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TV Newsmagazines Can Still Rile Viewers

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Thursday, April 22, 2010
Updated April 24

Some Irked by Shows on Black Relationships, Detroit

"Dateline" "Relied Heavily on the Sensational," Detroit NABJ Chapter Says

Ex-Sportswriter Settles With San Antonio Express-News

NABJ to Honor Soledad O'Brien, Paul Delaney

Dorothy Height Services Scheduled for National Cathedral

1,500 at Memphis Service for Benjamin Hooks

Boston Globe Runs "My Brother, Gang Starr's Guru"

Detroit Free Press' Motown Project a Hit in L.A.

N.Y. Ethnic Media Run Joint Editorial on Immigration

EBay Founder Launches Online News Site in Hawaii

Dorothy Gilliam Honored for Lifetime Achievement

Short Takes

The latest "Nightline: Face-Off" was hosted by Vicki Mabrey and Steve Harvey, center, and featured, from left, Sherri Shepherd, Jacque Reid, Jimi Izrael and Hill Harper. The discussion was taped April 9 in Decatur, Ga., and aired on Wednesday. (Credit: Guy D'Alema/ABC)

Some Irked by Shows on Black Relationships, Detroit

NBC and ABC demonstrated this week that newsmagazines have not lost their ability to be provocative - or offensive, depending on your point of view.

Detroit leaders, accompanied by Vickie Thomas, president of the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle, a black weekly, are expected to meet with "Dateline NBC" producers in New York on Monday to discuss what they say is the program's negative portrayal of the city, as Leonard Fleming and Mark Hicks reported Thursday in the Detroit News.

[On Saturday, the NABJ chapter issued a statement saying it will not be at the New York meeting, but objected to the portrayal.

["The title of the Dateline piece is 'America Now: City of Heartbreak and Hope.' Thomas said, 'We believe the majority of the focus centered on the heartbreak and left the hope on the cutting room floor of the editing booth.'

["We believe Dateline should return to Detroit to present 'the other side of the city,' Thomas said," the statement continued.

["DC-NABJ will not have a representative at the meeting in New York on Monday but we will send correspondence to NBC stating our concerns about the piece. The chapter will also host a community forum on the issue." Text of the statement at the end of today's posting.]

ABC's "Nightline," meanwhile, returned to the subject of black male-female relationships, engaging in what social critic Melissa Harris-Lacewell called "superficial, cartoonish dialogue that relied heavily on personal anecdotes and baseless personal impressions while perpetuating damaging sexism."

Columnist Jenice Armstrong of the Philadelphia Daily News said she could not bring herself to watch the two-hour forum, "Why Can't a Successful Black Woman Find a Man?" asking readers, "What more could possibly be said on this subject?"

Demetria Lucas, relationships editor of Essence magazine, was more charitable, "I took away some useful male insight from the panelists - I am the potential link to a man's success, men may be more ashamed of their lack of success than 'intimidated' by a woman's accomplishments, and men aren't trying to see me taking out my hair. But ultimately, what I re-learned was the biggest obstacle to building healthy relationships might be an inability to catch on to the fundamentals like communication and hope."

NBC's piece on Detroit began with this declaration by Chris Hansen: "They litter the landscape, thousands and thousands of abandoned homes. And just like these buildings, Detroit is a shell of its former self. One third of the people here live in poverty. Almost half the adults are illiterate, and about 75 percent of kids drop out of school. I could be describing some ravaged foreign nation, but this is the middle of America. I grew up in the Detroit area, and just like the people who live here, I've often wondered how can this city be saved? It starts with the people on the front lines."

"My hope is . . .  they'll see why people are disgusted and understand how these circumstances are created and do a more balanced report," said the Rev. Horace Sheffield, a prominent pastor, civil rights activist and executive director of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations," the News story reported.

"The main point is that Detroiters . . . did not create this dismal environment completely. Yet people want to make us solely responsible. If you want to expose what's wrong, you need to expose who's responsible," Sheffield said in the story.

The News said Mayor Dave Bing's "office was swamped with phone calls and e-mails complaining about the report and the way it made Detroit look to the nation."

Ex-Sportswriter Settles With San Antonio Express-News

"A settlement was reached in former sports writer Harry Page's defamation of character lawsuit against some employees of the San Antonio Express-News, the Express-News and the Hearst Corporation," the San Antonio Informer, an African American online news outlet, reported last week.

"In November 2007, the Express-News terminated Page after editors accused him of lifting material for his bowling blog from two Web sites, www.pbatour.com and www.bowl.com," without attribution. The work appeared on the paper's site, but was later removed. Page insisted he reposted material with credit as outlined in his job description and did not plagiarize, the story continued.

"Page . . . sued the newspaper believing that the Express-News invented the false plagiarism charges after he refused to participate in a 'voluntary separation program' in October 2007. . . . Details of settlement weren't disclosed.

"Page worked for the Express-News as a sports writer from April 1970 to Nov. 7, 2007. He was considered the first African-American to be employed in the editorial department at the paper, and the first to be awarded a column of any type. Page was given a bowling column in the early 1970s."

NABJ to Honor Soledad O'Brien, Paul Delaney

Winners: Paul Delaney and Soledad O'BrienCNN's Soledad O'Brien was chosen the National Association of Black Journalist's Journalist of the Year and Paul Delaney, retired New York Times editor, was picked for its Lifetime Achievement Award, NABJ announced separately on Thursday and Friday.

O'Brien, 43, anchor and special correspondent for CNN/U.S., reported for the special "Black in America" in 2008 and its four-hour successor, "Black in America 2," followed by last year's "Latino in America," which premiered to mixed reviews.

O'Brien is a member of both NABJ and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. "I'm the product of a white father who's Australian and a black mother who's Cuban," she has said. "They married in the United States in 1958 but had to leave their neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland, because interracial marriage was illegal in that state."

A co-founder of NABJ, Delaney, 77, "is recognized as one of the most prominent journalists of African-American heritage in the world," NABJ said. "Delaney’s career began at the Atlanta Daily World amidst the Civil Rights Movement. While at the Atlanta Daily World, he covered some of the most important figures and events of the Civil Rights Movement. From Atlanta, he went to work for the Dayton Daily News in Dayton, Ohio, and the Washington Star in Washington, D.C.

"He next joined the New York Times Washington, D.C. bureau, where he covered urban affairs, politics and civil rights. He served in the Chicago Bureau of the New York Times, as bureau chief in Madrid, Spain, and as an editor on the national news desk and senior editor for newsroom administration. Delaney spent twenty-three years with the New York Times as an editor and correspondent where he rose to national prominence.

"Delaney also served as the first African-American chair of the University of Alabama's journalism department, " and editor of the editorial page of the short-lived Our World News African American-oriented online news outlet in the 1990s.

Dorothy Height Services Planned for National Cathedral

"Funeral services for Dr. Dorothy I. Height, chair and president emerita of the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), who passed earlier this week, will take place in Washington, D.C. beginning Tuesday, April 28 and end with funeral services at Washington National Cathedral on Thursday, April 29, according to former U.S. Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, who is overseeing the arrangements. Burial services will be held at Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Maryland. Dr. Height passed away on Tuesday, April 20, at the age of 98," the National Council of Negro Women announced (PDF).

1,500 at Memphis Service for Benjamin Hooks

Black weekly's coverage of Benjamin Hooks' funeral included a photo gallery."By the time Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles got his chance to speak as one of two 'officiants' at Wednesday's funeral for Dr. Benjamin Lawson Hooks, another Baptist preacher had already stirred the 1,500 or so people at the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ." Zack McMillin wrote Wednesday for the Commercial Appeal in Memphis.

"It was none other than the man so many on Wednesday referred to simply as 'Ben Hooks,' in a video tribute that followed the playing of Aaron Copland's 'Fanfare for the Common Man.'"

The service lasted nearly four hours, including the procession, with speakers including civil rights hero and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., current NAACP leaders Ben Jealous and Roslyn Brock, National Urban League president Marc Morial and a host of local leaders and clergymen from across the city and country, McMillin wrote.

Commercial Appeal columnist Wendi C. Thomas, who graduated from high school in Memphis in 1989, added, "His example stands in stark contrast to today's me-first mentality that rules for my generation, who have reaped where we did not sow.

"I never protested a lack of minority representation in the media, but I benefit from those who did. I've never protested whites-only lunch counters, but today, I can dine wherever I like.

"My world, our world, is better because of Dr. Hooks' sacrifice, and now, it's my turn. Our turn."

Boston Globe Runs "My Brother, Gang Starr’s Guru"

Guru was born in Boston as Keith Elam.Harry J. Elam Jr. is the chairman of the drama department at Stanford University and the author of several books, including "The Past as Present in the Drama of August Wilson.''

But he is also the brother of Keith Elam, who rose to fame as Guru, founder of the rap group Gang Starr and one who sought to merge rap and jazz. Guru died of cancer Monday at age 48. The Boston Globe ran a remembrance from Elam in Friday's editions.

"The doctors told me back in February that there was not much chance of my brother recovering from the coma. But my brother has always been a fighter, always been one to overcome surprising adversities, so this seemed just one more. We prayed that he would again prevail. But it was not to be. Still his drive, his spirit, his energy, his positivity will live on, and so will his music. 'that’s how I’m livin.' "

Members of the Holland-Dozier-Holland production team explain the making of the Supremes' 1966 hit, "You Keep Me Hangin' On," in one of 50 videos in "Motown @ 50." (Video)

Detroit Free Press' Motown Project a Hit in L.A.

The Detroit Free Press and Freep.com’s "Motown @ 50" online entertainment project won "Best of Show" at the Los Angeles Press Club’s third annual National Entertainment Awards on Thursday, the club announced.

"We started our anniversary coverage on Jan. 11 (2009) with a print special section and the debut of the first few videos," Steve Byrne, arts and entertainment editor of the Free Press, told Journal-isms. "We then rolled out new videos — usually a couple a week — through June 25. It was at that time, when all 50 videos were complete, that we debuted the special player and presentation that won the contest. Right below the main (large) video, you can scroll through all 50 videos like a film strip. Click on one and it pops into the player. Probably the easiest way to put it: It was an ongoing effort for about six months that got ramped-up presentation upon completion.

"The core group that was responsible for the series was: pop music critic Brian McCollum, photographers-videographers Romain Blanquart and Marcin Szczepanski, deputy director of photo & video Kathy Kieliszewski, deputy director of digital media/presentation Brian Todd and me . . . That’s far from everyone, though."

N.Y. Ethnic Media Run Joint Editorial on Immigration

A joint effort by a multiracial and multilingual coalition of four New York community and ethnic publications produced an editorial urging the city's political leaders in Washington to move immigration reform forward.

El Diario-la Prensa, Haitian Times, Nowy Dziennik (Polish Daily News), and Caribbean Life all wrote, "The costs of doing nothing are all too clear: Report after report in the media has exposed deplorable immigration detention conditions; enforcement zealots running roughshod over civil rights; and an anti-immigrant lobby that lies and distorts basic facts in order to cloud the eyes of decision-makers. . . . No further stalling. Put immigration reform on the table."

As Randal C. Archibold reported from Phoenix Friday in the New York Times, "Gov. Jan Brewer of Arizona signed the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration into law on Friday. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants.

"Even before she signed the bill at an afternoon news conference here, President Obama strongly criticized it, saying, it threatened 'to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and our communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.' ”

The joint editorial called the bill "the latest outrage."

EBay Founder Launches Online News Site in Hawaii

"The entrepreneur who created a virtual marketplace that connects sellers and buyers worldwide is launching an online news site where people will pay to exchange ideas and discuss issues affecting their communities," Jaymes Song wrote Friday for the Associated Press.

"Pierre Omidyar, the founder and chairman of eBay Inc., is entering the news business with a new online service in Hawaii. By charging a $19.99-a-month membership, Omidyar hopes to accomplish what newspapers and other media organizations nationwide have long struggled with — having readers pay for content and making local news profitable.

"Civilbeat.com went live Wednesday with the official launch scheduled for May 4. It promises to provide in-depth reporting and analysis, and be a civic plaza for island residents. 'Reporter-hosts' will post articles, interact with readers, provide frequent updates and host discussions."

Dorothy Gilliam "always emphasized the importance of diversity in the newsroom so that all Americans were represented in the press," the Washington Press Club Foundation said. (Credit: © 2010 Mark Finkenstaedt).

Dorothy Gilliam Honored for Lifetime Achievement

C-Span plans to broadcast Sunday the Washington Press Club Foundation's 66th Annual Congressional Dinner, where veteran journalist Dorothy Gilliam, a board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, was presented with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

The dinner was originally scheduled for February, but was postponed until Wednesday because of the snowstorm dubbed "Snowmageddon."

The 90-minute program is to be aired on C-Span on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.

Co-host Mika Brzezinski of MSNBC noted that Gilliam was the first black woman to report for the Washington Post, and founded both the Post’s Young Journalist Development Program and the George Washington University Prime Movers program. She also was president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a co-founder of the Maynard Institute.

Gilliam, a veteran of five decades in journalism, applauded the traditional journalism values of truth, accuracy, quality and balance, but said she was worried "that diversity is slipping. I'm hopeful that our media will be as diverse as the readers, listeners and viewers it promises to serve."

A tribute video featured observations from former Post executive editor Ben Bradlee and from Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs and International Affairs at George Washington University, where Gilliam is a fellow.

The Washington Press Club Foundation is an outgrowth of the former Women's National Press Club, created in 1919, when female reporters were not admitted as members of the National Press Club or the Gridiron Club.

Short Takes

NBC's "Dateline" "Relied Heavily on the Sensational"

The Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists issued this statement on Saturday:

The Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists does not necessarily dispute the accuracy of the narrow scope of what was reported in NBC's "Dateline" piece, but is concerned about the balance of its content.

"Any journalist working in this city knows about the many challenges facing Detroit, said chapter President Vickie Thomas, who is the city beat and morning drive reporter for WWJ/CBS Radio. “We report on these issues everyday with fairness and balance. When we falter in that regard, our feet are held to the fire as the producers of "Dateline" should be held accountable for a piece that aired nationwide. We believe it was sensational, stereotypical, hit-and-run TV."

Thomas says the chapter's major concern is the unbalanced nature of the report, which relied heavily on the sensational and bypassed the true extent to which dedicated people, besides politicians, are working hard every day to bring the city and its public schools system back from the brink of devastation.

A DC-NABJ member, Luther Keith, a former award-winning columnist and news executive at The Detroit News, took Chris Hansen and the 'Dateline' crew on a four-hour tour of the city to see the good, the bad and the ugly. If you blinked, you missed Keith. The information included in that segment of the piece focused solely on the ugly. Keith's organization, Arise Detroit, was not even mentioned. That organization pulls people, block clubs, organizations and elected officials together to tackle some of the city's greatest challenges. Keith was the first executive director of Wayne State University’s Journalism Institute for Minorities, which is now the Institute for Media Diversity.

Watching the piece, viewers would never know that middle- and upper-class residents live in Detroit. There are many exclusive communities in the city, communities whose residents choose to stay in the Detroit.

They include the Boston-Edison district, the location of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy’s former mansion, whose current occupants have been featured in the news.

They include Indian Village and the predominantly black Palmer Woods, exclusive enclaves of mansions built by automotive barons.

Why did Chris Hansen not talk to some of these residents to balance his story? The Dateline piece focused exclusively on all the vacant land, abandoned homes and residents living in decaying neighborhoods.

Moreover, Thomas, the DC-NABJ president, pondered why 'Dateline' chose to include the resident who hunts, eats and sells raccoons without offering any real balance and displaying a lack of sensitivity for the historical use of the word "coon."

"To imply that things are so bad in Detroit that black people are resorting to hunting wild game in the streets, is purely sensational journalism." Thomas said, "Especially, when you consider the fact that 'Dateline' passed over Tech Town, a facility that's bursting at the seams as it empowers residents to start their own businesses in a city with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Dateline "also overlooked key business and civic organizations such as New Detroit, The Booker T. Washington Business Association, The Detroit Regional Chamber, The Detroit Black Expo, The Detroit Urban League and many others that are working to make the city better."

Not one of Detroit's religious leaders, like Bishop Edgar Vann, Bishop Charles Ellis, Rev. Dr. Charles Adams or Rev. Marvin Winans (whose church also operates a charter school) was included. Not one member of the Detroit City Council was featured in the piece. Thomas poised the question, “Without including any of these people and institutions, can a one-hour special on a city really be fair and balanced?"

The title of the Dateline piece is "America Now: City of Heartbreak and Hope." Thomas said, "We believe the majority of the focus centered on the heartbreak and left the hope on the cutting room floor of the editing booth."

We believe Dateline should return to Detroit to present "the other side of the city," Thomas said.

DC-NABJ will not have a representative at the meeting in New York on Monday but we will send correspondence to NBC stating our concerns about the piece. The chapter will also host a community forum on the issue.

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Comments

Black Media in Detroit Impotent and Conduit ofr Detroit's Image

The statement issued by the DC-NABJ is a joke and reveals in part why the city's image is so negative. Some of the leading Black journalists in the city from Rochelle Riley to Luther Keith have been willing conduits of this nature and type of negative media portrayal of Detroit. It was Luther Keith, a media person not a city activist, homeowner or business person, who was the tour guide for Chris Hansen. Often Black folks in the media and others go out of their way to be noble to appease their white readers and employers to prove their worth at the expense of the city's shortcomings. What is amazing is the depth of naivete of the Black journalists who now claim to be upset with NBC. The media in the city and region have always chased train wrecks, drive-by carnage, sleazy tales of corrupt political leaders.Tabloid and celebrity drive-by journalism have been the standard protocols of the MSM here for years. The best outcome of this saga about the city would be a renewed effort by the DC-NABJ to practice the caliber of journalism they are so quick to indict others for failing to practice.

Response to Greg Thrasher on Dateline Piece

Greg, Every morning I wake up at 3:30 in the morning with the objective of heading to work to present fair and balanced coverage and I've been doing that for over 20 years, riding solo in my news vechile through many of the blighted areas of the city that Chris Hansen presented to the world. The main objection of DC-NABJ to the "Dateline" piece is that it was not fair or balanced. If you go back and watch it, Greg, you'll hear Chris Hansen say, "There was hope until last year when the automotive industry nearly collapsed." How can he make that blanket statement? There is no truth in it. There are plenty of people I've interviewed who still have hope and many of them are putting their time and money where their mouth is . . . working to help transform the city.

TV Newsmagazines

Considering that Dateline blew it or fudged in presenting a true picture(no pun intended) on what life in Detroit is like, would they really get it right the second time around?

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