Tears of Joy When the Perm Was Gone
Monday, November 29, 2010
Updated Tuesday, Nov. 30
Video traces evolution of television journalist René Syler's hair from perm to natural. (Video).
The last time many viewers saw René Syler, she was a co-anchor of CBS News' "The Early Show," with her hair chemically straightened and then hot curled. After four years, that job ended in 2006. She dealt with breast cancer surgery and other medical issues, wrote a book about being a "good enough mother," started a website for those who have been laid off, and freelanced.
For her next job, though, you will see Syler with a new attitude and her hair in its natural, chemical-free state.
"I cannot describe to you the completely freeing experience this has been for me," Syler told Journal-isms by e-mail on Monday, "how I cried in the chair after the last of the perm was snipped off and I-WAS-FREE! This is such a difficult thing for anyone other than black women to understand, but if you have a moment, do a quick search on YouTube under Big Chop. There are thousands of videos from black women who were like, screw this, I'm out... and have done the same thing as me :)"
Syler was reacting to the story of Rochelle Ritchie of WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Fla., who decided to let her straightened hair "go natural" during sweeps week and let viewers see the transformation process. It was a ratings success, as reported in this space on Friday.
"I do hope things are changing," Syler wrote. "I went natural almost two years ago when I had bronchitis and ended up in the hospital. I had a meeting with CNN the next week so when I got out I went RIGHT TO THE BEAUTY SHOP for a touch up. Well, of course, my hair fell right out of my head. It was the last in a series of pretty bad events (I felt like Job!), some of which you know about. Anyway, as traumatic as that was, it was life changing for me in that I decided I would never take another TV job that required me to relax my hair! But over the summer I met with [a television executive] and when I told him my story he said 'But I LOVE your hair!' Cut to the chase, I am going back to TV with a project for them . . . It has not been announced yet but I will tell you more as soon as I can. But the bigger issue is I can be ME.. all my God-given curls will be on full display and I LOVE it!
"But that is entertainment where I think diversity of style is a bit more accepted, not so much in TV news, which is why Rochelle's story is such a big deal. . . . I say all this to say I hope times are changing."
- Deron Snyder blog: Hair Today, ‘Gone’ Tomorrow
- "Good Hair" on the TV News Set (Oct. 7, 2009)
- Tonya Mosley, theGrio.com: Black newswomen break the mold by 'going natural' (Nov. 30)
"CBS News is completely overhauling 'The Early Show' broadcast team," David Bauder reported Tuesday for the Associated Press.
"Co-anchors Harry Smith and Maggie Rodriguez are out, along with weather forecaster Dave Price. The news of the shuffle came Tuesday from a person with knowledge of the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak on personnel issues.
"The morning news show's new anchor team will be Chris Wragge and Erica Hill, who have worked together anchoring CBS' Saturday-morning show. Hill is also the current news reader for the weekday version."
"Jeff Glor, anchor of Saturday's 'CBS Evening News' and a reporter on 'The Early Show,' will take over the news reader job on the morning show. Marysol Castro, formerly of ABC's 'Good Morning America' weekend edition, will do the weather."
CBS confirmed the changes about 90 minutes after Bauder's report, adding that Smith "will shift his focus to hard news with an expanded role as primary substitute anchor on THE EVENING NEWS WITH KATIE COURIC, FACE THE NATION and SUNDAY MORNING, while continuing to report major stories for all CBS News broadcasts.
"CBS News is discussing prominent and ongoing roles for Maggie Rodriguez and Dave Price.
" 'We appreciate Harry, Maggie and Dave's countless contributions to THE EARLY SHOW and are looking forward to the contributions they each will continue to make at CBS News," Sean McManus, president, CBS News and Sports, said in the news release.
Rodriguez had been co-anchor of "The Saturday Early Show" for six months when she was named co-anchor of the weekday "Early Show" in December 2007.
She joined Smith and Julie Chen as a co-anchor of the broadcast, as well as news anchor Russ Mitchell and weather anchor Price. Mitchell left the show in January to become the national correspondent for CBS.
"This is my dream job," a news release quoted Rodriguez as saying at the time. "I get to utilize the journalistic skills I've developed over the past 15 years and have fun at the same time with feature segments. To do that with a group of people I like and respect as much as THE EARLY SHOW team, who’ve made me feel welcome from day one, is wonderful."
Last year, Rodriguez launched a Spanish-language video blog highlighting stories featured in "CBS Reports: Children of the Recession," in which she was to "offer Spanish-speaking viewers her thoughts and insights and will provide a platform for free-flowing conversation with Latino viewers by encouraging online comments and questions."
Biographies list Castro as having been born to Puerto Rican parents in New York. [Nov. 30]
"The word 'diversity' has popular appeal, maybe more so these days than 'affirmative action.' But who knew diversity and affirmative action are in conflict at many businesses and colleges?" Kenneth J. Cooper wrote last week for thedefendersonline.com, website of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"Shirley Wilcher does. The executive director of the American Association of Affirmative Action says human resources professionals who are members of the Washington, D.C.-based organization report that vaguely-defined diversity programs are crowding out or taking priority over affirmative action.
"The Harvard-trained lawyer, who interned at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, knows well the difference between superficial efforts and the sound practices that make workplaces fairer. During the Clinton administration, she directed the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Labor Department agency that enforces Lyndon Johnson’s executive order requiring federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure they have diverse workforces.
" 'We’ve kind of lost in private industry — they use the term "diversity" now, have a lot of diversity programs,' Wilcher says. 'But if they don’t deal with the issue of opportunity in terms of hiring and promotions — the representation of women and minorities in the workplace — you might as well call them "Kumbaya programs," as far as I’m concerned. Because they won’t really address the issue of getting people in the door and retaining them because they’re qualified and simply deserve a chance.”
"Too many of those programs, she says, do nothing more than make employees feel good; to cite two examples: Black History Month celebrations or speeches about how diversity improves the bottom line. Her blunt assessment: 'Maybe they’re good for morale, but they make no change, so therefore they make no difference.' "
Cooper told Journal-isms, "There are a lot of stories for enterprising journalists to pick up, looking at specific businesses and colleges."
In March, John Yearwood, Miami Herald world editor, third from right, met in Haiti with Haitian and American journalists on behalf of the National Association of Black Journalists. (Courtesy John Yearwood)
"A quiet tension settled over Haiti on Monday as people waited to learn how electoral officials proceed in handling Sunday's chaos-marred national balloting and the international community hoped the earthquake-ravaged country did not descend yet again into violence," Joe Mozingo reported from Port-au-Prince Monday for the Los Angeles Times.
"A leading presidential candidate, singer Michel 'Sweet Micky' Martelly, who joined 11 others the day before in asking for the elections to be canceled, suggested he was now open to letting the results be counted, while still insisting 'massive fraud' had been committed. . . . Word was spreading that Martelly and Mirlande Manigat, a professor and former first lady, were the front-runners, despite allegations that President Rene Preval tried to steal the election for his Unity party and its candidate, Jude Celestin."
At the Miami Herald, at least, the "chaos-marred national balloting" was no surprise, according to John Yearwood, world editor.
"The Miami Herald has been reporting for months that the elections will be chaotic. And that's exactly what we've seen," he told Journal-isms by e-mail. "It helps that our own Jacqueline Charles, who has been on the ground almost continuously since the earthquake, has covered previous Haitian elections and knows the players. Nothing that has happened so far has surprised us. It's good, however, to see that the elections have brought renewed interests in Haiti from a large segment of the American media. For a long time, it appeared that we were almost alone — along with The AP, Al Jazeera and a few others — in continuing to report the Haiti story."
In fact, the voting irregularities were in plain sight. Randal C. Archibold, covering the elections for the New York Times, told Journal-isms by e-mail, "I can only tell you what you probably already know, that there is a massive international media presence here and, in chit chat, most of us saw one or more forms of the irregularities ourselves. It didn't seem pretty but whether it amounted to a 'massive fraud,' as the candidates assert, remains to be seen."
He also said, "we reported seeing some of the actual tallies showing martelly ahead, well ahead in some cases. i do not believe many other media had that." Those tallies "are basis of 'quick counts' that insiders use to get a feel for how it is going," he said.
- Jenice Armstrong, Philadelphia Daily News: More help needed for Haiti
Mahamed Ali, a Somali-American in Portland, Ore., spoke Monday at a peace rally after the arrest of a Somali teenager accused of attempting to set off a bomb. (Video)
Links to terrorism have given Somalis in the United States a bad name. On Monday in Norfolk, Va., Jama Idle Ibrahim became the first pirate in nearly 200 years to enter an American prison. A federal judge gave him a 30-year prison term.
On Friday, Somali-born teenager Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested in Portland, Ore., as a crowd of about 10,000 people watched the illumination of the LED lights on a 75-foot Christmas tree at Pioneer Courthouse Square. The FBI said he twice tapped in a number on a cell phone that was supposed to set off a bomb in a van across the street from the plaza, as the Associated Press reported.
For nearly two years, NPR has been following the story of "what looked like a massive recruitment effort of young men from Somali communities in the U.S. As many as two dozen of them have disappeared from Minneapolis alone in the past year," as Dina Temple-Raston reported in January 2009.
"Federal agents are worried these young men are training in Somalia and could end up returning to the U.S. to launch a terrorist attack."
In the news media, the task of separating Somali terrorists from ordinary Somalis has been more than a casual responsibility in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., home to the nation's largest Somali-American community. And the coverage has rubbed many the wrong way.
"There are few relationships on the planet these days worse than the one between the Somali community in the Twin Cities and news organizations which don't know how to cover it," Bob Collins reported in February 2009 for Minnesota Public Radio.
Duchesne Drew, managing editor for operations at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, acknowledged at the time, "It's a hole in our organization that we don't have a lot of Somali people in the newsroom."
But on Monday, Drew told Journal-isms, "I’m proud to say that we’ve made meaningful progress in improving, expanding and sustaining our coverage of issues in the Somali community. We haven’t stopped covering the crime stories that arise, whether they’re terrorism-related or less nationally significant. But we’ve been more intentional about covering a wide range of issues and people within the Somali community."
Part of the problem has been the many dimensions of the Somali community and that many in the news media were responding chiefly to the loudest voices. Three Star Tribune reporters — Allie Shah, Richard Meryhew and James Walsh — have been assigned to the federal investigation into terrorist ties within the Somali community, "but have not limited themselves to that topic, especially not Allie," Drew said.
He provided these links "to a good cross section of stories we have produced. It’s far from exhaustive but gives a sense of range":
- 29 charged with sex trafficking
- Sidebar: Raids alarm Minnesota Somalis; some see denial of issue
- "An enterprise story Allie did after a series of breaking-news stories about a prostitution ring stretching from the Twin Cities to Nashville"
- Somali businessman elected to Minneapolis School Board
- New cafe aims to fuse flavors
- Swedes eye Somali success
- Women used God's work as cover, FBI says
- "A significant story we ran last spring that looked at folks within the Somali community actively working to keep kids from falling in with the wrong crowd"
- "A Father’s Day piece that included a Somali family"
"I included it because we don’t approach every story that includes Somalis as 'Somali' stories, Drew said. "They live here and should factor in stories that touch many aspects of life in Minnesota."
- Michelle Chen, Colorlines: Somali Americans Under Media Siege (July 15, 2009)
- Steve Duin, the Oregonian: Portland-area Somalis shaken by brush with disaster at Pioneer Courthouse Square
- KPTV-TV, Portland, Ore.: Somali, Muslim Communities Hold Peace Rally
- Lolla Mohammed Nur, Minnesota Daily: Is media coverage of Somalis too negative? (Sept. 27)
- Allie Shah and Richard Meryhew, Star Tribune, Minneapolis: New alarm among Somalis in Minnesota (Nov. 30)
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the conservative talk radio commentator who in August used the n-word 11 times during an exchange with a caller to her terrestrial radio show, "will be heard exclusively — and expanded and uncensored — on SiriusXM Stars," the satellite network announced Monday. "Shows will be replayed later each day and on Saturdays and Sundays, and as part of the expanded nature of the program, will include guest interviews."
Schlessinger had announced in August that she was ending her long-running radio show at the end of the year so she could "regain my First Amendment rights.”
Her current show reaches about eight million listeners in all 50 states, according to Brad Wellen of Fishbowl NY.
Writing on his St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times blog, media critic Eric Deggans called Schlessinger's move to satellite "a savvy attempt to hide a fading franchise."
Bristol Palin came into the Nov. 23 season finale of "Dancing With the Stars" in last place and said she was leaving her fate to the voters. She lost to actress Jennifer Gray, but ABC said the two-hour show averaged 24 million viewers. Palin partnered with Mark Ballas.
"Ordinarily, I would hardly care if Bristol Palin had come in third last week at the 'Dancing With the Stars' competition," Stanley Crouch wrote Monday in the New York Daily News.
"But I actually got a little hot. Once the younger mama grizzly announced that her success would be a middle finger to those who hate her mother and also hate the unwed young mother's soap opera experience, I realized that the Alaskan cub had become the star of a Tea Party reality series tale about the little people being trampled on by the 'elites.'
"As we should know by now, cults of victimization are like the air. They travel everywhere and are inhaled everywhere. That is how the Tea Party emerged — with, of course, the help of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, which balances smidgens of fair with much unbalanced balderdash.
"What we now need is something I read about when I was a boy hypnotized by myths and legends from the world over. A memorable one was a story of the giant folk figure Paul Bunyan, who lived somewhere as a logger in the cold north. When his fellow loggers spewed one curse word after another during winter, the dirty words would freeze in the air and fall to the ground.
"Bunyan went around and collected them. They were deposited in separate barrels with the names of the men who had done all of the cursing. When spring came around, Bunyan gave each of the men his barrel and they had to sit there as the ice melted and the shouts of every unmentionable word burst back into the air.
"That cured the loggers and, in a fantasy world, would stop those who now play with the truth as though it were Silly Putty.
"Sarah Palin is a political version of those loggers. She would certainly go deaf if every one of her purported facts were frozen, then melted back into life precisely when she was least prepared to explain the machine-gunning series of tall tales as they exploded into the air again in an intentional act of retribution."
- Access Hollywood: Bristol: 'There's no politics involved' on 'Dancing'
- Stanley Crouch, New York Daily News: How Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh and Fox News stole the truth — and how Dems can fight back
- Joyce Eng, TV Guide: Bristol Aside, Has Dancing Jumped the Shark?
- Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Bush, Obama, and the 'socialist' label
- Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Tea partiers are savvy — that's the reality
- Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Dancing all over with the Palins
"The Southern Poverty Law Center calls the exploitation of immigrant women in the nation’s food industry 'one of the great civil rights crises of our time.' The organization's new report . . . says the fields of California harvest many of the abuses, Frank Stoltze reported last week for KPCV, Southern California Public Radio.
"As she addressed a small group of reporters gathered in Los Angeles, Southern Poverty Law Center legal director Mary Bower sought to stir this country’s collective conscience.
“ 'Every one of us who eats in America — that is, all of us — is connected to these women,' she said. 'Every day, we accept the benefits of their grueling labor.' . . .
" 'A number of the women who we interviewed talked to us about sexual violence and migration,' the center's Monica Ramirez said. 'They also shared with us that sexual violence in migration is so common that today women take birth control before they leave their countries of origin so that they do not get pregnant by their rapists in migration.'
"The report focuses on the problems the estimated 800,000 women farm and poultry workers in this country routinely face."
- Myriam Marquez, Miami Herald: Immigration may ding GOP in 2012 election
- Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Radical Renaissance
- Ruben Rosario, St. Paul Pioneer Press: Children of illegal immigrants deserve chance to live their dream
- Albor Ruiz, New York Daily News: Now's time for DREAM Act to become reality
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee honored veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas this month in Washington, despite the reservations of some Jewish leaders concerned about her career-ending remark that Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," the committee reported.
"The testimonials included a special video tribute by Mr. Sam Donaldson; an original poem written especially for Ms. Thomas, authored and read by Dr. Sam Hamod; the 2010 Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award, presented by Ms. Anisa Mehdi, on behalf of the Mehdi Family and the National Arab American Journalists Association; and a presentation of an original calligraphy painting, titled Justice, by Mr. Nawaf Soliman," the report continued. A spokesman told Journal-isms that close to 500 people were at the Nov. 18 event.
"The evening included testimonials by the ADC National Board Chair, Dr. Safa Rifka; His Excellency, Dr. Clovis Maksoud; the Honorable Ralph Nader; former U.S. Senator and ADC Founder, the Honorable James Abourezk; former Congressman, the Honorable Paul Findley; former Congresswoman and former ADC President, the Honorable Mary Rose Oakar. All testimonials lauded Ms. Thomas' relentless dedication to unraveling the truth for the American people and for asking the tough questions that no one dared to ask. The speakers emphasized that Ms. Thomas is a source of pride to not only Arab-Americans but also to all Americans," the report said.
Three of Thomas' sisters told Journal-isms in June that Thomas was not calling for the destruction of Israel or the return of all Israelis to Europe or the United States, as many in the news media interpreted their sister's remarks, but was expressing her opposition to the disputed Israeli settlements in present-day Palestine.
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. 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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