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O'Reilly's Comments Left a Bad Taste

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Host Says Restaurant Remark Taken Out of Context

 

 

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News might be a commentator, not a journalist, but he caught the attention of both groups with his remarks about Sylvia's soul food restaurant in Harlem.

His comments generated a number of stories by the Associated Press, reports on the CBS "Early Show" and NBC's "Today" show, back-and-forths on CNN, and a follow-up conversation with Juan Williams of Fox News and National Public Radio. Williams denounced CNN for taking O'Reilly's comments out of context and saw something larger afoot.

In the New York Daily News on Wednesday, Helen Kennedy began her story this way:

"Fox News blowhard Bill O'Reilly really, really needs to get out more.

"After sitting down to eat coconut shrimp at Harlem's most famous soul food restaurant with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the talk show host told his radio listeners he was surprised that Sylvia's was a perfectly normal, civilized restaurant.

"'I couldn't get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia's restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. It was exactly the same, even though it's run by blacks [and has a] primarily black patronship,' O'Reilly said. 'There wasn't one person in Sylvia's who was screaming, "M-Fer, I want more iced tea!"'

"'It was like going into an Italian restaurant in an all-white suburb in the sense of people [who] were sitting there, and they were ordering and having fun. And there wasn't any kind of craziness at all,' he said.

"O'Reilly was apparently trying to say that not all black people are into profane gangsta rap culture.

"The comments, made in an hour-long show about race last Wednesday and then publicized by the liberal watchdog group Media Matters, prompted jeers, outrage and guffaws yesterday."

David Bauder wrote for the Associated Press on Wednesday, "O'Reilly told The Associated Press that Media Matters had 'cherry-picked' remarks out of a broader conversation about racial attitudes. He had told listeners that his grandmother — and many other white Americans — feared blacks because they didn't know any and were swayed by violent images in black culture.

"'If you listened to the full hour, it was a criticism of racism on the part of white Americans who are ignorant of the fact that there is no difference between white and black anymore,' he told the AP. 'Circumstances may be different in their lives but we're all Americans. Anyone who would be offended by that conversation would have to be looking to be offended.'"

O'Reilly had struck back on his "The O'Reilly Factor" Tuesday night, saying, "Well, yesterday, Media Matters distorted the entire conversation and implied I was racist for condemning racism. Stunningly, CNN echoed the defamation on at least three of its programs.

"The reason CNN did this is because its ratings are abysmal. It is getting hammered by FOX News. So they're desperate for attention. And smearing me is one way to get it.

Williams told O'Reilly, "They want to shut you up. They want to shut up anybody who has an honest discussion about race. . . . and wants to speak honestly about the damage being done by the likes of these rappers and these comedians who use the 'N' word..."

On "CNN Newsroom" on Wednesday, black conservative LaShawn Barber sided with O'Reilly. She said, "If you actually listen and read his comments— listen to and read his comments and context, it becomes clear that he and Juan Williams were talking about the violent, profanity-laced element of the gangster rap culture. And Bill O'Reilly was trying to make the point that people— white people who don't know black people or aren't exposed to black people, may get the impression that gangster rap culture represents black Americans."

But Boyce Watkins, a Syracuse University professor, author and blogger, countered, "Well, I think that in controversial comments, you have to consider the context and the character of the commentator. If the villain in a movie comes up and says, I love you very much, that usually means he wants to kill you.

"The fact is that Bill O'Reilly is a guy who has made a career demeaning, degrading and devaluing every black institution he can get his hands on. So this notion that we will perceive him as some sort of remorseful, reformed racist bearing gifts is kind of ridiculous."

On his St. Petersburg Times blog, media critic Eric Deggans also suggested that O'Reilly's past puts his comments in a different context:

"Here's my first column, written in 1999, about how O'Reilly uses racially charged language about gangsta rappers to scare his presumably white viewership and press his points. Here's my second column about O'Reilly's racist rhetorical tricks, employed this time to criticize those stuck in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Here's his response to the Katrina column — a typically personal attack in which he cites his radio comments, not the TV appearance I criticized," he wrote.

"I think these comments are typical of O'Reilly's technique. Too smart to personally use an epithet in the way Don Imus finally did, he instead turns rap culture into a straw man used to represent all of black culture. Then, he's free to tee off on the stereotypical excesses of THAT culture, rather than talk about real, live black people with all their contradictions intact.'"

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Juan Williams "Stunned" by NPR Refusal

Juan Williams said he was "stunned" by National Public Radio's decision to forgo an interview with President Bush because the White House, not NPR, had chosen the interviewer, Howard Kurtz reported Wednesday in the Washington Post. "It makes no sense to me. President Bush has never given an interview in which he focused on race. . . . I was stunned by the decision to turn their backs on him and to turn their backs on me," Kurtz quoted Williams, senior correspondent for NPR, as saying.

Williams did the interview for the Fox News Channel, where he works as a political analyst.

As NPR spokeswoman Andi Sporkin told Journal-isms on Monday night, "Last weekend, the White House offered an interview to Juan for NPR News, to take place today. Instead, we offered more than a dozen show hosts as well as our two White House correspondents. The White House passed without giving us any reason, so we declined the invitation."

Meanwhile, journalists debated the situation.

"I'm not sure I would have made the decision that NPR did, but I do understand part of what may have motivated them— not wanting to undermine beat reporters," one told the National Association of Black Journalists e-mail list. "When I covered Congress, specifically the House . . . Newt Gingrich gave an interview to another . . . reporter he was friendly with, resulting in a story in the paper. I lit into Tony Blankley, then Newt's press secretary and [later] editorial page editor at the Washington Times. It never happened again."

The NPR reporter on the White House beat, Don Gonyea, told Journal-isms he was not involved personally in the dispute, but said, "I actually think the NPR explanation of it pretty much reflects where I'm at. We have a policy with the way we handle interviews and . . . it seems to me we stick with it."

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Houston Readers Campaign to Keep "La Cucaracha"

"The Chronicle recently dropped the comic strip La Cucaracha because the strip was frequently inappropriate for a family newspaper," reader representative James Campbell told his Houston Chronicle readers on his blog last week. "Some Chronicle readers, including many Latinos, did not agree with the decision and have started a campaign to get us to restore the strip to our comics' line-up."

It's not the first time fans of the strip by Lalo Alcaraz have mobilized. In March, the Los Angeles Times responded to an outcry from fans of what its creator has called "the first and only syndicated politically themed Latino-rrific daily comic strip" and quickly reversed its cancellation.

Asked for comment, Alcaraz told Journal-isms on Wednesday, "How about, 'HOUSTON CHRONICLE: ROACHES CHECK IN BUT THEY WON'T CHECK OUT'?

"I heard that one before, Latinos that are offended by every single utterance of mine tend to be Latinos with plenty of time to spend on tormenting me and my editors, because they are at the Happy Meadows Home for the Cranky and Hypersensitive. People around 50 and below tend to be cool with the strip, it's not that outrageous contentwise, just maybe shocking that someone's doing comics with— I use this term loosely, 'edgy' topics. Nothing more edgier than The Daily Show — and certainly not funnier! But how 'bout this one: BUSH VOWS TO BOMB IRAN'S HIGHLY ADVANCED GAYDAR FACILITIES'

"That's considered too edgy for a cartoonist of color, but not for my colleague Garry Trudeau, for SOME reason . . ."

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Postal Stamp to Honor L.A. Times' Ruben Salazar

 

"In honor of trailblazing newsman Ruben Salazar's relentless efforts to chronicle the complexity of race relations in Los Angeles, the U.S. Postal Service in 2008 will issue a commemorative stamp of the former Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist," Louis Sahagun reported Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times.

"'He was a groundbreaker for Latinos in this country, but his work spoke to all Americans,' Postmaster Gen. John E. Potter said Monday. 'By giving voice to those who didn't have one, Ruben Salazar worked to improve life for everybody. His reporting of the Latino experience in this country set a standard that's rarely met even today.'

"It was the way Salazar died that made him a martyr to many in the Mexican American community. His head was shattered by a heavy, torpedo-shaped tear gas projectile fired by a sheriff's deputy during a riot Salazar was covering in East Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 1970.

"Salazar was 42.

"Parks, schools, libraries and highways have been named after Salazar, and books, murals, plays and films have been inspired by his life.

"Media and corporate foundations each year donate millions of dollars to honor Salazar through scholarships and awards.

"Inspired by Salazar's legacy, Sotomayor and the dozen Latino journalists working in Los Angeles at the time formed a professional organization, the California Chicano News Media Assn., to encourage other ethnic minorities to pursue careers in journalism. Over the years, the group, which has since changed it name to CCNMA Latino Journalists of California, has awarded nearly $700,000 in scholarships to 680 students and sponsored 29 journalism opportunity conferences."

The Salazar stamp is to be among five honoring U.S. journalists to be officially unveiled in Washington on Oct. 5, the Times story said. A Postal Service spokesman was unable to say who the others will honor.

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Nick Charles, Formerly at AOL, Lands at BET.Com

 

 

Nick Charles, the editor-in-chief of AOL Black Voices who left abruptly in July, has been named vice president of content for BET Interactive, AOL Black Voices' chief rival.

Both AOL Black Voices and BET.com claim to reach the largest number of African American Web visitors.

"I'm very excited to bring Nick on board," said Denmark West, president of BET Digital Media, in a news release on Monday. "He brings a wealth of experience as a journalist, active member of the community and a Web-savvy programmer. With the addition of Nick Charles, we will build upon recent momentum to reach and engage even more of our audience to cement our current #1 status among African-American entertainment destinations."

Charles succeeds Retha Hill, who left in June to join the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication as director of the New Media Innovation Lab at Arizona State University.

Unlike Hill, who was based in Washington, Charles will be in New York.

Charles was press secretary to the Manhattan borough president and has worked at several publications, including the culture/lifestyle magazine Forward, People, the New York Daily News, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the late Emerge magazine and Newsday.

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Cabrera Leaves as Top Editor of Maryland Paper

Denise Cabrera, longtime Associated Press reporter who left the AP last year to become executive editor of the Frederick (Md.) News-Post, left the newspaper last Thursday because she and the publisher "had differences over leadership in newsroom operations," Cabrera told Journal-isms.

Cabrera was the only black woman ever to be an AP bureau chief when she took the job at the suburban Washington newspaper. Her job as chief of bureau for Maryland and Delaware had been eliminated.

Cabrera, 55, said she was proud of the work she did in Frederick, launching a daily Webcast, training photographers in video production, adding student columnists, publishing the paper's first African American columnist (Sam Bennett, head of the human relations commission in Frederick, every other week), and winning the newspaper of the year award in its circulation category from the Maryland Delaware Press Association.

She said she might not return to a newsroom. "I've been in this for 25 years," she said, "and at the level of executive editor you don't leave the job on the job. I'm at a point where I'd like to leave the job on the job and to some degree have a life."

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"Pacific Time," Asian American Radio Show, to End

"KQED has canceled 'Pacific Time,' the only nationally syndicated public radio program about Asian American affairs," Joe Garofoli reported Wednesday in the San Francisco Chronicle. "The last installment of the 7-year-old program, which reached about 160,000 listeners weekly on 19 stations, is set to air Oct. 11.

 

Oanh Ha

"The cancellation is another retrenchment by mainstream news operations in overseas and cultural reporting.

"'This was not a decision that was based on content (of the show),' said Raul Ramirez, executive director, news and public affairs for KQED public radio. 'It was based on financial considerations.'

"The program was estimated to cost roughly $550,000 this fiscal year, and KQED, which had been picking up one-third to one-half of the show's production costs, was unable to do so again. During the past seven years, the station has used $2.4 million from its Campaign for the Future, a fund designed to subsidize new and emerging programs, to help pay for 'Pacific Time.' But that fund is depleted, station officials said, which would have left KQED about $250,000 short on the show's production costs for the forthcoming year."

The Asian American Journalists Association said in a statement:

"Pacific Time has allowed people to learn about the many issues related to Asia and Asian American communities. The producers, hosts and reporters consistently pulled together programming that was extraordinary in terms of variety and depth. This is a tremendous loss of a resource for the public. We hope that news media across the country can make up for the loss by examining what Pacific Time did so well and incorporating news stories that promote understanding between cultures and countries."

"Former host Nguyen Qui Duc and current host K. Oanh Ha are AAJA members."

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Washington Times Scolds GOP Over Blacks, Latinos

The conservative Washington Times has joined critics of the front-running GOP presidential candidates for failing to participate in Tavis Smiley's"All-American Presidential Forum" to be held Thursday at Morgan State Unviersity in Baltimore, and broadcast on PBS.

"The top Republican presidential contenders should demand a refund for the millions they are paying in consultant fees. Or perhaps launch a round of mass firings for the unbelievably foolish advice they are getting from their advisers who are bent on ignoring the population's fastest growing demographic groups," the paper, which boasts it is the favorite of Republican administrations, editorialized Tuesday.

"It is astounding that any strategist would condone ignoring more than a quarter of the American population. Yet that is exactly what Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, Mitt Romney and John McCain are doing.

"It is striking that the Republican frontrunners believe that some run-of-the mill fund-raiser is more important than building up their relationships with black and Hispanic voters, groups who flock to the Democratic Party in droves. And yet it doesn't seem like these Republicans candidates seem to mind.

". . . If the Republican Party hopes to make any gains among minorities, it must stop undervaluing these voting blocs. The snubbings will result in a continued drubbing at the polls, just as we saw in 2006. We're giving this advice free of charge: Stop giving the party a bad name."

[On Thursday, the day of the event, the Baltimore Sun ran an op-ed by Smiley, "Candidates should be like Ike and do the right thing," and another by Douglas MacKinnon, a former White House and Pentagon official, "Missed opportunity for outreach." The Los Angeles Times had a news story by Peter Wallsten, "A topic for GOP candidates: Do minorities matter?"]

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Chicago Police Seek Missing Woman, Find Car

 

 

Nailah Franklin, a 2001 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who helped start the student NABJ chapter at that school, disappeared in Chicago last week.

Franklin, 28, now an Eli Lilly and Co. pharmaceutical representative, has been missing since Sept. 18, the Chicago Tribune reported. "Police found Nailah's vehicle near an abandoned building and recovered some of her personal belongings there. The information led them to a nearby pond at a golf course, but they did not find anything there, authorities said," Emma Graves Fitzsimmons wrote Saturday in the Tribune. Police have launched a missing persons investigation.

[Jeremy Gorner reported Thursday morning on the Tribune's Web site: "A body was found this morning in an area of Calumet City where police have been searching for Nailah Franklin, a Chicago woman missing for about a week. Calumet City police could not specify the gender of the body found in the area of the Wentworth Woods Forest Preserve. Chicago police also were on the scene."]

"Nailah was one of the first students to contact me when I began efforts to charter a student chapter of NABJ at the University of Illinois in 1997," Raven L. Hill, a reporter at the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, told Journal-isms. "She was a bubbly freshman, always smiling, and a hard worker. It has been very hard to read the news reports about her disappearance."

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Short Takes

  • In news and documentary Emmy awards handed out Monday night in New York, "Ann Curry's reporting from Darfur on the 'NBC Nightly News' won one of the top awards, best story in a newscast. The late Ed Bradley was honored for one of his last reports, a '60 Minutes' investigation on the unraveling Duke University rape case. The top documentary awards went to Cinemax Reel Life for 'God Sleeps in Rwanda' and to the Documentary Channel for 'Shake Hands With the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire. Both dealt with the Rwandian genocide of the 1990s," Paul J. Gough wrote for the Hollywood Reporter.

 

Wanda Lloyd

  • "Joe Grimm, recruiting and development editor at the Detroit Free Press, and Wanda Lloyd, executive editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, have been named winners of the sixth annual Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership," the Freedom Forum announced on Tuesday. "The two will be honored for their outstanding leadership in newspaper newsroom diversity at the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) convention Oct. 5 in Washington, D.C. The awards are given by APME and the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in partnership with the Freedom Forum, which provides funding. Each honoree receives $2,500 and a sculpture."
  • "Television newscaster Mirthala Salinas, who was suspended without pay for two months in August after her affair with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa became public, is scheduled to return to work Monday. But she won't be taking up her old job as a fill-in anchor on evening newscasts for KVEA-TV Channel 52," Duke Helfand and Meg James reported Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times. "Instead, executives with the Spanish-language Telemundo network confirmed Monday that Salinas would be sent to the station's Inland Empire bureau in Riverside as a general assignment reporter, a notable fall for a one-time rising star who has become one of the most recognizable faces in local Spanish-language television."
  •  

 

Michel du Cille

  • "Michel du Cille, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and longtime editor and photographer at The Washington Post, has been named assistant managing editor for photography, it was announced yesterday," Joe Holley and Martin Weil reported Wednesday in the Post. Du Cille, 51, is a native of Kingston, Jamaica. "At a time of enthusiastic response to photography on The Post's Web site, washingtonpost.com, he said, his department will carry 'increased responsibility to provide great journalism' in print and online." Du Cille joins Shirley Carswell (administration), Deborah Heard (Style), Emilio Garcia-Ruiz (Sports), Don Podesta (copy desks) and Sandra Sugawara (financial news) as journalists of color among the Post's 14 assistant managing editors. Milton Coleman is deputy managing editor.
  • "Chauncey Bailey, slain editor of the Oakland Post, has been named Journalist of the Year by the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists for his fierce commitment to investigative journalism in the face of personal danger," the Society of Professional Journalists for Northern California announced on Saturday.
  • Mayor Murphy McMillan of Jena, La., told Farai Chideya of National Public Radio's "News & Notes" that a white supremacist group, the Nationalist Movement in Learned, Miss., had misused his words. "I do not want my name or my town associated in any way with any white supremacist group or any group that preaches race hate," McMillan said on Tuesday.
  • Ervin Dyer, who has been a feature writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and president of the Pittsburgh Black Media Federation, is joining the University of Pittsburgh's Pitt Magazine as a senior editor, effective Oct. 1. Dyer has also worked as a writer and editor at the Dallas Times Herald and the Washington Post, and teaches feature writing.

As the military junta in Burma cracks down on demonstrations by monks and opponents, Reporters Without Borders notes that six Burmese journalists are in jail in the country. Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association are calling for their release.

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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