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Victimized by Cleveland's Serial Killer

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Who's Covering the Black, Poor and Addicted?

Fort Hood Suspect Handled With "Political Correctness"

Howard U. Denies Intention to Close Research Center

Economy Forcing Papers to Cut Internship Programs

New York Post Nervous as Murdoch Shifts Attention

Miami Ombudsman Denies Columnist Is Cuban Spy

Jayson Blair: Ethics Issues Start With Compromises

Short Takes

Inez Fortson's search for her daughter Telacia ends when she learns her daughter was a victim of the Cleveland serial killer. (Credit: True Slant) 

Who's Covering the Black, Poor and Addicted?

Suspect Anthony Sowell (Credit: Cuyahoga County Sheriff)The finger-pointing has begun over the horrific killings in Cleveland of at least 11 African American women, all apparently lured to a house by convicted sex offender Anthony Sowell.

On Monday, authorities identified 44-year-old Kim Yvette Smith as the ninth of the 11 women whose bodies were found in and around Sowell's residence.

"Like the other seven women who police say were victims of Sowell's, Smith had a criminal record and a history of drug abuse," Gabriel Baird reported Monday for the Cleveland Plain Dealer,

Sowell, 49, is in jail with bond set at $5 million, charged with five counts of aggravated murder and rape. He was released from prison in 2005 after serving 15 years for attempted rape.

A week ago, before the killings came to the attention of most outside of Cleveland, sportswriter Justice Hill alerted an e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists to the tragedy in his hometown:

"Until tonight, I hadn't heard one national news program report these murders. Six black women - poor and urban, disappearing in a black ghetto before turning up as corpses. But had they been white women who disappeared in Aruba or in Beverly Hills, their stories would have dominated national and local news. The media would have highlighted the disappearances long before the body count hit six."

It was a familiar complaint. But there was more to the story.

"People want to continue to talk about race, but their race didn't lure them into that house, their addiction did," Zack Reed, a member of the Cleveland City Council, said Monday on National Public Radio's "Tell Me More." "And when you look at the way that we treat individuals who are addicted, and especially poor individuals that are addicted, they're throwaways to our society."

They are the kind of people who get very little media coverage, Leon Dash, newly promoted to director of the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, told Journal-isms. Dash won a Pulitzer Prize in 1995 for an eight-part series in the Washington Post about three generations of the family of Rosa Lee Cunningham. It reported Cunningham's use of drugs and involvement in crime, reported how she and four of her children were addicted to heroin or cocaine, and described how she prostituted her oldest daughter.

Leon Dash"There is very little coverage" of such people, Dash said. "If they're white and they write about it they're a racist. If they're black, there must be something wrong with them.

"I still get flak about it from middle-class people who don't think the subject should be written about," he said of the series. "It's like putting your heads in the sand. Black people for a lot of reasons just want the subject to go away."

Yet, Dash says, long-time drug addiction is tied to criminal recidivism. And although Dash was accused of promoting stereotypes to voyeuristic readers, among other complaints, he insists there are more people like the Cunninghams than we'd like to believe.

Dash cited these characteristics of underclass families from 1986, right before he began reporting that series:

Female-headed household. Most of the adults - between 18 and 65 - unemployed. Most of the adults marginally educated. Welfare dependent. Engaged in petty criminal enterprises, such as property crimes, to supplement the welfare.

Forty-seven percent of the prison population is made up of black men, and many grew up in such environments, he said.

Not only are such people not covered in the news media, he said of this subject, but "when it is covered in any depth, it is covered as a stereotype."

Phillip Morris, a columnist for the Plain Dealer, wrote on Friday, "The registered sexual predator in their midst made little effort to conceal the horrors that police say he perpetrated on women, but a neighborhood - and a city - blithely ignored the parade of women walking into Sowell's home without ever walking out."

He asked earlier in the week, "Was this newspaper somehow also a party to silence, ignorance, if not rank indifference?" 

Fort Hood Suspect Handled With "Political Correctness"

Nidal Malik Hasan at 2003 graduation.As many in the news media say they are being careful not to appeal to anti-Islamic fear-mongering in the case of Army Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Muslim officer suspected in the killings of 13 people Thursday at Fort Hood, Texas, others are charging that the Army missed danger signs because of "political correctness." 

"Major Hasan was not keeping quiet his opposition to the U.S. foreign policy, calling the war on terror a war on Islam," host Chris Wallace said on "Fox News Sunday."

"Of course, the fact that it seems — we don't know for sure, but someone named Nidal Hasan was posting messages sympathetic to suicide bombings on radical Web sites."

William Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, replied, "The Associated Press, not a conservative news organization, is reporting that at Walter Reed, fellow medical officers of Hasan who heard him say these things — I'm going to quote the Associated Press, 'A fear of appearing discriminatory against a Muslim student kept officers from filing a formal complaint.' That's the Associated Press reporting, presumably, on officers they have spoken to there.

"So I think it's not a theory. It's a fact. Maybe they should have — obviously, they now wish, I'm sure — these officers — they had filed a formal complaint.

". . . so yes, political correctness, I believe, in the Army was partly responsible for keeping this man in the military when anyone else who had done this kind of thing that didn't have a Muslim patina — if someone had just screamed, 'I hate the military, I want to kill the military, I'm on neo-Nazi Web sites,' he would have been disciplined and kicked out, I believe."

Another panelist, Kirsten Powers of the New York Post, replied, "He was a Muslim and he did something horrific. He — I think it's more that he probably snapped. Was there political correctness? That's a separate issue of whether this was an act of Islamic terror, in my opinion.

"It's kind of like saying a person who goes to a right-wing Christian church who goes — then goes to an abortion clinic and kills somebody, then we should extrapolate from that that Christians do something.

"There's about 1,000 Muslims in the military. I don't think because one Muslim person does something who was clearly unstable that you can necessarily extrapolate that that's Islamic terror."

On the same show, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, Independent of Connecticut, announced, "I'm intending to begin a congressional investigation of my Homeland Security Committee into what were the motives, what were the motives of Hasan in carrying out this brutal mass murder; if a terrorist attack, the worst terrorist attack since 9/11; and to ask whether the Army missed warning signs that should have led them to essentially discharge him.

"Really, in the U.S. Army, this is not a matter of a constitutional freedom of speech. If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance. He should have been gone."

Investigative officials said Monday evening that Hasan apparently acted alone and without outside direction, Devlin Barrett reported for the Associated Press, "even as the FBI launched an internal review of how it handled information gathered about the doctor nearly a year before the shooting."

However, the New York Times reported for Thursday's editions that iintelligence agencies intercepted communications last year and this year between Hasan and a radical cleric in Yemen known for his incendiary anti-American teachings.

"But the federal authorities dropped an inquiry into the matter after deciding that the messages from the psychiatrist . . . did not suggest any threat of violence and concluding that no further action was warranted, government officials said Monday," David Johnston and Scott Shane wrote.

Howard U. Denies Intention to Close Research Center

"In the wake of an outcry from Howard students and alumni upset by The Hilltop’s report that the renowned Moorland-Spingarn Research Center (MSRC) might be forced to shut down, the University’s Chief Academic Office issued a statement vowing the center will not be closed," Camille Augstin reported Monday for the Hilltop, the Howard University student newspaper.

“'There is no intention to close the center,' said Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Alvin Thornton, Ph.D., in an e-mail to The Hilltop on Sunday. 'It is a treasured and valued part of Howard and will continue.'

"With Dr. Thomas Battle’s recent retirement as director of the center, Howard is in the process of searching for a replacement director. A national search will be conducted to identify an appropriate individual to lead the center and develop financial and other support for the center.

"The university is also in the process of reviewing the organization, structure and staffing of the research center as part of a larger university-wide academic and support program review.

"Thornton’s statement was intended to reassure students and alumni who reacted to The Hilltop story published last Friday in which Battle, who was called out of retirement to head MSRC temporarily after serving as its director for more than two decades, warned financial and structural setbacks posed a threat to the 95-year-old center’s continued existence."

Moorland-Spingarn is repository of a number of original documents tracing the history of the black press.

Economy Forcing Papers to Cut Internship Programs

"The long-suffering job market for journalists isn't just affecting full-time staffers. Interns, a steady presence in the newsroom, are falling victim to the industry's financial woes, too. Budget constraints are forcing many papers to reconfigure their internship programs, and in some cases, completely eliminate them," Elaine Williams reported Monday for Editor & Publisher.

"'It was either staff or interns,' Julie Engebrecht, The Cincinnati Enquirer's director of news, says of the paper's decision not to take any on for the past five years. In prior summers, it had hired roughly a dozen paid interns per year. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram also cut its four to five paid intern slots this year, a move that Executive Editor Jim Witt attributes to budget cutbacks.

". . . Even those newspapers that continue to hire interns have had to scale back either the number of students they take on, or their pay — and sometimes both."

New York Post Nervous as Murdoch Shifts Attention

In a nervous time for newspapers, people at The New York Post "have reason to wonder about their future, starting with its losses ‚Äî as high as $70 million last year, according to some people briefed on the finances ‚Äî which have become a bigger concern for News Corporation executives," Richard P?©rez-Pe?±a wrote¬†Monday for the New York Times.

Since buying the Wall Street Journal two years ago, Rupert Murdoch has shifted much of his attention to that paper, "leaving some at The Post to wonder whether the creation of a metropolitan news staff at The Journal will affect the level of losses the company will be willing to absorb at The Post.

“'People want to know what it means for us, whether he’ll lose interest,' said a Post reporter who, like several colleagues and people who have recently left, spoke on condition of anonymity" for fear of angering Editor Col Allan and Murdoch. "They say that while The Journal has a stylish new newsroom in the News Corporation building on the Avenue of the Americas, The Post’s dingy quarters a few floors away need renovation."

The Post caused an uproar this year with its cartoon of a chimpanzee that many took to be President Obama. The newspaper does not participate in the American Society of News Editors annual diversity survey, but employees have told Journal-isms that no one in the chain of command to approve the chimpanzee cartoon was of color and that there had not been an African American editor on the local news desk since 2001, when the late Lisa G. Baird, who had cancer at the time, was fired.

Last month, Sandra Guzman, the only woman of color on the New York Post's management staff and its only Hispanic editor, was quietly dismissed from the paper.

Miami Ombudsman Denies Columnist Is Cuban Spy

Marifeli P?©rez-Stable "What does a newspaper do if one of its regular op-ed contributors has been accused of being of a Cuban spy?" Edward Schumacher-Matos, the Miami Herald ombudsman, wrote¬†on Oct. 18, following up with a column of reaction from readers this past Sunday.

"This is the case confronting The Miami Herald over Marifeli P?©rez-Stable, a professor at Florida International University who since 2002 has been writing a column every two weeks that focuses mostly on Cuba and Latin America.

"The spy charges are old, but have been raised again in online campaigns since the arrest and charging this summer of a former State Department senior intelligence analyst and his wife for being Cuban agents.

"Joe Oglesby, who last year retired as Editorial Page editor, told me that twice he asked her in private if she ever had been a Cuban agent, and she denied it both times. He said that he didn't think the charges were credible enough to pursue further or to say something publicly that, in the hothouse of Miami ?©migr?© politics, might further fuel the fire.

"After the latest round of accusations, Executive Editor Anders Gyllenhaal and Editorial Page Editor Myriam Marquez asked me to look at the charges and report to readers as I saw fit.

" . . . I have read many of P?©rez-Stable's Herald columns. In them, she supports U.S. engagement with Cuba as a way to bridge the differences between the two countries and encourage democratic change on the island.¬†

"Can that view be surreptitiously doing the Castros a favor? In so far as it may restrain the U.S. from being aggressive against Cuba, you can say yes.

"But the Castros have made it clear in word and deed that they don't want to engage on the human rights and democracy grounds that P?©rez-Stable proposes, so, no, she isn't doing them a favor."


"If they can buy into the idea that I did actually learn and grow from my experience, it makes perfect sense," Jayson Blair told Fox News. (Video.)

Jayson Blair: Ethics Issues Start With Compromises

Jayson Blair, who resigned six years ago as a reporter for the New York Times after it was revealed that he had plagiarized or made up facts in dozens of stories, was the "Power Player of the Week" on "Fox News Sunday."

Host Chris Wallace said Blair, whose actions brought down the top two editors at the paper, has spent years in treatment for bipolar disorder and alcohol and drug abuse. He now teams up with health professionals to counsel people in crisis.

"I think that most people initially, when they hear the idea of me being a life coach, they kind of laugh at the notion, but when they think about it and they think — and they — if they can buy into the idea that I did actually learn and grow from my experience, it makes perfect sense," Blair said.

The former journalist spoke to about 150 students, journalism professionals and professors at Washington & Lee's Journalism Ethics Institute on Friday night, as Katelyn Polantz reported Saturday for the Roanoke (Va.) Times.

He "told them the big ethical decisions in life don't come with trumpets blaring but in small daily choices about what compromises you're willing to make," Wallace said.

Short Takes

  • Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, joined¬†the Wall Street Journal Monday in denouncing "a reckless and unsubstantiated story accusing Wall Street Journal South Asia correspondent Matthew Rosenberg of being a spy." The accusation, published Thursday in Pakistan‚Äôs The Nation newspaper, "gravely endangers Rosenberg‚Äôs safety."¬†
  • Tracy news producer Tracy Stokes died at Wake Med Hospital in Raleigh, N.C., Sunday of complications from kidney failure, Ed Wiley III of reported on Monday. Stokes was 37. "If you visited over much of the past half-decade and clicked on such popular segments as the 'Bring That Week Back' photo flipbook, the annual 'Those We Lost' obituary compilation or the 'World Lens' section, which highlights photos of people of color making news throughout the world, you were indeed connected to Tracy," Wiley wrote. "He worked meticulously on these projects, among many others, and went about his duties as a news gatherer and producer with passion and pride."
  • "The first issue of Latin Star is out on the street," Veronica Villafa?±e reported¬†on her Media Moves site. "The new bilingual lifestyle magazine, targeting men and women ages 18-49 is hoping to gain footing in the national marketplace. Los Angeles-based Latin Star Corporation, which also promotes concerts, publishes the magazine."
  • "Last Thursday the CNN studios in three cities were the site of protests for the public option organized by The Young Turks and Democracy for America," Tina Dupuy reported for Media Bistro's FishBowl LA. "We heard on Thursday CNN was going to mention the protest during their ongoing coverage of the health care reform debate. And according to our sources, that has yet to happen." A CNN spokeswoman told Journal-isms that CNN sent a crew but that the breaking news of the Fort Hood massacre dominated coverage that day.
  • John OwensIn Colorado Springs, Colo., "Sports Director John Owens has announced he will be stepping down from his role as Sports Director at KKTV 11 News effective this December," the station reported on Saturday. Owens has run the department for 29 years. "John is a local legend," said News Director Liz Haltiwanger. "Owens doesn't want to call it a retirement, because he will still be involved with the sports department. But, as he puts it, he's ready to 'do what he wants to do, when he wants to do it,' the station said.
  • Veronica De La Cruz, a former CNN journalist, has been campaigning for health care reform in what has been a personal fight, she wrote Friday for the Huffington Post. On July 4, "I lost my brother and my only sibling Eric Alexander De La Cruz. He passed away while awaiting a heart transplant. Five years ago, he was diagnosed with severe dilated cardiomyopathy, a weakening of the heart that prevents it from pumping normally. Since then, we had tried to get Eric insurance coverage that would allow him to get the treatment he needed, but no private insurer would offer him insurance because of this preexisting condition."
  • Burleigh Hines, a reporter at Chicago's WBBM-TV for more than 25 years, died Sunday at age 77, Jim Williams of the CBS-owned station reported. "After a career in newspapers and radio, he came to WBBM-TV as editorial director in the mid-1970s, then moved to the newsroom. The versatile Hines could cover every kind of story, from City Hall to crime on the streets, politics and education to animal stories." Hines co-wrote "Nightmare in Detroit: A Rebellion and its Victims," a book on the 1967 Detroit riots that left 43 dead, Maureen O'Donnell noted in the Chicago Sun-Times. His co-author was Van Gordon Sauter, a Chicago Daily News writer who became president of CBS News.
  • The Toronto Star Monday profiled¬†John Paton, the Glasgow-born, London, Ontario-raised former editor of the Toronto Sun who is now CEO of New York-based impreMedia, which has been named the best and most influential Hispanic media company in the United States." "Everyone I work with is someone of colour," Paton jokes in the story. "I'm the diversity!"
  • Lee Stinnett, executive director of the American Society of Newspaper Editors from 1983 to 1999, died Saturday at his home in Asheville, N.C., ASNE reported on Monday. He was 70 and had been battling Parkinson's disease for a decade. Medical examiners attributed the death to heart disease. A memorial service is being planned in Asheville.
  • "Good Morning America" co-anchor Robin Roberts "is the centerpiece for two prime-time specials this month: a Tuesday night hour featuring country music stars and an interview with Janet Jackson that will air on Nov. 18. The Jackson interview is the type of important 'get' for which Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters used to compete," David Bauder reported¬†Monday for the Associated Press.
  • "Rihanna's '20/20' interview about the night she was beaten by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown has given the ABC news program a ratings win for Friday night and a record for the season," reported¬†on Monday. "Diane Sawyer's exclusive interview with the singer drew 8.2 million viewers among adults 18-49. It also drew the show's best 18-34 number in three years." Brown told¬†MTV afterward, "I maintain my position that all of the details should remain a private matter between us."

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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