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Tavis Smiley Ends "Black Union" Conference

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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Activist Says Issues Are Now Addressed Elsewhere

Capacity Crowd at Services for Percy Sutton

Services for Deborah Howell Set for Jan. 15

Little Diversity on Decade's "Most-Watched" List

Iran Becomes World's Biggest Prison for Media

Yemen, Nigeria React (or Not) to Terrorism Spotlight

"Hell Is Breaking Loose" after Brit Hume's Advice

Columnist Attempts to Debunk "Myths" About Indians

Deaths of Iraqi Civilians Called Top "Censored" Story

Tavis Smiley, front row, center, announced the end of his State of the Black Union conference in a video on his Web site.

Activist Says Issues Are Now Addressed Elsewhere

"After 10 years, Tavis Smiley is ending his annual State of the Black Union conference, which spawned best-selling books and his critical stance toward Barack Obama," Jesse Washington reported Wednesday for the Associated Press.

Smiley made the announcement in a video on his Web site.

"The activist and PBS host said Wednesday that he needs time to focus on other projects, such as his four prime-time specials this year and his book company, which recently announced plans to publish the musician R. Kelly's memoir," Washington wrote.

"Smiley also said that, unlike a decade ago, black issues now are being addressed by numerous other media outlets, commentators and bloggers.

"The State of the Black Union 'doesn't have the premium that it used to have - and that's a good thing,' Smiley told The Associated Press.

"Smiley, who hosts a nightly half-hour talk show on PBS, said he was inspired to start the conference because black issues were rarely addressed in the president's State of the Union speech or the national media.

"The conference, which took place each February, was broadcast on C-SPAN and averaged 7,000 to 10,000 participants each year as it traveled to various cities. It drew almost 20,000 people in Jamestown, Va., in 2007, when it marked the 400th anniversary of the first arrival of African slaves in North America.

"Over the years, the State of the Black Union conference became a major event, drawing a wide range of influential speakers such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Louis Farrakhan, Johnnie Cochran, Nikki Giovanni, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and Magic Johnson.

"Smiley said money was not a factor in ending the series - which cost 'well over seven figures' each year and was free to the public - because Exxon Mobil and Nationwide Insurance had committed to major sponsorship deals in 2010."

Then-candidate Obama launched his presidential campaign in Springfield, Ill., the same day as the 2008 State of the Black Union event and offered to send his wife, Michelle Obama. Smiley insisted that was not good enough. Clinton was the only presidential candidate there.

Listeners to radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" reacted negatively to Smiley's criticism of Obama for not attending, and Smiley quit the show in 2008 after 12 years, saying he was working on too many projects.

"Who Died and Made Tavis King?" asked a headline on theRoot.com over a column by Melissa Harris-Lacewell. "Does Tavis realize that Obama is trying to win an election?"

After his election, the new president spoke to Smiley's gathering by satellite from the White House in February 2009.

"That the president of the United States felt compelled to join us live to acknowledge the power of this symposium over 10 years, and what it had accomplished, raising the kind of issues that helped him get elected - that was significant," Smiley told the AP's Washington.

Capacity Crowd at Services for Percy Sutton

A capacity crowd filled New York's Riverside Church Wednesday at services for Percy Sutton, the New York political power broker and pioneer in African American radio ownership, Gary Anthony Ramsay, president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, reported for Journal-isms. He said 2,000 were present at the historic venue on Manhattan's Riverside Drive.

Sutton died Dec. 26 at age 89. Among those present were: the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson; Attorney General Eric Holder; former Essence magazine editor Susan L. Taylor; New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Rachel Robinson, widow of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson; former mayor David Dinkins; more than a dozen of Sutton's fellow Tuskegee Airmen; and two daughters of Malcolm X, for whom Sutton was the family lawyer, Ramsay said.

"We will make sure that Percy Sutton never dies as long as there are people without a job, a home or a dream," Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., one of the "Gang of Four" influential Harlem politicians that included Sutton, said at the gathering.

"The tallest tree in the forest has fallen," Jackson said. "As Harlem weeps, heaven rejoices," he said, calling Sutton "a transitional changing force."

Holder said, "without him there would be no I," and read a letter from President Obama that said Sutton had inspired generations and that the numbers he influenced cannot be counted, Ramsay reported.

New York Gov. David Paterson, who counted Sutton as a mentor, was obligated to deliver the annual State of the State message, but left a taped greeting that thanked the Sutton family "for sharing him with all of us," and suggested the Apollo Theater should be renamed for Sutton, Ramsay said. In 1981, Inner City bought the celebrated Apollo at a bankruptcy sale for $225,000.

Bloomberg announced that a Harlem complex of three schools has been renamed "the Percy Ellis Sutton Educational Complex."

Sharpton gave a passionate eulogy in which he said, "Every time black music is played at a black radio station we know Percy Sutton didn't die."

Services for Deborah Howell Set for Jan. 15

Deborah Howell Services for Deborah Howell, the former St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press editor, editor and Washington bureau chief of Newhouse News Service and Washington Post ombudsman who died last week in a New Zealand accident, are scheduled for Friday, Jan. 15, in Washington.

"Celebrate her life with us on what would have been her 69th birthday," a message from her family said.

The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer in Bethesda, Md., said Wednesday said the funeral service will take place at the Washington National Cathedral at 11:30 a.m.

It said expressions of sympathy may be sent to Howell's husband, C. Peter Magrath, c/o The Episcopal Church of the Redeemer
6201 Dun Robbin Drive
Bethesda, MD 20816
301-229-3770

The message from family members said, "In lieu of flowers, please consider making a contribution of any size to the scholarship we have established in Deborah's name. Here is the information: "Deborah C. Howell Memorial Scholarship for Women in Journalism
The Texas Exes
The University of Texas at Austin

"Memorial contributions can be sent to:
Texas Exes Scholarships
P.O. Box 7278
Austin, TX 78713
The checks should be made out to: Texas Exes
"Please note in the memo section: Deborah C. Howell Memorial Scholarship

"Online contributions can be made at the link below. https://www.texasexes.org/form/donate.asp
"(There is a box in the online form following the words 'I would like to donate to the' where you can designate the gift to the Deborah C. Howell Memorial Scholarship.)"

The Texas Exes is an organization of former students who will administer the scholarship, according to Lisa Crider, assistant director of development at the College of Communication. She said that school-administered scholarships are not allowed to differentiate by gender or ethnicity. Howell was a University of Texas graduate who served on the college's advisory board, she said.

Little Diversity on Decade's "Most-Watched" List

Byron Pitts of CBS ranked No. 17 in 'face time.'"NBC's Andrea Mitchell logged more TV face time than any other network evening news reporter during the past decade," as the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

"News consultant Andrew Tyndall, who logs each evening newscast, calculated that Mitchell was on NBC's 'Nightly News' for 2,416 minutes from 2000 to 2009. The veteran diplomatic correspondent beat her NBC medical correspondent colleague, Robert Bazell, who had 2,328 minutes."

Lists of which reporters get the most face time usually reflect which have the most newsmaking beats, not necessarily which do the most substantive stories. Either way, however, the list is disappointing for its lack of journalists of color.

"It's your classic good news/bad news scenario: For those who grouse about the superficiality of TV news, recent data shows the top most-covered stories [of] the decade were super-substantive - the war in Iraq, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, fighting in Afghanistan and the hijacked jets on Sept. 11," media critic Eric Deggans wrote on his St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times blog.

"But for those who hoped the inauguration of the country's first black president might add more diversity to news coverage, the data was more disappointing," Deggans continued.

"Just one reporter of color landed among the top 20 most-used reporters of the decade - 60 Minutes correspondent Byron Pitts - and no reporters of color were featured in the top 20 list for 2009."

Below are the most-used reporters for the decade, excluding anchors. Listed are network, followed by name, assignment and minutes on the air:

NBC Andrea Mitchell, diplomatic, 2416
NBC Robert Bazell, medicine, 2328
NBC Pete Williams, Justice, 2280
CBS David Martin, Pentagon, 2096
NBC David Gregory, White House, 2082
NBC Lisa Myers, Capitol/investigative, 2069
CBS Jim Axelrod, White House, 1960
NBC Jim Miklaszewski, Pentagon, 1829
NBC Anne Thompson, domestic/ environment, 1758
CBS Anthony Mason, economy, 1697
ABC Dan Harris, domestic, 1694
ABC Martha Raddatz, Pentagon, 1675
CBS John Roberts, White House, 1602
ABC/CBS Dean Reynolds, domestic, 1527
ABC Betsy Stark, economy, 1497
NBC Robert Hager, DC Bureau, 1481
CBS Byron Pitts, domestic, 1463
ABC Brian Ross, investigative, 1461
ABC Lisa Stark, DC Bureau, 1445
CBS Sharyl Attkisson, DC Bureau, 144

Iran Becomes World's Biggest Prison for Media

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin "The Islamic Republic of Iran has recovered its status as the world's biggest prison for the media, with a total of 42 journalists detained following the confirmation of Ahmad Zeydabadi's six-year sentence on appeal on 4 January and a Tehran revolutionary court's decision the same day to sentence Bahaman Ahamadi Amoee to 34 lashes and seven years and four months in jail," Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday.

Last week, in reviewing 2009, Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Fran?ßois Julliard said, "Our major concern in 2009 has been the mass exodus of journalists from repressive countries such as Iran and Sri Lanka. The authorities in these countries have understood that by pushing journalists into exile, they can drastically reduce pluralism of ideas and the amount of criticism they attract." About 160 journalists on all continents were forced into exile to escape prison or death, the organization said.

Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, wrote Monday about the plight of Iran's Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, a 2000 CPJ International Press Freedom Award winner.

"Scores of other journalists have been arrested and released; more still have been intimidated, beaten and harassed," Simon wrote.

"Each one of these incidents is appalling, as is the brutality the Iran regime is inflicting on demonstrators and critics, who have been shot down in the streets in recent days.

"But the arrest of Shamsolvaezin, or Shams as he is known, hits home in a very personal way. We consider him a friend. When we honored Shams in prison in 2000 he was serving a 30-month sentence for 'insulting Islamic principles.' After his early release from prison in September 2001 we stayed in touch. Shams has emerged not only as a vital defender of free expression in Iran, but also an analyst for international media. In the last few months, [he] has criticized the election process and the subsequent crackdown."

Yemen, Nigeria React (or Not) to Terrorism Spotlight

"The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns the arrest today of the editor-in-chief and managing editor of the independent daily Al-Ayyam on the third day of a government siege of the compound that houses the paper's offices in Aden," a port city in Yemen, the press freedom organization reported on Wednesday.

". . . On Monday, security forces besieged the paper's building. At the time, journalists from different media outlets were conducting a sit-in outside the compound to protest the daily's suspension since May. News reports said that at least nine people have been injured and two killed."

Meanwhile, in Nigeria, Emmanuel Ogala reported Wednesday in the publication Next that some think Nigeria should break relations with the United States. "As controversy and anger continue to trail the listing of Nigeria as one of the 10 countries on the United States of America's top security watch list, the Senate has threatened to severe diplomatic relations with the country if by next week, it fails to remove Nigeria from the list of countries 'of interest' for terrorism," he wrote.

A federal grand jury in Detroit Wednesday indicted Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian, in the Christmas Day terror attack on a Detroit-bound airliner, the Detroit Free Press reported. He had trained in Yemen.

On Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," host Jon Stewart and Aasif Mandvi riff on Brit Hume's assertion on "Fox News Sunday," above, that Tiger Woods should take up Christianity. However, they manage to disparage another religion. (Video.)

"Hell Is Breaking Loose" after Brit Hume's Advice

"All hell is still breaking loose for Fox News's Brit Hume since he advised Tiger Woods on what he ought to do religiously to help himself," as Betsy Rothstein reported on FishBowl DC. "Here's Jon Stewart's take on it. In this episode he convenes a panel to discuss which religion Tiger ought to take up."

Columnist Attempts to Debunk "Myths" About Indians

Tim Giago"I try to make it a point every New Year to explode some of the myths and misconceptions that Native Americans have had to live with since that first ship landed on the shores of the Western Hemisphere," syndicated Indian columnist Tim Giago wrote on Wednesday.

"First off, not all Native Americans live on reservations with gaming casinos spouting an endless stream of money. Many reservations out in the west are isolated from the mainstream and their casinos are barely surviving. Their main challenge is to supply the jobs that are so vital and yet so scarce and still keep their doors open.

"Native Americans do not get a monthly check from the government unless it is a welfare check, social security check or a retirement check. And it is wrong for so many Americans to think that Indians do not pay taxes. . . .

"There is no free ride for Indians seeking a higher education. Like all Americans, Natives struggle to get the few scholarships available to them. The best kept secret in America are the more than 30 Indian colleges scattered throughout the reservations providing an opportunity for the residents to get a higher degree while still living with their families. . . .

"And finally, the money the federal government provides to the different Indian nations for education, hospitals, homes, law enforcement, court houses, and government is not charity. It is payment for the millions [of acres] taken by the United States, land written into treaties between sovereign nations."

Deaths of Iraqi Civilians Called Top "Censored" Story

The violent deaths of more than 1 million Iraqis as a result of the 2003 U.S. invasion was the top "censored" story of 2009, according to the annual compilation by Project Censored at Sonoma State University in California.

The figure is based on a 2007 study by Opinion Research Business, a British polling group. "These numbers suggest that the invasion and occupation of Iraq rivals the mass killings of the last century — the human toll exceeds the 800,000 to 900,000 believed killed in the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and is approaching the number (1.7 million) who died in Cambodia’s infamous 'Killing Fields' during the Khmer Rouge era of the 1970s," Project Censored said.

Others in the group's top 25 stories include: "Security and Prosperity Partnership: Militarized NAFTA," "InfraGard: The FBI Deputizes Business," "ILEA: Is the US Restarting Dirty Wars in Latin America?" "Seizing War Protesters’ Assets," "The Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," "Guest Workers Inc.: Fraud and Human Trafficking," "Executive Orders Can Be Changed Secretly," "Iraq and Afghanistan Vets Testify" and "APA Complicit in CIA Torture," a reference to the American Psychological Association.

ILEA is an acronym for the International Law Enforcement Academy. "Secretive training of Latin American military and police personnel that used to just take place at the notorious School of the Americas, in Fort Benning, Georgia — including torture and execution techniques — is now decentralized. The 2008 US federal budget includes $16.5 million to fund an International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in El Salvador, with satellite operations in Peru," the project said.

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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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