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Mistake on Mideast Death Toll

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Thursday, August 3, 2006

Air Raid Killed Only Half as Many as Reported

On Sunday, the uproar over an Israeli air raid on the southern Lebanon town of Qana, in which dozens of civilians were killed, led Israel to declare a suspension of air attacks for 48 hours and prompted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to head back to Washington after, according to some accounts, the Lebanese government disinvited her from visiting Beirut.

"The bombing in the Lebanese town of Qana ignited an outcry that neither Washington nor Israel could ignore," the Los Angeles Times wrote.

Late Wednesday, however, Human Rights Watch reported that only about half as many people died in the raid as many news agencies reported – 28 instead of 56 or more.

The discrepancy prompted a piece Thursday by Steven R. Hurst and Sam F. Ghattas of the Associated Press explaining from Beirut that, "In the rocky hills and isolated villages of southern Lebanon, counting the dead from Israeli airstrikes and artillery has become a dangerous and often imprecise task.

"The Israeli bombing of Qana became a textbook case," they wrote.

"The numbers of dead have become especially important to Israel and Lebanon, as well as to Hezbollah, in the battle for world opinion. With reported Lebanese civilian deaths running at about 20 for each Israeli killed in Hezbollah missile strikes, Lebanon would appear to have the upper hand.

"The Qana casualties were re-examined after Human Rights Watch issued a report late Wednesday saying 28 people died in the village Sunday after Israeli jets hit it – not 54 as the New York-based organization initially reported in the immediate aftermath of the attack. At the time, The Associated Press reported 56 were dead.

"'I've worked for Human Rights Watch for a decade. This is one of the most difficult conflicts to cover,' said Peter Bouckaert, director of emergencies for the organization.

"'It's very hard and dangerous to reach many of these places,' he said of the sites of airstrikes. 'So, we often have to rely on phone calls to the mayor and officials to get this kind of information.'"

The story mentioned past difficulties in determining the number of dead, but left to others to weigh how much prominence to give the corrected death toll in Qana and whether a lower figure would have made a difference in the reaction.

"Even in far safer and more organized environments, death tolls often decrease dramatically, some over long periods of time," the reporters continued.

"Two weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the official count of the dead peaked at about 6,700 amid confusion and calls to authorities from frantic relatives. A year later, that number dropped to 2,792. And in January 2004, the New York City medical examiner put the final number of those killed at 2,749."

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Cuba Denies Entry to Foreign Journalists

"At a momentous moment in Cuban history – with long-time strongman Fidel Castro in a sickbed and transferring his power to his brother – foreign journalists are being shut out of the Communist island," Editor & Publisher reported on Thursday.

"Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported Thursday that more than 150 foreign journalists trying to enter Cuba with tourist visas have been turned away at the Havana airport since the government announced Castro had internal bleeding and faced 'complicated surgery.'

"Journalists need a work visa to work legally in Cuba, and a spokesman of the government-controlled International Press Center told dpa there would be no exceptions."

The Committee to Protect Journalists said, "Mario Antonio Guzmán, a reporter for the Santiago, Chile-based Radio Cooperativa, told CPJ that he was stopped at 2:30 p.m. by airport authorities at Havana's José Martí International Airport. Alvaro Ugaz, a journalist for the Lima-based Radio Programas de Perú (RPP), was also blocked, colleague Vanessa Ortiz told CPJ. Both journalists were traveling with tourist visas. Guzmán said several Cuban officials questioned them on the purpose of their visit and ordered them to leave on a plane to Panama, Guzmán told CPJ.

"Juan Tamayo, chief of correspondents for The Miami Herald's world desk, told CPJ that a reporter for the Miami-based daily was also turned back at the airport on Wednesday. Tamayo said that the journalist, whom he declined to name, requested entry on a tourist visa at Havana's international airport but was turned back when he told authorities that he planned to report in Cuba. The reporter was rerouted to Panama."

In the Washington Post today, columnist Eugene Robinson wrote that he was one of those turned back, along with "a photographer from the Sun-Sentinel newspaper in Florida, two photographers from Getty Images, a radio reporter from Madrid, a correspondent for a group of Dutch newspapers and a television crew from Panama. There's no smiling group photo. None of us was quite in a smiley-face mood," Robinson wrote.

Gary Marx, the Chicago Tribune's correspondent in Havana, continued to file and be interviewed on National Public Radio.

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Journalist Fatalities in Iraq Reach 100

"Reporters Without Borders voiced horror today as the toll of journalists killed in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003 reached 100 with the discovery yesterday of the body of Adel Naji Al Mansouri, who was shot after being kidnapped in front of his Baghdad home the day before," the organization said Wednesday.

"'One hundred journalists and media assistants killed in three years is appalling,' the press freedom organisation said. 'No armed conflict since the Second World War has been so deadly for the press. The Iraqi government must do everything possible to identify and punish those responsible for these atrocities. It is unacceptable that nothing has yet been done to shed light on these increasingly commonplace murders and that no measures have been taken to protect journalists in Iraq.'"

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In N.Y., Air America Moving from WLIB to WWRL

"Air America has lined up a new New York flagship radio station for its politically liberal talk radio network. Beginning Sept. 1, the network will begin broadcasting on WWRL-AM, owned by Access 1, supplanting WWRL's Urban Talk format," Katy Bachman reported Wednesday in Mediaweek.

"Since Air America's launch in March 2004, WLIB-AM, owned by Inner City, has served as the network's New York flagship. The original lease for the station ran out March 31, but AAR managed to get an extension until Aug. 31."

In the New York Daily News, David Hinckley added Thursday: "It was not announced which network programs WWRL will carry. The station has a lucrative block of paid programs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and its own lineup includes Sam Greenfield and Armstrong Williams in the morning and Larry Elder, Ron Daniels and Alan Colmes later in the day.

Williams told Journal-isms today via e-mail, however, that "Only our 6:oo am [to] 10:00 am morning show survived the restructuring. Starting September 1, our morning show will move to the 5:00 am to 9:00 am time slot. Our show was never in jeopardy because of our strong numbers in the am time slot."

Hinckley's story continued, "WLIB officials couldn't be reached for comment on plans for that station. They have reportedly had other offers to lease the time. They could also reinstitute their own programming: WLIB for years was a local talk station, and it carried Caribbean shows before leasing to AA in 2004. It still has some local shows, including Imhotep Gary Byrd overnight."

"Al Franken and his lefty colleagues are leaving WLIB (1190 AM) apparently because they couldn't come up with enough cash for the owners, former Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton and his son, Pierre," wrote John Mainelli Thursday in the New York Post.

"Starting Sept. 1, Air America will be on WWRL, at the top of the dial where AM signals are weakest – especially at night, when greater FCC restrictions apply.

"As The Post reported last March, the ratings-challenged liberal network failed to renew its two-year lease with the Suttons.

"Relations between the Suttons and the network's execs were rocky from the start and only got worse after the network's shaky finances became known and a scandal broke out involving loans to Air America from a Bronx charity."

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Black Columnists Weigh Mel Gibson's Remarks

Actor Mel Gibson's admitted anti-Semitic insults during a drunken driving arrest last week continued to draw reactions from African American columnists.

"These slips of the tongue aren't really mistakes. If crud chokes your heart, sooner or later, it will ooze out of your mouth," Sam Fulwood III wrote Thursday in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

"The bigger issue is how many more times law enforcement agencies will let celebrities off that hook that catches the rest of us," Rochelle Riley said today in the Detroit Free Press.

Merlene Davis, in the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, approved of Gibson's second apology, in which he said, "There is no excuse, nor should there be any tolerance, for anyone who thinks or expresses any kind of anti-Semitic remark," and offered to meet with Jewish leaders. Gibson's first one was insufficient, she wrote on Thursday.

Tony Norman, writing on Tuesday in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, disapproved of Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League's call for a criminal probe of Gibson for "hate crimes": "If this isn't the most ridiculous overreaction ever to constitutionally protected, but bigoted, speech, it's certainly up there," he said.

Gibson's remarks were "relatively benign compared to what can only be called the 'soft' anti-Arab sentiment of many of Israel's most uncritical supporters in Congress and the White House," Norman wrote.

On Wednesday on his St. Petersburg Times blog, Eric Deggans confessed, "I've gotta admit, as a black man raised in Indiana, I never understood the whole anti-Semitism thing. Growing up, I was used to the idea that some white people hated black people simply because they looked different – that's an easy concept for a kid to get.

"But when I transferred to a private, Jewish middle school in 5th grade – my mom, a public school teacher in Gary, knew the school was better than any I would attend in the public sphere – I learned some white Christians hated Jews the same way ('They're all white!' I would say to myself, unable to grasp the logic).

"These days, such attitudes make even less sense, for different reasons."

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Native Journalism Pioneer Tim Giago Retires

Tim Giago, a pioneer in efforts to organize American Indian journalists, is retiring but will continue to write his weekly column, Jomay Steen wrote today in the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal.

Giago, 72, an Oglala Sioux Tribe member, is retiring as president of Native American Journalists Foundations and publisher of Native American Review Magazine. He underwent open-heart surgery last year and has been recovering since then, Steen wrote.

"After more than 35 years in the newspaper business, I think it is time to put away my beat-up typewriter and move on to other endeavors," Giago said in the story.

"A syndicated national columnist for more than 25 years, he said he will continue to write a weekly column for McClatchy News Service of Washington, D.C., formerly Knight Ridder Tribune News. He said he would also continue to recruit high school and college Indian students into journalism careers," the story continued.

"The Indian publication pioneer began his career with the Lakota Times weekly newspaper on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in 1981. He built it into the largest weekly newspaper in South Dakota and the largest independently owned Indian newspaper in the nation.

"He later changed the name of the paper to Indian Country Today, which is still published each week by the Oneida Nation of New York."

Giago, then editor and publisher of the Lakota Times, was a founder in 1984 of the Native American Press Association, which became the Native American Journalists Association in 1990. Twenty-eight Indian journalists and one non-Native editor met at Pennsylvania State University, according to Paula Cozort Renfro's account in the three-volume "Ethnic Media in America," published last year and edited by Guy T. Meiss and Alice A. Tait.

Giago's daughter, Denise Giago, becomes editor of Native American Review Magazine.

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Houston's Elma Barrera Persuaded Not to Move On

Veteran Channel 13 reporter Elma Barrera recently turned in her resignation, but it wouldn't take," Mike McDaniel wrote today in the Houston Chronicle.

"The first Hispanic reporter on Houston TV, Barrera (who didn't reveal her age) has covered thousands of stories in her 34-year KTRK career . . ." McDaniel wrote.

"She's in the hall of fame of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and even had a fifth-grade textbook, A Year in the Life, written about her.

"Ready to smell the roses, she decided it was time to hang up her reporter's notebook and leave Channel 13.

"But Henry Florsheim, KTRK general manager, wasn't ready to see her go. He persuaded her to stick around, at least until her contract expires in December, to serve as a sort of community 'angel' for the station.

"She gets to pick her schedule and her projects, she said. Plus, she may be able to fit in some of her dream projects."

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St. Pete Times Settles Over Bill Maxwell Column

The St. Petersburg Times has agreed to pay $55,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a man who said he was libeled in a 2001 opinion column by former columnist Bill Maxwell , the Florida newspaper reported today.

The lawsuit stems from an Aug. 15, 2001, column about a custody case involving Gary Minda, then a visiting professor at Stetson University College of Law in Gulfport, and Theresa Noelle Ponce. Minda and Ponce had a child born in 1999. Minda accused the newspaper and the columnist of "publishing written statements that falsely and maliciously accused" Minda of physical and mental abuse and of obtaining custody through his legal connections.

Maxwell resigned from the paper in 2004 to become a writer in residence at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala. He wrote that he was keeping a promise to return to a historically black college or university as a professor.

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John X. Miller Shifts Roles at Detroit Papers

John X. Miller, public editor of the Detroit Free Press and board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, has begun "a new role being created in the Detroit Newspaper Partnership. John will be director/community affairs, working with the partnership as well as both newspapers," the Free Press and the Detroit News, as Paul Anger, Free Press editor, announced.

"Significantly, he will manage and direct Detroit Free Press Charities, an effort so important to this newspaper and the community for so long. Programs within Free Press Charities include Summer Dreams, Gift of Reading and Ruth Alden Fund. He will also work on some ways to get folks from throughout the building more involved with community volunteering as opportunities present themselves."

Miller started Tuesday. "The reason I moved to the business side and more community work is because of what I found through years of listening to readers in metro Detroit as the public editor," he told Journal-isms today.

"As much as people are critical of Detroit and the Free Press at times, people in metro Detroit love the city, want to help and they care about the community. In working with Detroit Free Press charities, I've found that the news media's power, and the influence of non-profits together can uniquely bring some positive changes, and more goodwill for the newspapers and the DNP.

"The Free Press' Summer Dreams, Ruth Alden Fund and Gift of Reading bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars each year from the public, donated to help children and improving their lives. The Detroit News has Helping Hand during the Christmas holidays, which brings in thousands in donations, and the [Free Press] has Yak's Corner, a weekly children's literacy supplement that runs in the Free Press and goes into each 3rd, 4th and 5th grade Detroit classroom each Tuesday during the school year. Students receive the entire paper on those days, not just the supplement.

"Journalism is a powerful force in our communities, but journalism alone won't bring about transformative change in the lives of people. These efforts have done that and need to continue," Miller said.

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Ills of Black Men Said to Require Self-Examination

"To say that Black men in America – and just about everywhere on the globe – are facing imminent danger is to cite an understatement," Herb Boyd wrote Tuesday on The Black World Today Web site, after an extensive examination of black men's problems.

"There is no quick fix or easy formula to end this crisis, but it has never hurt for the individual to take control of his (or her) life as much as possible. Each Black man must honestly assess where he is, his conditions, his inadequacies, his strengths, and work on personal growth and development. That old cliché about the revolution and change starting within has more than a grain of truth. You'll never be in position to help somebody, if you don't first help yourself."

It was among the latest commentaries on that subject and related issues:

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Short Takes

  • ABC Radio Networks personality Michael Baisden, whose "lifestyle" show is syndicated in 40 markets, including New York and Los Angeles, according to Billboard magazine, is advertising for an intern/associate producer. The online application asks "relationship status," with choices that include "married," "single," "involved" or "open relationship," and it asks how many children the applicant has.
  • Andrea Roane marked 25 years at Washington's WUSA-TV this week, occasioning a profile by John Maynard last Sunday in the Washington Post. She "has endured countless personnel and management changes and has been bounced all over the schedule -- from early morning to midday to late night," he wrote. Since 2000, Roane has co-anchored the sunrise show from 5 to 7 a.m., and is the lone anchor for the 9 a.m. newscast.
  • "We always hear, `All you guys are interested in is making money,' " said Debra L. Lee, chairman and CEO of Black Entertainment Television, according to Ken Parish Perkins, writing Thursday in the Chicago Defender. "We're a business. That's what we do." Perkins concluded, "We must come to terms with BET's truth as a network handcuffed by a marketplace ruled by advertisers, the chase for young viewers, and the added burden of being a black media company."
  • When the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" debuts Sept. 5, "the broadcast will include a new regular feature called 'Free Speech,' a segment of opinion and commentary from a wide range of Americans. This original segment is intended to create a candid and robust dialogue among viewers about issues important to them, their families and the nation," CBS News announced on Thursday.
  • The Tallahassee Democrat, a Gannett Co. paper, has bought the twice-weekly newspaper that serves Florida State University. "Media observers say this is the first time that a major newspaper chain has purchased an independent, privately owned publication that is geared toward students, faculty and administrators," Inside Higher Ed reported on Thursday.
  • "As of midnight, Time Warner complied with the FCC's order to put the NFL Network back on in systems it has just acquired from Comcast and Adelphia, but it has appealed the order to the full commission and has begun running a crawl on the channel warning viewers it may take it off again," John Eggerton reported today on Broadcasting & Cable.
  • In Nigeria, "Reporters Without Borders today condemned the continuing detention of Ebonyi Voice editor Imo Eze, and one of his journalists, Oluwole Elenyinmi," the organization reported Thursday. "Eze used to be the governor's chief press secretary but became a critic after leaving the post. He and Elenyinmi are stuck in prison because the judge in charge of the case set very tough conditions for their release on bail." The two have been imprisoned for nearly two months.
  • "Rwanda's highest court today upheld a suspended sentence of a year in prison and a fine of 1 million Rwandan francs [$1,870.86 U.S.] for newspaper editor Charles Kabonero for 'public insult' in a series of analytical articles criticising the way the government operated, but quashed his conviction on charges of libel and 'divisionism,' Reporters Without Borders has learned," the organization said Thursday.

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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