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Writer Suspended Over Hitler Analogy

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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ESPN, Jemele Hill Issue Apologies Over Column columnist Jemele Hill was suspended Monday over a column that said, "Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It's like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan."



The offending phrases were edited out of Hill's online column within hours, but ESPN spokesman Paul Melvin said, "Jemele has been relieved of her writing and on-air responsibilities for a period of time to reflect on the impact of her words."

Melvin had acknowledged "there was a breakdown in the system of editorial checks and balances" when the column was posted late Saturday. Asked Wednesday whether the editors who handled the column would also be punished, Melvin told Journal-isms in an e-mail, "We ARE looking at the entire situation, including the breakdown in editorial checks and balances, and we ARE dealing with that as well." He said he could not get into the details, and would not say whether Hill was suspended with or without pay.

Hill said in an ESPN statement, "In expressing my passion for the NBA and my hometown of Detroit I showed very poor judgment in the words I used. . . . This has been an important lesson for me and illustrates that, like many people, I still have a lot of growing and learning to do."

Jessica Heslam, who has followed the story in the Boston Herald, wrote Wednesday, "Hill's suspension came as WBCN [website] radio hosts Fred Toucher and Rich Shertenlieb branded her a hypocrite and demanded she be fired.

"In an April 2007 piece, Hill called for radio host Don Imus to get cashiered after his controversial 2007 'nappy-headed hos' slur."

Some readers posting comments on the Herald Web site agreed that the Imus analogy, in which Imus slurred the Rutgers women's basketball team after a history of such comments, was appropriate.

Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald invoked the memory of a Holocaust victim Wednesday to admonish, "There is nothing witty about using Hitler as a punch line.

"The Celtics remind Jemele Hill of Hitler? Please," he wrote.

"Eric, who died four years ago, understood that the time would come when supposedly bright people like her would be flippantly indifferent to the evils he experienced, if not totally ignorant of them."

Members of the Sports Talk Force of the National Association of Black Journalists expressed their support for Hill Wednesday on the group's e-mail list, saying writers can grow from adversity.

ESPN's statement said:

"Both Jemele and apologize. The column, as originally posted, made some uncharacteristic, but absolutely unacceptable comparisons. We've spoken with Jemele, and she understands that she exercised poor judgment. She's been relieved of her responsibilities for a period of time to reflect on the impact of her words. Within hours of its posting on Saturday evening, the inappropriate references were removed from the site, but our system of checks and balances failed Jemele and our readers and we are addressing that as well."

Hill's read:

"I deeply regret the comment I made in a column Saturday. In expressing my passion for the NBA and my hometown of Detroit I showed very poor judgment in the words that I used. I pride myself on an understanding of, and appreciation for, diversity — and there is no excuse for the appalling lack of sensitivity in my comments. It in no way reflects the person I am. I apologize to all of my readers and I thank them for holding me accountable. This has been an important lesson for me and illustrates that, like many people, I still have a lot of growing and learning to do."

Hill, then 30, joined ESPN in 2006 to write for and ESPN: the Magazine. She was a sports columnist for the Orlando Sentinel, believed then to be the only African American woman writing a sports column for a mainstream daily.

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Layoffs Begin at Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Layoffs have begun at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, implementing the McClatchy Co.'s decision to slash 1,400 jobs, or 10 percent of its work force, a move announced on Monday.

"We lost 17 people in the involuntary, including 3 minorities. We won't know on the voluntary until next week," Executive Editor Jim Witt told Journal-isms, speaking of layoffs vs. buyouts.

Gary Piña, a news editor/page designer at the Star-Telegram who is nearing the end of his second term on the board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, was laid off on Monday, Veronica Villafañe reported in her Media Moves column.

Piña has been with the Star-Telegram for more than 20 years and was a key player in the success of the 2005 NAHJ convention, she said.

Bob Ray Sanders, vice president and associate editor of the paper as well as a columnist, told Journal-isms it was the first time ever for layoffs at the paper.

"I was at three funerals last week," he told Journal-isms. "I came in this week and I feel like I was at fourth. It's death in the family here."

[Tara Ransom, assistant city editor in the Arlington office, confirmed Friday that she was among the layoffs. She came to the paper four years ago from the Dallas Morning News, and said she might switch careers because she didn't expect to find another newspaper editing job.] [Added June 20].
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Michael Wilbon said on ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption" that Tim Russert's death was "particularly depressing" because Russert called him after he suffered his own heart attack in January. They discussed becoming more health-conscious.

How Could Tim Russert Die So Suddenly?

The seemingly nonstop coverage of the death and life of NBC's Tim Russert concluded Wednesday with a telecast of a memorial service at Washington's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Among the coverage offered in print, online and on radio and television were attempts to answer one nagging question: How could Russert, who appeared to be so healthy and had access to first-rate physicians, have died so suddenly, and at his relatively young age?

"Maybe it's just the fact that I've got some plaque in my arteries, too, but Tim Russert's tragic and untimely death at age 58 raises some unsettling questions that it seems to me the media should be exploring," George Lardner Jr., a retired Washington Post reporter, wrote on the Nieman Watchdog Web site.

"The first is: Why should we have any confidence in our health care system? Isn't it time to lay to rest the propaganda that it's the best in the world? Doesn't the public need to know above all that 'medical science' involves too much guesswork to be called a real science?"

CNN's "Larry King Live" assembled a panel of physicians (video) Monday night to attempt an answer.

"Tim Russert died because this small vessel that brings life-supplying blood to this miraculous muscle closed off suddenly," Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac thoracic surgeon, said on the program. "It's called the widow-maker vessel. When this vessel closes off, the heart will often create a rhythm change, which is what causes sudden collapse that we often see. Unfortunately for a lot of Americans, we think that you can get a stress test, as was done with Mr. Russert, and that will show you have a blockage.

"The reality is that oftentimes the blockages are less than 50 percent. If that is the case, you exercise, the heart will go fast, but you won't see any abnormalities. But what happens a lot of times, and this is a reason you can't test yourself for safety, you have to live for safety, is that you get a thrombus, an irritation on top of a plaque that has been there for decades. But when it ruptures, that plaque all of a sudden comes alive. When you get a cut, whether it's inside the artery of the heart or on your skin, what do you do? You form a scab. That scab inside a very small diameter vessel closes suddenly. That's why Mr. Russert passed a stress test. That's why I actually think he was getting pretty great care. Yet, out of the blue, he's stripped from life."

Jerry Zremski of the Buffalo News wrote from Washington, "For countless Americans, Tim Russert's sudden death Friday was not just a tragedy, but a terrifying warning shot about the fragility of life and the importance of the choices we make about how to live it.

"Monday, they reacted, flooding the Western New York office of the American Heart Association with requests for information and engaging their doctors in wrenching conversations, often involving the question: 'Could this happen to me?'"

"The answer is yes — especially if you ignore the well-worn but often-shunned advice to eat well, exercise and avoid smoking."

In the New York Times, Brian Stelter raised the issue of Russert's work schedule. "It is unclear whether the next moderator of 'Meet the Press' will also manage the Washington bureau and host a cable show," he wrote. "Already, other journalists are pointing to Mr. Russert's ambitious work schedule as a contributing factor to his collapse at work on Friday.

"'I think we need to learn something from this. You can't work people 20 hours a day, month after month after month after month, without some kind of consequences,' Ted Koppel, the former 'Nightline' anchor, said on CNN Friday night. 'I don't know what it was that was wrong with Tim. I don't know why Tim died. But all I can say is that man worked too hard.'"

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Secret Video Raises Questions About Bailey Killing

"Your Black Muslim Bakery leader Yusuf Bey IV kept the gun used to kill journalist Chauncey Bailey in his closet after the attack and bragged of playing 'hella dumb' when investigators asked him about the shooting, according to a secretly recorded police video," Thomas Peele, Bob Butler, Mary Fricker and Josh Richman of the Chauncey Bailey Project wrote in a story posted late Wednesday on the Web sites of Bay Area newspapers.

"He describes Bailey's shooting in detail on the video, then, laughing, he denies he was there, and boasts that his friendship with the case's lead detective protected him from charges," the story says.

"Bey IV has not been arrested in Bailey's Aug. 2 death; Devaughndre Broussard, a then-19-year-old bakery handyman, has been charged in the killing. In an interview last week at the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, where he is being held on unrelated kidnapping and torture charges, Bey IV, 22, denied any role in the killing.

"The video and scores of other documents and police recordings obtained by the Chauncey Bailey Project raise questions about Bey IV's possible role in a conspiracy to kill Bailey, who was working on a story about the financially troubled bakery."

Paul Cobb, the publisher of the Oakland Post, which Bailey edited, has called for the federal government to investigate suspicions that the Oakland police were complicit in the assassination.

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NABJ Membership Reaches 4,100 "and Growing"

Membership in the National Association of Black Journalists stands at 4,100 "and growing," Executive Director Karen Wynn Freeman announced on Tuesday.

"This is a significant increase because we have not had this level of membership in the history of our organization at this point in the year," she wrote.

The figure confirms NABJ's status as the largest journalist organization of color, with nearly twice the membership of its next-largest sister organization. The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has 2,150 members; the Asian American Journalists Association, 1,949; and the Native American Journalists Association "over 500," according to their executive directors. The South Asian Journalists Association reports 730 members.

On July 28, 2004, NABJ announced its highest membership figure ever, 4,695.
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On Comedy Central's "The Daily Show," host Jon Stewart parodied media-driven rumors, reporting that Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., has "lady parts."

Jon Stewart Mocks Media Rumors About Obamas

On Monday night's "Daily Show," Jon Stewart "mocked the media's willingness to peddle insane rumors about Barack Obama" — and their tendency to blame the rumor-mongering on Internet sites, as the Huffington Post reported on Tuesday. "Calling it 'Baracknophobia,' Stewart showed clips of anchor and pundits from all three cable networks repeating baseless rumors (Muslim, plagiarist, sexist, etc.) about Barack Obama (and his wife Michelle)."

Meanwhile, Michelle Obama appeared on ABC-TV's daytime show "The View" on Wednesday, part of "a subtle makeover" her husband's campaign is giving her, in the words of Michael Powell and Jodi Kantor, writing in Wednesday's New York Times.

"You are amazed sometimes at how deep the lies can be," she told the Times.

A Web site,, has been created to track positive and negative media coverage of the would-be first lady. "This site is about the treatment and depiction of Michelle Obama. It is nonpartisan... really a-partisan. Barack has a entire staff of people and $100 million dollars or so to help get him in the White House. This is about Michelle and the media," according to the blog "What About Our Daughters?

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Barbara Reynolds Now an Obama Supporter

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, a religion columnist for the National Newspaper Publishers Association who had been accused of arranging for the Rev. Jeremiah Wright to speak at the National Press Club because she supported Hillary Clinton, says she now supports Sen. Barack Obama.

"Yes, I am on board with Senator Obama and I am thrilled," Reynolds told Journal-isms. "Before he became the presumptive Democratic nominee, I was faced with the agonizing choice of choosing between two phenomenal politicians — an African American and a woman — both of whom have served our country so well. I could never make that choice and suffered from double-mindness. Now that I have been liberated from that, I want nothing more than to help defeat Senator John McCain and the Republican party and see something that I never dreamed could happen — a non-Uncle Tom-kind-of-black man elected president of the United States and a wonderful sister, Michelle Obama become First Lady."

Reynolds, an admirer of Wright and a member of the Press Club's speaker committee, helped arrange for his April 28 Press Club appearance, in which Obama's former pastor repeated inflammatory statements. But she denied strenuously accusations spread through the media that she had done so to benefit Clinton.

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3 Media Veterans Buy "Soul Train" Franchise



A production company, MadVision Entertainment, has bought the “Soul Train” franchise from its founder, Don Cornelius, and plans to breathe new life into it, Brian Stelter reported Tuesday in the New York Times. "The plan is to open up the show's archives for older consumers as well as to create a new version of the program for younger ones," Stelter wrote.

"'The series has never been shown on DVD, and it's not been utilized on video-on-demand or mobile or Internet platforms,' Peter Griffith, a co-founder of MadVision, said. 'There are many opportunities that we are exploring.'

"MadVision, which was founded in 2006 by three urban media veterans, is best known for the Showtime stand-up comedy series 'White Boyz in the Hood.' One of the founders of MadVision, Kenard Gibbs, is the group publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. Another founder, Anthony Maddox, worked as a producer at NBC and ran Sean Combs' Bad Boy Films. Mr. Griffith, the third partner, founded a hip-hop Web portal and worked with Vibe to extend the magazine's brand.

"In the 1970s and 1980s, 'Soul Train' helped glamorize black music, featuring performances by James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and other hit makers. But the real stars were the young dancers who would strut their stuff, laying the groundwork for countless dance programs , including current ones like Fox's 'So You Think You Can Dance?' and MTV's 'America's Best Dance Crew.'"

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Short Takes

  • At least 82 journalists fled their native countries under threat or harassment in the last 12 months, with more than half coming from Iraq and Somalia. The rate of journalists going into exile is double the average since 2001, Elizabeth Witchel and Karen Phillips reported on Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists.
  • "Senior members of the Congressional Black Caucus yesterday criticized a compromise plan for the proposed merger of the XM and Sirius satellite radio companies, saying the deal does not provide enough opportunities for minority-owned programming," Jeffrey Birnbaum reported Tuesday for the Washington Post.


June/July issue is its last.

  • "Tu Ciudad, a high-end lifestyle magazine for Southern California Latinos and the first magazine launch by its parent, publisher and broadcaster Emmis Communications, is folding on its third anniversary," Lucia Moses reported on Tuesday for Mediaweek. "Founder and publisher Jaime Gamboa cited the harsh economic climate and struggles that Emmis is facing in other parts of its business. Tu Ciudad ('Your City,' in Spanish), which publishes 10 times a year, will cease publication with its June/July double issue."
  • "Anthony Allred, a News Channel 8 photojournalist, was arrested Monday morning and charged with driving under the influence, Josh Poltilove reported on Tuesday for the Tampa Tribune. "When he was pulled over by police, Allred was driving a vehicle owned by Media General, parent of News Channel 8 and The Tampa Tribune, a Tampa police report states."
  • The Newseum's first major changing exhibition at its new Washington location, "G-Men and Journalists: Top News Stories of the FBI's First Century," opens to the public on Friday. On display at a media preview Tuesday were a presentation about COINTELPRO, in which the FBI spied on prominent activists; a "Mississippi Burning" section that features a Ku Klux Klan robe; and a wax museum representation of director J. Edgar Hoover as well as Hoover's desk. The 2002 Washington-area sniper case is also represented. The exhibit is to be on display until June 2009.
  • In Iraq, Mohieddin Abdul Hameed al-Naqib, a news anchor for the local affiliate of state-run television station Al-Iraqiya TV, was gunned down by assailants in the city of Mosul on Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported, condemning the action. Al-Naqib, 49, is the 130th journalist killed in Iraq since the U.S. led-invasion in March 2003, according to CPJ research.
  • Jim Scott, managing editor of WEWS-TV in Cleveland, is sharing his experiences about his father who is dying of cancer. He says he finds writing "Only Son's Blog," which appears on the station's Web site, cathartic.
  • Media writer Amy Alexander, in a piece on, says she is updating her resume to emphasize her new-media credentials. "The self-made, working-class reporter has about as much caché these days as a flight attendant. The tributes to Tim Russert, the NBC host of Meet the Press who died unexpectedly last week, are lamentations not only for the man, but for a from-the-ground-up brand of journalism that is falling by the wayside, for an egalitarian sensibility that once prevailed."
  • In Burma, journalist Zaw Thet Htwe Zaw was arrested June 13 for assisting in the distribution of food and clothes in areas hit by Cyclone Nargis, Reporters Without Borders and the Burmese Media Association reported on Monday.
  • In the Philippines, "Suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits released television reporter Cecilia Victoria "Ces" Drilon and two others in the village of Kagay, in the town of Talipao, Sulu, a few minutes past midnight Wednesday," GMA News reported. Drilon's group was seized June 8 while on its way to meet with Radulan Sahiron, leader of Abu Sayyaf, a radical Islamist group in the Philippines.
  • In the wake of threats against cartoonists, the U.S. branch of the International Press Institute plans to make a program-length video about blasphemy, Roy Greenslade reported from the world conference in Belgrade, Serbia. "It is aimed not only at helping journalists to think more about the subject, but they hope to distribute it to schools and get airtime on cable channels in the US and elsewhere. Charles Eisendrath, director of the Knight-Wallace fellowships at the University of Michigan, announced that he and his American colleagues are "eager for any advice and assistance from journalists around the world," Greenslade wrote on his media blog in London's Guardian.
  • BET News plans the second installment of its town hall series, "Hip Hop vs. America II: Where Did the Love Go?" on Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. It is "a no-holds-barred discussion focusing on music videos, misogyny within the hip-hop culture, race vs. gender, the strained relationships between black men and women and the media's role in shaping the perception of African Americans," the network announced on Tuesday. Participating journalists include Michaela Angela Davis, Esther Armah, Henry Bonsu Lola Ogunnaike, Allison Samuels and Akosua Anobil-Dodoo. Selwyn Seyfu Hinds is executive producer.

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Feedback: Speak of Hitler Only With '36 Olympics

Jemele Hill's column and subsequent punishment is but the latest of a number of run-ins with the public from the African American contingent at ESPN. Harold Reynolds and Mike Tirico have also gotten their names in the spotlight for seemingly stepping out of bounds in Bristol. I know the channel favors the younger generation, but they need to pull from the more educated of the generation.

NOWHERE in the realm of sports should Hitler be spoke of unless it's in relation to the 1936 Olympics. How stupid can you get? Right now, America is really amped up on the racial divide, and surrendering your job because of this divide isn't a great career move. Ms. Hill needs to go back to the Orlando Sentinel, or wherever she can get her low-caliber writing printed. She blew a good thing by not proofreading.

Tony Young
Louisville, Ky.
June 18, 2008

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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