Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Parren Mitchell Died With Lawsuit Intact

Send by email
Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ex-Congressman's Family Claimed Privacy Invaded



Parren J. Mitchell, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and Maryland's first African American member of Congress, died on Monday with his lawsuit intact that had sought $251 million in damages from the Baltimore Sun and two reporters who, the lawsuit charged, violated his privacy as he lay ailing in a nursing home.

"The family was still pressing the case," Ivan Penn, a former Sun reporter who now works at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, told Journal-isms on Thursday.

It could not be determined whether Mitchell's death changes the status of the lawsuit. Larry S. Gibson, Mitchell's lawyer, told Journal-isms on Friday that he was coordinating the funeral arrangements. "The focus is not on the suit, but on a proper memorial service," he said. "I frankly would prefer to complete that on Tuesday before commenting."

The lawsuit was filed in 2002 after Penn and Walter F. Roche, who now works in the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times, interviewed Mitchell in his nursing home for a story about the handling of his finances by a nephew.

Columnist Wiley A. Hall III wrote in the Baltimore Afro-American at the time that the family members had a point. The Sun disagreed.

The Sun was investigating reports that Mitchell was teetering perilously on the brink of financial ruin at the hands of his nephew Michael Mitchell, who had power of attorney over Parren Mitchell's estate. Michael Mitchell, the paper said, was disbarred after his conviction in 1988 for stealing money from a client, the 3-year-old son of a murder victim.

The suit alleges that Roche and Penn entered Mitchell's nursing home room without permission and refused to leave when he asked them to do so.

"The reporters allegedly identified themselves to the extraordinarily gullible nursing home staff as 'visitors' instead of as journalists. Penn, who is African American, signed the guest register, which might easily create the impression that he was a relative or family friend. Roche, who is White, never signed in at all, leaving the impression, I suppose, that he was Penn's chauffeur or traveling secretary," Hall recounted in the Afro.

"First, let's dispose of the easy stuff," Hall, a former columnist for the old Baltimore Evening Sun, wrote. "Baltimore Sun reporters violated both the ethical canons of journalism and the dictates of common decency when they finagled their way into the nursing home room of ailing Parren J. Mitchell on May 29."

William K. Marimow, the editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer who was then editor of the Sun, defended the stories as "accurate, thorough and fair. These two reporters, Wally Roche and Ivan Penn, in my opinion, are models of professionalism and integrity," Marimow said then.

When the lawsuit was filed five years ago, the Baltimore City Paper's Michael Anft miscalculated when he wrote, "I doubt we'll be hearing much about it. The case should be dismissed soon at the courthouse bearing his brother's name."

Mitchell, who was 85, was a former chairman of the Black Caucus and a member of a family "once regarded as the Black Kennedys," in the words of Hall's piece, and was the University of Maryland's first black graduate student, an honor he earned after suing the school to gain admission.

He served in Congress from 1971 to 1986, and his victory made him the first African American since 1898 to win election to Congress from a state below the Mason-Dixon line.

Most remembrances of the Democrat, who died Monday of complications from pneumonia, were of a champion of social justice and, particularly, of minority enterprise.

Veteran journalist Jackie Jones, a writing coach who has worked at the Washington Post, Detroit Free Press, Philadelphia Daily News and other media outlets, recalled for Journal-isms his effect on her as a young journalist:

"As a young tape editor at Mutual Black Network in the mid-70s, I interviewed Parren a lot. He and John Conyers were always accessible to us, even when others felt the network was small potatoes, especially next to our parent company, and would give interviews elsewhere. As a young reporter, I continued to call upon Parren a lot, for background as well as direct interviews, about the CBC's perspective on a wide range of legislation," referring to the Congressional Black Caucus.

"One day, though, I was frustrated and just feeling that I may have made a mistake by going into journalism. I was thinking of quitting and going off into another field entirely. I mentioned it to Parren while talking to him at a CBC event. He stopped and sat down with me for about 20 minutes to tell me why I should stay in the business. 'You can't quit,' he said. 'We need you.'

"I'd heard that line before from others, but no one had put it into historical or political perspective the way Parren did. It really helped me rededicate myself to journalism. I'd have to say I've had a pretty decent career. Maybe it wouldn't have panned out that way if we hadn't had that conversation." [Updated June 1]

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Stand on Imus Gains NABJ $100,000 Gift

A black millionaire donated $100,000 to the National Association of Black Journalists in admiration of the stand the association took in demanding the firing of radio host Don Imus, Barbara Ciara, the organization's vice president for broadcast, said on Thursday.

The millionaire, who did not want his name disclosed, saw NABJ's initial news release denouncing Imus for disparaging the Rutgers women's basketball team and subsequent television appearances by Ciara and NABJ President Bryan Monroe and wanted to associate himself with the cause, Ciara said. Imus was fired.

Ciara mentioned the donation, made through the man's foundation, in an e-mail urging support for her candidacy as president of the organization. "The voice of Barbara Ciara on behalf of NABJ was powerful — not only did the pressure from the organization help take Imus off the air, but NABJ was the recipient of an unsolicited $100,000 contribution from a philanthropist who was 'simply impressed' with the effort," she wrote.

"It's inspiring because sometimes you beat on a door and you don't think anyone's listening," Ciara told Journal-isms. At the NABJ board's recent meeting in Chicago, the two $50,000 "checks were passed all around," she said.

While Ciara did not disclose the man's name, she said he was not familiar to her, and it was not Bob Johnson, the mega-rich founder of Black Entertainment Television.

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Hernandez Steps Down at L.A. Times METPRO



Efrain Hernandez, director of the METPRO training program at the Los Angeles Times for nearly five years, is stepping down to become L.A. Regions editor.

He will be "helping us to stay on top of the 'big picture' stories in our coverage of the suburbs, with a focus on the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys," Janet Clayton, assistant managing editor for state and local news, told staff members on Tuesday.

The memo also confirmed that Mai Tran, said to be the paper's only Vietnamese speaking reporter, is among the 57 news employees who are leaving after the company extended buyout offers.

Hernandez told Journal-isms he sought a new assignment. The METPRO program "continues in a restructured form. Some METPRO participants will train at the L.A. Times and some will go directly to other Tribune newspapers. The company tried that approach in Chicago and Fort Lauderdale during the past year. Other Tribune papers plan to go that route moving forward," he said.

As reported last year, the Metpro program, which has trained 240 journalists of color over the last two decades as reporters and copy editors, was being reorganized.

Instead of the reporting program taking place for 10 months at the Los Angeles Times and 14 months at a second Tribune Co. newspaper, the trainees were to spend six months at the Times and 18 months at a second newspaper. As an experiment, two of the 10 Tribune papers — the Chicago Tribune and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel— were to train the journalists at their own papers.

"At the moment it looks like I'll stay involved with the training to some degree along with Randy Hagihara and perhaps others," Hernandez told Journal-isms. "I tried my best to do some good. In recent days, many reporters, editors, and senior managers have reached out to tell me that they appreciated the high standards they saw in the way I ran the program for Tribune Company. Those comments certainly have meant a lot to me. The new position as L.A. Regional Editor gives me a fresh challenge as the Times moves to provide greater local coverage while addressing the various issues facing the industry."

In another move announced in Clayton's memo, "Ann Simmons, a California staff writer until she joined National in New Orleans last year, will return to the L.A.-based staff. Ann, who's written extensively about the slow rebuilding effort and the huge challenges facing New Orleans, will return to general assignment for now. Before working in the California section, Ann was based in Nairobi and Johannesburg for the Times. She worked for seven years as a correspondent for Time Magazine. Ann is a graduate of the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England," Clayton wrote.

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Marcus Mabry Leaves Newsweek for N.Y. Times

Marcus Mabry, chief of correspondents at Newsweek magazine, is joining the New York Times Business Day section as an editor overseeing international business coverage, Larry Ingrassia, New York Times business editor, told the staff on Friday.

Mabry has been at Newsweek since 1989.

"Marcus will replace Sheryl WuDunn, who after two years in Business Day and a celebrated 17-year career in various roles at the Times, recently left the paper to pursue a book project and new adventures on Wall Street," Ingrassia said.

"Marcus brings a wealth of reporting, editing and management experience to his new role. He is a former foreign correspondent, based in Paris and Johannesburg, who in recent years has managed the magazine's various domestic and foreign bureaus (when he was not pinch-hitting as a section editor and editor of Newsweek International, or overseeing the magazine¹s polling and internship program).

"He also just recently published a biography, 'Twice As Good: Condoleezza Rice and Her Path To Power.'" He co-chaired the National Association of Black Journalists' Lesbian and Gay Task Force when it was organized in 2005. [Added June 1]

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Jones to Manage News for Fox Business Channel



Brian Jones, vice president of news for Fox News Channel, has been named senior vice president of operations for the upcoming Fox Business Channel, Fox announced on Wednesday.

"Jones will manage the news gathering and be responsible for the staffing and operations on the production side, as well as the acquisition of financial data," the announcement said. He is to report to Kevin Magee, executive vice president of Fox News.

Jones, 46, began his career as a news producer at KTUL-TV in Tulsa, Okla. As vice president of news for Fox News Channel, he was responsible for new product and business development. "From 2002-2003, he was the Director of Communications for McGraw-Hill Companies and before that, he was Vice President of SkyGlobal Networks where he was part of the acquisition and integration team when News Corporation acquired DirecTV. From 1997-1999, Jones served as the Vice President of News Gathering for FNC," according to the release.

Fox Business Channel, which is reportedly launching in the fourth quarter, is designed to compete with CNBC and may complement News Corp. owner Rupert Murdoch's plans to acquire the Wall Street Journal.

"Today, Murdoch sees a globalized world where financial information is the coin of the realm. The 2005 acquisition of MySpace signaled a late-life conversion to the power and possibilities of the Web. And each morning as he read The Wall Street Journal, Murdoch dreamed of exploiting the newspaper's high-caliber business journalism and deploying it to nourish his online, satellite, and television properties, which this autumn will include the Fox Business Channel," Business Week reported in its May 14 issue.

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Detroit TV Reporter Takes Leave to Find Killer

"Bill Proctor of Detroit's ABC affiliate, WXYZ TV, will soon be missing from his long-time position as Senior Staff Reporter on the station's morning newscast," Proctor said in a news release. "On May 31st, Proctor will begin a special unpaid leave of absence — a journey — to pursue what has become a day-by-day personal crusade for justice.

"More than a dozen years ago, Proctor produced a series of reports for WXYZ TV's Action News on the broad daylight murder of 21-year-old Scott Macklem of Croswell, MI. The young college student and expectant father was cut down in the parking lot of St. Claire County Community College in Port Huron around 9am, November 5th, 1986. His father was Croswell's mayor at the time.

"'I've stepped up the fight to save what's left of a man's life, and to find a killer who's been free for more than 20 years,' says Proctor." Proctor said he believes a man convicted of the killing is innocent.

Ronald Smothers Leaving N.Y. Times After 35 Years




After 35 years as a reporter at the New York Times, Ronald Smothers is leaving to teach at the University of Delaware, the university announced on Tuesday. He most recently has covered New Jersey.

"For the last five or so years I have been thinking about leaving daily journalism and usually the question was what would I do," Smothers, 60, told Journal-isms.

"I had that question answered for me some time ago [in] 1999 when I got the opportunity to teach a course of my own design called 'Race and the Media' at Rutgers-Newark. It is a history of journalism course that combines some critical analysis of current news coverage on race, a look at how the business has struggled with absorbing and holding a black perspective on news.

"I taught the course one semester a year for five years and enjoyed it immensely. After that I had an idea of what life after the New York Times might look like and I began in earnest a year or so ago to seek out possible academic outlets for not only my 'Race and the Media' course but some way to engage journalists-in-training with some of the standards of balanced news coverage with historical perspective that I have found to serve me well in my 40-year career with news organizations.

"I will be teaching a basic news writing course and a seminar-type course based on an updated version of the 'Race and the Media' course. Also I will be looking for research and other writing opportunities that I can pursue and which hopefully could dovetail with the teaching. The University of Delaware's journalism 'program' now exists within the school's English Department — a location that an old English major like myself finds a comfortable one. They are looking to expand the program into a minor concentration still within the English Department and it is my hope that I can contribute to that transition."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Internet Radio Stations Said to Be in Danger

"A ruling by an obscure regulatory agency threatens to silence thousands of Internet radio stations. After intense lobbying from the recording industry, the Copyright Royalty Board (CRB) is about to mandate exponential increases — by as much as 1,200 percent — in royalties paid every time webcasters stream a song online," according to Free Press, a media advocacy group.

"If these unfair rules are allowed to go into effect on July 15, many public, independent and smaller Internet radio stations will have to shut down. At stake is the diversity of musical choice that the Internet has come to represent for more than 50 million listeners.

"Congress must stop this bad rule and replace it with a system that both pays artists and fosters more diverse Internet radio programming. We must rapidly mobilize support for new legislation that will rescue Internet radio before it's too late."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

N.Y. Times Calls Lou Dobbs "Flat-Out Wrong"

New York Times reporter David Leonhardt challenged CNN's Lou Dobbs on the figures one of his correspondents has been citing in Dobbs' crusade against illegal immigrants.

"In the report, one of Mr. Dobbs's correspondents said there had been 7,000 cases of leprosy in this country over the previous three years, far more than in the past," Leonhardt wrote on Wednesday.

"Well, I can tell you this," Dobbs told Lesley Stahl on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes." "If we reported it, itâ??s a fact."

"Mr. Dobbs was flat-out wrong. And when I spoke to him yesterday, he admitted as much, sort of," Leonhardt continued.

Dobbs replied on CNN Wednesday to what he said was "primarily a personal attack":

"That columnist also said I gave air time to white supremacists, and mentions one by name: Madeleine Cosman, who wrote the article that Christine Romans used as a source for her later leprosy statement.

"The fact is, I made a mistake, and I've said we would never have used her as a source if we had known of her controversial background two years ago, at the time of the offending ad-lib. But the columnist fails to note that his own paper wrote a glowing obituary of Madeleine Cosman when she died last year," Dobbs said.

Meanwhile, Brian Stelter reported on his TV Newser site, "It can now be said: Lou Dobbs has the top-rated show on CNN in the 25-54 demographic.

"Perhaps [in] the most dramatic proof yet of Dobbs' success, the newsman delivered more demo viewers than perennial first place host Larry King in the month of May."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Thompson's Stance on Black Nominee Recalled

"It was early 1995, and Nashville's Dr. Henry Foster," an African American, "was on his quest to become U.S. surgeon general. A night or two before his first Senate hearing, Sen. Bill Frist invited Foster to his Washington home for dinner," columnist Dwight Lewis wrote May 10 in the Nashville Tennessean.

"'He looked at my record here in Tennessee, and it was all positive, and he had the courage to break with his party and vote his conscience,' Foster, an obstetrician-gynecologist, recalled recently. Frist was one of only two Republicans in the Republican-controlled Senate who supported Foster's nomination by President Bill Clinton.

"Tennessee's junior senator at the time, Fred Thompson, who now may be nearing a run for the Republican presidential nomination, never issued such an invitation to Foster. In fact, Thompson helped kill Foster's chances of becoming the nation's top health spokesman when, in June of that year, the Senate refused to break a filibuster blocking a vote on the nomination."

USA Today reported on Thursday that in an interview, "the former Tennessee senator not only makes it clear that he plans to run, he describes how he aims to do it."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Black Men's Mags Look for Different "Supermodels"

"BlackMen operates out of a bland Paramus, New Jersey, office building, across the street from a Staples store," Ben Westhoff wrote Tuesday in the Village Voice in a piece called "End Run: How a few black publishers are making a play for the Maxim man."

"Sharing the building are publishers of niche porn titles like Plumpers and Mature Nymphos.

"Founded in 1998, BlackMen once featured supermodels, celebrities, and toned fitness models." But fashion editor Marcus Blassingame "says he began to question that strategy after a fateful haircut.

"'Guys in the barbershop talk about everything from cars, sports, and finances to women,' Blassingame says, sitting in his conference room on a recent afternoon, clad in a matching gold Adidas jacket and tennis shoes. 'Now, the one type of women they don't talk about are supermodels.'

"He realized that the men at the barbershop were his target demographic, but they talked about a very different type of woman than the sort that was gracing the front of his magazine. It was the women they saw gyrating in music videos on BET that got their attention, he says, as well as the women walking by on the street outside the shop. Lenny Hansen, longtime owner of the Cutting Room, the Harlem clip joint where Blassingame sometimes gets his fade, confirms his client's observation. 'Fat asses and pretty faces' get the greatest response from his patrons, Hansen says."

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others.

Tammy Carter Writes Last Orlando Sentinel Column



Orlando Sentinel columnist Tammy L. Carter announced to readers on Thursday that she was writing her last Sentinel column. The paper is in the middle of a reorganization that includes buyouts to reduce the staff size.

"If you have read any of my columns since August 2005, you know that I have a soft spot for New Orleans," wrote Carter, who is also a board member of the National Association of Black Journalists. "My family moved there in 1976 when I was 13. I went to high school and college there, and worked there. My daughter was born there. My husband is a native.

"I haven't been the same since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and displaced residents such as my parents and my mother-in-law. Whenever I wrote about my displeasure at the stalled rebuilding efforts, a few readers would tell me: 'If you're so concerned about New Orleans, why don't you go back?'

"Now I will. The newsroom's reorganization has given me the chance to return to New Orleans so I can help it rebuild and document the process."

In another medium, director Jonathan Demme has been presenting a week-long series on post-Katrina New Orleans called "Right to Return: New Home Movies from the Lower 9th Ward" on "The Tavis Smiley Show" on PBS.

Short Takes


  • Jewel Gwendolyn Price Ross McKenzie, one of the first black journalists hired by the Dallas Morning News and one of the first black journalists to work in an editing position at the newspaper, died Thursday of complications of dementia at her Dallas home, Joe Simnacher reported in the Morning News on Monday. She was 90. "There hasn't been much coverage of her being a pioneer journalist because she was always reporting about somebody else," retired journalist Norma Adams-Wade said in the story.
  • "More than 30 journalists have been killed in the past six years in Mexico, including a television reporter in Acapulco and a print journalist in the northern state of Sonora . . . Countless others have been kidnapped in a campaign of intimidation largely attributed to the drug cartels," Manuel Roig-Franzia reported Wednesday in the Washington Post. "As more reporters die, journalism itself is suffering."
  • "The first thing I want my readers to know, is that I didn't have anything to do with the . . . headline in print editions today on the John Winter story: He Died of Shame," media critic Eric Deggans wrote Wednesday on his St. Petersburg Times blog. "Ironically, the point of that story was that suicide is rarely the result of a single event, particularly when the person has been struggling with depression" the way Winter, a television weatherman, was.
  • The Chicago Defender's new executive editor, Lou Ransom, "has told individual staffers that a change in frequency to once or twice weekly is on its way, according to people familiar with the situation. Ransom, who did not return a phone message seeking comment, has not indicated when the paper may cease publishing daily, these people add," Mark Fitzgerald reported Wednesday in Editor & Publisher.
  • When Indian tribes begin to disenroll members, "As reporters, we have to ask ourselves: What are disenrollment stories really about? Are they about politics? Greed? Identity? Racism?" Jody Rave wrote Tuesday for the Poynter Institute. "Some of these elements exist in all the stories. And they can be present in the views of those accused of greed or racism, as well as those affected by these actions. For the journalist, it becomes important to start the reporting process by understanding the background of each tribe. That includes treaties and agreements that helped shape each tribe into the political entity that exists today." Rove, a columnist for the Missoulian in Montana, went on to list background sources.
  • Lloyd LaCuesta, South Bay bureau chief of KTVU-TV in the San Francisco Bay Area, and founding president of the Asian American Journalists Association, is to be honored in the communications category Sunday when Filipinas Magazine, which says it is the only nationally circulated Filipino magazine in America, recognizes 12 Filipino achievers.
  • "After nearly three months without a full-time reporter covering Washington, D.C., the Star Tribune has made a hire — and its newest reporter won't need long to get up to speed: Kevin Diaz, who left the paper to stay with McClatchy following the March sale of the Star Tribune, has accepted the position of chief correspondent, Paul Schmelzer reported Wednesday for Minnesota Monitor, speaking of the Minneapolis newspaper.
  • "Edward Bradley, who served as vice president and general manager of local CBS-affiliate KSLA, is now publisher and majority owner of The Mirror Weekly Observer. The free newspaper debuted Thursday with a mission to "deliver compelling news, information and entertainment to the African-American community" of Shreveport, La., Velda Hunter reported Friday in the Shreveport Times.
  • Jon Friedman said he asked former Newsweek editor Mark Whitaker, newly named the No. 2 person at NBC News, how he'll judge whether his time at NBC was a success. "He said that it will occur when 'people will feel that NBC is hot and it's on a roll,'" Friedman said on Wednesday on the MarketWatch Web site.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.