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$57M for Haiti; Ethics Questions for Reporters

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Friday, January 22, 2010

More Than 25 Outlets in Telethon; Fox News Opts Out

SPJ Frowns on "Injecting Oneself Into the Story"

Marjorie Valbrun's Dad Phones: "I'm Alive. I'm Alive."

Press Group Collects Funds for Haitian Journalists

Pundits Take on "Haiti Haters," God's Role

Mixed Reviews for Obama's First Year in Office

Air America, Progressive Talk Network, Folds

FCC to Examine Future of Media

Rights Groups, Journalists Apart on "Net Neutrality"

Chicago Anchor Allison Payne Reveals Addiction Battle

Harry Davis, NBC Photog and NASCAR Dad, Dies at 62

Short Takes

More Than 25 Outlets in Telethon; Fox News Opts Out

Bono and Rihanna perform at the Hope for Haiti Now telethon. (Photo credit: MJ Kim/Hope for Haiti Now)

As critics wondered how long the attention on the Haitian crisis would last, a telethon raised at least $57 million, Haitian broadcasters remained on the air, American columnists found different angles to the Haiti story and the Society of Professional Journalists cautioned reporters not to make themselves part of the story.

"The telethon, airing simultaneously on more than 25 American broadcast, cable, radio and Internet outlets was quickly put together by George Clooney and MTV Networks, along with the help of others, as Nekesa Mumbi Moody wrote Saturday for the Associated Press.

The two-hour event raised "$57M and counting - that's just from the general public - no corporate or large individual donations, or iTunes sales," Mark Jafar, an MTV spokesman, told Journal-isms on Saturday night. [A news release updated the figure to $58 million.]

The post-Sept. 11, 2001, telethon, "America: A Tribute to Heroes," raised $150 million, and a 2005 telethon for Hurricane Katrina, broadcast over 29 channels, raised an estimated $30 million for the American Red Cross and Salvation Army, E! magazine said at the time.

"Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, former President Clinton, Muhammad Ali, Beyonce, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Halle Berry, and many more. Luminaries like Steven Spielberg worked the phone banks, talking to donors."

Donations to 'Hope for Haiti Now' "will continue to flow in as the phone lines remained open and the night's musical performances are sold on iTunes," CNN reported.

Media Matters for America reported that, "even after receiving criticism for giving little coverage to the devastating earthquake in Haiti on its top-rated programs, Fox News did not preempt its programming and air the benefit concert, instead broadcasting regular editions of 'The O'Reilly Factor' and Hannity."

A spokeswoman for Fox News told Journal-isms that Fox Broadcasting aired the show.  Fox Broadcasting is the over-the-air network; Fox News is on cable.

SPJ Frowns on "Injecting Oneself Into the Story"

The Society for Professional Journalists applauded "the efforts of all journalists in Haiti . . but said it cautions journalists to avoid making themselves part of the stories they are reporting. Even in crises, journalists have a responsibility to their audiences to gather news objectively and to report facts."

"I think it's important for journalists to be cognizant of their roles in disaster coverage,' SPJ President Kevin Smith said in its news release. 'Advocacy, self promotion, offering favors for news and interviews, injecting oneself into the story or creating news events for coverage is not objective reporting, and it ultimately calls into question the ability of a journalist to be independent, which can damage credibility."

But Gail Shister reported for MediaBistro that "The ethical issue of journalists getting involved in stories they're covering has become moot in Haiti."

Quoting NBC News chief Steve Capus and ABC "World News" executive producer Jon Banner. she wrote, "Physician-correspondents perform life-saving surgery and care for the sick. Reporters share food and water with starving survivors. When witnessing that kind of misery, compassion often trumps objectivity, Capus and Banner agree.

" 'Ethical dilemmas are fascinating topics to be kicked around in academic hallways,' Capus says, 'but when you're on the ground and the situations hit home, I'm not quite sure what theoretical discussions mean.

" 'When Nancy Snyderman [NBC's chief medical editor and a physician] sees the kid with the crushed leg, what would you have her do - keep walking? When caregivers are overwhelmed and people are suffering, Nancy has something to offer. We're not putting her on camera every time she helps someone.'"

Kelly McBride, a professor and the ethics group leader for media at the Poynter Institute, answered Thursday on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" that there is an inherent conflict in being both a doctor and a journalist  "because in addition to their loyalty to their audience, if they're treating patients, they have an obligation to treat that patient with dignity," she said.

"And I think it's somewhat exploitive because clearly those patients have no capability of consenting to being part of - to having their medical situation becoming part of a news story. And that's what disturbs me most. And you can anticipate that if you are a news organization and you employ a doctor, you know that that's going to be the conflict. And I think you either need to send that person as a medical person or not send them at all."

On the same program, McBride and Philip Kennicott, a Washington Post cultural critic, agreed that the graphic images coming from Haiti - more explicit than in previous tragedies - were appropriate. "For the most part, I think the media has an obligation to show the horror of the situation in order to create understanding," McBride said.

Kennicott added, "I didn't bring up the issue of race in the piece that I wrote, but I think that people are on to something with that. What I suggested, along with many fairly obvious explanations - things having to do with the Internet and just a more general lower bar - I think that Haiti is, for Americans, such a problematic country that the standard changed, and that the sense of it as a failed state carried over to the people.

"And in some horrible way, the images we're seeing reflect a different set of standards because these feel to us like a failed people and a failed state."

Marjorie Valbrun's Dad Phones: "I'm Alive. I'm Alive."

Marjorie Valbrun's dad, Austrel Valbrun, right, and nephew, Kevin Timothee, are in Florida."My father is back home; a bit battered and worn, but safe and sound," Marjorie Valbrun, the Haitian-American journalist who had not heard from her dad, told friends on Saturday night. "He arrived to Fort Lauderdale early this morning after being flown to Orlando late last night. 

"My sister Denise and I were on the phone last night watching the 'Global Hope for Haiti' telethon on television, weeping our eyes out and worried sick about our father," Austrel Valbrun. "Since no one had seen or heard from him in ten days, we’d begun thinking that maybe the prospects for his survival were not as promising as we originally thought. As we talked, our conversation was repeatedly interrupted by calls on our other lines from friends and relatives inquiring about our father. In the background our [cell] phones rang non-stop.

"We hung up to take some calls with the intention of calling each other back in 20 minutes, five minutes after hanging up, at 9:06 p.m., Denise called back crying uncontrollably. She had just received a call from our father.

“'Den?' he said choking up. 'Den, it’s me Papa. I’m alive. I’m alive.' Those words were all my father could say before he broke down. Between breaths he said he had run out of money and food so he and one of his best friends, an 87-year-old man named Mathurin who is just as willful and feisty as my father, had gotten hold of some gas for the jeep the two share, and driven themselves to the Red Cross station at the Port-au-Prince airport, which is a good distance away from where my father lives.

"The Red Cross put my father on the flight to Orlando (the friend had to stay behind because he didn’t have a U.S. passport and is not an American citizen) and from Orlando they put him on a Greyhound bus to Fort Lauderdale, where my father and three of my sisters live."

Press Group Collects Funds for Haitian Journalists

The Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday it was collecting funds that will go directly to Haitian journalists as it published a report on Signal FM, which it called the only Haitian radio station to continuously broadcast during and after the powerful 7.0-magnitude earthquake that ravaged the capital.

Gaby SagetThe station's managing director, Mario Viau, "reported a number of significant challenges in operating the station: a shortage of gasoline for the movement of vehicles taking reporters across affected areas, poor phone lines hindering telephone interviews from the station’s studios, the lack of electric power or a fuel supply for generators, and difficult access to bank accounts to pay journalists. In addition, the daily search for food and drinking water for the staff has been a struggle to manage because supermarkets and restaurants were destroyed. Viau stressed that people of goodwill on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince showed great generosity to the station by supplying gasoline for news broadcasting," said the report, by Jean Roland Chery.

Chery, a former Haitian journalist now living in the United States,. is working with CPJ as a consultant for relief efforts in response to the earthquake.

Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday, "Signal FM, Cara?Øbes FM and the local branch of the French public station RFI were the only three stations that managed to keep going immediately after the earthquake. But thanks to the help of foreign technicians and news media, including Radio France, a total of 20 stations are now operating, a week after the quake."

To make a contribution to Haitian journalists, CPJ said, click this link and enter “Haiti” in the “Notes” section on the second page.

Pundits Take on "Haiti Haters," God's Role

Columnists writing about Haiti used their platforms to go after the "Haiti haters," to touch upon issues overlooked in the news pages, to educate about Haiti's history and to spotlight the effect of the earthquake on residents of the newspaper's circulation area.

"At least reporters, while their views may be wrongheaded, are giving us new information from the ground," Amy Wilentz wrote in the Nation under the headline, "The Haiti Haters Comment."

"Far more insidious are the armchair commentators who know nothing about Haiti — many never having set toe there — but enjoy rebuking suffering Haitians from the comfort of their white bastions in the United States and Europe. I've never seen victims so roundly blamed for their fate."

Bob Ray Sanders, writing in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, shared with readers his differences with clergy members over his right to question his Creator. In the latest tragedy, "Once again, I found myself questioning God, just as I had during the aftermath of Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, genocides in the Sudan and Rwanda, and a host of other man-made and natural disasters," Sanders wrote.

In the New York Daily News, Albor Ruiz wrote about the tortured relations between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, with which it shares an island:

"The two small nations are linked by geography and destiny. They share the island of Hispaniola and have similar histories of tyrannical governments and foreign invasions," Ruiz said.

"Yet a gulf of historical resentment and prejudice divides them. Even today, Haiti's occupation of Santo Domingo during the 19th century is still a source of mistrust.

"But after the apocalyptic devastation and death inflicted on Haiti by the quake, the historical mistrust has given way among many Dominicans — both on the island and in New York — to an overwhelming sense of pained solidarity."

After significant setbacks, President Obama vows Saturday in his weekly address, "As long as I'm your president, I'll never stop fighting to make sure that the most powerful voice in Washington belongs to you." (Photo credit: Samantha Appleton/White House)

Mixed Reviews for Obama's First Year in Office

"While nearly nine in 10 people like President Barack Obama personally, he earns decidedly mixed reviews in a new Associated Press-GfK poll judging his first year in office, a verdict darkened Tuesday by a stunning repudiation of his party in the Massachusetts Senate race," Calvin Woodward and Ann Sanner wrote Wednesday for the Associated Press.

"His approval ratings have been becalmed for months, 56 percent in the survey out Wednesday. By a modest margin, people still think the country is moving in the wrong direction, as they have since summer. And the Republican upset in Massachusetts demonstrated just how perilous the political landscape has become.

"But two years after Obama famously told his Democratic primary opponent Hillary Rodham Clinton, 'You're likable enough, Hillary,' that appraisal seems to have settled firmly on him.

"Even three-quarters of Republicans say they personally like Obama."

In a separate Washington Post-ABC News poll, "Soaring expectations about the effect of the first black president on U.S. race relations have collided with a more mundane reality," Jennifer Agiesta and Jon Cohen reported Monday in the Washington Post. "On the eve of President Obama's inauguration a year ago, nearly six in 10 Americans said his presidency would advance cross-racial ties. Now, about four in 10 say it has done so.

"The falloff has been highest among African Americans. Last January, three-quarters of blacks said they expected Obama's presidency to help. In the new poll, 51 percent of African Americans say he has helped, a wider gap between expectations and performance than among whites."

ABC's Diane Sawyer plans to interview Obama for Monday's "World News."

BET announced it will carry Obama's first State of the Union Address on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Eastern time on BET, its Centric channel and Jason Samuels is executive producer of the as a 90-minute live special.

The program "will feature a roundtable discussion and a series of original taped packages featuring a wide range of celebrity and political voices," a news release said. "Broadcasting from The Newseum’s HD studios in Washington, D.C., BET anchor Jeff Johnson will be joined by panelists Professor Marc Lamont Hill, Commentator John McWhorter and BET Senior Political Analyst Pamela Gentry to examine President Obama’s first year in office and how the president’s policies have been received by the Black community."

Among those to be interviewed are such entertainers, politicians and journalists as Gabrielle Union; Jamal Simmons; Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus; Sean “Diddy” Combs; Cornell Belcher; Dr. Julianne Malveaux; Al Sharpton; Trey Songz; Tara Setmayer; Charles M. Blow; Michaela Angela Davis; Taraji P. Henson and Ryan Leslie.

Meanwhile, columnists evaluated Obama's first year and recent developments:

Air America, Progressive Talk Network, Folds

"The hosts of several progressive talk shows hastened to remind fans on Friday that although the brand-name network Air America had abruptly folded, their shows were still on the air," Brian Stelter reported Friday for the New York Times.

"Air America, which struggled to stay afloat for six years as a network of syndicated talk shows, shut down on Thursday afternoon.

"Although it lacked a substantial audience, Air America boosted the careers of several progressive media personalities, most notably Rachel Maddow, who now anchors a prime-time program on the cable news channel MSNBC. Air America replayed her TV show for an hour a day.

"Among the few boldface names left at Air America at the time of the closing was Montel Williams. The Twitter feed for Mr. Williams’ program, 'Montel Across America,' said Friday that the program would 'rise again.'

"On Thursday and Friday, half a dozen former employees cited similar complaints, namely that the managers of Air America lacked the necessary broadcasting business expertise."

The would-be progressive alternative to conservative talk radio launched in 2004, headquartered at black-owned WLIB-AM in New York. Pierre Sutton, CEO of WLIB's owner, Inner City Broadcasting, told Journal-isms then that the partnership "gives us an opportunity to impact on the world outside of our own community." WLIB ousted Caribbean programming to air the new network.

In 2006, however, WLIB became a full-time black gospel station, producing its own programming. Air America moved to another black-oriented outlet, WWRL.

FCC to Examine Future of Media

"'We are at a critical juncture in the evolution of American media,' said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as the commission announced a new initiative on the future of media. The project is being headed up by Steven Waldman, a senior adviser to Genachoswki on new media issues, and FCC expert staff," Radio Ink reported on Thursday.

"The FCC has issued a public notice with preliminary questions it will consider as it prepares a report for later this year. Initial topics being looked at include the state of radio, TV, newspaper, and Internet news and information services; public-interest obligations in a digital area; and the role of public media and private-sector foundations. The commission states, however, 'The initiative will not include any effort to control the editorial content of any type of media.'

"A new, preliminary website for public discussion of the future of media and policy recommendations is up now at Experts and the public can weigh in on media in their communities and the topics to be discussed in the report."

Rights Groups, Journalists Apart on "Net Neutrality"

"Groups representing minority legislators and other public officials have taken their concerns about the FCC's proposed expansion and codification of network neutrality principles to the White House and Congress," John Eggerton reported Friday for Multichannel News.

"On the same day that the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council held a conference in Washington on broadband and social justice, the groups circulated a letter they were sending to the president and the Hill calling on them to intervene in a rulemaking they warn could widen the digital divide rather than close it.

"The letters came from the National Black Caucus of State Legislators, National Foundation for Women Legislators, National Organization of Black Elected [Legislative] Women, National Conference of Black Mayors and the National Association of Black County Officials.

"While they said they were 'enthusiastic supporters' of an open Internet — a point which both sides of the debate usually concede — they said they were 'concerned that some of the net regulations currently being contemplated by the FCC lend themselves to the creation of unmanaged networks that would increase consumer costs, hinder new job creation, diminish service quality and reduce broadband adoption and use, particularly among the underserved." They also said they supported transparency and rules that prohibit discrimination against legal content.

"Some network neutrality rule activists have countered that the groups were making those arguments for communications company contributors, which led to counter-charges of racism and paternalism and, eventually, a ratcheting back of the rhetoric."

Unity: Journalists of Color is in favor of intervention.

"For journalists in general and journalists of color in particular, this is a crucial issue, and for communities of color it is as well," Unity said on Jan. 13. "Network Neutrality protects the open Internet by preventing service providers from blocking or discriminating against content online. Without Net Neutrality, we run the risk of large phone and cable companies giving preferential treatment, better access and higher speeds to whoever can pay them the most. This would obliterate the Internet's current level playing field and erect additional barriers preventing journalists of color from providing our community with the news and information they need to participate in a democratic society."

About 100 people, including representatives of the telecommunications companies, government officials and Howard University students and faculty gathered at Howard for the Minority Media & Telecommunications Council conference, discussing how to ensure that low-income people are not left out in the expansion of broadband, or Internet access.

Chicago Anchor Allison Payne Reveals Addiction Battle

Allison Payne "Allison Payne has been saying for years that her slurred speech, glassy-eyed gaze and occasionally erratic behavior on the air are due to a series of ministrokes from which she was recovering. Even as she took a lengthy leave of absence from Tribune Co.-owned WGN-Channel 9, the veteran news anchor insisted there was nothing more to it," Chicago media writer Robert Feder wrote Friday on his WBEZ blog.

"On Thursday, during a live interview on the midday newscast she co-anchors with Steve Sanders, Payne, 45, went public with what many of her co-workers have suspected — that she’s also been battling addiction. While interviewing former NHL star and Blackhawks player Theo Fleury, who’s in town to promote a book signing of his autobiography 'Playing With Fire,' Payne disclosed that the two shared the same Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor and revealed the name of their local chapter."

"But Payne and WGN-Ch. 9 News Director Greg Caputo on Friday said that admission . . . was not the reason she was off the air for much of 2008. She and the station still attribute those absences to a series of ministrokes and their lingering effects, including depression, for which she still receives treatment," Phil Rosenthal added Saturday in the Chicago Tribune.

Harry Davis, right, spent 28 years at NBC's owned-and-operated station in Washington.

Harry Davis, NBC Photog and NASCAR Dad, Dies at 62

Harry Davis, a news photographer at Washington's WRC-TV for 28 years before his 2005 retirement, died Thursday, the NBC-owned station reported.

"I'm not sure of cause of death. I don't even know if the family is completely sure at this point," Matt Glassman, WRC's senior producer of content, told Journal-isms on Saturday.

"Davis, 62, didn't appear in front of the camera very often, except for a few events, like a story about his son, Marc, who was learning how to drive race cars," according to a WRC Web site story by Asha Beh.

"Davis traveled all over the country supporting Marc's dream and now his son is driving for the Joe Gibbs racing team."

ESPN reported in 2008 that Davis said he had raised close to $2 million to fund Marc's racing career. He was his son's business manager, according to the Washington Post.

"Marc and Harry Davis made the ultimate commitment to the sport, moving to North Carolina from Maryland to be closer to Nascar Central — the suburbs outside Charlotte where most race teams are based," Viv Bernstein wrote in 2006 for the New York Times.

Davis also "founded something called Teen TV, a program that mentored inner city kids and taught them all about TV production. His enthusiasm was so contagious, he even got everyone in the newsroom involved in it and many of the young people involved went on to jobs in broadcasting," the WRC story continued.

"His other project, The Broadcast Factory, also offered opportunities to a lot of kids in the Washington, D.C. community,"

Short Takes

  • Introduced at a Congressional Black Caucus news conference Thursday on Haiti relief, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., looked at the journalists in attendance and said, "Thank God the country is more diverse in their support than the audience here."
  • In the Philippines, "The identification this week of photographer Jepon Cadagdagon as another victim in the Nov. 23 Maguindanao massacre has raised the death toll of journalists and media workers to 32," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Thursday. "Even before accounting for Cadagdagon, CPJ had characterized the massacre, allegedly carried out by a ruling political clan in the area, as the deadliest event for the press in recent memory."
  • "Twelve journalists from diverse backgrounds have been named Chips Quinn Scholars for spring 2010 by the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute and participating news organizations," the Freedom Forum announced on Friday. "Chips Quinn Scholars are college students or recent graduates pursuing journalism careers. After completing an intensive orientation and training program with veteran journalists, which takes place Jan. 21 to 29 at the Freedom Forum‚Äôs John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tenn., they will work in 10- to 12-week internships or full-time jobs at 11 participating news organizations."
  • "The Sports Journalism Institute has finalized the selection and placement of students for the Class of 2010," the institute announced on Thursday. "The 11 students represent the 18th class of SJI, which welcomed its first group of students in 1993 and has since sent approximately 200 women and minorities into the nation‚Äôs sports departments. Students will again receive classroom training at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., as has been the case for the past four years."
  • Audie Cornish, who normally covers Capitol Hill for National Public Radio, hosted "Weekend Edition Saturday" while Scott Simon was recovering from surgery.¬† NPR News has been under scrutiny from the National Association of Black Journalists and others over the diversity of its on-air voices and its managers.
  • "A Radio Canada journalist is among five French-speaking broadcast journalists who will test the limits of reporting solely with Facebook and Twitter," Lesley Ciarula Taylor of the Toronto Star reported on Friday. "Janic Tremblay and the French, Swiss and Belgian reporters will hole up in a farmhouse in Perigord in southwest France from Feb. 1 to 5 for a project called 'Behind closed doors on the Net.' "
  • Natalie Hopkinson, associate editor of, has been named the Web site's media and culture critic. "In her new role, Hopkinson will be able to return to writing and will offer The Root‚Äôs readers her commentary on the arts and the media industry," an announcement said.
  • "Six new Knight International Journalism Fellows will help spread media innovation in developing countries. They'll use new digital tools to increase access to public information in India, establish investigative teams in the Middle East, track corruption in Panama, launch the first broadcast training center in Peru, and improve coverage of health and poverty issues in Africa," the International Center for Journalists announced on Thursday. "They are the first to be named under a new three-year, $6 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation."
  • In Laos, "Women‚Äôs empowerment may be a key policy of the Lao government, but this is far from obvious in this South-east Asian country‚Äôs newspapers and publications, many of which usually give more space to government pronouncements by male officials and pass on questionable stereotypes of women in their reportage," Vannaphone Sitthirath wrote Thursday for Inter-Press Service.
  • The Washington Post ran this correction on Thursday: "A CD review in the Jan. 15 Weekend section misstated the name of a new album by the Carolina Chocolate Drops. It is 'Genuine Negro Jig,' not 'Genuine Negro Gig.' "
  • Cox, Matthews and Associates Inc., the publisher of the newsmagazine Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Friday launched, "the premiere online shopping source for books from publishers of scholarly works." "We want to operate as a fully functioning higher education book distributor that will focus on academic and scholarly titles. We will be servicing the needs of commercial presses, professional and educational organizations, university publishers and small presses,‚Äù said William E. Cox Sr., president and co-founder of Cox, Matthews and Associates.
  • "At the funeral for Chicago political reporter Carlos Hernandez Gomez Thursday, longtime friend and colleague Carol Marin led 'a prayer of the faithful' to keep politicians and reporters honest," Chicago media writer Robert Feder wrote Friday on his WBEZ blog. "Carlos would have loved it. In part, Marin‚Äôs prayer said: 'For those who serve the public in government and in politics, that they may be guided by wisdom and unwavering integrity. We pray to the Lord. (Lord, hear our prayer.) For those who gather and report the news, that they may they do so honestly, fearlessly and fairly. We pray to the Lord. (Lord, hear our prayer.)'" Gomez died Jan. 17 at age 36.
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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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