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Tamron Hall Bares Pain of Sister's Slaying

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Friday, January 10, 2014

Critic Gets Comeuppance at Television Writers Conference

Christie Scandal a Gift: "The Fat Man Sang," Geraldo Says

Coverage of Baraka's Death Ranges from Front Page to None


Media Did "Real Disservice" in Making Blair Saga About Race

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Moving to Local D.C. Station

. . . Russ Mitchell: You Can Have Incredible Impact

. . . Leon Harris: Moving to Local Brings a Special Reward

 
New FCC Chair Plans Scrutiny of Media Consolidation Tactic

Short Takes

Before television critics, Tamron Hall "described the horrible day when she got

Critic Gets Comeuppance at Television Writers Conference

NBC News correspondent Tamron Hall revealed for television critics details of the unsolved 2004 murder of her sister and credited the agony of the experience for "the drive she has to host 'Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall' on the network, which requires her to split her time with her NBC reporting and MSNBC anchor duties," L.A. Ross reported for The Wrap. "But Hall said she is still not ready to tell her sister’s story on the show."

At a panel of the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif., "Philadelphia TV critic Jonathan Storm asked Hall how she split her time between her full duties for NBC News — which include anchoring 'NewsNation' daily on MSNBC — and investigating and reporting for 'Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall' on ID," Ross reported, referring to
the Investigation Discovery network.

"The host responded with an intimate story to illustrate why she finds it so important to dedicate time to the Investigation Discovery show, even with the demands of her day job.

"Viewers of 'Deadline: Crime,' which starts its second season this spring, are familiar with the story — Hall described the horrible day when she got the call that her sister had been found face down in her pool.

"Initially called an accident, a detective told Hall that that was not so. Hall’s sister had bruising all over her body, hair ripped from her scalp, and most of her fingernails were gone.

"Officers told the family they were fairly sure who committed the crime, but nobody was ever brought to justice.

“ 'One day turned to two; two days turned to a month,' Hall said.

"The TCA audience was visibly moved, but Storm responded, 'That’s all very nice, but can you answer my question?'

"Before carrying on with her story, Hall responded to Storm’s comment, saying, 'It’s not "nice," ' and asking him how he would feel if he got a call telling him his sister had been beaten and murdered.

"For the first time, Hall shared details about the events leading to her sister’s death to drive the point home. . . ."

Attendees tweeted support for Hall. "I really want to explain to you guys how bizarre and awkward this incident with Tamron at #TCA14 is right now but I am at a loss....," according to a tweet from the account of Variety's AJ Marechal.

Another, from the account of Diane Gordon @thesurfreport, read, "After a journalist treated @tamronhall so rudely this morning she should get a show on American Heroes Channel."

Christie Scandal a Gift: "The Fat Man Sang," Geraldo Says

The Star-Ledger in Newark featured just two cover stories: the Chris Christie sc

Journalists of color might have been scarce at New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's nearly two-hour mea culpa news conference Thursday, but that didn't mean that columnists of color wouldn't weigh in on the scandal — and little of their commentary was favorable to Christie.

They weren't alone. "The New York tabloids tore into Chris Christie on their front pages this morning, a day after the governor's nearly two-hour press conference to apologize for the George Washington Bridge lane closures," Jeff Goldman reported Friday for the Star-Ledger in Newark.

" 'Pathetic,' screamed the front page of the Daily News. 'Ignorance is Chris,' blared the banner headline in the New York Post.

"Other papers took a more understated approach toward the growing scandal that has been the talk of New Jersey since emails were released Wednesday detailing the role of one of Christie's top aides in orchestrating the traffic chaos in Fort Lee.

"Christie apologized Wednesday and said he had no knowledge of the emails until Wednesday morning. The governor also announced the firing of Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly. Christie also removed adviser Bill Stepien from his new gig leading the state's GOP. In the afternoon he went to Fort Lee to meet with mayor Mark Sokolich. . . . ."

Ruben Rosario, a columnist at the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minn., marveled at the Christie team's ineptness. "Didn't these folks watch 'The Sopranos'? You never discuss dirty business over the phone, or unbelievably, write it down on paper or in emails. They all flunked at Mob Etiquette 101," Rosario wrote.

Geraldo Rivera, a resident of the affected area, wasn't buying Christie's defense.

"To which I have three questions," Rivera wrote Friday on Fox News Latino:

"1.- Does Governor Christie seem the kind of man usually kept in the dark on matters of this potentially career-wrecking importance?

"2.- Would your closest friends and long-serving advisors do something that could ruin your political life without asking or at least admitting it to you long before your enemies shoot you with your own smoking gun?

"3.- How would you feel about President Obama or [former] Secretary [Hillary] Clinton if e-mails surfaced connecting either's closest aides and associates to, say, a Benghazi cover-up or the IRS scandal?

"In terms of his presidential aspirations, yesterday, the fat man sang."

Down the road in Philadelphia, Wayne Bennett, who blogs as the Field Negro, wrote, "Personally, I am giving the big guy the benefit of the doubt. Just like wingnuts did with the president when he said that he was not aware of any politics when it comes to the IRS and how they chose to audit organizations. OK, that was a joke. Hypocrisy — as is always the case with politics here in America — will rule the day. . . ."

Inside the Beltway, the prognosis was dire. Perry Bacon Jr. wrote for the Grio, "If this controversy sticks, Christie may have a hard time even entering the 2016 race."

Jonathan Capehart observed for the Washington Post, "The longer Christie spoke the feistier he became. The more he looked like he enjoyed the back-and-forth. The more he looked self-absorbed.

"The entire spectacle revolved around how Christie felt. How he was deceived and lied to. How his trust was violated. How he was betrayed. How he was 'humiliated.' How he had nothing to do with 'Bridge-gate.' And he did this over and over again in a me-me-mea culpa that lasted an hour and a half.

"What Christie failed to do over and over again was express horror over the four-day gridlock at the George Washington Bridge. He didn't rage over the impact that had on the school children who couldn't get to school. He didn't thunder about the thousands of people who were late for work or who couldn't get to work. And he didn't throw himself on the mercy of the court of public opinion over the story of delayed response times of emergency medical services and the people hurt by it. . . . "

Capehart's Post colleague, Eugene Robinson, agreed. "The governor accepted full responsibility but not an ounce of blame. . . ."

Others noted what they considered Christie's former status as a media darling.

"It's almost sad that every time Republicans get behind a candidate, that candidate seems to implode," Charles M. Blow wrote for the New York Times. "Almost, but not quite. After Christie's impressive re-election in November, media folks fawned over him as if he were a newborn panda."

"He's a bad manager who inexplicably got a reputation as a good manager based on his ability to bully the national press into believing fairy tales about what a tight ship he kept," Tony Norman wrote in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Now it turns out he's just a typical politician who didn't know what his aides were doing in his name. . . ."

Twin Cities Public Television compiled some of Amiri Baraka's spoken work.

Coverage of Baraka's Death Ranges from Front Page to None

"Amiri Baraka, the militant man of letters and tireless agitator whose blues-based, fist-shaking poems, plays and criticism made him a provocative and groundbreaking force in American culture, has died," Hillel Italie wrote Thursday for the Associated Press. "He was 79.

"His booking agent, Celeste Bateman, told The Associated Press that Baraka, who had been hospitalized since last month, died Thursday at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.

"Perhaps no writer of the 1960s and '70s was more radical or polarizing than the former LeRoi Jones, and no one did more to extend the political debates of the civil rights era to the world of the arts. He inspired at least one generation of poets, playwrights and musicians, and his immersion in spoken word traditions and raw street language anticipated rap, hip-hop and slam poetry. The FBI feared him to the point of flattery, identifying Baraka as 'the person who will probably emerge as the leader of the Pan- African movement in the United States.' "

Baraka's death was given Page One mention in the New York Times and the Washington Post, referring to obituaries inside. In his hometown of Newark, N.J., the Star-Ledger began its story on the front page.

Outlets differed over how much prominence to give Baraka's poem "Somebody Blew Up America," in which "the poet seemingly suggested that Israel knew about" the Sept. 11, 2001, invasion that led to the death of thousands of innocent Americans, in the words of Zayda Rivera of the Daily News in New York. In response to the uproar, New Jersey eliminated the position of poet laureate, held by Baraka, in 2003.

NPR's Neda Ulaby featured the controversy prominently, while Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!" which devoted an hour to Baraka on Friday, glossed over it.

Surprisingly, the Village Voice, hometown newspaper of New York's Greenwich Village, where the former LeRoi Jones joined the beat poets, had no story on its website.

Editor-in-chief Tom Finkel told Journal-isms by email, "we're working on a piece about amiri baraka and hope to get it online monday. we try to keep up with stuff in real time like the big guys do, but this is one of those cases where we have a wealth of material — all in brittle yellowed print form, nothing digital. that, a scanner, and a very small staff (believe it or not)." [Update: the Voice posted this story on Jan. 13.]

The Village Voice has undergone draconian cuts and is a shadow of what it was in its heyday, yet Finkel said the paper has openings. "i'm actually hiring! we're down a full-time news blogger, among other things — if i had one, we'd have a piece up today," Finkel wrote.

The granddaddy of alternative weeklies is also seeking a managing editor and an editorial assistant and offers a three-month paid minority fellowship that is filled three times a year, Finkel said.

Media Did "Real Disservice" in Making Blair Saga About Race

Jayson Blair (Credit: Courtesy: V K Kelly & Associates, Inc.)The director of a documentary on New York Times plagiarist Jayson Blair, which had its Canadian premiere this week, told radio listeners Thursday that the news media unfairly turned Blair's saga into a "race story," a "completely unfair" smearing of journalists of color.

"Back in 2003, New York Times reporter Jayson Blair became infamous for plagiarising and even outright fabricating stories he was filing. Once his misdemeanors were uncovered, the subsequent scandal became a huge embarrassment for the newspaper, whose motto is 'all the news that's fit to print,' " Carol Ott, co-host of CBC radio's "As It Happens," told listeners.

"Now a new documentary, called 'A Fragile Trust', is re-examining that scandal. The film had its Canadian premiere in Toronto last night. Samantha Grant is the documentary's director, and delves into the 'Blair Affair' which involves deception, racism, white guilt, and power struggles. . . ."

Ott played a 2003 audio clip from Ken Auletta of the New Yorker.

"The question is, what happens when there is a conflict between your desire to maintain the highest standard versus your desire to increase the number of minority representation in the newsroom," Auletta said. "If one of your reporters makes repeated mistakes as Jayson Blair did, did he get a pass because he was a minority? Was he given too many second chances. And that's the question here."

Grant replied, "There were many people that said the reason that Jayson Blair got a pass in fact had very little or nothing to do with his race, that all new reporters were given a pass, and that they tried — once someone was in the system, they tried to keep them in the system, and tried to give them a second chance.

"And for Jayson Blair, it's my belief after talking to a lot of people about this, that the fact that he was African American is not the reason that he was allowed to stay at the Times for so long. In fact, that just happened to be his skin color. He could have been green, he could have been blue, he happened to be African American, and because he was African American at a predominantly white institution, all of the media coverage immediately hooked on to that, and turned the story into a race story, and I don't believe that that is appropriate."

Ott asked if it was important for Grant to show "that that just wasn't the case?"

"Absolutely," Grant replied. "I think that that was a huge, huge problem, and I think it was a real disservice to minority reporters everywhere, who are working very hard. I mean my film is populated with first-class minority reporters, and I think that to drag that through the mud, simply because of one person, who made some really bad choices, is completely unfair and it really creates a big problem.

"I mean, still to this day, when people come up to me, and are asking me about the film, they'll say, 'oh, yeah, I remember that story. Isn't it that black guy who worked at the New York Times?' And, you know, it's just so unfortunate that that's in the forefront of their recollection of the story, because while that's an easy story to tell, I don't believe it's the right story, and I don't believe that that's what actually happened. . . ."

"A FRAGILE TRUST" debuted in Sheffield, England, in June 2013. Blair told Journal-isms then, "I fully cooperated and think Samantha Grant is an amazing documentarian. I am sure she told the story in an excellent way. But, as I have told Sam, I probably won't watch it for years because of the painful honesty of the piece. I am proud of her doing this over 10 years. She put a look of work into [it]. We probably spent hundreds of hours communicating about it and several dozen hours filming. I didn't see CQ/CX either for similar reasons," referring to the 2012 off-Broadway play.

[Blair tweeted on Saturday, "@samanthagrant is right. I could have been blue or green. But I wasn't, so, as we've discussed, many paid for it. . . ."]

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Moving to Local D.C. Station

Chris Lawrence

Chris Lawrence, who "has spent the last decade as a reporter for CNN and its bureaus, covering everything from crises in Iraq and Afghanistan to the tragic events of Hurricane Katrina," has become the latest network correspondent to move to a local station.

"Lawrence will anchor the weekend editions of News4 at 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. He will also contribute to other newscasts throughout the week," WRC-TV, an NBC-owned and -operated station in Washington, announced.

Lawrence, 43, was CNN's Pentagon correspondent. He told Journal-isms by telephone that he is making the switch for personal reasons. His wife, Marcela Salazar, is a senior producer at CNN. "We both travel a lot, and my schedule is up and down. It's tough. We have two kids under the age of 3." Working at WRC, he said, gives us "a chance to have more stability." He added that "CNN has been fantastic to me" but his decision "boiled down to how do we juggle our work-life balance."

Before joining CNN, Lawrence worked for WXYZ in Detroit, WTVH in Syracuse, N.Y., and WDBB in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

. . . Russ Mitchell: You Can Have Incredible Impact

In January 2012, Russ Mitchell, anchor of the "CBS Evening News" weekend editions and "The Early Show" on Saturday, and national correspondent for CBS News "Sunday Morning," the "CBS Evening News," and "The Early Show," joined WKYC-TV in Cleveland as managing editor, "Evening News," and lead anchor of the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts.

Mitchell told Journal-isms by email, "I've been back in local TV for 2 years now and can honestly say that I'm having a great experience. While there's nothing like working at the network...the scope of the stories you can cover, the wide canvas you have and the excitement of always being on the go...I've found that you can have an incredible impact on your community as a local anchor. You really can make a difference.

"Are there times when I miss the pace, the people and the canvas of being a network correspondent? Of course. But I can tell you that being a local anchor at a legendary station in a great town is fun and rewarding. As I told my friend Vic Carter in Baltimore not long after I arrived in Cleveland, 'Wow, this is a good gig!' "

WJLA-TV's Leon Harris, left, emceed the March of Dimes annual Signature Chef

. . . Leon Harris: Moving to Local Brings a Special Reward

Leon Harris became an anchor at Washington's WJLA-TV, an ABC affiliate, in 2003 after 20 years at CNN's Atlanta headquarters, where he co-anchored "CNN Live Today" and "Prime News," and hosted "CNN Presents" and "American Stories."

In this edited email to Journal-isms, Harris offered advice to television journalists considering a move from a network to a local station:

"The number one factor to consider is the ownership. The management can come and go, but the owner stays! If the owner(s) is/are committed to the brand of Journalism that makes your heart pound, moving there can be the most rewarding thing you'll ever do for your career and your life. You'll get to do something you're proud of every day, and you'll have the respect of your colleagues and the persons responsible for bringing you in and giving you the platform. You'll sleep better EVERY night if the fit is a good one. The ownership also determines the heights or depths to which your new newsroom home will aspire. Their commitment and passions can be easily measured by what the station is willing to spend and/or cut corners on. Know what you're getting into!

"Local news is a different animal from the national species. My guess would be that most journalists making the transition — unlike myself — are actually returning to local. I started at the network in a behind-the-scenes gig and took a decade or so to get a shot at being on the other side of the camera. For 99.9999 percent of my colleagues it went the other way around. I doubt I have any unique info for them. In fact, I could probably benefit from their insights more than they from mine!

"The only thing I can offer is that it can be tough to lower your sights and learn how to pick your fights. At CNN I always felt like I was ordering off a Cheesecake Factory-sized menu every morning, and each item was prepared by a well-trained chef. I was able to rely upon some really good thinkers to pick out the best stories from across the country and the best experts or engaging guests to create a show to be proud of EVERY morning. I wasn’t limited to focusing on what happened in a single locale each day first, and then seeing what was interesting everywhere else.

"I DON'T KNOW OF MANY ANCHORS who have that luxury on the local level. Still, if you're in the right newsroom situation you can push for the best with the support of the people who brought you in. (It'd be kind of crazy to bring you in from the networks, and then not let you do what made people like and respect you in the first place, right?) BUT, I have learned and appreciate that focusing on how to connect my neighborhood, my town to any particular story in a meaningful way requires a different kind of imagination and sensitivity than what was required at the network. I think that has made me a better Journalist and person.

"As for the newsroom, you can walk in with instant credibility because of the national pedigree, but that can also mean that there may be expectations of you that you may not immediately grasp. There can also be resentment from new colleagues who feel their positions are jeopardized by your coming in and 'big-timing' them. In this climate of incessant cost-cutting, there can also be tensions caused by the station appearing to be willing to pay YOU and cut back on positions, technology or content-related resources.

"THERE'S SOMETHING SPECIAL that I got out of my transition that I'm not sure is replicated whenever this kind of transition happens, but I suspect it is: the intimacy of the relationship with your audience that is more intense. When it comes to a sense of connection with the people welcoming you into their homes, being on a national/international outlet that has an audience of a couple of million may not even match in intensity or reach what happens in a local market of any size. On national cable, I got recognized and approached or encroached upon at airports and restaurants. As a local fixture, it can happen almost the minute I leave my driveway and not stop until I get home at 1 a.m. The audience that is aware of you and the importance to their lives of what you do is so much more concentrated. Hell, they live around you, and their family is interacting with yours all the time! For me, that is humbling and sometimes exhausting, but it inspires me to push as hard as I can to give my best.

"Lastly, there's the community connection aspect. I have been constantly amazed at how much people and organizations across the region rely upon us to connect with them. By visiting schools, emceeing dinners, commencement addresses, working with charities and role-modeling for local youths where I live and work, I've become deeply invested in communities (and they in me) in ways that never happened for me as a national figure. There’s a special sense of reward that comes with that I don’t think I could have appreciated any other way."

New FCC Chair Plans Scrutiny of Media Consolidation Tactic

"Shared services agreements that allow broadcasters to use sidecar companies to control key aspects of multiple TV stations in the same market will be coming under closer scrutiny at the FCC, Tom Wheeler, the agency's new chairman, said late Thursday," Doug Halonen reported Friday for TVNewsCheck.

" 'We’re going to look at that differently,' he said during a town hall meeting in Oakland, Calif."

Under "shared services agreements," holders of separate TV licenses agree to share news or other departments. When the decision to share is made, it can lead to elimination of the entire staff of one of the stations, as happened in Tucson, Ariz., in 2011.

These arrangements are also called "joint sales agreements."

They coexist with a more stubborn trend: Reporting on broadcast ownership, the Federal Communications Commission said in November 2012 that while station ownership by whites increased, the minority numbers were declining. Blacks went from owning 1 percent of all commercial TV stations in 2009 to just 0.7 percent in 2011. Asian ownership slipped from 0.8 percent in 2009 to 0.5 percent in 2011. Latino ownership increased slightly from 2.5 percent to 2.9 percent.

Last month, the activist media group Free Press asserted that the number of commercial television stations owned by blacks had dropped to zero. Craig Aaron, its president, said, "Gannett and Tribune use shell companies, shady arrangements and accounting tricks to keep total control over broadcast licenses they can't hold in their own names. They brag to investors and Wall Street analysts about how they can dodge the FCC's cross-ownership limits and get away with it."

Halonen reported, "Also during the latenight session, Wheeler said that his Dec. 6 decision to pull a draft FCC rule change that would have made it easier for broadcasters to combine with daily newspapers in the top-20 markets was similarly intended to signal a change in FCC direction.

"The draft change had been proposed by Wheeler's agency predecessor, former Chairman Julius Genachowski, but was attacked by watchdog groups and other critics of industry consolidation. . . ."

The town hall event was hosted by the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition, the Center for Media Justice, Free Press, ColorOfChange and the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

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 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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