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MSNBC Seizes on News of Zimmerman Arrest

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Sharpton Appears With Martin Team, Then Interviews Them

Student's Announcement Gets Him Fired Before He Starts

NPR Ombudsman Upbeat on Network's Diversity

Santorum Pullout Forces Media to Reverse Course

Correspondents' Readiness for War Zones Questioned

2nd National Review Contributor Ousted Over Racism

Pope's Visit to Cuba, Mexico Barely Registered in U.S.

Short Takes

(Video) (Credit: MSNBC via Huffington Post)

Sharpton Appears With Martin Team, Then Interviews Them

MSNBC, the cable news network that claims the highest ratings among African Americans, accorded the announcement of George Zimmerman's arrest in the Trayvon Martin killing the greatest amount of coverage on Wednesday. That coverage included a news conference hosted by its "PoliticsNation" host, the Rev. Al Sharpton.

While Sharpton was conducting his Washington news conference with the Martin family and their lawyers, Martin Bashir hosted Sharpton's show. After the news conference, Sharpton conducted an "exclusive" interview with the family for MSNBC.

CNN carried a portion of the news conference, but Fox News Channel, which has given the Martin case less coverage than MSNBC or CNN, broadcast "Special Report With Bret Baier" with an all-white "all-star panel" that contrasted sharply with the eight African Americans filling the screen for the Sharpton news conference. A Fox News spokeswoman said  Fox carried special prosecutor Angela Corey's news conference live.

The charge filed against Zimmerman was the lead story on the three evening newscasts on the broadcast networks.

Commentators praised Corey after her 6 p.m. news conference. "Corey announced a second-degree murder charge at the State Attorney's Office in Jacksonville tonight, more than six weeks after Trayvon and Zimmerman's fatal encounter," Rene Stutzman and Jeff Weiner wrote for the Orlando Sentinel. "If convicted, Zimmerman would face up to life in prison on the first-degree felony charge. He arrived at the Seminole County jail about 8:30 p.m. tonight."

It was a moment that commentators and Martin family supporters said they had waited for. When word leaked earlier Wednesday that Corey would announce a decision to prosecute, blogger Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Atlantic wrote of Zimmerman, "What I know is that I care much more about him being charged [than] I do about him being convicted. What always rankled about this case wasn't that Zimmerman might not see a jail cell (that's what judges and juries determine) but that law enforcement had done everything to foreclose that possibility. We may find that they still have. I imagine a lot was lost in bungling. But at the very least this says, 'We take the loss of life seriously.' "

Corey did not address media coverage in her remarks but she did comment on the numerous leaks. "So much information got released in this case that should not have been released," she said. ". . . There has been an overwhelming amount of publicity in this case that we hope will not prevent us from finding an impartial jury."

Sharpton's dual role as talk show host and activist has been criticized by commentators as a conflict of interest. In an interview with Reuters this week, NBC News President Steve Capus defended the arrangement.

"Reverend Sharpton is a talk show host on MSNBC," Capus said. "We believe there's a distinction between the role he plays and our front line journalists who are part of NBC's news gathering and reporting. This is a large news organization that has many people involved in any number of different aspects of coverage and commentary. That's the distinction we've made as a news organization."

Sharpton won praise Monday from an unexpected quarter. The contrarian columnist Stanley Crouch wrote in the Daily News in New York, "Sharpton has often been among those loons, accused of opportunism, selling out black journalists to get his own MSNBC show and of being a police informant. I have thrown many of my own tomatoes at him."

But Sharpton's conduct in the Martin case and commitment to nonviolence, Crouch wrote, put him in a different light. "He has become one of the public prizes in our era, so dominated by the special effects of lies spoken only for attention, money and power."

MSNBC has boasted that it is "No. 1 in cable news with African-American and Hispanic viewers," which makes its coverage of the Martin case — the Sharpton-family news conference was followed by further discussion on its talk shows — consistent with efforts to appeal to black viewers.

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Tuesday, "African Americans continue to follow news about the controversy more closely than whites. About seven-in-ten blacks (72%) say they followed Trayvon Martin developments more closely than any other story, compared with 26% of whites."

In addition, "Eight in 10 blacks say they think Martin’s killing was not justified, compared with 38 percent of whites," Krissah Thompson and Jon Cohen reported Tuesday for the Washington Post, discussing a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. "Most whites say they do not know enough about the shooting to say whether it was justified."

Moreover, according to a Newsweek poll, "blacks are twice as likely as whites (82 percent versus 38 percent) to say that race played a role in the shooting of Trayvon Martin," Andrew Romano and Allison Samuels reported Monday for the Daily Beast. "They are simply more likely than whites to still see race as a factor in how people are treated, period."

Student's Announcement Gets Him Fired Before He Starts

"Khristopher Brooks called shortly before 6 p.m. ET to tell me that the News Journal fired him this afternoon for improper use of the newspaper's logo on his personal sites, and for using executive editor David Ledford's hiring-letter quotes in his press release, which is posted below," Jim Romenesko reported Wednesday on his media blog.

His note referencing the Wilmington, Del., newspaper topped this item:

" 'I'm a really big NBA fan,' journalist Khristopher J. Brooks tells me, 'and whenever an NBA team acquires a new player there's always a press release announcing it. I’d look at those releases and think, "The organization is really proud' of the new hire. Brooks notes that newspapers don't announce new employees unless they're stars, but 'what's keeping me from doing it?' (Nothing!)"

Brooks said, "I didn't do it to showboat. I did it to tell family, friends and ex-co-workers about the next step in my career."

NPR Ombudsman Upbeat on Network's Diversity

NPR has been criticized over the years for its lack of racial diversity in programming, staffing and audience, but NPR ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos crunched the diversity numbers at the radio network and concluded that "racially and ethnically, NPR is not doing badly, and is getting better.

"Looking at NPR, the overwhelming majority of its radio audience is in fact (Source: NPR's Human Resources Department; credit: Stephanie d'Otreppe/NPR)white — roughly 87 percent, according to research pulled together for me by Lori Kaplan of NPR's Audience, Insight and Research Department," Schumacher-Matos wrote on Wednesday. "This is substantially higher than the 77 percent of adult Americans (18 and older) who are white. Asian-Americans make up nearly 4 percent of the audience, but roughly 3 percent of the adult population. African-Americans and Latinos, however, are under-represented among NPR's listeners. Blacks make up nearly 12 percent of the adult population but just a little more than 5 percent of NPR listeners. For Hispanics, the numbers are 14 percent versus 6 percent."

However, Schumacher-Matos wrote, "Using the total adult population is the wrong baseline. NPR appeals overwhelmingly to college-educated Americans." Under that measure, "Among all income levels, more than 11 percent of whites with a college degree listen to NPR. This compares to 9 percent of Asians with a college degree, nearly 7 percent of Hispanics and 6 percent of blacks."

As for NPR staffing, "Seven percent of U.S. college graduates are African American. Blacks make up 12 percent of the newsroom — much more than their 7 percent weight among college graduates. Hispanics, however, are slightly under-represented. They make up six percent of the Americans with college degrees but five percent of the newsroom. Asians do exactly the reverse. They are five percent of Americans with degrees and six percent of the newsroom. The Native American sample size is too small to draw many conclusions. There is one person among NPR's journalists and managers who said he or she was Native American, according to Human Resources. This is 0.2 percent of the newsroom, compared to the 0.6 percent of college graduates who are Native American."

He concluded, "The bottom line here is that in terms of the nation's largest racial and ethnic minority groups — blacks, Latinos and Asians—NPR staffing may have arrived."

Santorum Pullout Forces Media to Reverse Course

"When Tuesday broke, it looked like Rick Santorum's Easter and family campaign recess was about to end," Ken Knelly wrote for Columbia Journalism Review. "Events were scheduled. The Underdog Machine was seemingly about to rev up.

"What broke instead was news that Santorum's presidential campaign was over. The announcement would come from the same small town where another campaign ended in 1863 — Gettysburg, Pa.

"Media outlets here were quick to reverse course, with Twitter updates, email alerts, and breaking news bars posted and sent out. Some were also quick to forget the story, including many large-market television websites — stations set to lose a good chunk of the $2.9 million the Mitt Romney campaign was reportedly set to plunk down in the state."

Correspondents' Readiness for War Zones Questioned

Sebastian Junger, a war correspondent, author and lecturer, is sponsoring a three-day course in New York next week that covers basic procedures for saving someone’s life on the battlefield.

It comes after other correspondents have pleaded for increased attention by news organizations to the health of their correspondents. That includes their readiness for the assignment, as with the New York Times' Anthony ShadidAnthony Shadid, who died in February, as well as first-aid training.

Junger and others say they have witnessed needless deaths of other journalists. In Junger's case, it was Tim Hetherington, hit by shrapnel in the groin in Libya. "Tim is not the first friend I have lost in combat, but his death was certainly the most devastating. It has prompted me to start a medical training program for freelancer journalists so that the next tragedy can be averted," Junger wrote on his website.

At the American Society of News Editors convention in Washington last week, New York Times correspondent C.J. Chivers added at a panel, "You'd be astonished at the number of people who don't have any training. They need to be able to stop the bleeding, treat for shock and do basic triage." He recalled a friend dying with journalists at his side "providing comfort but not first aid."

Shadid's cousin Ed Shadid raised a broader issue at memorial services in March.

Shadid died after an asthma attack in Syria, not long after he had been reporting in Libya, where he and three other New York Times journalists were captured and released. "I just feel that competition played a role in his demise," Shadid said at a March 15 memorial service at the Washington Post, where his brother worked before moving to the Times.

"I can't imagine there isn't some degree of PTSD," post-traumatic stress disorder, Ed Shadid said. He urged that news organizations try to learn from the experience "and figure out how we can protect journalists and what we might do differently. I wish that the adults in the room made these journalists get physical exams and figure out if they are fit to take on" these assignments. . . I wish that addressing PTSD was mandatory, like it is in the military."

Ed Shadid made similar comments at a March 3 memorial service in Oklahoma City, Katie Fretland reported then for the Associated Press.

"Susan Chira, an assistant managing editor at the Times, said Saturday the safety of journalists has long been a focus of the newspaper, especially in the past decade," Fretland wrote.

" 'Everyone at The New York Times is thinking about anything we can do to help our journalists do their work safely,' Chira said. 'There is always more to be done.'

"David Hoffman, Shadid's former editor at The Washington Post, said he tells reporters their first responsibility is to themselves and to be available for tomorrow's story. The newspaper where Shadid won a Pulitzer Prize in 2004 and 2010 has devoted attention and resources to helping journalists deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome in the past 10 years, he said.

" 'We've already invested a lot of time and attention to reporters' safety,' Hoffman said. 'This requires us to double and triple our efforts.' "

2nd National Review Contributor Ousted Over Racism

"For the second time this week, the National Review has severed its ties with a contributor because of racism," Dylan Byers reported Wednesday for Politico.

"Over the weekend, it was John Derbyshire. Today, it's University of Illinois professor emeritus Robert Weissberg.

" 'Unbeknowst to us, occasional Phi Beta Cons contributor Robert Weissberg (whose book was published a few years ago by Transaction) participated in an American Renaissance conference where he delivered a noxious talk about the future of white nationalism,' editor Rich Lowry wrote in a post on the National Review's website. "He will no longer be posting here. Thanks to those who brought it to our attention."

"Weissberg spoke at the conference about 'viable alternatives' to white nationalism, including the creation of 'Whitopias,' according to the American Renaissance website."

Pope's Visit to Cuba, Mexico Barely Registered in U.S.

". . . Each time my family of expatriates from the United States turned on the local Mexican news, we saw heavy coverage of each move the Pope made in Guanajuato, Guanajuato or Leon, Guanajuato, in Central Mexico," Dr. Jacqueline Zaleski Mackenzie wrote from Mexico last week for LatinaLista. "We saw the weeks of preparation beforehand. Many people left for other locations, because of the estimates of 3 million expected visitors into our narrow colonial town. The excitement was evident all over Central Mexico and all over the local television channels, but little from the USA.

"On Sunday, March 25th there were about 700,000 people gathered in Leon to hear the Pope give his blessing to them all during mass. Viewing the enormous crowd was breathtaking and so was the snub on USA television."

As the trip began, Univision announced that it "will offer Hispanic America the most comprehensive coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Mexico and Cuba, featuring in-depth reports and updates across all its programs."

But the weekly News Interest Index survey of the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted March 29-April 1 among 1,000 adults, found "The pope's travels were the top story for 1% of the public, and 5% followed his visits to Mexico and Cuba very closely. Just 1% of the newshole was devoted to this story."

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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