Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Media Not Ready to Ban All Offensive Slurs

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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Updated May 8, May 9

NABJ Leaders Urge N.Y. Post Never to Use "That Vile Word"

S. African Quits Job to Take Nieman; Apartheid Era Echoed

ABC, Univision Announce Joint Cable Channel

Chinese Activist Seeks Out U.S. Reporter Who Helped Him

Columnist Finds Living on $5 a Day "Doable" — But

For Indians' Sake, Nicholas Kristof Urges Boycott of Bud

L.A. Riots Led to Better Coverage of Asian Americans

Stanford Fellowships Cite Outreach for Diversity Success

Jenkins to Edit TheRootDC for Washington Post

Why Have White Men Always Hosted "Meet the Press?"

Short Takes

Which parts of Jay-Z's work can be mocked in kind in a newspaper?  (Video)

NABJ Leaders Urge N.Y. Post Never to Use "That Vile Word"

The New York Post's use of abbreviations for racial and misogynistic epithets commonly used by many rappers prompted leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists Saturday to call for "that vile word" (the racial one) never to appear in the Post again. But a survey of media outlets finds that news organizations are reluctant to ban any word in all circumstances.

The column in question was by sportswriter Phil Mushnick, who continued a crusade against the language used by rapper Jay-Z by linking it to his part-ownership in the new Brooklyn Nets NBA franchise, formerly the New Jersey Nets.

"As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new 'urban' home — why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?," Mushnick wrote.

"Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N------s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B----hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!"

In a news release, NABJ leaders denounced the column. "The language used in today's New York Post column, titled '‘Nets on Jay-Z track' [in a subhead], was disgusting and completely out of line," New York Association of Black Journalists President Michael J. Feeney said in the statement. "Columnist Phil Mushnick and the editors who allowed his offensive language to be published should be ashamed of themselves. We demand an explanation and an apology from Mushnick and Post management, and we want to be assured this vile word will never appear in this publication again."

NABJ President Gregory H. Lee Jr. added by email for Journal-isms, "Any racial language should be treated in the same manner. It seems as if language referring to African Americans is loosely used more in publications or broadcast than any other group's discriminatory terms."

Asked whether her organization had promulgated a policy on such issues, Anna Lopez Buck, interim executive director of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, said by email, "NAHJ came out with a style book a few years back to help media organizations with various terms that could be insensitive. We have no tolerance for insensitive references by media organizations."

Black journalists are of no single mind and have sometimes urged that the epithet in question be published or aired. In 2007, the black-owned Chicago Defender, then edited by Roland S. Martin, now a CNN contributor, ran this front-page headline: "TAKE A STAND. Black America, isn't it about time we made up our mind about the word nigger?'

Last month on ABC-TV's "The View," co-host Whoopi Goldberg and CNN anchor Don Lemon argued for journalists to say the full racial epithet on air while reporting stories. Lemon said, "I hate saying 'the n-word.' I think it takes the value out of what that word really means. Especially when we're reporting it. And I don't care what color the reporter is. I think someone should say, that person called someone 'nigger,' instead of saying 'the n-word,' because I think it sanitizes it," according to the Huffington Post.

Journal-isms asked 15 news organizations by email Monday for their policies about using epithets for race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox News Channel, Univision, the New York Post, the Daily News in New York and the Boston Globe did not respond. [Update: the Globe responded on May 9. See below.]

By email, these news organizations did:

Associated Press

A stylebook entry on "nationalities and races" says, "Do not use racially derogatory terms unless they are part of a quotation that is essential to the story." Another entry under "obscenities, profanities, vulgarities" reads, in part, "Do not use them in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them."

Boston Globe

Editor Martin Baron: "Our policy: We prohibit such epithets unless there's an overwhelmingly convincing journalistic reason to make an exception. We judge those carefully on a case by case basis." [Added May 9]

CNN

Richard T. Griffiths, vice president and senior editorial director: "While no editorial policy can apply to every conceivable reporting situation, language considered offensive is avoided unless we consider it essential to understanding the story. Anchors and correspondents make efforts to explain why the language is essential and attribute the offensive language to its source. In those instances, every effort is made to give viewers advance warning prior to airing a quotation that may be offensive."

Chicago Tribune

Valentina Djeljosevic, who supervises the copy desk: "We use AP style although we're flexible. And we don't use them [the epithets] in copy but if they're in quotes and we think they're compelling, we'll use hyphens."

From the Tribune stylebook:

"Obscenities, profanities, vulgarities: Do not use them in stories unless they are part of direct quotations and there is a compelling reason for them.

"Try to find a way to give the reader a sense of what was said without using the specific word or phrase. If a profanity, obscenity or vulgarity must be used, flag the story at the top:

"Eds: Story includes vulgarity (or graphic content, etc.) Confine the offending language, in quotation marks, to a separate paragraph that can be deleted easily by editors who do not want to use it.

"In reporting profanity that normally would use the words damn or god, lowercase god and use the following forms: damn, damn it, goddamn it. (Do not change damn it to darn it.) If a full quote that contains an obscenity, profanity or vulgarity cannot be dropped but there is no compelling reason for the offensive language, replace the letters of the offensive word with hyphens, using only an initial letter. In some stories or scripts, it may be better to replace the offensive word with a generic descriptive in parentheses, e.g., (vulgarity) or (obscenity).

"When the subject matter of a story may be considered offensive, but the story does not contain quoted profanity, obscenities or vulgarities, flag the story at the top: Eds: Story may be offensive to some readers."

Joe Knowles, associate managing editor for editing and presentation, added, "We'd apply these same standards to the use of any derogatory or potentially offensive terms regarding a person's race, ethnicity or sexual orientation."

Johnson Publishing Co.

"EBONY & JET Magazines do not use racial slurs unless it's critical to the context of a direct quote from an interviewee or source. This decision is made at the discretion of the editors in chief."

Los Angeles Times

The Standards and Practices Committee has published its guidelines online. They begin, "Obscenities, profanity, vulgarities and coarse language, even in their milder forms, should not be used in The Times — in print or online — unless they are germane to the essence of a story." They also say, "Do not replace an offending word with bracketed insertions such as [expletive deleted] or with hyphens or dashes, as this only invites the reader to fill in the blanks."

NPR

Deputy Managing Editor Stuart Seidel said:

"Prohibitions are dangerous in journalism. A blanket ban on the use of any given word, for whatever reason — concern about social propriety or racial offense or sexual prurience — requires an assumption of anticipating every possible instance a given word might be considered for use on the air or online. Some words are simply not used in polite company, and that provides a good general standard for broadcast or publication, but journalism sometimes requires conveying things that would be offensive in polite company.

"For instance, soldiers in combat sometimes say things that they might otherwise not say over the dinner table back home. Using a quote or cut of tape that includes an offensive word is arguably part of accurately telling the story of war. By that same nature, some now commonly viewed offensive words were once so commonly used, particularly in literature, that a ban on those words would require censoring great novels. (Indeed, the FCC rules anticipate such instances, saying that '... material, taken as a whole, must lack serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.') To exercise discretion and good judgment is the best guideline. Often using a bleep is the best option. A bleep removes the potentially offensive word but still conveys that a profanity or slur was used by the speaker. In those instances when a potentially offensive word is used without inserting a bleep, we attempt to caution our audience with an advisory in the introduction to the story."

The issue is also addressed in the NPR Ethics Handbook in the "Respect for our audience/ Using potentially offensive language" section.

New York Times

From the stylebook:

"slurs (ethnic, racial, religious and sexual). The epithets of bigotry ordinarily have no place in the newspaper. Even in ironic or self-mocking quotations about a speaker's own group (in rap lyrics, for example), their use erodes the worthy inhibition against brutality in public discourse. If an exception is essential to readers' understanding of a highly newsworthy crime, conflict or personality, the decision should first be discussed thoroughly by senior editors. For one limited exception, see queer.

"queer, in the sense of homosexual, should be treated as an offensive slur, but with a limited exception. Some gay men and lesbians have rehabilitated the term as an ironic badge of pride. In that sense, it may be used when the viewpoint is unmistakable. The term is acceptable in references to the emerging academic field of queer studies."

Washington Post

Jesse Lewis, multiplatform editing chief: "We avoid them. If it's a crucial part of a story where readers should have an idea of what was said (most likely in a direct quote), we would use the first letter and dashes."

The Post's position is evolving. In 2006, one of Lewis' predecessors urged using the phrase "a well-known racial epithet," but noted, "We've printed the actual word 1,254 times since 1977, mostly in the titles of plays and books, but also in news stories about racial harassment." Lewis was hired by the paper in 2010.

S. African Quits Job to Take Nieman; Apartheid Era Echoed

A South African journalist accepted into the Nieman Fellowship program at Harvard University has quit his job as a television field producer there because his employer would not let him accept the fellowship, the journalist, Beauregard Lucian Tromp, told Journal-isms on Tuesday.

"They told me they couldn't let me go," Tromp, 36, said by telephone. Beauregard Lucian Tromp (Credit: Theo Jeptha/Financial Mail)"After a lot of soul searching, I decided the Nieman Fellowship is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I decided to resign."

South Africa has sent a journalist to the Nieman program for 51 years, the only country outside of the United States to do so consistently. The selection is made by South African graduates of the program, known as the Nieman Society of Southern Africa. Tromp's selection was announced in Cambridge, Mass., on Thursday along with those of the 23 other U.S. and international fellows.

Tim Du Plessis, chair of the Nieman Fund Trust of Southern Africa, which raises funds for the fellowship, told Journal-isms by telephone that the last time a South African journalist was denied permission to accept the fellowship was in 1965, when the apartheid government would not grant a passport to Ndazana Nathaniel Nakasa, an assistant editor of Drum magazine, founder of the Classic literary magazine and columnist for the Rand Daily Mail.

Nakasa took an exit permit, which meant he would never be able to get back to his home country, according to the website South African History Online.

After Nakasa's studies, "As it became clear he would never be able to return home, he committed suicide on 14 July 1965 by jumping from a window of a high-rise building. Attempts to bring his body home bore no fruit, and he was buried at the Ferncliff cemetery in upstate New York," the history said. "That was the about the last time we had a similar kind of situation," Du Plessis said, although this one was not political.

Patrick Conroy, group head of news for Tromp's employer, e.sat tv, could not immediately be reached for comment. Tromp said the Nieman Society of Southern Africa, "the top people in the media in South Africa," emailed his editors explaining the significance of the Nieman — "you're sitting at the top table" — to no avail. Du Plessis said, "This is a serious fellowship. He's quite well known; he's an accomplished journalist. That's the point."

Etv explained that Tromp had been with the station less than a year, Tromp said. The Nieman society chose him as its recipient only two or three weeks ago, he said. Tromp resigned from the station a week ago Monday.

According to the Nieman program, Tromp "will study the practice of countries and global corporations purchasing large tracts of land in Africa to address future food shortages and the impact of that for trade agreements, governments and local communities concerned about possible exploitation under a 'new colonialism.' " (Added May 8)

Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos announce the ABC-Univision venture Monday on ABC's "Good Morning America." (Video)

ABC, Univision Announce Joint Cable Channel

"The Walt Disney Company’s ABC News division and Univision have tentatively agreed to create an English-language cable television channel for Hispanics in the United States," Brian Stelter reported Monday for the New York Times.

Univision said of the new network, ". . . It will deliver news content focused on issues, lifestyle interests and culture of importance to Hispanics and will feature the trusted, award-winning journalists of ABC News and Univision News. Now for the first time Hispanic Americans will have a choice for uncompromising coverage of current events and lifestyle with a Latino perspective in English."

Isaac Lee, president of Univision News, said in the announcement, “Univision News is proud to be working with ABC News in this groundbreaking venture to further deliver global news and investigative reporting to the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population which today is one of the most important influencers on the future of the United States and its role in the world. It will also provide all audiences with a multiplatform current events perspective on the issues that matter most to Latinos. This is an important moment for journalism in the U.S. and for the U.S. Hispanic community."

Stelter's story continued, "The companies, which will each own 50 percent of the joint venture, said Monday morning that the channel — which is, as yet, unnamed — would start sometime in the first half of 2013. Ben Sherwood, the president of ABC News, said it would be 'a 24/7 news, information and lifestyle network primarily in English that will serve the youngest and fastest-growing demographic in the country: U.S. Hispanics.'

". . . Through the joint venture, both companies see an opportunity to grow by collaborating: Disney, by negotiating a per-subscriber fee for the channel that will support ABC News; and Univision, the largest media company in the United States catering to Spanish-language speakers, by expanding into English-language programming.

"The financial terms of the joint venture were not disclosed. The two news divisions will share some news-gathering and production resources, potentially allowing ABC to trim some costs."

Chinese Activist Seeks Out U.S. Reporter Who Helped Him

Philip Pan"Activist Chen Guangcheng called The Washington Post last week because of a 2005 article by Philip P. Pan, says the author," Andrew Beaujon wrote Monday for the Poynter Institute. "Pan’s article introduced Chen's campaign against forced abortions and sterilizations in rural China to Western audiences. Pan now works for The New York Times, where he writes about his guilt over how that article got Chen arrested, leading to the detention he just escaped. Pan says the call to the Post after Chen decided to leave the American Embassy in Beijing, where he'd taken shelter, was a result of Chen not keeping up with media news: 'While en route in an embassy car, he borrowed a cellphone and called The Washington Post, apparently in an attempt to reach me and explain his choice.'

"In an audio clip, Keith Richburg, the Beijing-based Washington Post reporter whom Chen reached, discusses the phone call, which technically came from the American ambassador, Gary Locke, who passed the phone to Chen."

Columnist Finds Living on $5 a Day "Doable" — But

"Sponsored by the anti-hunger coalition and the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, the Food Stamp Challenge asked participants to live on $35 a week or $5 a day, columnist Annette John-Hall wrote last week in the Philadelphia Inquirer, ". . . the average benefit a person who is on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, receives in Pennsylvania. I participated with several other media members, including Radio Times host Marty Moss-Coane of WHYY, and community organizers and politicians, such as U.S. Rep. Bob Brady [D]."

How did she fare?

". . . On Day 4, already on carb overload, I couldn’t shake the mental and Annette John-Hallphysical fatigue of eating the same thing. I looked in the mirror. My skin had lost its glow.

"Is eating on $35 a week doable? It is — if you're willing to sacrifice fresh fruits and vegetables for protein and carbs, traditional meal-stretching foods. It requires supreme organization and focus, which not many of us have on our best days. Let's face it: How many of us have brought food for the week only to go out for dinner or stop for McDonald's because we don't feel like cooking? Not a whole lot different from low-income folks who choose McDonald's regularly for convenience and affordability.

"To encourage nutritious choices, the city has been working hard to establish more farmers' market in low-income neighborhoods and to get corner stores to install refrigerated display cases so they can sell healthy foods, such as yogurt. Still, that won't do much to ease the huge hit SNAP recipients will surely take when congressionally enacted budget cuts — $14 billion over 10 years — take effect next year. That means benefits for a family of four will be reduced by as much as $60 a month, marking the first time there’s ever been a reduction in food stamps with no change in a family’s circumstance."

For Indians' Sake, Nicholas Kristof Urges Boycott of Bud

"After seeing Anheuser-Busch’s devastating exploitation of American Indians, I'm done with its beer," Nicholas D. Kristof wrote from Whiteclay, Neb., Sunday in the New York Times.

"The human toll is evident here in Whiteclay: men and women staggering on the street, or passed out, whispers of girls traded for alcohol. The town has a population of about 10 people, but it sells more than four million cans of beer and malt liquor annually — because it is the main channel through which alcohol illegally enters the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation a few steps away.

"Pine Ridge, one of America’s largest Indian reservations, bans alcohol. The Oglala Sioux who live there struggle to keep alcohol out, going so far as to arrest people for possession of a can of beer. But the tribe has no jurisdiction over Whiteclay because it is just outside the reservation boundary.

". . . That's why I'll pass on a Bud, and I hope you'll join me."

L.A. Riots Led to Better Coverage of Asian Americans

One of the outcomes of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which erupted 20 years ago last week, was improved coverage of Asian Americans by a previously "clueless" media, according to Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director of the Los Angeles-based Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Stewart Kwoh"Media outlets . . . sensationalized coverage of the unrest, showing images of Korean business owners wielding guns outside their stores," Kwoh wrote for New America Media. "In actuality, police left them unprotected and with few other options. Not until several community leaders challenged the lack of Asian-American journalists in newsrooms did these outlets, such as the Los Angeles Times, hire Asian-American staff and improve their coverage."

Kwoh's center describes itself as "the nation’s largest Asian-American legal and civil rights organization that serves more than 15,000 individuals and organizations each year." Twenty years ago, though, Kwoh led a delegation of Asian American community leaders who went to see Shelby Coffey III, then the editor of the Times. The paper had Asian American journalists, Kwoh said, "but they weren't covering the Asian American community. They didn't have somebody who knew about the community covering the Asian American community."

Kwoh told Journal-isms Monday by telephone that Coffey, "on the spot," appointed Penelope McMillan to be that reporter. Four to six months later, K. Connie Kang was assigned to the beat. Though only one reporter at a time covered Asian Americans, "for our community it was a big achievement," he said. Later, the group gave Coffey an award.

For reporters of color, "half the battle is explaining" to the editors "that the story is important," Kwoh said, and both McMillan and Kang were good at that.

The Los Angeles riots were precipitated by a jury’s acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers who severely beat Rodney King, an African American motorist. But underlying the rioting was a sense of economic and political isolation. "People didn't feel they had a lot to lose," Kwoh said. About half the estimated $1 billion in property damage occurred to Korean-owned businesses.

"We could tell that things were happening," Kwoh said of the disquiet. "The media was clueless. The media did not pick up on the frustration, the anger and the lack of economic opportunity in South Central." Had journalists been covering Asian Americans and their businesses, he said, they would have understood "why was it that blacks were moving out, or African Americans or Latinos couldn't even get the loans. . . . I don't see that people saw that lead-up to the riots."

With the cutbacks at the Times, the paper's Asian American reporters now cover Asian Americans only if they fall in the reporter's subject area or geographic area, Kwoh said. The Times no longer covers demographic groups.

Coffey wrote his own remembrance of the events of 1992 last week for the Daily Beast.

Stanford Fellowships Cite Outreach for Diversity Success

Was it intentional that seven of the 13 recipients of the John S. Knight Fellowships at Stanford University announced last week would be people of color?

"I don't know if 'intentional' is the right word," James R. Bettinger, director of the program, told Journal-isms by email on Monday. "We worked very hard to broaden our outreach to journalists of color, especially those involved in untraditional news media ventures, and I would say we benefited from that."

Meanwhile, the Nieman program at Harvard University, which announced an incoming class with no African Americans on Thursday, actually received more black applicants this year than last, according to curator Ann Marie Lipinski.

"There were 147 U.S. applicants," she said by email. "Of those, 10 self identified as African American, 10 as Hispanic, and 7 as Asian American.

"[One-fourth] of the U.S. fellows chosen are non-majority; of the 12, two self-identified as Hispanic and one as Asian-American and white/Caucasian."

She would not identify the Hispanic and Asian-American/white/Caucasian recipients by name, citing "applicant confidentiality guidelines."

[However, Laura Wides-Muñoz responded Tuesday to a question from Journal-isms, "I . . . wanted to clarify that I am not Hispanic. I am married to a Guatemalan, thus the hyphenated surname." Lipiniski said Wides-Muñoz' declaration does not change her count.]

The number of African American applicants was 16 in 2010 and six in 2011; 15 Hispanics in 2010 and seven in 2011; two Native Americans in 2010 and one in 2011, curator Bob Giles told Journal-isms last year.

Lipinski, a former editor of the Chicago Tribune who became curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism last summer, declined to comment on the lack of African Americans among the newest selections.

Giles said last year, "Our African American applicant pool has been growing steadily. We put more recruiting time and energy into minority recruitment, especially African Americans, than any other group. The decline in the number of African American applicants is both disappointing and a mystery."

Jenkins to Edit TheRootDC for Washington Post

Chris L. Jenkins, deputy to Robert E. Pierre, departing editor of the Washington Post's theRootDC, is succeeding Pierre as editor of the web-and-print product targeting middle-class African Americans, editors announced on Monday.

Meanwhile, Shirley Carswell, the Post's deputy managing editor, conceded, "We Chris Jenkinsdid lose a lot of journalists of color" in the latest round of buyouts, and said the newspaper was "making a concerted effort to bring in more people of color." It is also attempting to do "a better job of promoting and developing the people we have here," she said.

Pierre was with the paper for 19 years. Not all of those who are leaving have publicly identified themselves. Fredrick Kunkle, co-chair, News, of the Post's unit of the Newspaper Guild, said last month, ". . . By our count, more than a dozen of these Guild-covered employees are minorities, most of whom are black."

According to the editors' memo, Jenkins, along with Pierre, "was the creative force behind our niche channel on washingtonpost.com aimed at local African American readers." He "joined The Post as a summer intern in 2000. Since then, he has reported from nearly every corner of suburban Virginia, bringing a seriousness of purpose and a deft writing touch to every assignment, whether it was GA [general assignment], politics or social policy. He also spent 2.5 years covering the state legislature in Richmond, including the 2005 governor’s race. The Harlem, NY, native attended Oberlin College and holds a master’s in journalism from University of California-Berkeley."

Carswell said she would not discuss numbers but said the proportion of journalists of color in the Post newsroom would remain about the same. "We continue to have one of the best records for diversity in our newsroom staffs," she said. "We will be looking at ways to keep diversity front and center." She clarified that a meeting she held two Fridays ago was not a formal one with Newspaper Guild representatives, just an informal gathering with employees in which she inquired about possible hires.

Why Have White Men Always Hosted "Meet the Press?"

On C-SPAN's "In Depth With Tom Brokaw" on Sunday, the NBC newsman was asked by Scott Pellegrino of Counterpunch magazine why of the 10 hosts in the 65-year history of "Meet the Press,' all have been white men. Brokaw spoke chiefly about women in his first response. Another caller, who identified himself as Max, later asked Brokaw why he hadn't addressed the issue of black journalists. Above, Brokaw says, "The time will come," mentioning Asian American and Hispanic journalists as well. (Pellegrino later told Journal-isms that he was also "Max.") (Video)

Short Takes

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Comments

Black Censorship

I will never accept nor tolerate any efforts to censor or ban words inclduing hate speech. There is no value nor merit in altering truth and reality.

Unabridged content must never surrender to intellectual cowardice. Freedom to express is a universal law which enhances the human condition.

Words which are banned and censored today will later be used to limit freedom and expression.

Jay z, the NY Post and NYABJ

NYABJ properly admonished the NY Post for it's use of "that vile word." ironically, their protest and those of other black organizations about mainstream media's use of racial derogatives would carry much more weight if they stood up to the Jay-Zs and other "artists" who vilify black men and women and profit from it.

Nonsense artists are not

Nonsense artists are not soldiers. Words only wound when people allow them to.

 

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