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Viewers Turn on Lauer Over Curry Ouster

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Eight Months Later, "Today" Can't Shake NBC Blunder

Coates Asks, Where Was Solidarity With Black Freelancers?

Unable to Define "Journalist," Police May End Credentialing

Gunshot Fired Into Newsroom of Black Va. Newspaper

U.S. Business Journalists Miss Third World Story, Dean Says

Time Promotes Ghosh to Editor of International Edition

Whites Twice as Likely to Own Guns as Blacks, Latinos

Vatican Rejects New Pope's Tie With Dirty War

Lack of Diversity at Inquirer Means "Unbalanced Coverage"

Short Takes

With Matt Lauer commiserating, former co-host Ann Curry made a tearful depar

Eight Months Later, "Today" Can't Shake NBC Blunder

Recriminations over co-host Ann Curry's messy departure from the "Today" show eight months ago escalated this week, with co-host Matt Lauer squarely in the crosshairs.

"Viewers are complaining about Lauer, NBC insiders are turning on him, and replacements are being groomed all because of one bad moment preserved forever on the Internet," Larry Mendte wrote Friday for Philadelphia magazine. "Lauer is considered one of the best interviewers in the business. He has helped keep Today on top for more than a decade. But all of his successes and experience are no match for Google, YouTube and gossip blogs that are already assuming his departure. The New York Post is even reporting that Lauer may replace Alex Trebek as the new host of Jeopardy."

James Wolcott wrote Friday in Vanity Fair about a comedy writer's blog on the subject. "A can of whup-ass is precisely what the normally genial-mannered comedy writer and blogger Ken Levine unleashes on the top suits at NBC for its humiliating treatment of Ann Curry, who was claw-hammered out of her co-host chair on Today and given one of the most shabby heave-hos in broadcast history. Not only was Curry fired from a high-profile job, which can be humiliating enough in this piranha-infested media environment, she was the victim of a crass post-mortem from a Dale Carnegie dropout in a position of authority.

"Take it away, Ken Levine:

" 'Ann Curry was weak on cooking segments!

" 'That's the [horseshit] explanation Steve Capus, the idiot president of NBC News gave for why they had to unceremoniously dump Ann Curry as co-host of THE TODAY SHOW.

" 'Yeah. That was the problem. America tuned out in droves because Ann wasn't enthusiastic enough about whipped potatoes. . . . ' "

Curry is biracial, born in Guam to a Japanese mother and a father with French, Scottish and Irish heritage. Her success resonated particularly with Asian Americans. The Asian American Journalists Association is advertising an appearance by Curry as keynote speaker at AAJA's summer convention.

Tom Huang, Sunday and enterprise editor at the Dallas Morning News, wrote for the Poynter Institute last summer, "Finally, on morning TV, I could find someone who looked like me. I identified with her. I was inspired by her."

Two pieces in particular raised the level of discourse about Curry and Lauer this week. Eric Deggans summarized them in his media column Thursday for the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times under the headline, "As Today show ratings suffer, can Matt Lauer be saved?"

"The drive to rehab Lauer's image seemed to start with an interview in the Daily Beast on Monday, where NBC's $25 million man admitted he was troubled over the public drubbing he is taking over the ouster of anchor Ann Curry last year," Deggans wrote.

"He also made the case that he pushed NBC executives to move slowly in unseating her and offered to leave Today if that would stop the viewer backlash.

"Though that may be Lauer's perspective, that's not the whole story, according to New York Times reporter Brian Stelter, who has a book on the morning show wars, Top of the Morning: Inside the Cutthroat World of Morning TV, to be published April 23.

"Stelter uncorked a story today recounting an NBC meeting on Today's ratings that gingerly talked about 'connection' with viewers instead of directly referring to Lauer, revealing that his general [popularity] has nose-dived, forcing the network to bat [away] rumors he might be replaced.

"Some critics say the Today show got complacent, but I would say it differently; they got complacent about Lauer's abilities and likability, counting on his charm and appeal to override decisions which wound up hurting the show. Those self-inflicted wounds came at a time when Today's had been on top so long, some viewers were already considering alternatives.

"Nice a person as Curry is, she was never a good fit as a mainline Today show anchor; weakest where the show is most demanding, requiring snappy, pitch-perfect reactions in the moment during live interviews and in host banter."

The gossip columns have at various times had Curry ready to bolt the network.

Lauer hasn't been the only NBC figure tarnished. When Capus announced Feb. 1 that he was stepping down as NBC News president, the Baltimore Sun's David Zurawik wrote, "the last two years have been a story of failure for Capus and the network's news division," and the handling of Curry was "one of the worst" leadership moments on his watch.

Philadelphia magazine's Mendte proposed one way the recriminations could end:

"Ironically, the one person who could make this all go away and save Lauer from getting the boot is Ann Curry," Mendte wrote. "If she were to come out publicly and show support for Lauer and say that she was not giving the cold shoulder to Lauer during her tearful good-bye, maybe viewers will forgive and forget. But somehow I think that's not going to happen."

Coates Asks, Where Was Solidarity With Black Freelancers?

Ta-Nehisi CoatesFreelance journalist Nate Thayer prompted a debate last week when he publicly declined an opportunity to write for the Atlantic magazine for free. But in the arguments over the benefits of getting paid only with exposure, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote on Wednesday, one element has been missing: race.

"Two things helped me break through," Coates wrote on his Atlantic blog. "The first, being vouched for by someone in a position of power who had a relationship with someone else in a position of power. I met that person when costs of investment were low: I worked for David Carr [at the Washington City Paper] at a rate of $100 dollars a week and ten cents a word for anything I published. The first summer I worked for him, I made $1,700. I did not consider myself underpaid. This was 1996. The New Republic had just told the world that black people had evolved to be stupid, and it seemed like every week they were saying something just as racist. I was at Howard University, surrounded by a community of brilliant black people, cut off from the Ivies. None of them had the contacts or the resources to reply. They just had to take it. I can't tell you how much that angered me. I was made in that moment. And when I got my first break in writing, I didn't think about being ripped off. I thought about whipping ass. I haven't changed.

"The second thing was the destruction of the monopoly on publication by gate-keepers. When [Slate's Matthew] Yglesias wrote me, I didn't care a whit about payment. I cared about a world wherein writers wrote stories like this, and no black people were around to answer.

". . . What I am asking you to do is to avoid an appeal to a more noble past. I lived there. It wasn't noble. It was fucked up. Like right now is fucked up. When you ask me to show solidarity with writers who aren't being paid, you should also ask yourself what solidarity white magazine writers have shown over the years with struggling black writers who could not break in. You are appalled that Nate Thayer was once offered $125,000 to write for The Atlantic, and was then offered nothing. Fair enough. Are you equally appalled that there were virtually no black writers who could have gotten the same deal?

"Over the past few days, I have been told that I am the 'exception,' that I 'won the lottery.' No one thinks that Thayer won the lottery when he was offered his contract. No one sees the compromised ground underneath. I am sorry this new world is not fair. I am all for doing something to make it more fair. But while we are doing so, remember something: The old world was never fair. It was war. I am, indeed, an exception to the rule. But not the rule you think."

Unable to Define "Journalist," Police May End Credentialing

"San Diego police may follow other agencies by ending media credentials as the spread of bloggers and online publications make it more difficult to define who is a journalist," Elliot Spagat reported Sunday for the Associated Press. "The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security stopped issuing credentials last month and the Orange County Sheriff's Department in Southern California did so in December.

" 'With the advancements in digital media and the proliferation of bloggers, podcasters and freelancers, it has become challenging to determine who should receive a press pass,' the Sheriff's Department said.

"At stake for journalists is whether they can cover certain stories. At stake for the general public is who delivers their news. . . . "

Richmond, Va., Police Det. Dale Shamburg investigates gunshot damage to a window

Gunshot Fired Into Newsroom of Black Va. Newspaper

A gunshot damaged a window on the second floor of the offices of the Richmond, Va., Free Press, [PDF] ripping window blinds and scattering debris in the Free Press newsroom, the African American weekly reported in its March 14-16 edition.

"Thankfully none of our staffers were on duty when our window was bullet-holed and desks were dotted with glass," the newspaper reported, adding that the March 3 vandalism was reported to the FBI as well as local police.

"Detective [Dale] Shamburg suggested the shot came from a shotgun blast fired from a nearby parking lot across from the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the blast may have come from partygoers.

"We do not know the source of this criminal behavior, but we do know that it is an uncivilized act that fits in the same category as past and ongoing schemes to shut down the Free Press.

"The newsroom blast is the latest in destruction to Free Press property since the newspaper opened in Downtown 21 years ago.

"Examples of the previous vandalism: Distribution boxes flattened by big-tire vehicles; Free Press editions burned in distribution boxes; racist messages scrawled on the front of the distribution boxes; boxes stolen and papers thrown into trash containers; and the fencing of our boxes to block reader access to copies of the Free Press.

The story concluded, "The Free Press will not be intimidated. Neither will we bow to political and economic schemes viciously intended to control the Free Press."

The gunshot was mentioned Friday during a luncheon panel in Washington at the annual Black Press Week of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a trade group of the publishers of black weekly newspapers.

Harvard Law professor Charles J. Ogletree told the group that "when something happens to one editor, it happens to all of us. We march for everything else, why can't we march for the black press?"

In other discussion on the panel, Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union, told the publishers, "I represent entrepreneurs in hip hop. We don't know that you exist. The black press should be teaching us, should be engaging us. I need to know what happened before us. The people that came before us don't think that we want the information. Lead us! Tell us!"

Civil rights and social activist Benjamin Chavis, a co-founder with hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons of the nonprofit Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, said one problem is that hip-hop is visual. "We have more to write about, but we're writing less," he said, suggesting that NNPA ought to have its own publishing house.

At an awards dinner Thursday night, Susan L. Taylor, former longtime editor-in-chief of Essence magazine, also raised the literacy issue. Now leading the National CARES Mentoring Movement, active in 60 cities, Taylor told the group that 58 percent of black fourth-graders are functionally illiterate. She urged the publishers to "bring more young people into your companies" and to hire more copy editors so that black newspapers are "pristine." Taylor received an award for "community empowerment."

U.S. Business Journalists Miss Third World Story, Dean Says

Peter Blair HenryBusiness journalists in the United States tend to focus on personalities rather than changes in the economic balance of power that are giving Third World countries more importance, Peter Blair Henry, dean of the Leonard N. Stern School of Business at New York University, told Journal-isms on Friday. "Foreign journalists have more of the big picture."

In Washington on a book tour, the Jamaican-born economist told a breakfast meeting of NYU alumni of a "trust deficit" between the Third World and the developed nations that he argued is more important than the fiscal deficit in the United States.

It's more significant "because the trust deficit is undermining the willingness and ability of emerging nations to generate the growth to help lead us out of our economic problems," an argument he makes in "Turnaround: Third World Lessons for First World Growth."

Henry, one of the few African Americans to lead a mainstream U.S. business school, said he was teaching his students to think globally.

Henry writes in the book, ". . . the growth rate of developing countries surged after 1995, and their output now accounts for almost 50 percent of global economic activity. In spite of this fact, the developing world receives short shrift in the realm of international economic relations. The voice and representation of developing countries as multilateral institutions pale in comparison to their contributions to the world economy.

"The WTO [World Trade Organization] has failed to secure a global trade deal that provides equal access to global markets for emerging countries, and no citizen of the developing world has ever been chosen to lead the IMF [International Monetary Fund] or the World Bank. To make matters worse, the challenging economic outlook tempts governments of advanced countries to look inward, to adopt various forms of protectionism, and to pursue growth strategies eerily reminiscent of those they urged developing countries to abandon in the recent past. . . ."

Time Promotes Ghosh to Editor of International Edition

Bobby Ghosh"Bobby Ghosh has been named the editor of Time International, Time Inc. Editor-in-Chief Martha Nelson and Time Managing Editor Rick Stengel told staffers in an announcement Friday morning," Andrew Beaujon reported for the Poynter Institute. " '[T]his appointment has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he saved me from getting tear-gassed in Tahrir Square last year,' the memo reads.

"Jim Frederick is vacating the position 'to move on to other challenges,' the memo says. He will become a contributing editor."

Ghosh has been with Time since 1997. "Bobby, quite simply, is a magnificent journalist who has done the highest level of work that one can aspire to in our profession," Nelson and Stengel wrote. "During his five years as our Baghdad bureau chief throughout the worst of the Iraq war, Bobby wrote two of our most unforgettable cover stories: Life in Hell, and Sunnis vs. Shi’ites. He was not only fearless in his work in Iraq but he was the guardian of all who worked for us in Baghdad. . . ."

Time magazine received the 2012 Thumbs Down Award from the National Association of Black Journalists "for its lack of diversity within its reporting corps."

Ghosh is Indian American, but the publication has no full-time black correspondents.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bewkes, CEO of the parent Time Warner Inc., announced creation of the company's first Multicultural Innovation Council, "a company-wide group of senior executives that will focus on one of our greatest collective growth opportunities."

Bewkes wrote, "We have made terrific progress in reaching diverse audiences on a global scale. A study presented at our November 2012 Multicultural Business Summit showed that across all forms of media, Time Warner reaches about 95% of multicultural adults in the U.S. However, engaging younger, increasingly diverse audiences and expanding our global reach remains an imperative for all our businesses."

John Martin, Time Warner chief financial officer, is to lead the Council along with Lisa Garcia Quiroz, chief diversity officer and senior vice president, corporate responsibility.

Whites Twice as Likely to Own Guns as Blacks, Latinos

"Roughly three-in-ten (31%) whites own a gun, which is much greater than the rates of gun ownership among blacks (15%) and Hispanics (11%)," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Tuesday.

"The general profile of gun owners in America differs substantially from the general public. Roughly three-quarters (74%) of gun owners are men, and 82% are white. Taken together, 61% of adults who own guns are white men. Nationwide, white men make up only 32% of the U.S. adult population.

"Gun owners and those who do not own guns differ politically. While 37% of all adults identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, that proportion jumps to 51% among gun owners. Among those in households without guns, just 27% identify with the Republican Party or lean Republican, while a majority (61%) are Democrats or lean Democratic."

(Credit: Rod Anderson/Christian Post)

Vatican Rejects New Pope's Tie With Dirty War

"Reacting with unusual swiftness, the Vatican on Friday rejected any suggestion that Pope Francis of Argentina was implicated in his country's so-called Dirty War during the 1970s, tackling the issue just two days after the pontiff’s election," Daniel J. Wakin reported Friday for the New York Times.

"On a day when Francis delivered a warm address to his cardinals and continued to project humility, the Vatican seemed intent on quickly putting to rest questions about the pope's past, dismissing them as opportunistic defamations from anticlerical leftists. The swift response contrasted with past public relations challenges during the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI, when the Vatican often allowed criticisms to linger without rebuttal. . . ."

Lack of Diversity at Inquirer Means "Unbalanced Coverage"

"The newspaper-industry crisis has hit journalists of color hard — a fact evident in the recent controversy over Philadelphia magazine's 'Being White in Philly' cover story, Daniel Denvir wrote Thursday for Philadelphia City Paper. "Most local-media responses were from white people like myself, because the makeup of most news outlets in this city is overwhelmingly white.

"(City Paper’s full-time editorial staff, like Philadelphia magazine's, is 100 percent white.) Just short of a thousand black reporters nationwide lost or left their jobs between 2002 and 2012, bringing their newsroom representation to just 4.65 percent, according to the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). Management tends to blame union seniority rules, while unions tend to fault management for failing to make diversity a priority. The proliferation of unpaid internships as de facto entry-level jobs puts poor people of any race at further disadvantage.

"The Inquirer, with a newsroom of about 250 compared to just 90 at the Daily News, is the city's largest news-gathering operation — and also a profoundly white one. Last fall, the Temple University journalism department briefly stopped recommending interns to the paper to protest the lack of diversity.

"Annette John-Hall was the Inquirer's only African-American metro columnist until she took a buyout last month, leaving Karen Heller (who is white) as the paper's only metro columnist in a city where black people are a plurality. 'What you get is unbalanced coverage,' says [John-Hall], describing a paper that has shifted away from community-level beats and too often reduces neighborhoods to crime stories. The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists (PABJ) asked Inquirer editor Bill Marimow that the next metro columnist be black. According to PABJ president and Philadelphia Tribune news editor Johann Calhoun, Marimow, who did not respond to a request for comment, said he would try. . . ."

Short Takes

Robert Chrisman, Editor of Black Scholar, Dies at 75

Robert ChrismanRobert Chrisman, a founding editor of The Black Scholar, poet, academic and activist, died on March 10th, at his home in San Francisco, of complications from congestive heart failure. He was 75. He is survived by his brother, Philip Chrisman, and his daughter, Laura Chrisman.

Robert Chrisman was raised in Nogales, Arizona. His family moved to the Bay Area in the 1950s where he became involved in the lively and diverse cultural scene in San Francisco. He entered UC Berkeley’s English department to study literature. On his own he discovered the works of Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, Robert Hayden, James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry, Vladimir Lenin, Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Pablo Neruda, Mao Tse-tung, and the Beat Generation writers.

Chrisman turned to poetry as medium of expression for his vision. His work gained recognition from critics and other poets, including Alice Walker who wrote of his poetry: "Revealed in this beautifully lyrical poetry is a mind's intense desire to comprehend the limits of, and to break through the snares of essentially Euro-Tectonic orientation into the larger world of struggling humanity." Chrisman published three volumes of poetry, Children of Empire (1981), Minor Casualties: New and Selected Poems (1993) and The Dirty Wars (2012).

Chrisman’s other books include three major edited anthologies of writings from The Black Scholar. These are: Contemporary Black Thought (1974), Pan-Africanism (1972), and Court of Appeal: The Black Community Speaks out on the Racial and Sexual Politics of Clarence Thomas v. Anita Hill (1992). In 2001 Chrisman co-edited with Laurence Goldstein the anthology, Robert Hayden: Essays on the Poetry.

In November 1969, Robert Chrisman co-founded The Black Scholar with Nathan Hare and Allan Ross. The launching of TBS followed in the wake of the historic strike at San Francisco State College. The strike involved thousands of students and faculty, including Chrisman, in a prolonged and sometimes violently repressive struggle with the administration and the state. Among the student demands were the creation of a Black Studies Department and a Third World College. These demands were won but Chrisman was forced to pay a high price for the victory. He and Nathan Hare were fired from their teaching positions in retribution for their activism in the strike. Chrisman was reinstated but not in a tenure-track position. Refusing to be silenced or driven from Black Studies, they instead decided to found a journal devoted to black studies and research, a journal that would be interdisciplinary in approach and that would seek to unite street activists and academic intellectuals in common advocacy for the needs of the black community. More than 200 issues later that journal is still publishing and has become the leading independent journal of African American scholarship and intellectual inquiry in the US. Following Chrisman's retirement as Editor-in-Chief, in 2012, his daughter Laura Chrisman became Editor-in-Chief, with Louis Chude-Sokei and Sundiata Cha-Jua as Senior Editors.

Robert Allen, long-term Senior Editor of TBS and close friend of Chrisman, writes “I know of no one who has worked harder than Robert Chrisman to actualize an intellectual vision. In building TBS he demonstrated the power of the principles of self-determination and self-reliance. He built the journal not by relying on grants and funding from foundations and government agencies, but by relying on the people we serve – teachers, students, community activists, labor activists, writers and artists, librarians, academicians, and just plain working people – our subscribers. These folks have shown that they have the power to sustain an intellectual enterprise and keep it independent. Chrisman believed that by relying on community support TBS could be self determining. For over forty years Robert Chrisman’s strategic vision enabled TBS to make a path where there was none before.”

Aside from his writing and editing, Chrisman was long engaged with the academy. He held an MA degree in Language Arts from San Francisco State, and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan. He taught at the University of Michigan, Williams College, UC Berkeley, the University of Vermont, and Wayne State University. In 2005 he retired as Professor and Chair of the Black Studies Department at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. Among the initiatives he developed while at the University of Nebraska was the creation of an annual Malcolm X Festival in Omaha, the city where Malcolm X was born. In 2004 Chrisman and The Black Scholar were awarded the Pan-African Contribution for Publishing Award by the Organization of Women Writers of Africa and the Institute of African American Affairs at New York University.

Laura Chrisman

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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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