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Tabloids Sensationalize Sharpton Charges

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Activist Says, "I Wasn't With the Rats — I'm a Cat"

Western Media's Failures Contributed to Rwanda Genocide

Chavis Scores Author, Columnist in Defending Black Press

"Borderland" Retraces Steps of Dead Would-Be Migrants

CNN Developing News Show to Be Viewed, Shared on Twitter

To Cartoonist, Cleveland Mascot Scene Looked Familiar

More Blacks Gain Health Insurance Under New Law

Ralph Matthews Jr., Afro Newspapers Editor, Dies at 87

Short Takes

Activist Says, "I Wasn't With the Rats — I'm a Cat"

"Some of today's New York newspaper front pages were pretty remarkable," Josmar Trujillo wrote Wednesday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. "Both the New York Post (4/9/14) and the Daily News (4/9/14) sensationalized, for the second day in a row, revelations that Al Sharpton was an informant for the FBI.

"Revelations first alluded to in 1988 by Newsday, to be specific.

"Coverage from the News and the Post, which has never made secret its detestation of Sharpton, exploded after the Smoking Gun website (4/7/14) published documents pointing to Sharpton's cooperation with the feds. But while admitting his role as an informant, Sharpton defended himself from assertions that he was a snitch ('I was not and am not a rat because I wasn't with the rats…. I'm a cat') by pointing out he was helping law enforcement to take down criminals.

"The Post, a staunch proponent of law and order most other times, left out the long-rumored accusations in activist circles that Sharpton tried to lead authorities to Assata Shakur (AKA Joanne Chesimard) — the fugitive black liberation icon. Newsday reported on that in 1988, too.

"So while this week's revelations aren't all that new, for some, they set up an interesting cat-and-mouse game between corporate media, including the right-wing Post, and Sharpton. The Reverend and his National Action Network might be able to point to a media attack as politically motivated — Sharpton's past activism and current close ties to Mayor Bill de Blasio would correctly put him in the crosshairs of conservative media. All of which may lead some on the left to circle the wagons around him.

"But for long-time activists and those in the African-American community, Sharpton's cooperation with the arm of the government that engineered the notorious COINTELPRO operation raises a different set of questions than what local papers are asking. . . . "

Sharpton, host of MSNBC's "PoliticsNation," made several media appearances giving his side of the story, including holding a news conference in New York and appearing on radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show."

Western Media's Failures Contributed to Rwanda Genocide

"No tragedy was heralded to less effect than the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda," Linda Melvern wrote this week for the International Press Institute as part of its commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the tragedy.

"By the time the UN blue helmets arrived to monitor the peace agreement it was probably too late for peacekeeping. Yet no one could have imagined the scale or the brutality of what was to come.

"There is no doubt that the events in Rwanda in April 1994 took everyone by surprise, not the least the British and the American media. The news coverage of Rwanda was certainly handicapped by danger on the ground. Yet the massive failure by the Western press to adequately report the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi cannot be so easily explained away.

"In a startling rebuke afterwards the characterisation by the press of the genocide as 'tribal anarchy' was deemed by an international enquiry to have been fundamentally irresponsible. . . . In reality, a planned annihilation was under way. This was not a sudden eruption of 'long-simmering hatred.' Genocide does not take place in a context of anarchy. This was the deliberate elimination of political opponents and an attempt to exterminate all Tutsi.

"The media's failure to report that genocide of the Tutsi was taking place, and thereby generating public pressure for something to be done to stop it, was said to have contributed to international indifference and inaction, and possibly to the crime itself. It was left to non-governmental organisations — most notably the UK office of Oxfam — to give the crime its rightful name and lead calls for something to be done to try to draw the world's attention. The basic inference in the press was that in the face [of] uncontrollable savagery then nothing could be done. . . ."

In another piece from IPI, Shamlal Puri wrote, "Twenty years of political changes have done little to revive this land-locked nation's comatose press bludgeoned by a long history of violence . . . ."

As reported in this space on Monday, the U.S. State Department counts three major humanitarian crises: in Syria, in the Central African Republic and in the world's newest nation, South Sudan, but only Syria is commanding much media attention. State Department officials say the inattention could cost lives because nongovernmental organizations fail to receive the necessary contributions.

Chavis Scores Author, Columnist in Defending Black Press

The Rev. Benjamin Chavis, executive director of the NAACP from 1993 to 1994 and one of the Wilmington 10, pardoned in 2012 after a campaign by the black press, attacked this columnist and Clint Wilson II, a Howard University journalism professor, this week in a column transmitted by the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service, which serves black community newspapers.

Chavis' complaint, followed by a separate column by George E. Curry, editor-in-chief of the news service, came over a posting two weeks ago reporting on "Whither the Black Press?: Glorious Past, Uncertain Future," a recent book by Wilson. The column was headlined "Time for Change in the Black Press?" on the Maynard Institute website and "Is the Black Press Still Powerful?" on The Root.

Chavis wrote, "Whenever there is a steady series of public questions being raised about the 'power' of Black Americans, you should always first consider the motive and purpose of the questions. Such was the case recently when Richard Prince wrote a column, which was posted on The Root, titled: 'Is The Black Press Still Powerful?' Of course the answer is 'Yes, the Black Press in America is still powerful.'

"What was the underlying motive for this question being asked? I wonder if Prince, a long-time employee of the Washington Post, has ever written a column titled, 'Is The White Press Still Powerful?' I seriously doubt it. . . ."

Chavis apparently did not realize that at The Root and many other news organizations, the writers do not write the headlines or that the question of power was not raised in the column. Nor has this columnist worked at the Washington Post for several years. While power cannot be measured solely by circulation, a February survey of African Americans by Lester & Associates for Ebony magazine found that "Only 1 percent report relying on African-American newspapers." Hence the question, "Time for Change in the Black Press?"

Readers seemed to say yes.

Chavis justifiably pointed to the case of the black-press crusade for the Wilmington 10, nine black men and one white woman, as a triumph for the black press and others who sought their pardons. The Ten were falsely convicted and imprisoned in connection with a racial disturbance in Wilmington, N.C., in 1971. Chavis spoke Saturday night in Wilmington, N.C., at the premiere of the National Newspaper Publishers Association – CashWorks HD Productions documentary, "Pardons of Innocence: The Wilmington Ten," Curry reported.

Wilson has his own reaction to Chavis' piece. He told Journal-isms by email Wednesday:

"It appears the book has caught the attention of some folks. Predictably, it is also drawing comment from some who have not read it. Otherwise, the false assumption by Mr. Chavis that I don't introduce Black newspapers to my classes after learning how few are aware of them is an interesting leap in logic. The book discusses in detail various reasons why the younger generation is not exposed to the Black press and nowhere does it 'fault' them for that circumstance.

"As an advocate for the Black press, I'm hopeful that those who actually read the book will find the 'reality check' to which Chavis alludes and begin serious discussions about what can be done to address the issue in 21st century America. In that respect, the book concludes that in today's media environment: 'The media are different, the audience is different, and the issues are different. It remains to be seen whether African American newspapers — the traditional Black press — or their new media cohorts can muster the resolve and the means to meet the challenges before them."

Meanwhile, on Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Morocco, pledged U.S. support for reforms and efforts to promote regional stability, while highlighting social challenges, Agence France-Press reported. Morocco, which is seeking to build a better public-relations profile, offered NNPA an expenses-paid trip to the country, which the association accepted in January, prompting a debate over journalistic ethics.

Reporters Without Borders wrote an open letter to Kerry last week expressing concerns about press freedom in Morocco, "including the case of Ali Anouzla, a journalist who is being prosecuted under Morocco's anti-terrorism law."

The press freedom group said, "The situation of freedom of information in Morocco, ranked 136th out of 180 countries in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index, is the source of a number of other concerns that require concrete measures by the authorities in order to improve respect for the right to inform and be informed.

"Reporters Without Borders has often stressed the need for legal reforms that would fully guarantee the principle of freedom of information. The promises of reform announced by the Moroccan authorities after the 2011 constitutional referendum have been slow to materialize. . . ."

"Borderland" Retraces Steps of Dead Would-Be Migrants

"Al Jazeera America is set to debut a new original series called 'Borderland' that will attempt to take viewers beyond the debate on illegal immigration and tell the stories of the undocumented immigrants who attempt to cross illegally into the United States and the residents on the border," Solange Uwimana reported Wednesday for Media Matters for America.

"Al Jazeera America's focus on the human side of the border story is in sharp contrast to the way Fox News and other right-wing media outlets discuss illegal immigration and undocumented immigrants.

"In a press release announcing the series, which is set to begin on April 13, Al Jazeera America stated that 'Borderland' 'reflect[s] the channel's commitment to outstanding investigative journalism focusing on the human side of important, underreported stories, arising out of such national issues as immigration.' Al Jazeera America president Kate O'Brian went on to say:

" 'Immigration is one of the most divisive topics in our country, and it is easy for the real issues to get lost in the noise of politics. ... Borderland looks at the issue in an entirely fresh and compelling way — allowing the viewer to become immersed in the experiences of actual border runners.'

"In 'Borderland,' six Americans of all ideological stripes are tasked with retracing the journey of three migrants who died while attempting to cross illegally at the U.S.-Mexico border. 'To make the story relatable,' Al Jazeera America stated, 'the filmmakers said participants on the trip faced the same dangers as the migrants whose stories they were charged with retelling.' . . ."

CNN Developing News Show to Be Viewed, Shared on Twitter

"As every media company from Yahoo to Microsoft . . . to Crackle looks to up the amount of original Web video it produces, here comes CNN," Mike Shields reported Wednesday for the Wall Street Journal.

"The television news network has been in the middle of major overhaul undertaken by CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker, as it looks to reverse ratings declines and pull in more advertising revenue. In the meantime, the company also wants a bigger piece of digital advertising budgets, particularly the rush toward more Web video advertising.

'To that end, the network is rolling out CNN Digital Studios. Among its first projects: a bite-sized video news series built specifically to be viewed and shared on Twitter called Your 15 Second Morning. That project seems to be CNN’s answer to mobile-first news startups like NowThis News and Circa.

"Beyond that show, which executives hope will become a daily habit among younger news consumers, CNN has lined up some top talent for a slew of original franchise series of the news/entertainment variety. . . ."

Matt Dornic, a spokesman for CNN Worldwide, told Journal-isms by telephone that there would "absolutely" be a role for journalists who are interested in "being digital first and where you can host your own web series, [and] appear on CNN live TV" and on other platforms. Those interested should contact Andrew Morse, the network’s senior vice president for the United States, or Chris Berend, CNN’s vice president for video content development, Dornic said.

To Cartoonist, Cleveland Mascot Scene Looked Familiar

"One of my preferred topics for editorial cartoons has always been American mistreatment of indigenous people," Chicano artist Lalo Alcaraz wrote Monday on his website. "Nothing makes me feel better than dreaming up a solid cartoon that reminds us all about the sordid history of our country's crimes against Indians. The only thing more satisfying is seeing my ideas validated.

"This weekend POCHO Florida Burro Jefe Santino J. Rivera sent me a 'heads-up' about a Tweet featuring one of these editorial cartoons. I clicked the link and just about fell out of my chair.

"The graphic in the Tweet was a side-by-side presentation of my cartoon showing a Native American confronting an Indian-mascot-garbed sports fan next to a photograph of a Native American confronting an Indian-mascot-garbed sports fan (image, above.)

"They are eerily similar. The strange part was that I drew my cartoon in 2002, and the photo was taken last week in Cleveland, home of the Cleveland 'Indians':

"At first I thought it was just a hilarious comparison. Then I began examining the two images more closely and got a little weirded out. . . ."

More Blacks Gain Health Insurance Under New Law

"The number of African Americans who lacked health insurance dropped dramatically in 2014's first quarter compared to 2013's fourth quarter thanks to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which Republicans threaten to repeal if they win control of both houses of Congress in November's national elections," NorthStar News & Analysis reported Tuesday.

"The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index reported on Monday that the uninsured rate for African Americans fell from 20.9 percent in 2013's fourth quarter to 17.6 percent in 2014's first quarter, a drop of 3.3 percentage points.

"When Open Enrollment began on October 1, 2013, 6.8 million African Americans lacked health insurance, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Blacks reported the highest drop among ethnic and racial groups. The percentage of uninsured whites declined from 11.9 percent in the fourth quarter to 10.7 percent in the first quarter, a drop of 1.2 percentage points.

"As for Hispanics, the percentage of uninsured was 38.7 percent in 2013's fourth quarter compared to 37.0 percent in 2014's first quarter, down 1.7 percentage points. . . ."

Meanwhile, Charles Babington of the Associated Press reported, "Several big corporations have reaped millions of dollars from 'Obamacare' even as they support GOP candidates who vow to repeal the law. This condemn-while-benefiting strategy angers Democrats, who see some of their top congressional candidates struggling against waves of anti-Obamacare ads partly funded by these companies.

"Among the corporations is a familiar Democratic nemesis, Koch Industries, the giant conglomerate headed by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. They and some conservative allies are spending millions of dollars to hammer Democratic senators in North Carolina, Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and elsewhere, chiefly for backing President Barack Obama's health care overhaul. . . ."

Ralph Matthews Jr., Afro Newspapers Editor, Dies at 87

Ralph Matthews Jr., a former editor of the Baltimore-based Afro-American newspapers who followed his father into the newspaper business, died April 3 after a brief illness, his wife, Sharon, told Journal-isms by telephone. He was 87 and lived in Hyattsville, Md., outside Washington.

Matthews was last in this column in 2004, when he and his son, screenwriter David Matthews, appeared on CBS-TV's "Sunday Morning." David Matthews had written a memoir about his passing for white.

"Ralph Matthews told Journal-isms he started at the Afro as a cub reporter in 1950, working for the Afro newspapers on and off until 1986. By then he had been managing editor for 10 years," this column reported.

"According to 'The Baltimore Afro-American: 1892-1950' by Hayward Farrar, David Matthews has quite a newspaper lineage. His grandfather, Ralph Matthews Sr., was the Afro's answer to H.L. Mencken, who was writing for the Baltimore Sun. He 'became a power in the Afro, serving as the theatrical editor, city editor, managing editor, and editor of the Washington Afro-American. A witty and acerbic man, Matthews had one or two columns in the Afro-American from the 1920s onward. In them he lampooned sacred cows in the black community, such as the black church and its ministers, black politicians, black society and the institutions of marriage and family.'

"David Matthews was 'raised entirely by his father after his mother returned to Israel,' the CBS piece said. Asked what he thought of his son's 'passing,' Ralph Matthews said on the show, 'I call it doing what you have to do.' "

Bret McCabe wrote in 2007 in the Baltimore City Paper, "Ralph Matthews Jr., also light-skinned, graduated from Frederick Douglass High School, attended Syracuse University, graduated from Morgan State University, and was part of that generation who invented 'cool' in the 1950s and '60s. He worked for a number of black publications in New York and hung out at jazz spots with people like James Baldwin, wrote puff pieces about upstarts like Miles Davis, and eventually helped found a newspaper, New York Citizen Call, through which he befriended Malcolm X. . . . "

David Matthews wrote in his book, "Ace of Spades: A Memoir," that both his grandmother and father had the opportunity to pass for white but rejected it. David Matthews "knew some of his family's history but had to revisit his father to get the particulars. 'My dad is sort of a natural raconteur, so ever since I was born I've always listened to all the stories about all the people he had known and hung out with," Matthews says. "So, you know, it was like, 'That's great, Dad, Malcolm X and you were blah blah blah. Got it.' I was a kid — I didn't know better.' . . ."

Sharon Matthews said that her husband willed his body to science and that she plans a memorial service next month.

Short Takes

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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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Ben Chavis Cheap Shots

I was disappointed to read Ben Chavis insert Richard's work in his critique of the Black Press . Prince of course needs no one to defend his stellar career his current body of work ( Journalisms) is the premiere Black media site on the internet by far.

I visit his site often and I leave informed and empowered in my role as an activist and director of the nation's only Black Alternative Think Tank.

Additionally Richard's range of topics and his network of diverse voices with blog and web sites is truly unmatched anywhere in any media platform.

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