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Pundits Meet Privately With Obama

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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Rebecca Aguilar Sues Dallas Station Over Firing

Black Columnists Among "Progressive" Group of 11

Clockwise, from top left: columnists DeWayne Wickham, Derrick Z. Jackson, Roland S. Martin and Eugene Robinson.African American columnists Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe; Roland S. Martin of CNN and Creators Syndicate; Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and MSNBC and DeWayne Wickham of USA Today and Gannett News Service were among 11 "progressive" commentators who held an off-the-record meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in Washington on Wednesday morning. It followed a meeting Tuesday night between Obama and conservative pundits.

The participants were promised regular meetings with Obama, but were not to report on the substance of the discussions. One observed, however, that the questions from the black columnists differed from others in that they were not from "the front page of the Washington Post and New York Times" and delved into other topics, such as education, Latin America and the environment. The president-elect was able to speak as extensively about those as on the hot-button issues, this pundit said.

The observation comes amid a backlash to a story by Howard Kurtz in the Washington Post Monday that noted the paucity of journalists of color in the White House press corps.

"With so many other things to worry about, and with the whole world able to see that racial identity is no longer a barrier to even the most powerful position in American life, you might think the press would finally be ready to abandon its unhealthy preoccupation with the color of skin - especially the skin within its own ranks. Alas, no," conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby wrote Wednesday in the Boston Globe. Sam Dealey echoed that thinking in U.S. News & World Report.

Wednesday's "progressive" group included E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post, Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal, Ron Brownstein of the National Journal, Frank Rich and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times, Andrew Sullivan of the Atlantic and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC.

The gathering, which lasted an hour and 45 minutes and took place at a long table in the transition team offices, followed a dinner the previous night with conservative columnists at the $1.9 million home of George F. Will in suburban Chevy Chase, Md.

There were no women commentators of color at either gathering. Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was reportedly invited, but Tucker recently adopted a baby girl and is on leave until April 1, according to her office.

"Call it a charm offensive or a high-level 'Listening Tour,' but Barack Obama is already signaling that he intends to break with the current president in one obvious way: hearing from his critics," Jonathan Harper wrote in Politico.

"Asked for a general impression of Obama, an attendee would only allow: 'He's an articulate, smart guy.' The dinner apparently amounted to the equivalent of an editorial board meeting - just a bit longer. There [was considerable] wonkery and in-depth discussions of taxes, but, it being the Will household, a bit of jocular sports talk did arise."

In attendance were Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, Larry Kudlow, David Brooks, Rich Lowry, Peggy Noonan, Michael Barone and Paul Gigot, Harper wrote.

Kenneth Bazinet of the New York Daily News wrote in his pool report that the three-hour meeting was a knot of "tight, right suits . . . The bloggers are going to love this one."

Gannett Co. to Furlough Workers for a Week

"The Gannett Company, the nation's largest newspaper publisher, said on Wednesday that it would force thousands of its employees to take a week off without pay in an effort to avoid layoffs, Richard P?©rez-Pe?±a reported Wednesday in the New York Times.

"Gannett, which owns 85 daily newspapers across the United States including its flagship USA Today, said it could not say exactly how many people would be required to take time off, or how much money the company would save. But it said it would require unpaid leave for most of its 31,000 employees in this country.

"Also on Wednesday, USA Today notified its staff of a one-year pay freeze for all employees."

"Steve Orr, a reporter at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., seemed resigned to the furlough," Joe Strupp reported in Editor & Publisher. "But he said the lack of layoffs is not a great cushion given the recent cutbacks and uncertainty over the rest of 2009.

"'Every week seems to bring a new eye-opening experience,' he added. 'If this obviates the need for layoffs, it is a welcome thing. But we don't know about next quarter.'"

Papers Go All Out to Cover, Capitalize on Inauguration

The New York Times plans to print 2.2 million copies of its post-Inauguration edition; the Washington Post plans 1.72 million; the Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times plan extras and the Washington Afro-American expects to post the reporting of students from Howard and Morgan State universities as newspapers bump up press runs, repackage their work into books and otherwise prepare to take advantage of the unprecedented interest in Barack Obama's inauguration on Tuesday.

Here are just a few of the plans.

New York Times

"The Times is planning an inauguration news special section to run in the paper on Wednesday, Jan. 21. We anticipate a heightened demand for the January 21 issue and are increasing the print order to 2.2 million copies (versus a typical order of approx 1,250,000)," spokeswoman Catherine Mathis said via e-mail.

"There will be a special commemorative issue of The Sunday Magazine published in The Times on Jan. 18. The Magazine will feature portrait photographs of key people in the new administration and some text.

"Online, The Magazine will feature a slideshow of the photographs narrated by renowned photographer, Nadav Kander. On there will be lots of interesting multimedia features, including live streaming of the video of President-elect Obama's inauguration speech, and much more.

"Regarding advertising, the Jan. 18 issue of The Magazine is up considerably (paging is double what it was last year in a comparable week), digital is sold out, and the paper is very strong on Jan. 21 We do plan to sell copies of the Jan. 21 issue from our headquarters building on Jan. 21-23. The newsstand price for that day remains unchanged at $1.50. We will also have additional hawkers on the streets of New York, Chicago and Washington D.C.

"The first week in February we will be selling a combined package of the Nov. 5 issue and the Jan. 21 issue for $14.95. We have already had orders from wholesalers and retailers for 200,000 of these (this is on top of the 2.2 million copies I mentioned above). We were delighted with the strong sales of our Nov. 5 issue of The Times and election-related products, which totaled $2.3 million in revenues through the end of December." 

Washington Post

  • The Jan. 20 morning edition will include a special commemorative section, spokeswoman Kris Coratti said.
  • Reprint copies in the afternoon will include a commemorative section with updated news from Inauguration Day events.
  • The Jan. 21 edition will include a special commemorative section will full coverage of Inauguration Day.
  • On Sunday will be a special Washington Post Magazine Inauguration Issue featuring a cover photo story and essay by Style section writer Wil Haygood on Obama's historic journey.
  • A Washington Post commemorative photo book, "The Inauguration of Barack Obama: A Photographic Journal," a 160-page hard cover commemorative photo book by the Post's award-winning photographers and reporters is being published to document the ceremony, parade, crowds, private moments, Inaugural balls and other scenes from the event.
  • A limited number of reproductions will be made of the aluminum plate used to print the front page of the Post's Inauguration Day newspaper.
  • Documentary video: Produced by the Post's video reporters, the video will capture the Inaugural events, and is likely to be available as a DVD.
On Inauguration Day, the Post also plans to provide transit alerts to help people navigate the city via text message, Twitter, e-mail alert and through a special Inauguration mobile page. 

The Web site will offer a full day of live video coverage of the Inauguration from the Capitol's Inaugural platform and from both the Post's print newspaper and Web headquarters. Post Reporters Chris Cillizza, David Maraniss and Dana Priest will anchor the show. Reporters will live stream video interviews from their cell phones onto the show with people at Inaugural events around the city. 

The Post has invited readers to take out classified ads to welcome the Obamas to Washington. "Your message will appear online through Feb. 20th and in a special Classified section running in the keepsake Inauguration Day Issue of the Washington Post," the company says.

Washington Times

The Washington Times plans a special Inauguration edition for Monday, Martin Luther King Day, with an essay from Martin Luther King III linking King to Obama's inauguration. On Tuesday will be another special edition, with a "surprise" cover. A third special follows on Wednesday. Tuesday's paper will triple its normal print run, rising to 300,000, editor John Solomon told Journal-isms. By Valentine's Day, the paper expects to publish a book, "Barack Obama and the Start of a New Era," that will include the best essays and photographs from its coverage of Obama. It includes the photo and headline, "President Obama," that the paper successfully used on the day after the election.

Solomon, Editorial Page Editor Deborah Simmons and others from the Times expect to be at Ben's Chili Bowl, a Washington gustatory landmark, on Thursday to interact with readers and potential readers. Solomon called the three days after Obama's election the most exciting moments of his career. 

Afro-American Newspapers

The Afro-American newspapers in Washington and Baltimore are working with as many as 50 students from Howard and Morgan State universities to post their coverage, starting on Saturday, on the Afro's Web site, publisher John J. Oliver Jr. told Journal-isms. "We are making it available to as many members of the black press who want it," he said of that coverage. There will also be video, all posted on the Afro's Web site. The newspapers are also selling a 52-page book, "Journey to Victory," that includes their coverage of the Obama campaign, and in Baltimore, is partnering with WMAR-TV on the video production.

Chicago Tribune

"The Tribune is planning its own extra edition for Jan. 20, according to Associate Editor Joyce Winnecke. She said no final details on price or page count were in, but the deadline for the news is 2:30 p.m. The paper is also publishing special sections of six-to-eight pages each on Sunday, Jan. 18, and Wednesday, Jan. 21," Joe Strupp reported in Editor & Publisher.

Chicago Sun-Times

The paper plans an extra, with a "late pm run of 10,000 for downtown," editor Michael Cooke told Journal-isms via e-mail. 

Rebecca Aguilar accepts the Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award at the 2007 awards gala of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. (Credit: NAHJ)

Rebecca Aguilar Sues Dallas Station Over Firing

"Former Fox4 reporter Rebecca Aguilar filed a racial discrimination suit against the station late Monday afternoon, claiming she was suspended and ultimately terminated because of her 'documented history of complaining about the treatment of Hispanics and Latinos by her employer,'" Dallas television writer Ed Bark wrote Tuesday on his blog.

"The lawsuit was first publicized Tuesday by Courthouse News Service, which quotes Aguilar's attorney, Steve Kardell as saying, 'Fox4 wanted my client to advocate change in the community through her reports, but to keep silent in improving working conditions in the newsroom.'

"Aguilar's repeated proposals that Fox4 'consider interviewing Latino and Hispanic candidates for management positions' resulted in 'strained relations with her employer,' the lawsuit alleges."

"The seven-page suit charges that Fox4 retaliated by taking Aguilar off the air after 'pretextual and fabricated criticism about a particular story.' That's a reference to her controversial Oct. 15, 2007 interview with an elderly West Dallas salvage business owner who had shot and killed two alleged burglars within three weeks time. The story and Aguilar's paid suspension attracted national attention and pointed debate on whether she had 'ambushed' her interview subject or was just doing her job."

"Riot" Offers Chance to Re-Evaluate Word Choices

"By now almost everyone knows that a group of demonstrators protesting against the killing of a young father by a transit officer splintered off and began a wave of destruction in downtown Oakland," Dori J. Maynard wrote Monday for the Idea Lab of the Public Broadcasting Service, in a piece picked up later by Bay Area newspapers.

"Mainstream media outlets called it everything from a riot to a violent protest. Some bloggers referred to it as a civil unrest, rebellion or both a riot and civil unrest," continued Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

"Like is true with many issues, our perception of what happened is often shaped by our fault lines of race, class, gender, generation and geography. Perhaps because I live in Oakland and spent some years in Detroit, the home of one of the worst riots of the last century or maybe because the riots of the 1960s were the backdrop of my childhood, but to me a riot is a greater event than what happened in Oakland last week.

" . . . As I discussed this with journalists around the country, it was clear there was no agreed upon definition of a riot, or even if a riot should be called a riot or a rebellion.

". . . For journalists, I don't think it's as important for us to agree or disagree with these opinions. I think it's important that we continually evaluate the words we use and constantly ask ourselves if we saw the same thing members of our community saw. Help us as we try to sort through these questions. What did you see and how do you think we should describe public acts of violence? Are we being too soft by refusing to call something a riot? Is there ever a reason to refer to any act of violence as a rebellion or uprising?"

Can Only White Guys Broadcast This Game?

Gus JohnsonVin Scully, whose 59-year-old tenure as the play-by-play voice of the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team is the longest of any broadcaster with a single club in professional sports history, was voted the No. 1 sportscaster of all time by the American Sportscaster Association, the group announced over the weekend.

Scully was followed by Mel Allen, Red Barber, Curt Gowdy, Howard Cosell, Bob Costas, Jim McKay, Al Michaels and Dick Enberg on the top 50 list.

That prompted the blog the Big Lead, which is written by Jason McIntyre and David Lessa, to ask, "Have minorities ever called sporting events?"

Actually, there were some of color on the runner-up list, below the top 50. That list named Terry Bradshaw, James Brown, Andres Cantor, Skip Caray, Gary Cohen, Don Criqui, Jimmy Dudley, Joe Garagiola, Frank Gifford, Greg Gumbel, Tom Hammond, Sonny Hill, Ned Jarrett, Jaime Jarrin, Charlie Jones, Bill King, Jim Lampley, Cawood Ledford, Verne Lundquist, Tim McCarver, Joe Morgan, Bob Murphy, Van Patrick, Herb Score, Jim Simpson, Bob Uecker and Ken Venturi.

On the e-mail list of the Sports Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists, other names came up, such as Gus Johnson and Clark Kellogg.

Johnson "can call an eighth-grade basketball game and have me riveted," one said. "And Kellogg is finally getting his due as the #1 CBS analyst."

In addition, Paul Olden has been the stadium public address announcer for every Super Bowl since 1994.

"Dick Enberg, who made the top 10 and is also the Chairman of the Board for ASA . . . emailed back before heading out to Melbourne to cover the Australia Open tennis championships starting next week on ESPN: 'Frankly, there's plenty of room for argument, which is common with any of the suspect 'Best of All-Time' lists," Tom Hoffarth of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote  Tuesday on his blog.

Short Takes

  • "With 100 news media signatures now on the petition it launched on 9 January, Reporters Without Borders reiterates its appeal for support by the international media and again urges the Israeli authorities to lift the ban on foreign media access to the Gaza Strip that has been in force since November. Allowing journalists into the Gaza Strip would be the best way to ensure independent coverage of the events unfolding there," the press freedom organization said¬†on Tuesday. "The only news coverage of the situation in Gaza comes from the 295 Palestinians who are working for a range of news organisations in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances."
  • "In the decades since Spanish language broadcast giants Univision and Telemundo invaded the U.S. market, the Latino demographic has changed radically, Lewis Beale reported Wednesday in the New York Daily News. "More and more children have been born here to immigrant parents ‚Äî they now constitute the majority of Hispanics ‚Äî and they are growing up speaking English. This bicultural young adult audience 'is the fastest-growing minority in this country,' adds Argentinian-born Alex Pels, general manager of the bilingual cable network Mun2, launched in 2001."
  • "Iraq has lifted a requirement that journalists must sign a binding code of conduct to cover key events in the upcoming provincial elections after a flood of complaints, an official said Sunday," Kim Gamel reported for the Associated Press. "Critics claimed the threat of punishment for reports perceived as unfair could undermine independent coverage of Iraq's first election in three years. The vote is expected to redistribute power among Iraq's ethnic and religious groups."
  • The Charlotte (N.C.) Observer ran this correction¬†on Monday: "A photo of Toni Morrison accompanying the Winter Arts Preview in Someone thought Toni Morrison, left,  and Terry McMillan looked similar.Sunday's Carolina Living section was incorrectly identified as being of Terry McMillan, the author, who will be appearing at Lenoir-Rhyne University."
  • The reassignment to the newsroom of Washington Times Editorial Page Editor Deborah Simmons and her deputy Tara Wall, both black journalists, was not related to the shakeup of the editorial page, Editor John Solomon told Journal-isms on Wednesday. Solomon, who said his jurisdiction is the newsroom only, said he had been trying to get Simmons and Wall to take on new duties in the newsroom for some time. It was a coincidence that the announcement of their departure took place the same day as the announcement of the editorial page reorganization, he said. Others on the board were told they had to reapply for their jobs.
  • In the most recent issue of the NAACP's magazine the Crisis, Los Angeles journalist Erin Aubry Kaplan notes that Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves Sr. has spoken out about offensive hip-hop images and pulled the plug on a crass routine by comedian Eddie Griffin. "But 'in his crusade against ghettoism, what the ace businessman has never advertised is the fact that he heads an equity fund, Black Enterprise/Greenwich Street Corporate Growth Partners, that since 2006 has owned the Source, the hip-hop magazine that devotees long considered to be the bible of the genre.' " Kaplan wrote in the fall 2008 issue.¬† A Black Enterprise spokesman told Journal-isms Graves would have no comment.
  • Independent producer Tom Jacobs writes to alert others to CreateSpace, a division of Amazon that allows authors, filmmakers, musicians to make their product available to the general public for virtually no cost. "It's really pretty cool and no upfront costs other than shipping a copy of your DVD or book to CreateSpace. I did all the prep work online, set my price (they obviously take a percentage) sent them a copy of the DVD with the artwork that I wanted on the box and the disc, they sent back a proof copy, I clicked a button and two days later my DVD is listed on Amazon. It cost me the price of a Priority Mail stamp and some time," Jacobs told Journal-isms. He produced "Mr. Wilson's Kids: From East Cleveland to Beijing," the story of East Cleveland's Shaw High School Marching Band and members' trip to China to perform in the 2008 Salute to the Olympics Music Festival.
  • A memorial service for Andria Hall, the broadcast journalist for CNN and New York's WNBC-TV who died of breast cancer at age 51 on Monday, is scheduled for Friday at Bethel Baptist Church, 265 Bergen St., Brooklyn, N.Y., from 6 to 8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that contributions be made to the SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A. Foundation, which Hall established to minister, mentor and mold future generations. Contributions may be sent to SpeakEasy M.E.D.I.A. Foundation, 1812 Front St., Scotch Plains, N.J. 07076.
  • "Reporters Without Borders condemns an attack on the home of Carlos Velasco Molina, the editor of the weekly El Correo de Oaxaca, in the southwestern city of Oaxaca in the early hours of 9 January. Two Molotov cocktails were thrown at his house, starting a fire but causing no injuries. Fearing the possibility of violence, Velasco had moved his family to a different location a few weeks ago. Velasco has accused Oaxaca state governor Ul??ses Ruiz Ortiz and his spokesman, H?©ctor Pablo Ram??rez, of being behind the attack and has called for a federal investigation," the press-freedom organization said.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Black Columnists Among "Progressive" Group of 11

Scoop, I read with interest your piece on "Pundits meet privately with Obama." As always, I left Journal-isms much more informed than I was before I logged on. I noted, however, that there were only two women represented in the group of pundits who met privately with President-elect Barack Obama, and that was Maureen Dowd of The New York Times and Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. While I applaud the presence of Derrick Z. Jackson, Roland Martin, Eugene Robinson and DeWayne Wickham in the private meeting with Mr. Obama, I am deeply concerned that African American women appear to have been left out in the cold. To be sure, if I read your column correctly a few days ago, there were also no black women included in the private dinner with Obama that took place earlier this week that included conservative pundits and was hosted by columnist George Will. Am I right about this, or were these women simply left out of your column? Either way, I think this is an issue that should be addressed. Where are the Sistahs? I can think of five that should have been included just off the top of my head, but I don't want to be accused of favoritism, so I won't name them. Thanks, once again, for the service you provide to journalists like me who need to be "in the know." Best, Tracie Powell

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