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Yahoo Caption Turns Essay Into Racial Issue

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Updated August 30

Layout Blunder Makes Black Flood Victim a Suspect; Company Removes Story From Website

White House Rejects Pardon for Black Nationalist Garvey

Study Finds Hispanic Media Competitive With Mainstream

Two Sunday Papers Offer Dueling Visions of King

Libyan Liberation No Guarantee of Free Press

Comcast Employees Out Front in Donations to Obama '12

Ecuadorean Journalist Flees to Miami, Citing Safety

Station G.M. Pledges That Gil Noble's Show Will Continue

Short Takes

Layout Blunder Makes Black Flood Victim a Suspect;
Company Removes Story From Website

An essay on the Forbes magazine website about the role of law enforcement and order during a natural disaster was imported to the Yahoo News site Monday. But the headline, "Crime in the Wake of Hurricane Irene," was used as a caption under a photo of a black man navigating a flooded street, heading toward a bicycle.

The juxtaposition caused a blogger for the Daily Kos who writes under the name "Tool" to write, "One thing we can always remember though in the American media is that no matter what the problem we can always count race to play some factor in the way stories are portrayed."

". . . I thought to myself — Self this is surely a series of photos that depict looting or vandalism or something horrid that people need to do to survive one of the worst storms of the century. Apparently black men wading through two feet of water can't be given the benefit of the doubt because that bike is just sooooo tempting. They can't resist going after anything that isn't tied down. Next they will be coming for the women and diapers."

[Tuesday update: Yahoo News has removed the story. Details below.]

The episode was reminiscent of the iconic photos of Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005, when the contrast in photo captions of people who seemed to be looting — one photo showing whites, the other a black man — became emblematic of the racial dimensions of the disaster. One wire service's photo of a black man depicted him "looting," while another's of a white couple showed them "finding." The images were shot by different photographers and issued by different photo services with different standards, but that made little difference to those who indicted the news media for racism.

The author of the Forbes piece, E.D. Kain, told Journal-isms, "My piece was about how little crime there was and about how a good deal of it is dependent on police abuse. That was just a picture of the flooding. Doesn't look like anyone read my actual post though. . . . my original article has nothing to do with whatever Yahoo did to it. I did not caption the picture with the title of my post, for one thing. The way they made it appear was grossly misleading.

"I write about wrongful incarceration, the war on drugs, police violence, racism, etc.

"I'm pretty baffled by all of this honestly," he added. Kain pulled the photo from his Forbes posting Monday night.

Dan Bigman, a spokesman for, said authors pick the illustrations for their pieces. In this case, the original caption said clearly, "A resident walks through floodwater on Coney Island after Hurricane Irene hit, in New York, August 28, 2011."

"The feed to Yahoo with regard to this picture and article is broken," Bigman said. ". . . It separated the photograph from its caption, which is clearly intended to show that this was a resident and not a criminal."

By Monday night, the photo on the original Forbes posting was gone. Kain told readers, "I have removed the picture that originally accompanied this post. Apparently because the person in the picture was not white people took it as racist. That was never the intention. It was just a photo of the flooding. My post is obviously not about evil criminals at all. Quite the contrary. I’m saddened to see people react to this by immediately thinking that any image of a non-white person must imply racism."

Later, Kain wrote a new post, "Racism, Crime and Journalistic Ethics at Daily Kos," blasting the blogger Tool for not reading his entire piece before posting. But he conceded, "The image at Yahoo with the title as a caption instead of my original caption makes the picture look, well, frankly it does look racist – especially if you don’t bother to read the post."

A Yahoo News spokeswoman took the information regarding the controversy but had not responded Monday night. The page remained the same.

[The spokeswoman, Bahareh Ramin, told Journal-isms by email on Tuesday evening, "I just received confirmation that Yahoo! News had originally received the image and story from, but due to a technical error, did not receive the update when Forbes updated their post and removed the photo. The story has since been taken down from Yahoo! News."]

The New York Times reported last year that Yahoo News was the most-visited news site on the Web. [Updated Aug. 30]

White House Rejects Pardon for Black Nationalist Garvey

Marcus Garvey"The Barack Obama administration has flatly rejected a request for a presidential pardon for Jamaica's first national hero, the Right Honourable Marcus Mosiah Garvey," Karyl Walker reported Sunday for the Jamaica Observer.

"Garvey was imprisoned for mail fraud totalling US$25 in June 1923, and after spending two years and nine months in an Atlanta Federal Penitentiary, was deported from New Orleans, Louisiana to Jamaica on a ship."

The pardon drive was undertaken by Jamaican-born lawyer Donovan L. Parker of Hollywood, Fla., who also publicized an online petition. The petition said Garvey "was arrested by the FBI under the Hoover administration and charged with mail fraud for which he was sentenced to five years in prison. Although his sentence was eventually commuted by President Calvin Coolidge, it is now abundantly clear that Garvey did not commit any criminal acts, but as Professor Judith Stein has stated, 'his politics were on trial.' "

The Observer story continued, ". . . In a tersely worded reply to Parker's request, White House Pardon Attorney, Ronald Rodgers said such a move would be a waste of time and resources since Garvey had been dead for ages.

" 'It is the general policy of the Department of Justice that requests for posthumous pardons for federal offences not be processed for adjudication. The policy is grounded in the belief that the time of the officials involved in the clemency process is better spent on pardon and commutation requests of living persons.' "

Best known for his back-to-Africa movement and his Universal Negro Improvement Association, Garvey was also a writer, publisher and editor. One weekly, the Negro World, "was more an opinion organ than a newspaper, hitting hard for the nationalistic aims of Garvey's group, harking frequently back to Africa," Roland E. Wolseley wrote in "The Black Press, U.S.A."

"Among the several capable journalists who wrote for it were T. Thomas Fortune and John E. Bruce. The Negro World, in fact, for a time was a rival for the Chicago Defender as a leading black paper."

The Obama administration also refused to issue a pardon for black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, despite a resolution passed by Congress in 2009 that had been introduced by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y.

Rodgers offered the same "time better spent elsewhere" rationale as in the Garvey case, Zack Burgess wrote in December for He did not mention that in both cases, racism was said to be behind the convictions.

"Johnson was the victim of the blatantly racist Mann Act. The law made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes. The act was nothing more than a thinly veiled effort to nail Johnson for cavorting with white women, and for doing the unthinkable and that's wresting the heavyweight boxing crown from a white man in Reno in 1910," columnist Earl Ofari Hutchinson wrote.

In another case involving a celebrated but dead black figure, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. decided this year not to open an investigation of the assassination of Malcolm X.

"We have limited resources," he said, "and there is a very small possibility that we were likely to come up with a crime that can be prosecuted in federal court. On the other hand, if information is developed that will change that conclusion, we also have the option" to reconsider," he told the National Association of Black Journalists this month.

The Jamaica Observer story continued, "Former Prime Minister Edward Seaga asked the US President, the late Ronald Reagan to grant a full pardon to Marcus Garvey on the 1923 charge of mail fraud. A resolution was brought to the US House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice from as far back as 1987, but the issue seemed to have been pushed on the back burner."

Parker told Journal-isms he had a response to Rodgers' argument that he included in a letter sent last week.

". . . it is crystal in this case that the African Diaspora on behalf of the African people would be the true benefactors of this posthumous presidential pardon request for the Rt. Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey," Parker's letter said. He expanded on that thought to say that "all Americans are truly benefactors of the posthumous presidential pardon request for the Rt. Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, including the entire humanity."

Study Finds Hispanic Media Competitive With Mainstream

"A new Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism study on Hispanic Media concludes that the broadcast television sector continues to grow, not only competing with major English-language networks but in some time slots, beating them," John Eggerton reported Monday for Broadcasting & Cable.

"Broadcasters have argued that the growing audience of Hispanic-language media, which includes new multicast channel services targeted to minorities, is one reason the FCC should be careful how it pushes for reclaiming broadcast spectrum for other uses.

The study, by Emily Guskin and Amy Mitchell of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said:

"Hispanic newspapers overall lost circulation in 2010, but not nearly to the extent of the English-language press. The total number of Spanish-language newspapers remained stable.

"The story in television was even more positive. Univision, the largest Spanish-language network by far, continued to grow, reaching audience sizes that compete with the three major English-language broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC). In 2011, it also announced the launch of a 24-hour Spanish-language news station.

"Radio is growing as well. The number of Spanish-language radio stations increased in 2010, and more Spanish-language radio companies began measuring for Arbitron, the standard method of rating radio stations.

"Magazines showed improvement too, with year-over-year growth in ad spending.

"On the digital front, while Hispanic Americans do not access the internet at the same rates as other Americans, there is growth, and bilingual Latinos are already heavily online."

Two Sunday Papers Offer Dueling Visions of King

John Lewis, left, and Cornel WestWhile Sunday's dedication of the new Martin Luther King Jr. memorial was on hold to avoid Hurricane Irene, the New York Times and the Washington Post competed to offer visions of what King would think of the United States today.

The Times solicited a piece from Obama critic Cornel West, the Princeton philosophy professor, consistent with West's recent pronouncements.

"The age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling King’s prophetic legacy," West, 58, wrote in an essay headlined, "Dr. King Weeps From His Grave." "Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable.

"As the talk show host Tavis Smiley and I have said in our national tour against poverty, the recent budget deal is only the latest phase of a 30-year, top-down, one-sided war against the poor and working people in the name of a morally bankrupt policy of deregulating markets, lowering taxes and cutting spending for those already socially neglected and economically abandoned."

The Post ran a gentler piece from Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the last survivng speaker who was on stage with King at the 1963 March on Washington, where King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech.

"Yes, we have come a great distance — but we still have a great distance to go," Lewis, 71, wrote under the headline, "What would Martin Luther King Jr. say to President Obama?" "King’s speech was a cogent statement about the need for civil rights, but its deepest purpose was about much more. His dream was about more than racial justice, though racism often represents the greatest moral stain on our society. His dream was about building a society based on simple justice that values the dignity and the worth of every human being.

"That effort is the true legacy of King’s dream. Were he alive today, it is telling that his message would still be essentially the same. It is troubling that unemployment is so high — indeed, far higher than it was in 1963 — and that we are so caught up in details of deficits and debt ceilings that we question whether government has any moral duty to serve the poor, help feed the hungry and assist the sick. Today, Dr. King would still be asking questions that reveal the moral meaning of our policies. And he would still challenge our leaders to answer those questions — and to act on their beliefs."

Libyan Liberation No Guarantee of Free Press

"There has been a huge increase in the number of different media outlets in Libya since the fight against Gaddafi," Jannie Schipper wrote Saturday for Radio Netherlands, referring to Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi.

"The country used to have eleven daily newspapers, but there are now around 120, in addition to new radio stations, TV channels and countless websites. But experts warn that 40 years of censorship is a bad recipe for independent journalism.

"Leon Willems, Director of Free Press Unlimited, a Dutch organisation with projects in over forty countries that suffer from repression and conflict, sees three challenges for journalists in the 'new' Libya:

" 'The existing reporters are often corrupted by working for so long under a dictator. You also often make infrastructural problems — including things like electricity. And you have to deal with new legislation to ensure that more is possible in the future.'

"Gaddafi's Libya hung for years at the bottom of the journalistic freedom indexes of organisations such as the US Freedom House and the French-based Reporters without Borders. 'Libya has by far the worst starting position of those Arab countries where the regime has fallen,' says Courtney Radsch from Freedom House. "After such a long time under a dictator, journalists no longer know what it's like to be independent,' says Mr Willems."

Meanwhile, the chairman of the African Union said Monday that Libyan rebels may be indiscriminately killing black people because they have confused innocent migrant workers with mercenaries, Luc Van Kemenade of the Associated Press reported, citing the fears as one reason the African Union has not recognized opposition forces as Libya's interim government.

" 'NTC seems to confuse black people with mercenaries,' said AU chairman Jean Ping, referring to the rebels' National Transitional Council. 'All blacks are mercenaries. If you do that it means (that the) one-third of the population of Libya which is black is also mercenaries. They are killing people, normal workers, mistreating them.' "

President Obama visits the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA headquarters on Saturday as Hurricane Irene struck. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Comcast Employees Out Front in Donations to Obama '12

"Employees at Comcast, the nation's largest Internet provider and the parent company to NBC Universal, donated more money to the Obama Victory Fund, a joint fund-raising committee for President Barack Obama's re-election campaign and the Democratic National Committee, than employees at any other organization, according to a new report from the Center for Responsive Politics," Chris Moody wrote Friday for the Ticket, a Yahoo News blog.

"Comcast workers donated almost $200,000 this year to the fund, which raised nearly $40 million through the end of June, according to data from the Federal Election Commission.

"Obama has held two fundraisers hosted by Comcast's top brass in recent months, the first at the home of the company's vice president David Cohen in Philadelphia, and another at Comcast chief executive Brian Roberts' summer home in Martha's Vineyard. In the 2010 congressional election cycle, Comcast employees donated about $1.7 million to Democrats and $1.1 million to Republicans."

Ecuadorean Journalist Flees to Miami, Citing Safety

"An Ecuadorean journalist accused of libeling President Rafael Correa has fled the country because he says he fears for his safety," reported Monday, based on material from the Associated Press.

"Emilio Palacio issued a letter from Miami on Sunday explaining that he fled because of new pressures from what he called 'the dictatorship.'

"In July, a court sentenced [Palacio] and three executives of the newspaper Universo to three years in prison and $42 million in fines for libeling the president. They are appealing."

Palacio's escape "comes weeks after he published a Youtube video . . . in August that appears to show the President of Ecuador stating to his officers to take control of a protest by striking police officers and that those responsible should get 'a shot in the chest for treason! Those who are we doing this are traitors to the Fatherland.' "

Station G.M. Pledges That Gil Noble's Show Will Continue

Gil Noble

Gil Noble's long-running black public affairs show will continue despite his illness, with original programming produced at some point, Dave Davis, general manager of New York's WABC-TV, told Journal-isms on Tuesday.

"The show will continue, We're not sure what form it will take," Davis said. The show has continued with reruns since Noble, 79, suffered a stroke in late July. "At some point we'll have to generate original shows. We just want to see what happens with Gil," he said.

Davis spoke after "false reports of legendary Gil Noble's death first triggered waves of grief throughout metropolitan New York this weekend, then consternation among the thousands who watch his show, 'Like It Is,' America's longest running weekly public affairs broadcast hosted by an African-American," as F. Finley McRae wrote Monday for

". . . The false reports, which began Friday, also led to an errant posting by The Amsterdam News, which, on Sunday, forced New York's oldest African-American weekly to place a one-sentence apology on its web site."

Elinor Tatum, Amsterdam News publisher, told Journal-isms Monday that the story of Noble's illness "is one of the most difficult to try to pinpoint. You can talk to somebody one minute" who is presumed to be reliable, but in the next someone else credible will have a different story. The stories "change all the time."

McRae quoted Eduardo Standard, a popular 1960s activist who helped create 10,000 jobs through the Neighborhood Youth Corps anti-poverty program, saying that black leaders and citizens should form a coalition to negotiate with WABC-TV so that Noble and his show will live on, even if he's unable to return. Black people, Standard said, "must not accept anything less."

Short Takes

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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 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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Media's Black Spot

Forbes has history with negrophobic journalism


One only has to do a cursory review of the "comments" section on most Yahoo news articles to realize that no one is "monitoring" the outright racist and very often profane statements of the YAHOOS who flock to this site. The more "hits," the more advertising dollars it seems. NEWSLETTER, JOURNALISM, THIS SITE IS "NOT!!!"


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