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Tavis Smiley Added to CPB Targets

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Contractor Was Paid to Monitor PBS Show

Tavis Smiley, the activist host who has shows on both public radio and public television, has joined Bill Moyers in being targeted by the chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, who paid a contractor to monitor the political leanings of program guests, Frank Rich reported Sunday in the New York Times.

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967 to funnel money to public television and radio.

The Times' Stephen Labaton reported on June 16 that $14,170 "found its way to a mysterious recipient in Indiana named Fred Mann. Mr. Labaton learned that in 2004 Kenneth Tomlinson, the Karl Rove pal who is chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, clandestinely paid this sum to Mr. Mann to monitor his PBS bête noire, Bill Moyers's 'Now,'" Rich wrote.

"After Mr. Labaton's first report, Senator [Byron] Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, called Mr. Tomlinson demanding to see the 'product' Mr. Mann had provided for his $14,170 payday. Mr. Tomlinson sent the senator some 50 pages of 'raw data.' Sifting through those pages when we spoke by phone last week, Mr. Dorgan said it wasn't merely Mr. Moyers's show that was monitored but also the programs of Tavis Smiley and NPR's Diane Rehm.

"Their guests were rated either L for liberal or C for conservative, and 'anti-administration' was affixed to any segment raising questions about the Bush presidency."

Smiley told Journal-isms today through a spokesman that, "An unpaid intern using Google could have concluded that my show is about political and cultural fairness. The guest list and the transcripts from the interviews with political leaders from right to left are available on the website It would have saved the CPB a lot of time and money."

At PBS, Lea Sloan, vice president for media relations, told Journal-isms that the network first learned about the monitoring of Smiley's show from Rich's article. The program is carried by 212 PBS affiliates, 84 percent of the country, she said.

"PBS has earned its reputation as the most trusted media source through 35 years of hard work and high standards. We will continue to remain independent of any kind of partisan influence and ensure our producers and programs are shielded from partisan pressure,? she said.

Dorgan declined to say what was in the 50 pages of raw data mentioned by Rich, but confirmed that it was Smiley's PBS show that was monitored.

His office referred Journal-isms to a statement Dorgan made June 20 on the Senate floor. "I am struck that it is way out of bounds to be paying money for a consultant who decides to evaluate public broadcasting through the prism of whether or not it supports the President. That is not the role of public broadcasting, to decide whether it supports the President of the United States. If we ever get to the point where you can't be critical of public policy, Democrats and Republicans, Congress and the President, then there is something wrong," he said then.

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Inquirer Criticized on Play Given Car-Trunk Deaths

The story from Camden, N.J., about three missing Latino boys found suffocated in a car trunk made news across the country over the weekend, but its failure to make the front page Friday of the largest paper in the area, the Philadelphia Inquirer, has angered some Inquirer reporters, as well as the president of the National Association of Black Journalists, who is a Camden native.

Police had searched the car's interior but not the trunk, where the boys' bodies were found two days later.

"Large newspapers are already abandoning urban areas and inner cities. It's a knee-jerk reaction to go where the money is," Dwight Ott, a Camden beat reporter who covered the story, told Journal-isms.

"Had the story been about three boys missing from Cherry Hill, Haddonfield or Lower Merion I am certain that the decision on how to play the story would have been much different," Melanie Burney, who is also NABJ's parliamentarian, wrote in a memo to management. "As the education reporter covering Camden's schools, I have been told several times that my beat list has 'too many Camden stories,' and one editor told me 'we're not the Camden Inquirer.'"

Deputy Managing Editor Carl Lavin told Journal-isms tonight that he was off Thursday night, but said, "We make the best decisions we can on deadline each night. We can often come up with the best decisions in the cold light of day the next morning. It was a significant, significant story," he said, praising the work of the Camden reporters. He said it ran on the front page in all editions Saturday and Sunday: "Our readers were well-served by our treatment over the entire arc" of the circulation area, he said.

He pointed to December stories on absences by members of the Camden school board, and another by Burney, "Camden charter [school] has lots to boast about," saying that, "Both represent the many ways in which this paper provides high-quality coverage of an important part of our region."

Herbert Lowe, a Newsday reporter who is NABJ president, said that "when I heard what happened to those boys, it was like a punch in the gut. The Courier-Post devoted its entire front page and several articles inside," he told Journal-isms. Lowe said he happened to be back in Camden visiting family. "I just don't know what five or six stories could have been more worthy of front-page coverage than that story." He said Camden is too often portrayed as "a downtrodden city rather than a city of hope," and he also objected to a New York Times story Sunday that described the city as "hardscrabble" in the lead. Other cities are not given an adjective when they are first described, said Lowe, who covered Camden as an Inquirer reporter.

Lavin said Inquirer Editor Amanda Bennett, who was also asked to comment, was traveling.

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In 43 Cases, Couldn't Find Columnist's Sources

"An internal investigation into the published work of former Bee columnist Diana Griego Erwin found 43 cases in which individuals named by the writer could not be authenticated as real people," Dorothy Korber and John Hill wrote Sunday in California's Sacramento Bee.

"Griego Erwin, whose column ran three days a week on The Bee's Metro page, resigned May 11 after she failed to substantiate details from several recent columns. She has denied fabricating any information.

The Bee's investigation was conducted by reporters, editors and researchers, the story said.

"Many of the columns in question fit a template: essays, often with a surprising O. Henry twist, about a singular person who faces a challenge and surmounts it. Their stories frequently reflect a theme taken from current headlines - wildfires, for example, or prison brutality, school shootings, murderous road rage or a high-profile trial," it continued.

"Some are people with last names so unusual they don't appear anywhere in the United States. For example, a column that ran May 13, 1997, described Victor Budriyev, a Russian immigrant who lost his sweetheart to the bright lights of Los Angeles. The Bee could find no Victor Budriyev in the United States, nor a single citation for 'Budriyev' in all of the massive Google search engine."

Griego Erwin, who has described herself as half-Hispanic, has insisted she did nothing wrong.

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N.Y. Times to Expand Concept of Diversity

"Our paper?s commitment to a diversity of gender, race and ethnicity is nonnegotiable," the New York Times' in-house "Credibility Group" wrote May 2 in language endorsed (PDF) Thursday by executive editor Bill Keller and made available today.

"We should pursue the same diversity in other dimensions of life, and for the same reason - to ensure a broad range of viewpoints is at the table when we decide what to write about and how to present it. The executive editor should assign this goal to everyone who has a hand in recruiting."

"I embrace this recommendation wholeheartedly," Keller wrote. "The point is not that we should begin recruiting reporters and editors for their political outlook; it is part of our professional code that we keep our political views out of the paper. The point is that we want a range of experience. We have a recruiting committee that tracks promising outside candidates, and that committee has already begun to consider ways to enrich the variety of backgrounds of our reporters and editors.

"First and foremost we hire the best reporters, editors, photographers and artists in the business. But we will make an extra effort to focus on diversity of religious upbringing and military experience, of region and class. Of course, diversifying the range of viewpoints reported ? and understood ? in our pages is not mainly a matter of hiring a more diverse work force.

"It calls for a concerted effort by all of us to stretch beyond our predominantly urban, culturally liberal orientation, to cover the full range of our national conversation. This is second nature for many of our reporters, especially on the national staff, and there have been some exceptional successes ? the coverage of conservatives by David Kirkpatrick (including the splendid piece on evangelicals in the class series) and Jason DeParle, and a number of recent Magazine pieces. I intend to keep pushing us in this direction."

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N.Y. Times Co.'s "Black" Paper a Hot Topic

"When the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) held its 65th annual convention here last week," George E. Curry wrote yesterday in a column datelined Chicago, "there was one topic that overshadowed the usual maneuverings to elect a new president and the perennial concern about the failure of major corporations that rely on Black consumers to advertise in Black newspapers. The burning issue this year ? and I do mean burning ? was the disclosure that the New York Times plans to start an African-American newspaper in Gainesville, Fla."

Curry, who is a columnist as well as editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service, continued:

"Black publishers freely concede that anyone has the right to start a newspaper. That is not the issue. What is so galling is that White-owned media companies that have done such an embarrassingly poor job of accurately portraying people of color on their pages and broadcast outlets are now seeking to supplant the only legitimate Black media voices that have performed that task admirably for more than a century. It is arrogant and ridiculous to think that newspapers that primarily portray African-Americans as criminals, athletes and entertainers will suddenly be able or willing to present African-Americans in their full complexity."

As reported last Wednesday, The New York Times Co. is starting a "black" newspaper in Gainesville, Fla., mirroring efforts by mainstream newspaper companies to target the Hispanic market by offering Latino products.

The publisher of the oldest black newspaper in the area, Gainesville native Clara McLaughlin Criswell of the Florida Star, said "it made me angry" when she heard the news, and that she went to the parent paper to make her feelings known to its publisher and executive editor. "We'll get the readers and they'll get the ads, because they're a white company and they have a stronger base," she said then. Criswell says her paper, based in Jacksonville, covers Northeast Florida.

Charlotte Roy, a former managing editor of the Atlanta Daily World who is coordinating the Times Co.'s effort to launch the Gainesville Guardian, told Journal-isms today that Criswell's concerns were unfounded.

"Jacksonville is not 'in the area' of Gainesville -- that's like saying Macon, GA. is 'in the area' of Atlanta, or Wilmington, DE is 'in the area' of New York," Roy told Journal-isms. "Ms. Criswell's concerns are unfounded. We do not compete with Jacksonville newspapers for advertisers or readers, and have no intention of doing so."

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Reginald Stuart Wins Ida B. Wells Award

"Reginald Stuart, corporate recruiter for Knight Ridder, is the 2005 winner of the Ida B. Wells Award, NABJ President Herbert Lowe and Kay Semion, president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, announced today," a news release reported.

"Bestowed annually by NABJ and NCEW, the Wells award recognizes media executives who have made outstanding efforts to ensure newsrooms more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. It is named for the 19th century journalist who crusaded against lynching and is administered by Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism."

". . . Stuart joined The New York Times in 1974 as a business reporter. He stayed with The Times for 13 years before joining Knight Ridder in 1987 as a national affairs correspondent in Washington for the Philadelphia Daily News. He was an editor for seven years before leaving Knight Ridder in 1997. He returned a few months later as corporate recruiter, working with the company's newspapers to recruit news and business side talent and run its corporate internship programs."

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Spanish Weekly Inspires Unexpected Hatred

"When the Greeley Tribune began publishing a free Spanish-language weekly, editors braced for a backlash," Monte Whaley and Elizabeth Aguilera reported Sunday in the Denver Post.

"But they didn't anticipate the level of hatred and anti-immigrant sentiment that would follow when La Tribuna made its debut Jan. 27.

"The volume of complaints via telephone and e-mail surprised editors. Some readers groused that the newspaper was 'free for Mexicans,' while others blamed it for giving immigrants a reason not to learn English. A few were particularly hateful - one referring to Latinos as 'pigs.'

"'We expected some response,' said Edwin Ruis, editor of La Tribuna. 'But I was surprised people feel such passion about it.'

"Many Latinos in Greeley - a city of 83,000 that is about 30 percent Hispanic - said they were not surprised by the reaction. They say hostility between Latinos and Anglos has simmered here for decades and kept the community fractured along ethnic lines."

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Benjamin Thomas, Poetic Crime Writer, Dies at 94

"Benjamin 'the Baron' Thomas, who gained national attention and a strong local following as a flamboyant chronicler of the St. Louis crime scene, died Wednesday (June 22, 2005) in Los Angeles. He was 94," John M. McGuire reported in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Thursday.

"Since 1938, Mr. Thomas published The Evening Whirl, a weekly that focused on murder and mayhem - the more lurid the better.

"Mr. Thomas, a native of Pine Bluff, Ark., founded the paper here. Its often humorous and poetic take on law and disorder made it a must read among many St. Louis crime fighters, their avid supporters and ardent opponents."

In a Sunday column, Deb Peterson of the Post-Dispatch said Thomas' "crime writing was like a blues song," and noted that he was also a track star who ran with legendary Olympian Jesse Owens.

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Va. Paper: "Bad Things" Dominate Local TV News

The Daily Press in Newport News, Va., examined 227 local television news stories and concluded that "On average, 41 percent of the stories created by the three local news channels were about people doing bad things - a figure nearly twice the national average. Add accidents and disasters to the mix, and the total pushes past 50 percent," Sam McDonald and David Nicholson reported in that paper Sunday.

"Pieces on civic issues - including education, local government and transportation - made up 10 percent of stories on local television news. About 5 percent were devoted to military subjects."

"The survey also gauged whether each story made a civic contribution by fulfilling journalism's government-watchdog function. Reporting on local elected bodies, regulatory authorities and other branches of government qualified.

"Fewer than 5 percent of the stories reported were tagged as having civic significance."

In addition, "The Daily Press project uncovered significant differences in the reporting by the three news stations. During the study period, WVEC's 6 p.m. newscast aired 37 crime stories out of a 10-day total of 66, meaning that 56.1 percent of its segments focused on lawbreaking and tragedy. WAVY aired 46.3 percent crime. WTKR was closer to the national average, airing crime stories 24.7 percent of the time.

"There might or might not be a correlation, but it's worth noting that WTKR now has the fewest 6 p.m. viewers."

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Lynchings, Miss. Trial Inspire More Columns

The Senate's anti-lynching resolution and the murder trial in the case of the three civil rights workers killed in 1964 continue to inspire commentary by African American columnists:

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Short Takes

  • Wil Haygood of the Washington Post and Stephanie Banchero of the Chicago Tribune were among the winners of Missouri Lifestyle Journalism Awards. Banchero won for "Special Report: No Child Left Behind"; Haygood for ""Sitting Tall/Joe Hamilton may spend lots of time of the bench, but he's still a player."
  • Gannett representatives at this month's conference of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists "offered suggestions for developing the skills of Latino journalists and improving coverage of Latino issues and culture," general news executive George Benge told Gannett employees, listing examples.
  • Keith Woods, dean of faculty at the Poynter Institute, told attendees Friday at the National Society of Newspaper Columnists conference that there were six cardinal ethics rules, reported Dave Astor in Editor & Publisher, but that they had caveats. The six rules include "don't steal," "attribute conscientiously," "don't make stuff up," "acknowledge your ties," "treat people fairly," and "pursue accuracy aggressively," Astor wrote.
  • Mary Kim Titla, veteran Arizona TV news reporter and Native American Journalists Association member, has created an online magazine for Native youth, NAJA reported. "Native Youth will target young people between the ages of 12 and 25 and feature articles, poetry, photos and profiles of young Native people across the United States and Canada," it said.
  • "The top ranks of President Bush?s second administration include fewer minorities, fewer young people, and more government insiders than the top ranks of his first administration," the subscription-only National Journal's June 18 issue reports in a story by James A. Barnes.

"A National Journal analysis of the demographic characteristics of 367 top Bush administration officials shows that minorities account for 17 percent of the senior leaders, down from 20 percent four years ago. The decline has been steepest among African-Americans, whose representation dropped from 10 percent in 2001 to 5 percent today. The percentage of Hispanics has risen slightly, from 6 percent in 2001 to 7 percent today. As a result, Hispanics now outnumber African-Americans in the senior levels of the Bush administration."

  • Those who remember author Terry McMillan at the National Association of Black Journalists' Houston convention in 1993 -- or at a preview of "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" at the 1998 NABJ convention in Washington -- may be interested to know that, "In a tale rich in lost love, closeted secrets and acrimonious divorce, it turns out that famed local writer Terry McMillan -- whose celebrated romance and subsequent marriage to a man 23 years her junior became the subject of her fictionized best-seller 'How Stella Got Her Groove Back' -- actually got her groove back with a man who now says he's gay," according to Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross, writing Sunday in the San Francisco Chronicle.

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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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