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Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Diversity, Future of Tabloid Among Staff Worries

Press Corps Describes Thin-Skinned White House

Website's Mix-Up of Obama, Malcolm X Explained

Seizure of Blogger's Computers Could Test Shield Law

News Director Apologizes for Video of Suspect's Widow

Tips for Covering Arizona Immigration Bill Story

Pittsburgh Courier's Evelyn Cunningham Dies at 94

Michael J. Feeney Named NABJ's "Emerging Journalist"

"Dateline" Look at Detroit Might Have Silver Lining

Short Takes

Philadelphia Daily News reporters Barbara Laker, left, and Wendy Ruderman, and Daily News Editor Michael Days react earlier in the month to the news of their Pulitzer Prize for investigative work. Despite staff concerns, Robert J. Hall, chief operating officer under the Philadelphia papers' new ownership, said, "The Daily News is a very important part of this organization." (Credit: Sarah J. Glover/Philadelphia Daily News)

Diversity, Future of Tabloid Among Staff Worries

With the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News auctioned on Wednesday to creditors, the future of the Daily News, the afternoon tabloid, and diversity efforts were among staffers' concerns as the papers transition to new ownership.

"A marathon auction for Philadelphia's two daily newspapers came to an end Wednesday afternoon, after taking tumultuous twists and turns," as the Associated Press reported Wednesday from New York.

"In the end, the creditors placed the winning bid at a deal worth nearly $139 million, beating out Philadelphia-area philanthropists who joined forces to fight them in the bankruptcy bidding war, Brian P. Tierney, CEO of Philadelphia Newspapers L.L.C. announced."

"We didn't make it," Tierney said in a quote posted on the newspapers' website, philly.com. "I think I'll go home tonight and sleep like a baby, which means I'll wake up every hour crying."

The sale is contingent on a successful confirmation hearing in bankruptcy court on May 25.

Regina Medina, a Daily News reporter who has been active in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, told Journal-isms that many staffers wondered what the new owners would do with the Daily News. However, Medina said, she was not, because "the Daily News has a loyalty that's very fierce. I think people hug the Daily News like a person."

Her confidence appeared to be justified.

"Robert J. Hall, an adviser to the creditors' committee who served as publisher of The Inquirer and Daily News for 13 years until he retired in 2003, said he will be chief operating officer under the new ownership," Christopher K. Hepp and Harold Brubaker reported for the Inquirer.

"He said that the company would hire a new chief executive officer and publisher, and that the new owners had someone in mind.

"Hall said the Daily News, which two weeks ago won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting, would remain in operation. 'The Daily News is a very important part of this organization,' he said.

"But Hall noted that there would have to be concessions made on the part of the publishing company's unions."

Deirdre M. Childress, editor of the Home & Design section at the Inquirer and vice president/print of the National Association of Black Journalists, noted that for journalists of color, diversity is a key issue. "It's an excellent time for the Newspaper Guild, for diversity to be a part of the contract as well as seniority," she said.

When the Inquirer cut back its staff in 2007, NABJ said it was "dismayed that black journalists at The Philadelphia Inquirer were twice as likely to be laid off as their white counterparts, according to reports today. . . . Early reports indicate that as many as 14-16 black journalists were among those laid off, or as much as 22.5 percent of the overall layoffs.

Some decisions were reversed, but staffers have said that although there are news managers of color at both papers, including Daily News Editor Michael Days and Inquirer Editorial Page Editor Harold Jackson, diversity is in retrenchment.

Overall, the Inquirer reported 14.8 percent journalists of color in the 2009 survey of the American Society of News Editors; the Daily News reported 19.8 percent. In 2010, it was 20 percent at the Daily News and 14 percent at the Inquirer.

In a message to members of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia/CWA Local 38010, Dan Gross, president, and Bill Ross, executive director, said, "Guild leaders who attended the auction spoke with agents for the lending group, including longtime Philadelphia Newspapers Publisher Bob Hall, about our desire to promptly begin bargaining a fair contract for our members. We anticipate Mr. Hall to take a lead role in our contract talks to begin in a few weeks and ask the members to please stay calm, stay strong and stay focused, as we approach contract negotiations."

Asked whether diversity would be among the contract topics, Gross told Journal-isms, "We have a number of issues we expect to get into at the bargaining table but don't intend to negotiate through the media just yet."

The AP said, "According to Hall, creditors during the auction dropped a plan to fire all 4,500 full- and part-time employees before rehiring half or more. Company officials disclosed this week that the plan was part of the creditors' opening bid. The news prompted outrage, and talk of a strike, from members of the company's 14 labor unions.

" 'It was blown out of proportion,' Hall said, adding that any winning bidder would likely have to reduce staff given unrelenting industry woes. 'Every newspaper in the country is reducing operations.' "

At a December briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs advised April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks, center, to 'take a deep breath.'

 

Press Corps Describes Thin-Skinned White House

"President Obama and the media actually have a surprisingly hostile relationship — as contentious on a day-to-day basis as any between press and president in the last decade, reporters who cover the White House say," Josh Gerstein and Patrick Gavin reported Wednesday in a lengthy piece for Politico. "Reporters say the White House is thin-skinned, controlling, eager to go over their heads and stingy with even basic information. All White Houses try to control the message. But this White House has pledged to be more open than its predecessors — and reporters feel it doesn’t live up to that pledge in several key areas:
  • "Day-to-day interaction with Obama is almost non-existent, and he talks to the press corps far less often than Bill Clinton or even George W. Bush did. Clinton took questions nearly every weekday, on average. Obama barely does it once a week.

  • "The ferocity of pushback is intense. A routine press query can draw a string of vitriolic emails. A negative story can draw a profane high-decibel phone call ‚Äî or worse. Some reporters feel like they‚Äôve been frozen out after crossing the White House.

  • "Except for a few reporters, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs can be distant and difficult to reach ‚Äîeven though his job is to be one of the main conduits from president to press. 'It‚Äôs an odd White House where it‚Äôs easier to get the White House chief of staff on the phone than the White House press secretary,' one top reporter said.

  • "And at the very moment many reporters feel shut out, one paper - the New York Times ‚Äî enjoys a favoritism from Obama and his staff that makes competitors fume, with gift-wrapped scoops and loads of presidential face-time."
". . . Last year, Times reporter Helene Cooper was the target of a fusillade of complaints from Obama staffers and was for a time essentially frozen out by the administration, several colleagues said. Recently, a story by [David] Sanger and Thom Shanker about an Iran policy memo from Defense Secretary Robert Gates received a public drubbing from Gibbs.

"Gibbs said he recalled complaints about a story Cooper wrote from Japan that 'had a bent nobody else’s story had. The bent was also wrong.'

"Cooper was matter of fact when asked about her run-ins with the White House. 'We cover the White House. Sometimes they like what we do. Sometimes they don’t. That’s just the way it is,' she said, declining to elaborate. . . "

(Credit: Gawker.com)

Website's Mix-Up of Obama, Malcolm X Explained

"The Washington Post Cannot Tell Obama From Malcolm X," read a headline on Gawker.com that ricocheted Tuesday night around the Internet. It appeared that the headline's conclusion, about a photo mix-up on the Post website, got ahead of any verifiable facts.

"This was just a copy/paste error and a piece of code wasn't properly changed. You can actually see the error corrected on Gawker," Kris Coratti, a Post spokeswoman, told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

She attached a letter from managing editor Raju Narisetti to Dan Amira, an assistant editor at New York magazine, who did inquire about how the error happened:

"Dear Mr Amira

"Thank you for writing to us. The image you were sent is about the story titled Malcolm X assassin is paroled. Here is the link to that story:

"http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/04/27/AR2010042702985.html?hpid=artslot

"That image and the story are still in our 'flipper' on the home page (use the right arrow to scroll to it) right now.

"There was a period earlier today when the Obama story headline was pasted in incorrectly into the flipper by a homepage producer when there was a live event and as a result it didn't pick up the relevant image above it and there was a mismatch between the image flipper and the headlines under it. It was later fixed.

"Thank you
"Raju Narisetti
"Managing Editor"

Seizure of Blogger's Computers Could Test Shield Law

Police have halted their examination of blogger Jason Chen's computers while authorities determine whether he is covered under the shield law for journalists."When Gizmodo editor Jason Chen somehow secured a next-generation iPhone, took it apart, and posted about it on the Gawker-owned tech blog, he probably did not anticipate that police would search his home and seize his computer," Max Fisher wrote Tuesday on the Atlanticwire blog.

"According to the warrant issued on Friday evening, California police believe the computer was used in committing a felony related to the iPhone, which was possibly stolen or purchased illegally. Gawker Chief Operating Office Gaby Darbyshire contests the seizure, saying that Chen is protected as a journalist. The incident has raised a litany of legal questions. Who counts as a journalist? If the gadget was stolen, is Chen complicit in that theft?"

Alejandro Mart??nez-Cabrera reported for the San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday that the examination of the computers and devices seized Friday "has been put on hold while authorities discuss whether the operation conflicted with California's shield law."

News Director Apologizes for Video of Suspect's Widow

Lishan Wang "Writing [apologies] is one of the hardest notes to write. But clearly in this case we owe you, our viewers of CBS Atlanta and users of CBSAtlanta.com, an apology," Steve Schwaid, director of news and digital content at Atlanta's WGCL-TV, wrote on Wednesday.

"Last night we aired a story about a local man charged with murdering another man in Connecticut. Connecticut authorities arrested 44-year-old Lishan Wang on Monday. Wang is from Cobb County and is accused of shooting and killing a Yale University doctor.

"Since this was also a local story, we went to Wang’s Cobb County home to see if we could learn what [led] up to the alleged shooting. When we got there, a woman opened the door and we explained the story we were working on. It turns out the woman who opened the door was Wang’s wife. She didn’t know her husband had been arrested and charged with a crime. No one had told her that her husband was in jail in Connecticut on murder charges. We broke the news to her. It’s not something we want to do.

"Wang’s wife then invited us into her home, but it’s what happened next that I found the most offensive and horrifying. While we were in the home talking with her and shooting video, Wang’s wife fell to the floor hysterically crying. If you saw our newscast last night or our website earlier today, you saw this horrible video."

Tips for Covering Arizona Immigration Bill Story

"When Arizona journalists of 2010 encounter St. Peter I am convinced the gate minder is going to ask, 'Did you do justice to the AZ 1070 story?'" wrote Tim McGuire, the former Minneapolis Star Tribune editor who now teaches at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Tuesday on his blog.

"AZ 1070 is, of course, the controversial Illegal Immigration bill passed by the Arizona legislature and signed last Friday by Governor Jan Brewer. It has thrust Arizona into the center of a national immigration debate. The New York Times reported why this is such a big deal. 'The political debate leading up to Ms. Brewer’s decision, and Mr. Obama’s criticism of the law — presidents very rarely weigh in on state legislation — underscored the power of the immigration debate in states along the Mexican border. It presaged the polarizing arguments that await the president and Congress as they take up the issue nationally.'

". . . For what its worth, here are some of the things I would do if I was running an Arizona television or print newsroom intent on owning this story . . . "

Evelyn Cunningham: "Socially conscious with a wicked sense of humor."

Pittsburgh Courier's Evelyn Cunningham Dies at 94

"Benjamin Hooks, Dorothy Height and now Evelyn Cunningham —I guess deaths really do come in threes," Yanick Rice Lamb wrote Wednesday for Heart & Soul magazine. "What a triumvirate of leaders in human, women’s and civil rights. While services for Height are in the second of three days here in Washington, Cunningham died peacefully this morning in New York, according to her niece, Gigi Freeman.

"I brought her pink roses on my last trip to her beloved Harlem. I was just thinking the other day that I was overdue for a visit and kicking myself for not interviewing Height about Cunningham’s life as a 'connector' and journalist.

"At 94, Cunningham has spent a lot of time connecting and encouraging lots of people like me. At 94, she’s seen a lot and chronicled much of it as a reporter and columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier during its heyday. At 94, she was a witness to history. Gracious and socially conscious with a wicked sense of humor, she also made some of her own history personally and professionally in journalism, politics and other arenas.

"Cunningham was among the few women who covered the hot spots of the Civil Rights Movement. She begged for such assignments and came to be known as the 'lynching editor.' Rather than take her notepad and pen to teas, fashion shows, debutante balls, and club meetings, she preferred not only to go where the male reporters went, but also in their stead since black men faced a greater risk of being lynched."

Michael J. Feeney Named NABJ's "Emerging Journalist"

Michael J. Feeney Michael J. Feeney of the New York Daily News, mentored by accomplished black journalists and nurtured by the National Association of Black Journalists, is NABJ's Emerging Journalist of the Year, the association announced on Wednesday.

“Michael represents where journalism is and where it’s going. He has covered multiple beats in print and lives in a multimedia world. His fresh energy and eagerness to learn are the perfect ingredients for an emerging journalist,” NABJ President Kathy Y. Times said in the announcement.

"Feeney joined The New York Daily News in 2009. His work on night shift spans from crime to celebrity news. Prior to working with The New York Daily News, Feeney was a breaking news reporter for The Record (of Bergen County, N.J.). During his two-and-a-half years at the paper he covered municipal government and police. He also crossed over into the new-age of journalism and worked as a Web and multimedia journalist for NorthJersey.com. Feeney started his career at the Associated Press in Baltimore and Detroit. He attended the Knight Multimedia Journalism workshop at the University of California, Berkeley," the announcement continued.

Feeney was last in this column on Thanksgiving, celebrating the return of his family to their Bergen County, N.J., home, destroyed in a freak electrical fire a year earlier.

"The honor means a lot to me because I am an NABJ Baby. I grew up in journalism through this organization. NABJ has given me so much. I've met amazing people and it's helped me gain opportunities from the time I was a freshman until the time I became a professional," Feeney told Journal-isms Wednesday.

"I owe a lot to so many people, especially my mentor DeWayne Wickham, who introduced me to the NABJ. If it wasn't for him, I don't know how involved I would have been in the organization.

"There may be a lot of obstacles facing young journalists trying to get into the door, but you have to stay true to your passion and your dreams. I'm living my dream in New York City as a reporter with the NY Daily News, I know it's possible for others to do the same."

Wickham, a columnist for USA Today and Gannett News Service, told Journal-isms, "Mike Feeney is an old-school reporter for whom journalism is like hand-to-hand combat. It has to be practiced at close quarters. It's this and his unflinching tenacity that separates him from the journalistic herd."

Another mentor, Sonya Ross, a Washington news editor at the Associated Press, echoed some of that thought. "In working with Michael, he was just so typical of what I see in a lot of young journalists: bright, driven, but they want it all at once. It took some hard conversations and hard experiences . . . but he never let go of his long-range dreams in the middle of a short-term battle, and that's to his credit." Now, she said, "he has to turn around and impart knowledge to others the way it was imparted to him."

"Dateline" Look at Detroit Might Have Silver Lining

" 'Dateline NBC' may have been one of the best things to happen to the city of Detroit," Rochelle Riley wrote Wednesday in her Detroit Free Press column.

"The controversial newsmagazine spent 10 months shooting and producing an hour-long segment about the city that has been called everything from curious to repulsive, from the hard truth to drive-by journalism. But a funny thing happened on the way to a planned demonstration in front of the NBC affiliate, WDIV-TV, Local 4.

"Cooler heads prevailed. And a report that moved some to tears is now moving some to action."

She quoted Mayor Dave Bing. " 'There is a local company that, based on some of the "Dateline" reporting that embarrassed them and led them to say, "We have not done enough," has committed a million dollars over a five-year period for me to utilize to do some things for the citizens that we can't do out of our general fund,' Bing said. 'Hopefully, there will be other organizations that can do that.' "

Short Takes

  • The funeral of Dorothy Height, the longtime head of the National Council of Negro Women who died last week at 98, begins at 10 a.m. EST Thursday at the Washington National Cathedral. Among the news outlets covering it are theGrio.com, which is working with msnbc.com to live-stream the funeral starting at 10 on theGrio, and BET, which said that correspondent Andre Showell will deliver live coverage on BET's Centric channel and on BET.com. The main BET network with cover it with "extensive news briefs."
  • Ted Garcia, senior vice president, television content for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, "is departing effective Saturday, according to a note to public broadcasting stations and an internal CPB memo. Garcia had been in the post since February 2008. His duties included overseeing and managing CPB's national public television programming initiatives," Current magazine reported. Hispanic Business magazine chose Garcia as one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics.
  • The Boston Herald Tuesday ran a front page with the headline, "Mass. Cracks Down on Illegals," with a photo showing "No Tuition" stamped on the head of an apparent Hispanic man; "No Medicaid" on an Asian man; and "No Welfare" on a black woman.
  • In a video message emailed to more than 13 million supporters, President Obama said Democrats need a repeat of 2008, the free tabloid Washington Examiner reported. "It will be up to each of you to make sure that the young people, African Americans, Latinos and women, who powered our victory in 2008, stand together once again," Obama said. "It will be up to each of you to keep our nation moving forward." Keying to the story, the Examiner put this headline on its front page: "Obama disses white guys," as Politico reported. Mediaite looked at headlines elsewhere.
  • "They are not winning trophies or plaques, but some journalists who write about New Orleans are unwittingly earning 'Seals of Approval from Levees.org, a group that educates people about why the city was so vulnerable," Brian Stelter reported Sunday for the New York Times. "The recognitions, which take the form of e-mail messages to the writers and editors, are meant to discourage the notion that the flooding after Hurricane Katrina was a natural disaster."
  • Isabel Wilkerson, a professor of journalism at Boston University and former New York Times reporter, "spoke about the relevance of well-crafted, thoroughly researched ‚Äî and yes, long ‚Äî narratives" at a two-day conference on narrative journalism, Katie Koch reported Wednesday for BU Today. " 'The Web makes the basic who, what, when, and where of any news event available to anyone in the world in a nanosecond,' she said, citing the volcanic eruption in Iceland and the earthquake in Haiti as two recent examples of instantly covered events. 'What we don‚Äôt know ‚Äî and where narrative comes in, whether long or short ‚Äî is what is happening to the people, what is it like to go through this, what are the consequences of it, what does it mean?' "
  • Reporters Without Borders is deeply shocked to learn that in Nigeria, "three journalists were killed in two separate incidents on 24 April," the press freedom organization said on Tuesday. "Edo Sule Ugbagwu, a court reporter for the daily The Nation, was gunned down in his Lagos home. Nathan S. Dabak, the deputy editor of the Protestant fortnightly Light Bearer, and Sunday Gyang Bwede, one of his reporters, were hacked to death in Jos, a city torn by sectarian violence."
  • "The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published its third annual Global Impunity Index last week, pointing fingers at countries where murders of journalists go unpunished. The nations topping the list ‚Äî Iraq, Somalia, and the Philippines ‚Äî probably surprised few. Less noted, but perhaps more telling, was this statistic: worldwide, more than 90 percent of victims in such killings are local reporters covering sensitive topics in their home countries," Sherisse Pham wrote Tuesday for the committee.
  • "Radio One/Baltimore is asking its listeners to sign a 'No Radio Tax' petition to help 'Save Black Radio.' " Radio Ink reported Friday. "The petition on station sites says the Performance Rights Act 'will destroy Black Radio and remove it from our list of radio listening choices.' . . . The petition is also up on the sites for Talk WOLB-AM, Urban WWIN-FM, and Gospel WWIN-AM."
  • "TV One is giving viewers rare access to Min. Louis Farrakhan, one of America‚Äôs most recognized, controversial and misunderstood public figures, during a primetime interview on Sunday, May 9, from 9-11 PM ET. Cathy Hughes, host of TV One on One, sits down with Min. Farrakhan for a candid discussion about a broad range of issues, including the challenges facing President Barack Obama, the root cause of the crime that plagues inner cities and his belief in the preservation of black relationships," according to the Web site rbr.com.

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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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