Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Obama Answers Black Complaints

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Returning Monday - Have a Peaceful Holiday!

"Is There Grumbling? Of Course There's Grumbling"

Houston's Carlton Thompson Leaving for MLB.com

Adult Latino Internet Use Rises to 64 Percent

Memoir Completed "While She Could Still Enjoy It"

Press Club in Pakistan Hit by Suicide Bomber

Held at Guant?°namo, Captive Is Now Correspondent

Rick Sanchez Tweets CNN's Giving Him a New Show

A Journalist Lauds Her Dad, a Newspaper Carrier

Smash "Avatar" Film Could Spark Racial Discussion

President Obama greets guests at a White House holiday reception last week. Radio host Tom Joyner told Obama that at one such event, "you couldn't see (Bill) O'Reilly and the other Fox news people at the party all frowned up, and they were eating up all the shrimp and the ham. Drinking all the liquor. I mean, the people that bad mouth you were there at your party. How hard is it to deal with that?" (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

"Is There Grumbling? Of Course There's Grumbling"

President Obama granted a flurry of interviews with news outlets before a scheduled Christmas vacation in Hawaii, evaluating his 11-month-old administration positively and denying complaints that the problems of African Americans are not being granted sufficient attention.

On Monday, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks asked Obama about "grumbling" among such African American actors as Danny Glover and others. "What are your thoughts about the fact that black leadership is grumbling, and the fact that people are concerned with you being the first African American president, and they thought that there would be a little bit more compassion for black issues?" she asked.

"If you want me to line up all the black actors, for example, who support me, and put them on one side of the room, and a couple who are grumbling on the other, I'm happy to have that," Obama retorted.

"I think if you look at the polling, in terms of the attitudes of the African American community, there's overwhelming support for what we've tried to do. And, so, is there grumbling? Of course there's grumbling, because we just went through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression."

When Ryan asked, "In your opinion, what is the state of black America?" Obama said, "You know, I think this continues to be the best of times and the worst of times. I mean, I think it's the best of times in the sense that never has there been more opportunity for African Americans who have received a good education and are in a position then to walk through the doors that are opened. And, obviously, you and me sitting here in the Oval Office is a testament to that.

"I think it's the worst of times in the sense that unemployment and the lack of opportunity, particularly in some cities, has never been worse. I mean, you look at a city like Detroit where you used to have an enormous African American middle class built on the auto industry - that city is in hard, hard times right now.

"Now, just going back to the point you raised earlier about our responsiveness to the African American community, imagine what Detroit would look like if we hadn't stepped in to make sure that GM stayed open, which was on the verge of bankruptcy. Having said that, if you've got double- digit unemployment in cities like that, we're going to have to make some special efforts, and it starts with early childhood education; it starts with education generally. That's why I'm putting such a big emphasis on that. But it also means that every federal agency has to make sure that the assistance that's being made available to the general population is targeting those hard-to-reach places, so that they are also benefiting from our overall efforts to lift up the economy.

"I'm optimistic about the long-term future of the African American community, but it's going to take work. It was never going to be done just because we elected me. It's going to be a collaborative effort between people in the community who recognize that we're going to have to rely on government to do some things, but a lot of these things we're going to have to do ourselves."

On Tuesday, Obama called in to syndicated radio host Tom Joyner's morning show. As reported here Tuesday, Obama told Joyner in the 20-minute interview that one in five African Americans does not have health care; that like many African Americans, "It's not that Michelle and I don't have relatives" who are hurting and unemployed because of the economy, and he urged that young people, particularly, be vaccinated for the H1N1 virus.

When Joyner noted that some of his Fox News critics were eating and drinking at the White House holiday party, Obama said he and Michelle Obama "try to kill 'em with kindness. These guys are fundamentally entertainers."

Also on Tuesday, Obama gave an Oval Office interview to Scott Wilson of the Washington Post. "President Obama outlined Tuesday a first-year legislative record that he said rescued the economy and placed it on a path of long-term growth, even as he acknowledged that some unfinished items would probably be more difficult to achieve heading into a midterm election year," Wilson wrote.

"Obama highlighted some of the less well-known measures that he said 'in a normal legislative year would be considered really big achievements.' Those include bills to ensure equal pay, expand hate-crimes categories, extend health insurance to an additional 4 million children, place stronger regulations on tobacco products, reform the military procurement process and implement consumer credit-card protections. He also noted the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as the first Hispanic justice on the Supreme Court," Wilson wrote.

The Post reporter asked historians of other presidencies to evaluate Obama's. Responses ranged from seeing a Bill Clinton-like penchant for taking credit for small achievements to praising progress on his health care bill as exemplifying "his talent of leadership, doggedness and determination to put across the biggest piece of social legislation since Social Security."

On Wednesday, Obama defended the pending health care legislation in an interview at the White House with National Public Radio's Robert Siegel and Julie Rovner.

"This notion I know among some on the left that somehow this bill is not everything that it should be . . . I think just ignores the real human reality that this will help millions of people and end up being the most significant piece of domestic legislation at least since Medicare and maybe since Social Security," Obama in the interview, reported on "All Things Considered."

In the previous week, Obama was interviewed by Steve Kroft on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," by Oprah Winfrey on an ABC special along with the first lady, and by Charles Gibson of ABC's "World News" before Gibson turned over the anchor duties to Diane Sawyer, who began her new job on Monday.

Houston's Carlton Thompson Leaving for MLB.com

Carlton ThompsonCarlton Thompson, one of a handful of African American top sports editors at a U.S. daily, has been named executive editor of mlb.com, the Web site of Major League Baseball, his colleagues at the Houston Chronicle were told on Tuesday.

Thompson, 39, will serve "as my right hand," Editor in Chief Dinn Mann told Journal-isms. "I expect him to play a leadership role that's profoundly impactful, bringing his personable nature, his competitiveness and energy."

The two met at the old Houston Post, where Mann was sports editor and Thompson was a beat writer covering the Houston Oilers NFL team. That paper folded in 1995.

Mann said the New York-based mlb.com, entering its 10th year, produces original content with more than 100 people. It has 30 reporters, one for each team, and in total, close to 40 full-time reporters, he said. One of Thompson's roles will be "traffic control," as well as exercising his appreciation for "the power of the printed word" at the multimedia site.

"We all know where the business and the eyeballs are going," Dinn said of the Internet. The executive editor's job is a new position.

Thompson told Journal-isms he took the job because, "I thought it was a proverbial opportunity too good to pass up — a great situation. They're doing great things." 

Thompson had been at the Chronicle for 12 years before ascending to the top sports job at the Chronicle in 2007. He was sports editor during a period of industry-wide staff cuts. The Chronicle's sports department went from 46 to 29 on his watch, he said.

In a short bio prepared for the Maynard Institute, whose Media Institute Thompson attended in 2008, Thompson said:

"Sports always have been a passion and something at which I expected to make a living, but when I topped out at 5-foot-6 and realized I had no athletic ability, I re-evaluated my master plan.

"I grew up in Hitchcock, Texas, a small Gulf Coast town about 45 miles south of Houston and attended Houston Baptist University and earned BA degrees in mass media and speech. In 1992, my senior year at HBU, I received an internship at the Houston Post and then got a full-time job there when I graduated, reporting and working on the copy desk. In 1994, at 24 years old, I was promoted to Houston Oilers beat writer, at the time, the youngest NFL beat writer at a major U.S. daily. The next year, the paper closed.

"Fortunately, I was hired by the Houston Chronicle two weeks later. I became assistant sports editor in 2004, and in November 2007 was named sports editor."

In another departure of a journalist of color at the Chronicle, Business Editor Laura Goldberg told staffers on Dec. 11 that, "Tara Young has resigned her position as assistant business editor, effective immediately. She is planning to move back to Alabama to be close to family where she will pursue a law degree at the University of Alabama."

Photo of Carlton Thompson Copyright Houston Chronicle Publishing Co. All rights reserved.

Adult Latino Internet Use Rises to 64 Percent

"From 2006 to 2008, internet use among Latino adults rose by 10 percentage points, from 54% to 64%," the Pew Hispanic Center reported on Tuesday. "In comparison, the rates for whites rose four percentage points, and the rates for blacks rose only two percentage points during that time period. Though Latinos continue to lag behind whites, the gap in internet use has shrunk considerably.

"For Latinos, the increase in internet use has been fueled in large part by increases in internet use among groups that have typically had very low rates of internet use. In particular, foreign-born Latinos, Latinos with less than a high school education, and Latinos with household incomes of less than $30,000 experienced particularly large increases in internet use."

The poll results were derived from a compilation of eight landline telephone surveys conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet & American Life Project from February to October 2006, and from August to December 2008, the center said.

Ann Nixon Cooper and Karen Grigsby Bates, July 2009. (Courtesy of Karen Grigsby Bates.)

Memoir Completed "While She Could Still Enjoy It"

Ann Nixon Cooper, who gained national attention in 2008 when she was acknowledged for her age by President-Elect Barack Obama during his acceptance speech in Chicago, died Monday in Atlanta at age 107, as Herb Boyd reported in Our World Today.

"She’s a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing — Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old," Obama said on election night. "She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn’t vote for two reasons: because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.”

Boyd noted that, "Cooper’s autobiography, 'A Century and Some Change: My Life Before the President Called My Name,' written with Karen Grigsby Bates, is scheduled to be released in January by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, in honor of her 108th birthday."

"Her family wanted her to talk about how much things had changed and wanted the world to know that she had actually accomplished quite a lot before the president-elect singled her out on election night," Bates, a Los Angeles-based correspondent for National Public Radio, wrote in an appreciation Wednesday on theRoot.com. Bates also wrote a piece for NPR's "The Two-Way" news blog.

"My agent, Faith Childs, said Simon & Schuster had asked if she had an author who might be able to do a memoir on a ridiculously tight deadline," Bates told Journal-isms via e-mail. "When they told her more about who Mrs. Cooper was, and why they wanted to do the book, Faith thought we'd be a good match. She knew I'm always interested in how personal history and larger history intersect.

"I told Faith how I saw the book unfolding, she liked my take and floated it to Christopher Bobo, Mrs. Cooper's grandson and designated family representative. He shared it with his mother, Mrs. Cooper's surviving daughter, Joyce Cooper Bobo, and they both agreed we should meet.

"So we did, and we decided Mrs. Cooper and I would work well together. (Turns out the Coopers were good friends with some of my Atlanta relatives. Small world!) Then I went down to Atlanta to see Mrs. Cooper, and we got on famously. She had a lot of great stories, and a lot of people who loved and admired her who also had great stories, and from her and them, we got enough for this small remembrance.

"The short deadline was stressful, but they really wanted it published in time for Mrs. C's 108th birthday — January 9th. The advanced copies came in a couple of weeks early, so I'm really thankful we could get a copy to Mrs. Cooper while she could still enjoy it."

Press Club in Pakistan Hit by Suicide Bomber

"A suicide bomber detonated an explosive today on the grounds of the Press Club building in Peshawar, in the North West Frontier Province in Pakistan," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Tuesday. "Local and international media report that three, possibly four, people were killed, though none of the approximately 30 journalists waiting for a press conference to start on the upper floor of the building were injured. The Associated Press reported that 17 other people were injured."

In an editorial published Thursday, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn said:

"Words are not enough to condemn the suicide bomb attack on the Peshawar Press Club on Tuesday. The attack has grave implications for the media and its role in fighting militancy in Pakistan. Many journalists have come under attack — in Pakistan 15 lost their lives in the year ending May 2009 and many more have received death threats.

"But so far individuals have been targeted not only by militants but also by the security agencies for their independent reporting. The media is never loved by those who fear disclosures of their wrongdoings. But when the state fails to protect journalists, they end up putting their lives on the line.

"The attack on the press club is a chilling message sent by the militants to all members of the media, regardless of their independent views or the political orientation of the channels and newspapers they work for.

"This is the first time such an attack has taken place and it appears that the militants are now desperate and realise that they are perhaps losing support of even those sections in the media that had at times been accused of boosting Taliban efforts to propagate extremism. It is about time the government tightened security for journalists and their institutions."

Held at Guant?°namo, Captive Is Now Correspondent

Sami al-Hajj (Credit: Al Jazeera) "Of the 779 known detainees who have been held at Guant?°namo Bay, Cuba ‚Äî terrorism suspects, sympathizers of Al Qaeda, people deemed enemy combatants by the United States military ‚Äî only one was a journalist," Brian Stelter wrote Tuesday for the New York Times.

"The journalist, Sami al-Hajj, was working for Al Jazeera as a cameraman when he was stopped by Pakistani forces on the border with Afghanistan in late 2001. The United States military accused Mr. Hajj of, among other things, falsifying documents and delivering money to Chechen rebels, although he was never charged with a crime during his years in custody.

"Now, more than a year after his release, Mr. Hajj, a 40-year-old native of Sudan, is back at work at the Arabic satellite news network, leading a new desk devoted to human rights and public liberties. The captive has become the correspondent.

" 'I wanted to talk for seven years, to make up for the seven years of silence,' Mr. Hajj said through an interpreter during an interview at the network’s headquarters in Doha, Qatar."

Rick Sanchez Tweets That CNN's Giving Him New Show

Rick Sanchez "CNN is shaking up its afternoon lineup in the new year," Matea Gold wrote Tuesday for the Los Angeles Times. "Beginning Jan. 18, 'The Situation Room' will start an hour later to make room for a new show dubbed 'Rick’s List,' anchored by Rick Sanchez, that will air from noon to 2 p.m. PST. It will be followed by a two-hour 'The Situation Room,' whose anchor, Wolf Blitzer, had until now been handling three live hours a day.

"CNN executives declined to speak publicly about the move, but a spokeswoman that the change was made to bring more uniformity to the afternoon lineup. . . .

“'Rick’s List' is expected to incorporate Twitter, a tool Sanchez frequently uses. This morning, he tweeted that the show 'will be full of newsmakers and thinkers we- and u- think are relevant to CNN. My access = your access.'”

A Journalist Lauds Her Dad, a Newspaper Carrier

"Each night for 25 years my dad drove the streets of this city with more than 300 newspapers packed in his car. While most people slept, he delivered papers in housing projects and to homes in areas of the city some would be nervous to visit," Jocelyn Y. Stewart, laid off a year ago at the Los Angeles Times, wrote Tuesday for her old paper.

"These days my dad, Simeon Stewart, is an alumnus of a fading fraternity: the home newspaper carrier. Technically he never worked for the Los Angeles Times; he worked all those years for Mr. Norman Wilson Sr., who held a contract to deliver The Times in South Los Angeles and had a crew of men to do it. Like my dad, most of them were African Americans with wives and families and mortgages. The paper route was a second job that helped make ends meet.

"The home carrier is the low man on the newspaper totem pole, an invisible person who works alone in the dark hours. Yet these people are often the strongest link the community has to the paper.

". . . In 1989, when I joined this paper as a staff writer, my dad was still delivering The Times. We were not the Chandlers, but we were, in our own way, a newspaper family. For years I could say, 'I write it, Dad. You deliver it.' For years I knew my presence on staff brought him great pride, a sweet payoff for all those middle-of-the-night deliveries.

". . . When the history of the newspaper industry is written — post-crisis — there should be a chapter for the home carrier, who performs honest labor with excellence, in the dark, when the rest of the city is sleeping."

In "Avatar," Sully (Sam Worthington, left) learns the ways of the Na‚Äôvi from Neytiri (Zo?´ Saldana).

Smash "Avatar" Film Could Spark Racial Discussion

"If you thought James Cameron's 'Avatar' was just a 3-D fantasy flick about nice cat people vs. mechanized mad men, think again. There's a fourth dimension, a shadowy back story about race that has the sci-fi blogosphere engaged in its own war of the worlds," Courtland Milloy wrote Wednesday in the Washington Post.

"Annalee Newitz, writing last week on her science blog io9, criticized 'Avatar' for depicting yet another white man as a hero in the liberation struggles of oppressed people of color.

" 'As happens in movies such as "District 9," "Dances With Wolves" and "The Last Samurai," ' Newitz wrote, 'a white guy manages to get himself accepted into a closed society of people of color and eventually becomes its most awesome member.'

"I came away from 'Avatar' with a similar feeling, although not nearly as strong as I had after watching, say, 'Mississippi Burning,' which portrayed the FBI as heroes of the civil rights movement.

"And yet, I'd recommend seeing 'Avatar,' not only for the sensational special effects but also to participate in an important discussion about race.

". . . Personally, I prefer my sci-fi movies to be mindless escapism. But when it comes to a national discussion about race — to the extent that there is one at all — I accept the reality that Hollywood is the moderator and the Internet is the forum."

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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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Comments

Avatar and Race

There is much noise coming from the Black - black African-American circles on the portrayal of white males in movies as the hero so often and now even in what appears to be a closed society of non whites in the movie Avatar. Let me point out an age old solution that have been suggested but ignored. Blacks should have started making thier own films showing their own selves as they want them to appear. How about a extraterrestrial movie depicting a entireyly all Black Civilization and whites are the criminal in jail on 2 strikes you are out. Men I watch a lot of African produced films. Nigeria and Ghana therefore I see no white heroes. Opps, did not want to get the NAACP stired up to picketting Nigeria because it has no whites in its land to speak of.

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