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No Michelle? Washington Post's Mother of Meltdowns

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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Neighbors Buttonholed Staffers Over Missing Coverage

Backlash on Pedophilia Piece Teaches Power of Words

Inquirer Assigns Last Black City Reporter to Obits

Target of Death Threats Accepts Press Freedom Award

Black Millennials More Likely to Give Media an "F"

Interactive One Entertainment Site Targets Latinos

Republicans Losing Court Fights Over Voter ID

Detroit's Ben Burns, Diversity Proponent, Dies at 72

Short Takes

Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic National Convention Sept. 4 left membe

Neighbors Buttonholed Staffers Over Missing Coverage

"My favorite caller of the week was an erudite, sharp-witted woman who said she had been a Post subscriber since 1962," Ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton wrote Sunday to readers of the Washington Post print edition. "After going through her entire paper on Wednesday morning, she said, 'I couldn't believe there wasn't any mention of Michelle Obama's speech. I wasn't quite sure if I remembered it right. I had to check my memory: Didn't I watch her on television last night?'

"Her memory was fine. Coverage of Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention was indeed missing from 60 percent of Post printed copies that day — no speech story, no photo, no Style commentary on her dress, nothing.

"Also bad, and the source of more complaints, was the absence of a game story in Wednesday's paper on the Nationals' 11-5 victory Tuesday night over the Chicago Cubs. The Nats are finally, amazingly, near a playoff berth, and to not have this game covered, when it ended at around 10:30 p.m., sent people over the edge.

"Post reporters said they were buttonholed in front of their homes Wednesday morning by neighbors complaining about the missing game report and speech coverage.

"So what happened on Tuesday night? I'm trying very hard to resist this bag of clichés: It was the mother of all . . . the perfect storm of . . . computer meltdowns.

". . . It was a problem not with the software but with the communications system that links The Post's downtown headquarters with its data servers in Tysons Corner; in a sense, The Post's brain. This data center is what manages the software that allows The Post to publish on the Web and to print the paper.

"Editors and reporters downtown could do nothing on the main computer system, leaving them unable to either receive or work on stories.

"So at 11 p.m. a band of copy editors, designers and information-technology workers gathered up laptops loaded with late-breaking stories and photos and drove the 25 minutes to Tysons. Upon arrival, the only way they could communicate with The Post's brain was to plug their laptops directly into the servers.

". . . The missing stories appropriately were printed in Thursday's editions, with a front-page note and an apology. This computer failure was no one's fault. Heroic efforts were made to get the paper out despite it.

"What I'm worried about is how this incident added to the disgruntlement of subscribers. . . .

Backlash on Pedophilia Piece Teaches Power of Words

"Over the weekend Gawker published an article by Cord Jefferson exploring the psychological ins and outs of pedophilia," Eddie Scarry wrote Monday for FishbowlDC. "The story, headlined 'Born This Way: Sympathy and Science for Those Who Want to Have Sex with Children,' used language highly graphic in nature to describe real-life sexual experiences between adults and children. Naturally, reaction to the piece was strong, many arguing that the story offered too-sympathetic a look at pedophilia."

Cord JeffersonJefferson examined the argument that pedophiles are victims of a terrible "sexual orientation" and spoke with professionals about the theory.

"Imagine a world in which admitting your attraction to busty women or tall men led to alienation, jail time, or your murder," Jefferson wrote. "Older gay men can probably remember such an era, but nowadays most sexual appetites have been mainstreamed to the point of banality. Pedophiles, for obvious reasons, don't enjoy the same kind of tolerance, and thus it seems as if they may be locked forever in a sexual prison from the moment they're born."

The Los Angeles-based Jefferson has written for, and other sites, and was senior editor at Good magazine before layoffs there in June. "I'm now the West Coast Editor at Gawker and a contributing columnist for Gizmodo," Jefferson told Journal-isms by email on Monday. "I'm doing some freelancing here and there, but my full-time jobs take up the majority of my days."

Scarry's item continued, ". . . The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote a response to Jefferson’s piece, charging Gawker with 'soft-pedaling child-rape.' Coates wrote that he 'can't really understand how one writes that a 20-year old man "began a sexual relationship" with a seven year old.' He argued that all references to 'a sexual relationship' between an adult and a child should have been regarded as 'rape.'

"FNC contributor Kirsten Powers called the story 'super troubling.'

"As noted by Twitchy, the story was passed around on Twitter like a hot potato and soon the sarcastic hashtag '#GawkersNextArticle' was created. 'The Klan: An Appreciation,' GOP media strategist Rick Wilson suggested. National Review's Greg Pollowitz recommended 'How to Read 50 Shades of Gray to your Kids.' "

Jefferson shared with Journal-isms the text of a message he sent to FishbowlDC:

"The only thing I'd like to say that I haven't already is that yesterday I sat down for a two-hour phone chat with a New York-based female editor whom I really respect. We talked about a lot, but specifically the power of language and why the words I chose for that piece were so hurtful to so many. It was an important conversation for me, and one I can't thank her enough for initiating. Besides that, several other friends and strangers have given me criticisms they have as survivors of rape and molestation, and it's going to be a while before I can process those enough to want to talk about them publicly. Nevertheless, all the lessons I've been given and sought out in the past few days have been valuable and transformational, and I'm sorry for the pain I caused.

"That all being said, though I'd certainly draft it differently, I would indeed write and publish the piece again. Since Friday, I've had several self-professed celibate pedophiles contact me to say that my piece made them feel less ashamed about themselves and more interested in getting the help they need. I'm happy for that. I'm just sorry that I hurt people in an effort to help others."

Inquirer Assigns Last Black City Reporter to Obits

Vernon Clark, the last African American reporter on the city staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer, has been reassigned to obituary duty, to start in two weeks.

"This is an assignment that I did not want and preferred not to do," Clark told Journal-isms by telephone on Monday. But, he said, "I will give it the best as I always do . . ."

Clark is a 26-year veteran of the Inquirer who covers neighborhoods and Vernon Clarkfrequently writes about the black community. According to the most recent census figures, the city is 43.4 percent black, 41 percent white, 6.3 percent Asian and 12.3 percent Hispanic or Latino.

Gabriel Escobar, who returned to the Inquirer last week as deputy managing editor for news, told Journal-isms by email, "We were down to one full-time obit writer and that could not be sustained. Vernon has done this work before and is the logical choice.

"We have hopes of adding to our staff in the near term and diversity hiring remains a top priority."

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández accepts the Golden Pen of Freedom 2012 Award

Target of Death Threats Accepts Press Freedom Award

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández, who has become the target of death threats after detailing the complicity between organized crime and high-ranking authorities, accepted this year's Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA), last week in Kiev, Ukraine.

"The crisis within Mexico with regard to freedom of expression has been devastating," Hernández said in her acceptance speech. "The media are afraid and preserve their economic interests with the government, and barely fight back when their journalists are killed, are threatened or disappear. There is inaction in part due to a lack of solidarity in the union and among the dynamic media egotists that well you know, but also because the government has criminalised murdered journalists in general, as well as anyone who tries to defend them. Family members have no way out; they collect pieces of tortured and dismembered journalists who have been dumped in rubbish sacks. They must be quiet and keep their heads down when the infamous government, with no evidence whatsoever, claims that the journalist was involved in trafficking."

". . . I will fight until my last breath, even if it is a small example, so that as journalists we are not brought to our knees before the drug state. I don't know how many days, weeks, months or years I have left. I know that I am on the blacklist of very powerful men who will go unpunished with their pockets full of money from drug bribes and a guilty conscience for their unmentionable acts. I know that they are awaiting their moment to carry out their threats at little political cost. I know that I have nothing but the truth, my voice and my work as a journalist to defend myself with.

". . . It's true, as Mexicans we are responsible for our own disgrace, but I hope that the international community will not continue to be indolent before the empire of the Mexican drug state, which will not be resolved by the end of the administration of Felipe Calderón," Hernández continued. "I hope they will protect their borders and economies against this expanding power and give neither shelter nor protection to those responsible, be they ex-presidents, presidents, businessmen or drug-traffickers."

The Tripoli Post reported from Libya, "Ms Hernández is a Mexican journalist who has worked for several important national dailies, and was driven to become an investigative journalist after the kidnapping and murder of her father in Mexico City in 2000.

Black Millennials More Likely to Give Media an "F"

". . . When it comes to assigning a failing grade for the news media's coverage of their Millennial cohort, African Americans were 'at least six times more likely than whites, Asian Americans, and Hispanics to give the news media an F grade,' " Paula Poindexter, an associate professor at the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, told Journal-isms by email on Monday.

Poindexter was discussing her new book, "Millennials, News, and Social Media: Is News Engagement a Thing of the Past?"

"I went on to say in the book that the 'reasons for the F grade included Paula Poindexterlack of interest by their generation, the news media's failure to include them in the news, and the news media's emphasis on negative stories about them,' " Poindexter continued.

A news release on the research published Monday on Jim Romenesko's media blog "includes only five of the findings from the national survey which are published in my book," Poindexter said. Another is that "Whites (40%), African Americans (29%), and Asian Americans (29%) are significantly more likely than Hispanics (less than 10%) to agree that news is biased."

The findings cited in the release:

  • "Most millennials give the news media average to failing grades when it comes to reporting on their generation.

  • "Millennials describe news as garbage, lies, one-sided, propaganda, repetitive and boring.

  • "When they consume news, millennials are more likely than their baby boomer parents to access news with smartphones and apps and share news through social media, texting and email.

  • "Most millennials do not depend on news to help with their daily lives.

  • "The majority of millennials do not feel being informed is important."

Poindexter has worked on the editorial and business sides of the news media, is formerly a manager and executive at the Los Angeles Times and worked as a reporter and producer at KPRC-TV, the NBC affiliate TV station in Houston, according to her bio.

"The national survey is of adults 18 and older. 1,000 were surveyed and 18% were Millennials," Poindexter said. "Most of the survey compares Millennials with Baby Boomers who represent the largest part of the sample. Millennials include those 13 to 17 but they were not interviewed for the survey. African Americans represented approximately 10% of the sample overall."

Interactive One Entertainment Site Targets Latinos

"Digital media leader Interactive One expands its Latino market influence with the launch of Zona de Sabor, an entertainment news website targeting young, urban Latino Americans," Interactive One announced on Monday. is a complement to, Interactive One's social media site targeting the same demographic, and serves up the hottest music, television, film and fashion news for acculturated Latinos.

"We've built a reputation for launching new websites and growing established ones through our work with brands like,, American Airlines' and NBC News'," Tom Newman, president of Interactive One, said in the release. "Zona de Sabor extends our reach in the growing Latino community allowing us to provide our advertisers with more avenues to connect with minority audiences."

Republicans Losing Court Fights Over Voter ID

"Republicans are losing most of the court fights with Democrats over whether GOP-backed state voter regulations will illegally suppress turnout among the poor and minorities in the Nov. 6 presidential contest," Tom Schoenberg reported Saturday for Bloomberg News.

"As the general election begins in earnest following the conclusion of the Democratic national convention, legal battles continue in a half dozen swing-states where court challenges await decisions by state and federal judges."

Benjamin Burns discusses the purchase of the Detroit News by the Gannett Co. (Video)

Detroit's Ben Burns, Diversity Proponent, Dies at 72

"Before the word 'diversity' became a buzzword in newsrooms, Ben Burns was deeply committed to the concept," George Hunter reported Friday for the Detroit News.

" 'He was someone who felt strongly that, in a city like Detroit in particular, every voice needed to be heard,' said former Detroit News Managing Editor Sue Burzynski Bullard.

"Mr. Burns, former executive editor and chief administrative editor of The Detroit News and head of the journalism department at Wayne State University, died Friday after a long battle with a rare blood disorder. He was 72.

" 'Ben was a towering figure at The Detroit News, a consummate editor who held words and people in equal high regard,' said Jonathan Wolman, editor and publisher of The News. 'He carried his values and a wry humor to Wayne State, where he taught and mentored journalism students who will spread the Burns legacy for many years to come.'

"Mr. Burns was instrumental in developing the Rosa Parks Foundation and the Journalism Institute for Minorities at Wayne State. . . ."

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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