Washington Times Ousts Editorial Board
Thursday, January 8, 2009
Updated January 11
Nick Ashford, shown performing with his wife, Valerie Simpson, easily remembers one interview where "I wanted to get up and walk away." (Credit: Erin Baiano)
All reporters have asked a dumb question, but dumbness is relative. Singer-songwriters Ashford & Simpson, promoting a new CD and single, recalled for Journal-isms the one question that most irritated them over their career of more than 40 years.
"We did an interview in California, I won't mention the guy's name," Ashford said on Thursday, "and we're sitting down and he asks:
"'How do you maintain your blackness?'
"I said, 'wha'' ‚Äî I wanted to get up and walk away. 'What do you mean, how do I maintain' ‚Äî I am black, I mean, blackness is not something you maintain. It's just something you are."
The couple don't remember the person as black or white, but of mixed heritage.
"I knew we were through with him," Simpson said.
Ashford continued, "I said, 'you can't tell by my music I'm black and my music is from my soul?' You know what I mean? It was those kind of interviews that really, with out-of-the-way questions like that that really have no answer, that kind of irritate you. And also, Val and I like to be somewhat private and don't divulge our personal, personal problems to interviewers. Sometimes you don't have to go that far. I think you should have a little bit of mystery about you.
Simpson: "I think a lot of the entertainers today, they give up way too much. And they don't have to. Then when you think they've gone too far you can't push 'em back, because you've already opened up that door."
Ashford: "And also, too much exposure cannot be good for your image."
Simpson added that one of her peeves is that the media sometimes are drawn to personalities who haven't really accomplished anything. "What did that person do to warrant being on the front page holding the champagne glass at the party; you know, what is the body of work behind that?" she asked.
The couple, responsible for such songs as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," "Let's Go Get Stoned," "You're All I Need to Get By," "I'm Every Woman" and "Solid," is releasing a new CD and DVD, "Real Thing." It documents their nightclub act, in which they perform the hits they've produced for themselves and others. A single, "Solid as Barack," reworks their 1984 hit "Solid" into a post-campaign anthem for President-elect Barack Obama. To be released for digital download Jan. 20, it was inspired by audience improvisations at a Black Enterprise event in California over Labor Day weekend, and was adapted into a comedy skit on "Saturday Night Live."
They feel obligated to talk to the news media, the husband-and-wife team said. "I mean, they have a job to do and we have a job to do," Simpson said, "and Lena Horne once told us, 'When you don't want to do your part of the job, stay home; so if you don't want to give them what they need to do their job ‚Äî cause this is part of your job, it's show business ‚Äî then you stay home. If you don't want to be pleasant about it, and get that part of the job done, then there's no reason to be there,' and we kind of understand that."
Nat Sheppard Suffers Stroke Aboard Cruise Ship
Nathaniel Sheppard Jr., a retired New York Times and Chicago Tribune correspondent, suffered a stroke while aboard a cruise ship in the Caribbean and is recovering at Emory Hospital in Atlanta, his onetime Times colleague Steven Holmes told Journal-isms on Saturday.
"Nat still has issues, though. He still has some paralysis on his right side and, at the moment, cannot use his right arm. He is due to begin rehabilitation soon ‚Äî maybe as early as today ‚Äî and is hopeful and motivated that he will make a full recovery. Keep him in your prayers," Holmes said in a message that he planned to post in full on his Facebook page.
"He expects to be in Atlanta for quite some time. The rehabilitation will take months, indeed the first three months are critical. He has family there, but he is also far away from many of his friends, even though I know many of you may be traveling there for business or specifically to see him. Still, I will be going there nearly every week, at least through the end of February, so if any of you have something you would like me to bring to him, please get in touch. I am more than happy to be a liaison between him and his network of friends."
Sheppard, who turns 61 on Thursday, worked for the Times for 13 years and the Tribune for 18. A short biography accompanied a piece he wrote on cruise ships for the May 2007 issue of Ebony magazine. It noted that Sheppard was an Africa and Central America bureau chief while at the Tribune and said, "Now retired, he spends about three months a year dancing around the globe on cruise ships, experience that came in handy for the article, 'The Salsa Explosion.' "
From his hospital room, Sheppard told Journal-isms on Sunday that it was on the first day of a cruise, on Dec. 27, that he was stricken. "It was like being drunk, but I hadn't been drinking," he said. The next morning, he realized what had happened.
He said supporters can pray for him and send Gummi Bear candies, a vice he says he'll admit to. He can be reached by e-mail at planetnet (at) mindspring.com.
Holmes can be reached via his Facebook page or by e-mail at steven.a.holmes (at) gmail.com. [Updated Jan. 11.]
Scholarship Fund Announced at Mark Griffith Service
About 300 people filled St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University in New York on Saturday to honor Mark R. Griffith, the freelance producer for CBS News who died Dec. 18 of heart failure, Gary A. Ramsay, president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms.
"Mark's greeting for me was, 'my brother,' and sometimes, 'Doctah!'" CBS News correspondent Randall Pinkston told the gathering. "Mark had many passions ‚Äî sports, parties, sports, parties, food, parties. My one disappointment is that I never made it to one of his throwdowns. But I heard about them, and since this is a chapel, and a dignified occasion, I won't attempt to provide details. If you were there, 'ya know.'¬†
"For the kids who came to our newsroom, he was 'Uncle Mark,'" Pinkston said, adding that Griffith was "a mentor to newcomers and a cheerleader for seasoned veterans."
He also said of Griffith, who was 48, "He could find anything. Two o'clock in the morning, you want to know if the CBS station in Fargo, N.D., has fiber optic or KU-band satellite, Mark would know.
"Chris St. Peter thinks Mark knew most of the satellite truck operators in the country, and had memorized their cell phone numbers. . . .
"There was nothing Mark liked better than breaking news."
Ramsay also spoke, as did Arthur Fennell, who served with Griffith on the board of the National Association of Black Journalists in the 1990s.
Ramsay announced a scholarship fund to honor Griffith and said the New York Association of Black Journalists would fund it for two years. There will also be a fund to build a permanent endowment, put together with contributions from NABJ, the New York chapter and family and friends, Ramsay said. [Added Jan. 10]
Jesus Vidana says Dr. Sanjay Gupta would be a fine surgeon general, the Los Angeles Daily News reported. Vidana was shot in the head while serving in the Marine Corps in Baghdad.¬† The CNN medical correspondent, who was also a neurosurgeon covering the war, was the only one who knew how to treat his near-fatal head wound. (Credit: Los Angeles Daily News)
Conyers Urges Opposition to Gupta as Surgeon General
"A key Democratic House member is rallying opposition to Dr. Sanjay Gupta becoming the next surgeon general, contending the 39-year-old CNN correspondent lacks experience," the Associated Press reported¬†on Thursday.
"House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., urged Democrats to sign onto a letter to President-elect Barack Obama urging him not to nominate Gupta, who is CNN's chief medical correspondent.
"'It is not in the best interests of the nation to have someone like this who lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance to some of the poorest and most underserved communities in America,' Conyers wrote in a letter released Thursday."
But the Los Angeles Daily News did a story¬†on former U.S. Marine Jesus Vidana of Sun Valley, Calif., recounting how his life was saved during emergency surgery in Iraq in 2003 after the young Marine was shot in the head and twice declared dead.
"That is, before Gupta got to work on him."
"He's not just a TV personality," Vidana, 30, said in Susan Abram's story. "He invested in my recovery. I think he's more than qualified."
Jon Stewart, on his satirical "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, interviewed his South Asian "colleague," comic actor Aasif Mandvi, who saw Gupta's appointment as part of a competition among the various groups of color in the United States.
Meanwhile, Russ Belville of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, wrote¬†that "in 2002, Gupta was more than willing to echo the outrageous claims that smoking pot would lead to psychosis, depression and schizophrenia"
In the Columbia Journalism Review, Trudy Lieberman reviewed what she had written about Gupta over the years and concluded, "in our money-driven health system filled with conflicts of interests, there's a difference between being a communicator/health educator and a pitchman. Gupta has shown himself adept at both roles. We hope our colleagues continue to keep their eyes focused on Gupta, whether he becomes surgeon general or stays on at CNN."
"Democracy Now!" Focuses on Obama Intelligence Pick
"Democracy Now!" the Pacifica Radio show, did three shows this week on Admiral Dennis Blair, President-elect Barack Obama's pick to become director of national intelligence.
"Blair, as Allan Nairn reported on Democracy Now!, was implicated in backing the perpetrators of church massacres in East Timor in 1999. Award-winning investigative reporter Allan Nairn reveals new information that indicates he may have lied to Congress," host Amy Goodman said¬†on Friday in introducing the segment.
The series began Tuesday, when Goodman said, "At the height of a wave of ruthless attacks on Timorese that killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands, Blair personally informed top Indonesian general, Wiranto, of unwavering US support. He continued to support the Indonesian military until international outcry forced the Clinton administration to withdraw its military and diplomatic backing."
East Timor has long been a passion of Goodman. Elizabeth DiNovella, the culture editor of the Progressive, wrote last year of Goodman:
"In 1991, Indonesian soldiers beat her bloody and fractured the skull of Allan Nairn in East Timor as they followed a memorial procession. She and Nairn survived the Santa Cruz massacre, though 270 Timorese were killed.
"Goodman and Nairn were thrown out of the country and produced 'Massacre: The Story of East Timor,' a documentary about the Indonesian and American involvement in the Southeast Asian nation. They won numerous awards for their reporting, including the Robert F. Kennedy Prize for International Reporting, the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, the Armstrong Award, the Radio/Television News Directors Award, as well as awards from the Associated Press, United Press International, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. She returned to East Timor for live coverage in 2002 when the nation gained its independence."
On Madison Ave., Blacks Make 20% Less than Whites
"The ad industry doesn't simply have a diversity problem. According to Cyrus Mehri's Madison Avenue Project, it is guilty of 'pervasive racial discrimination' that not only underhires and segregates African-Americans but pays them 80 cents for every dollar it pays comparable white employees," Marissa Miley and Ken Wheaton reported¬†Thursday for Advertising Age. "With current efforts to bridge the gap doing little more than 'blaming the victims,' Mr. Mehri and the NAACP are laying the groundwork for a possible class-action suit against the industry.
"'The NAACP and my firm are joining forces to take on the advertising industry to end the long era of purposeful discrimination,' Mr. Mehri said in New York today, where he, NAACP Interim General Counsel Angela Ciccolo, activist Sanford Moore and economists Marc Bendick and Mary Lou Egan held a press conference. The industry, Mr. Mehri continued, 'has robbed the African-American community of equal opportunity, good positions and, most important, their dignity.'"
- Hoag Levins, producer, AdAge.com: Cyrus Mehri: Man Behind the New Racial-Discrimination Charges
The Answer Parker Was Hoping to Get From the Coach
Former Detroit News sports columnist Rob Parker has responded to the "What was he thinking?" thought that some have had about the news-conference question he posed to the coach of the Detroit Lions NFL team that landed Parker in hot water.
Parker resigned¬†from the newspaper last Friday after the criticism that followed asking losing Lions coach Rod Marinelli at a Dec. 21 post-game news conference whether he wished his daughter had married "a better defensive coordinator."
On the ESPN "Mike and Mike show" on Wednesday, Parker said he "asked the people for a buyout and they granted me one" after the climate at the paper had deteriorated for him.
"You know what I was hoping for, and maybe I was dreaming," he said of his question. "But I was hoping because I'd asked so many tough questions of this guy for 15 weeks, which he refused to answer, ever give a straight answer, ever, at a press conference, but I was hoping for ‚Äî sometimes you throw a curve ball and you might get a funny line out of him.
"And maybe he could have said, 'Hey, I was hoping that maybe he'd respond with a funny line, like, 'I was hoping she'd marry Mike Ditka, but he's not cute enough' or something like that ‚Äî something funny, and it just didn't happen."
Los Angeles Daily News Lays Off 8 Journalists
The Los Angeles Daily News laid off eight journalists on Thursday, including journalists of color Gregg Miller, the art director, who is African American, and Jammie Salagubang, a features copy editor for online who is Asian American, Executive Editor Carolina Garcia confirmed on Friday.
"Our diversity is about 22%, and we've lost many very good people," she said.
Miller, 55, said he had been at the paper for 20 years, starting as a copy person. He said he did not know what he wanted to do next, though it would "probably not be to be a journalist . . . after all these years seeing the devastation and what the industry is going through right now, I'm tired of it." However, he said, "a month from now, I might feel differently."
Tyrone Harris, an editorial assistant who is African American, was also laid off. The paper is owned by Media News Group.¬†
Jonathan P. Hicks Leaves N.Y. Times After 24 Years
Jonathan P. Hicks, who covered business news, City Hall and other local and state news, left the New York Times on Friday and said he was hoping to freelance and write a book about black men.
Hicks, 53, is a 1980 graduate of the Maynard Institute's Summer Program for Minority Journalists and had a bit part in the 1992 movie "Boomerang," which was created by Eddie Murphy and the Hudlin Brothers. Hicks was the butler to Lady Eloise, played by Eartha Kitt.
Hicks said planned to write about black men, "the images we don't normally see if we watch the 11 p.m. news and 'Maury.'"
- "The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has given $1 million to support building the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial on the National Mall. The donation was announced Thursday at a memorial fundraiser headlined by former President Bill Clinton," the foundation said.
- Tony Cox, co-host of National Public Radio's "News & Notes," will become the host of the show after Farai Chideya's departure Jan. 16, NPR confirmed. "We have only a short window of opportunity left to provide as much access and coverage as we can for the audience that we have served to the best of our ability," Cox told Journal-isms. "I know that we have touched countless listeners (literally) around the globe who feel a connection to us because of who and what we put on the air. Farai is leaving, but the same staff that worked so diligently for her remains until March 20. And believe me when I say, we are all going to be working our butts off until they throw us out of the building."
- "Like the U.S. population as a whole, Latinos are feeling the sting of the economic downturn. Almost one-in-ten (9%) Latino homeowners say they missed a mortgage payment or were unable to make a full payment and 3% say they received a foreclosure notice in the past year, according to a new national survey of 1,540 Latino adults conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center, a project of the Pew Research Center," the center reported¬†on Thursday.
- Add Fox to the list of networks that are OK with moving back the Feb. 17 date for transition from analog to digital television, if that's what it takes to successfully move viewers, John Eggerton reported¬†Thursday for Broadcasting & Cable. "The networks were responding to the request to Congress from the Obama transition team that the DTV transition date be moved, though the Obama camp did not say by how much. It is currently set for . . . less than five weeks away. The Bush Administration didn't respond directly, but there were indications it wants to keep the original date."
- "Signaling a look inward that echoes critiques of the media's performance in the months before the Iraq War, some of the nation's top financial journalists believe reporters dropped the ball as the nation's economy tumbled toward crisis mode," David Bauder of the Associated Press reported¬†on Thursday. "Sixty-two of 100 journalists surveyed by Abrams Research, a firm started by former MSNBC chief Dan Abrams, criticized the media's work, suggesting there was an over-exuberance about the economy and a failure to connect the dots as troubles began."
- Cynthia Gordy has been named the first-ever Washington correspondent for Essence, the black women's magazine announced¬†on Friday. "Previously serving as the News Editor for ESSENCE, she will continue to report to Tatsha Robertson, Deputy Editor, News for ESSENCE. In this new role, Gordy will be responsible for developing and maintaining key relationships on behalf of ESSENCE with the Obama administration, as well as the First Lady's staff and cabinet level officers; covering issues of importance to the African-American community."
- In Dallas, "Sports reporter Nita Wiggins is out at Fox4 after joining the station in 1999," television reporter Ed Bark reported on his blog. "She was laid off Thursday, becoming the latest TV journalist caught in an ongoing cycle of staff downsizing that's impacted all of D-FW's television newsrooms in the past year," referring to Dallas-Fort Worth.
- "Whether it's key moments of the protests in Detroit over the killing of Chinese-American Vincent Chin, Muhammad Ali's casual visit to New York's Chinatown, or Connie Chung speaking to other Asian-American journalists," New York-based photojournalist Corky Lee "always seems to be close to the action. He is unafraid to pick unusual angles, even if it means jumping on a table or lying on the ground," the Ventura County (Calif.) Star wrote¬†on Friday. A mid-career retrospective of Lee's work runs through May 31 at the Chinese American Museum, 425 N. Los Angeles St., Los Angeles.
- "Reports of overwhelming African American support for Proposition 8's ban on same-sex marriage were exaggerated in exit polls, a new look at the November election results has found," John Wildermuth reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, writing of the successful California ballot initiative that changed the state Constitution to restrict the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. "An analysis of precinct-level voting data on Prop. 8 from Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco counties, which are home to nearly two-thirds of California's black voters, suggested that African American support for Prop. 8 was more likely about 58 percent."
In a final piece, Phil Currie, who is retiring as senior vice president/news of the Gannett Co., called diversity one of the "compass points" that guides the nation's largest newspaper company. "Gannett has a long-standing commitment to diversity, dating back far before it was fashionable to talk about it and including recent times when it seemed to become a sensitive issue to support it. Our record in the industry is very clear: We are the leaders," he said.
- Clarence Henry "Scoop" Gentry, a pioneering journalist who held many positions in the black press in Dallas, from reporter to newspaper manager, died Jan. 3 at age 93 of complications from Alzheimer's disease, Joe Simnacher reported Thursday in the Dallas Morning News. "In 1948, he became one of the first black reporters in Jim Wells County, where he covered Lyndon Johnson's U.S. Senate campaign. His other early assignments included the 1953 Waco tornado that killed 114 people. On several occasions, Mr. Gentry was not allowed to enter downtown Dallas and Houston hotel rooms to interview visiting dignitaries. He did manage to get an interview with Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie in 1940. He called the candidate, who escorted him to his room for the interview."
- "Baltimore police will no longer release the names of officers who kill or injure people, changing a long-standing practice that the department believes put officers at risk," Justin Fenton reported¬†Wednesday in the Baltimore Sun. "Citizens need transparency to know that proper investigations and reviews are undergone each time an officer uses deadly force. It shores up their confidence when action is proper and helps ensure change when it's improper," Corinna Zarek wrote¬†for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
- Colorado State Senate President Peter Groff and House Speaker Terrance Carroll ‚Äî the state's only African American legislators ‚Äî together made history Wednesday when they convened the Colorado General Assembly, the first in the nation to be headed by two African Americans, Ernest Luning wrote¬†Thursday for the Colorado Independent. Conducting live, on-camera interviews with legislators in the House chambers, anchor Mark Koebrich of KUSA-TV in Denver introduced Groff as Carroll. "Political reporter Adam Schrager stepped in and quickly corrected Koebrich, who proceeded to interview Groff with aplomb before turning his attention to Carroll," Luning wrote.
- In Canada, "The CBC's French-language broadcaster says it 'got the message loud and clear' after more than 1,300 people complained about a New Year's Eve show that told racial jokes about Barack Obama" and labeled Prime Minister Stephen Harper a 'lobotomy on legs,'" Christina Spencer and Peter Zimonjic reported¬†for Canada's Sun newspapers. "In one sketch, comedian Jean-Francois Mercier says having a black person in the White House 'will make it much easier to shoot him' thanks to the colour contrast. The skit also features a mock interviewer saying all blacks look alike and asking an actor who plays Obama whether black men have large genitalia."
- Richard Parsons, a director at Citigroup and former chairman of Time Warner, has swatted down speculation that he could be President-elect Barack Obama's next choice for commerce secretary, according¬†to the New York Times "Deal Book" blog edited by Andrew Ross Sorkin.
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@JamilSmith The distorted #media depiction of African American men & boys has real life consequences, again. #mediadiversity #Tremaine