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Obama Pulls a Fast One on the Press

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Friday, June 6, 2008

  

Media Protest Being Flown Away Without Candidate

The five television network Washington bureau chiefs and the Washington bureau chief of the Associated Press have protested to Sen. Barack Obama's campaign after it tricked the press corps in order for Obama to meet secretly with Sen. Hillary Clinton in Washington Thursday night.

Fox News' Chris Wallace told Fox viewers on Saturday about the letter of protest, and another source told Journal-isms that it had been signed by the network bureau chiefs and the AP.

"What seemed to be a routine evening waiting for Barack Obama aboard his campaign plane turned into anything but when the cabin doors closed and the passengers were informed the aircraft would be taking off immediately - without the candidate," Chris Welch reported for CNN on Friday night.

As Wallace and viewers were waiting Saturday for Clinton to arrive at Washington's National Building Museum to deliver her concession speech, Wallace explained that the Obama team violated the protocol of always having a press representative near the candidate, as one is with the president.

He said the campaign responded to the letter and there will be "further discussions."

"The first sign something was amiss on the Thursday flight came when the pilot told those aboard - about 25 members of the media, a smaller group of Obama staffers and only a handful of Secret Service agents - that everyone was on board and that the plane would be departing for Obama's hometown of Chicago, Ill., momentarily," according to Welch's CNN report.

"The press soon noticed there were far too few people aboard for a standard campaign flight. Something was different. It's fair to say that the term 'everyone' was used a bit loosely - especially when the presumptive nominee appeared to be missing.

"As the plane taxied, communications director Robert Gibbs admitted that Obama was remaining behind because he 'wasn't going to be back in D.C. for a while' and had 'scheduled some meetings' before he left.

"Obama staffers, including Gibbs and Linda Douglass, a newly appointed senior adviser and campaign spokeswoman, didn't ask the reporters on board if they'd prefer to wait on the runway in Washington until the meetings concluded. They were going to Chicago. Without Barack Obama."

Jeff Zeleney added Saturday in the New York Times:

"Shortly before takeoff, one part of the secret was divulged. Robert Gibbs, the campaign's communications director, said Mr. Obama would not be flying to Chicago. Mr. Gibbs gave no reason for this mysterious pronouncement, and there was little time for questions, considering that the engines had started to whir.

"Sunlen Miller, who covers the Obama campaign for ABC News, filed an urgent dispatch via BlackBerry to report that the senator had abruptly changed plans and had given the slip to those who had been traveling with him all day. 'I sent it as the wheels were going up,' Ms. Miller said, recounting the agitation and confusion among her fellow travelers as the 757 lifted off."

"Gibbs told MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' program that the campaign opted for secrecy to give the two candidates privacy from the glare of media attention," the Los Angeles Times' Johanna Neuman reported on the blog "The Swamp." "These two candidates wanted to have a meeting that was private, where they could talk," Gibbs said. "We probably can't do that without a big media circus, so we did a private meeting ... and the press corps and myself flew back to Chicago."

Clinton's speech Saturday, delivered before a throng of disappointed supporters, was praised by cable news commentators. "She rose to the occasion," Tim Russert said on MSNBC. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, said, "she reminded all of us that the election is bigger than her and bigger than Barack Obama" and that victory in November was paramount.

Clinton stressed the importance of her historic achievement as a woman candidate and repeated as a mantra, "that's why we have to help elect Barack Obama our president."

After the secret Clinton-Obama meeting Thursday, held at the home of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the two campaigns issued a joint statement saying "Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama met tonight and had a productive discussion about the important work that needs to be done to succeed in November." They provided no other details.

Clinton, too, had to elude the press. Andea Mitchell said on Friday's "NBC Nightly News," "In fact, Clinton, no slouch at ducking reporters, had already sneaked out in the back of a minivan to an undisclosed location two miles away, which turned out to be the secluded home of Senator Dianne Feinstein."

NBC correspondent Ron Allen, also assigned to the Clinton campaign, said there were a lot of ways for her to leave her house undetected because it is surrounded by trees.

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World History

June 6, 2008



Associated Press story shows Kenyans rooting for Barack Obama.

Media Look at Global Reaction to Prospect of Obama

"Barack Obama broke barriers and made history earlier this week when he won enough delegates to earn his party's nomination for president. What does the rest of the world think about his achievement?" began the story Thursday on Public Radio International's "To the Point."

 

"Will his nomination change America's image abroad? What does his victory mean to Muslim nations? Is Israel worried that he might not be a staunch ally? Would a President Obama have an impact on Europe, where many nations are struggling with how to deal with their own immigrant populations? Do Africans hope that a black president will focus more energies and aid on their continent?"

The look outside America's borders - "Barack Obama from the Outside" - was just one of many stories generated at home and abroad after Obama secured the magic number of delegates Tuesday to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.

Reporters also sought out reaction inside the country, especially from African Americans, and savvy reporters, such as Byron Pitts of CBS News, picked up on the "dap" exchanged between Obama and his wife, Michelle: "That playful parting gesture on stage, the one young people call giving a person a dap, perhaps it was a metaphor America is changing," Pitts said in his "CBS Evening News" report on the racial significance of Obama's achievement.

Savvy journalists noticed the Tuesday night 'dap'

On "To the Point," the answer was a decided "yes" to whether the election of Obama would change America's image. And that was agreed across the political spectrum in France, said Patrice de Beer, former Washington correspondent of Le Monde, who said Obama's election would encourage immigrant groups, who are virtually shut out of French politics.

In Muslim nations, the name "Barack Hussein Obama," tossed about as an epithet by some in the United States, is an asset, said Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern studies at Sarah Lawrence College. Obama looks like "any other Egyptian, any other Libyan, any other Moroccan," Gerges said. "He would be Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare," in that he would "shatter the dominant stereotypes" about the United States. "People are looking forward to Barack Obama to begin the journey of healing between the United States and the world," though many wonder how much freedom the American political system allows a president to change course.

Israelis are more cautious, said Shmuel Sandler, professor of political science at Israel's Bar-Ilan University. Viktor Kremenyuk, deputy director of the Institute of the USA and Canada's Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the presumptive Republican nominee, is the known quantity, even though "he doesn't like us."

Rob Crilly, a reporter with the Christian Science Monitor and the Times of London, was with Obama family members in western Kenya, where many wished that Obama were instead running for office in Kenya. One lesson Kenyans were drawing was that politics does not have to be based on ethnicity, Crilly said.

Francisco Chamorro, publisher of El Nuevo Diario in Nicaragua, said the selection of someone who is not a "white, Christian male" as a major party nominee "demonstrates the health and the strength of the American democracy."

From "hundreds of supporters crowded around televisions in rural Kenya, Obama's ancestral homeland, to jubilant Britons writing 'WE DID IT!' on the Brits for Barack discussion board on Facebook, people celebrated what they called an important racial and generational milestone for the United States," Kevin Sullivan wrote from London in the Washington Post.

"In Mexico, an editorial cartoon in the daily Reforma depicted him as a Christ-like figure atop the Democratic donkey on Palm Sunday," Borzou Daragahi wrote of Obama from Beirut for the Los Angeles Times.

Still, "some analysts expressed concern about Obama's foreign policy positions. In Turkey, some worried about his support for Armenians, who are locked in a dispute with Turks over the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century. Many Israelis worry that Obama has been too willing to negotiate with the Jewish state's enemies, especially Iran."

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The Frederick Douglass cartoon ran on the Plain Dealer's Web site on Thursday. (Jeff Darcy/Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Some Saw Lincoln, but He Imagined Douglass

The historic nature of Sen. Barack Obama's prospective Democratic presidential nomination made some cartoonists reach for references to Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr., but Jeff Darcy of the Cleveland Plain Dealer looked to someone he thought more appropriate: Frederick Douglass, the 19th century abolitionist and journalist.

 

"He's got a longer history," Darcy told Journal-isms. For good measure, the cartoon shows Douglass smiling, unlike the usual representations of the publisher of the North Star, whose name graces the Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed by the National Association of Black Journalists. Coincidentally, Douglass, like Obama, was biracial but considered himself black.

This cartoon was chosen for the newspaper. (Jeff Darcy/Cleveland Plain Dealer)

"I didn't know that until you just told me," Darcy said. "The morning I did the cartoon I was listening to the author of a book on Lincoln's wife talk about how she had to drag Lincoln along on dealing with slavery, that he wasn't eager to do so, which I'd always known. So my first choice was Douglass, who always seemed to be a man ahead of his time.

"I had pictures in my head from a program I saw long ago of him as a young man fighting for the abolitionist cause. I showed the sketch to our associate editorial page editor Gloria Millner, who does happen to be biracial also, and told her how I could also make it Lincoln, MlK or Washington. I discussed with her why I thought Douglass was best, and she agreed. I also considered doing all four of them in unison saying 'About Time.' I considered Washington because he was the first president and the only founding father to free his slaves upon his death. I'm just glad I was able to draw it up. It's the kind of cartoon I got in this profession to draw. And being that I was 5 years old when MLK and RFK were shot, and can remember my parents' shock, I sit in wonder at the history happening before my eyes with the Obama campaign."

The cartoon was posted Thursday on cleveland.com, the Plain Dealer's Web site. He submitted several ideas to Editorial Page Editor Brent Larkin for the print edition, and Larkin chose a cartoon about Hillary Clinton attempting to usurp Obama's historic day.

"Some days you just wish you could get two cartoons in the paper," Darcy said. "That's the nice thing about cleveland.com."

There will be other opportunities for the Douglass cartoon to make the print edition. Obama is still the "presumptive" nominee; nominations won't actually take place until the Democratic National Convention in August.

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Watch Racial Language in Covering Campaign

"Is Barack Obama really 'trying to become the first black president,' as so many journalists write?" Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute, asked Friday in his column on the Poynter Web site. "That phrase or its variant has been a staple of news coverage, and it suggests that Obama is pursuing a racial, not political, achievement. You can find the language in ABC's coverage of the final primaries: "The issue of race cropped up again and again for the man seeking to become the nation's first black president."

 

". . . For accuracy's sake, separate facts from motive. It's as simple as what the television station eitb24 in Spain wrote on its Web site: 'Obama now becomes the first black man to run as the nominee of a major party in the U.S. general election. And should he win, he'll become the first black president in the history of the United States.'

". . . What do we mean by 'working class' and how are those people different from 'blue collar workers' and 'NASCAR dads'? Journalism has created or parroted a dictionary's worth of empty phrases meant to describe the voting populace. Encoded with racial and class assumptions, they are to information as cotton candy is to nutrition."

Then there is the term "post-racial."

Timothy J. McNulty, public editor of the Chicago Tribune, raised that question in his column Friday, and asked a number of Tribune staffers for their definitions.

Washington correspondent Mike Dorning told McNulty that Obama defines himself without racial distinctions and is trying to project a worldview that aims beyond racial division.

Tribune columnist Dawn Turner Trice told him, "As I'm sure you've gleaned, 'post-racial' doesn't mean 'post-racism.'

"I used the words wistful and unreal at the beginning of this column because while language is a precursor to significant change, just saying it doesn't make it true," McNulty concluded. "It seems to me that whenever people use the term post-racial, it is always about candidates who are not white. What does that tell you?"

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Disaffection With Campaign Coverage Growing

"The Pew Research Center's latest weekly news survey finds that although stories about Barack Obama controversies have made the biggest impression on news consumers, many still believe coverage has been biased in its favor. It also found that a majority now rate campaign coverage as fair to poor," John Eggerton reported Friday for Broadcasting & Cable.

 

"Despite the belief by more than a third of respondents that press coverage of the Democratic presidential primary race has favored Barack Obama, a point also made by his opponent, the controversies involving his church and comments about Pennsylvania voters are the most widely known stories of the campaign.

"According to the Pew study, 37% of those surveyed said [news] organizations had been biased toward Obama, and only 8% said they had favored" Hillary Clinton. "Yet, 62% also said they had heard 'a lot' about the speeches of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, and 52% said they had heard a lot about his statement in Pennsylvania about small-town Americans clinging to guns and religion.

"While 40% of those surveyed said the media had shown no bias, a majority said that unbiased coverage hadn't been that good."

 

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Juan Williams Urges Obama to Admit "Sins" on Race

Juan Williams

Commentator Juan Williams of Fox News, who has been Sen. Barack Obama's most consistent African American critic during the primary campaign, delivered another salvo Friday in the Wall Street Journal, calling upon the presumptive Democratic nominee to give another speech about race.

 

"This time he has to admit to sins of using race for political expediency - by knowingly buying into divisive, mean messages being delivered from the pulpit," Williams maintained, referring to controversies about Obama's former church, Trinity United Church of Christ, and former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. "He has to say that, as a biracial young man with no community roots, attaching himself to Rev. Wright and the Trinity congregation was a shortcut to move up the ladder in the Chicago political scene," added Williams, who is also an analyst on National Public Radio.

"He has to call race-baiting what it is, whether it comes from a pulpit or calls itself progressive politics. And he has to challenge his supporters, especially his black base, to be honest about real problems at the heart of today's racial divide - including out-of-wedlock births, crime, drugs and a culture that devalues education while glorifying the gangster life."

Coincidentally, such a theme is the topic of Williams' most recent book, "Enough: The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure That Are Undermining Black America - and What We Can Do About It."

Williams has previously said that "any time that Bill and Hillary Clinton attack Obama, Obama has pivoted just like a boxer, to say, 'Oh, this is a racist attack.'"he wrote that Jesus would have walked out of Trinity church, and on public radio's "the Diane Rehm Show," said that Obama "may have been in the classroom" but was not a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago Law School, as Obama identified himself. Rehm produced a news release from the law school backing Obama's description.

 

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Tribune Co. Plans to Cut Paper Sizes, Staff

Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell and his top assistants disclosed Thursday they plan to cut the size of their newspapers," David Roeder wrote Thursday in the Chicago Sun-Times. "With advertising in a steep decline, they said the step is needed to trim printing and distribution costs that account for 88 percent of all overhead.

 

"How much the papers will be reduced was not specified on a conference call with the company's creditors. But Randy Michaels, chief operating officer, said a typical 80-page edition of the Chicago Tribune could become closer in size to a 48-page edition of the Wall Street Journal without a perceived loss in quality.

"Reductions also would be ordered at the company's other newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel and the Sun of Baltimore.

"Michaels said the goal would be a newspaper with a 50-50 split between the space for advertising and editorial content, although he also said on the call the ratio would not include the classified section, which is almost all advertising.

"He also warned of further cuts in newsroom expenses, based in part on a company study of its journalists' productivity."

 

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$1 Million From Columnist, Wife Establishes Chair

Colbert I. King, Washington Post columnist and retired deputy editor of its editorial page, and his wife, Gwendolyn S. King, are the donors of $1 million to Howard University to establish a chair in public policy. The first holder of the chair is Time Warner CEO Richard D. Parsons, who is also a Howard trustee.

 

Colbert I. King

The university announced Parson's appointment to the chair in March, and H. Patrick Swygert, the outgoing university president, mentioned it to alumni on Thursday in his 2007-08 Academic Year End Letter.

Gwendolyn King told Journal-isms that the $1 million came from Lockheed Martin, on whose board she sits, under a charitable program made available to board members. Not that Colbert King isn't a millionaire in his own right. She noted that before he joined the Post in 1990, he was an international banker, working at the World Bank, Riggs Bank and in the State and Treasury departments.

University spokeswoman J.J. Pryor said the donation pays for lectures by Parsons and that the hope is that others will also contribute to build up an endowment for the chair.

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40th Anniversary of RFK Death Commemorated

Newspapers, Web sites and broadcast outlets commemorated the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy on Friday with remembrances and observations about the parallels between 1968 and 2008.

 

The Los Angeles Times Web site included what it called an exclusive by video journalist Katy Newton, featuring the first time that David Steiner, former campaign manager for Kennedy who was there that June 5 night, has publicly spoken about the experience.

Assassination took place 40 years ago Friday.

Kennedy, D-N.Y., was slain at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on the night of the California presidential primary.

"To Steiner, RFK's death 'was like the death of baseball and Thomas Jefferson and Betsy Ross sewing the flag and all the rest of it. . . . It just changed me completely,' " Jay Carney wrote on Time.com.

Carney added, "Worth hearing, today and always, is the most amazing speech Robert Kennedy ever gave, in Indianapolis on the night, two months earlier, that Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated."

On National Public Radio's "Morning Edition," co-host Renee Montagne interviewed photojournalist Bill Eppridge, who took the iconic photograph of the injured Kennedy lying on the floor of the kitchen pantry at the hotel.

On television, Jeff Greenfield, now a CBS News senior political correspondent, reflected on the event on the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric." Greenfield took a speechwriting position with the Kennedy campaign fresh out of Yale Law School.

CNN aired "Something's Happening Here: 1968 - 2008" on Friday, examining "the historical and cultural parallels of 1968 and 2008." Host Campbell Brown was joined by author Douglas Brinkley; Faye Wattleton, founder of the Center for the Advancement of Women; David Gergen, CNN senior political analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, CNN senior legal analyst; CNN contributor Roland Martin and correspondent Candy Crowley. Also contributing were Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, former Maryland lieutenant governor; former Rep. Pat Schroeder, D-Colo.; and Kennedy's former bodyguard, Rosie Grier.

On Thursday, Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" played excerpts of rare Kennedy speeches and of the new documentary "RFK Must Die: The Assassination of Bobby Kennedy." It also shared a never-before-broadcast 1966 address by Kennedy to students at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., and the man who recorded it.

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Short Takes

  • Travers Johnson, a senior from Morehouse College in Atlanta, won CNN's "Campus iReporter" contest, conducted with the National Association of Black Journalists in association with a tour of eight historically black colleges and universities. "By interviewing the band and other Atlanta University Center students, I attempt to answer the following questions: What does it mean to be young and black in America? Is now a good time to be young and black in America?" Johnson explained in his video.
  • ProPublica, "a non-profit newsroom producing journalism in the public interest," Thursday announced seven more additions to its news staff. Of its 19-person staff, one or two are of color, spokesman Richard Tofel told Journal-isms. Eight more slots are to be filled, and "we are determined to make the staff diverse,"he said. The founder and editor in chief is Paul E. Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal.
  • Jyoti Thottam

    Jyoti Thottam, former president of the South Asian Journalists Association and Time magazine senior editor, has been named the magazine's New Delhi bureau chief, according to SAJA. Thottam was born in India, but raised mostly in suburban Houston. She came to Time from On magazine/Time Digital, and before that was a newspaper reporter in Queens, N.Y., and Jacksonville, Fla.
  • "Kevin B. Blackistone, one of sports journalism's most prominent and multi-talented voices, joins the Merrill College as the Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism," the University of Maryland announced on Wednesday. Blackistone, who left his columnist's job at the Dallas Morning News in 2006, writes for AOL Sports, contributes to the Politico, appears as a panelist on ESPN's "Around the Horn," and is writing a book with All-Pro Dallas Cowboy and New York Giant Everson Walls. "Named in honor of the legendary Washington Post columnist and editor Shirley Povich, the Povich Chair will be a prominent sports journalist who can advocate for excellence in sports reporting," the announcement said. It is funded in part by Povich's children and is held by former Washington Post sports editor George Solomon, who continues as a visiting professor.
  • Retha Hill, the former vice president of BET.com who is director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, is vice president/content of a new Web site "aimed at multicultural families, people who have married, dated or adopted cross culturally, be it biracially or across ethnic lines," she told Journal-isms on Friday. The new site is called Blur . . . I've pulled in some of the old BET.com writers such as Ed Wiley, Mary Chapman, Stacy Gilliam to write for the site and reaching out to a lot of fresh writers. Blur comes along just as we might have our first biracial president. The site leans heavily toward social interactivity as well (check the Blur map where you can meet other BLURS) as well as strong content."
  • "Can that be Khambrel Marshall, the former Channel 2 anchorman who was moved to a behind-the-scenes role in the newsroom," is back on the air? Ken Hoffman wrote for the Houston Chronicle on Tuesday. "As a weatherman? It's a career double reverse like I have never seen in television."
  • "Federal appellate judges in Chicago heard oral arguments Tuesday over whether records containing police misconduct and excessive force complaints should be released to the public," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported on Thursday. "Freelance journalist Jamie Kalven and 28 city aldermen "want access to documents that name the 662 Chicago police officers with more than 10 complaints filed against them. U.S. District Judge Joan Lefkow ordered the release of the sealed misconduct accusations last July, but the city appealed."
  • "Why was the Western media so interested in the Zimbabwean elections but just gave a passing glance to both the Nigerian and Sierra Leonean elections held last year? More so when 200 people died in pre- and post-election violence in Nigeria? Why, as they claim to be 'the paragons of objectivity and balance', do they rarely extend this to Africa in their coverage of the continent?" the London-based New Africa magazine asked in its June cover story. "Why, even, when they say they are against African presidents entrenching themselves in power, do they seldom tackle the longest reigning presidents on the continent?"
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Feedback: Juan Williams and His Sheep's Clothing

Man, what is Juan Williams's problem? I understand the immediate need to sell his latest book, but if he opened his eyes and looked in the mirror with the same scrutiny he focuses on Barack Obama, he couldn't help but feel not only like a puppet but like a bigot in his own right.

 

It is shameful that he is given such a broad platform to issue the level of negativity he has against his own race and more shameful if he thinks it is adding anything to the racial or political discourse in America beyond giving right-wing pundits unneeded - and unwarranted - affirmation. He's a dark-skinned wolf in sheep's clothing and I can only assume he is paid very well for trying to pull the wool over our eyes. It is both sad and pathetic.

Stephen A. King
Reston, Va.
June 7, 2008
The writer is a former Washington Post copy editor

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. (Full disclosure: Richard Prince works part time at the Washington Post.) 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.

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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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact journal-isms-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and tell us who you are.

Special thanks to The McCormick Foundation for its generous support of the Journal-isms column.

 

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