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Media Gave Blacks "Little Attention" in '09

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Gates Flap Stands Out Amid "Downbeat Picture"

Fox Tries to Downplay Role in Airing Sherrod Video

Van Jones Says Group Admits He Never Signed Petition

Carole Simpson Says CNN Bypasses Black Host Candidates

Bob Johnson Calls for Action on Racial "Wealth Gap"

Schorr Said N.Y. Times Feared "Too Many Jewish Bylines"

Houston Station to Try News Without Anchors

Short Takes

Gates Flap Stands Out Amid "Downbeat Picture"

"Henry Louis Gates Jr., in front of his Cambridge, Mass., home a year ago, on the July day he was arrested. (Demotix Images).As a group, African Americans attracted relatively little attention in the U.S. mainstream news media during the first year of Barack Obama's presidency - and what coverage there was tended to focus more on specific episodes than on examining how broader issues and trends affected the lives of blacks generally, according to a year-long study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and its Social and Demographic Trends Project," the Pew center reported on Monday.

"From early 2009 through early 2010, the biggest news story related to African Americans was the controversy triggered by the arrest last summer of a prominent black Harvard University professor," Henry Louis Gates, "by a white Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer. It accounted for nearly four times more African American-related coverage than did either of two biggest national 'issue' stories covered by the mainstream media during the same period - the economy and health care.

"The study finds that 9% of the coverage of the nation's first black president and his administration during Obama's first year in office had some race angle to it. Here, too, this coverage was largely tied to specific incidents or controversies rather than to broader issues and themes.

"These findings come from an examination of more than 67,000 national news stories that appeared between February 16, 2009 and February 15, 2010 in different mainstream media outlets, including newspapers, cable and network television, radio, and news websites.

". . . With most of the coverage about African Americans fueled by individual newsmakers, what kind of coverage emerged about the population of African Americans in general? Which media tended to produce these kinds of reports, and what sorts of themes and images emerged?

"Overall these stories painted a downbeat picture of the state of African Americans in this county, mostly tied to health care or the economy. There was also a smattering of more uplifting coverage about individual stories of success.

" . . . What sort of African American angle emerged in the coverage of the Gates incident? Was there an attempt to discuss the black population more broadly, or did the media stay focused on the individuals directly involved?

"To a certain degree, this varied according to each media sector.

"Cable news and network morning television in particular focused on the aftermath, often bringing in pundits or other outsiders for discussion. But, even using some of the same sources, there was a distinct difference in the image that emerged from each of the two sectors. Morning news segments usually a brief packaged piece followed by a discussion with two or more guests, tended to be more symbiotic, with the guests often voicing agreement over the issues at hand and offering a positive sense of how things could move forward.

". . . On talk radio, the tenor was quite different. Most of the coverage in this sector came from the conservative talk show hosts. Liberal host Ed Schultz did not spend any significant time on this story. Another liberal talker, Randi Rhodes, devoted two segments to the arrest.

"Since right wing talkers we re most likely to talk about the issue, it is not surprising that most of the radio talk show coverage strongly critiqued Obama's response to the Gates arrest.

". . . Much of the internet news coverage was made up of wire stories that followed the same trajectory of the case that the other outlets followed. Although there was some analysis, most coverage described the events of the case, Obama's comments, the 911 call and the subsequent beer summit.

". . . Network evening news produced the most enterprising pieces, looking beyond the political issue at hand to broader racial implications. CBS Evening News aired a July 23, 2009 story on the recent history of clashes between African Americans and law enforcement. A day later, ABC's World News Tonight aired a report on the same issue.

" . . . Cable news attention was similarly focused on political implications, though here both sides of the aisle weighed in strongly. On cable news, particularly evening prime time, the tone was quite different. These programs fixated more on the political implications.

". . . Newspapers, at least on their front pages, stuck more to the events as they unfolded. The Washington Post, for example, had a front page story on July 22, 2009 about the arrest. The Post interviewed Gates, who said that the arrest will lead him to 'turn his intellectual heft and stature to the issue of racial profiling.'

"One area of commonality across media sectors came in the black voices they brought into the coverage. Most interviewed a mix of African Americans not tied to the case in any way but who were academics, political analysts and black activists, who could speak personally as a voice from the African American populace. Some of the most prominent voices included conservative Bob Parks and liberal Earl Ofari Hutchinson, American political science professor, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Reverend Jesse Jackson and political analyst Donna Brazile."

The study also examined three black newspapers the New York Amsterdam News, published weekly in Harlem, N.Y.; the Afro-American, published weekly in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, and the Philadelphia Tribune, which publishes three times a week.

"First, much of the coverage of the Gates arrest came from the opinion and editorial pages. These newspapers were not providing breaking news: they offered few analysis or summary pieces about the Gates incident in the main pages of the paper. The remainder of the coverage came through a mix of voices in the opinion sections.

"Second, the discussion and columns offered here took a starkly different angle than the commentary in the mainstream press. While the mainstream media largely assessed political implications for President Obama, the commentary in the black press considered the broader question of race relations in the U.S. It was also evident that these papers saw themselves as a voice of the black community. Even within the opinion columns, there was a clear sense of providing an African American perspective to the story. The tone, however, in many cases, came across as less 'us' versus 'them' and more of an assessment of steps needed from all sides."

Laura Ingraham tells Bill O'Reilly that she was wrong to say on "Fox and Friends" that there are "people who have burrowed their way into the Obama administration with radical outlooks, a radical agenda and, in this case, a racist sentiment." (Video)

Fox Tries to Downplay Role in Airing Sherrod Video

Fox News is attempting to downplay its role in airing the infamous out-of-context video portraying Agriculture Department staffer Shirley Sherrod as anti-white.

On "Fox News Sunday," Howard Dean, former Vermont governor and former Democratic National Committee chair, told host Chris Wallace, "Let's just be blunt about this. I don't think Newt Gingrich," a fellow guest on the program, "is a racist, and you're certainly not a racist, but I think Fox News did something that was absolutely racist.

"They took a ‚Äî they had an obligation to find out what was really in the clip. They had ‚Äî they had been pushing a theme of black racism with this phony Black Panther crap and this business and [Supreme Court Justice Sonia] Sotomayor and all this other stuff. .  . .  look, the Tea Party called out their racist fringe, and I think the Republican Party's got to stop appealing to its racist fringe. And Fox News is what did that."

Wallace replied, "I know facts are inconvenient things, but let's try to deal with the facts. The fact is that the Obama administration fired or forced Shirley Sherrod to quit before her name had ever been mentioned on Fox News Channel. Did you know that, sir? . . . .The video had never played on the Fox News Channel before the White House fired her. It was on Andrew Breitbart, biggovernment.com. We're not responsible for them. I agree with you it was out of context."

Others on the show chimed in. Roundtable panelist Brit Hume said, "Fox News, as you pointed out, Chris, hadn't even aired the woman's name until after she was forced out."

Those protestations followed a statement from Michael Clemente, senior vice president of Fox News, to Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz, a line picked up by some other media writers.

"But for all the chatter — some of it from Sherrod herself — that she was done in by Fox News, the network didn't touch the story until her forced resignation was made public Monday evening, with the exception of brief comments by O'Reilly," Kurtz wrote last week. "After a news meeting Monday afternoon, an e-mail directive was sent to the news staff in which Fox Senior Vice President Michael Clemente said: 'Let's take our time and get the facts straight on this story. Can we get confirmation and comments from Sherrod before going on-air. Let's make sure we do this right.' "

But none of that explains this sentence on FoxNews.com Tuesday: "The Agriculture Department announced Monday, shortly after FoxNews.com published its initial report on the video, (emphasis added) that Sherrod had resigned."

Kurtz said on his CNN show "Reliable Sources" that "The story did not run on the Fox Web site until shortly before the firing," but apparently the website people did not get Clemente's e-mail.

Joe Strupp of Media Matters interviewed Sherrod. She "also said Fox News never checked the facts with her before posting a story and the video clip,"  Strupp wrote Wednesday, using the word "posting," not "airing."

The memo was also missed by those who continually repeated the story on Fox News Channel on Tuesday.

"By Tuesday morning, 'Fox & Friends' headlined the story 'Racism Caught on Tape,' " David Bauder wrote for the Associated Press.

"Commentator Laura Ingraham talked about 'people who have burrowed their way into the Obama administration with radical outlooks, a radical agenda and, in this case, a racist sentiment. How many more like Ms. Sherrod exist in the Obama administration who weren't so stupid as she was to actually explicitly state her views on the issue of race?' "

"On the July 21 broadcast of her radio show, Ingraham apologized for running with the Sherrod video, saying: 'I should say that I came out there and slammed her really hard yesterday, and that we really shouldn't have gone with this, despite the fact that every major news organization went with it. We shouldn't have even played it,' " according to Media Matters for America.

Not all writers accepted the spin from Fox News Channel.

In the "Full Court Press" section of the Sidney Hillman Foundation website, Charles Kaiser wrote,

"Kurtz‚Äôs piece prompted FCP to ask him, 'Did you ask anyone at Fox why every program there ignored this e-mail from Clemente and ran the story into the ground all day Tuesday ‚Äî before getting confirmation or comments from Sherrod?‚Äù

"This was Kurtz’s reply:

" 'My focus was on what if anything was reported before Shirley Sherrod resigned. Lots of media outlets, including CNN and MSNBC and a zillion Web sites, ran with the story on Tuesday once the Agriculture Department fired Sherrod. Fox may have done it with more frequency and more enthusiasm, but it's hard to argue that it wasn't a story at all once the firing was confirmed.'

"Of course there was one small difference between Fox and CNN. While the conservative network spent thirty-six hours constantly repeating the false charge of racism against Sherrod, CNN actually tried to locate the truth about the allegation against her."

[The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times fact-checking operation PolitiFact examined a statement from the Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes that Sherrod "was forced to resign before anybody on Fox said a word about this," and concluded late Monday that it was "mostly true," but was beside the point.

["All told, it seems clear to us that the USDA ousted Sherrod in order to forestall the possibility that commentators on Fox's cable channel would start calling for her resignation, not because Fox commentators had actually begun to do so," it said. "Still, two Fox web affiliates mentioned the controversy before Sherrod's ouster, and the fact that O'Reilly called for her resignation without knowing that she was already out of a job suggests that Fox was already beginning to pounce. On balance, these two caveats persuade us to drop Hayes' otherwise accurate statement that Shirley Sherrod 'was forced to resign before anybody on Fox said a word about this' by a notch to Mostly True."] [Added July 27.]

Van Jones Says Group Admits He Never Signed Petition

Van Jones"Last year I, too, resigned from an administration job, after I uttered some ill-chosen words about the Republican Party and was accused — falsely — of signing my name to a petition being passed around by 9/11 conspiracy theorists," Van Jones, the White House "green czar" who was forced to resign last year after a right-wing drumbeat, wrote Sunday in the New York Times in the wake of the Shirley Sherrod experience.

"Partisan Web sites and pundits pounced, and I, too, saw my name go from obscurity to national infamy within hours.

"Our situations aren’t exactly the same. Ms. Sherrod’s comments, in which she, a black woman, appeared to admit to racial discrimination against a white couple, were taken far out of context, while I truly did use a vulgarity.

"But the way we were treated is strikingly similar, and it reveals a lot about the venal nature of Washington politics in the Internet era. In my case, the media rushed to judgment so quickly that I was never able to make clear that the group put my name on its Web site without my permission. The group finally admitted that it never had my signature, but by then it was too late."

According to the Washington Post of Sept. 7, "Jones was listed as a signatory on a petition released by 911Truth.org on Oct. 26, 2004. It called 'for immediate public attention to unanswered questions that suggest that people within the current administration may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war,' an investigation by then-New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and congressional hearings into failings prior to the attacks.

"THE WALK-BACK: 'In recent days some in the news media have reported on past statements I made before I joined the administration — some of which were made years ago. If I have offended anyone with statements I made in the past, I apologize. As for the petition that was circulated today, I do not agree with this statement and it certainly does not reflect my views now or ever,' Jones said in a Sept. 3 statement issued by the White House Council on Environmental Quality after the petition was unearthed by blogger Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit," the Post continued.

Earlier, Jones said he was "clearly inappropriate" in using a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration, the Post reported.

Carole Simpson Says CNN Bypasses Black Host Candidates

Carole SimpsonPioneering former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson used an appearance on CNN's "Reliable Sources" media program Sunday to challenge CNN on its lack of prime-time African American hosts.

"I am a guest of CNN, and I'm happy to be here, but I have to criticize your cable network," she told host Howard Kurtz. "After Tony Harris goes off at I guess about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, there are no African-Americans who are hosting any programs on CNN.

"I can't believe that the Campbell Brown job came open and Eliot Spitzer, a disgraced public figure, gets a show. And what is — where is Don Lemon? Where is T.J. Holmes? Where's Fredericka Whitfield? All in the — on the weekends where I was as well. Lester Holt is on the weekend.

"KURTZ: Right.

"SIMPSON: Yes, weekends are the ghetto. They used to call it when I worked, because there were black correspondents on and black producers, world news — 'black world news tonight Sunday on ABC.'

"KURTZ: That's pretty cutting. I had not heard that."

Simpson continued a few minutes later, "Let me tell you something I was told when I was doing local news in Chicago. I was anchoring on the weekends. I've always anchored on the weekends. And I was told that it was OK.

"I said, 'Why can't I fill in on — during the daytime, during the week?" And I was told that white people don't like to hear news from black people during the week. Weekends were OK.

"I mean, literally told me that. And it's like, you know, what study did you come up with to point that out to me?"

Eric Deggans, media critic of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, wrote Monday on his blog, "Given that CNN is example Number One of the problem, I give Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz props for tackling the question of why no anchors of color have surfaced to lead top shows in prime time on cable news Sunday on his CNN media analysis show, Reliable Sources. [F]or the discussion, he tapped me, former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson and pundit Amy Holmes, all black people.

"At the same time, when Howard turned to talk about the Shirley Sherrod case — a week-long scandal where media, race tension and political conflict came together in one toxic stew — the panel who kicked around the issue had no people of color on it at all. So it was ironic to have a discussion about 'ghettoizing' anchors of color on a show where the experts of color seemed limited to talking about diversity in media."

On CNBC, Robert L. Johnson discusses the "wealth gap Tsunami threatening African American families."

Bob Johnson Calls for Action on Racial "Wealth Gap"

Robert L. Johnson, co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, called Sunday for steps to reduce the black-white "wealth gap (PDF)." He said that according to the U.S. Census data, ‚Äúwhite household median net worth is 10 times that of Black households. The median net worth for African Americans was $11,800 compared to $118,000 for whites.‚Äù

Johnson, speaking before the Congressional Black Caucus, said the federal government should:

    "1. Allow black businesses to be eligible for government set aside contracts if they own 10 percent of a business rather than the existing 51 percent due to the 10-to-1 wealth gap between Blacks and whites — the African American owner must retain control of the board of directors and voting control. Significantly increase the dollar volume of set aside contracts for Black businesses at all government agencies.

    "2. Encourage majority-owned businesses to invest in black-owned companies by significantly reducing or deferring the taxes on the economic gain from those investments similar to the FCC 'tax certificate policy' which motivated majority-owned media companies to sell properties to minorities.

    "3. Allow African American families earning less than $250,000 annually to defer federal income taxes, without interest, provided tax deferrals are placed into a 401(k) type savings account which can only be drawn out at retirement or upon death at which time the government would be reimbursed for the deferred taxes. The gain on the 401(k) investment would be available to the families at retirement or passed on to future generations.

    "4. Create a Treasury-backed fund to securitize short-term borrowing or emergency loans made by minority banks or other lending institutions to African American families provided these loans are marketed and made in a regulated and transparent manner. The securitized loans would encourage banks and lenders to make short-term or emergency borrowing available at reasonable rates and end payday lending as we know it today.

    "5. Require large banks under the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) to fund a nationwide marketing campaign targeted to the African American community, particularly young adults that will focus on financial literacy and savings.

Schorr Said N.Y. Times Feared "Too Many Jewish Bylines"

Daniel Schorr, the broadcast correspondent at CBS, CNN and NPR who died last week at 93, lost out on a job at the New York Times in the early 1950s because "the paper was concerned that too many Jewish bylines might jeopardize its coverage of the Mideast," the New York Times obituary of Schorr said. It attributed the information to Schorr, who said "an editor sheepishly explained" the reason for his rejection.

The explanation is ironic in 2010, as the Times has come under fire from its own public editor for retaining Ethan Bronner as Jerusalem bureau chief after Bronner's son enlisted in the Israeli army.

Palestinian journalist Taghreed El-Khodary said in a panel discussion last month that she had to quit being the paper's Gaza correspondent because she he feared losing her sources and her life after the revelation about Bronner’s son.

Houston Station to Try News Without Anchors

In Houston, "Channel 39 will end its traditional newscasts by this fall to launch a new format called NewsFix, which discards on-camera anchors and reporters and focuses on natural sound and video to tell stories," David Barron wrote Friday for the Houston Chronicle.

"KIAH employees were informed Thursday about the changes, which apparently involve reassigning anchors and reporters to new, off-camera duties and signal a sharp reversal from the station's recent advertising campaign focusing on its lead anchor, Mia Gradney.

"Roger Bare, Channel 39's general manager, said KIAH will be the pilot program for Tribune Broadcasting's NewsFix, which is expected to launch in late September or early October."

Tribune, which owns 23 TV stations, will roll out NewsFix on stations "that don't have a strong legacy news product or where the local news tradition may not be as strong as it is in other markets," Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said in the story.

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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