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Reporter Settles in Racial-Profiling Case

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

N.Y. Post Freelancer Lost His Job After Suing the City

In 2007, the New York Post ran this photo of Leonardo Blair near his Bronx, N.Y., home A black reporter who sued the New York Police Department after being stopped, frisked and arrested - and lost his freelance job at the New York Post in the aftermath - has quietly settled the case for $15,001 plus court costs.

Leonardo Blair "was handcuffed and hauled to a precinct house for simply walking down the street," Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said when the case was filed last May. "Walking while black is not a crime, and yet every year hundreds of thousands of innocent New Yorkers are stopped, searched and interrogated by the police for doing just that. For justice in our city to be truly just, the NYPD needs to start treating all New Yorkers fairly, regardless of the color of their skin."

"Mr. Blair accepted an offer made by the City," Christopher Dunn, who handled Blair's case for the civil liberties union, told Journal-isms on Friday. The Sept. 24 settlement, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, provides that the city pay Blair $15,001 and the civil liberties union $9,000 in attorney's fees.

Blair, 29, has not returned calls seeking comment. He lost his freelance job at the New York Post when the civil liberties union filed the suit on the same day a Post editorial defended the Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy.

"He blindsided the New York Post," Post spokesman Howard Rubenstein told Journal-isms then, by not telling the paper he planned the suit. As a freelancer covering the police department, initiating the suit placed him in a conflict of interest, Rubenstein said.

The Jamaican-born Blair came to the Post in May 2007 after excelling at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, which he attended on a near-full-tuition scholarship after winning awards as an investigative reporter for the Jamaica-Gleaner.

Blair wrote about the stop-and-frisk incident in the Post after it took place. "MY CRIME? JUST FITTING THE PROFILE," blared the Dec. 2, 2007, headline. He also told his story in a YouTube video and on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More."

The issue of racial profiling in stop-and-frisk cases has not gone away. Last month, the Center for Constitutional Rights released a report analyzing nearly .6 million NYPD stops of New Yorkers over 3¬? years. "From 2005 to 2008, approximately 80 percent of total stops made were of Blacks and Latinos, who comprise 25 percent and 28 percent of New York City 's total population, respectively. During this same time period, only approximately 10 percent of stops were of Whites, who comprise 44 percent of the city's population," it said.

"We continue to work on that issue," said Dunn, the civil liberties union lawyer.

A poster of President Obama, right, by artist Shepard Fairey, and an April 27, 2006, file photo of then-Sen. Barack Obama by Associated Press photographer Mannie Garcia at the National Press Club in Washington. Fairey has acknowledged the poster is based on the AP photograph. (Credits: Mannie Garcia/Associated Press and Shepard Fairey)

AP Goes After Designer of Iconic Obama Poster

A photograph taken by a freelance photographer for the Associated Press that morphed into an iconic poster of Barack Obama has become the center of a lawsuit pitting the AP against the artist who designed the poster.

The photographer, Mannie Garcia, a temporary hire by AP when he took the photo at the National Press Club, appears to be on the sidelines. But the lawsuit has sparked a discussion among lawyers, photographers and other artists about what constitutes "fair use" of a creator's work.

"On buttons, posters and Web sites, the image was everywhere during last year's presidential campaign: a pensive Barack Obama looking upward, as if to the future, splashed in a Warholesque red, white and blue and underlined with the caption HOPE," began a story Thursday by the AP's Hillel Italie.

"Designed by Shepard Fairey, a Los-Angeles based street artist, the image has led to sales of hundreds of thousands of posters and stickers, and has become so much in demand that copies signed by Fairey have been purchased for thousands of dollars on eBay.

"The AP says it owns the copyright, and wants credit and compensation. Fairey disagrees."

As lawyers and artists debated the issue on their blogs, photographer James Danziger wrote, "I'll give the last word (for now) to Mannie Garcia:

"'This is not about me making money off this, it's about recognition. I made the most iconic image of our time, and I'd like it to make a difference, not make me money. I'm a blue collar photographer — I am out there on the grind every day. I spend more energy looking for work than doing work. I just want Shepard Fairey to say 'Alright, you're the guy. Thank you'."

"They Give Us Furlough / Furlough Started Long Ago"

George KellyGeorge Kelly, a member of the California Media Workers Guild, has managed to respond with creativity and humor to the news business' current economic plight. Employees of the MediaNews Group's Bay Area Newspaper Group — East Bay Unit, which Kelly represents, are among 3,300 staffers at 29 of the company's daily newspapers in California who must take an unpaid, one-week furlough this month or next as a possible alternative to layoffs.

It inspired Kelly to write "Furlough Fever," "with apologies to Peggy Lee," who popularized a version of the song in 1958. Readers can hear a podcast on the Guild's Web site.

"Furlough Fever" begins:

Never knew how much I missed work,
never seen the newsroom so bare
and when I'm logging into Outlook
I get a shock to find there's nobody there

They give us furlough
What they call it?
Furlough when you hold your pay
Furlough
now through April
I'll be off at least five days

Sun shows empty parking lots
Where I can finally find a space
Moon finds me down on my knees
praying someone soon'll solve the case

They gave us furlough
They dismissed us
to cut down on the bottom line
Furlough
Let me tell you
Beats a layoff every time . . .

Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal Thursday announced it is trimming 17 news positions under the latest restructuring forced by the declining economy, closing its New York-based Fashion and Retail group — including Teri Agins, Ray Smith and Cheryl Tan — and trimming the Los Angeles and Boston bureaus, along with the New York-based Law, Health and Real Estate groups, as well as the library. Three will be added, for a total trim of 14.

Tan is on the governing board of the Asian American Journalists Association; Agins and Smith are black journalists. Another African American, copy editor Carol Kelly, was also on the list.

In the new issue of Time magazine, contributor and former managing editor Walter Isaacson argues that newspapers and other content companies should charge for online content to stave off the "crisis in journalism" that "has reached meltdown proportions."

Columnist Tim Rutten writes in the Los Angeles Times that "An antitrust exemption would allow the industry to begin charging for the Web content that it's now giving away."

To a Latina, Lives of Roma Journalists Sound Familiar

"It's really cool to meet someone from far, far away who shares the same struggles, frustrations and sense of accomplishment for a job well done. I got to meet four!" the Chicago-based Esther J. Cepeda wrote Wednesday on her blog.

"Earlier this week I had the privilege of sitting down with 4 Roma Hungarian journalists who were visiting my fair city through the US Dept. of State's International Visitor Leadership Program, in conjunction with the International Visitors Center of Chicago.

"For those of you unfamiliar with the Roma, they are generally known through Hungary as Gypsy scum — a slur akin to what some here feel when they hear the term 'illegal' — they're the ethnic minority group of Hungary.

". . . Robert and Laslow told stories about reporting on health care and discrimination issues they constantly cover in order to better the community that get completely ignored by the Hungarian mainstream media. Attila and Norbert expressed frustration that though their numbers are large, regional/cultural differences keep them from effectively banding together to demand their rights.

". . . My Roma journalist visitors, shoe-string-budget-funded by the Hungarian government, were eager to empathize with my stories of being castigated by 'my own people' for airing 'our dirty laundry,' of being forced to report only negative stories and being told that the positive ones were of no interest to anyone. We commiserated over my lamentation that worst of all is that our stories are nowhere to be found in the mainstream media, further alienating us (if you'll pardon the pun) from the majority we're soon to eclipse."

Latest from L.A.'s Kaplan: First Lady's Got Hair

Columnist wonders whether Michelle Obama will occasionally let her hair 'be something different'.It didn't take long for Michelle Obama's hairstyle choices to be dissected from an African American point of view, and Los Angeles columnist Erin Aubry Kaplan, in a piece for salon.com that appeared on Tuesday, became one of the first out of the box.

"Let's take a look at Michelle," wrote Kaplan, who caused a stir back in November with "First lady got back," a commentary about a different part of Obama's anatomy.

"Her hair represents the highest aspirations and also the limitations of a certain black style. It's always immaculately done, straight and shiny. On Inauguration Day, it complemented her cheekbones; it riffled gracefully in the frigid wind. Nothing wrong there at all. And that's potentially the problem: Nothing's wrong. It's perfect. It's the look Michelle's had since we've known her, and it's already starting to look locked in, like armor (Condoleezza Rice, anyone?).

"Certainly first ladies have their signature looks, including hair — Nancy Reagan's coif never moved an inch in eight years, wind or no. But I wonder whether such a young, high-profile black woman who gets her hair straightened or relaxed as a matter of course will occasionally let it be something different: unstraightened, less straightened, or anything that doesn't bounce, lie flat or swing like a pageboy. In other words, a do that suggests her ethnicity rather than softens it."

After Kaplan's piece was excerpted in the Chicago Sun-Times, that paper's columnist Mary Mitchell said she had to weigh in. Kaplan's piece "rubbed me.

"Last weekend, I had my hair straightened for the first time in 20 years," Mitchell wrote.

"To say the experience was traumatic would be an understatement.

". . . But here's what gets me.

"Why are we still looking at black hairstyles as a measure of social acceptability?"

Coincidentally, writer, producer and sometime journalist Nelson George last month debuted "Good Hair," a film about black-hair issues co-written and produced by comedian Chris Rock, at the Sundance Film Festival. George is executive producer. The film is looking for a distributor, according to Katherine Pongracz of HBO films, the movie's publicist.

Outrage, Advice Offered on Deepening Financial Crisis

"What part of this financial crisis does Wall Street not understand?" Juan Gonzalez of the New York Daily News asked last week.

"How much longer will Congress use billions in public money to bail out the nation's biggest banks, then let the top executives remain in charge, feeding lavish lifestyles, tossing workers out on the street and turning their backs on desperate homeowners facing foreclosure?

"One outrageous example of Wall Street out of control is the $35,000 a top executive spent early last year for a 'commode on legs' and the $25,000 he spent for a 'mahogany pedestal table.'"

Gonzalez' commentary was one of several focusing on the economy and President Obama's efforts to address it.

2 More Columnists Urge End of Black History Month

At least two more black columnists — Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette — have advocated ending Black History Month.

"It's not merely that a short month set aside to commemorate black achievement is a curious and old-fashioned appendage, like rabbit ears on a TV or a rotary dial on a telephone. It's worse than that: The commemoration is a damaging form of apartheid, setting the contributions of black Americans aside as separate and unequal. It sends the wrong signal to all Americans, black, white and brown," Tucker wrote for this Sunday's paper.

Tucker, who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2007, previously questioned the continued existence of historically black colleges and universities.

Norman wrote on Friday, "Now that Barack Obama and his family have moved into the White House, it's time to rethink the holiday Carter G. Woodson came up with nearly a century ago. 

"Times have changed. Even the Republicans have a black guy running the party. Maybe February can go back to being for all of us."

Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press, who took the same position last Sunday, wrote on Thursday, "The day the column appeared on freep.com, the flood of calls and e-mails began. About 90% of the people agreed with me, some for their own reasons, and among the 10% who didn't, some apparently didn't even read the column."

On blackamericaweb.com, Julianne Malveaux, a longtime commentator who is now also president of Bennett College for Women, said she reveled in the month. "All of America should be celebrating this Black History Month," she wrote, ticking off the people and events that inspire her.

But, she wrote, "In the same month that an African American man was sworn in as President of the United States, another African American man, Oscar Grant, was coldly shot by a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer. Oscar Grant was the father of a four-year old girl, and he was a brother who was known as a peacemaker. Dozens of people captured his shooting on their cellphones and video cameras. To watch this videotape is to be chillingly reminded of our history of police misconduct and to inspire us to continue to work for justice."

As reported on Wednesday, Phillip Morris of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and theRoot.com contributor Michael E. Ross also favored abolishing the month, while John Fleming, president of the institution that carries on Woodson's work, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and some members of the National Association of Black Journalists e-mail list argued for keeping it.

Short Takes

  • David PuenteDavid Puente, creator of ABC News' "Exclusiva," the "very first Hispanic news program in English at a US network," is leaving ABC to work as a producer and digital reporter for CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" and www.AC360.com, Puente told readers of his Facebook page on Thursday. The show began four years ago and was available on television, the Web and cell phones, Puente said.
  • After 14 years as executive officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, Luther Jackson stepped aside Saturday as the San Jose local completes its merger with the Media Workers Guild in San Francisco, the California Media Workers Guild reported on Sunday.¬† "He intends to pursue a consulting career focusing on some of the same projects he spearheaded while serving as San Jose Guild chief ‚Äî worker transitions and 'new generation unionism.'" Jackson is a son of Luther P. Jackson Jr., pioneer black journalist and the first black professor at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, who died last year at 83.
  • Robert Montemayor, a veteran marketing executive, consultant, journalist and author, has been hired to teach introductory news writing and reporting at Rutgers University's School of Communication, Information and Library Studies, the New Jersey school announced¬†on Thursday. "Montemayor began his journalism career in 1975 at The Dallas Times Herald. In 1984, he was part of a team at the Los Angeles Times that won the Pulitzer Prize for Meritorious Public Service. Montemayor penned three stories and co-authored the lead story in the 21-part series, which documented the complex story of Latinos in Southern California," a news release noted.
  • D. Orlando LedbetterD. Orlando Ledbetter, Atlanta Falcons beat reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was elected second vice president of the Pro Football Writers of America last Friday at the Super Bowl, as Allen Wilson noted¬†on his Buffalo News blog. The election puts Ledbetter on the ladder to become president. Charean Williams, a longtime NFL writer for the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram, was elected the group's first woman president.
  • An editor at nydailynews.com, Web site of the New York Daily News, acknowledged Thursday that Web reporter Rosemary Black lifted, without attribution, part of a Feb. 3 story in the San Antonio Express-News by staff writer Jeorge Zarazua, Express-News ombudsman Bob Richter wrote on Thursday. The Express-News story, "Kissing at mall leads to fight in court," ran on the San Antonio paper's front page.
  • "The Bush administration turned the U.S. military into a global propaganda machine while imposing tough restrictions on journalists seeking to give the public truthful reports about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Associated Press chief executive Tom Curley said Friday," the AP's John Hanna reported. "Curley acknowledged that upon taking office, President Barack Obama rolled back many of the policies instituted by George W. Bush. But he said when the Pentagon faces difficulties again ‚Äî perhaps in Afghanistan, with the new administration's focus on it ‚Äî experience has shown, 'the military gets tough on the journalists.'"
  • "Martha Shirk, the widow of legendary journalist William Woo, will donate up to $5,000 as a matching fund for any contribution towards the William Woo Internship Fund," according to the Asian American Journalists Association. "The fund will go towards student scholarships and internships that help encourage students to enter the field of journalism. The matching period will be effective until AAJA's 2009 National Convention in Boston." Woo, a former editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and professor at Stanford University, died in 2006. He was the first Asian American editor of a major U.S. newspaper.
  • A new exhibit at the Freedom Forum's Newseum in Washington shows how Abraham Lincoln‚Äôs death and the hunt for his killer also marked a turning point in how news was reported. ‚ÄúManhunt: Chasing Lincoln ‚Äôs Killer‚Äù opens Feb. 14, the Newseum announced. Meanwhile, Ebony is calling attention to a 1968 article by then-Senior Editor Lerone Bennett, newly digitized, that "contends that Lincoln was, in fact, a white supremacist ‚Äî a political figure who made no secret of his belief in separation of the races, and a man who had no predisposition to tend to the ills of black folk." This year marks the 200th anniversary of Lincoln's birth.
  • Radio stations in Somalia have agreed to a number of restrictions in light of the assassination Wednesday of the director of HornAfrik radio, Said Tahlil, just 16 months after the radio's former director, Ali Imam Sharmake, was killed by a booby trap car bomb. Among other measures, "The stations agreed not to air any news which can cause conflicts, displacements, and intimidations," according¬†to the Shabelle Media Network there.
  • "An online columnist known for criticizing the government and alleging high-level corruption was buried in the Republic of Congo today following his death in a military hospital on Monday, according to local journalists," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported¬†on Friday. "Bruno Oss?©bi . . . was badly burned in a late-night fire at his residence on January 21, although he was said to be recovering and his death was unexpected."
  • "It was in early 2006 when Jiang Weiping last heard some good news. A heralded Chinese journalist, Mr. Jiang had been jailed years earlier for writing about corruption in Chinese government," Gloria Galloway wrote Thursday in the Toronto Globe and Mail. "His family fled to Canada a couple of years later. Facing international pressure, China released Mr. Jiang in 2006. However, authorities barred him from political activity and denied him travel documents. . . . It was only two weeks ago that Mr. Jiang's patchwork path to freedom opened up. He was granted a Chinese passport. . . . He arrived yesterday afternoon, local time at the Canadian embassy. Canadian diplomats escorted him to the airport, waiting until he was on his way to Canada, where he can live for two years and apply for permanent residency."
  • "Something was missing from Chinese state television's live coverage of President Obama's inaugural speech two weeks ago," Peter Ford wrote Thursday for the Christian Science Monitor. "As he recalled how 'earlier generations faced down fascism and communism,' viewers here were suddenly returned to the studio, where flustered presenters stumbled to fill the unexpected airtime. As officials plan to launch China's own international TV news channel in the next year or two, burnishing the country's image abroad while challenging CNN, BBC, and other broadcasters, the incident illustrates how hard it will be for Beijing to realize that dream."

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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