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Wall St. Journal Intern Out After Fabrication Charges

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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Updated June 28

Liane Membis, Yale Grad, Is Miss Black America - Connecticut

Ann Curry Delivers Teary Goodbye

Court Upholds Key Provision on Health Care; CNN, Fox Get It Wrong

Impact of Court's Ruling on Immigrant Women Overlooked

Suspended Reporter Sees Right-Wing Smear Campaign

NBC Stations' Rules: Don't Post What You Wouldn't Air

Another Female Journalist Attacked in Tahrir Square

"Like a Reunion of People Who Love Bill (Raspberry)"

K.C. Star Looks for Six Traits to Describe Suspects

From Observer to Panelist at Press-Freedom Meeting

Short Takes

Liane Membis discusses her plans as Miss Black America - Connecticut with WTNH-TV in New Haven in November. (Video)

Liane Membis, Yale Grad, Is Miss Black America - Connecticut

An intern at the Wall Street Journal who is Miss Black America - Connecticut, graduated from Yale University and said she wanted to "represent African American women in a positive light," is no longer at the Journal after the newspaper said she fabricated sources and quotes just three weeks into the 10-week internship, according to news reports Tuesday.

"The paper wrote that it had removed an article by the intern, Liane Membis, that was published on June 17 because 'many of the names contained in the article about the re-opening of the 103rd Street Pedestrian Bridge in Manhattan were fabricated' and 'the quotes couldn't be independently verified.' The note concluded: 'Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal,' Christine Haughney reported for the New York Times.

Although "Bridging a Local Divide" was pulled from the Journal website, Talking Biz News said it had been provided a copy by a Journal staffer.

The piece includes quotes from East Harlem residents such as:

" 'Sometimes I just come up on this bridge and stop and look around, right up here on the top,' said Katrina Maple, 64 years old. 'It's calming and relaxing. It feels like we finally got our backyard back.'

On the Washington Post website, Erik Wemple reprinted the quote and asked, "Do people talk like that?"

The Wall Street Journal statement said:

"Liane Membis was an intern for the Journal for less than three weeks and wrote or contributed to five published pieces — one of which has been removed from our online archives and two of which have been edited to remove quotes that were provided by the intern and that cannot be confirmed. Notes detailing the actions taken have been placed at the original URLs. Ms. Membis is no longer working at The Wall Street Journal," according to Andrew Beaujon of the Poynter Institute.

"The two other pieces with editor's notes are 'Space Shuttle Floats Into Its Manhattan Home' by Membis, published June 6, and 'Stop, Frisk in Spotlight' by Pervaiz Shallwani, published June 10."

Haughney added in the Times:

"Ms. Membis's experience at The Journal could create problems for other publications. A graduate of Yale University, she contributed more than three dozen articles to the Yale Daily News. The paper's editor, Max de [La] Bruyère, said, 'We are in the process of reviewing the stories she wrote for the paper as best we can.'

"Ms. Membis also wrote for CNN and Ebony and had an article picked up by The Huffington Post."

Among the pieces she wrote for the Yale Daily News was "Pour some sugar daddy on me," a short essay in 2009 about enjoying lunches with a married man.

Membis' LinkedIn profile lists her as "Wordsmith/Visionary Entrepreneur" and editor/publisher at Liberette Magazine, "an online magazine for women of color who are open-minded and intrigued by thought-provoking reads in a progressive environment."

At Yale, where Membis studied from 2008 to this year, she listed her activities and societies as "Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., Yale African Students Association, Black [Women's] Coalition, Dwight Hall at Yale."

In an interview in November with WTNH in New Haven, Conn., after she won the Miss Black America - Connecticut contest, Membis said she wanted to "represent African American women in a positive light" and that her platform in the national contest would be "improving literacy in the African American community," asserting that "40 percent of our fourth graders are illiterate in the United States."

Ann Curry Delivers Teary Goodbye

"Sorry I Couldn't Carry the Ball Over the Finish Line"

Ann Curry bid a teary farewell to her "Today" co-hosting job Thursday morning, saying, "For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball over the finish line, but man, I did try."

Last week, Tom Huang described Curry as "biracial (Japanese-American)" in an essay for the Poynter Institute headlined, "How race factors into the conversation about Ann Curry's possible ouster from 'Today' Show."

". . . as the son of Asian immigrants, I've felt an instinctive pride as I've watched Curry's slow and steady climb up to one of network news' most high-profile jobs," wrote Huang, an editor at the Dallas Morning News.

Doris Truong, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said in statement, ". . . We hope that NBC News keeps diversity at top of mind as it makes on-air assignments for 'Today,' especially considering that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population."

Ann Curry

In a story breaking the news that Thursday would bring Curry's farewell, Susan Page wrote in USA Today, "Curry's new multiyear contract with NBC has her leading a seven-person unit with a ticket to cover the world's biggest stories, from the civil uprising in Syria to the plight of the poor in America. She'll produce network specials and pieces for NBC Nightly News, Dateline, Rock Center — and Today — and she'll occasionally fill in as anchor on Nightly News and elsewhere."

On the air, Curry said, "They're giving me some fancy new title . . . We're going to go all over the world and all over this country. We're being given a chance to do all of the stories all of us got into journalism to do."

As Curry fought back tears, her "Today" colleagues Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Natalie Morales recalled some of Curry's stories. But Lauer noted that Curry would be at the Summer Olympics and praised her as having "the biggest heart in the business."Savannah Guthrie

NBC News president Steve Capus told Page, "We had a many-year run in first place in total viewers, and it got snapped, but since then, every week in the past month we've started a new streak. This isn't about streaks; it's about consistent performance, and we want to continue to build the Today Show."

Page, who interviewed Curry on Wednesday, added, "Still, there's no question a decline over the past year in ratings for Today — a huge profit center for the network — put in motion the changes that Curry is set to announce on the air this morning.

" 'There's nobody complacent around here,' Capus says. 'We're aggressive and we're going to continue to evolve the broadcast, and this is one of the moves, but it's not the only move in response to all of that.' He declined to describe what other changes are ahead, including who will take Curry's place and when."

Brian Stelter reported Tuesday in the New York Times, "NBC News officials are in negotiations to have Savannah Guthrie, a relatively new face at the 'Today' show, replace Ann Curry as the show's co-host." [June 28]

Court Upholds Key Provision on Health Care; CNN, Fox Get It Wrong

"The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a key provision of the health care law championed by President Barack Obama, the so-called individual mandate that requires people to have health insurance," CNN reported on Thursday, correcting its initial report that the individual mandate had been struck down.

". . . The importance of the decision cannot be overstated: It will have an immediate and long-term impact on all Americans, both in how they get medicine and health care, and also in vast, yet-unknown areas of 'commerce.' "

The initial failure of some networks to get it right, as seen in this screen grab of the CNN report captured by Daily Kos, led to this comment from Newsday writer Lane Filler: "Finally, with today's Supreme Court decision, a decades-long battle is over: 'Dewey Beats Truman,' is no longer the biggest major screw-up in American media history."

Even President Obama, who was watching the cable reports, thought at first that the individual mandate was struck down, according to Jake Tapper of ABC News. "Senior administration officials say the president was calm," Tapper wrote.

By Thursday afternoon, Michael Hastings was reporting for BuzzFeed, "News staffers at the cable network CNN, long the gold standard in television news, were on the verge of open revolt Thursday after CNN blew the coverage on the most consequential news event of the year."

The mistake was due to the complexity of the ruling. Unlike many institutions, the Supreme Court does not issue embargoed copies of its pronouncements so that reporters can digest them before going public. A similar situation occurred in the Bush v. Gore ruling in 2000, declaring Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican, winner of the disputed election over Vice President Al Gore, the Democrat.

As David G. Savage reported for the Los Angeles Times, "The decision came on a 5-4 vote, with the court's four liberal justices joining with the chief justice.

"On one hand, [Chief Justice John G.] Roberts [Jr.] agreed with the law's conservative critics who said Congress does not have the power to mandate the purchase of a private product such as health insurance.

"But the Affordable Care Act does not impose a true legal mandate on Americans, he said. It simply requires those who do not have health insurance by 2014 to pay a tax penalty.

"And that is constitutional, Roberts said. 'The federal government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance,' he wrote in the majority opinion. 'The federal government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance,' he added."

CNN issued this statement after its initial report: "Correction: The Supreme Court backs all parts of President Obama's signature health care law, including the individual mandate that requires all to have health insurance." It followed with a more complete statement that said, ". . . CNN regrets that it didn't wait to report out the full and complete opinion regarding the mandate.  We made a correction within a few minutes and apologize for the error."

Dylan Byers reported for Politico:

". . . On television, on its website, and in breaking news alerts, CNN announced that the individual mandate had been struck down. CNN political reporter John King described it as "a dramatic blow to the policy and to the President, politically." Fox News, too, announced that the Court had found the individual mandate 'unconstitutional.' "

"Moments later, SCOTUSblog, the wires, and other television networks were reporting just the opposite.

" 'The mandate is constitutional. Chief Justice Roberts joins the left of the Court,' SCOTUSblog announced even as CNN and Fox were still announcing defeat for President Obama's signature bill. Since realizing its mistake, CNN and Fox have issued corrections across their formats. On television, anchors on both networks cited the confusion of the ruling as they changed their reports."

The initial reports were repeated by other broadcasters who depended on the networks. In Washington, Diane Rehm, host of a talk show that originates at the NPR affiliate, WAMU-FM, apologized to listeners for the misinformation and read this message from one: "I was in tears when I read that the law was overturned. Then I was in tears when I heard you say otherwise."

It was a busy morning for Jesse J. Holland of the Associated Press, the only black journalist regularly assigned to the high court.

"Let's see:" Holland said by email. "Today I handled the opinions that were not health care (the stolen valor case), I was the liaison between the two of us here at the court and the main bureau where the story was filed (I was the one on the phone who told them which news alert to file in conjunction with the person who wrote the main story, Mark Sherman,) I wrote the tweets on our official AP_Courtside twitter site (which I always do), I read the dissent and pulled the relevant quotes for the story, and I'm writing the scene story from the notes from the reporters inside the courtroom and outside the building. (And I'm doing the Google hangout session at 4 p.m. to take questions from the public."

"And all of this on my birthday!"

NAACP Chairman Roslyn M. Brock issued this statement on the health care decision:

"The Supreme Court made a crucial decision today to uphold the core provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The NAACP has long supported the full and complete implementation of this law. Access to quality, affordable health care is a civil and human right that should not be reserved for the wealthy or the few. The 32 million American men, women and children covered under this law can now breathe easier.

"Many serious health issues are preventable. But far too often, patients who lack health insurance – especially patients of color – enter medical facilities late in the progression of their diagnosis. This sad reality is costing lives and costing American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in unnecessary health care bills. States can now move forward in implementing health care reform with the knowledge that the Affordable Care Act is not going anywhere anytime soon." [Jan. 28]

Impact of Court's Ruling on Immigrant Women Overlooked

"Underreported in the Supreme Court's recent ruling on Arizona's immigration law SB 1070 and a pending decision on President Obama's health care reform due Thursday is the impact these decisions will have on the lives of immigrant women," Jessica González-Rojas and Miriam Yeung wrote Wednesday for New America Media.

". . . this week brings with it a measured victory, as anti-immigrant extremism in the states seems to have finally 'jumped the shark.' In a 5-3 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the overreach of Arizona's anti-immigrant law, affirming such legislation violates our Constitution, as well as our national values and national interests. The court joins millions of Americans in rejecting these divisive and unworkable policies.

"That's the good news.

"The bad news is that the most dangerous provision of SB 1070 remains intact — at least for now. The 'Papers, Please' provision requires police to ask proof of legal status for anyone they believe to be in the country illegally.

"This policy will undoubtedly contribute to racial profiling and harassment in Arizona, leave immigrant women more vulnerable to crimes like intimate partner violence and less likely to seek needed services like prenatal care, and contribute to an overall environment of stigma and bias against immigrant woman and all women of color living in Arizona.

"The impact on Native American communities is particularly disturbing: people who have lived in Arizona for thousands of years are now having their legal presence questioned because of this ill-conceived policy."

Suspended Reporter Sees Right-Wing Smear Campaign

"The reporter suspended from Politico for comments about Mitt Romney said on Wednesday that he had been the target of a deliberate right-wing smear campaign," Jack Mirkinson reported for the Huffington Post.

Joseph Williams says, "Speaking to radio and Current TV host Bill Press, Joe Williams, who was punished for saying on MSNBC that Mitt Romney is more comfortable around 'white folks,' said that there had been a 'selective prosecution' against him by conservative websites like The Daily Caller and the late Andrew Breitbart's Big Media.

"Williams told Press that he is still 'in limbo' with Politico, and is in negotiations about his future there.

"Speaking about the comments that got him suspended, Williams said that he 'probably should have selected my words more carefully.' But he defended the broader point he had been making, and said that he thought people had understood what he meant. Asked by Press if he should apologize to Mitt Romney for saying he felt more at home with white people, Williams said, 'If I apologize for that there are going to be many other people who will have to as well.'

". . . Press also asked Williams, who is African American, about a comment he made on Twitter saying that racism is 'the secret sauce in the Politico s--tburger.' Williams said that the tweet, which he made weeks before his Romney comments, had been mistakenly posted to his public feed, rather than in a direct message.

" 'Twitter is a medium that rewards ... lack of thought,' he said. 'I was in a very irritated place. I vented in a public place and that was a huge mistake.' He later said, though, that Politico has 'a lot of questions' to deal with in terms of its staff diversity."

Betsy Rothstein of FishbowlDC reported that Tucker Carlson, editor-in-chief of the Daily Caller, called Williams a nut.

Writing Wednesday about responses to Williams' remarks from editors at Breitbart.com and the Daily Caller, Rothstein said that Carlson, "who has sparred with reporters at Politico for years and repeatedly tied Politico to MSNBC to brand the publication as left wing, remarked, 'Supposedly objective White House correspondent accuses GOP candidate of racism on the basic of no evidence? Seemed like a pretty obvious story to us,' he wrote by email. 'By the way, Williams made those comments in public, on Twitter, so I'd hate to think it took our piece to get his bosses to notice he's a nut, though that's what he claims.' "

NBC Stations' Rules: Don't Post What You Wouldn't Air

"While people typically delineate their personal and professional digital lives, there is little distinction between the two — at least as far as social media is concerned — for the news staffs at the 10 NBC-owned stations," Diana Marszalek reported Tuesday for mediaite.com.

"For the last year or so, the NBC Owned Television Stations have required individuals who work in their newsrooms — from interns and production assistants to reporters and anchors — to follow the company rules governing social media use, regardless of whether they are using the platform to promote news or their personal lives.

"That means news staff is prohibited from tweeting, posting or distributing via other social networking means 'anything that compromises the integrity and objectivity of you or NBCUniversal,' even using a personal account, says Kevin Keeshan, ombudsman for the station group.

" 'We ask them to think and use common sense,' he says. 'Don't post anything we're not prepared to broadcast.' "

Another Female Journalist Attacked in Tahrir Square

"The story sounds hideously like another — one of a chaotic, predatory attack on a woman journalist in Cairo's Tahrir Square," Lauren Wolfe wrote Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"Clothes torn from her body, hundreds of men surging to grab her breasts A crowd gathers Saturday in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Natasha Smith described on heand claw at her. A woman wondering, 'Maybe this is how I go, how I die.' It has been almost a year and a half since CBS correspondent and CPJ board member Lara Logan endured an attack like this. Now, an independent journalist and student named Natasha Smith reports that it has happened to her.

"Smith reported the attack on her blog today, describing how a horde of men descended on her Sunday night, pulling her limbs and throwing her around as she tried to protect her camera. She said she soon lost her camera, her backpack, and began to pray: 'make it stop.'

" 'They were scratching and clenching my breasts and forcing their fingers inside me in every possible way,' Smith wrote. 'So many men. All I could see was leering faces, more and more faces sneering and jeering as I was tossed around like fresh meat among starving lions.'

"In Cairo to film an independent documentary on women's rights and abuses against women in Egypt since the revolution, according to her website, Smith shared an account of her attack that is eerily parallel to Logan's. . . "

"Like a Reunion of People Who Love Bill (Raspberry)"

(Credit: Marvin Joseph/Washington Post)

Retired Washington Post columnist William Raspberry, right, receives a tribute from the Post newsroom Tuesday at a roast and benefit for his BabySteps foundation, which nurtures parents and preschoolers in Raspberry's hometown of Okolona, Miss. With Raspberry are his wife, Sondra, center, and son, Mark.

More than 200 journalists and other community people went to the Washington Post building for the tribute, which raised more than $35,000, according to Walt Swanston, veteran journalist, diversity consultant and one of the organizers. Attendees paid $100 if they were members of a journalism organization; $250 if not. Many who could not attend contributed nonetheless.

Raspberry, 76, a 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner, is suffering from a recurring prostate cancer, Sondra Raspberry said. Juan Williams, Fox News commentator and master of ceremonies for the event, said of the occasion, "It's like a reunion of people who love Bill and love the Washington Post." Local columnist Courtland Milloy Jr. filed a column from Okolona about the Baby Steps program that appeared in Wednesday's print edition. Donald Graham, Washington Post Co. CEO, was honorary co-chair of the event.

K.C. Star Looks for Six Traits to Describe Suspects

The Kansas City Star's stylebook says to be "especially cautious about identifying criminal suspects by race or ethnicity when the overall description of the person is vague," public editor Derek Donovan wrote on Sunday.

"It clarifies that skin color should be included when the description also includes height, weight, hair color, approximate age and one other distinguishing element such as a noticeable physical attribute (but not eye color — a strange rule, in my opinion), clothing or a vehicle.

"It allows for two exceptions:

  • "When the person has one particularly distinctive physical characteristic, fewer details are acceptable, but race should be included: 'an Asian man about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a wooden left leg.'

  • "Stories about serial or most-wanted criminals may give much less detail because 'a reader will want even superficial information to help him or her decide how to respond to potential threats.'

"Vague descriptions such as 'a black man in his mid-20s' describe thousands of people in the Kansas City area. I hope that people who don't belong to a minority will appreciate that pointing out unhelpful aspects of one's appearance are as offensive as noting the person's religion, political views or alma mater.

"I understand the reasoning behind The Star's guidelines," Donovan wrote, pointing out that the Star doesn't always follow its guidelines, "but I also think readers who find them too restrictive have a point as well. Some descriptions can still be useful with fewer than six attributes."

From Observer to Panelist at Press-Freedom Meeting

Yvette Walker, night news director at the Oklahoman in Oklahoma City and Edith Kinney Gaylord Endowed Chair of Media Ethics at the University of Central Oklahoma, is filing reports for Journal-isms on the International Press Institute's World Congress that began Sunday in Trinidad.

By Yvette Walker

On Tuesday, I appeared on a panel at the IPI World Congress: "Online Media and Ethics in a Changing Media Landscape." Fascinating stuff. I discussed the Trayvon Martin case as it related to how the information circulated via online media and social media. Kwame Laurence, online editor (now focusing more on sports) at the Trinidad Express, discussed comments and moderating commenters.

Yvette Walker

My points were that the original print story by the Orlando Sentinel was too small to attract the attention the story later received, and that the incident didn't become national and international news until bloggers chimed in, a change.org petition to charge George Zimmerman garnered hundreds of thousands of signatures (now millions) and the iconic hoodie photo was widely shared on social media.

The session flew by and there were great questions and comments, especially from Jacqueline Charles of the Miami Herald, who had just come from the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans. Charles pointed out that the Martin family mentioned the varying photos of Trayvon that circulated and said they did not intend to manipulate his public persona.

["Trayvon had a baby face," his mother, Sabrina Martin, said at the convention of charges that the family was releasing photos that made her son look younger. "The most recent photos we had were the horseback riding and the Hollister shirt. We're not trying to hide anything. He was a teenager. He was our son." The Rev. Al Sharpton, who appeared with the family at the Thursday session, told the NABJ audience, "Families never plan to be victims." Many journalists forget that victims and their families did not expect to be public figures but treat them as though they did and are, Sharpton said.]

There is much we could have talked about. I did not get a chance to say that there were great examples of analysis, including columns by Charles M. Blow of the New York Times, and from Kelly McBride, senior faculty, ethics, reporting and writing at the Poynter Institute, among others.

Final sessions of the day included "Moving from the Newsroom to the State House (and Back Again)" and "Covering the Environment."

The three-day Congress ended Tuesday night with a closing ceremony at the Diplomatic Center in Port of Spain. I left this beautiful island Wednesday, with thanks to the International Press Institute and to the talented journalists from around the world I was fortunate to meet.

Short Takes

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