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N.Y. Post Beats Back Racism Lawsuits

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Related Harassment Case Has Been "Resolved"

Bashir Resigns from MSNBC Over Palin Comments

U.S., Japanese Reporters Scuffle on Biden Trip

Detroit Crisis Prompts $500,000 in Grants to Media Groups

Battling Cancer, Zoraida Sambolin Leaving CNN

. . . CNN's Zucker Planning Less News, Prime-Time Shakeup

ESPN'S Cross to Be News Anchor at "News One Now"

Film Critics Raising Money to Bury Colleague Eric Harrison

Why Not Pay Washington Team Owner to Change the Name?

Journalists, Fellows Produce Black Guide to Law Schools

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Sandra Guzman,   being interviewed by WPIX-TV reporter Lisa Mateo, alleges that Ne

Related Harassment Case Has Been "Resolved"

The New York Post has withstood lawsuits by two black journalists who charged that they faced a hostile work environment at the newspaper. It has also "resolved" a related case filed by Sandra Guzman, a black Latina who said she was harassed and fired after she spoke out against the infamous 2009 Post cartoon that many viewed as depicting President Obama as a chimpanzee.

"Plaintiffs have not adduced evidence to show that they were treated differently than employees outside of their protected group because of their race," U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield wrote, Nick Divito reported Tuesday for Courthouse News Service.

"Austin Fenner, who is black, claimed in a November 2009 lawsuit against the paper, its parent company, and editors Michelle Gotthelf and Daniel Greenfield that they were subjected to a 'racially hostile work environment,' and that that there hasn't been a single black editor on the Post's Metro Desk in almost 10 years. 

"Another black journalist, Ikimulisa Livingston, joined as a plaintiff, but Judge Schofield highlighted Monday how both plaintiffs conceded that they never heard their supervisors or co-workers utter racial epithets or make overtly racist remarks. The plaintiffs provided only second-hand accounts of their allegations, none of which concerned the named individual defendants.

Ikimulisa Livingston

" 'The second-hand stories of discriminatory comments sporadically directed at other employees, while not irrelevant to assessing the totality of circumstances, in this case do not show that plaintiffs were treated differently from employees in their protected group because of their race,' Schofield wrote. . . ."

Joe Pompeo added for Capital New York, "As for the other suit, in which Sandra Guzman alleged that she was harassed and fired for speaking out against a cartoon printed in the tabloid that was widely perceived as being racist, 'The matter has been resolved,' a Post spokesperson and an attorney for Guzman both told Capital. Neither would elaborate."

Austin FennerAs Sam Stein and Michael Calderone reported previously for the Huffington Post, "Guzman sued the Post in 2009 alleging that she had been repeatedly harassed in the newsroom and eventually fired for speaking out against a highly controversial cartoon about President Barack Obama. The cartoon depicted the author of Obama's stimulus package as a chimpanzee shot dead.

"Additionally, she alleged that higher-ups at the Post had fostered a hostile work environment for minorities like herself — a black, Puerto Rican female. [Editor-in-Chief Col] Allan, she said, showed her and other colleagues a cell phone picture of a 'naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis,' while other editors and colleagues repeatedly used misogynistic or racist language. . . ."

However, Divito reported, "As for the alleged hostile work environment created by a verbally abusive editor, the judge noted testimony showing that that editor yelled at other reporters, including white ones."

The Post said in a statement, "We are very pleased with the Court's decision to dismiss the Austin Fenner and Ikimulisa Livingston case in its entirety. As we have maintained for four years and as the federal Court held today in no uncertain terms, their claims of a hostile work environment, disparate treatment and retaliation were completely baseless. This decision represents total vindication for the Post as well as for its senior editors Col Allan, Michelle Gotthelf and Dan Greenfield, who were viciously attacked in the plaintiffs' mendacious complaint."

Fenner told Journal-isms by telephone Tuesday that "we have to respect the judge's decision," but noted that Guzman was granted summary judgment to proceed with her case before it was "resolved."

On Oct. 29, Schofield said Guzman provided "evidence of a sexually charged environment at the Post, permeating the newsroom, meetings and holiday parties," and that her complaints were rebuffed, Reuters reported.

Guzman "offered sufficient evidence that she faced 'severe or pervasive harassment' based on her race and national origin, and might have kept her job but for objecting to a cartoon published on Feb. 18, 2009, that criticized a government stimulus package," the Reuters story continued.

"We worked within the same walls. We worked within the same place. We worked in the same environment," Fenner said. He also praised his colleagues as "courageous to take this step to fight for their professional reputations."

None of the journalists remains in daily journalism.

Fenner, who was fired by the Post after telling Journal-isms he was sickened by the chimpanzee cartoon, is an account executive at Cablevision/Optimum, according to his LinkedIn profile; Livingston left the Post in February after 16 years at the newspaper; and Guzman went on to freelance as editor of Heart & Soul magazine, which she left last year. In a September piece for CNN.com, she was described as "an award-winning journalist, blogger, media consultant, and author of 'The New Latina's Bible: The Modern Latina's Guide to Love, Spirituality, Family & La Vida.' "

Bashir Resigns from MSNBC Over Palin Comments

Martin Bashir and his possible successor, Joy Reid

"Following a firestorm over his recent comments about Sarah Palin, the MSNBC host Martin Bashir resigned on Wednesday, citing what he called his 'ill-judged comments'," Bill Carter reported Wednesday for the New York Times.

"Mr. Bashir had been listed as being on vacation while the network faced heated criticism for not taking disciplinary action against him.

"The decision was prompted by a commentary Mr. Bashir directed last month against Ms. Palin, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, in which he criticized her for statements comparing American debt to slavery, saying she deserved the same kind of humiliating and degrading treatment that some slaves faced.

"Mr. Bashir later issued an apology on the air for the commentary. He then left for what was called a vacation. . . ."

Jack Mirkinson added for the Huffington Post: "Bashir's departure leaves a hole in MSNBC's afternoon lineup. Leading candidates for the slot include MSNBC contributor and guest host Joy Reid, along with the recently hired Ronan Farrow. For the time being, Reid will fill in as a guest host."

U.S., Japanese Reporters Scuffle on Biden Trip

"The meeting between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday was an occasion to affirm the strength of the six-decade-old alliance between the two nations at a time of rising geopolitical tensions in East Asia. The message of bilateral friendship, however, was temporarily lost among some of the reporters who were there to cover the event," Yuka Hayashi reported Tuesday for the Wall Street Journal.

"Sometime before the meeting, the argument started over a coveted spot on a tiered podium reserved for photographers and videographers. It quickly turned into a yelling match, with some pushing and elbowing. Press handlers from both sides stepped in and argued with each other, even as they tried to keep the reporters under control. When that didn't work, security officials in dark suits appeared. They stood firm to ensure the reporters stayed corralled in their section at the end of the narrow room.

"A central figure in the skirmish was David Nakamura, a reporter for the Washington Post. As the pool reporter for the White House press corps on Tuesday, Mr. Nakamura was responsible for writing the accounts of the day’s events and sharing them with other U.S. media outlets that weren’t present. . . ."

Hayashi also wrote, " 'You are in Japan, you follow our rules.' one reporter shouted. 'Yeah. When we go to America, you always make us follow your rules,' another yelled, sharing his bitterness at being denied access to President Barack Obama during his latest press trip to Washington. . . . ."

The account continued, "The brawl ended when senior aides walked in, signaling the imminent arrival of the two leaders. Many on the scene who had feared the scuffle might continue breathed a sigh of relief. . . ."

"You're a brawler! Woot!" an admirer wrote on Nakamura's Facebook page.

Detroit Crisis Prompts $500,000 in Grants to Media Groups

"Detroit may have filed for bankruptcy, but public-service reporting efforts there and in Michigan just got a big boost," Dru Sefton reported Wednesday for Current.org.

"The Knight Foundation and the Ford Foundation announced Tuesday $500,000 in support to two projects, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative and the Michigan Reporting Institute.

"The cooperative consists of five nonprofit media organizations that will receive $250,000 from Knight to focus on the city’s financial straits and engage citizens in the search for innovative solutions. The convening partner is Center for Michigan, a 'think and do tank' advocating for citizen involvement in policy issues, along with pubcasters WDET-FM, Michigan Radio and Detroit Public Television, as well as New Michigan Media, a network of ethnic and minority-oriented news operations.

"The Michigan Reporting Institute will receive the remainder of the grant from Ford for Zero Divide, a social-impact consultancy using technology to tackle issues of health, economic opportunities and civic engagement in underserved communities. . . ."

Battling Cancer, Zoraida Sambolin Leaving CNN

Zoraida SambolinZoraida Sambolin, who joined CNN two years ago from WMAQ in Chicago as one of CNN's few visible Hispanic journalists, is leaving the network and returning to Chicago, Chris Ariens reported Wednesday for TVNewser.

Sambolin is co-host of "Early Start," which airs from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m. Eastern time. She said battling cancer this year put life in perspective, Ariens wrote. "I love my job and the gifted and committed people I've had an opportunity to work with but life is beckoning me back to Chicago," Sambolin wrote to the staff.

"Zoraida Sambolin is one of the best journalists in the business," a CNN spokesperson told TVNewser, Ariens reported. "Her insightful reporting, kind nature, strength and resilience are universally admired. Although we will miss her, we understand and support her decision and wish her and her family only the best."

Ariens also wrote, "Sambolin, a mother of two, was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and in May underwent a double mastectomy. She returned to CNN in August. Her final day with the network is next Friday. . . ."

. . . CNN's Zucker Planning Less News, Prime-Time Shakeup

"After almost a year of tinkering, CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker has concluded that a news channel cannot subsist on news alone," Mike Allen and Alex Weprin wrote Tuesday for Capital New York.

"So he is planning much broader changes for the network — including a prime-time shakeup that's likely to make CNN traditionalists cringe.

"Once, CNN’s vanilla coverage was a point of pride. Now, the boss boasts about the ratings for his unscripted series, and documentaries like the Sea World-slamming film Blackfish. Zucker, in his first one-on-one interview since taking control of CNN last January, told Capital he wants news coverage 'that is just not being so obvious.' "

"Instead, he wants more of 'an attitude and a take' . . ."

ESPN'S Cross to Be News Anchor at "News One Now"

Shannon Cross

"TV One has hired ESPN.com editor Shannon Cross as news anchor for its live daily news program, News One Now, network officials said Wednesday," R. Thomas Umstead reported for Multichannel News.

"Cross will serve as a contributing voice of the daily morning news broadcast, narrating both breaking news briefs and lengthier feature segments beginning Dec. 9, said the network. Additionally, Cross will join News One host Roland Martin in his analysis of the day's headlines, discussions with on-set panelists, Skype-net interviews, social media integration and standing segments.

"Cross most recently served as an editor, reporter and on-air personality for ESPN and associate editor for ESPN.com. . . ."

Film Critics Raising Money to Bury Colleague Eric Harrison

Eric Harrison

The family of Eric Harrison, the former Houston Chronicle film critic who died last month at 57, doesn't have the $6,000 to provide for a proper burial, his Chronicle colleague Clifford Pugh wrote Wednesday.  Friends and colleagues are being asked to join in, Pugh wrote.

"Joshua Starnes, president of the Houston Film Critics Society, of which Harrison was a founding member, located the crowd-sourcing site Funeral Fund as a place where anyone can donate. In less than a day, 19 people have chipped in $1,190," Pugh wrote. By 9 p.m. Tuesday, the fund had reached $2,490.

The site says, "On November 17, after several days without contact, a neighbor asked police to look in on Eric's apartment where he was discovered to have recently passed due to a brain aneurysm. He left nojavascript:void(0); life insurance behind and his family are struggling to come up with the money for his funeral services. As his friends and colleagues the Houston Film Critics Society is asking for any who can to help us lay our friend and colleague to rest with the dignity he deserves. . . ."

Pugh wrote, "Organizers have until Dec. 17 to reach the goal. If the total amount isn't raised by then, Eric will likely be buried by the county as a pauper."

Why Not Pay Washington Team Owner to Change the Name?

"Redskins owner Dan Snyder has refused good advice from diverse quarters on changing his team's offensive name," Justin Moyer wrote Sunday in the Washington Post. "He’s ignored the pleas of Native American tribes. He's ignored President Obama and Post columnists Charles Krauthammer and Mike Wise. When protesters showed up in Minneapolis at the Redskins-Vikings game in early November, he ignored them, too.

"After years of ineffective rallies, op-eds, lawsuits, House bills and D.C. Council hearings about this controversy, one remedy remains for those who want Snyder to change his mind:

"Pay him off. . . ."

Moyer concluded, "Snyder has responded to emotional arguments about his team's name — Change this name because it hurts us — with an emotional argument of his own: Changing this name will hurt me and my team's fans.

"But what if an organized group of Pigskins advocates — plus a wealthy donor — came to him with a substantial payoff that proved that their hurt was bigger than his? What if they sweated to raise a massive sum, then humbled themselves before Snyder and were willing to fork over the cash in exchange for a promise?

"How could Snyder turn them down?"

Journalists, Fellows Produce Black Guide to Law Schools

"You've undoubtedly read recent stories in Forbes, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times regarding the crisis in legal education, but missing from these news stories is the disproportionate impact higher student loan debt, diminished job prospects, and industry biases have on black law students," according to Yolanda Young, CEO and publisher of "On Being a Black Lawyer."

"Lawyers Of Color's veteran journalists and legal media fellows have compiled months of interviews and data collection into this year's 'Black Student's Guide to Law Schools,' " Young told Journal-isms Tuesday by email.

"Inside we report on the low black enrollment at flagship law schools in states that have disallowed race as a factor in admissions and reveal that some HBCU [historically black colleges and universities] law schools are no longer majority black.

"We also point out how both President Obama and Chief Justice [John G.] Roberts [Jr.] have suggested the need for law school reform. Finally, we rank the best law schools for black students using objective criteria like job placement rates, black student and faculty percentages, and costs and eschew traditional subjective measures like 'reputation' that tend to undervalue a school like Howard Law, which places as many black graduates in large law firms as do Ivy League law schools. . . ."

Leading the list of the "Top 25 National Law Schools for Black Students" are Harvard Law School, Stanford Law School, the University of Chicago Law School, Howard University School of Law and Yale Law School.

North Carolina Central School of Law (48.9 percent black) and Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law (44.8 percent) were listed among law schools at historically black universities that are no longer majority black.

A free digital version is available for review and download on the Lawyers of Color website: http://www.onbeingablacklawyer.com/wordpress/black-students-guide-to-law-schools-2014.

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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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