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NBC Reverses, Returns Reporter to Gaza

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Friday, July 18, 2014

Network's Recall Was Criticized as Pro-Israel Bias

Michael Feeney, Enid Alvarez Laid Off at N.Y. Daily News

Color of Change Presses Twitter for Diversity Figures

No Consensus on Terms for Children Crossing Border


Haitian-American Radio Listeners Bilked, Officials Say


Kurtz Sympathizes With Reporter Who Ad-Libbed on Dads


CBS Announcers Free Not to Say "Redskins"


Essence Made Mistake in Seeking Younger Audience

Short Takes

Glenn Greenwald, left, appears on Pacifica's "Democracy Now!" as the screen shows NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reporting from Gaza City. (video)

Network's Recall Was Criticized as Pro-Israel Bias

Veteran war correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin announced via Twitter Friday night that NBC News had reversed course and was sending him back to Gaza.

The removal of the Egyptian-American journalist a day after he live tweeted an Israeli airstrike in Gaza that killed four children drew criticism from fellow journalists and reinforced perceptions that the Western media follow a pro-Israeli line.

NBC News issued a statement Friday evening confirming Mohyeldin’s redeployment and praising his work:

"Ayman Mohyeldin has done extraordinary reporting throughout the escalation of the conflict in Gaza, filing 25+ reports over the past 17 days, including his invaluable and well-documented contribution to the story on the deaths of the four Palestinian children on Wednesday," the network said. "As with any news team in conflict zones, deployments are constantly reassessed. We've carefully considered our deployment decisions and we will be sending Ayman back to Gaza over the weekend. We look forward to his contributions in the coming days."

As Bill Carter reported for the New York Times, "When it removed Mr. Mohyeldin, NBC did not give a reason for its decision other than unspecified security concerns.

"On Friday, NBC declined to give any explanation — official or not — for the sudden decision to send Mr. Mohyeldin back into Gaza. In a statement, NBC said only that its 'deployments were constantly reassessed' in the region. . . ."

NBC spokeswomen also had not responded to inquiries from Journal-isms.

Miriam Berger reported earlier for BuzzFeed:

"On Wednesday, Mohyeldin was one of a number of foreign journalists who witnessed an Israeli air strike kill four children near his hotel in Gaza. He shared photos and personal testimonies of the gruesome incident on Twitter in posts that quickly went viral.

"On Wednesday evening, NBC had another correspondent, Richard Engel, cover the story from Tel Aviv. NBC aired a pre-recorded interview with Mohyeldin on the day's killings in a later broadcast. Several NBC employees were angry that Mohyeldin had been sidelined from the story, according to [mediabistro]. . . ."

Media writer Michael Calderone added for the Huffington Post, "Foreign correspondents often get reassigned as news warrants, but there's arguably no better place to currently position Mohyeldin, a fluent Arabic speaker with extensive contacts on the ground. Mohyeldin won praise this week for his on-air reporting from Gaza, and is respected by his colleagues."

Glen Greenwald, the columnist and blogger who published the leaked documents from Edward Snowden, appeared Friday on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!" Greenwald published news of the decision to recall Mohyeldin Thursday on his website the Intercept.

Greenwald appeared with the show's correspondent Sharif Abdel Kouddous, who knows Mohyeldin well and spoke from Gaza City.

Greenwald said of Mohyeldin, "the whole context of what has happened here is that he is a very unique reporter, especially for a network news position. You know, the kind of reporting that — the amazing reporting that we just [heard] from Sharif usually is not the kind of reporting that you hear on the network news. And Ayman does that kind of reporting.

"And he's been criticized for it by neoconservative outlets, calling him a Hamas sympathizer and the like. And so, for NBC to remove him at exactly the moment where he brought the humanity of this war and the humanity of Gazans to the world, at the same time that he posted some tweets that in network news land would be considered controversial because it questions the U.S. government and the Israeli position, at the very least, looks awful, and I think, for NBC News's credibility, demands that they provide some answers about what really happened here. . . ."

Greenwald noted the apology this week from ABC "World News" anchor Diane Sawyer for identifying victims of a missile attack as Israelis when in fact they were Palestinians.

"There is nothing that makes major media figures and news executives more petrified than reporting on Israel," Greenwald continued. "I mean, the way in which they become so frightened to do any sort of reporting that could make what they call Israel's supporters inside the United States angry really can't be overstated.

"And that's the reason why this ABC, quote-unquote, 'error' resonated so greatly, is because one of the things that you almost never see in major American media reporting is anything that shows the suffering of the Palestinians, that shows the brutal savagery of the Israeli military inside of Gaza. It was almost like they showed it by accident there and then just misreported it as being Israeli suffering because that's what they're so accustomed to showing, even though Israeli suffering is so much less than the havoc that is wreaked on the Palestinians. . . ."

Michael Feeney, Enid Alvarez Laid Off at N.Y. Daily News

Michael Feeney and Enid Alvarez

Less than a month after two reporters of color left the Daily News in New York with an alarmingly low number of African Americans and Hispanics covering the majority-minority city, two more were let go Friday.

Michael Feeney, who covered Harlem and the South Bronx and is president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, and Enid Alvarez, a photographer who said she was the only one in her department who spoke fluent Spanish, translating for the reporters who accompanied her on stories, confirmed their pink slips to Journal-isms.

In June, reporter Simone Weichselbaum announced she was leaving for the start-up Marshall Project covering criminal justice issues, and reporter Jennifer H. Cunningham was laid off.

"Three sources put the number of newsroom pink slips at 17, and we've confirmed that long-time veterans as well as newer and younger reporters are among them," Joe Pompeo reported Friday for Capital New York.

A Daily News spokesman did not respond to an inquiry from Journal-isms.

An internal memo Friday from Daily News President and CEO William D. Holiber and Colin Myler, president and editor-in-chief, said, "Over the past couple of years we have been working to transform the Daily News brand to position itself to better meet the challenges within the media industry.

"The strategic changes we made this week will, we believe, put our company in a stronger position to be more competitive and accelerate our plans for digital expansion. These changes, as challenging as they are, will help us to re-invest resources in people and technology across our entire business. That said, we would like to place on record our heartfelt thanks to those members of staff who have left us. . . ."

Feeney, 30, said he was the only black male reporter at the News, though others are in editing roles, including Rob Moore, a managing editor who recruited Feeney, Weichselbaum and Cunningham.

Feeney started in August 2009, a year before being named "Emerging Journalist of the Year" by the National Association of Black Journalists. "I'm thankful for the Daily News and the opportunity to work in this city for five years as a reporter," Feeney said. "It was a great ride. Hopefully, I'll be back in the city."

Feeney said he pursued his interest in writing about entertainment and pop culture in addition to his day job and wouldn't mind doing more of that.

Alvarez said she would have been at the paper for nine years next week. She said wanted to do "more travel as a photojournalist." "I love what I do," Alvarez said.

She pursued a career in finance to please her parents, but realized she had to chase her own dream. Her first photography job was as an intern on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" in 2001. Alvarez also has worked for 10 years at the Guggenheim Museum, she said.

Cunningham, who covered education, quality of life issues, crime, health, entertainment, nonprofits, business and travel, said she was not sure she wanted to return to a daily newspaper but wanted to continue writing. She also wants to pursue broadcasting opportunities and has produced videos for the Daily News website.

Color of Change Presses Twitter for Diversity Figures

"Today, ColorOfChange.org, the nation's largest online civil rights group, joined with Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rainbow Push Coalition, to demand that Twitter publicly disclose its demographic data and hold a forum to discuss Silicon Valley's diversity problem," the organization announced on Thursday.

"In response, Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org said, 'Although not on the payroll, Twitter has been built off the creativity of Black people and owes our community a transparent conversation about the state of diversity at the corporation. Disclosure of employee data is an important first step, but we hope — given the growing power of Black Twitter — that the company will take seriously the call to recruit and retain more Black employees at every level of the corporate structure.'

"In recent weeks as other Silicon Valley tech companies like Facebook, Yahoo, Google, and LinkedIn took the historic first step to release data about the racial and gender composition of their staffs, Twitter has remained silent — refusing to jump on the data-release-bandwagon.

"To date, most of the data disclosures have confirmed that Silicon Valley prefers its workers to be male and either white or Asian. And although Twitter is unlikely to break any diversity trends that have emerged, transparency and a public commitment to improving the recruitment and retention of Black employees are critical first steps."

Nu Wexler, a spokesman for Twitter, told Journal-isms by email, "We don't have anything to announce now, but I can let you know if we do later."

CNN says it refers to "undocumented children" in stories about the recent influx near the border. (video)

No Consensus on Terms for Children Crossing Border

"Migrant children?" "Refugees?" "Border children?"

While these terms have been used to describe the influx of undocumented children from Central America crossing the border into the United States, there is no consensus on how to describe them, according to an informal survey of leading news outlets. These news organizations responded to a question Friday from Journal-isms:

  • ABC News: "We have used the following:" spokesman Van Scott Jr. said: 

    "Children on border

    "Central American children

    "Central American immigrants

    "Children illegally crossing

    "Minors

    "Kids."

  • Associated Press: "There is no fixed language," spokesman Paul Colford said. "We have said 'unaccompanied children' crossing the border, 'unaccompanied minors from Central America,' 'children arriving on the border' and a variety of other terms."

  • CNN: "The children coming into the country illegally are referred to as 'undocumented children' in the network's reporting," spokeswoman Christal Jones said. "The network's overall coverage of the children coming into the country illegally is branded as 'Border Crisis Children in Limbo.' " 

  • Los Angeles Times: "We have not had formal format style discussions on this matter," according to spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan. "LA Times reporters and their editors are determining the terminology that suits the context of their stories."

  • NPR: "Our Standard and Practices Editor Mark Memmott hasn't suggested specific dos and don'ts regarding these children," spokesman Emerson Brown said.

    "He says, though, the same guidance that we've given previously on immigration would apply — saying, basically, it's always better to avoid labels and to instead focus on describing actions:

    " 'children from Central America who have crossed the border illegally without their parents.'

    " 'children from Central America who have come into the country illegally.'

    " 'children from Central America who have been sent to the U.S. and entered illegally.'

  • Telemundo: "Since our newscasts are in in Spanish, below are some of the phrases we’re using," said spokesman Alfredo Richard:

    "Menores cruzando hacia Estados Unidos (Minors crossing to the US…)

    "Niños detenidos en la frontera (Kids detained at the border…)

    "Niños que cruzan solos la frontera….(Kids that cross the border alone…)

Richard added, "This last one is the one we use most often."

Haitian-American Radio Listeners Bilked, Officials Say

Philippe Bourciquot"Philippe Bourciquot used airtime on South Florida Creole-language radio stations to draw his fellow Haitian-Americans into his Ponzi operation, authorities allege," Brett Clarkson reported Thursday for the South Florida SunSentinel.

"Promising monthly returns of 8 percent and making assurances that their money was completely safe, the Lake Worth man used radio advertisements to solicit about $3.1 million from about 300 people between November 2012 and March 31 of this year, according to an arrest report.

"Early Thursday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents arrested Bourciquot, 46, at his Lake Worth office, department spokeswoman Gretl Plessinger said.

"While Bourciquot did pay out $1.4 million to investors, the report alleges, those payments weren't actually returns. Instead, the report alleges, he was using new investors' money to make payments to previous investors — the basic playbook of a Ponzi operation. He is also accused of funneling much of that money to himself. . . ."

The story also said, "Bourciquot made representations on the radio that he is a leader and benefactor in the Haitian-American community and will bring his clients and the community at large out of poverty by his skills in financial investment, the arrest report states.

"Investigators cited several radio advertisements that were broadcast on several different AM radio stations in which Bourciquot appealed to Haitian-Americans to entrust their money to him because he knew how to make their cash grow. Agents also met with Bourciquot undercover to talk about potential investments.

" 'This alleged Ponzi scheme cost many Haitian-Americans their hard-earned money with empty promises of great returns, and my Office of Statewide Prosecution will aggressively prosecute this defendant,' Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement included in the release. . . ."

Kurtz Sympathizes With Reporter Who Ad-Libbed on Dads

The New Jersey reporter who ended his report with an unexpected commentary about the "anti-cop mentality that has so contaminated America's inner cities," caused by "young black men growing up without fathers," was punished too severely, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz wrote on Thursday.

Kurtz conceded that Sean Bergin "was overgeneralizing without providing facts. By saying 'the underlying cause for all of this' is young black men from fatherless families, he cast each one as a potential criminal.

"But it also took courage to say what Sean Bergin did. He spoke with great emotion about the death of a policeman," Kurtz wrote.

"So how did the station react? First, News 12 suspended Bergin. Then it demoted him to a $300-a-week post in which he'd be given on light feature assignment each week." Bergin then quit.

Kurtz also wrote, "Again, the debate over this touchy subject is better carried out by analysts and commentators, not reporters popping off. But I doubt News 12 would have dumped Bergin if he’d 'editorialized' on some less controversial subject.

"But as I told Bill O’Reilly, imagine if the station had suspended him for a couple of days for breaking the rules, then seized the moment by assigning him a three-part series on the roots of urban crime, fatherless families and racial animosity toward the police.

"Instead, the station looks like it is fleeing controversy — and Sean Bergin is looking for a job."

CBS Announcers Free Not to Say "Redskins"

"CBS won't dictate to its announcers whether or not to use the nickname of Washington's NFL franchise during televised games this season," Beth Harris reported Thursday for the Associated Press.

"CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said Thursday he hasn't told on-air talent such as Jim Nantz and Phil Simms what to say regarding the controversy surround the Redskins' name.

" 'We don't tell our announcers what to say about any topic,' McManus told the summer TV critics' meeting. 'That is true about team names also. We haven't made any specific plans as far as the name. We're looking at it, but right now we don't have any change in our plan.'

"NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell added, 'We don't dictate to our broadcast partners how they cover the game. That's their decision.' . . ."

Essence Made Mistake in Seeking Younger Audience

August issue of Essence.

Edward Lewis, one of four men who in 1968 conceptualized Essence magazine, sat for a brief question-and-answer session with Janelle Harris of mediabistro, published Wednesday.

Harris asked Lewis, "Jet magazine has folded its print copy and is going all digital. Do you think this was a good move?"

Lewis replied, "One of my heroes outside my family is John Johnson, who started Ebony and Jet. The media landscape has changed with respect to how people get information. It's very difficult. It's one of the reasons why I made the decision to sell to Time Inc. when they approached me in 2000. I began to realize that what I call the four P's — paper, printing, postage and people — are going to continue to increase in cost. Ebony has gone through some changes with respect to trying to find its editorial feet. In fact, on one level, they're trying to make it look younger than what their audience is. We tried to make the Essence audience look younger and when we did, black women punished us. Our circulation went down and it took us a year to recover. Those are the pressures on Johnson Publishing and Jet."

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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