Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Obama, McCain to Skip Unity Event

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Thursday, July 17, 2008
AP's Washington Selected Over 448 to Cover Race Issues

"Presidential Candidates Forum" All but Dead

Matchup between John McCain, left, and Barack Obama won't happen. Promises of a presidential candidates forum next Thursday at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention in Chicago have been a major drawing card, but it is now clear that both senators Barack Obama and John McCain have other plans.

McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican nominee, plans that day to be at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, for Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Summit and Livestrong Presidential Town Hall on Cancer, McCain campaign scheduler Amber Johnson told Journal-isms on Thursday.

Obama, D-Ill., the presumptive Democratic nominee, is scheduled to be in Europe next week for a series of stops that is attracting a major contingent of star journalists. On July 24, the day of the planned Unity forum in Chicago, Obama is to hold talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Agence France-Presse reported on Friday, quoting Merkel's press spokesman.

Onica Makwakwa, Unity's executive director, told Journal-isms after hearing of the two candidates' plans on Thursday, "We're still working on it. We're still working on both campaigns. We know there are some changes with the schedules for both of them. We should be able to make an announcement in a few days of what adjustments, if any, we will make."

The McCain campaign's Johnson said of Unity, ""We seriously considered it, but he was committed to Livestrong for many months." Obama was invited to Ohio State as well but declined. Johnson said the McCain campaign had hoped that would be one of several places the rivals would make a joint appearance.

Although neither presidential candidate had committed to attending Unity, the coalition of journalists of color has advertised it as a done deal. Unity issued a news release on CNN's plans to cover it, saying the telecast "is expected to reach more than 2 million viewers around the country and worldwide."

CNN spokeswoman Christal Jones told Journal-isms on Friday that CNN would return to regular programming if the forum is canceled. "Of course, we're disappointed that the forum will not take place," she said.

Promotions for the forum remain on the Web sites of the journalist associations. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists calls it the number one reason to attend the convention, which is hoping to attract 6,000 attendees.

"The presidential candidates will be there. Well, they've been invited. And since they came to UNITY 2004 in Washington, D.C., there is strong possibility they will accept the invitation to answer questions WE want to ask --questions they don't usually get on the campaign trail. The presidential forums, set for the afternoon of July 24 will be aired on CNN," NAHJ says.

Obama, who spoke last year at the National Association of Black Journalists convention, obviously is focusing his attention elsewhere.

"Barack Obama's upcoming swing through Europe and the Middle East is now guaranteed to be a major media event, certified by the presence of the three network anchors," Howard Kurtz reported Thursday in the Washington Post.

"The Washington Post has learned that Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric will travel overseas next week, lured by the prospect of interviews with the presumed Democratic candidate. That means the NBC, ABC and CBS newscasts will originate from stops on the trip and undoubtedly play it up."

Jim Rutenberg added in the New York Times:

"And while the anchors are jockeying for interviews with Mr. Obama at stops along his route, the regulars on the Obama campaign plane will have new seatmates: star political reporters from the major newspapers and magazines who are flocking to catch Mr. Obama's first overseas trip since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee. A 'Meet the Press' interview is also being planned.

"The extraordinary coverage planned for Mr. Obama's trip, though in part solicited by aides, reflects how the candidate remains an object of fascination in the news media, a built-in feature of being the first black presidential nominee for a major political party and a relative newcomer to the national stage."

Correction: The original headline should have included the word "event," as this one does.

Palm Beach Post Said to Plan to Cut 130 From Newsroom

Elisa Cramer "More than 300 Palm Beach Post employees have applied for buyouts and all have been accepted, according to an internal memo obtained by the Pulp," Bob Norman wrote in his blog Thursday in Florida's Broward-Palm Beach New Times.

The list includes black journalists Elisa Cramer, an editorial writer and columnist; C.B. Hanif, editorial writer and the paper's ombudsman; longtime reporter Bill Cooper and Christopher Smith, the art director.

Cramer, who is out on maternity leave and expecting a child any day, told Journal-isms, "My priority now is having a baby" and said she did not know what she would do next professionally. She had been at the paper 15 years and interned there as a student at Spelman College.

Hanif, who could not be reached, is likely the only newspaper ombudsman who is both African American and Muslim. He told Journal-isms last year, "My experience has been that the public is more interested than ever in knowledge of Islam and Muslims beyond the stereotypes, and is seeking more perspectives, including those of Muslim journalists. Yet it is also my sense that too many editors are lacking that same intellectual curiosity, or are just skittish, perhaps in deference to fearful folks who have bought the 'they hate us for our freedoms' line. C. B. Hanif

"In contrast, I hear a lot of appreciation for my occasional columns on Islam."

In New Times, Norman wrote, "Though the newspaper announced it would cut 300 jobs, there will be additional layoffs. . . . Those layoffs, according to sources, are expected to hit the newsroom, which had 81 buyout applications by the initial deadline on Friday. The newspaper plans to cut a total of 130 from the newsroom. Sources say that since the Friday deadline, several newsroom staffers have applied for the buyout and been accepted. The buyouts become official on August 11.

"The losses in the newsroom are staggering."

Norman went on to list 41 people whose buyout applications have been accepted.

Meanwhile, Veronica Villafa?±e reported Wednesday on her Media Moves Web site that, "Veronica Garc??a, a National News Desk copy editor at the L.A. Times, is among the scores of employees who have been laid-off at the paper." Garc??a has been at the paper for 17 years and is a board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

Veronica Garcia Villafa?±e also named Jes??s S?°nchez, a reporter at the Times since 1987 who has covered several business section beats and was one of the first bloggers for the paper's online news division; and Jaime C?°rdenas, a sports writer who would have celebrated his first year anniversary in August.

In Editor & Publisher, Joe Strupp reported, "The Orlando Sentinel is quietly cutting newsroom staffers this week, according to several sources at the paper. They maintain that plans are in the works for up to one-fifth of the newsroom's jobs to be eliminated by the end of the month.

"As many as 20 of the paper's approximately 250-person news staff were informed Wednesday that they would leave the paper, including several who chose to depart with a severance package. Other cuts are expected to be done before the end of July."

The Honolulu Advertiser said Wednesday it will reduce its payroll by 54 positions, including three full-time and one part-time newsroom staffers.

AP's Washington Selected Over 448 to Cover Race Issues

Jesse WashingtonJesse Washington, the Associated Press' entertainment editor, has been selected from among 449 applicants to become the wire service's national writer on race and ethnicity, Mike Oreskes, AP's managing editor for U.S. news, told AP staff members on Thursday.

"Jesse brings to this new assignment more than just a resume of achievements. He has lived the subject of race and ethnicity every day of his 39 years," Oreskes wrote. "Son of an interracial marriage, Jesse is, as he puts it, 'a kid from the projects who went to Yale and married a doctor. I'm a person who fits in everywhere and nowhere.' He and his wife live in suburban Philadelphia with their four children.

"Since the subject can't wait, he begins a week from Monday, traveling the country and, of course, looking at the role of race in this presidential election year," Oreskes wrote.

Washington has worked for the AP in Detroit and New York and has been managing editor of Vibe magazine and founding editor of the Vibe spin-off Blaze, a magazine focusing on hip-hop culture. "That experience suffuses Jesse's first novel, "Black Will Shoot," published earlier this year. He also started a company that published two coffee table books about African-American artists, Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett, and founded the street basketball magazine, Bounce."

Separately, the AP on Wednesday announced it was realigning its Business News department around 12 core beats headed by 12 editors who will now lead coverage by the teams of reporters newly assigned to the beats. A journalist of color, Trevor Delaney, is one of the editors.

In another announcement, Felicia Fonseca, a Native American beat writer in the AP's Albuquerque, N.M., bureau, was named the AP's first correspondent for northern Arizona. Fonseca, 25, has covered the Native American beat for the AP since 2006. joining the AP in Albuquerque in 2005 after graduating from the University of New Mexico.


New Yorker Editor David Remnick tells Charlie Rose he would run the same cover again.


New Yorker Editor Praises Jon Stewart, Lashes Blitzer

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker magazine, took comfort in support by television comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for this week's cover caricature of stereotypes and myths about the Obamas. He uttered a big "Please!" to the likes of journalists Wolf Blitzer of CNN and Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post.

Remnick, appearing on PBS' "Charlie Rose Show" on Wednesday, watched as Rose played a clip from Comedy Central's Stewart.

"Threat or menace? Stinky or poopy?" Stewart asked.

"Obama's camp initially agreed that the cartoon was, quote, tasteless and offensive.

"Really? You know what your response should have been? It is very easy. Let me put the statement out for you: Barack Obama is in no way upset about the cartoon that depicts him as a Muslim extremist because you know who gets upset about cartoons? Muslim extremists, of which Barack Obama is not. It is just a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) cartoon!"

Rose said, "You think he knocked it out, don't you? He hit it on the head."

"I do," Remnick replied. " I have to say, I sent him a keg of beer today in thanks."

At another point, the New Yorker editor said, "I want to say, Charlie, I take this very seriously. I take our relationship with our readers very seriously. And I don't do it just to be flip or smug or any of this other stuff. And then you get accused of being a New York elitist and only a Manhattan editor, and I'm listening to in the Washington Post. This is a very odd --

ROSE: "A paper you used to write for."

REMNICK: "Listening to Howie Kurtz talk about Manhattan editors and he's sitting in Bethesda or Dupont Circle. Please! He's playing the populist card. Or Wolf Blitzer going on, this could be on the cover of a Neo-Nazi magazine. Context means nothing? He is being absurd. And that is why I appreciated Jon Stewart's unbelievable talent for holding up. And in a way, it is -- what we are doing here is not dissimilar to what Stephen Colbert does on the air. He shows the absurdity of a character by aping it."

Rose also quoted from a column by the Chicago Tribune's Clarence Page: "New Yorker is doing its job. It is provoking the rest of the country to talk about the smear campaign that has more of a light than it should have, thanks in part to the Internet, that those who think the cartoon is damaging should take heart. The falsehoods are out there and widely embraced, either by people who don't know any better."

Remick noted Page is African American and said, "I think he has a firm grasp on what we are trying to do. I am grateful for his reaction."

Page's column, however, was titled, "Why the Obama cartoon cover bombed."

Newsweek Piece Said to "Get It" About Religion

Subject is faith"With all the rumors swirling around Barack Obama's faith, the teaser for Newsweek's July 21st cover story -- "The Truth about Barack Obama's Religious Faith" -- promises more revelations about the candidate's links to radical African-American theology and/or to Islam," Lester Feder wrote Thursday for the Columbia Journalism Review.

"Instead it delivers something far more surprising: a look at the threads of faith that a serious person has woven together from his idiosyncratic life. The article describes how Obama, the child of an ecumenicist mother and a Muslim-turned-atheist father, became a Christian as an adult. "I'm on my own faith journey and I'm searching," the presumptive Democratic nominee tells Newsweek. 'I leave open the possibility that I'm entirely wrong.'

"It's a unique angle for a mainstream publication to take. A new study from the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism shows that, when the press has covered religion this campaign season, it has generally focused on candidates' affiliations and/or their relationships with controversial religious leaders. But another study from PEJ's sister organization, the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life, shows that such coverage bears little resemblance to how Americans actually live their faith. Instead, most Americans are far more similar to Barack Obama: open to religious pluralism and non-dogmatic about translating their faith into politics."

Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly tells Shepard Smith that Jesse Jackson's use of the n-word, picked up by a microphone, was not relevant enough to release.

O'Reilly Defends Decision to Hold Back Jackson's N-Word

Jesse Jackson's unguarded use of the "N-word" might have sparked outrage by some who viewed it as hypocrisy by one who has denounced the term, but Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly defended his decision not to air that part of the infamous tape in which Jackson said he wanted to castrate Barack Obama.

"It was not relevant to the subject at hand," O'Reilly told Fox News' Shepard Smith on Wednesday, "one civil rights leader disparaging another over policy," he said, referring to Obama as a civil rights leader. "It did not advance the story." O'Reilly and Smith spoke on the air after Fox News confirmed the contents of a transcript obtained by the TV Newser Web site in which Jackson said, "Barack . . . he's talking down to black people . . . telling n—s how to behave."

"We'll find out" who at Fox leaked the transcript, O'Reilly said. The comments were made as Jackson was whispering to health-care executive Reed Tuckson in front of what he thought was a dead microphone before appearing on "Fox & Friends."

"Jackson, who is now traveling in Spain, apologized in a statement last Wednesday for 'hurtful words' but didn't offer specifics," the Associated Press reported.

The story about Jackson and the N-word was the most viewed and most e-mailed Thursday morning on the Chicago Sun-Times Web site.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said on CBS-TV's "Early Show" that Jackson's use of the word was "disheartening," USA Today reported.

"I have said, and many of those in other groups, NAACP and others, that we've all used it in the past and we've got to stop it as we challenge this nation. You can't challenge others without challenging ourselves. So this is disheartening, and I still hold Reverend Jackson in high esteem. But I certainly do not at all condone the use of the word."

MSNBC turned to Jeff Johnson of BET for comment. "It's difficult to have credibility after this kind of senior moment," Johnson said, according to the London Telegraph.

"But we have to talk about the fact that this is a really pervasive word and a word that meant not just degradation towards black people by people outside the race but a word that older black people have used for years behind closed doors.

"Referring to rappers, hip hop artists and their followers, he added: 'Now we're seeing a different definition of the word, young people who believe they now have power over the word and it's not as negative. I don't agree with that but that's the philosophy behind it.'"

Jackson is due to make an appearance at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention. A news release from the Schott Foundation says he will help present "Given Half a Chance: The Schott 50 State Report on Public Education for Black Males," a report that "details the disturbing reality of America's national racial achievement gap," on July 25 from 11 a.m. to 11:25 a.m. at McCormick Place, Halls F1 & F2 in the Media Showcase and Career Expo.

Short Takes

  • "The potential deciding vote in the government's review of the $3.1 billion merger between satellite radio companies XM and Sirius told The Associated Press he will vote in favor of the deal if the companies agree to tougher conditions," John Dunbar reported Thursday for the AP. "FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, a Democrat, wants the companies to cap prices for six years and make one-quarter of their satellite capacity available for public interest and minority programming, among other conditions."
  • Former U.S. Army Ranger Gary Smith was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday in the 2006 slaying of rommate and fellow ranger Michael McQueen II, 22, at their Gaithersburg, Md., apartment, a killing that prompted the sentencing judge to bemoan what he called the lack of programs for war veterans, Dan Morse reported in the Washington Post. McQueen was the son of Mike McQueen, New Orleans bureau chief for the Associated Press. "Michael McQueen, who spoke in court today of his anger that his son's name had been tarnished throughout the trial, said his family's 'chief disappointment' is that Smith has not expressed remorse and waived an opportunity to comment in court today." Patricia M. Murret reported Wednesday in the Gazette of Montgomery County, Md.
  • <br>South African postage stamp honors Nelson Mandela, who turns 90. "On this, Mandela's 90th birthday, let us remember his genius. Let us put aside, for the moment, the pop-culture iconography ‚Äî the concerts, the celebrity hangers-on ‚Äî and let's talk instead about the man and his mission," Lynne Duke, former Washington Post writer and editor, wrote on Nelson Mandela's birthday is Friday. In the San Antonio Express-News, Cary Clack quoted Britain's Tony Blair: "Mandela has certainly got the greatest moral stature of any political leader of our time. . . . Mandela will remain a great icon. The fact that a black man is the most respected figure in the world is also part of what he has brought about."
  • "Sam Diaz has landed a new job. The former Washington Post tech editor and ontime San Jose Mercury News tech writer joined this week as senior editor. "He will primarily be blogging for the Between The Lines blog, covering Silicon Valley and technology on the West Coast. Sam will be based in San Francisco," Veronica Villafane reported Thursday on her Media Moves site. Diaz was director of content creation at SutherlandGold Group, a Bay Area communications firm.
  • "The 10th floor theater at the Time Warner Center was packed with hundreds of guests last night for a preview of CNN's new 'Black in America' series ‚Äî so much so, two overflow rooms were needed," MediaBistro reported Wednesday in a group effort. "Attendees represented the true spectrum of media ‚Äî from Cornel West to Gayle King, from 'Today' show anchor Hoda Kotb to actress Tamara Tunie (we recognized her from 'The Devil's Advocate'). Some others: CBS News' Michelle Miller, CNN's Lola Ogunnaike, ABC's Bianna Golodryga, Bishop TD Jakes, author/former CNN producer Jim Miller, president of Essence Communications Michele Ebanks, philanthropist Malaak Compton Rock (Chris' wife) and actress Cicely Tyson."

Feedback: Was "The Wire" Too Damn Good?

Why wasn't HBO's "The Wire," the most critically acclaimed television production of the season, nominated in any of the Emmy's top categories?

Tight writing, superior production values, great roles portrayed by dynamic and convincing African-American actors were snubbed. Big time!

NPR, among a range of "Wire" watchers, was awed by this final season that weaved Baltimore's schools, journalism, docks, "corner boys" and politicians with epic storytelling.

Yet the people who nominate were obviously asleep on Sunday evenings.

"The Wire" was one of 10 semi-finalists, but it didn't make the cut. Here is what NPR said last month:

"The Wire," the critically acclaimed HBO drama that traces urban decay through the stories of police and drug dealers in Baltimore, has a last shot at ending years of Emmy snubs: it recently wrapped its fifth and final season."

So, I ask, "What does this snub mean to the 'green-lighting' of future series seeking to employ large numbers of African-American producers, writers, directors, actors and others in telling stories affecting our realities?"

I, for one, was a riveted, loyal viewer who cringed at the decimation of a once-proud American newsroom (The Baltimore Sun). As a former journalist who covered my share of mean streets, I saw today's reality mesh with my lives in D.C., Philly, Camden and Paterson, N.J., and New York.

Perhaps "The Wire" was just too damn good and didn't pander to more shallow fare. That is my takeaway from today's Emmy nominations that salute mediocrity and comfort zones over drama of the first order.

Dwight Cunningham
July 17, 2008

Cunningham frequently writes about media issues and diversity. A veteran journalist, he has been managing editor of Mediaweek magazine.

Feedback: New Yorker Flap Challenges Employees

The recent New Yorker magazine cover that caricatured both Barack and Michelle Obama under the pretense that satire was its journalistic mission was a failed exercise on so many fronts. It also revealed a Machiavellian racist aspect of the publication, which of late is a trend in many elite East Coast media publications. These journalistic efforts reflect an underlying contempt for Blacks in their commentaries and the race-related articles published in these magazines.

As a reader, it is extremely difficult to impact and prevent these tasteless and latent racist media productions. One does hope that the present cadre of Black media reporters, pundits, editors, authors and freelance writers would marshal a collective effort to make such editorial exercises never come to light. I am not seeking censorship nor promoting a racial litmus test for these white liberal media outlets. I am soliciting those people of color who operate in these outfits to step up and leverage their collective influence so these racist endeavors never reach the printer or the marketplace.

Greg Thrasher
Birmingham, Mich
July 17, 2008

Feedback: Lack of Candidates Not Devastating

As much as people may be a bit disappointed that Sens. McCain and Obama may not be coming to Unity, I don't think the proposed presidential forum was a make-or-break factor for many in deciding whether to participate. What counts most, year after year, is the professional development program content and opportunities to network, mentor and be mentored.

The organizers may be understandably bent out of shape if this doesn't come off. Our organization leaders put a lot of time into arranging this convention for an election year and banked on reciprocity from the political campaigns. Well, welcome to the campaign trail.

To put it in context, we worker bees have seen greater disappointments in recent weeks and months that strike much closer to home. So, we're disappointed, but not devastated, by the possibility of the candidates not showing. Meanwhile, Unity still gives us a chance to regroup, regardless of who's running for president. If nothing else, this reminds us of one of the golden rules of journalism: Never assume.

Reginald Stuart
Silver Spring, Md.
July 18, 2008

Stuart is a journalist and corporate recruiter for the McClatchy Co. who has worked on every Unity convention, first with Knight Ridder and now McClatchy, since the first Unity in 1994.

Feedback: Where Were Black Voices at New Yorker?

Has anyone anywhere raised the question of WHO saw that cover before it was published? The New Yorker has so little inclusiveness, it deserves to be held accountable for its STAFFING at this moment in the spotlight.

Even though I wish the depiction had been taken more lightly, I believe most any black American would likely have foreseen the firestorm.

As an admiring reader/subscriber for decades, I hope The New Yorker makes good use of the key lesson in this flap: It's nearly always about who gets to tell the story.

Alice Bonner
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
University of Maryland
College Park, Md.
July 18, 2008

New Yorker spokeswoman Alexa Cassanos told Journal-isms she did not know whether any people of color were involved in the cover's vetting process.

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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It's too bad that neither

It's too bad that neither Obama or McCain will appear before Unity. I think the decision of the candidates to speak before the NAACP and not Unity is a indication that reports of the NAACP's irrelevance is premature. Both candidates though it was more important to speak before the NAACP, LULAC and MALDELF than to the largest gathering of journalists of color. It's a shame because NABJ/Unity audiences always ask the candidates tough questions...hmmm, maybe that's why they aren't coming.


But in fairness to the UNITY folks, they're always having to promote the appearance of the presidential candidates before the speeches are confirmed. In 2004, we didn't get confirmations of Kerry and Bush until the week before the convention opened. I hope that some small miracle happens and UNITY's able to sked Obama for another day. Oh, and McCain too.

I'm unimpressed

I'm unimpressed by the poor organization of UNITY. The Obama-McCain forum was billed as a done deal and then the organizers announced late this week that neither was coming. Despite that, the NAHJ website continued to advertise the candidates' forum. Now we're supposed to be excited/impressed that one of the candidates is coming at the tail end of the convention, when many have already gone home? This was very poorly done.

Give UNITY a break

Obama's speaking on Sunday. There's quite a bit of downside to that, especially those attendees that booked flights home that day. But at least he'll be there. A lot happens behind the scenes to secure these appearances and I'm sure the UNITY convention organizers did the very best they could. Obama's and McCain's appearances were never billed as a done-deal. All the releases I read promoted the forum, but also specifically mentioned that the candidates were invited and unconfirmed.

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