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Shoe Incident: Serious, Funny or Both?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ed Stein/Rocky Mountain News


Some Say Media Have Been Too Quick to Laugh It Off

The first question for media writer Howard Kurtz's online chat on the Washington Post Web site was from Ocala, Fla.:

"Can we expect American journalists to follow the lead of their Iraqi colleague and get tougher with the president?"

"I knew it!" Kurtz replied. "I was telling people yesterday, just wait, some folks will say this is how American reporters should have been treating the president.

"Perhaps you're being sarcastic. Television has had a grand time replaying the footage, and I suppose it's humorous, and Bush handled it well. But it still makes me uneasy. What if the shoes had been laced with something dangerous? I find it fairly amazing that this guy could get so close as to hurl something hard at the president."

Later in the chat, Kurtz was more forthright.

"I happen to have a master's degree in journalism, and in my studies, I have never encountered our professional duties being defined as including throwing shoes at public officials. Someone who does that is not, in my humble view, as 'reporter.'"

(c) 2008 Tim JacksonNaturally, others saw it differently. Sunday's incident was a made-for-cartooning moment, and the editorial-page artists didn't let it pass. A video game materialized in no time.

In the Mideast and in the United States, Iraqi journalist Muntazer al-Zaidi was viewed by some as delivering a fitting close to the Bush presidency.

He called George Bush "a dog" as he threw one of two shoes at Bush during a news conference with Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"Al-Zaidi's attack on Bush, who ordered the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has been met with broad support across the Arab world," the television network al-Jazeera reported.

"Iraqis calling for al-Zaidi's release from custody held a second day of protests on Tuesday, with hundreds of students marching in Baghdad.

"The demonstrations came a day after thousands of people turned out in Baghdad's Sadr City in a show of support for al-Zaidi.

"But the Iraqi government on Monday called al-Zaidi's outburst against Bush a 'barbaric and ignominious act.'"

Bush ducked and tried to laugh about it, saying, "It didn't bother me, and if you want the facts it was a size 10 shoe he threw at me."

But as the Chicago Tribune explained, "Throwing a shoe at someone or slapping someone with the sole of a shoe is the ultimate show of contempt-essentially indicating that a person is lower than dirt."

The Arab network quoted al-Zaidi's brother, Durgham al-Zaidi, saying the television reporter was beaten by security guards. "We know that [Muntazer] has been tortured and his hand was broken. I asked them to go and check on him in the Green Zone [in Baghdad]," he said.

New York Daily News had fun with a pun.Mark Seibel, managing editor for online in the McClatchy Washington Bureau, takes the same position as Kurtz. "Most journalists saw it as a not-very-serious incident," he told Journal-isms. "Had that shoe hit him," he said, speaking of Bush, "had it struck him in the eye or the nose, it would be a very different kind of story."

Seibel moved a piece Tuesday by Greg Gordon and Adam Ashton that began, "Although the Secret Service put everyone who attended President George W. Bush's Baghdad news conference through several layers of security Sunday, the agency appeared to be caught off guard when an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at the president."

It added that "The National Media Center, an arm of the Iraqi government that deals with the news media, condemned Zaidi's behavior as barbaric and harmful to 'Iraqi journalists and journalism in general,' demanding an apology from his employer.

"The Iraqi Union of Journalists took a middle road, saying it was 'astonished by this behavior' but urging Zaidi's release 'for humanitarian reasons.'"

McClatchy's own Iraqi correspondents were divided.

"Some of the guys were happy and they were talking about the bravery of the journalist who threw his shoes at the American president," Laith wrote on a blog maintained by McClatchy's Iraqi correspondents. "When I tried to explain my opinion, I was trying to tell the guys that I don't agree with the way the journalist behaved, but I was attacked by them.

"I just wanted to say that the best action to the destruction made by Bush policy is not throw a shoe or to shout because this is an emotional reaction. The right reaction is to be loyal to Iraq and to build it, not to spend the time in tours in Europe and some neighboring countries that export death to Iraq."

Under Iraqi law, al-Zaidi risks up to seven years in jail for "offending the head of a foreign state," Agence France Presse reported. He made a court appearance on Wednesday.

Dellums Urges Expansion of Bailey Investigation

Chauncey Bailey Oakland, Calif., Mayor Ron Dellums called for an expansion of the state investigation into the Police Department's handling of journalist Chauncey Bailey's slaying to include a newly reported delay in the raid of Your Black Muslim Bakery, an operation Bailey was investigating, Thomas Peele and Bob Butler reported for the Chauncey Bailey Project.

"Dellums' comments came in reaction to reports Tuesday by The Chauncey Bailey Project that the raid was delayed 48 hours to accommodate the vacation schedules of two SWAT commanders.

"Police postponed the raid from the planned date of Aug. 1, 2007, to Aug. 3, 2007, because two senior SWAT commanders were on a backpacking trip, the Bailey Project, a consortium of Bay Area journalists, reported.

"If not for the delay, Bailey might be alive. A masked gunman killed him Aug. 2, 2007 — between the date the raid was first scheduled and the date when it was carried out."

Detroit Newspapers to Home-Deliver Only 3 Days

"This might go down as the week that they took paper out of the newspaper business," James Rainey wrote Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times.

"Detroit's two daily newspapers announced Tuesday that they plan to reduce home delivery to just three days a week. And the trade organization for newspaper editors scheduled an April vote on whether to drop 'paper' from its name."

"The idea in both cases is to fully embrace the shift of many readers and advertisers to the Internet, where many news executives believe the business must stake its future, and to finally begin to break away from a 400-year-old delivery system.

"Bosses at the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News said they will save millions of dollars they would have spent to print and deliver their newspapers, which have been steadily losing circulation.

"Better to alter the delivery system, they argued, than to further cut the news staffs."

African Americans will have a disproportionate role in the experiment in reduced home delivery. Twenty-five percent of the Free Press weekly circulation of 1,738,000 is black or African American, as is 30 percent of the News' circulation of 914,400, according to Scarborough Research figures. Both percentages are above the national average.

Not as many are on the Internet, but the difference now is slight. A study of African Americans by the Yankelovich consumer market research firm for Radio One Inc., released in June, found, "The digital divide has faded. 68 percent of those surveyed are online (compared to 71 percent of all Americans), and two-thirds of them shop online."

Rainey noted in the L.A. Times, "More than 300 people had commented on the proposed shift on the Free Press website by Tuesday evening and many said they thought they could support a change if it would help the papers survive."

Some Pundits Not Buying Obama's Protests on Scandal

Time made its choice public Wednesday.Barack Obama might be Time magazine's newly named Person of the Year, but his honeymoon with the news media is fading among some who say he should be more forthcoming in the Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich scandal.

"This week the media is no doubt annoying Obama with daily questions about Democratic Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly trying to sell Obama's Senate seat and the role of certain members of Obama's team," CNN's Campbell Brown said in a posted commentary Wednesday night, repeating sentiments she had expressed on the air.

Brown went on to quote Obama cutting off a question from the Chicago Tribune's John McCormick, saying U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald had asked him not to disrupt the Blagojevich case by disclosing certain details.

"Mr. President-elect, this is the second time I have observed you doing this. Cutting off a reporter because the question didn't suit you," Brown admonished.

"Mr. President-elect, this sort of approach reminds a lot of us of the current administration now packing up to go, and it frankly doesn't fly in a democracy."

On MSNBC, Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said, "It's a question that is not going away and he can't, as he did in the press conference, just tell a reporter that they shouldn't even be asking the question."

Commentator Jonathan Alter said the news conference needed the presence of a Sam Donaldson, the semi-retired ABC correspondent who "when he wasn't getting an answer, would shout" the question.

NBC's Mark Whitaker: Questions won't go away.Dana Milbank, writing in Wednesday's Washington Post, said of Obama, "Hiding behind Patrick Fitzgerald's skirt? Warning a reporter not to 'waste' a question and asking for an alternative question? All four techniques were popularized by Bush."

Whitaker and MSNBC correspondent Bob Franken continued their criticism on Wednesday after Obama deferred Blagojevich questions, leaving it to the Washington Post's Michael Fletcher to say that Obama "probably would like to get the information out soon" because it was a only a distraction for him. Obama promised it "next week."

At Media Matters for America, Eric Boehlert fired back at Milbank: "According to Milbank, Obama is acting just like Bush. But Milbank used language that nobody at the Post ever dreamt of using while Bush was in office."

New Question: Is the President-Elect Biracial Enough?

After a campaign that began with skeptics asking whether Barack Obama was "black enough," his presidency is unfolding with others asking whether he is biracial enough.

"A perplexing new chapter is unfolding in Barack Obama's racial saga: Many people insist that 'the first black president' is actually not black," Jesse Washington wrote for the Associated Press.

"Debate over whether to call this son of a white Kansan and a black Kenyan biracial, African-American, mixed-race, half-and-half, multiracial — or, in Obama's own words, a 'mutt' — has reached a crescendo since Obama's election shattered assumptions about race.

"Obama has said, 'I identify as African-American — that's how I'm treated and that's how I'm viewed. I'm proud of it.' In other words, the world gave Obama no choice but to be black, and he was happy to oblige.

"But the world has changed since the young Obama found his place in it."

Ethnic Media Place Premium on Affecting Community

A survey of ethnic media confirms that, "The respondents consider their media's impact on the community as their most important measure of success." That "explains why a large majority of the respondents have stayed with their current news organizations for many years and intend to remain with ethnic media despite sometimes discouraging working conditions," according to the San Francisco-based Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism, which conducted the study.

"Initiated in 2007, the survey polled 300 ethnic media practitioners. The data were augmented by feedback from focus groups, [and] a reconvening of project partners at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications' (AEJMC) August 2008 convention in Chicago, as well as by follow-up interviews with various respondents and focus group participants," the study said.

"The most important goals of the ethnic media are to give voice their communities, to strengthen cultural pride and provide cultural cohesion. This mission explains, to a large extent, why ethnic media are often perceived as activist by outside observers. . . .

"There are indeed many challenges that the majority of ethnic media face, from the small to- modest staff sizes loaded with multiple tasks, to the constant struggle for financial viability and sustainability, which often leads to breaches in the firewall that theoretically separates editorial and business affairs.

"The respondents in this survey express a hunger for professional development and enrichment, which they hope academic journalism institutions would help fill. And although they express deep concern over impediments to ethnic media's further development, they are confident about the future, aware that growing ethnic communities will need mass communications that help in securing a place in American society."

Short Takes

 'Loon Lunch': Derrick Z. Jackson, July 2006 / Nikon D70, 1/500, f/6.3, 80-400 zoom lens, ISO 400 
  • Derrick Z. Jackson, an op-ed columnist for the Boston Globe, became "Photographer of the Week" on RAW, a Globe Web site for amateur photographers. One of his contributions was "Loon Lunch," shot in 2006 at Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire.' "Derrick's office at the Globe is adorned with his images: Egrets, cranes, herons, bald eagles, canyons, mountains, deserts, famous people," the accompanying text¬†said.
  • Foreign Policy magazine has compiled¬†"The Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2008." Heading the list: "the Afghanistan surge has, to a certain extent, already begun." Second: after almost a decade, U.S.-assisted efforts to reduce cocaine production in Colombia "haven't just failed; they've been downright counterproductive." Third: "The conflict in Darfur still may not be getting the attention it deserves, but another crisis in Sudan threatens to become the country's newest humanitarian catastrophe. The storm brewing in Nuba country looks much like the ongoing tempest in Darfur."
  • Writing of David Gregory's first Sunday as the host of NBC's long-running "Meet the Press," succeeding the late Tim Russert, Joe Garofoli wrote¬†in the San Francisco Chronicle that day, "some wonder if anything will really change. Not only does Gregory's promotion in the aftermath of Russert's death ensure that all the shows will continue to be hosted by white men, roughly 80 percent of the newsmakers and pundits who have appeared on the shows over the past eight years also have been white men, according to an ongoing study by the liberal think tank Media Matters for America."
  • "Brenda Teele, one of three co-hosts for WFAA8's Good Morning Texas, will be leaving the show at the end of this year, the station confirms," Ed Bark wrote¬†on his blog about Dallas television news on Friday. Teele joined WFAA-TV in February 2006 and has been in the Dallas-Fort Worth market since 1995, he said.¬†
  • "Donna DavisWhen WMC-TV Channel 5 anchor Donna Davis, a staple of the Memphis media, was laid off Tuesday, she was grateful that her bosses let her say goodbye to her co-workers," Wendi C. Thomas wrote¬†Sunday in the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "But she never got a chance on air to say goodbye to the tens of thousands of viewers who were fond of the Birch-Davis team that delivered the news since 2000," Thomas wrote, referring to co-anchor Joe Birch.
  • Jeffrey Dvorkin, former ombudsman at National Public Radio, wrote¬†a tribute to Doug Mitchell, the founder of NPR's Next Generation Radio project who was told¬†last week he was being laid off. Separately, freelance columnist Jasmine Cannick wrote¬†that NPR's cancellation of the African American-oriented "News & Notes" "is just another sign that it's not safe out there for Black journalists . . anywhere."
  • CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts reported¬†Monday on McCullom Lake Village in Illinois, where 14 residents out of 1,000 people have developed brain cancer. The village is a mile from chemical giant Rohm and Haas. A dozen scientists also developed brain cancer while working at a Rohm and Haas facility in Springhouse, Penn., the story said, and died.
  • "About a month ago, I wrote that the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was an A1-worthy story that American newspapers ‚Äî even a leader in international reporting like The New York Times ‚Äî were giving an A6-quality treatment. Apparently the Times agreed with me. A front-pager¬†on Dec. 11 recounted the horrifying details of a rebel raid on a town called Kiwanja in Eastern Congo," Armin Rosen wrote Wednesday for the Columbia Journalism Review. Also on Wednesday, actor-director Ben Affleck and Rolling Stone singer Mick Jagger released a short film, dubbed "Gimme Shelter," to help raise $23 million for U.N. efforts to pay for clean water and emergency aid kits for 250,000 people driven from their homes by renewed fighting in the eastern part of the country, the United Nations News Service reported.
  • Accredited freelance photojournalist Shadrack Manyere disappeared in Zimbabwe on Saturday and may be in police custody, journalists in Harare, the capital, have told the Committee to Protect Journalists, the organization reported¬†on Wednesday.

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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Mark Griffith

This is just devastating news. Mark was a wonderful spirit -- lots of fun, a great sense of humor and hard working. He was one of those brothers who worked diligently behind the scenes at NABJ conventions to make sure things ran smoothly and he was always ready with a smile and a joke when you're were at the end of your rope. His death and Weta Clark's have just knocked me for a loop.

Mark Griffith

As I sit here tonight, I can't believe I'm writing about the death of an old NABJ friend Mark Griffith. I have known him for at least 15 years and he was one of the faces I looked for every year at the convention. Mark was the picture of "LIFE", a person who always had a smile and a hug for friends. You were never a stranger, even before you actually met him. He loved being around his people, our people, all people. That's what made him a great journalist because he was a people person and he cared. As good as he was professionally, he never wore his credentials on his sleeve; he was proud of what he did, but his job was not who he was. He knew how to work hard and have fun; and that both were important! Like so many of his NABJ friends, I will miss him forever! But I am comforted by his warm smile and the knowledge that he is in a better place. Thank you Mark for being a good example and for passing our way and leaving us with so many great memories.

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