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Miss. Governor Orders Scott Sisters Freed

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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slow-Building National Media Campaign Bears Fruit

Slow-Building National Media Campaign Bears Fruit

A slowly building media campaign that pressed for the freedom of two black Mississippi women who they said had been unjustly imprisoned won victory on Wednesday: Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour suspended their sentences.

"The two sisters already have served nearly 20 years for an armed robbery that netted $11," as the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., noted.

"Today, I have issued two orders indefinitely suspending the sentences of Jamie and Gladys Scott," Barbour said in a statement. "Gladys Scott's release is conditioned on her donating one of her kidneys to her sister, a procedure which should be scheduled with urgency."Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's 'tough-on-crime posturing and dubious record on

The action came in the wake of a furor over an interview in the conservative Weekly Standard magazine in which Barbour, a Republican who had been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate, spoke approvingly about a group called the Citizens Council, known in other states as the White Citizens Council.

But it also followed a campaign that saw New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, among others, championing the Scott sisters' cause.

He wrote of the sisters on Oct. 12: "what has happened to them takes your breath away.

"They were convicted by a jury and handed the most draconian sentences imaginable — short of the death penalty.

"In 1994, a Scott County jury convicted the sisters of armed robbery and imposed two life sentences for the crime. Their convictions and their sentences were affirmed by the Mississippi Court of Appeals in 1996.

"This is Mississippi we’re talking about, a place that in many ways has not advanced much beyond the Middle Ages.

"It was a serious crime. But the case against the sisters was extremely shaky. In any event, even if they were guilty, the punishment is so wildly out of proportion to the offense that it should not be allowed to stand."

Barbour said in his statement:

"To date, the sisters have served 16 years of their sentences and are eligible for parole in 2014. Jamie Scott requires regular dialysis, and her sister has offered to donate one of her kidneys to her. The Mississippi Department of Corrections believes the sisters no longer pose a threat to society. Their incarceration is no longer necessary for public safety or rehabilitation, and Jamie Scott's medical condition creates a substantial cost to the State of Mississippi.

"The Mississippi Parole Board reviewed the sisters' request for a pardon and recommended that I neither pardon them, nor commute their sentence. At my request, the Parole Board subsequently reviewed whether the sisters should be granted an indefinite suspension of sentence, which is tantamount to parole, and have concurred with my decision to suspend their sentences indefinitely.

"Gladys Scott's release is conditioned on her donating one of her kidneys to her sister, a procedure which should be scheduled with urgency. The release date for Jamie and Gladys Scott is a matter for the Department of Corrections.

"I would like to thank Representative George Flaggs, Senator John Horne, Senator Willie Simmons, and Representative Credell Calhoun for their leadership on this issue. These legislators, along with former Mayor Charles Evers, have been in regular contact with me and my staff while the sisters' petition has been under review."

As reported in this space last month, a black nationalist website championed the Scott Sisters' case early, then it spread to other websites and the muckraking magazine Mother Jones.

A talk-show voice on CNN, a local black radio station and the syndicated "The Michael Baisden Show" joined the mix, as did the NAACP and the Innocence Project.

The social media sites played their role. And finally the "legacy" media joined in, most notably columnists Herbert of the Times and later Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald.

In the Weekly Standard magazine, Barbour "was quoted as saying that while northerners saw the councils as akin to the Ku Klux Klan, he says the councils were groups of leading business people that actually kept a lid on the Klan, and helped his hometown, Yazoo City, integrate the schools without violence," as Michel Martin said Monday on NPR's "Tell Me More."

"His remarks sparked criticism even from some other conservatives, and he has stepped back from them. "

The sisters’ mother, Evelyn Rasco, wrote this message to supporters Wednesday night:

"all my beautful supports i love you all so much you did this everyone of you not me it was because of you this happen and pray that gladys is a match because she want to do this for her sister so bad and i have other people that have offer also so god will take care of jamie i just wish they would tell me a date i am ready to get them home so jamie can get the medical help she need but all of you are good god fearing peple because you care when doors were slam in your face you keept right on pushing for there freedom i am getting so many calls until i cant anwers everyone but no that i love you and my sisters are the badest in the world i no i have a lot of bad brothers two but my sisters were on the case day and night and women dont get tried we are a man backbone so thank all of you."

Asian Journalists Turn Deficit Into Surplus

December 27, 2010

President Proclaims AAJA "Stronger Than Ever"

Sports Journalism Program Becomes a Minor at Morehouse

Obama, Hillary Clinton Are Americans' Most Admired

Haiti Story Tops With Public, Though Not With News Editors

Spanish-Language Supermarket Tabloid Folds

"Celebrating Diversity" Makes List of Tired Phrases

In February, Judy Lin, left, and Pamela Wu of the Sacramento chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association announced that their chapter had donated $25,000 to the national organization and challenged others to give as well. (Video)

President Proclaims AAJA "Stronger Than Ever"

The Asian American Journalists Association has turned a $207,000 deficit to a $399,000 surplus, emerging "stronger than ever" from the financial challenges roiling nonprofits and the journalism industry in general, and AAJA in particular, outgoing National President Sharon Pian Chan told members in a year-end message.

"We rode this economic rollercoaster and AAJA has emerged stronger than ever," Chan said in a message posted Dec. 22 on the AAJA website. "We changed executive directors and we are now headed into AAJA's 30th year with the excellent Kathy Chow at the helm. We are projected to end 2010 with a $399,000 surplus, compared to a $207,000 deficit last year.

"We repaid our $154,000 endowment loan, plus interest above U.S. prime lending rate. Our membership has stabilized at 1,500. We added another star to the flag — AAJA Denver is our 21st chapter. We continue to innovate with our ELP Media Demonstration Projects with new business models and new platforms for delivering news," she said, referring to the association's Executive Leadership Program.

Chan, a reporter at the Seattle Times, ends her term Friday, at year's end, when Doris Truong, a multiplatform editor at the Washington Post who was elected president in August, takes over.

Chan's message stood in sharp contrast to one she sent to members in November 2009. She wrote then that the association expected to face a $177,000 deficit at the end of that year.

"Our traditional media supporters are struggling to stay in business and, in some cases, have shut down. Some of you have lost your jobs because of cuts sweeping the industry, making it difficult to attend the national convention — which historically made up half of our cash flow — or even to renew your membership," she wrote.

Asked how AAJA went from deficit to surplus, Chan told Journal-isms by e-mail on Monday:

"Our board, chapters and national office pulled together and made collective sacrifices to weather this financial storm. We instituted a new administrative fee for donations made toward programs and scholarships. We reduced our national expenses by moving to a smaller office and we decreased our staff size through attrition. Our chapters provided financial support for the whole AAJA family, both by sending funds and reducing their share of membership dues. And our national convention in L.A. made money, thanks to fundraising by the national office and L.A. chapter, and a strong turnout from all our members across the country."

She said 885 people registered for its summer convention.

In the student-written convention newspaper, AAJA Voices, Elizabeth Gyori wrote in August, "One of the measures used to ensure fiscal stability was asking individual chapters to contribute money to the national office. [See "Special report: Examining the state of AAJA's finances."] Several chapters contributed more money than asked for and were happy to help out.

"Another major change was starting a fundraising policy that allows AAJA to accept money from companies outside the traditional media industry. . . .

"AAJA also switched from Bank of America to the Bank of San Francisco because of lower credit-card fees. The Bank of San Francisco also gave AAJA a line of credit."

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists said last week it was projecting a $240,000 deficit for the year and its current cash flow is "at dangerously low levels." The National Association of Black Journalists and the Native American Journalists Association have yet to report their fiscal projections for the year.

The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association told Journal-isms last week it expected to end the year with a "small but significant surplus."

After canceling its 2009 convention, the American Society of News Editors met again this year, but the National Association of Multicultural Media Executives (NAMME), after acknowledging in 2009 that it was on life support, has not resurfaced.

In 2006, filmmaker Spike Lee discussed the proposed sports journalism program with students at Morehouse College after raising $721,000 in seed money. (Photo credit: Morehouse College)

Sports Journalism Program Becomes a Minor at Morehouse

Four years ago, filmmaker Spike Lee raised $721,000 to begin a sports journalism program at Morehouse College, saying he believed the prominence of black athletes in sports should be equally represented in the coverage of sports.

Last week, Ron Thomas, who became the director of the Journalism and Sports Program at the college, updated members of the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists on the progress of the program Lee envisioned.

  • "In May our program, which began as a concentration in English with only one journalism course, became an 18-credit hours minor that can be taken by any Morehouse student. . . .

  • "The program has grown exponentially. In its first semester in 2007, we had eight students. This semester, 45 students enrolled in our courses.

  • "Students were inspired by accomplished professional journalists as guest lecturers: New York Times sports columnist Bill Rhoden, columnist Vince Thomas, Atlanta Journal-Constitution feature writer Rosalind Bentley, NBA basketball analyst Mike Glenn (an expert on anti-slavery activist Frederick Douglass and black athletes dating back to the early 1800s) and author Gary Pomerantz.

  • "Our program helped sponsor appearances by these prominent sports figures: Olympics icon Tommie Smith in a panel discussion entitled 'Life After the Locker Room,' former NBA star Chris Webber, and Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner.

  • "Our strategic plan, entitled 'Changing the Face of Journalism.' established these goals for 2010-2013: increasing the number of professors and support staff, keeping pace with multimedia technology, securing scholarships, helping students obtain internships and admission to graduate journalism programs, and establishing global learning opportunities. . . ."

Thomas ended by noting Lee's seed money, now pegged at $1 million, and asking for contributions. "To replenish and increase that seed money, fund-raising has been added to my duties this school year," he explained.

President Obama meets the press Thursday after a series of accomplishments in the lame-duck session of Congress. He headed to Hawaii for a family vacation. (Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy/White House)

Obama, Hillary Clinton Are Americans' Most Admired

"President Barack Obama is Americans' Most Admired Man of 2010, substantially ahead of the former presidents, iconic religious leaders, and others who fill out the top 10 list. Obama first became Americans' Most Admired Man in 2008, shortly after his election as the nation's 44th president, and has held the title since then," Lydia Saad reported Monday for the Gallup Organization.

". . . Obama is the runaway favorite for Most Admired Man among Democrats nationwide: 46% choose him, followed by 7% who pick Bill Clinton and 5% Nelson Mandela. Obama also leads among independents, with 17%, but ranks second among Republicans behind George W. Bush."

"Hillary Clinton is the Most Admired Woman this year, her ninth consecutive year at No. 1.

"In fact, the order of the top six women named in 2010 is identical to 2009, with Sarah Palin, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, Condoleezza Rice, and Queen Elizabeth following Clinton."

Haiti Story Tops With Public, Though Not With News Editors

"Two major disasters — the earthquake in Haiti and the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico — captured the public’s attention more than any other major stories in 2010, but Americans also kept a consistent eye on the nation’s struggling economy," the Pew Research Center for People and the Press reported last week.

Its report on stories that captured the public's news interest during 2010 differed somewhat from the stories' rankings in the Associated Press' annual poll of U.S. editors and news directors.

The Haiti earthquake, for example, ranked only fifth among the editors and news directors, while the Gulf oil spill was first.

"In mid-January, 60% of the public said they were following news about the horrific earthquake in Haiti very closely," Pew said. "In mid-July, a comparable 59% said they were following news very closely about the major oil leak in the Gulf that started with a deadly explosion on an oil rig.

"Throughout the year, the economy — the top story in both 2009 and 2008 — was never far from the top of the public’s news interest. . . . According to the weekly News Interest Index survey, the public also closely tracked news about the long-running debate over health care legislation in Washington. Interest peaked at 51% following very closely in mid-March as the House passed the legislation and sent it to President Obama for his signature. And in January, a special election for a Senate seat in Massachusetts attracted unusually high interest because of its implications for the health care bill. More than a third (36%) paid very close attention to Republican Scott Brown’s victory, which dealt a temporary setback to supporters of health care legislation."

Spanish-Language Supermarket Tabloid Folds

Dec. 27 issue is its last"While Hispanic magazines appear to have put the worst of the effects of the recession behind them and key categories like Automotive are recovering, comes the disappointing news that [¡Mira!] magazine — published by American Media, Inc. is folding this month," the Media Economics Group reported Dec. 15.

In addition, "Café, the Latino Lifestyle Magazine, published out of Chicago just published its last edition," Portada reported on Thursday.

"An American Media spokesperson has confirmed to Media Economics Group that Mira — its Spanish-language tabloid entertainment magazine — will be folding after the December 27th issue. That issue is scheduled to hit the [newsstands] on December 17th," the Media Economics Group said.

"Mira’s demise is a result not only of its own weakening ad sales, but also undoubtedly related to the well-publicized difficulties of its parent company this year. On November 1st, American Media announced that is was filing for bankruptcy after struggling with a heavy debt load.

"According to HispanicMagazineMonitor data, Mira’s advertisers were primarily direct response advertisers hawking horoscope lines, apparel, diet products and supplements, jewelry, perfumes, and even bedding products."

"Celebrating Diversity" Makes List of Tired Phrases

"John Rentoul has revised and updated his ‘Banned List’ of overused phrases — typically by journalists — and it is well worth a read by writers of all kinds," Joel Gunter wrote last week for the British website

Rentoul is chief political commentator for Britain's the Independent on Sunday.

"It continues to warn against the criminal practice of turning nouns into verbs (action, disconnect, leverage, storyline, among others), as well as irritating, incomprehensible acronyms (IMO, IMHO, LOL, ROFL and so on) and tired phrases (learning curve, raising awareness, celebrating diversity)," Gunter continued.

"Celebrating diversity" was No. 9 on the list, between "raising awareness" and "best practice."

"Following Rentoul’s efforts, Journalisted has turned its expert counters of all things journalistic to 2010's most overused phrases," Gunter said.

"Writers of all kinds, beware.

  • "Learning curve: 771 articles

  • "Way beyond: 746 articles

  • "A no-brainer: 651 articles

  • "Game changer: 524 articles

  • "Perfect storm: 520 articles

  • "Raising awareness: 405 articles

  • "Elephant in the room: 353 articles

  • "Not fit for purpose: 327 articles

  • "Out of the box: 229 articles

  • "What’s not to like?: 206 articles"

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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 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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