Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

On Rosa Parks, Filing for History

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Tuesday, October 25, 2005

News Media Explain, Examine Icon's Significance

Funeral services were scheduled, special sections produced, editorials and commentaries written, and some version of "she sat down so others could stand up" -- no doubt sounding original to each author -- filled newspapers and Web sites two days after Rosa Parks, "mother of the civil rights movement," died Monday at age 92.

A public viewing was planned at Parks' former church in Montgomery, Ala., before her body is returned to Detroit for burial, the Associated Press reported.

A viewing also is scheduled from 6 a.m. to midnight Tuesday at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit, with a funeral service at 11 a.m. the next day at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, Karen Dumas, a spokeswoman for the Parks family and charitable foundation, said in the story.

For many news departments, Parks' passing meant finding a local angle for the story, such as interviewing bus passengers, questioning Parks' colleagues in the civil rights movement or asking local leaders what they made of her significance.

[Added Oct. 27: Editorial cartoonists found ways to comment on Parks that did not always include showing her on a bus. See them here (Association of American Editorial Cartoonists) and here (Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index).]

Roy Hoffman of Alabama's Mobile Register found Claudette Colvin, "whose similar act of resistance was nearly forgotten in history's shadows." Colvin, 65, was 15 when she was arrested for refusing to get out of her seat, nearly nine months before Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a Montgomery bus.

Wil Haygood of the Washington Post asked historian John Hope Franklin, who had lived in Montgomery in the early 1940s, for perspective. "In the liquor store, you would use the same clerk as the whites, but walking up to the clerk, there was a wall that separated you from the white person. So all you saw was that white person's hand. I know what Rosa Parks was up against," Franklin said in Haygood's story.

Wil LaVeist of the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., interviewed Oliver W. Hill, "a revered 98-year-old retired civil rights attorney from Richmond, who obviously still has his sharp mind and tongue," for his column.

Civil rights historian David J. Garrow wrote his own column in the Christian Science Monitor.

Acel Moore, the veteran Philadelphia Inquirer associate editor and columnist who is recovering from a debilitating illness, filed a commentary in tribute.

Other columnists, such as Derrick Z. Jackson of the Boston Globe and Gregory Kane of the Baltimore Sun asked whether Parks would consider the bling-bling lifestyle of many young people today to be progress.

The Oct. 31 issue of Newsweek magazine boasts, "'On Aaron McGruder's new Cartoon Network series 'The Boondocks,' no one is safe ?- not even Rosa Parks." At one point, a spandex-sporting woman hits Parks in the head with a chicken leg. 'Sit down!' she yells at Parks. 'That's what you're known for anyway.'"

"'The Boondocks' creator was on a conference call interview with reporters yesterday and acknowledged that after Rosa Parks died Monday, he pulled several rough-hewn references to the civil rights icon from an upcoming episode of his new animated television series based on the comic strip," Neely Tucker wrote today in the Washington Post.

Syndicated radio host Tom Joyner said in a statement, "One of my proudest moments as a broadcaster is my involvement with Tavis [ Smiley] and his campaign to ensure that Rosa Parks received the Congressional Gold Medal," in 1999. The medal is the nation's highest civilian award. "It reminded me of a few things: The power of black radio and how, like back in the day, radio was used to inform our listeners and rally them to a good cause. It proved that we are still willing to take stand about something important."

Black Entertainment Television's covered the death on Monday with a "crawl" on the screen.

But BET plans a documentary on Parks' life on Sunday, Nov. 6, spokesman Michael Lewellen told Journal-isms.

It was bad timing as well for the Chicago Defender, which decided this year to kill its Tuesday edition to save money. It restored it for the death of publisher John H. Johnson, who died on Aug. 8, but not for Parks. Johnson died earlier in the day.

"CNN called me Monday to help confirm her death, and that's the first I heard of it," Executive Editor Roland S. Martin told Journal-isms.

"I hated the fact that we didn't have a Tuesday paper, but it is what it is. It crossed my mind to call our managing partner, but it would not have made [sense] because the death was confirmed at 9:26 p.m., our staff was long gone. On Mondays, we work 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., so it would not have made sense to pull them in. We simply decided it would be best to focus our efforts on Wednesday and thereafter."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice paused while in Ottawa, Canada, to pay tribute to her fellow Alabaman, and the Montreal Gazette followed with an editorial, "Rosa Parks paved way for Rice."

Most newspapers had mention of Parks' death on the front page Tuesday -- but not all. In Edmonton, Alberta, Penny Greenleese let the Edmonton Journal know that she noticed.

"What a sad day it is when news of the death of a hero, Rosa Parks ('Civil rights icon Rosa Parks dies at 92,' Oct. 25) is relegated to the back pages of the Edmonton Journal," she wrote in a letter published today.

"Perhaps The Journal needs to keep in mind how important it is to give credit to those who have made a huge difference to the good in life. It's time to get priorities straight. I question those of the Edmonton Journal."

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Ed Bradley: McManus "Good Choice" for CBS News

CBS News President Andrew Heyward was replaced today by CBS Sports President Sean McManus, and veteran CBS News correspondent Ed Bradley said he thought it "a good choice.

"He's a good executive," Bradley said. "The evidence is in his track record at CBS Sports," he told Journal-isms. He cited the CBS golf franchise, its NFL franchise, and the NCAA "March Madness" games, also under contract to CBS. As for diversity, Bradley said, "I see Greg Gumbel as the football person for them, broadcasting every Sunday," and African Americans anchoring other sports broadcasts.

Bradley wasn't alone in his approval. [Added Oct. 27: Heyward "never tried to work with NABJ on any of the diversity issues we raised," Barbara Ciara, vice president for broadcast of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms. "He always refused to provide numbers to give his racial report card any credibility. He never felt he had to answer any of our questions and would pound on his chest and tell us his record was above reproach.

["So I welcome some new blood in the office; perhaps we can begin a fresh relationship with CBS News."]

"When I think about some of the things that could have happened here, I think this is an excellent choice," Bob Schieffer, who has been temporarily anchoring the evening news since March, said in the Los Angeles Times. "I consider people in sports journalists. He is from CBS and he has respect for CBS News, and I think that is very, very important."

McManus has been president of CBS Sports since 1996 and is the son of the legendary ABC sportscaster Jim McKay, whose legal name is McManus, Jacques Steinberg noted today in the New York Times.

"This has been a very difficult year for CBS News, for Andrew, for other people in CBS News," the chairman of CBS, Leslie Moonves told Steinberg. "I think it was a mutual decision. Andrew's been head of CBS News for a long time, longer than anyone else in many years. It was just time."

"In a memo to his 'friends and colleagues,' issued prior to this morning's official CBS announcement," John Consoli reported today in Mediaweek, "Heyward said, 'I do not intend to "pursue other interests" or even "spend more time with my family," wonderful as it is.'"

MESSAGE BOARDS: Feel free to post a comment on this subject and view those from others. Replaces "Demonizing" Rice Photo

The USA Today Web site today replaced a digitally altered photo of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that, conservatives complained, made her look possessed.

"The photo of Condoleezza Rice that originally accompanied this story was altered in a manner that did not meet USA TODAY's editorial standards," a note on the site read this afternoon. The photo did not appear in the newspaper's print edition.

"The photo has been replaced by a properly adjusted copy. Photos published online are routinely cropped for size and adjusted for brightness and sharpness to optimize their appearance. In this case, after sharpening the photo for clarity, the editor brightened a portion of Rice's face, giving her eyes an unnatural appearance. This resulted in a distortion of the original not in keeping with our editorial standards," the note continued.

In a Weblog item today, Michelle Malkin joined other conservatives in urging that readers contact USA Today's photo editor, Richard Curtis. She added, "I'll be talking about more unhinged examples of Condi hatred next week." She headlined her item "Demonizing Condi."

Curtis told Journal-isms he was receiving 10 or 15 e-mails a minute and that as of 4:49 p.m., he had tallied 868. "It's mutating from Web site to Web site," he said of the campaign. USA Today spokesman Steve Anderson said he had received "hundreds" of e-mails, primarily prompted by the blogs.

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NAHJ Backs Hernandez Against Bill O'Reilly

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists today came to the defense of Dallas Morning News columnist Macarena Hernandez, the object of complaints by Fox commentator Bill O'Reilly, who suggested that "Texans might consider canceling their subscriptions and advertisers might rethink their investment" in the Dallas paper.

O'Reilly objected to a Hernandez column saying that on "The O'Reilly Factor," "the anchor and the callers constantly point to the southern border as the birth of all America's ills."

"You say you care about Mexicans who are in this country illegally. 'Good people,' you called them. Well, she wrote about them, Mr. O'Reilly," read a letter from Veronica Villafañe, president of NAHJ, and Rafael Olmeda, vice president for print. "This article was about their plight, about justice for them. And it was about a media culture that underreports crimes against them, about a public that cares less and less about them, and about certain callers to your (let me get this right) radio show who see them as instruments of biological warfare, not as people.

"If you really care about Mexicans, including those who aren't here legally, then put the focus back on them instead of using your influence to attack someone who has the courage to stand up to your caller's hateful remark, even if you didn't."

Separately, Cindy Rodriguez, an NAHJ board member, wrote Tuesday in her Denver Post column that, "O'Reilly tried bullying me in January 2004. I had mentioned in a column that he had misquoted the figures of a flawed study on illegal immigrants and their supposed abuse of welfare."

But, she said, "I did what my mother had taught me: Ignore the bully."

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"Nightline" Said to Be Seeking Vicki Mabrey

"As the Nov. 28 launch date for the brand-new Nightline looms, incoming executive producer James Goldston is assembling a team of four correspondents to help carry out his plan to reinvent the single-anchor, single-topic news program as a multi-anchor, multi-topic, late-night television event," Rebecca Dana wrote today in the New York Observer.

"According to sources familiar with his efforts, Mr. Goldston has signed longtime Nightline correspondents John Donvan and Chris Bury to fill two of those spots.

"A third has been offered to Lisa Ling, a correspondent for the National Geographic Channel and Oprah and a former co-host of ABC's The View. And as for the fourth spot, Mr. Goldston's initial choice, CBS correspondent Byron Pitts, chose to renew his contract with that network earlier this month, sources said. Now, according to multiple ABC sources, Mr. Goldston is looking to poach another CBS reporter: Vicki Mabrey, a former London-based correspondent and a contributor to 60 Minutes II until the program was cancelled last spring.

"A network spokesperson said that the correspondent spots were still under discussion and that ABC is not ready to make an announcement yet."

The article did not mention "Nightline" correspondent Michel Martin. Goldston did not return telephone calls from Journal-isms.

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Columnist Robinson Tackles Condi Rice, Diversity

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson went online today to discuss two columns he wrote about Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"After spending three days with the secretary of state and her entourage as she toured Birmingham, where she grew up in a protective bubble as the tumult of the civil rights movement swirled around her, [I believe] it's as if Rice is still cosseted in her beloved Titusville, the neighborhood of black strivers where she was raised, able to see the very different reality that other African Americans experience but not to reach out of the bubble -- not able to touch that other reality, and thus not able to really understand it," he wrote Tuesday.

A reader from Arlington, Va., asked: "After a column like today's, I think you owe it to your readers to tell us whether you practice what you preach. Tell us what you did to diversify the Style section when you were in charge. What reporters or columnists of color did you bring in? I don't mean to sound hostile; I'm honestly interested, particularly to hear how such a task can be done right if indeed you think you were successful.

Replied Robinson: "When I was editor of the Style section, my deputy was Deborah Heard, an African American woman (and native of Alabama) who has now followed me as head of the section. I hired an African American editor and a Latina editor for our assignment desk and three minority editors for the copy desk (one subsequently left). I hired a number of minority writers including Wil Haygood, Teresa Wiltz, Jose Antonio Vargas -- And while we're on the subject of practicing what we preach, I spend a lot of off-hours helping my wife with the non-profit she runs in her alleged spare time; it provides college scholarships for high-achieving African American students from the Washington area who have financial need."

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Hurricane Wilma Forces Papers to Print Elsewhere

"For the first time in its history, The Miami Herald was not printed in Miami Tuesday," Joe Strupp reported Tuesday in Editor & Publisher.

"Thanks to Hurricane Wilma, which knocked out power to most of South Florida on Monday, the Knight Ridder daily had to be published hundreds of miles north in Tampa. 'We basically e-mailed our newspaper to them and they printed it,' Executive Editor Tom Fiedler said about the Tuesday edition, which published via The Tampa Tribune. 'We are hoping to have papers to people by noon today.'

"The Herald was one of several papers in southeast Florida affected by Wilma-related power outages and damage, which began Monday morning and hit different locations at different times. Among others forced to rearrange their printing efforts were the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and the Palm Beach Post."

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N.O. Blacks Distrustful of Government Rebuilding

"Beneath the shattered, condemned homes of the poorest and blackest sections of New Orleans, lodged in the dank, toxic soil left behind by Katrina, are deep roots of distrust for the government," Erin McClam wrote over the weekend for the Associated Press.

"That distrust is fully evident eight weeks after Katrina drowned the city. Many its black residents are stuck in a tragic limbo, a mix of questions and conspiracies. Most immediately, they wonder how they could have been left behind so egregiously in a disaster foreseen for decades.

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Documented: People of Color Embracing Cellphones

"When it comes to wireless phone service, the digital divide seems to work in reverse: Generally, more-affluent whites are the ones being left behind," Shawn Young wrote Monday in the Wall Street Journal.

"African-Americans and Hispanics are ahead of whites in taking advantage of advanced cellphone features like text messaging, Internet access and downloading the latest ringtones, according to Forrester Research Inc., a consulting firm based in Cambridge, Mass. Minorities also tend to be more satisfied with their wireless service and are more likely to be among the 5.5% of the population that has cut the cord and uses wireless phones exclusively.

" . . . Another habit that endears Hispanic customers in particular to cellphone marketers: talkativeness. Hispanics spend the most on cellphone service per capita of any major U.S. ethnic group, according to Forrester.

". . . While 81% of Asian-Americans have cellphones -- the highest percentage of any ethnic group -- Forrester's research shows that African-Americans and Hispanics are the most enthusiastic about all of the things they can do with their phones. In a 2003 Forrester study, about 20% of African-Americans and 12% of Hispanics had used wireless data services like Internet access on their cellphones, while only 7% of whites had. And the disparity seems only to have grown since then.

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Source Magazine Sues BET Over Awards Show

"The Source Magazine has filed a $100 million . . . lawsuit against Black Entertainment Television (BET) and two high-ranking executives with the company, alleging that the network refused to air The Source Awards as stipulated in a signed agreement," Nolan Strong reported Monday night on

"The BET lawsuit was filed last Wednesday (Oct. 19) in New York Supreme Court and alleges that BET's EVP and CFO Scott Mills and EVP, General Counsel and CAO Byron Marchand conspired to keep The Source Awards off of the network, which is owned by Viacom."

BET spokesman Michael Lewellen told Journal-isms today: "BET denies the allegations raised by Source Entertainment. Source Entertainment failed to fulfill its obligations to BET. BET and Source could not come to terms regarding the 2005 Source Awards. BET will aggressively defend any lawsuit brought by Source Entertainment in this regard."

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Short Takes

  • Alan Whitt joined the Nashville Tennessean this month as assistant managing editor for sports. The National Association of Black Journalists lists six African Americans who are top sports editors, but the job of one of them, Lee Ivory of USA Today's Sports Weekly, is in flux after a reorganization. Whitt was a news editor at ESPN and had been deputy sports editor at the Detroit News. He had worked at the Orlando Sentinel and the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., and was to have started in Nashville on Oct. 3.
  • Collins Spencer of CNN is joining WSB-TV in Atlanta to co-anchor Action News "This Morning" from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. He also will co-anchor the Cox station's one- hour noon newscast, WSB-TV announced.
  • "Your full name is Maria de la Soledad O'Brien, which kind of says it all for a diversity conference speaker," Courtenay Edelhart of the Indianapolis Star said to CNN's Soledad O'Brien in a q-and-a published Monday. "How did your parents deal with the issue of race as you were growing up, or did they mention it at all?" O'Brien answered: "They did. My mom used to say all the time, 'You're a black girl. You're a light-skinned black girl with freckles.' They did a good job of saying who I was and what I was. They never tried to spin it or whatever. I've spoken to a lot of audiences of biracial people, and I've met a lot of young people who were really confused about their identity. I tell them, 'You owe it to yourself to figure out who you are and know who you are, but you don't owe it to anyone else to explain it or defend it.'"

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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