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Mimi Valdés Out at BET.Com

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Updated October 28

Site Lost Half Its Unique Visitors From June to September

Even Jesse Jackson, a Juan Williams Target, Defends Him

Family in "Traditional Muslim Clothing" Causes "Scare"

White House Generous With Interviews in Election Push

Donna Brazile Scores "Hyper-Partisan" Cable Pundits

Maynard Launches Wire Service on Structural Racism

N.Y. Columnist Errol Louis Leaving for Cable Station

Thomas' Ex-Girlfriend Says "Trick" Comment Was Joke

Short Takes

Mimi Valdés discussed the state of Latina magazine with Fox News in 2009. (Video)

Site Lost Half Its Unique Visitors From June to September

Mimi Valdés, former editor of Vibe and Latina magazines, is leaving Black Entertainment Television after only three months, a BET spokeswoman confirmed for Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Valdés is BET's vice president for content, supervising BET.com.

In June, after Valdés was hired, BET.com was the most widely viewed Internet site catering to African Americans, according to ComScore, an Internet ratings service. But it lost half its unique visitors and slipped to third place among those sites in the September ratings, a ComScore spokeswoman said on Thursday. The site had also laid off six people.

In June, BET received 3.5 million unique visitors, compared with 2.9 million for AOL Black Voices, 2.3 million for MediaTakeOut.com and 1.7 million for Black Planet.

In September, the rankings were AOL Black Voices, 2,568,000; MediaTakeOut.com, 2,144,000; BET Networks, 1,702,000; and BlackPlanet.com, 1,695,000, according to the ComScore figures. Essence.com dropped from 968,000 to 943,000 unique visitors, and BlackAmericaWeb.com, which was not included in the June figures, had 343,000.

"Mimi Valdés will be leaving BET Networks and we wish her the best in her future endeavors," spokeswoman Jeanine Liburd said.

Valdés is leaving next week, she said. Liburd said "the decision was mutually agreed upon" and added, "We respect the privacy of all our employees and have no additional details to provide."

Valdés did not respond to messages. Probationary periods often last three months.

Valdés was hired in May after the layoff of six people from the Web operation, including Executive Editor Tanu Henry.

She had spent two years in the top editorial job at Latina, the nation's largest English-language magazine targeting Hispanics, before leaving that publication in May. An announcement then said she was leaving "to pursue new opportunities."

In January, Valdés had become co-founder of K!dult, a teen-targeted website from Pharrell Williams, the hip-hop recording artist, producer and musician. [Updated Oct. 28]

On Monday, Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show" lampooned the story of Juan Williams' firing from NPR and the reaction it generated. (Video).

Even Jesse Jackson, a Juan Williams Target, Defends Him

Juan Williams continued his attack on NPR over his firing last week by the network, and even Jesse Jackson, whom Williams has disparaged, came to his defense.

"They’ve martyred Juan," Jackson said, according to James Hohmann, writing Wednesday in Politico, "taking him to another level both with his resources and his authority as a journalist."

During an extended interview on the "Newstalk" program of Washington all-news cable station TBD, Jackson suggested that NPR used Williams' comments about Muslims as "a pretext" that was primarily motivated by ideology, Hohmann wrote.

"I think that some of this predisposition towards Fox was the reason for the gotcha," Jackson said. "If they did not want his point of view, they should have said, 'When your contract is over, you do not fit into our scheme of things.' And then (he’d) go gracefully and with dignity. But to fire him in that way, and then to suggest he should see a psychiatrist, it was beneath the character and reputation of NPR.'

"NPR CEO Vivian Schiller apologized for saying Williams should keep his views about Muslims between himself and 'his psychiatrist or his publicist,' but her remarks fed into the narrative that NPR is liberal, smug and condescending," Hohmann wrote.

Jackson's defense of Williams is noteworthy because Williams has accused Jackson and other civil rights leaders of still fighting the battles of the 1960s, doing little for blacks and concerned about enriching their organizations' bank accounts.

"Under Jackson and Sharpton," Williams wrote in his 2006 book "Enough," "the high moral standing of civil rights has eroded, slid downhill, and now rests precariously on the rationale of 'it's the way we survive.' "

Williams was referring to the Rev. Al Sharpton and to a Jackson statement — "it's the way we survive" — in which he reportedly defended accepting money from one broadcasting company to put "racial pressure" on another. Williams also wrote, "When offered the chance to hold a real political post with the power to put into action new policies for helping black people, the poor and the oppressed, Jackson said no." Yet "he did enrich his family."

Williams kept up his attack on NPR this week.

" 'Over the weekend, people would say to me, "Oh, you just got a new deal from Fox? Congratulations, that it all worked out so well," ' Williams said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun following an address at the University of Maryland School of Law that earned him a standing ovation," the Sun's David Zurawik reported Wednesday. After Williams' firing, Fox News stepped forward with a reported three-year deal worth nearly $2 million.

" 'But there's an emotional disconnect, because the way it feels to me is like I just got fired and I'm not even sure what I did wrong.' "

He also said, "At NPR . . . they don't know this: A third of the audience for Bill O'Reilly's show is made up of people of color," Zurawik reported.

Spokeswomen for Fox did not return messages seeking confirmation of Williams' characterization of the O'Reilly audience demographics. None of the shows on the cable news networks, including "The O'Reilly Factor," has made the Nielsen Co.'s weekly list of the top 25 cable shows watched by African Americans.

Meanwhile, in one of the first public comments by an NPR board member on the situation, Dave Edwards, general manager of Milwaukee's WUWM-FM and vice chairman of the NPR board, defended Schiller's decision to dismiss Williams, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on Sunday.

"He said NPR board members have expressed support for Schiller. Still, 'there are station managers who are concerned and upset. They want an explanation,' he said," Annysa Johnson reported.

"This was not at all a free-speech issue," Edwards said in the story. "It was a matter of violating a code of ethics that Juan knew about and agreed to when he took the position." Williams was a "news analyst" on NPR but a commentator on Fox. Schiller maintained that news analysts should not express opinions.

[Edwards told Journal-isms on Thursday that he had spoken to seven or eight of the board's 16 members and that they felt "the right decision was made but there are a lot of ancillary issues" that need discussion. The board meets Nov. 11 in Washington. "We should not prejudge what the board thinks until they come together and have the pertinent facts," he said.]

In an hour-long discussion Tuesday on "The Diane Rehm Show" on WAMU-FM, the Washington NPR affiliate, Williams disclosed that he received a registered letter from Schiller the previous night asking him to contact her.

"So you did not want to talk with Vivian Schiller face-to-face?" Rehm asked.

"No," Williams replied. "At this point — well, I was just going to say to you and now this comment about me and the psychiatrist or the publicist, I think, is condescending and insulting. And again, I think it's a personal attack and so the question I had in my mind last night when I saw this note from Ms. Schiller was, exactly what am I to talk about? I mean, all I would be doing then — I really wouldn't have much to say to someone who thinks that I am unstable."

The noted Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Poussaint told Journal-isms Wednesday that he agreed with Williams that Schiller's comment was "a low blow. I thought she was also stigmatizing psychiatrists," he said. "It was said to demean him." Such comments "further the notion of the stigma" of seeking mental help, Poussaint said. People "go into denial that they have mental problems . . . This is a big problem" among African Americans, he said.

Family in "Traditional Muslim Clothing" Causes "Scare"

This story comes a week after Juan Williams famously said on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor," "when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."

"A man in traditional Muslim clothing caused a 'security scare' at Memphis International Airport Tuesday morning, officials said."

The account, by Jody Callahan in Wednesday's Memphis Commercial Appeal, continued:

"The incident began on a Toronto-bound regional jet operated by Comair while the plane was on the ground in Memphis, airport vice president Scott Brockman said.

"The man, who wasn’t feeling well, went into the bathroom for what the flight crew thought was an excessive amount of time.

"When he left, an attendant inspected the bathroom and saw that part of the toilet hood was dislodged. At that point, the crew had the man, his wife and child — also in traditional clothing — exit the plane, Brockman said.

"The man told authorities he’d dislodged the seat when trying to turn around. The regional jet has a smaller bathroom than larger planes, Brockman said."

In this space on Friday, reporter Sunni Khalid, a Muslim for 32 years, asked, "What the hell is 'Muslim garb?' . . . Again, it should be pointed out that the 9-11 skyjackers were not dressed in so-called 'Muslim garb,' but Western clothes, in order to fit in. In fact, I’d be more comfortable to see someone dressed in traditional garb, because I could be assured that they had already passed through the same security measures that I had."

Another blogger posted "pictures of Muslims wearing all sorts of things in an attempt to refute that there is such a thing as 'Muslim garb' or a Muslim look.

First lady Michelle Obama discusses her efforts to fight childhood obesity with journalist Roland Martin in a special, "Let’s Move with First Lady Michelle Obama," airing Friday at 10 p.m. ET on TV One. Martin interviewed Obama at the White House. The interview was arranged in March, before the recent election activity.

White House Generous With Interviews in Election Push

"In the final days before the midterm elections, President Obama and Democrats are intensifying their pitch to black voters, hoping to defy predictions of lower turnout and rescue embattled Democrats in a handful of key states," George E. Condon Jr. wrote Tuesday in the National Journal.

"Only weeks after the White House deflected pointed questions suggesting the president was intentionally bypassing inner cities and only campaigning in suburbs, the president’s closing schedule definitively gives the answer. The nation’s first African-American president is coming home. And he’s doing it with a determination that Democrats hope can alter the dynamics of several close races."

Among the outreach efforts was another telephone visit on Tuesday to radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show." The same day, the president granted a telephone interview to April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks.

"You mentioned the Pigford settlement that we have tried to broker to make sure that African American farmers who were discriminated against in the past in agricultural programs get a settlement," he told Ryan. "It’s a fair settlement, but it’s got to be funded by Congress. And frankly, it’s going to be tougher for us to be able to get that done if, in fact, we don’t have strong support from Congress.

"Historically black colleges and universities — we’ve put $850 million into those. But that money is not locked in. It could be taken away," he said.

Donna Brazile Scores "Hyper-Partisan" Cable Pundits

Donna Brazile Democratic Party strategist Donna Brazile, who doubles as a television pundit, repeated her belief Wednesday that "the one thing I would get rid of in the world would be hyper-partisan political pundits because I think they add more heat than light to the political debate.

"They don't provide critical analysis for issues like healthcare, where it's important to inform the public about what's at stake and how it impacts their lives — and not just disagree basically because your party doesn't like it."

In an interview with Janelle Harris of mediabistro.com, Brazile was also asked, "In this midterm election season, the media have taken [flak] for focusing too heavily on fringe groups, i.e., the Koran burning or anything the Tea Party does. What's your take on those stories and the political coverage this year in general? Is there a story you feel is not being told?"

Brazile replied: "If you rely on the media for your information, to educate yourself about the candidates and what issues are facing the country, then you get just part of the equation. I think it's important that we as citizens of this democracy take the responsibility to get as much information as possible before we go into the voting booth. I think it's important in a democracy such as ours that we have multiple sources to get news and information and utilize the media only if we want to get a different opinion."

Maynard Launches Wire Service on Structural Racism

"The Maynard Institute's Media Center on Structural Racism today launched America's Wire, an innovative news service that will provide enterprising content for wire services, metropolitan newspapers, ethnic/community papers, magazines and websites," the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education announced on Wednesday.

"In an effort to help the media better cover communities of color and the impact that structural racism has on the families who reside there, America's Wire will provide subscribers with professionally reported, written and edited stories that will help readers better understand the obstacles and challenges that people of color continue to face in America today.

" 'The news media in the United States has historically been a guardian of the public's interest,' said Michael K. Frisby, president of America's Wire. 'But there has to be a realization that the media have not accurately communicated the continued impact of structural racism in America. Public opinion polls repeatedly show that a majority of whites believe that racism and discrimination no longer exist. But those residing in communities of color know the reality. Their communities are devastated by high unemployment, poor schools, environmental dangers, inadequate housing and many other conditions that are caused by structural racism rooted in American society.'

"America's Wire will report on the people impacted by structural racism and their communities, hoping to improve awareness of the true conditions in communities of color.

"As part of our introductory offer, all media outlets and the public can visit our website at http://www.americaswire.org/ and sign up for a free, 30-day subscription. During that period, subscribers can download and publish our stories free of charge in their media outlets. After the trial period, media outlets must obtain a paid subscription to access our stories. The rates, which vary according to outlet type and size, can be viewed at http://americaswire.org/catalog/5."

America's Wire is made possible through a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Errol Louis is leaving the New York Daily News for "an amazing opportunity." (Credit: North Star Fund)

N.Y. Columnist Errol Louis Leaving for Cable Station

Errol Louis, columnist and member of the New York Daily News editorial board, is leaving the paper to become anchor of the political show "Inside City Hall" on Time Warner Cable’s local news channel NY1, the channel announced on Tuesday.

Louis succeeds Dominic Carter, who was convicted a year ago of attacking his wife, Marilyn, during an October 2008 argument at their  home. Carter was removed from his NY1 job when the channel learned of the incident. He served 19 days of a 30-day sentence, is now unemployed and is preparing an appeal, according to news reports.

Spokeswoman Nikia Redhead told Journal-isms that political reporters had been rotating in the seat.

"I’m excited to be joining the team at NY1 and honored to be named anchor of one of the premier political news programs in America," Louis said in a statement. "It’s an amazing opportunity."

Louis was a New York Daily News columnist who wrote pieces on a range of political and social affairs and served on the paper’s editorial board.

"As a leading commentator, he hosted 'The Morning Show,' one of the city’s liveliest political talk shows for New York’s political, cultural and business leaders, every weekday on WWRL," a news release said.

Louis came to national attention during the 2008 presidential campaign. He wondered aloud in his column whether veteran journalist the Rev. Barbara Reynolds, then a supporter of Hillary Clinton, had arranged for the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to speak at the National Press Club in order to damage the campaign of Wright's then-parishioner, Barack Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic presidential nomination.

"Wright should have known — and his friend and ally Reynolds, a media professional, surely knew — that bickering with the press can only harm Wright and, by extension, Obama," Louis wrote. Reynolds vigorously denied such motives, but the allegation quickly became a sensation.

Thomas' Ex-Girlfriend Says "Trick" Comment Was Joke

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas' former girlfriend, Lillian McEwen, said on CNN's "Larry King Live" that Washington Post reporter Michael A. Fletcher had "tricked" her into commenting on the recent phone call by Thomas' activist wife, Virginia Thomas, to law professor Anita Hill, who had accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment.

However, Fletcher told Journal-isms, the comment on the King show was McEwen's attempt at wry humor. She subsequently e-mailed him to explain, he said.

In an Oct. 22 story, Fletcher wrote that "When Anita Hill accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment during his explosive 1991 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Thomas vehemently denied the allegations and his handlers cited his steady relationship with another woman in an effort to deflect Hill's allegations.

"Lillian McEwen was that woman. . . . Now, she says that Thomas often said inappropriate things about women he met at work — and that she could have added her voice to the others, but didn't."

Three days later on "Larry King Live," King asked McEwen, "What do you make of his wife calling Anita Hill last week?

McEwen replied "When I first heard it, I was half asleep. And it was brought to my attention by Michael Fletcher, a reporter that I knew on The Washington Post who I had never allowed to interview me, and never given a statement to. And he tricked me into giving him my impression of what that meant. And it was a genuine response that I gave him half asleep. And it was that it doesn't surprise me at all."

The "tricked" remark made headlines on cnn.com.

Fletcher told Journal-isms by e-mail, "Without any protest from me, she sent an email saying that she meant it as wry humor. Only later did she realize that it did not come across as intended."

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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