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"The Next Big Get Will Be With the Victims"

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Cleveland Kidnapping Story Called a Media Circus

N.Y. Daily News Lays Off Albor Ruiz, Tim Smith

Dennis Rodman Responds to Seattle Columnist's Plea

Racism Alleged at White House Correspondents' Dinner

Partisan Divide, Not Racial, on Attitudes Toward Islam

Iran Holds 40 Journalists as Election Approaches

Christie Applauded for Undergoing Weight-Loss Surgery

Short Takes

Neighborhood residents and news media look to photograph the arrival of Gina DeJ

Cleveland Kidnapping Story Called a Media Circus

"The Cleveland kidnapping case has all the elements of an unforgettable news story, including a bizarre crime, innocent victims, heroes and a happy, at least for the most part, ending," Michael Malone wrote Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable.

"As such, it's nothing short of a circus on site in Cleveland, as the local TV reporters trade elbows with news crews from as far away as Australia, Japan and Argentina to follow the story of the three women, Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry and Michelle Knight, who were freed earlier in the week.

" 'It's a sea of reporters at the scene of both homes,' says Dan Salamone, news director at Raycom's WOIO. 'It presents a challenge for the police, and also for us as we continue to try and bring the story home for local viewers. It's a mad scene.'

Credit: Jeff Darcy/Plain Dealer

"The next big get will be with the victims. One victim's relative attempted to speak to the media Wednesday, but gave up when she was not able to be heard. 'It's going to take some time,' says Brooke Spectorsky, president and general manager of Gannett's WKYC. 'They've been locked up for ten years, and it's a circus out there.' . . . "

Meanwhile, Charles Ramsey, who was lauded as a folk hero this week, remained in the spotlight — but not always in a good way.

Some debated whether viewers were laughing with him or at him, and the Smoking Gun reported, "The Cleveland man credited with helping free female captives from a house of horrors is a convicted felon whose rap sheet includes three separate domestic violence convictions that resulted in prison terms, court records show.

"Charles Ramsey, whose 911 call and subsequent TV interviews have made him a microcelebrity, was once a repeat spousal abuser whose marriage ended in divorce following a 2003 felony conviction for battering his wife. . . ."

Ramsey himself rejected the "hero" label. "I don't even want it," Ramsey told Russ Mitchell and Erin Kennedy of WKYC-TV in Cleveland in one of several media appearances. "They keep saying I'm a hero. Let me tell you something, I’m an American, and I'm a human being. I'm just like you. I work for a living. There was a woman in distress, so why turn your back on that? My father would have whupped the hell out of me if he found out that I had coward-ed out."

Cleveland police announced Wednesday that they had charged Ariel Castro with four counts of kidnapping and three counts of rape in connection with holding Berry, DeJesus and Knight captive for the last decade, the Plain Dealer reported, conveniently listing the day's developments on its website under the headline, "8 things we learned today about the Decade of Captivity for Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight."

The Plain Dealer editorialized, "tomorrow and the next day and on into the discernable future, the community must do more to impede the cold-blooded predators who walk among us.

"And we must continue to collaborate, educate and hold law enforcement officials accountable to better protect young people from sexual exploitation. That means re-evaluating, again, how Cleveland police handle missing-persons cases. They need to keep looking and working every lead until the missing are found. . . ."

N.Y. Daily News Lays Off Albor Ruiz, Tim Smith

Laid off: Tim Smith, left, and Albor RuizThe Daily News in New York Wednesday laid off columnist Tim Smith, the last African American in its sports department, and Albor Ruiz, a columnist who often wrote about Hispanic issues. Joe Pompeo, reporter for, wrote, "Several sources put the total number of pink slips at around 15."

The news of Joanna Molloy's termination was particularly shocking," Pompeo wrote. "She's arguably the most famous writer still at the paper, having helmed its gossip pages for 15 years with her husband, George Rush, who took a buyout in 2010. . . ."

Smith, 53, known primarily as a boxing writer, told Journal-isms by telephone that he'd covered a range of sports events over 30 years and that "I would like to do anything that comes my way. I'm open to any and everything."

Smith said he was told that he was selected for the layoff because the News had identified categories of employees who would be eliminated and one of the three sports columnists' positions was on the list. There are 33 writers in the News sports department, he said.

Smith wrote about boxing while at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Evander Holyfield, later a five-time heavyweight champion, left the Olympics in 1984. Smith also wrote about boxing for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the New York Times, where he was also an NFL writer. In Cincinnati, he covered the Bengals NFL team, and at the Times, the New York Jets.

Smith won the Nat Fleischer Memorial Award from the Boxing Writers' Association of New York for excellence in boxing journalism in 2005.

Ruiz, 71, has been a columnist since July 1993, according to his LinkedIn profile. In 2003, he was inducted into the National Association of Hispanic Journalists Hall of Fame. "Next? I am not really sure, but I have no plans to disappear from the face of the Earth," Ruiz messaged Journal-isms. "I'll be around."

Ruiz, a Cuban-American, came to the United States in 1961. When he returned from a trip to Cuba in 2006, Ruiz told Journal-isms he had a Cuban passport, "as all Cubans do." Cuban immigration authorities held him for two hours at the airport in Havana, but they allowed him to enter "because I have family in Cuba. I would not be granted a permit to work as a journalist," he said. Nevertheless, Ruiz said he went to work anyway and interviewed a dissident.

Ruiz's most recent columns carry such headlines as "New York City’s public libraries need their patrons to stand up against mayoral budget cuts," "The Gang of Eight's proposed immigration reform bill must be inclusive and not punitive," "Childcare workers' union leaders blast Bloomberg administration's EarlyLearn NYC program," "Once again, May Day is a time for workers to stand up and speak out in defense of their rights," and "The city’s hunger crisis stands to worsen as funding cuts to the food stamp program loom".

Dennis Rodman Responds to Seattle Columnist's Plea

Thanh Tan"Just as President Barack Obama announced Tuesday he would not make any concessions to North Korea, former NBA player Dennis Rodman called on Kim Jong Un to 'do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose,' " Thanh Tan, a Seattle Times multimedia editorial writer and columnist, wrote on her blog Tuesday.

"The man has a conscience. Good for him. Let's hope the retired NBA player's appeal makes a difference for Kenneth Bae," a Washington state tour operator who was arrested in North Korea in November.

"My Twitter exchange with Rodman started last Friday," Tan continued, 'when I posted this Tweet with a link to our blog:

"Hey @DennisRodman, plz use your #basketballdiplomacy skills. Ask your pal #KimJongUn to release #KennethBae. BLOG: …"

Dennis Rodman

"On Tuesday, he responded.

" 'I'm calling on the Supreme Leader of North Korea or as I call him "Kim," to do me a solid and cut Kenneth Bae loose.'

"Then added this.

" 'In direct response to your article headline, "Ok." Read your story @uscthanhtan, and I decided to help.'

"I don’t know what to say, except — thank you, Dennis Rodman. Turns out you have a heart big enough to match the size of that ego.

"Foreign Policy just picked up the news.

"Dennis Rodman calls on Kim Jong Un to do him 'a solid' and release American detainee

" 'Rodman is the only American to have met and spent time lately with North Korea’s young leader.'

"Now we wait to see if and how Kim Jong Un responds."

Writing of Bae, the Associated Press explained, "The North's Supreme Court sentenced him last week for unspecified 'hostile acts' against the state. In a Foreign Ministry statement on Sunday, North Korea said the 44-year-old Washington state man entered the country with a disguised identity. . . ."

Racism Alleged at White House Correspondents' Dinner

"The faux red carpet had been laid out for the famous and the wannabe-famous. Politicians and journalists arrived at the White House Correspondents' Dinner, bedazzled in the hopes of basking in a few fleeting moments of fame, even if only by osmosis from proximity to celebrities," Seema Jilani wrote Tuesday for the Huffington Post. She is a physician who specializes in pediatrics and a freelance radio journalist.

Seema Jilani

"New to the Washington scene, I was to experience the spectacle with my husband, a journalist, and enjoy an evening out. Or at least an hour out. You see, as a spouse I was not allowed into the actual dinner. Those of us who are not participating in the hideous schmooze-fest that is this evening are relegated to attending the cocktail hour only, if that. Our guest was the extraordinarily brilliant Oscar-nominated director of Beasts of the Southern Wild, Benh Zeitlin. Mr. Zeitlin's unassuming demeanor was a refreshing taste of humility in a sea of pretentious politicians reeking of narcissism.

"As I left the hotel and my husband went to the ballroom for the dinner, I realized he still had my keys. I approached the escalators that led down to the ballroom and asked the externally contracted security representatives if I could go down. They abruptly responded, 'You can't go down without a ticket.' I explained my situation and that I just wanted my keys from my husband in the foyer and that I wouldn't need to enter in the ballroom. They refused to let me through. For the next half hour, they watched as I frantically called my husband but was unable to reach him.

"Then something remarkable happened. I watched as they let countless other women through — all Caucasian — without even asking to see their tickets . . . "

Jilan concluded, "I've come to expect this repulsive racism in many aspects of my life, but when I find it entrenched in these smaller encounters is when salt is sprinkled deep into the wounds. In these crystallizing moments it is clear that while I might see myself as just another all-American gal who has great affection for this country, others see me as something less than human, more now than ever before. . . ."

Steven Thomma, president of the White House Correspondents' Association, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Kristin Adderson, director of marketing management at the Washington Hilton, where the event took place.

Partisan Divide, Not Racial, on Attitudes Toward Islam

"The public's views of whether Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence have changed little in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings," the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday.

But the center's survey found sizable demographic and religious differences in attitudes toward Islam and violence. "And the partisan gap is as large as ever: 62% of Republicans say that Islam encourages violence more than other religions, compared with 39% of independents and just 29% of Democrats.

"The survey also finds that Muslim Americans are seen as facing more discrimination than some other groups in society, including gays and lesbians, Hispanic Americans, African Americans and women."

The report continued:

"There also are substantial differences between the youngest and oldest age groups in perceptions of discrimination against gays and lesbians: 51% of those younger than 30 think there is a lot of discrimination against gays and lesbians, compared with 28% of those 65 and older.

"Notably, blacks, whites and Hispanics are all about equally likely to say there is a great deal of discrimination against Muslim Americans (47% of blacks and Hispanics and 45% of whites). When it comes to perceptions of discrimination against blacks and Hispanics, however, the differences are much greater. Nearly half of blacks (46%) say there is a lot of discrimination against African Americans, compared with a quarter of Hispanics (25%) and 16% of whites.

"About four-in-ten blacks (43%) and Hispanics (38%) say there is a lot of discrimination against Hispanic Americans, compared with 20% of whites.

"Notably, blacks are about as likely to say there is a lot of discrimination against Muslim Americans (47%) and Hispanic Americans (43%) as against African Americans (46%). Far more whites see a lot of discrimination against Muslim Americans than either Hispanic Americans (20%) or African Americans (16%)."

Iran Holds 40 Journalists as Election Approaches

"Iranian authorities are holding at least 40 journalists in prison as the June presidential election approaches, the second-highest total in the world and a figure that reflects the government's continuing determination to silence independent coverage of public affairs, a new analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found," the committee reported Wednesday.

"CPJ's census of journalists imprisoned on April 15 also highlights the severe deterioration of freedom of expression in Iran over time. In December 2004, during the last full year of President Mohammad Khatami's tenure, CPJ documented just one journalist in prison during its annual worldwide prison census. By December 2009, after a contested presidential election returned Mahmoud Ahmedinejad to office, the number had grown to 23 in CPJ's annual census. CPJ surveys since that time have consistently shown 35 to 50 journalists in prison in Iran at any given time. . . ."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with Bryan Monroe at the White House Corresponden

Christie Applauded for Undergoing Weight-Loss Surgery

"Good move, governor. And you didn't even let on," Bryan Monroe, the editor of, wrote Wednesday for the CNNPolitics website. Monroe lost more than 170 pounds after having gastric bypass surgery in 2006.

"When we chatted briefly at the White House Correspondents Dinner a few weekends ago, you looked very upbeat and energetic. I had no idea that you had undergone Lap-Band stomach surgery to lose weight," Monroe continued.

"And when I wrote that CNN piece about you on February 8 saying you needed to take your doctor's advice seriously and do whatever you could to drop some pounds, I had no idea you probably had made the decision already and were heading into surgery in eight days. . . ."

As reported in this space in February, Monroe and other formerly overweight media figures urged Christie to lose weight for his own health.

Sidmel Estes, like Monroe a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Joe Madison, talk-show host on SiriusXM radio, offered similar advice.

Christie told NBC News’ Brian Williams in an interview to air Friday on "Rock Center with Brian Williams," "Last fall, I was turning 50 and it really was a moment of reflection for me. And so I really just felt like for Mary Pat and for the kids that I needed to take a more significant step to try to get my weight under control so that I could have a really active next half of my life. . . ."

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 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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