A Choice of Media for Whitney Houston News
Sunday, February 12, 2012
In Newark, N.J., the unexpected death of singer Whitney Houston in California Saturday night was local news. That it broke about 8 o'clock Eastern time did not stop the story from running in all editions of the Sunday Star-Ledger. Archives were plucked for photos to be used online, additional staff members were called in and the front page was remade.
"She's an international star," Local News Editor Robin Wilson-Glover told Journal-isms on Sunday. "She was born in Newark, reared in East Orange. Her church is in Newark, her mother [Cissy Houston] is the musical director there. She sang in many places here. People here grew up with her. They knew her as a young child; they knew her parents. Her sister still lives in New Jersey. So does her cousin, Dionne Warwick."
As for making all editions, reporters Tris McCall and David Giambusso put together a 57-inch story in an hour and a half, Glover said. Their efforts grew from an insert in an Associated Press story for the first edition.
It was also a local story in Los Angeles.
"Whitney Houston, a willowy church singer with a towering voice who became a titan of the pop charts in the 1980s and 1990s but then saw much of her success crumble away amid the fumes of addiction and reckless ego, has died. She was 48," Geoff Boucher reported for the Los Angeles Times.
"Kristen Foster, a publicist, announced Saturday that the singer had died, and police sources later confirmed that she was found unresponsive in her room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel about 3:30 p.m. Paramedics performed CPR on her, but she was pronounced dead about 4 p.m., Beverly Hills Police Lt. Mark Rosen told KTLA News. An investigation into the cause of death is pending."
As of Sunday afternoon, the Los Angeles Sentinel, the African American weekly, had not reported the news on its home page.
Many first heard the news from social media. According to Samantha Murphy of Mashable, "Twenty-seven minutes before mainstream media broke the news of Whitney Houston’s death on Saturday night, the story was on Twitter, reported by a man who tweeted the news out to his 14 followers.
"A tweet — sent at 4:57 p.m. PT — from the Associated Press that confirmed Houston’s death by citing her publicist was retweeted more than 10,000 times, according to data from Topsy Labs. . . . In fact, about 2.5 million tweets and retweets occurred in the first hour, amounting to more than 1,000 tweets a second, according to Topsy Labs.
". . . The news of Houston’s death peaked at 5:23 p.m. PT with 61,227 tweets in that minute."
Houston's is a compelling story that involved the too-early death of a pop-music princess, a police investigation and Houston's history of battling demons, even though there was no evidence that drug abuse was responsible for her demise. Some journalists said they wanted to be sure not to let the negative in their reports overwhelm the positive.
"The ups and downs of her life, I think, are the absolute grab at media," veteran talk-show host Larry King told Howard Kurtz Sunday on CNN's "Reliable Sources." "That's why you're leading off with it."
Some turned to cable television. "The cable news networks began covering the story moments later, without yet knowing a cause of death or where she was when she died," Chris Ariens reported for TVNewser."
"MSNBC broke into 'Lockup' at 8:07pmET. Paige Hopkins anchored live coverage which included additional information from entertainment reporter Courtney Hazlett.
"CNN broke into 'Black in America' at 8:11pm, with Don Lemon anchoring. Larry King phoned in and gave his thoughts, comparing Houston to Judy Garland who died at the age of 47, a year younger than Houston. . . .
"Fox News Channel ran a lower third graphic with the news as the pre-taped 'Huckabee' aired. Update: Harris Faulkner broke in to 'Huckabee' at 8:28pmET and began continuing coverage. After running an obituary story on Houston’s life, the newschannel took live shots from LA station KTTV FOX11, which hovered over the Beverly Hilton hotel, reportedly where Houston died and where the Clive Davis pre-Grammy party is to be held tonight. Judge Jeanine Pirro is covering the story in the 9pmET hour and Faulkner returns for live coverage from 10pm-1amET.
". . . ABC News aired a special report at 8:12pm, which, in the Eastern and Central time zones interrupted a Charlie Brown special. . . . MSNBC’s Rev. Al Sharpton phoned into the network to share his thoughts as he’s known Houston for 20 years. He phoned into CNN later, around 9:30pm."
CNN announced it would air a special at 7 p.m. Sunday, "Whitney Houston: Life, Death, Music" anchored by Lemon and repeated at 11 p.m. Eastern.
Not all cable stations were covering the development Saturday night, even those devoted to entertainment.
BET aired a tribute to Houston on Sunday, but at 9:42 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday, as the cable news networks were in full Houston mode, BET was showing five minutes of commercials, followed by "The Game." MTV, too, had its regular programming, with the news about Houston contained in a crawl. TV One was showing "Boycott," a movie about the civil rights movement.
BET announced on Sunday, "Starting at 11:30 a.m.* today, BET will air coverage, titled BET TRIBUTE TO WHITNEY HOUSTON, on the passing of the singer, who died at 48, followed by an encore presentation of BET HONORS 2010 — where she was honored for her extraordinary achievements in the field of entertainment. At 3:30 p.m.*, BET will air Whitney Houston’s last televised performance in an encore presentation of CELEBRATION OF GOSPEL 2011. Viewers can also tune in to CENTRIC throughout the day to watch music videos featuring the songstress." The asterisk indicates Eastern and Pacific times.
Online, at 9:51 p.m. Eastern, the Wall Street Journal posted a first-person piece by Christopher John Farley, senior editor of its Speakeasy page. Newsweek/the Daily Beast followed at 10 p.m. with one by Allison Samuels, a senior writer at Newsweek, on how she heard the news.
"Today, I was looking forward to seeing her," Samuels wrote. "I was taping a segment for VH1’s Behind the Music about Akon at the Beverly Hilton, which was also where music mogul Clive Davis’s annual pre-Grammy party was set to be. VH1 was supposed to interview Houston right after me about the Davis party (he was her mentor), her upcoming movie, Sparkle, and getting back on track. She was also going to be interviewed for a Behind the Music about Brandy.
"Someone kept banging on the door as we taped, so we stopped. The woman at the door, who it turned out was Houston's personal assistant, Lynn Volkman, said, 'Whitney’s not coming, Whitney’s not coming.' And then finally said, 'She’s dead.' Volkman was in a daze."
Farley recalled meeting Houston in Miami more than a decade ago. "My day on the beach with Houston in 1995 turned out to be no day at the beach. I had thought at the time [Bobby] Brown and Houston had been separated, but after my interview with Houston began, he showed up anyway. The two then proceeded to go into some sort of emotional private dance, as if the interviewer, and the rest of the outside world, didn’t exist. . . . The great irony of Houston’s life (and death) is that she made soul safe for America but she never made things easy on herself. "
Entertainment writers such as Kelley L. Carter, who chairs the Arts & Entertainment Task Force of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Nekesa Mumbi Moody, who wrote the Associated Press' obituary of Houston, found themselves in demand. Carter was on both Al Jazeera and CNN. In fact, one observer said, African Americans seemed to be dominating the field of experts interviewed about Houston.
While Beverly Hills was the epicenter of coverage, reporters also went to the Memphis suburb of Southaven, Miss., where Brown, Houston's ex-husband, was performing with his longtime group New Edition.
Yolanda Jones wrote Sunday in the Commercial Appeal, ". . . after word of Houston's death began circulating, the group's management had rescinded all media backstage passes and required members of the press to buy tickets if they wanted to see the concert."
The timing of the Houston death challenged designers of the Sunday newspapers, which in the East were on deadline. The Washington Post ran the news in the skybox above the nameplate, with an AP story on the obituary page; the New York Times put its staff-written obituary on the front page of its later editions, replacing a story about a portrait of Mary Todd Lincoln.
Some fans just wanted to hear Houston's music.
Lee Hill of Colorado Public Radio, a recent transplant, wrote on Twitter, "WHAT MANNER OF CITY DO I LIVE IN THAT I CANNOT LOCATE A WHITNEY TRIBUTE ON THE RADIO DIAL?!? DENVER, THIS WILL BE HELD AGAINST YOU!"
- Lalo Alcaraz cartoon
- Andrew Blankstein and Shelby Grad, Los Angeles Times: Determining how Whitney Houston died is expected to take time
- Clay Cane, theRoot.com: Remembering Whitney Houston
- Nicole Marie Melton, essence.com: Bobby Brown's Father Dies of Cancer at Age 82
- Ronda Racha Penrice, theGrio.com: Whitney Houston was the voice of the post-Civil Rights generation
- Kevin Powell, the Guardian: RIP Whitney Houston
- Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times: Whitney Houston: Voice for the ages tarnished by addictions
- TMZ: Whitney Houston Death — Dionne Warwick, Cissy Houston Say Whitney Seemed Fine Just Before Death
- Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times: Whitney Houston: MTV, BET, VH1 low key in coverage
- Constance C.R. White, Essence: Whitney Houston: A Statement From ESSENCE's Editor
- Steven Zeitchik, Los Angeles Times: Whitney Houston, 'The Bodyguard' and beyond: her career in film
Sports columnist Jason Whitlock apologized Saturday for a tweet about NBA player Jeremy Lin that the Asian American Journalists Association called "inappropriate on so many levels." The AAJA Media Watch asked for an apology.
"Outrage doesn’t begin to describe the reaction of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) to your unnecessary and demeaning tweet of Feb. 10 after the New York Knicks played the Los Angeles Lakers: 'Some lucky lady in NYC is gonna feel a couple of inches of pain tonight,' ” the group said Saturday.
Whitlock replied on FoxSports.com later that night:
"I get Linsanity. I've cried watching Tiger Woods win a major golf championship. Jeremy Lin, for now, is the Tiger Woods of the NBA. I suspect Lin makes Asian Americans feel the way I feel when I watch Tiger play golf.
"I should've realized that Friday night when I watched Lin torch the Lakers. For Asian Americans and a lot of sports fans, his nationally televised 38-point outburst was the equivalent of Tiger's first victory in The Masters. I got caught up in the excitement. I tweeted about what a great story Lin is and how he could rival Tim Tebow.
"I then gave in to another part of my personality — my immature, sophomoric, comedic nature. It's been with me since birth, a gift from my mother and honed as a child listening to my godmother's Richard Pryor albums. I still want to be a standup comedian.
"The couple-inches-of-pain tweet overshadowed my sincere celebration of Lin’s performance and the irony that the stereotype applies to pot-bellied, overweight male sports writers, too. As the Asian American [Journalists] Association pointed out, I debased a feel-good sports moment. For that, I’m truly sorry."
CNN contributor Roland Martin has agreed to meet with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation over Martin's tweets during last Sunday's Super Bowl. GLAAD has called them homophobic, and CNN has suspended the commentator "for the time being."
- Playthell Benjamin blog: A Star Is Born!
- J. Michael Falgoust, USA Today: Asian Americans energized in seeing Knicks' Jeremy Lin play
- Matthew Weinberger, Forbes: Will Jeremy Lin Score His Way to Major Endorsements?
"In April of 2011, it was discovered that Marilyn Davenport, a prominent Republican organizer in Orange County, Florida, had circulated an email that depicted President Obama as a baby ape posed with two ape parents; the caption read 'Now you know why no birth certificate,' Jamilah Lemieux wrote for ebony.com.
"While there was a considerable outcry from offended parties — and considerable pushback from those who felt like Blacks are just too sensitive for words and can't ever just take a joke and, thus, are the real reason this country will never get past race — there was also little surprise over Davenport's picture. The sky is blue. Water is wet. Conservatives often harbor deep-seated racism. You'd have to be a resident of Mars to find anything shocking about that incident.
"Fast forward to this week. Dan Amira, an associate editor for New York Magazine, published 'Obama Gay Marriage Evolution: Day 468.' The title is not misleading: it's a quick aggregated piece about the president's developing stance on marriage equality, which has changed a bit since he entered office 468 days ago. Amira, like many of us, is ready for Barry O to slap a rainbow flag across the White House doors, give a middle finger to conservative opponents and finally make marriage (or at least civil partnership) an option for all Americans. Maybe in his second term.
"Yet it isn't Amira's thoughts on Obama's politics that are drawing ire. It's the image used to accompany the story (pictured above): a riff on the classic Darwin's evolution of man chart that depicts President Obama as a knuckle-dragging primate that becomes a bipedal man carrying a rainbow flag. Get it?"
In the comments section below the piece, Kevinkerr asks, "Could your graphic be more racist?"
Amira replies: "@Kevinkerr - Oh most definitely."
- Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: Chart of Obama ‘evolving’ on gay marriage shows New York Magazine needs to evolve
- Eric Deggans blog, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Is this image racist?
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