Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

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Friday, January 4, 2008

Racial Progress Trumpeted After Obama's Iowa Win

The victory of Barack Obama in the Iowa Democratic caucuses Thursday night had the news media reporting for the history books, restoring Obama's race to prominence even as they pronounced his first-place showing a wellspring for "change."


"Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, a first-term Democratic senator trying to become the nation's first African-American president, rolled to victory in the Iowa caucuses on Thursday night, lifted by a record turnout of voters who embraced his promise of change," began the lead story in Friday's New York Times, by Adam Nagourney.

In two New York tabloids, "Obama" became "Bam" —as in "BAM!" the front-page headline over photos of Obama in both the New York Daily News and Newsday.

"Does Obama's Win Show US Is Colorblind?" the Associated Press asked over a story by Sharon Cohen that moved Saturday.

"So much for the question of whether America is ready for a black president. An African American from Chicago, by way of Hawaii and Indonesia, carried one of the whitest states in the country," columnist Beth Reinhard wrote Saturday in the Miami Herald.

"Obama's rise, America's renewal; With black senator's win, a nation passes a milestone in maturing," declared Toronto's Globe and Mail, over a story from Des Moines, Iowa, by John Ibbitson.

"Race issue unlikely to halt Obama's march," read a headline in Dublin's Irish Times on Saturday.

Gary Younge, a black reporter covering the States for Britain's the Guardian, wrote on Saturday, "The days when black politicians stood for office in order to force the issues affecting black communities from the margins to the mainstream are over. Now they can stand to win. In the last 50 years the number of white people who said they would not vote for a black presidential candidate has nosedived from 53% to just 6%."

Once the results were known, conservatives such as George Will and William Bennett all but gave Obama the good conduct medal for blacks.

On ABC-TV's "Nightline," in what was thought initially to be news analysis, Will declared, "The big losers, two big losers tonight are probably Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, representative of those who have a sort of investment in the traditional and, I believe, utterly exhausted narrative about race relations in the United States.

"It's over. In a state with a negligible minority population, Mr. Obama was taken at face value as a normal candidate without identity politics involved. We have so long been wedded to the idea that, somehow, you are defined by your ethnicity, your gender, whatever. The American people are hardly weary of that, among other things," said the nation's most widely circulated newspaper columnist.

Anchor Terry Moran took the equivalent of a gulp.

"Which is an amazing statement if, if, in fact, it's come to — come to pass," Moran said.

On CNN, Bennett, the Reagan-era drug czar and education secretary hired by the network as a commentator, told host Anderson Cooper, "Talk about the black community —" Obama "has taught the black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson, you don't have to act like Al Sharpton. You can talk about the issues. Great dignity. And this is a breakthrough. And good for the people of Iowa."

The New York Daily News provided Sharpton's reaction in Saturday's editions.

"'This almost laughable notion has been repudiated consistently by Mr. Obama himself,' Sharpton sniffed in a defensive statement Friday," Helen Kennedy reported.

"He noted that Obama has made 'several public appearances with me to show his respect' for Sharpton's civil rights activism, and that the two had 'a public dinner' at Sylvia's in Harlem a month ago.

"'If Mr. Obama is successful in becoming President, that will not automatically solve racial injustice in America, and therefore the need for advocates for racial justice is needed,' he said.

"The need for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. didn't vanish when Thurgood Marshall was appointed to the Supreme Court, said Sharpton."

On the New America Media Web site, commentator Roberto Lovato delivered a nuanced view on Friday:

"To his credit, Barack Obama has carefully cultivated an image as a 'change' candidate who takes the higher ground, one that talks about race — but not racism. Iowa confirms that, in doing so, he can make even the whitest electorate feel like it's voting to overcome the catastrophic legacy of racial discrimination, like the Oprah viewer that gives himself or herself a racial pat on the back for really, truly liking her show," Lovato wrote.

" '[Obama] is being consumed as the embodiment of color blindness,' political theorist Angela Davis told the Nation magazine recently, adding that 'it's the notion that we have moved beyond racism by not taking race into account. That's what makes him conceivable as a presidential candidate. He's become the model of diversity in this period . . . a model of diversity as the difference that makes no difference. The change that brings no change.' "

For Saturday's editions, some newspapers went to African Americans themselves for their thoughts on the race question.

Tanika White of the Baltimore Sun took the pulse at the Harlem Blues barbershop on Baltimore's Erdman Avenue, where Alan Bosworth, 19, a political science student at Frostburg State University, said of the caucus results, "Racism still exists, but you look at that and see things are changing. That's a good thing." Her story noted that Obama was not the first African American to win a primary or caucus, an impression some stories left; that Jackson had won 13 primaries and caucuses in 1988.

"Daring to Believe, Blacks Savor Obama Victory" was the headline on a similarly themed story by Diane Cardwell in the New York Times. These stories and others touched on fears by African Americans that Obama could be killed, and skepticism that whites would vote for a black presidential candidate.

African American columnists also began to weigh in. "Obama's insistence on defying stereotypes has been at the core of his popularity," Cynthia Tucker wrote for Sunday's editions of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "He is bright, sometimes boring, often engaging, thoughtful, occasionally cranky, visionary, usually well-informed, sometimes slightly self-righteous. And black. Always. He is a presidential candidate who happens to be black — not a black presidential candidate. For those of us eager for America to grow into a mature accommodation with its racial diversity, that's refreshing, hopeful, reinvigorating."

In his Washington Post column for Sunday, Eugene Robinson wrote, "So what if the America we saw Thursday night is the America we'd like to imagine rather than the one we inhabit? Isn't an America that at least aspires to transcend racism better than one that doesn't?

"I've never thought the question of whether this country was 'ready' for a black president or a female president made any sense. Breakthroughs always depend on the right person and the right moment, and 'firsts' never happen — by definition — until they happen. All we can know at this point is that as far as Iowa Democrats are concerned, the time is now and the man is Obama. Voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina and other states may disagree.

"Nor do I believe that a society magically reaches a point of colorblindness. Diversity is more of a journey than a destination, and we have to keep moving forward.

"We do make progress, though. I don't know whether Obama is right that this is a 'defining moment.' But yes, I do believe a page has been turned."

CNN plans to rebroadcast the ABC News/WMUR/Facebook presidential debates that aired from New Hampshire Saturday night — both Republican and Democratic — on Sunday beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern time.

      Eric Easter, Iowa Blues: everybody's talking about who's going to win. What happens to the people who lose?

      Jeremy Gilbert, Poynter Institute: Iowa Caucus Front Pages

      Bob Herbert, New York Times: The Obama Phenomenon

      Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media: The Five Lessons of Iowa

      Earl Ofari Hutchinson, New America Media: Obama Presidency No Cure for Racism

      Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Iowa Win Proves He's Electable

      Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Obamarama: Let the games begin

      Allison Samuels, Newsweek "Periscope" column: Lost In the Obama Era

      Ron Walters, National Newspaper Publishers Association Candidates Must be Accountable to Black Issues


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Lack of Diversity on Coverage Teams Still at Issue

"It was a historic victory I thought might never come," Eric Deggans, media critic at the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, wrote Friday on his blog.

"But even as Barack Obama stepped onstage Thursday to celebrate the first time a black man has ever won a presidential caucus in Iowa, I was also struck by something else: the lack of diversity among those who were covering the event.

"At one point Thursday night, MSNBC had a panel of four middle-aged white guys dissecting the returns — Chris Matthews, Keith Olbermann, Tim Russert and Brian Williams —though at other points, Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson, who is black, joined the fray. CNN also had former Chicago Defender executive editor Roland Martin on its panel of pundits, while Fox News had Greta Van Susteren as a co-anchor with Shepard Smith.

"Still, it says something when the field of presidential candidates sometimes has more women and minorities than the team of reporters covering it.

"That jarring note reflects a couple of unfortunate trends I noticed from last year: there are no reporters of color among the top 20 journalists featured on network TV in 2007, according to analysts at The Tyndall Report. And the number of TV stations owned by black people dipped 60 percent down to just eight nationwide."

Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz was somewhat critical of the media coverage to date. Noting the third-place finish of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., he said:

"Barack Obama, who beat Clinton in the Democratic contest, was initially hailed by anchors and pundits as a 'rock star,' but by the summer and fall he was depicted as a dull candidate who seemed to have little hope of catching up . . . After a debate last spring about whether Obama is 'black enough' for the African American community, there has been surprisingly little media focus on his race," Kurtz wrote.

For Iowa and next Tuesday's New Hampshire primary, African American print journalists on the ground include Gromer Jeffers Jr. of the Dallas Morning News; Brian DeBose of the Washington Times, in New Hampshire; and columnists Errol Louis of the New York Daily News; Mary Mitchell of the Chicago Sun-Times and Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe.

In a rare move for the black press, the Afro-American newspapers posted stories Thursday and Friday by Monroe Anderson, veteran journalist with a history in both the black and the mainstream press, on the campaign in New Hampshire. They were commissioned by Ron Harris, formerly of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, now Afro executive editor. Anderson's Friday story was immediately distributed to other black papers via the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which normally sends out stories only once a week. "The stories were filed right away and we're doing our best to maintain updated coverage of the primaries," NNPA News Service editor Hazel Trice Edney told Journal-isms.

In the Spanish-language press, Impremedia, the nation's largest Spanish-language newspaper publisher, has assigned six reporters to cover the presidential campaign trail at least through the February 5 multi-state "Super Duper Primary," Mark Fitzgerald reported for Editor & Publisher. La Opinion sent four reporters to Iowa and New Hampshire. They are Pilar Marrero, Maribel Hastings, Eileen Truax and Ruben Moreno. Meanwhile, its New York City daily El Diario/La Prensa sent two: Lorenzo Morales and Evelyn Hernandez. They will share reports with the company's other papers, such as La Raza in Chicago and the newly acquired Rumbo papers in Texas, Fitzgerald reported.

In a South Asian view of the campaign, the South Asian Journalists Association Web site reported, "Anna over at Sepia Mutiny points out that Barack Obama actually pronounces 'Pakistan' correctly (PAAH-kis-thaan, rather than the Americanized PACK-is-tan) — a feat as impressive as his winning the Iowa caucus last night. Check out the YouTube video."

      Dr. Nayyer Ali, Pakistan Link: Who Would Muslims Want as the Next American President?

      Thomas B. Edsall, Huffington Post: When Magic Backed Hillary, Did Money Buy Love?

      Clint Hendler, Columbia Journalism Review: The Other Winner in Iowa: How The Des Moines Register Got it (Mostly) Right

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Donde Esta Candidate Bill Richardson?

"I'm afraid the old question that initially haunted Richardson at the start of his campaign is rearing its ugly head all over again: Is Richardson not Latino enough to appeal to Latino voters?" Marisa Treviño wrote of New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat and the only Latino in the presidential race.

"In Iowa, it would appear so."

Treviño reported Wednesday on her Latina Lista blog that Iowa's weekly, El Latino, with 15,000 readers, endorsed Obama, as did the Mundo Latino newspaper of Sioux City. Lorena Lopez, publisher of the biweekly La Prensa, has said nice things about both Hillary Clinton and Obama.

However, Elena Shore wrote on Thursday for New America Media that Hispanic media are cautious about placing too much significance on Iowa's caucus results: "Although it is the first state to hold a presidential caucus, Iowa is not representative of the demographics of the country, and does not include the fastest-growing voting bloc of the country: immigrant and Latino voters."

Richardson won 2 percent of the Iowa caucus vote.


      Mercedes Olivera, Dallas Morning News: Same old song could hurt GOP candidates

      Noel Sheppard, Clinton and Dobbs Spar Over Who's Full of 'Hot Air' on Immigration


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Chicago Sun-Times, Newark Paper Face Cutbacks

"Chicago Sun-Times executives told the union representing reporters, editors and columnists at the paper that it intends to eliminate 35 union positions in the newsroom. In addition, the newspaper plans to eliminate five non-union management positions, sources said," Jim Kirk reported Friday for the Chicago Tribune.

"The newspaper's plan was outlined in a letter Thursday from Sun-Times labor relations chief Ted Rilea to Chicago Newspaper Guild executive director Gerald Minkkinen.

"'We knew it was going to be bad, but it's worse than people were expecting,' said one reporter who spoke on background."

Meanwhile, Joe Strupp reported Friday in Editor & Publisher, "The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., has lost at least $11.5 million in advertising in the past year, according to a letter to staffers from Publisher George Arwady, which predicts the paper will have to undergo serious cutbacks and plans to ask its four unions for work-rule changes in their current contracts."

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Manolo Reyes, a Comfort to Cuban Exiles, Dies at 83

"To the emerging Cuban community of a sleepy Miami in the early 1960s, Manolo Reyes' booming newscaster voice was a comfort — a slice of home in a strange new country," Luisa Yanez reported Friday in the Miami Herald.


"Reyes, one of the first local broadcasters to give the news in Spanish in Miami, died Thursday of complications from Parkinson's disease. He will be buried Friday following a Catholic Mass. He was 83.

"The distinguished-looking Reyes was Spanish-language broadcasting's first bona fide star.

" 'Manolo was the padre of Spanish-language television here and in the southern region of the country,' said Al Sunshine, a veteran reporter at WFOR-CBS4 who worked at WTVJ-Channel 4, the station where Reyes became a legend.

"Guillermo Martinez, an early Cuban exile journalist in Miami, remembers how Reyes was the only game in town for the throngs of Cuban refugees fleeing Fidel Castro's communist regime and arriving in Miami, back when Spanish was truly a foreign language in Miami."

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Overflow Crowd Sends Off Chicago's Terry Armour

An overflow crowd packed a Chicago funeral home Friday to pay tribute to Terry Armour, the Chicago Tribune columnist and broadcast personality whose death Dec. 28 after falling ill at work stunned the newsroom.


Mourners filled the chapel, which seats 240, and filled two overflow rooms, Pam Owens, a cousin of Armour and funeral director at Chicago's A.A. Rayner Funeral Home, told Journal-isms. She estimated attendance at between 650 and 850, with people lining the hallway.

There were "a lot of tears and a lot of laughs," Chris Kuc, the Tribune's Chicago Blackhawks beat reporter, told Journal-isms. Armour would have wanted it that way, Kuc said. Armour, 46, covered the NBA's Chicago Bulls during its championship years in the late 1990s before switching to entertainment writing.

Tribune columnist and author Rick Kogan gave the obituary and the Rev. C. Ernest Essary, father of Armour's wife, LaNell Essary, delivered the eulogy, Kuc recounted. Mayor Richard M. Daley sent flowers.

Also present were sports columnist Fred Mitchell; Chicago Bulls beat reporter K.C. Johnson; Chicago Cubs beat reporter Paul Sullivan and Dan McGrath, the assistant managing editor for sports. Three Tribune staffers were honorary pallbearers: Kuc, Sullivan and Armour's best friend and current foreign/national copy desk chief Mitchell May. "I also saw radio personality Steve Dahl, TV host Bob Sirott, news anchor Mark Suppelsa, former radio co-host Stan Lawrence and others from the Chicago media world," Kuc said.

"A reception was held following the services at Harry Caray's Restaurant. I saw Tribune Editor Ann Marie Lipinski there, White Sox beat reporter Mark Gonzales [and] former Chicago Tribune Public Editor Don Wycliff."

James Warren, the Tribune's managing editor for features, told Journal-isms earlier in the week that the newspaper planned a full-fledged memorial service "a month or so down the road," as many who might attend this week's funeral are out of town for the holiday season.

      Chicago Tribune colleagues share their memories of Terry Armour

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Kenyan Bloggers Keeping World Informed

"With news blackouts in force in Kenya it is up to the bloggers to keep the world, and indeed many of the media, informed of the terrible atrocities being perpetrated in what was just a week ago a relatively peaceful country in Africa. Mobile phones are being used to update Kenyan blogs and video shot of the violence in Kenya via mobile phone is being disseminated by mainstream news media," Louise Marsland reported Friday for the Biz-Community Web site in Cape Town, South Africa.

"Kenya has one of the most vibrant blogging communities in Africa according to the Internet and Democracy project team at Harvard in the United States in this blog entry on the impact of 'Blogs, SMS and the Kenyan Election': 'Blogs and mobile phones have played critical roles since violence erupted,' according to the blog post which is hosted at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University."

      Martin Mutua, East African Standard, Nairobi: Media United for Peace

      East African Standard, Nairobi: Women Editors Launch Healing Campaign

      South Asian Journalists Association: Indians Amidst the Kenya Chaos

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AP Praises Reporter's Ingenuity on Bhutto Story

Associated Press reporter Zarar Khan won the AP's weekly $500 prize "for his standout work putting AP out front on a dramatic story," Mike Silverman, the AP's senior managing editor, said in a memo to AP staffers posted on the Romenesko Web site.


"When a bomb went off as Benazir Bhutto was leaving a rally in Rawalpindi last Thursday, reporter Zarar Khan quickly counted 20 bodies. Bhutto's chief spokesman insisted the former prime minister was safe, but a party supporter told Khan that rather than linger at the blood-soaked street he should rush to Rawalpindi General Hospital," the memo reads.

"So rush he did. With no car available, Khan ran until he flagged down a passing motorcyclist who took him the rest of the one-mile journey. Then he talked his way past police at the gate, past a Bhutto guard at the door and finally got inside the annex to the operating theater.

"There a party aide confirmed that Bhutto was in serious condition and undergoing surgery. Khan phoned in that news (on a borrowed cell phone, since his had been lost in the bombing chaos) and then, when a doctor emerged and spoke to weeping party leaders, Khan learned from Bhutto's personal secretary that she had died. He got confirmation and time of death from a second party aide, while correspondent Munir Ahmad in the Islamabad bureau got further confirmation from a military source.

"That gave Pakistan CoB [chief of bureau] Mat Pennington enough to file the FLASH with which AP broke the tragic news to the world."


      Rhonda Chriss Lokeman, Kansas City Star: Once upon a time in Islamabad

      Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: A daughter of destiny becomes a martyr

      Eric Sass, MediaPost: Bhutto News Draws YouTube Crowds To TV Coverage


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Short Takes

      "For the second time in a year, the director of Tri-Valley's troubled community television station is being sued for sexually harassing a female employee," Meera Pal reported on Friday in the San Jose Mercury News. "Executive director Glenn Davis, 57, has been placed on indefinite leave of absence, while the allegations are investigated by an independent party. . . . The newest suit was filed Thursday by television producer Misty Ty. She is still working at the Pleasanton-based TV station while Davis is on leave."

      "The more I look at 2006, the more I realize that the Center for Asian American Media was right and it was indeed the 'year of the Asian man,' Ben Hamamoto wrote in a New Year commentary for the Japanese-American Nichi Bei Times, based in Northern California. "I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but 2007 was not a new contender for 'year of the Asian man.' Not by a long shot. If anything it was the year of the Asian mug-shot. The most high-profile of which was of course Seung-Hui Cho," the shooter in the Virginia Tech slayings. In AsianWeek, Emil Guillermo agreed that, referring to Asian-Pacific Americans, "Sadly, Cho is Most Newsworthy APA in 2007."

      "Uptown Magazine, a glossy lifestyle publication aimed at African Americans who earn at least $75,000 a year, is coming to Washington next year as part of a nationwide expansion," Thomas Heath reported Monday in the Washington Post. "Founded in New York City in 2004, Uptown publishes five times a year and has a circulation of 40,000, said co-founder Leonard E. Burnett. . . . Burnett, 43, has been in publishing 20 years and was part of the team that launched Vibe music magazine."

      "AAJA national president Jeanne Mariani-Belding, an editorial page editor at the Honolulu Advertiser, has received an Asia Pacific Journalism Fellowship," the Asian American Journalists Association reports. "She will travel to Taiwan, Singapore and Bangkok, Thailand in mid-January to meet with with government, business, civic, cultural and religious leaders; educators and students; NGOs; and other community members to gain a better understanding of these important economies and societies."

Yvette Walker has been named director of presentation at The Oklahoman and its Web site, Walker most recently was's deputy managing editor, Editor & Publisher reported.

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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