I've got a problem with that . . .' Marinelli said. 'It was premeditated. I think there's something wrong with that.'

"Did it cross the line?

"'Big time,' Marinelli said."

Fox Sports had a second take, on its post-game "O.T." show, and it wasn't too different from Marinell's.  The analysts asked why Parker was still employed, called him a jerk and said he had disgraced the profession.

Parker's version, outlined in his column on Monday, maintained, "Rod Marinelli and I have a different relationship.

"On the surface, you might think it's adversarial. He hates me and I hate him. In reality, it's one built on mutual respect.

" . . . how can't you like that guy? I do. I really do."

Parker apologized if "my attempt at humor may have seemed slighted, cruel, and even insensitive."

Parker's superiors at the News apparently weren't buying the apology.

"Detroit News Managing Editor Don Nauss said the question about Marinelli's family posed by Parker to the coach Sunday was both inappropriate and unprofessional," the News reported on Monday.

"'The News is taking this matter seriously and will deal with it promptly in an appropriate manner,' Nauss said."

Neither Parker nor Sports Editor Ruben Luna responded to requests for comment Monday night. 

HD News Channel, Led by Will Wright, Goes Dark

Will WrightVoom HDNews, started five years ago as an exclusively high definition channel, run by Will J. Wright, a veteran African American news executive, shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday. It was a victim, Wright said, of the economy.

"At HDNews, Wright put together the nation’s first and only true high definition news network that broadcast exclusively in 1080i and Dolby 5.1," Wright said in an announcement. "The forward thinking news operation was somewhat ahead of its time when it kicked off 5 years ago. Since then, market forces and a protracted court battle with Dish Network over carriage, continually eroded its profitability.

"On the day the staff was notified of the closing, the New York Association of Black Journalists announced that HDNews was a finalist in this year’s award competition."

Wright was previously executive producer of "BET Nightly News." "Prior to that he pulled off a coup in the New York market as News Director of WWOR-TV by demographically targeting minority viewers, handing perennial ratings leader WNYW the first ratings book loss in its history," the announcement said.

"The channel's goal is simple: Take advantage of the clarity and beauty captured by HDTV cameras and give viewers stories that visually pop in a way seldom seen in newscasts," Ken Kershbaumer wrote for Broadcasting & Cable in 2004. "The network wants to be at the nucleus of news. Last week, it served as the pool camera for the 9/11 Commission hearings in New York."

The channel began as part of Cablevision/Rainbow Media’s suite of what was then 21 exclusive high definition channels.

NBC: Diversity Not "Only Criterion" for White House

Steve CapusIn an interview published Monday, just days after NBC named Chuck Todd chief White House correspondent and Savannah Guthrie to the White House beat, NBC News President Steve Capus was asked by Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting and Cable:

"With the first non-white person in the White House, what are your thoughts on getting more minorities in the ranks of Washington correspondents? Is it an opportunity? Is it an obligation in some ways?"

Capus answered: "I don't think it's an obligation. I do think that what this new administration deserves are our best people on the job. And whether that is someone with a diverse background may or may not be the case. I want to put the best people we have in those critical jobs right now. Diversity is something we obviously think about all the time.

"You look at 'Meet the Press' all throughout the election season: Tom Brokaw was the right guy to go in there after Tim passed away," referring to moderator Tim Russert, "and I believe David Gregory was the right guy to go in there full-time. I think he proved that [during his debut on Dec. 14]. I also think he proved with the selection of the guests [which included Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell].

"There's a lot of good people around right now. And they've been showcased very well. And we'll continue to keep that commitment to diversity. But I don't think that that should be the only criterion when we look to fill these jobs."

John Yang, who is Asian American, is currently assigned to the White House, but his status became unclear after the assignment of Todd and Guthrie. In layoffs this month, Washington-based Kevin Corke, who is African American, and Jeannie Ohm, who is Asian American, got pink slips. [On Tuesday, spokeswoman Lauren Skowronski said, "John Yang remains on the NBC News White House beat."]

The National Association of Black Journalists and the National Conference of Editorial Writers awarded Capus the Ida B. Wells Award last year to acknowledge his efforts at management diversity, which included the appointment of Mark Whitaker, now Washington bureau chief, and Lyne Pitts as vice presidents. [Updated Dec. 23]

Obama's Election voted AP's Top News Story

McClatchy Co. is publishing a 44-page, hardcover book with the best writing and photographs from its Washington Bureau and its 30 newspapers."The epic election that made Barack Obama the first African-American president was the top news story of 2008 — followed closely by the economic meltdown that will test his leadership, according to U.S. editors and news directors voting in The Associated Press' annual poll," David Crary wrote for the Associated Press.

"The campaign, with subplots emerging throughout the year, received 100 first-place votes out of 155 ballots cast for the top 10 stories. Two other political sagas — the history-making candidacies of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sarah Palin — also made the list.

"The vast economic crisis, plunging the U.S. into recession and ravaging many business sectors worldwide, was the No. 2 story, receiving 49 first-place votes. The precipitous rise and fall of oil prices was No. 3."

Auto Writer Takes No Comfort in Anti-UAW Strategy

Warren Brown (Credit: Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association)Discussing the current troubles of Detroit's Big 3 auto companies, Warren Brown, the Washington Post's automotive writer, recalled Sunday that he was raised to flee the South when he was growing up there as an African American in the 1950s and 1960s.

However, he said, "The South has changed in fundamental ways since my departure in 1970. The racism that remains is social, as opposed to statutory. The law says blacks and whites should have equal opportunity and pay, and that is what all of the foreign-owned car companies provide.

". . . But the fear that the foreign car companies that have embraced them will drop them for cheaper labor elsewhere was ever-present in my visits with southern friends and family. They have reason to worry. Foreign and domestic car companies since the mid-1980s have been on an aggressive hunt for less-expensive labor wherever they can find it.

"Conservatives view the present economic downturn as a chance to finish off a moribund UAW — to kill it once and for all by bankrupting the companies that employ its members. Or to render it functionally ineffective by forcing it to accept the lower compensation offered by its foreign nonunion rivals in the United States.

"Given the current economic milieu and the UAW's historical inability to organize Detroit's rivals, the conservatives' anti-union strategy probably will succeed. But I find no joy in that prospect, which is powered by the same ideology that caused me and my siblings to flee a chronically underpaying, opportunity-starved, racially and class-divided South in the first place."

NAHJ Sets Up Coaching to Cope With Job Climate

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists is setting up small group sessions for journalists suddenly out of a newsroom or facing the uncertainty of changing times to help them define where they are professionally and what they want to do next, the association announced.

"In four 60-to-90 minute joint coaching sessions by phone, the participants will address the emotional and practical toll of suddenly being a journalist with no job, analyze who they are and where they want to go, define their individual skill sets that can help them stay in the industry or translate their skills to a new career, and learn how to use sourcing, networking and other tools to create the career they want.

"Groups will be led by veteran journalists and certified career coaches and they are limited to six or eight people to ensure more individual participation in a safe, confidential environment. This is not for people who seem well on their way to making a transition to another aspect of journalism or to another career. It's for people still searching for answers or who don't have a plan and need to figure out how to shape one."

The National Association of Black Journalists has started a similar initiative, with 80 members participating last month in a conference call.

Christian Bale and Morgan Freeman in "The Dark Knight." (Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures).

African American Critics Vote "Dark Knight" Best Film

The Batman movie "The Dark Knight" was named best picture of 2008 by the African-American Film Critics Association, the group announced on Friday. The association named Frank Langella Best Actor 2008 for "Frost/Nixon" and Angelina Jolie Best Actress 2008 for "The Changeling."

"Although our organization gives specific consideration to work by artists of African descent, the performances of Mr. Langella and Ms. Jolie are undeniably transcendent and deserving of our recognition," said outgoing president Gil Robertson.

The group is giving a Special Achievement Award to director Melvin Van Peebles, "whose seminal film 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song' is a foundation of the African-American independent cinema aesthetic. "Throughout his long and distinguished career, Mr. Van Peebles has earned a hard-fought reputation for pushing the bar creatively and socially," Robertson said in his statement.

Other winners were Heath Ledger as Best Supporting Actor for "The Dark Knight," Viola Davis as Best Supporting Actress for "Doubt" and Danny Boyle as Best Director for "Slumdog Millionaire."

Other films in the organization's Top 10 include "The Secret Life of Bees," "Slumdog Millionaire," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" and "Miracle at St. Anna."

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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Marinelli v Parker

I don't know any of the parties in the Marinelli/Parker foofaraw; heck, I barely watch any sports at all. But I'm with TJ Simers at the LAT (,0,4065356.column?...). What is the big deal? Sure it was a lame joke and if I were Parker I'd probably wish I hadn't told it. If I were Marinelli it would piss me off. But it would be a travesty if Parker were fired over this. Frankly, this sort of snarky comment is par for the course in the blogosphere and from the rightwing mouthpieces at Faux News and in talk radio. No need for them to get so self-righteous about what is nothing more than an ill-advised attempt at humor.

Rob Parker

man, it didn't even click in my head that the person who created this brouhaha was my espn detroit rob. however, since my opinion of this was formed before i realized it was someone of who i am a fan, this is unbiased. if u watch rob on espn first take you can see he can go over the line in joking. what makes something not funny is the context. the lions haven't won a game. marinelli has handled the losses with class, but you know it's got to be difficult for him, his staff, and his family. doubly so because his defensive coach is married to his daughter. if you had a special relationship with the man you could make a joke with him in private about his daughter and son in law. in public, it was tasteless and inappropriate and in this day of low brow journalism, just compounded the image. to make it worse, rob's apology did not sound sincere. should he be disciplined? yes, in a manner equal to whatever else anyone at the paper would get. should he be fired? please, that's ludicrous. wish you could teach him to understand what he did wrong, and be more grateful but that's not going to happen ... his understanding, not the teaching.

It just proves that humor is

It just proves that humor is never an excuse to humiliate people. People perceive things differently so it goes without saying that what's is 'funny' for some may not be the same for others. Besides, the atmosphere in the game is not exactly where you can just inject some personal humor into it. Obviously, somebody has to react violently.

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