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Media Cautious on Tulsa Killings

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Sunday, April 8, 2012

Reluctance to Label Shootings Racially Motivated

Story Confirms Fears of Welfare-Reform Opponents

Newspaper Movie Resonates After Trayvon, Tulsa Tragedies

Trayvon Story No. 1 on Twitter, No. 3 on Blogs


Reporter on Trayvon: It "Very Well Could Have Been Me"

National Review Fires Columnist Over Warnings to Whites

AP, Google, ONA Name $20,000 Scholarship Winners

AEJMC Honors Annenberg School, NABJ One of Its Students

Short Takes

Reluctance to Label Shootings Racially Motivated

"Maybe it's the Trayvon Martin case, or maybe it's just the system working as it should, but news organizations are moving cautiously on the story of this weekend's shootings in Tulsa, Okla., which may — may — have been racially motivated," Andrew Beaujon reported Monday for the Poynter Institute.

"A headline on TulsaWorld.com says, 'Two arrested in north Tulsa shootingsJake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 33, are each being held at the Tulsa Jail and are accused of three counts of first-degree murder, two counts of shooting with intent to kill and a single complaint of possession of a firearm while committing a felony. Their bond totals exceeded $18 million, according to the Tulsa World. that claimed three lives.' . . . The first line of Zack Stoycoff's story is: 'Tulsa police have arrested two white men who are accused of killing three black residents and injuring two others in a shooting spree that authorities deemed 'unprecedented." '

"A few paragraphs down, the story quotes an FBI agent who says, 'It is way too early to call this a hate crime.' Indeed, the suspects were charged today, but not with hate crimes.

"Cheryl Corley’s report for NPR is headlined ' "Premature" To Call Tulsa Shootings Hate Crimes.' A CNN email alert I saw didn’t mention race until the last line: 'Authorities are working to determine whether the violence was racially motivated.'

"One fact in this story is repelling a simple narrative: Jake England, one of the two accused shooters, is alternately described as white and Native American. A Los Angeles Times article quotes Susan Sevenstar, a family friend of England’s:

" 'If anybody is trying to say this is a racial situation, they've got things confused,' said Sevenstar, who described England as Cherokee Indian. 'He didn’t care what your color was. It wasn’t a racist thing.'

"And yet some posts on England’s Facebook page used racist language."

Story Confirms Fears of Welfare-Reform Opponents

"Perhaps no law in the past generation has drawn more praise than the drive to 'end welfare as we know it,' which joined the late-'90s economic boom to send caseloads plunging, employment rates rising and officials of both parties hailing the virtues of tough love," Jason DeParle wrote from Phoenix Sunday in the lead story of the New York Times' print edition.

"But the distress of the last four years has added a cautionary postscript: much as overlooked critics of the restrictions once warned, a program that built its reputation when times were good offered little help when jobs disappeared. Despite the worst economy in decades, the cash welfare rolls have barely budged.

"Faced with flat federal financing and rising need, Arizona is one of 16 states that have cut their welfare caseloads further since the start of the recession — in its case, by half. Even as it turned away the needy, Arizona spent most of its federal welfare dollars on other programs, using permissive rules to plug state budget gaps.

"The poor people who were dropped from cash assistance here, mostly single mothers, talk with surprising openness about the desperate, and sometimes illegal, ways they make ends meet. They have sold food stamps, sold blood, skipped meals, shoplifted, doubled up with friends, scavenged trash bins for bottles and cans and returned to relationships with violent partners — all with children in tow."

DeParle's story would seem to vindicate pundits who warned that the Clinton-era welfare reforms would hurt poor people.

NewsBusters, a conservative media watch group affiliated with L. Brent Bozell III's Media Research Center, says one of those pundits was DeParle.

"In 1996 DeParle predicted poor mothers would 'turn to prostitution or the drug trade. Or cling to abusive boyfriends. Or have more abortions. Or abandon their children. Or camp out on the streets and beg.' None of which came to pass, until now (or so his new anecdotes suggest)."

Darryl Van Leer as Reverend Young, center, and Jackie Welch, right, as Mary Pell

Newspaper Movie Resonates After Trayvon, Tulsa Tragedies

A film about newspaper journalists and the killing of a black teenage boy is having its "premiere tour" of the Midwest, South and East punctuated by the Florida killing of Trayvon Martin, a black teenage boy, and the shooting-spree deaths in Tulsa, Okla., of three African Americans, allegedly by white suspects.

The movie, "Deadline," was "inspired" by the real-life killing of Wallace Youmans, 18, in 1970 in the small town of Fairfax, S.C. "No charges were filed, and the case seemed headed for obscurity until 1972"  [warning: clicking the link might spoil the movie]; when a white man confessed, yet "state officials unaccountably still failed to take action."Mark Ethridge III, working then at the Charlotte (N.C.) Observer, reported the story, then turned it into "Grievances," a novel. Etheridge and Curt Hahn, a prep-school classmate turned filmmaker, adapted the novel into "Deadline." The location of the killing was changed to Alabama and the newspaper's home to Nashville, Tenn., Hahn's home base.

The time became the present.

Speaking of events in the film, Hahn said, "I didn't want this to be thought of as something that no longer exists." He was speaking at a Washington screening Sunday that benefited the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "I didn't want people to say, 'Oh, that was back then.' "

In the movie, the journalists solve the crime, working on the story against the wishes of the publisher, who believes readers in Nashville's circulation area would not be interested.

"I hope what happens is that people understand why newspapers and journalists are important," said Ethridge, a third-generation journalist. David Dwyer, who played the obstructionist publisher, said he had worked with several news directors and drew from his experiences with them.

At test screenings, viewers said the film reminded them of "Mississippi Burning," "Ghosts of Mississippi," "A Time to Kill," "The Help," and foremost, "To Kill a Mockingbird."

The filmmakers' marketing strategy calls for news organizations to sponsor a screening in each location, to benefit local charities. In what Etheridge called the film's only negatie review, Steve Persall of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times said his paper declined to sponsor a recent Tampa event. However, Shawn McIntosh, public editor of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote that she "so enjoyed" the event in Atlanta, sponsored by her paper and benefiting a student journalism program. 

Even with the local sponsorship, however, the Washington booking is for one week only in suburban Oxon Hill, Md., a fate that has been replicated in other metro areas. Theaters are taking a wait-and-see attitude, Hahn said.

The tour began Feb. 15 in Nashville and concludes April 20 in Knoxville, Tenn. On Tuesday, it heads for Philadelphia and Ashland, Ky., followed by Oklahoma City; New York; Boston; Providence, R.I.; Hartford, Conn.; Norfolk, Va.; Richmond, Va.; and Greensboro, N.C. The film officially opens this weekend.

Trayvon Story No. 1 on Twitter, No. 3 on Blogs

"The often explosive issue of race became a common thread in social media last week as two very different kinds of stories generated passionate conversations," the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism reported.

"For the second straight week, the February 26 shooting death of African American teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman was a widely discussed topic. From March 26-30, it was the No. 1 topic on Twitter and No. 3 on blogs, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. In addition, a video connected to the case was the most-viewed news clip on YouTube last week.

"On Twitter last week, the largest storylines in the discussion were outrage that no arrest has been made in the case and sympathy for Martin and his family."

Meanwhile, NBC News President Steve Capus told Chris Francescani of Reuters that "several people" were disciplined over NBC's decision to air an edited call from Zimmerman to police in the moments before he shot Martin.

"The edit in question, which aired on the network's flagship 'Today' morning show last week, made it appear that Zimmerman told police that Martin was black without being prompted, when, in fact, the full tape reveals that the neighborhood watch captain only did so when responding to a question posed by a dispatcher," the story said.

"Capus confirmed a previous Reuters report that an internal network investigation had determined that a producer made the editing error, and that the network's editorial controls — including senior broadcast producer oversight, script editors and often legal and standards department reviews of sensitive material to be broadcast — simply missed the selective editing of the phone call.

"Two sources at the network told Reuters the Miami-based producer of the segment had been fired on Thursday."

In Florida, the special prosecutor assigned to the shooting investigation now says she will not take the case before a grand jury Tuesday, as had been scheduled, Jeff Weiner and Walter Pacheco reported for the Orlando Sentinel.

"Angela Corey, special prosecutor in the case and state attorney for Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, said Monday that her investigation will continue, but the grand jury will not hear the case."

On the comics pages, "Candorville" creator Darrin Bell concluded a week-long series in which his character Lemont "meets" Martin.

"What struck Darrin Bell first, powerfully and personally, were Trayvon’s eyes ," Michael Cavna wrote for the Washington Post's Comic Riffs column.

"In them he saw something intangible, the 'Candorville' creator tells Comic Riffs, 'that suggested to me that he was essentially a good kid, and that one day he’d grow into a good man.'

"Bell acknowledges that this perhaps was pure projection, but 'isn’t that what we’re supposed to do with kids?' says the L.A.-based cartoonist. 'We’re supposed to find something good in them — even if we have to create it and project it on them — and nurture that. The most tragic part of all this, I thought, was that nobody would ever be able to do that for him; and he would never become the person he could have become.' "

Reporter on Trayvon: It "Very Well Could Have Been Me"

"Trymaine Lee is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer many people might not have heard of until recently. He’s one of three journalists — all black men — credited with pushing the story of the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin into the mainstream, Tracie Powell wrote Monday for the Poynter Institute.

Trymaine Lee". . . Like Lee, the other two writers credited for bringing the story into the national spotlight are also African American and male: Charles M. Blow of The New York Times and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic. Of the three, Lee is the only news reporter, Blow and Coates are columnists.

"Lee's first story about Martin was published March 8, more than a full week after the shooting. [Pieces in the less-visible Clutch magazine and Black Youth Project ran the same day but gained less attention.]

" 'As a young black man this story can't help but settle in a certain place inside of you,' Lee said. 'Here was a 17-year-old kid who, at the least, was stereotyped or racially profiled from the beginning. I think we've all, regardless as to your experience as a young black man in America, have experienced, thought about or seen coverage of this kind of thing happening. This very well could have been me. This could have been my brother. This could have been any of us.

" 'I think sometimes it takes people to care about an issue, a subject, a source in order to bring it to light. As journalists, that's our task. To bring issues and stories to light and to spread it to the masses, spread it to readers,' Lee added. 'I don't know what would have happened if I didn't hear about this story, if Charles Blow or Ta-Nehisi Coates had not heard about this story. But I can't help but believe that our being black men played some role in our motivation to get out there.' "

Lee was hired by the Huffington Post in March 2011 after leaving the New York Times that January.

"I guess, simply put, we parted ways after the Times opted not to promote me from intermediate reporter status," Lee told Journal-isms then.

AP, Google, ONA Name $20,000 Scholarship Winners

"The Associated Press and Google today announced the first recipients of a Katie Zhu and Reginald Jamesnew national scholarship program targeted at college students whose innovative projects exemplify the new journalist in the digital media age," the groups announced on Friday.

"The Online News Association, the world’s largest membership organization of digital journalists, administers the program.

"The AP-Google Journalism and Technology Scholarship provides $20,000 scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year to six promising undergraduate or graduate students pursuing or planning to pursue degrees at the intersection of journalism, computer science and new media. A key goal is to promote geographic, gender and ethnic diversity, with an emphasis on rural and urban areas."

Among the six are Reginald James, 30, an undergraduate at the University of California, Berkeley, studying political science and African American studies, and Katie Zhu, 20, an undergraduate at Northwestern University studying computer science and journalism.

National Review Fires Columnist Over Warnings to Whites

"The conservative magazine National Review has fired John Derbyshire , a prominent columnist who provoked outrage Friday with a column published in the webzine Taki's Magazine, which warned white people to avoid 'large concentrations of blacks,' among other nuggets of racially tinged advice," Benjamin Hart and Jack Mirkinson wrote for the Huffington Post.

"Derbyshire has a history of controversy when it comes to race — he even proclaimed himself a racist, though a 'tolerant' one, in a 2003 interview — but he had managed to avoid any real firestorms. His latest piece, though, proved to be a step too far. Written in response to articles about the 'talk' black parents were having with their children about the dangers of racism in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, Derbyshire wrote about some of the offensive advice he had allegedly given his own children."

AEJMC Honors Annenberg School, NABJ One of Its Students

Eric Burse, a student at the University of Southern California's (USC) Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, is the National Association of Black Journalists' 2012 Student Journalist of the Year, NABJ announced on Monday.

Eric Burse and Geneva Overholser"Burse is studying broadcast and digital journalism and political science. He decided to attend the USC in 2009 because he knew in Los Angeles he could receive a well-rounded education in one of the most global markets in the world."

In addition, the Annenberg school announced, "The School of Journalism’s commitment to diversity — in hiring, enrolling, programming and community outreach — has been honored with the national Equity & Diversity Award" from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. 

" 'It is powerful indeed to be recognized for something so important to us at Annenberg and so essential to our craft and to our nation," Geneva Overholser, director of the school, said in a news release.

". . . Of the School's 41 fulltime faculty, 32 percent are now members of underrepresented groups or women. Meanwhile, last fall's incoming class of graduate students was the most diverse ever. And graduate curriculum revisions this year infused classwork more than ever before with assignments that focus on diversity and celebrate difference. . . . In addition, the Annenberg Diversity Initiative, 'Celebrating Difference,' produced several recommendations designed to educate students in how to cover race and class, understand the nuance and data of such stories and avoid stereotypes in coverage."

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 BugMeNot.com 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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