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"One Lonely Crusader" Sees Case Reopened

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Reporter Believes Convicted Gang Members Were Set Up

Lawyer: No First Amendment Right to Keep Essence Job

Unity President Takes Washington Post Buyout

Immigration From Mexico to U.S. at Historic Standstill

Lloyd LaCuesta Retiring After Four-Decade Career

Black-Oriented Sites Focus on Specifics of Trayvon Case

Obama Likes "Daily Show," Reads "All" N.Y. Times Pundits

C-SPAN to Air National Black Writers Conference

Short Takes

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Reporter Believes Convicted Gang Members Were Set Up

"For the next three weeks or so, Washington D.C. will relive one of the most brutal crimes in city history: the murder of 48-year-old Catherine Fuller back in 1984, Derek McGinty told viewers of Washington's WUSA-TV on Monday.

"But this time, the court will be deciding if the men convicted of the crime were themselves the victims of a terrible miscarriage of justice, and if at the end of it all, there is vindication for those men.

"There must be credit for one lonely crusader. Former Washington Post reporter Patrice Gaines says the Catherine Fuller murder was one of the first stories she covered and she was haunted by it.

"Haunted because even then, she says the evidence against the 8th and HHomicide victim Catherine Fuller with her son, William, in 1983 near their Distr street crew didn't seem to add up. First of all, if the gang members were such terrors, how come she couldn't find anyone who'd even heard of them? The police said Fuller was killed on a busy street in broad daylight, but Gaines could find no one who heard or saw anything.

"There was much much more, and later she would spend two years investigating the story, all the time becoming more convinced that the 11 men imprisoned for this hideous crime were innocent. And that the prosecution had evidence to that effect that it never revealed to the defense.

"In 2001, Patrice left the Post, turning her evidence over to the Innocence Project, and a decade later, they are in court.

"Let's be real: the prosecution still says it did nothing wrong, and that the right men went to jail. But Patrice says no matter what happens, she is at peace, because she did the best she could to get at the truth. And isn't that the least we ought [to] expect from our law enforcement?"

In an essay on blackamericaweb.com on Wednesday, Gaines explained the holes she found in the prosecution's case. Among other problems, those who confessed recanted.

"After I had worked for years on this story, the Washington Post refused to publish it. The paper did not see any importance in the evidence I had found," Gaines wrote. "At least, they did not think it proved the guys were innocent and the paper did not care that the law may have been broken by the prosecutor.

"To me, I saw clearly that I had knocked down every piece of evidence the prosecution had. Even the man who was the medical examiner at the time told me one brutal person could have committed the murder. And that would have explained to me why no one witnessed it. The killing could have been done in a few minutes, the examiner said.

"With the help of one editor, I was able to get a story in the Style section of the paper. It was not a news story; it was an article about what I had done with the last six years of my life and what I had found. The story ran May 6, 2001 and on that day I put in my two-week notice to leave my job. I felt I had outgrown a media organization or a belief system that did not treat young black men the same way it treated police officers. To me, every word had to be investigated regardless of who spoke it."

Lawyer: No First Amendment Right to Keep Essence Job

Michael Bullerdick, the Essence magazine managing editor who was transferred to another division of Time Warner after right-wing material was discovered on his Facebook page, has no First Amendment right to post such material without consequences, a First Amendment lawyer told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

David L. Hudson Jr., a First Amendment scholar with the Freedom Forum's First Amendment Center in Nashville, Tenn., said First Amendment claims apply only to government actions, not to those of private businesses. An exception might be made if there were a state law that covered such situations, he said.

Michael Bullerdick's Facebook page includes a plug for Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., who, asked this month how many Marxists there are in Congress, replied, 'I  believe there’s about 78 to 81 members of the Democratic Party who are members of the Communist Party.' An Essence spokeswoman said Friday that Bullerdick, a white male at a magazine that targets black women, was moving to the book division of Time Warner, the conglomerate that has owned Essence since 2005. The announcement came after Journal-isms shared screen shots of Bullerdick's Facebook page taken by a reader.

In one screen shot, an April 10 posting is headlined, "No Voter Fraud, Mr. Attorney General?" touting a video by James O'Keefe, the conservative activist who worked with right-wing trickster Andrew Breitbart. The same day, Bullerdick shared a photo illustration of the Rev. Al Sharpton headlined, "MSNBC Race Pimp." Bullerdick also recommends material from the conservative magazine Human Events and the right-wing website townhall.com.

The transfer of Bullerdick — some websites erroneously reported that he was fired — was reported widely on the Internet, particularly on black-oriented sites. Many applauded the action, others attributed Bullerdick's presence to Essence's white corporate ownership, and some questioned whether Bullerdick was being punished for his views, even though Essence's brief but carefully worded statement did not give a reason for the transfer.

 Michael Bullerdick

One journalist asked in a tweet, "I don't know all details, but this call by Essence doesn't look good. Right wing views are protected, too."

Hudson said the Essence situation brought to mind the 1998 case of Weicherding v. Riegel III, decided by the Seventh Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Wallace Weicherding was a prison guard at the Graham Correctional Center in Illinois, which housed about 1,500 inmates, more than 60 percent of whom were black or Hispanic. In 1993, Weicherding appeared on a local television newscast promoting a rally of the Ku Klux Klan to be held on his property. An investigation by prison authorities found that Weicherding used hand signals associated with the Klan, and phrases such as "weiss macht" (German for "white power") hundreds of times while at Graham. After a hearing, Weicherding was fired.

"If Graham were perceived by the inmate population and staff to tolerate a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan,"the Seventh Circuit determined, "the perception of fairness by prison administrators would be impaired and racial tensions within the prison would be exacerbated. . . . The defendants reasonably concluded that the interests of safety, promoted by avoiding racial violence at Graham, outweighed Weicherding's interest in protected speech and association."

While no one at Essence was threatening violence over Bullerdick's Facebook postings, and Bullerdick was not accused of Klan membership, a commenter to the Root noted that bottom-line considerations were at stake.

"I cant [imagine] FOX keeping a top staffer or anchor after they've touted extreme left wing content in a public forum (Yes people! Unless you actually use your privacy control setting FB is a public forum) or an LGBT mag keeping a top staffer after they've supported Prop 8 or the sanctity of marriage movement. At the end of the day, it hurts your bottom line and erodes your cred with readers. Period," this reader said.

Essence editor-in-chief Constance E.R. White has emphasized that Bullerdick had no editorial role, that his was a production job. Regardless, he was not the first white male managing editor. John Stoltenberg, now managing editor at AARP The Magazine and communications consultant at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center, held the job from 1980 to 1985, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Dr. Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse University professor and one of several in cyberspace who commented on the Essence transfer, said Bullerdick's race and gender are not the issue. "Bullerdick has been in his position for months, and it's disturbing when an editor of a major black women's publication espouses views which communicate that he has very little respect for black people," Watkins wrote. On EURWeb.com, Watkins posed "5 Questions to Ask Essence Mag. About their White Managing Editor."

In another report, Danielle Canada of rollingout.com listed other white editors at black-oriented publications, including Vanessa Satten, XXL editor in chief and Julia Beverly, editor of Ozone. Both are hip-hop publications.

Fishbowl NY posted "a Media Beat segment where we asked White about the flak she caught for hiring Bullerdick and [Ellianna] Placas before him ." The 2010 hiring of Placas, who is white, as fashion director created a similar stir.

Unity President Takes Washington Post Buyout

Joanna Hernandez, a multiplatform editor at the Washington Post who is president of Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., which voted last week to change its name to "Unity Journalists," has accepted a buyout from the Post and is returning to New York, Hernandez told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

"Yes, it's official, I applied for the buyout and it's been accepted. My last day at the Washington Post is May 31," Hernandez said by email.

Joanna Hernandez

"This was not an easy decision. You know, I have been working in newsrooms for more than 20 years. I have enjoyed working at the Washington Post, and I will miss my colleagues as well as living in the nation's capital.

"But an opportunity presented itself, and I just couldn't pass it up. In June, I will be joining the City University of New York's Graduate School of Journalism as career services director. I'm very excited about this opportunity, because it means I will be able to use both my personal and professional experiences to help the next generation of journalists enter our trade. I can't think of a better next step in my career and life."

Hernandez joined the Post in December 2009. According to her Unity bio, "previously, she worked as a copy editor for The Record and the Herald News, two newspapers owned by the North Jersey Media Group. Before that, she was director of the Feature Production Center for The New York Times Regional Media Group; held several newsroom positions, including weekend entertainment editor, at The Star Ledger in Newark, N.J.; was a copy editor at the San Francisco Examiner in California; and was a copy editor at Newsday in Melville, N.Y."

Fredrick Kunkle, co-chair, News of the Washington Post unit of the Newspaper Guild, said last week that ". . . 32 Guild-covered employees have chosen to accept the company's buyout offer. It also appears, as many of you have been hearing, that a high number of the participants are Asian, African-American or Latino. By our count, more than a dozen of these Guild-covered employees are minorities, most of whom are black."

Two news aides who are African American also confirmed to Journal-isms that they are leaving: Stephen A. Crockett Jr., assigned to the Universal Desk, and Kerry Flagg, sports editorial aide. "I want to write books and movies and plays but I will need to find something that pays me until I can finish books and movies and plays," Crockett said by email. He has interned as a Style section writer.

Reporter Theola Labbé-DeBose; photographer Mark Gail; Tony P. Knott, an assistant news editor; and Lisa Frazier Page, social issues editor on the Local staff, all black journalists, confirmed earlier that they were taking the buyout.

Immigration From Mexico to U.S. at Historic Standstill

"The largest wave of immigration in history from a single country to the United States has come to a standstill," Jeffrey Passel, D'Vera Cohn and Ana Gonzalez-Barrera wrote Monday for the Pew Hispanic Center. "After four decades that brought 12 million current immigrants — more than half of whom came illegally — the net migration flow from Mexico to the United States has stopped — and may have reversed, according to a new analysis by the Pew Hispanic Center of multiple government data sets from both countries.

"The standstill appears to be the result of many factors, including the weakened U.S. job and housing construction markets, heightened border enforcement, a rise in deportations, the growing dangers associated with illegal border crossings, the long-term decline in Mexico’s birth rates and changing economic conditions in Mexico."

Lloyd LaCuesta, former president of Unity: Journalists of Color Inc., first elec

Lloyd LaCuesta Retiring After Four-Decade Career

"One of the most enduring reporters in Bay Area television history announced Tuesday that he is approaching the finish line," Rick Hurd reported Tuesday for the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times.

"KTVU's Lloyd LaCuesta, the station's South Bay bureau chief and a fixture on breaking news stories for nearly 36 years, will retire June 15.

" 'I have spent more than half my life at KTVU, which makes it all the more difficult to say goodbye. But it is time,' LaCuesta wrote in a message posted on Facebook. 'I need to slow down and truly enjoy life.'

"LaCuesta arrived at KTVU in August 1976, according to the station, and over the years has won six Emmy Awards for his reporting.

"He reported on the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, the Oakland [Hills] firestorm in 1991, and the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999, among others.

"He also was the first elected national president of the [Asian American] Journalists Association, for which he earned a Lifetime Achievement Award. He presided over the Unity Journalists of Color, as well."

In a congratulatory news release from Unity, Doris Truong, national AAJA president, said, "Lloyd has groomed more than one generation of journalists to careers that follow on his example of excellence in reporting and to serving our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. He has inspired us in AAJA by sharing his personal stories, and this is a well-deserved transition for someone who understands the value of maintaining a balanced life."

Black-Oriented Sites Focus on Specifics of Trayvon Case

While national coverage of the Trayvon Martin story has waned, Tracie Powell wrote Monday for the Poynter Institute, niche sites targeting African Americans continue to publish key developments in the case of the slain, unarmed Florida teenager "and are also connecting it to larger stories and issues that are similar to Martin’s case.

"While mainstream publications debate whether the hoodie Martin wore led to his death or whether racism played a role in his killing, black publications see an opportunity to fulfill a greater mission. They are also more focused on the specifics of Martin’s case than more mainstream news organizations."

Powell quoted Jeff John Roberts of paidContent.org: "Since its first piece on March 8, theGrio has published more than 250 stories on Martin and many of its videos have landed on shows like the 'Today' show and ‘NBC Nightly News.' The Grio’s success reflects the rise of a new generation of African American news as well as a new symbiosis between niche and mainstream media outlets."

Meanwhile, "A Florida judge unsealed court records relating to the case of George Zimmerman — who is charged with the second-degree murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin — following legal requests by several news organizations," the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported on Tuesday.

"Judge Kenneth Lester, Jr., who took over the case after Judge Jessica Recksiedler recused herself due to a conflict of interest, reversed the previous judge's order to seal the records, and posted about two dozen documents to the court's website Monday. The records were initially sealed at the request of Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O'Mara."

Obama Likes "Daily Show," Reads "All" N.Y. Times Pundits

In an interview with Jann S. Wenner of Rolling Stone, President Obama describes where he gets his news and reaffirms that "I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period."

Wenner asked, "What do you read regularly to keep you informed or provide you with perspectives beyond the inner circle of your advisers?

[Laughs] Other than Rolling Stone?

Q. That goes without saying.

A. I don’t watch a lot of TV news. I don’t watch cable at all. I like 'The Daily Show', so sometimes if I'm home late at night, I'll catch snippets of that. I think Jon Stewart's brilliant. It’s amazing to me the degree to which he's able to cut through a bunch of the nonsense – for young people in particular, where I think he ends up having more credibility than a lot of more conventional news programs do.

I spend a lot of time just reading reports, studies, briefing books, intelligence assessments.

Q. Newspapers?

A. I’ll thumb through all the major papers in the morning. I'll read the Times and Wall Street Journal and Washington Post, just to catch up.

Q. Do you read Paul Krugman?

A. I read all of the New York Times columnists. Krugman's obviously one of the smartest economic reporters out there, but I also read some of the conservative columnists, just to get a sense of where those arguments are going. There are a handful of blogs, Andrew Sullivan's on the Daily Beast being an example, that combine thoughtful analysis with a sampling of lots of essays that are out there. The New Yorker and The Atlantic still do terrific work. Every once in a while, I sneak in a novel or a nonfiction book.

Q. I thought you were going to say Playboy.

A. No [laughs].

On race relations, Obama said, ". . . race has been one of the fault lines in American culture and American politics from the start. I never bought into the notion that by electing me, somehow we were entering into a post-racial period."

But, he added, ". . . you shouldn't also underestimate the fact that there are a whole bunch of little white girls and white boys all across the country who just take it for granted that there's an African American president. That's the president they're growing up with, and that's changing attitudes.

"My view on race has always been that it's complicated. It's not just a matter of head — it's a matter of heart. It's about interactions. What happens in the workplace, in schools, on sports fields, and through music and culture shapes racial attitudes as much as any legislation that's passed. I do believe that we're making slow and steady progress. When I talk to Malia and Sasha, the world they're growing up with, with their friends, is just very different from the world that you and I grew up with."

C-SPAN to Air National Black Writers Conference

C-SPAN2 plans to air four panels from the 2012 National Black Writers Conference on Saturday, the network said this week.

The panels, all at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, N.Y., are:

  • A discussion with author and talk show host Tavis Smiley, moderated by journalist Esther Armah

  • "The Impact of Popular Culture on Politics in Literature," with William Jelani Cobb, author and associate professor, Africana Studies, Rutgers University; Keli Goff, author and political analyst; Anthony Grooms, author; Lita Hooper, playwright and poet; Michael Simanga, executive director, National Black Arts Festival; and the Rev. Conrad Tillard, senior pastor, Nazarene Congregational Church, Brooklyn, N.Y. Moderator: Obery Hendricks, professor of New Testament Studies at New York Theological Seminary.

  • "Being Sold or Selling Ourselves: Black Writers and the Marketplace": Regina Brooks, founder and president, Serendipity Literary Agency; JLove Calderon, author; Linda Duggins, director of multicultural publicity, Hachette Book Group; Lisa Moore, founder and editor, RedBone Press; Johnny Temple, publisher and editor-in-chief, Akashic Books; Cheryl Woodruff, associate publisher and president, SmileyBooks. Moderator: Calvin Reid, senior news editor of Publishers Weekly.

  • "The Role of Social Media: Black Writers Take Literature to the Web": Angela Dodson, content manager, Kweli Journal; Troy Johnson, founder and webmaster, African American Literature Book Club; Montague Kobbe, writer and blogger; Akoto Ofori-Atta, assistant editor, the Root; Laura Pegram, founding editor, Kweli Journal; Joel Dreyfuss, senior editor-at-large, the Root. Moderator: Grace Aneiza Ali, founder and editorial director, Of Note online magazine.

Short Takes

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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

I agree with Dr. Boyce

I agree with Dr. Boyce Watkins... it's really not the fact that Bullerdick is white (Essence has had several white staffers throughout its history) , but that he's talking crazy in public. Crazy as defined by the audience, which would be black women.  People don't seem to care about what they say in public anymore. That's the difference between now and back in the day. 

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