Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Obamas Take "60 Minutes" to Ratings Peak

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Sunday, November 16, 2008











"Not only are the Obamas redefining what the President and his first family look like, they are also redefining what our familial roles are,"'s Ronda Racha Penrice wrote after watching Steve Kroft interview Barack and Michelle Obama on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes." (Aaron Tomlinson for CBS News)

Newsmagazine Draws Biggest Audience in 9 Years

On Thursday, Ebony magazine announced the "breaking news" that, "This afternoon, Ebony magazine conducted the first interview and photo shoot with President-elect Barack Obama since his victory on Nov. 4." But by Friday, Ebony's coup was all but forgotten as CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" also interviewed the president-elect, promoted it with a video clip and a story and aired it in two days' time.

On Monday, the Nielsen ratings rendered their verdict. The interview "60 Minutes" claimed as the first since Obama's election gave the show its biggest audience in at least nine years.

"The CBS News program was seen by 24.5 million viewers and earned a 6.4 preliminary [rating among] adults 18-49 . . . That marks the show's largest viewership since 1999," James Hibberd reported for the Hollywood Reporter.

"Veteran correspondent Steve Kroft interviewed Obama about a range of domestic and foreign policy issues in the show's opening 15-minute segment, then he spoke to Obama alongside his wife, Michelle, for two more segments covering how the election has impacted their family.

"Obama said the government should help the U.S. auto industry and reiterated his plan to pull troops out of Iraq, though the president-elect largely refused to answer questions about his cabinet choices, saying only that announcements would be made 'soon.' Though Kroft asked significant issue-oriented questions, he also delved into territory that some viewers might consider frivolous - such as the oft-discussed First Family's dog acquisition plans and college football."

If there were complaints, they were from a few on the Web who said the questions weren't tough enough, or from some on the e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists who lamented the 2006 death of correspondent Ed Bradley. Since then, they said, no journalist of color has been regularly assigned to the program to conduct such interviews. But overall, Kroft's interview revealed insights into Obama as president-elect and family man.

"Watching Barack Obama handle Steve Kroft's questions with ease on "60 Minutes," his first full television one-on-one interview as President-elect, only reaffirmed that America did indeed make the right choice," Ronda Racha Penrice wrote Monday on the Web site.

Viewers apparently will have to wait a few weeks to find out what Obama said to Ebony, and whether he made any news there.

"The exclusive interview and cover shoot, held at the headquarters of Johnson Publishing Co. in Chicago, will be the centerpiece of Ebony magazine's January 2009 commemorative issue, which goes on sale nationwide Tuesday, December 9," Ebony's news release said.

Media Critic Asks How Much Obama Is Too Much

"Are journalists fostering the notion that Obama is invincible, the leader of what the New York Times dubbed 'Generation O'? Howard Kurtz asked on Monday in the Washington Post.

"Each writer, each publication, seems to reach for more eye-popping superlatives. 'OBAMAISM - It's a Kind of Religion,' says New York magazine. 'Those of us too young to have known JFK's Camelot are going to have our own giddy Camelot II to enrapture and entertain us,' Kurt Andersen writes. The New York Post has already christened it 'BAM-A-LOT.'

". . . what happens when adulation gives way to the messy, incremental process of governing? When Obama has to confront a deep-rooted financial crisis, two wars and a political system whose default setting is gridlock? When he makes decisions that inevitably disappoint some of his boosters?

"'We're celebrating a moment as much as a man, I think,' says Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham, whose new issue, out today, compares Obama to Lincoln. 'Given our racial history, an hour or two of commemoration seems appropriate. But there is no doubt that the glow of the moment will fade, and I am sure the coverage will reflect that in due course.'

". . . The media would be remiss if they didn't reflect the sense of unadulterated joy that greeted Obama's election, both here and around the world, and the pride even among those who opposed him," Kurtz said. 

Do Media Need Affirmative Action for Conservatives?

Reporting that more than 900 people have stopped subscribing to the Washington Post in the past four weeks after complaining it was too liberal, Post ombudsman Deborah Howell wrote Sunday that the newspaper should seek more conservatives for its newsroom.

"Some of the conservatives' complaints about a liberal tilt are valid," Howell wrote. "Journalism naturally draws liberals; we like to change the world. I'll bet that most Post journalists voted for Obama. I did. There are centrists at The Post as well. But the conservatives I know here feel so outnumbered that they don't even want to be quoted by name in a memo.

". . . Are there ways to tackle this? More conservatives in newsrooms and rigorous editing would be two. The first is not easy: Editors hire not on the basis of beliefs but on talent in reporting, photography and editing, and hiring is at a standstill because of the economy. But newspapers have hired more minorities and women, so it can be done."

Eric Boehlert of the liberal Media Matters for America replied, "If newsrooms tilt so tragically to the left, why don't conservatives try to get jobs in newsrooms? Why don't they jump at the chance to become poorly paid reporters in a dying industry? The answer: Conservatives would rather be partisan pundits and complain about the press and hope that people like Howell blame journalism."

Pat Oliphant (c) 2008 Universal Press Syndicate. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tim Jackson  David Fitzsimmons/Arizona Daily Star

Tim Jackson



Pat Oliphant Has a Problem: He Likes Obama

While liking a new president might not seem to be a serious problem for most people, it is for a political cartoonist, Matt Schofield wrote last week in the Kansas City Star. He was profiling Pat Oliphant, 74, considered the most influential cartoonist working today.

"'I came here in 1964, in the midst of Johnson — (Barry) Goldwater, the whole mess that was defining the world,' he said, in a gentle Australian lilt that has faded over 44 years in the U.S. 'I thought at the time I liked Johnson. It's not a problem I've had since. Until now,'" Schofield quoted the cartoonist as saying. The reference is to Lyndon Johnson.

"Which, he knows, means he's now required to make fun of Obama, to poke at his weaknesses, to note his feet of clay and . . ." the writer continued.

"'I'm now trying to deal with the dilemma of liking the new guy,' Oliphant notes, over a glass of white wine, his laughter shaking a mane of gray hair. 'Cartoonists need villains. The Bush years were better than the Nixon years, professionally.'"

Oliphant's cartoon about Barack Obama's election night victory is pictured above, along with the work of Tim Jackson, a cartoonist, illustrator and graphic designer whose work has appeared in the Chicago Defender and other publications, and David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star.

Jackson's Web site includes a salute to pioneering African American artists, illustrators and graphic designers who drew "the funnies" of the black press from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Fitzsimmons, 53, told Journal-isms he feels fortunate to be in Tucson, a Democratic corner in a red state that is represented by the Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain. "I was in the tank for Obama," Fitzsimmons said, "absolutely and completely." A white cartoonist with a black son-in-law and sister-in-law, he said family members would joke among themselves about the racial dynamics of the election. Other cartoons were published on Friday. The additional 'toons are by reader request.

Can anyone identify the artist who drew the uncredited cartoon?

Sam Fulwood Leaves Plain Dealer, Returns to D.C.

Sam Fulwood IIISam Fulwood III, who joined the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 2000 as a Metro columnist from the Los Angeles Times Washington bureau, then was yanked as a columnist last year by outgoing editor Douglas C. Clifton, left the paper on Friday and headed back to Washington.

Fulwood told Journal-isms he took a buyout.

Plain Dealer Editor Susan Goldberg told staff members last week that the paper had increased from 38 to 50 the number of jobs that will be cut from the newsroom by year's end, the paper reported.

"On Oct. 7 the newspaper cited worse-than-expected advertising revenue and hard times across the industry in announcing plans to eliminate 38 jobs held by reporters, copy editors, photographers, artists and page designers," the Plain Dealer wrote.

Fulwood had been working in the paper's features section. "It's exciting to be back in D.C. at a time when there is so much interest in Barack Obama," he told Journal-isms. He said he was looking for work, but in the meantime, continuing to contribute to

Goldberg told Journal-isms she could not confirm who was taking the buyout. "Our buyout is ongoing — it won't be final until Nov. 28, which is the last day people have [to] rescind their buyout decision. So we won't know until then who is or isn't taking it," she said.

Newkirk Becomes Reader Representative in Houston

James NewkirkJames Newkirk, who joined the Houston Chronicle from the old Houston Post in 1991, has become the paper's reader representative. Newkirk was an assistant managing editor.

He succeeds another black journalist, James T. Campbell, who left a year ago for a public relations job.

Among the first items on Newkirk's plate was the Chronicle's endorsement of Barack Obama, only the second time since 1960 that the red-state paper had backed a Democrat for the presidency.

"It would be fair to say that many of the calls and e-mails were from readers who said in no uncertain terms they were either 'very disappointed,' 'shocked,' 'angry,' 'furious,' or even 'appalled,'" he wrote on his blog.

"Some told me they canceled their subscriptions. Some disagreed and provided passionate reasons why. Some said the Chronicle should not endorse political candidates. Some congratulated the Chronicle for a brave move."

3 Sue Station for Age, Gender Discrimination

Maria Antonia On Thursday, three of KMBC-TV's most senior female on-air talent — including Maria Antonia, Kansas City's most recognizable Hispanic journalist — filed suit against KMBC alleging gender and age discrimination, Aaron Barnhart reported on Friday for the Kansas City Star.

"The story is a familiar one: As these women aged, they were eased out of their plum positions in favor of younger, fresher female faces . . . and meanwhile, their male counterparts were, to quote the lawsuit, 'allowed to age, gain weight, turn grey, and wear glasses.'

"And indeed, this story played out not too long ago in Kansas City, when several employees of KCTV-5 filed suit claiming age discrimination. But that was Channel 5, where 65 percent of the staff turned over in what most people agree was a necessary (if brutal) transition.

"But this was Channel 9. It was supposed to be different here."

Short Takes

  • "The ethnic and political free-for-all in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has raged for over a decade, and has pitted over a half-dozen countries and numerous other paramilitary and militia groups against each other. An estimated five million people have been killed in the conflict," Armin Rosen wrote¬†Friday in the Columbia Journalism Review. "This is a big story‚Äîa story deserving of front-page, in-depth coverage. Instead, we've gotten broad and relatively short articles on the subject buried in our newspapers of record."
  • Jorge Mettey, a former news director and vice president at Univision, announced¬†he is suing his former employer, KMEX-TV, "for wrongful termination after he was fired for resisting attempts to sell news content and the censorship by the company of news related to immigration reform." The Los Angeles Times reported in October 2007 that Mettey and general manager Jorge Delgado "were terminated promptly after Univision was taken private in March by a group of investors that include Los Angeles billionaire Haim Saban. An internal investigation found that Mettey breached ethics policies in directing news coverage of Puebla, Mexico, according to several sources familiar with the probe." For five years, Mettey led one of the highest-rated TV news operations in Los Angeles, the story said.
  • Helena MorenoIndicted Rep. William Jefferson's "decisive win over Helena Moreno, a former TV news anchor and political newcomer, ensures Jefferson a spot in the Dec. 6 general election," the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported¬†on election night. "With two-thirds of the district's voters registered as Democrats, Jefferson seems the hands-down favorite to win a 10th term against four poorly financed opponents with scant name recognition." Times-Picayune columnist Lolis Eric Elie wrote¬†last week of Moreno, who is Hispanic, "The problem was not that Moreno was a white candidate. She just wasn't the right white candidate."
  • WOAI-TV in San Antonio is showing off its new Latina anchor, Elsa Ramon, Jeanne Jakle wrote¬†Thursday for the San Antonio Express-News. "Not only does it show viewers 'our commitment to diversity,' WOAI news director Aaron Ramey said, but it's important to have 'that perspective in our newsroom,' to give another voice to issues involving the Hispanic community. Prior to her hiring, WOAI's 10 p.m. team was without a Latino anchor," Jakle wrote.
  • Rebecca Aguilar returned to Dallas-Fort Worth street reporting on election night. Ed Bark wrote¬†Nov. 7 on his "Uncle Barky's" blog. "Aguilar's election night employer was Suspended just over a year ago by Fox4 and officially dismissed on May 8th, she reported from outside the Dallas County Democratic Party's party site in the Bishop Arts district. Aguilar said she was contacted on election eve by Marisa Trevi?±o, founder and publisher of Latina Lista."
  • On Tuesday, will feature essays by four influential and accomplished women about Michelle Obama and the role of the first lady; these same women will join Michel Martin on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More" for an in-depth conversation about the choices to be made by the incoming first lady, NPR announced. The four women contributors are: Anna Perez, press secretary to former first lady Laura Bush and the first African American to hold the job; feminist and writer Rebecca Walker, and Jolene Ivey and Leslie Morgan Steiner, contributors to "Tell Me More‚Äôs" regular "Mocha Moms" segment.
  • Comedian D.L. Hughley, discussing the mixed reviews for his "D.L. Hughley Breaks The News" on CNN, "says he recently got a call from CNN/U.S. president Jon Klein saying how 'great we're doing,'" the TV Newser site reported on Sunday. The site's Steve Krakauer said last week's program was the second highest-rated prime time show in the 25-54 demographic.
  • "A Liberian journalist, Jonathan Paye-Layleh, ending a week-long visit to the United Kingdom, has asked members of the British Parliament to push for more assistance for journalists in Africa if they want to see good journalism prevail and flourish in struggling countries like Liberia," The Analyst in Monrovia, Liberia, reported.
  • "More than 60 Sudanese journalists and newspaper staff were detained at a rare public protest against media censorship" in the East African country, Reuters reported¬†on Monday. "A witness saw riot police armed with canes and shields round up protesters as they stood opposite the parliament buildings holding banners with the message 'We need our rights.' Police said 63 people were detained."

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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