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Rush Limbaugh Resigns from ESPN After Furor

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Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Limbaugh Resigns from ESPN After Furor

"Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh resigned from ESPN on Wednesday night, three days after his comments about Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb being overrated because the media wanted to see a black quarterback succeed," the Associated Press reports.

"Earlier Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidates Wesley Clark, Howard Dean and Rev. Al Sharpton called for the cable sports network to fire Limbaugh," the story continued.

"My comments this past Sunday were directed at the media and were not racially motivated," Limbaugh said in a statement Wednesday night. "I offered an opinion. This opinion has caused discomfort to the crew, which I regret.

"I love `NFL Sunday Countdown' and do not want to be a distraction to the great work done by all who work on it.

"Therefore, I have decided to resign. I appreciate the opportunity to be a part of the show and wish all the best to those who make it happen."

"George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports, accepted the resignation," AP continued in its story.

Earlier in the day, McNabb said it was too late for an apology.

And just before the news hit that Limbaugh had resigned from the show, the National Association of Black Journalists issued a statement saying it considered Limbaugh's comments irresponsible and inexcusable, and called on Disney, the parent company of ABC and ESPN, "to prove that it agrees."

In an evening statement, ESPN had said: "Although Mr. Limbaugh today stated that his comments had 'no racist intent whatsoever,' we have communicated to Mr. Limbaugh that his comments were insensitive and inappropriate. Throughout his career, he has been consistent in his criticism of the media's coverage of a myriad of issues," Leonard Shapiro reported on washingtonpost.com.

"In fact, the conservative commentator said he must have been right; otherwise, the comments would not have sparked such outrage," said an AP report.

"Before McNabb led the Eagles to a 23-13 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, Limbaugh said on ESPN's pregame show that he didn't think McNabb was as good as perceived from the start.

"'I think what we've had here is a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback do well,' Limbaugh said on `Sunday NFL Countdown.' `There is a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of this team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team.'

"Limbaugh did not back down during his syndicated radio talk show Wednesday," AP said.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said in a statement late in the day that, "People like Rush Limbaugh are a constant reminder that we still have a long way to go in dealing with race in America. I call on the executives and leadership of ESPN and its parent company, Disney, to swiftly address this matter."

Limbaugh was hired in July for "Sunday NFL Countdown," ESPN's NFL studio show, shortly after ESPN announced it had hired former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Michael Irvin for the show.

Limbaugh was to "deliver a weekly opinion piece each week about the NFL, and said he would play the role of the fan during the show, representing that point of view in discussions and challenging the points of view offered by the analysts during the show," Bob Wolfley of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported then.

NABJ calls on ESPN, Disney to step away from Limbaugh

Limbaugh merely said aloud what many say privately (Stephen A. Smith column, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Diann Burns Signs With CBS' Chicago Station

Diann Burns, veteran Chicago broadcaster, will join WBBM-TV, the CBS owned- and operated station in Chicago, as co-anchor of the station's 5 p.m., 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, the station announced late today.

Joe Ahern, president and general manager, and Carol Fowler, vice president/news director for the station, said Burns would co-anchor the newscasts with Antonio Mora.

She is to begin work on Oct. 13, the same day that the station will launch its 6 p.m. news.

Until February, when she was abruptly pulled from the air, Burns was co-anchor of WLS-TV's top rated 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts, a position she held since 1994. She was Chicago's first African American woman to serve as lead anchor of a 10 p.m. news broadcast, the station announcement noted.

The deal was going to be negotiated by Marc Watts, a Chicago-based media talent agent whose No. 1 client is the former $2-million-a-year news anchor at top-rated WLS-Channel 7, Robert Feder reported earlier in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Until now, Burns, 46, was either under contract to Channel 7 or -- for the last 90 days -- obligated to disclose any other offers to her former ABC-owned station bosses, who retained the right to match. As of Oct. 1, however, all bets are off," Feder wrote.

Howard Dean Reaches Out to Black Journalists

Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, in Washington to attend Congressional Black Caucus events, summoned three black journalists on short notice Saturday "for what was described as a casual meet-and-greet opportunity," reports Terry M. Neal, political columnist on washingtonpost.com.

The former Vermont governor talked to the three -- Neal, Michele Norris of National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and Hazel Trice Edney of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, representing the black press -- "for an hour at a Capitol Hill restaurant, Neal wrote.

"I asked him why Dean supporters have been portrayed as homogenous," Neal wrote in the second of two columns on the meeting.

"'It's not true,' he said.

"Where does the perception come from then?

"'It comes from the reporters who go to the rallies.'

"Well, that doesn't seem to be an outrageous way for reporters to assess candidate support," Neal wrote.

"Roland Martin, a black syndicated columnist who has written about black political issues for years, attended a Dean reception at the Grand Hyatt on Friday evening. Something about it stood out among all the events of CBC week, he said," Neal continued.

"'It was the one place where there was a majority of white folks in the room,' Martin said."

Dean also repeated his claim that "I'm the only politician who talks to white people about race the way it should be talked about," to which Neal comments, "This sort of talk is a good example of what his opponents don't like about him."

Gerald Boyd Visits Tavis Smiley in L.A.

Former New York Times Managing Editor Gerald M. Boyd paid a visit to radio host Tavis Smiley yesterday in Los Angeles, National Public Radio spokeswomen confirmed today, but they would not confirm or deny a gossip-column item in the New York Post that Boyd was there "to discuss becoming executive producer of Smiley's show on National Public Radio."

The New York Post item quoted "sources," and had Boyd in L.A. today rather than yesterday. Sheryl Flowers, the show's current executive producer, told Journal-isms that Boyd was in Los Angeles for many reasons, not simply to visit Smiley. NPR spokeswoman Laura Gross echoed the official line that "Gerald Boyd was indeed in Los Angeles visiting with Tavis Smiley. They are friends."

Smiley had a lively time on his show that day laughing and joking with the O'Jays. Boyd maintained quite a different image during a lengthy New York Times career.

El Diario-La Prensa Editor Quits in Castro Flap

"A decision to ditch a column by Cuban dictator Fidel Castro in the Spanish-language daily El Diario-La Prensa led to the sudden resignation of the paper's editor yesterday," Maite Junco and Albor Ruiz wrote Tuesday in the New York Daily News.

"Editor-in-chief Gerson Borrero, 52, announced to editors of all departments late yesterday that he had quit the top job but would stay on as a columnist.

"Borrero told colleagues he was leaving because El Diario's owners had decided to overrule him and spike a column written by the Cuban president that had been scheduled to run yesterday," the Daily News writers said.

New investors bought the paper in July, and "Borrero said with the new owners, 'changes are coming, and I saw this as a sign of what's coming' at the 90-year-old El Diario, the nation's oldest Spanish-language daily." the News wrote.

Boston Sportswriter Announces He's Gay

Ed Gray, a 20-year sportswriter at the Boston Herald, announced to readers yesterday that he is gay.

"I'm out because I no longer, in good conscience, choose to ignore the unabashed homophobia that is so cavalierly tolerated within the world of sports. I'm out, because the silence of a closeted gay man only serves to give his implicit approval to bigotry. I'm out, because I refuse to continue hiding from the truth that an openly gay man has as much right as a straight man to play sports or report on them," Gray, 55, wrote in a column called "Out and Proud."

The rival Boston Globe quoted Gray today as saying that "There's been a 100 percent positive reaction from my co-workers, people in the industry, and long-lost friends."

Gray continued in his column: "Obviously, the climate is not ideal for a gay athlete to come out when San Francisco 49ers running back Garrison Hearst can say, `I don't want any faggots on my team,' and New York Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey can call Dallas Cowboys coach Bill Parcells 'a homo' without any fear of being suspended or fined by his team or the NFL.

"The gay community is the one minority that is still very much fair game for overt displays of prejudice in the world of sports. While inroads toward achieving equality are slowly being made in the real world, a gay man is still expected to bear the burden of shame in the sports world."

Columnist Leonard Pitts Joins Hampton U. Faculty

"Syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts, Jr. has been named Scripps Howard Visiting Professional in the School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University during the spring semester of 2004," the school's new director, Chris Campbell, announces.

Campbell said Pitts, whose column originates at the Miami Herald, will continue to write his twice-a-week commentary while he teaches at the historically black Virginia university. "Pitts, who lives in Bowie, Md., will spend three days each week on campus, teaching one course in opinion writing and criticism and a second in trends in popular culture journalism," Campbell's announcement said.

"Pitts? Miami Herald newspaper column on pop culture, social issues and family life is syndicated in more than 150 daily newspapers. He won the top prize for commentary at the Scripps Howard Foundation?s National Journalism Awards in 2002. Pitts was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 1992," the announcement continued.

Pitts' column on the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks prompted 26,000 e-mails from readers, "who posted it on the Internet, chain-letter style," the Herald reported last year.

Princell Hair Pledges "Voice to the Voiceless"

Princell Hair, the man tapped to run CNN's domestic news operation, tells Peter Johnson in USA Today that "to tag him with the 'if it bleeds it leads' label is unfair and that he has no plans to steer CNN in that direction," Johnson writes.

"He won't critique MSNBC or Fox News or say what his plans are. 'I believe in strong storytelling, doing good journalism, giving a voice to the voiceless, holding public officials accountable and doing strong investigative journalism,'" the story continued.

Hair, 36, was criticized as soon as he was appointed two weeks ago over his local news background. But Johnson quotes CNN president Jim Walton as saying that Walton himself "got a break at a young age -- 27 -- and that he always has believed in taking chances on people who show promise. Hair 'is somebody who is hungry, who is smart and is a person of character. We'll see.' "

The USA Today story also explains how Hair got his name. "His mother still hadn't named him a few days after he was born, and her sister dropped by to see the baby. 'He looks just like a little prince,' she said," Johnson reports.

Columnist-Turned-Radio Host Fired in Race Furor

A white newspaper columnist-turned-talk-show host in Rochester, N.Y., was fired Monday by the radio station in the wake of an uproar sparked by references he made to the city's African American mayor as a ?monkey? and ?orangutan.?

"The sad saga of Bob Lonsberry brought out the best and worse of this community over the past week," wrote Lonsberry's former newspaper, the Gannett-owned Democrat and Chronicle, in an editorial a day before the firing. "Incredibly, the WHAM talk show host's supporters insisted they saw no harm in Lonsberry alluding to Mayor William Johnson as an orangutan. Fortunately, many of those who were offended spoke up."

In his online column, Lonsberry, who said he was marking his 20th year in the news media, said, "It was an off-the-cuff remark, meant to be funny. I meant no harm by it. I was not even thinking race when I said it. Most people saw no wrong in it. But it was wrong. I was wrong. I let my thoughtlessness hurt a man for no reason, and I created an impression of racism in some people?s minds."

"I have apologized publicly and privately and want to be completely clear that I was wrong."

In a column after the firing, he said, "My only regret is to the listeners who will feel as if I have abandoned them."

Monica Navarro is Group's Journalist of the Year

Monica Navarro, a native of Mexico City who for 21 years has been a key news anchor and reporter for Univision in San Antonio, has been named the Journalist of the Year by Hispanic Media Awards and Events Concepts, which annually produces a Hispanic Media Awards show, the San Antonio Business Journal reports.

Navarro continuously features stories to help Hispanics improve their standard of life in the United States with information such as how to obtain legal assistance and how to enroll in GED, computer and literacy classes, said Chris Day, founder and creator of the awards.

NBC-Telemundo Link Pays Off in Recall Coverage

"NBC's ownership of Telemundo is paying off with California recall coverage. The seven NBC and Telemundo stations in Los Angeles, San Diego, Fresno and San Francisco have worked together to cover the statewide story in the largest effort to date between the English and Spanish stations. The coordination is significant because Hispanics make up one-third of California's population," reports Television Week.

"We have shared resources but we have never had a story that lent itself so well," said Steve Schwaid, vice president of news and programming for the NBC-owned station group, Television Week said.

Arthur Fennell Moderating Philly Mayoral Debate

The first 2003 Philadelphia mayoral debate between Democratic Mayor John F. Street and Republican challenger Samuel Katz takes place Oct. 9, moderated by Arthur Fennell, president of the National Association of Black Journalists in 1995-1997 who works for the station that will broadcast the event, Comcast's CN8, Comcast announces.

"The Philadelphia Mayoral Debate is hosted by The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists in cooperation with Drexel University and the local chapters of The National Association of Hispanic Journalists, The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and The Asian-American Journalists Association. Journalists representing the aforementioned organizations will also pose questions to the candidates," Comcast says.

Women, People of Color Frustrated at AOL

"A report on diversity at America Online found that many women and minorities felt excluded from the white male 'good old boy' network they believe dominates the company and makes it difficult to advance," the Washington Post reports.

"The study, commissioned by the company, said employees also fretted that a 'cut-throat and extremely political' culture at AOL is undermining morale and blurring the line between work and life outside the office.

"AOL had 'no people of color' among senior executives in 2002, the report said. Among the 19 senior executives, there were 15 men, four women and no minorities, statistics confirmed by the company show," the story continued.

African Americans Buying More Online

"According to research from America Online, Inc., African Americans have "a higher propensity toward purchasing certain items online than the rest of the general Internet population. African-American Internet users purchase more clothing and apparel online than the general Internet market (48 percent compared to 41 percent); and more music and videos (44 percent vs. 39 percent). African-Americans also listen to music online and watch videos more than the general online market," reports Robyn Greenspan on CyberAtlas, which calls itself "the world's leading resource for Internet trends and Internet statistics."

"AOL's research revealed that African-American Internet surfers use broadband connections at a higher rate than the general online population ? 43 percent compared to 36 percent ? and are 27 percent more likely to get a broadband connection within the next year.

"Marketers should take notice that most African-Americans read online ads, and 46 percent find them informative compared to 26 percent of the general population. Also, nearly three-quarters of African-Americans say the Internet has had a positive effect on their children," the story said.

The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information.

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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