Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

The News from Red Lake

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

It's Male Editors Who Pick Op-Ed Writers

Story Provides Opportunity, Spawns Gaffes

This is how anchor Bob Schieffer began Monday night's "CBS Evening News":

"And we have late word on this terrible shooting at a high school on an Indian reservation in northern Minnesota not far from the Canadian border.

"There are reports of multiple deaths and injuries, including students, a teacher and a security guard. By some counts, as many as 18 people may have been shot. We got through just a minute ago to Roman Stately, a fire department official in Red Lake."

As Schieffer proceeded to interview Stately, NBC and ABC were leading their newscasts with the saga of brain-damaged Terri Schiavo, and the battle over whether her tube-feeding should be stopped.

"This was breaking news," CBS spokeswoman Donna Dees said of the decision to lead with the reservation shootings. Speaking of a newscast that first airs at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time, she added, "It broke at 6 p.m. We probably would not have led with it if we did not get an official from that community on the phone, but when we did, it was apparent that it was a far larger story than it was at 6 p.m."

"Our competitors have probably gotten questions on why they didn't lead with it," she told Journal-isms.

In addition to prompting issues about story placement, Monday's bloody rampage at Red Lake High School is raising concerns about language choice and commitment to covering Native American issues. It has also thrust those issues into the news in a way rarely seen.

On National Public Radio's "Talk of the Nation" today, Patty Talahongva, host and producer of radio's "Native America Calling," said that she and a Native friend watched television, "and we're both cringing" as they heard a reporter begin his report with, "a trail of tears in Red Lake."

"Please don't go there, especially if you don't know the history of the Trail of Tears," said Talahongva, who is immediate past president of the Native American Journalists Association. "You know, the comparison there is not—"

"Apt," host Neal Conan said, finishing the sentence.

The Trail of Tears refers to the forced removal of the Cherokee Indians from Georgia to Oklahoma in the early 19th century. About 4,000 died in the thousand-mile march.

In a report that aired Tuesday on "Wolf Blitzer Reports" and again on "Lou Dobbs Tonight," CNN reporter Sean Callebs began his story with, "In northern Minnesota, a trail of tears at the Red Lake Indian Reservation. This small community, no more than 5,000, is coping with a mass killing."

Reporters who arrived at the remote crime scene received a quick lesson in tribal sovereignty. "Red Lake?s status as a closed reservation gives the band unusual authority to restrict the movements of non-band members, including reporters. And so far, it appears the Red Lake leadership has chosen to exercise that authority," reported the Twin Cities City Pages, which additionally interviewed veteran photographer Monte Draper about "getting caught up in the media swarm."

Familiar faces had better luck. Dalton Walker, a reporter for the Reznet News journalism program who grew up on the reservation, filed a commentary on deadline for Minnesota's Duluth News Tribune.

And Editor Molly Miron of the 9,886-circulation Bemidji Pioneer "was one of the few journalists allowed into the reservation before it closed its borders at 5 p.m.," Editor & Publisher reported, because she had developed a relationship with the residents.

Familiar or not with life at Red Lake, larger news organizations were provided an opportunity to air Native issues. On "Talk of the Nation," Talahongva spoke of the "abysmal" funding for Indian schools, including funds for counseling, noting that funds from the No Child Left Behind Act were not reaching tribal schools because the money does not go to the reservations, but to the states.

A story in the Christian Science Monitor by Amanda Paulson, Sara B. Miller, and Stacy A. Teicher went further: "the incident also underlines the specific challenges facing many people—and particularly adolescents—on Indian reservations. Such youth have far higher rates than do others of committing suicide, substance abuse, dropping out of school, living in poverty, and staying with foster parents or grandparents."

This quote from the 16-year-old shooter, Jeff Weise, made to a Nazi Web site, was included in many news reports:

"As a result of cultural dominance and interracial mixing, there is barely any full blooded Natives left. Where I live less than 1% of all the people on the Reservation can speak their own language, and among the youth wanting to be black has run ramped [rampant]."

Critics asked in many forums whether the story, because it involved Native Americans, did not receive the coverage accorded the 1999 massacre at Columbine High in Colorado.

At National Public Radio, ombudsman Jeffrey A. Dvorkin quoted "Morning Edition" senior producer Robin Gradison denying that was the case.

But Dvorkin added: "Stories about the lives and issues of Native American communities—both on and off the reservations—are not frequently reported on NPR. While the Red Lake tragedy makes for a dramatic story, NPR's journalism shouldn't end there. The killing of 10 people may be an isolated act of a deranged teenager. But it indicates something disturbing, and underreported about the desperate and impoverished lives of many Native Americans."

"I have to say, it opened up my eyes a bit," Robin Washington, editorial page editor of the Duluth Tribune, said on "Talk of the Nation," speaking of the event.

Modern-day mayhem finds the edge of the world (Nick Coleman, Star Tribune, Minneapolis)

Red Lake Net News

CBS News Scoops Rivals in Minn. School Shooting (Hollywood Reporter)

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Detroit GM Sees King Talks "Early Next Week"

Talks over renewing ousted anchor Emery King's contract with WDIV-TV in Detroit are likely to begin "early next week," Joe Berwanger, the station's vice president and general manager, told Journal-isms today. But Berwanger said that "not a terrible amount" of his decision to reopen talks stems from the public outcry that greeted King's March 11 termination.

"It's more of, if somebody thinks I wasn't doing it right in the talks, that weighs fairly more than anything else. Also, I happen to like Emery. I wouldn't want to declare this over until I'd exhausted everything," the general manager said.

Berwanger said he had read that King's lawyer, John Moye of Denver, was quoted "saying that he thought my actions were abrupt, and I thought, maybe they were." Moye had said that the talks never got underway, as King was told he was terminated shortly after Moye presented the station with a proposed updated contract.

Berwanger said he had "called the meeting," but "it's been tough getting schedules coordinated."

In the Detroit News today, columnist Neal Rubin wrote that after the Friday termination, "By the following Monday, the public outcry was loud enough to rattle Channel 4's stylish black windows."

He quoted Moye as saying that "his chat list begins with the termination of King's contract, which runs through March. Agenda items would presumably include severance pay and a non-compete clause.

"'I would say the ball's in their court. I'm kind of waiting for the volley.'"

Rubin reported that King emceed a charity event at Detroit's Ritz-Carlton on Friday, and that "Detroit Regional Chamber President Dick Blouse says some of the 500-plus guests stood and cheered when King first appeared."

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Fired KNBC Producer "Took a Bullet" for Silence

After Monday's report on the firings at KNBC-TV Los Angeles of reporter Kyung Lah, "Today in L.A." field producer Jeff Soto, and 11 p.m. producer Jim Bunner over a reported affair between Lah and Soto, some wondered whether Bunner's firing was justified.

Bunner "says he was fired for keeping quiet" after learning of the affair, according to an account by Ron Fineman, author of a subscription-only newsletter for L.A. television insiders. Fineman, who has been following the case, told Journal-isms that he encountered Bunner at a party, and that the fired producer introduced himself and began giving Fineman his side of the story, on the record.

Fineman wrote in his newsletter Tuesday:

"In December, Lah was covering the Scott Peterson case in Redwood City. She sent Soto an unsigned letter in an envelope marked Personal. Bunner described the letter as more of a card. It was nothing x-rated, but personal enough to where it might indicate something was going on, and there was enough info in there which would point to Lah being the sender.

"As to how Bunner got a hold of this letter is a source of controversy . . .

". . . Bunner, Lah's husband, and weather anchor Danny Romero are all friends. Bunner says he and her husband are especially close. Anyway, Bunner showed this letter to Romero, and both wondered, could this be what it appears to be? Bunner says he really couldn't believe it, and couldn't bring himself to tell Lah's husband about it. He and Romero sat on this letter until late February. At that time, convinced that something was indeed going on, Romero decided to confront Lah with it. He told her, either you tell your husband, or I will. Lah apparently knew he was serious, and so she confessed.

"A couple of weeks later, Lah's husband went to KNBC management with the news of this affair between his wife and the morning show producer. General Manager Paula Madison fired, Lah, Soto and Bunner. Why Bunner? According to him, Madison felt that as a manager (11pm newscast producer) he should have reported this affair as soon as he had reason to believe it was going on. So, Bunner says he was fired for keeping quiet. But he offers no apologies for that. He didn't want to see all of this happen to his pal. He tells me he 'took a bullet' for him. He also disputes that 11pm producer is really a management position.

"But he says that Madison told him he showed bad judgment. After all, Lah's husband works in the same building. Suppose he decided to come down and shoot up the newsroom?"

KNBC staffers fired over affair (LA Observed)

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Woes Mounting, the Source Plans Latino Version

The Source hip-hop magazine, in trouble on financial and other fronts, plans this spring to launch "the Spanish-language Source Latino, a men's magazine covering Latin hip-hop artists and culture, which hits newsstands May 31. The Latino version will be quarterly, with 55,000 copies distributed to predominantly Latino regions of the U.S.," Stephanie D. Smith reported Monday in Mediaweek.

The Web site SOHH.Com fleshed out more of the troubles Tuesday, posting a story by Roy L, with additional reporting by Rick Rock:

"In this exclusive story, former writers speak about The Source's unprofessional business practices and failure to pay, insiders talk of the mag's hostile work environment and Ego Trip's Sacha Jenkins claps back at The Source's recent attack with a defamation lawsuit.

"The self-proclaimed 'hip-hop bible' is facing financial stress on two fronts with XXL Magazine coming for their #1 spot at newsstands . . . and the loss of advertising support by heavyweight label Interscope Records -- a substantial and steady revenue stream estimated at more than $1.2 million per year. Meanwhile, the magazine is facing its most serious threat from lawsuits -- including filings in 2004 by several companies for over $1.3 million owed . . . and recently by former writers for thousands in unpaid invoices."

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Karen DeWitt Joins Washington Examiner

Karen DeWitt, a veteran journalist whose resume includes stints at the New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today and ABC News, started Monday as the editor of the Washington Examiner's District of Columbia edition, the paper announced yesterday.

"While I loved my job as director of public affairs for the DC Water and Sewer Authority (. . . I did love it and have a new appreciation for one of the marks of civilization that we just take for granted: a clean, safe, regular supply of water and efficient, consistent disposal of wastes), I thought, great new opportunity, with one of the newest concepts in newspapering: free newspapers," DeWitt told Journal-isms.

The Examiner is owned by Clarity Media Inc., a Denver-based holding company owned by billionaire investor Philip F. Anschutz. A year ago he bought the Examiner in San Francisco.

DeWitt was last in this column a year ago when she wrote and produced "Reparations" for the African American cable channel TV One, working with executive producer Tim Reid.

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ASNE Featuring Reception for Gay Journalists

"For the first time in its 83-year history, the American Society of Newspaper Editors conference in April will include an official reception for gay journalists," Joe Strupp reported Tuesday in Editor & Publisher. .

"J. Ford Huffman, an openly gay deputy managing editor at USA Today and a member of the ASNE conference program committee, proposed the idea as a natural step for gay journalists, who continue to gain prominence and acceptance within the field."

Meanwhile, William Spain reported Tuesday for MarketWatch that, "In their '2004 Gay Press Report,' ad agency Prime Access and media placement firm Rivendell Media said that advertising in gay publications soared more than 28 percent last year, hitting $207 million. More than 150 of the Fortune 500 companies bought into gay media last year, the report continued, an all-time high."

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It's Male Editors Who Pick Op-Ed Writers

Katha Pollitt, former editor and still columnist at The Nation, entered the fray over the low numbers of female op-ed columnists with this observation yesterday in the Washington Monthly:

"Ultimately it's the editors, not the slush pile or the volume of queries from freelancers, that determine what goes in a magazine. The phone works both ways! From what I have seen, editors are much more open to men and men flourish accordingly. Older editors, who are mostly men, mentor younger men in whom they see their younger selves, and these young men richly pay them back in admiration, even (surely not!) flattery and sycophancy.

". . . Sexism, which is what we are discussing here, often justifies itself by assuming that women don't want the thing that is being denied them."

Ten years ago, in the middle of a debate on affirmative action that ended with the Clinton policy of "Mend It, Don't End It," Pollitt pointed out how white the opinion magazines, even the "progressive" ones, were:

"In the 13 years I've been associated with The Nation, we've had exactly one nonwhite person (briefly) on our editorial staff of 13, despite considerable turnover," Pollitt wrote then.

"And we're not alone: The Atlantic has zero nonwhites out of an editorial staff of 21; Harper's, zero out of 14; The New York Review of Books, zero out of nine; the Utne Reader, zero out of 12. A few do a little better, although nothing to cheer about: The Progressive, one out of six; Mother Jones, one out of seven; In These Times, one out of nine; The New Republic, two out of 22; The New Yorker, either three or six, depending on how you define 'editorial,' out of 100 plus." Ms. has three out of 11, including editor-in-chief Marcia Ann Gillespie, she noted.

The essay prompted an exchange of letters in The Nation's April 10 issue, and an announcement that the magazine was adding Columbia Law School Professor Patricia Williams as contributing editor and Harvard Law Professor Randall Kennedy to its editorial board. Editor Katrina vanden Heuvel said the publication was hampered by 'few openings and very little money' but urged students and graduates of color to apply for its intern program, this column, then in the NABJ Journal, said then.

Whither the woman's viewpoint? (Pati Poblete, San Francisco Chronicle)

Female Op-Ed Columnists Discuss Why There Aren't More of Them (Dave Astor, Editor & Publisher)

E&P Study: Even Fewer Female Editorial Cartoonists Than Op-Ed Writers (Dave Astor, Editor & Publisher)

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Sharpton to Buy Stock in Record Companies

"The Rev. Al Sharpton, who is campaigning against violence in rap music, plans to buy stock in record companies that produce hip-hop and then become vocal as a stockholder," the Associated Press reported Monday.

"'I don't think too many CEOs want to see me come into his stockholders' meeting to say they're not doing enough to stop the violence,' Sharpton told the Daily News for Monday editions. Sharpton didn't name the companies or say how much stock he plans to buy."

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Oprah's No Pauper, and She Won't Play One on TV

"TV chat show queen Oprah Winfrey is ditching the high life to star in a poverty-stricken reality TV series" -- not.

The World Entertainment News Network reported this week that the billionaire had "agreed to live a life of poverty in the hard-hitting documentary," in an item that was circulated internationally.

But this correction moved tonight: "A PEOPLE column earlier this week contained incorrect information obtained from WENN Celebrity News on that Oprah Winfrey would be taking part in a documentary series in which she would live in a tough Chicago neighborhood for a month. Winfrey will not appear in any such series and WENN has retracted the claim."

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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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