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Uproar Over Cartoon

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Artist Uses "Ho" in Blasting "Thug Rappers" Culture

A white cartoonist at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville spent Monday morning responding to about 70 e-mails about a cartoon about the "no snitching" culture that "shocked and angered" many, in the words of the paper's reader advocate, but which the artist said hoped would save at least a couple of souls and make the controversy worth it.

"Some readers were shocked and angered by a Friday editorial page cartoon depicting a black man with a smoking gun in his hand standing over a bullet-riddled victim, Wayne Ezell, reader advocate at the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, wrote on Sunday.

"'I didn't see nuttin'!' said a little girl standing nearby. 'Now that's a good little ho!' said the gunman. Both the shooter and the child wore T-shirts saying 'Don't Snitch!'

"The cartoon carried a caption: 'The new rule of Law!' A billboard in the background depicted more black characters under lyrics, 'Rap your life away.'

"Expressions of outrage came quickly, including from the local president of the NAACP.

"'Highly offensive and racist,' is how Charles Anderson described the cartoon.

"Mike Clark, the editorial page editor, reviewed and approved the cartoon by longtime Times-Union cartoonist Ed Gamble.

"'Using the word "ho" was bad judgment, and I regret that I did not edit it out,' Clark said.

"The cartoon came after police assertions that a 'Don't snitch' culture has impeded efforts to solve crimes in Jacksonville. A CBS 60 Minutes segment last Sunday focused on the growing problem, especially in inner-city neighborhoods, and how some rap artists have encouraged it.

". . . Among the outraged was Juan Gray, chairman of the Jacksonville chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"This does nothing to mend the divide that seems to be growing wider in our community," he said.

"The NAACP's Isaiah Rumlin's objections focused on stereotyping and use of the offensive term, but he said the subjects of no-snitching and rap lyrics are fair game for commentary.

"'I know there's a certain segment in our community that wear the T-shirts and so forth,' he said. As for lyrics that might encourage not cooperating with police, 'We're all trying to change those.'

"But Rumlin was also concerned the cartoon might reinforce a widely held — albeit wrong — notion in a city that he says is apathetic about its crime problems.

"'This is stereotyping. In reality this is not just a black thing,' he said of the murder problem. 'It is a Jacksonville problem.'

"Rumlin also raised the question of how many people of color are on the newspaper's staff, asserting the cartoon may have been handled differently if the newsroom were more diverse.

"While the newsroom has people of color among its writers and copy editors, and has one African-American columnist, no people of color are involved in the day-to-day operations of the opinion pages, which are separate from the newsroom.

"'If an African-American had seen that before it was printed, it would not have been printed,' Rumlin said."

Gamble, 64, said his cartoon was also sent out to other newspapers via King Features. "Most cartoons and editorials are fluff" today, he said, calling himself a religious man who sees a problem that needs to be addressed. He wrote to Journal-isms:

"As a former trustee of a black college that my great grandfather, a Methodist minister, founded after the Civil War and having a love for both black and whites through my religious upbringing, I have been watching this black rap culture for the past 10 years," he said, referring to the old Morristown College in Morristown, Tenn., since merged into Knoxville College.

"I find the word 'ho' very offensive and think it is tearing away the moral fabric in the black society and degrading to the women who are the pillars in this society. Now the 'No Snitch' rule of law that is spreading is causing more harm. This is not an Imus racist thing. This is a cartoon showing that someone can murder and that no snitch is the ticket and that (rap music billboard) disrespect for the black women is common among these thugs.

"We have globalization and outsourcing by big business in America, factories shutting down, illegal immigrants coming in to do jobs which blacks were skilled at (bricklaying, carpentry, etc.) and taking their jobs because they can pay less money. So where is the black community today. Little education, little or no jobs, racism still a big part in America — and you have the moral fabric of the black society being ripped apart by thug rappers.

"Someone has to say something is wrong. I did. I knew it would be offensive to black leaders who are only now (after years) beginning to stand up and maybe to plantation whites (those who only give lip service and yearly contributions to blacks) but won't take a stand and say we really need to do something. But if my cartoon can help two or three lost souls to straighten up or at least think about how bad this is for a society, then it was worth all [the] trouble."

  • Roger Weeder, WTLV/WJXX-TV, Jacksonville, Fla.: Rap Music Editorial Draws NAACP Criticism (video)

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Vick Accepts Plea Deal in Dogfighting Case

"Atlanta Falcons quarterback and Hampton Roads native Michael Vick will accept a plea deal and a likely prison sentence, avoiding additional federal charges related to a professional dogfighting operation," Dave Forster and Tim McGlone reported Monday for the Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot.

"Vick is scheduled to enter a guilty plea to the felony conspiracy charge at 10:30 a.m. next Monday in U.S. District Court in Richmond.

"'Mikeâ??s accepting full responsibility,' longtime Vick attorney Lawrence Woodward said today, announcing the decision. 'Heâ??s going to do everything he can personally and professionally to make this situation right.'

"Thomas B. Shuttleworth , another of Vickâ??s lawyers, said Vick finalized his plea agreement Friday, the same day two of his co-defendants entered guilty pleas in Richmond as part of deals that would have required them to testify against Vick at trial. Shuttleworth said Vick spent his weekend deciding whether to make an announcement, then let his attorneys release a statement Monday."

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Texas Reporter John Gutierrez-Mier Dies at 43



"A week ago, John Gutierrez-Mier checked out of Medical City Hospital in Dallas after heart surgery," Mike Lee wrote Sunday in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

"He moved into a hotel near the hospital where medical students, some of them Muslim, live.

"Mr. Mier greeted them in Arabic, which he had picked up while writing news reports about Islam after 9-11: 'As-salaam alaikum.' It was a moment, his friends said Saturday, that illustrated two important parts of his life. He spent a career in the newspaper business trying to bridge gaps between cultures and races. And he lived with health problems that had followed him since childhood and ultimately cut his life short.

"Mr. Mier, a Star-Telegram reporter since 2002, died Friday. He was 43."

Macarena Hernandez, a reporter at the Dallas Morning News who worked with him in San Antonio, said in the story:

"John was very passionate about communities of color, people whom newspapers traditionally ignored. He and I had very intense conversations about the coverage of Muslims, blacks, Latinos, the poor, gays and lesbians."

"Not every reporter has the ability to walk into these neighborhoods and disarm people, which let him get to the heart of what was going on," Lee Williams, Star-Telegram Metro editor, was quoted as saying.

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Miss. Paper Gets Names of Witnesses to '65 Killing

"At least 18 people witnessed the 1965 shooting of civil rights protester Jimmie Lee Jackson by an Alabama state trooper recently indicted on a murder charge in the case, newly obtained FBI documents show," Chris Joyner reported Sunday in the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger.

"Reports recently obtained by The Clarion-Ledger through a Freedom of Information Act request give details, including the identities of potential witnesses not even known to District Attorney Michael Jackson of Selma, who is prosecuting the case against former Trooper James Fowler.

". . . The killing of Jimmie Lee Jackson . . . set in motion the historic Bloody Sunday Selma-to-Montgomery march when police attacked marchers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. The violent confrontation led to the eventual passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

"Jackson was shot after state and local police had forcibly broken up a night march on the streets of Marion, Ala. Witnesses said marchers fled in all directions when police set upon them with billy clubs. Reporters covering the event said authorities cut off the streetlights and covered the lenses of their cameras to keep them from reporting on the melee.

"Police reports countered it was the marchers who became violent, hurling rocks and bottles at the police."

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Imus Insult Recalls Black Women's On-Air Dilemma

"When my Nieman year began, my hair was straight; by January my Afro was back," Renee Ferguson, investigative reporter for WMAQ-TV in Chicago and 2006-07 Nieman fellow, wrote in the summer issue of Nieman Report, in "A Dilemma for Black Women in Broadcast Journalism."



"Returning to work, my news director, an African-American woman, insisted that I return to my straight, neat, corporate (whatever you want to call it) not-nappy, hair again. Thirty years have passed since this same issue was raised with me and, while the messenger was decidedly different, the message was the same: 'Welcome back, but leave the Afro at Harvard.'

"When Don Imus spoke of 'nappy-headed hos,' he stepped onto the third rail of American social commentary. Black women spent two billion dollars last year on hair-care products, straightening, weaving, braiding, all in pursuit of non-nappy hair. Imus's comments, with their historically explosive implications about black women, wild hair and wild sex, were a slap, a smack-down of innocents, and a form of slanderous speech with no result other than to diminish and demean.

"For African-American women, they were fighting words—they always have been. For me, they were a reminder that when it comes to the issue of image, beauty and acceptance, America is actually not far removed from where we were in the 70's. It made me wonder if, as a pioneer in broadcast journalism, I hadn't contributed to that lack of progress by conforming to a more widely acceptable image to promote my career."

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Inmates Entitled to Bylines, Judge Rules

"Prison rules prohibiting federal inmates from writing bylined articles violate the First Amendment rights of the prisoners and of the press, a federal judge in Denver ruled last week," the Reporters Committee on Freedom of the Press reported on Thursday.

"U.S. District Judge Marcia S. Krieger rejected prison officials' contentions that the regulation was needed to prevent inmates from gaining notoriety among fellow prisoners because of articles they authored, to leave prison employees free to exercise control over inmates without fear their conduct and statements would be published in the press, and to prevent prisoners from starting businesses behind prison walls."

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Do Rules on Accurate Quotes Include Sneezes?

A debate over former Washington Post sportswriter Howard Bryant's changing an athlete's quote to make it grammatical, raised last week by Post ombudsman Deborah Howell, continued on Sunday.

"I asked Post staffers and readers to comment on Post policy that using quotation marks means 'those exact words should have been uttered in precisely that form,'" Howell wrote.

"The opinions varied from 'we treat quotations as gospel' and 'ANY change of any comment put within quotation marks is an ethical breach' to 'I just don't see the reason for quoting someone verbatim . . . unless it adds something to the story.' Some reporters told me they follow their instincts rather than Post policy.

"Post reporter and funnyman Gene Weingarten said: 'What does "exact" mean? Does it mean we are compelled to include every momentary digression, every cough or mid-sentence sneeze, and every little illiteracy or word-choice imprecision that someone might utter in the course of answering a question?"

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Rumors of Diversity's Death Exaggerated

A study that shows that people prefer those like themselves is falsely being used to deride the idea of diversity, according to Barbara Frankel, writing Thursday in DiversityInc.

The subject was a study by Harvard Prof. Robert Putnam, published in the journal Scandinavian Political Studies in June, which "found that all people living in racially mixed communities had a higher tendency to 'hunker down' and become more isolated from their neighbors and the civic process. His research showed they volunteer less, work on community projects less often, and register to vote less," Frankel wrote.

A week ago, Gregory Rodriguez cited the study in a Los Angeles Times column, "Diversity may not be the answer." On Thursday, Daniel Henninger, deputy editor of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, followed up with "The Death of Diversity."

"Robert Putnam's fears have come true," Clarence Page "wrote Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune. "The Harvard political scientist worried that some people would use his latest research to argue against immigration, affirmative action and multiculturalism. Sure enough, at least one favorable commentary has popped up on the Web site of David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader. But, not to worry. Putnam's findings are valuable for sane people too."

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Black Talk Radio Shows Bash Both Parties

A study of four black talk radio shows — The "Bev Smith Show," "Al Sharpton Show," "Lincoln Ware Show" and "The Black Eagle," hosted by Joe Madison — shows that both major political parties were bashed, the majority of the shows dealt with issues without reference to the black community, and that "every evaluation of the black community was negative."

The study was undertaken by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, which examined the political content of 62 hours of black talk-radio shows throughout the final week of the 2006 election campaign.

The top five issues discussed were the economy (44 discussions); the war in Iraq (27); affirmative action (29); crime and drugs (15); and education (13), the center said on Aug. 10.

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Barry Bonds Mentions Often Followed by "S" Word

How was Barry Bonds' moment of triumph as the nation's new home run king portrayed in sports pages?

The Project for Excellence in Journalism examined coverage in the 43 daily newspapers based in cities that host major league baseball franchises.

"Then, using special software, we looked for the most frequently used words in the coverage, some 106 stories, columns and sidebars. What we found was that in the achievement did not seem to signal a more admiring reevaluation of baseball's newest king," the project reported on Aug. 9.

"Indeed, after the names of of Henry Aaron, the man Bonds surpassed (whose name appeared 672 times), and Mike Bacsik, the pitcher who served up home run #756 (whose name appeared 246 times), the most common words in the 106 stories PEJ examined were 'steroids' and 'performance enhancing drugs.' Both appeared 215 times.

"More admiring terms were present, even frequent, but they appeared far less often."

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Short Takes

  • Merv Aubespin, inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame this month, is better known nationally than he is locally, according to David Hawpe, editorial director of the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal, Hawpe, who worked with Aubespin for 35 years, said Aubespin's focus has always been "to keep those kids pointed toward careers as writers and editors," according to a Courier-Journal story Saturday by Bill Pike. Joe Grimm of the Detroit Free Press wrote a tribute to Aubespin on the Gannett Co. Web site.
  • "A newsroom debate about when to mention race in articles has intensified" at the Baltimore Sun, Paul Moore, Sun public editor, said on Sunday. "The discussion is partly fueled by an increasing number of reader questions about The Sun's policy of identifying criminal suspects. When will the question of whether to identify one's race in newspaper articles cease to be an issue?" Moore asked. "Not any time soon. Racial prejudice continues to permeate our society and it is likely to affect perceptions and attitudes for many years to come."
  • Reviewing recent media trends, an editorial in Indian Country Today concluded on Aug. 10 that "with the upsurge in both Native media and digital technology, one thing is clear: participation by Native people in the Native media will grow in importance in the coming years. We — tribal nations, Indian journalists and media consumers — can turn off the bad news and tell our own stories."


Hoda Kotb

  • Hoda Kotb, discussing her upcoming turn as a co-host for the new fourth hour of NBC-TV's "Today," told Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting & Cable on Monday, "I think people want to be inspired. When I go to luncheons to speak, I look at all the women there and every woman needs something. Life's hard. You're tired. You're dropping the kids off; you're trying to make ends meet. It isn't easy and sometimes I think you need something to lighten the load a little bit or to know that there are other people out there like you."
  • "As the Gulf region marks the second year since Hurricane Katrina, CNN's Soledad O'Brien and filmmaker Spike Lee team with 11 New Orleans-area teenagers for a documentary that captures what their lives have been like since the devastating storm," CNN announced. "Filmed almost entirely by the teens with handheld digital video cameras, 'CNN: Special Investigations Unit — Children of the Storm' focuses on the personal journeys of Deshawn Dabney, Brandon Franklin, Amanda Hill and Shantia Reneau. The show premieres on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at 8 p.m., with replays on Saturday, Sept. 1, and Sunday, Sept. 2, at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. All times Eastern.
  • Robin Washington, editorial page editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, spoke Saturday at the funeral of Irene Morgan Kirkaldy, who refused to give up her seat to a white couple in July 1944. Her action "turned her into a pioneer who helped lay the foundation for later civil rights victories," as Kim O'Brien Root reported in the Daily Press of Newport News, Va. "Ordinary people doing extraordinary things. That really describes Irene Morgan," Washington said. Kirkaldy was featured in Washington's documentary, "You Don't Have to Ride Jim Crow." The Daily Press Web site includes a photo gallery of the service.



  • Kelley Carter, feature writer at the Detroit Free Press, is joining the Chicago Tribune as an entertainment reporter, effective Sept. 7. "At the Trib, I'll be covering music, theatre and film and I am very excited to begin this new chapter in my life. It's been a pretty emotional ride arriving at the decision and the reality that I'm leaving what has been home for the last 9 years," Carter told colleagues.
  • Principal photography has been completed in the documentary production of "Ernest Withers, Photographer: A Life in Black and White," filmmaker St. Clair Bourne announced on Friday. Withers chronicled the civil rights era in a 60-year career as a photojournalist in the black press.
  • Last weekend's USA Today included a travel feature, "10 great places to absorb the reality of slavery."
  • "If you feel uncomfortable about race, get over it. If you still feel uncomfortable, so what," Dr. Scott Fosdick, a white professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San Jose State University, said at a conference this month of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. "Keep talking about it — you'll be better off. I think a white teacher can be a good mentor to people of all races. Just be honest." Fosdick was one of nearly 1,800 who gathered for the conference, at which diversity and race figured prominently, David Pluviose reported Aug. 13 in Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.
  • A division of The Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot is launching MIX magazine, aimed at Hampton Road's minority communities, on Aug. 23, Editor & Publisher reported last week.
  • "Let's revisit some old stories," Ted Vaden, public editor at the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer wrote on Aug. 12. "Earlier this month readers took The N&O to task for using only white girls in a story-photo display about back-to-school fashions. I, too, criticized the lack of diversity, in last Sunday's column. Now comes Savannah Pryfogle, one of said 'un-diverse' students featured in the story, to apprise us of some late-breaking news: Her great-grandparents emigrated from Mexico, and she considers herself to be Latina. . . . This case points to the perils of a newspaper trying to cover an increasingly multi-ethnic society."
  • "If the words 'print' and 'media' conjure up images of plummeting profits, shrinking readership and editors tearing their hair out as they attempt to staunch the exodus to the online universe, you clearly aren't thinking of India," Vidya Ram wrote last week for Forbes magazine. "As the country celebrates the 60th anniversary of its independence from Britain, newspapers are flourishing, with growth projections that would impress even the savviest of investors. And unlike rival market favorite China, the world's largest democracy can boast a free press that is truly able to speak its mind, and the largest English-language speaking audience in Asia."

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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