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NAHJ Hopefuls Get Personal

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June 4, 2012

Hugo Balta, left, and Russell Contreras Would-be candidates question motivations; New Orleans leaders oppose Times-Picayune cutback; series finds racial disparity on "Stand Your Ground"; Obama bashed in weekend news media; bachelor takes over "meet market" for New York Post; black journalists urged to try Middle East, Far East; what happened to socially conscious black athletes?; black scribes changed narrative of black athletes (6/4/12)

Would-Be Candidates Question Motivations

New Orleans Leaders Oppose Times-Picayune Cutback

"More than 70 business and civic leaders and organizations have joined together to express frustration at a recently announced plan to reduce print publication of The Times-Picayune," Jaquetta White reported Monday for the newspaper.

"Calling itself the Times-Picayune Citizens' Group, the body said in a press release issued today that its purpose is to 'ensure the continuation of the delivery of a high quality, seven-day-a-week newspaper, with access to the entire community.'

"The group is hoping to begin communicating with Advance Publications Inc., owner of The Times-Picayune, and other interested parties to achieve that goal. The press release does not detail how the group believes that would be accomplished."

Separately, Kevin Allman reported Friday for Gambit, an alternative newspaper, "As Times-Picayune employees were preparing to leave work early this evening, word came down that the individual meetings set for Monday and Tuesday — at which staff reductions were expected to take place — would not be happening on those dates. Nor would they be happening at all next week."

Series Finds Racial Disparity on "Stand Your Ground"

"A Tampa Bay Times investigation has found that Florida's 'stand your ground' law is being used in ways never imagined — to free gang members involved in shootouts, drug dealers beefing with clients and people who shot their victims in the back," the Florida newspaper reported on Sunday, introducing a story by Kris Hundley, Susan Taylor Martin and Connie Humburg.

Florida's 'stand your ground' law has been extremely successful for people who k"Defendants have invoked the law to excuse all manner of mischief, from minor fistfights to drug possession to killing an endangered species.

"And who goes free can sometimes depend as much on where a case is heard as its merits."

In Part Two, which ran Monday, Martin, Hundley and Humburg reported, "A Tampa Bay Times analysis of nearly 200 cases — the first to examine the role of race in 'stand your ground' — found that people who killed a black person walked free 73 percent of the time, while those who killed a white person went free 59 percent of the time."

The February shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen, by a Hispanic neighborhood watch captain has prompted a renewed look at the state's "stand your ground" law.

Meanwhile, "Richard Land, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, saw his weekly radio show canceled Friday after he used it to criticize President Obama and black pastors' response to the Trayvon Martin shooting," Molly Hennessy-Fiske reported Friday for the Los Angeles Times.

". . . The move comes as the convention, which split from northern Baptists in 1845 in defense of slavery, prepares to elect a black preacher from New Orleans as its president. The Rev. Fred Luter Jr. will become the first African American to head the convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination."

Obama Bashed in Weekend News Media

President Obama was roundly bashed in the national news media over the weekend — at least by those originating in New York and Washington.

In the New York Times, the Sunday Review section began a Maureen Dowd column on its section front. "The president who started off with such dazzle now seems incapable of stimulating either the economy or the voters," Dowd wrote. ". . . Once glowing, his press is now burning."

The Washington Post's Outlook section was dominated by "Still waiting for our first black president" by Fredrick Harris, a political science professor and director of the Institute for Research in African-American Studies at Columbia University. Harris wrote, "Obama may be our first gay president, but if a focus on racial inequality matters at all, we're still waiting for our first black one."

On the Sunday talk shows, Republicans were well-disciplined, sticking to their anti-Obama talking points. Journalists echoed their view that a report Friday from the Labor Department showing that the economy added only 69,000 jobs in May, the lowest number in a year, put Obama's reelection at risk. Democrats on the programs seemed outgunned.

Precious little time was spent on explaining how much of the economy is within the president's control. David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief of the New York Times and Pulitzer Prize-winning economics writer, wrote Friday, "Some combination of problems — Europe's new troubles, the rise in gas prices from several months ago, the continued cuts in government employment, the continued hangover from the financial crisis — has clearly slowed the economy. . . . Perhaps most important, the decisions of European policy makers loom even larger now."

Obama found defenders Monday in Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post editorial writer, and Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson, each of whom responded to Harris' Outlook piece.

". . . the Columbia University professor makes a stunningly false argument," Capehart wrote. ". . . Those are all important issues. They must be addressed. The problem for Harris is that they are being addressed by the president. Not in the theatrical way Harris would like. But in the actions-speak-louder-than-words way of Obama."

On MSNBC, Dyson said on a panel that he believes "Bill Clinton has more freedom to be black in public than Barack Obama."

Bachelor Takes Over "Meet Market" for New York Post

"So I got a new gig," Jozen Cummings wrote Friday on his blog, untiligetmarried.com.

"For those who follow me on Twitter, I've been talking around it for the Jozen Cummingsbetter part of a week, not divulging the complete details because I wanted to be careful, but since I start on Monday, I decided to let all my loyal readers know the good news and what it entails.

"Every Sunday, The New York Post has a dating section in their paper called 'The Meet Market.' If you've never read it before, now would be a good time to start because I am the new features reporter for the section.

"Kind of cool, right? Yeah. It's like I'm a hybrid of Will Smith and Eva Mendes' characters in Hitch. Or as one of my friends put it, I'm the date whisperer. I laughed at that one, but I'm also running with it."

[Cummings' editor, Sara Lieberman, deputy Sunday features editor, explained Tuesday that Cummings had been hired as a part-time features writer for the "Meet Market."] [Updated June 5]

Black Journalists Urged to Try Middle East, Far East

Bradley C. Bennett, a member of the inaugural class of the Maynard Media Academy and former assistant city editor of the Miami Herald's Broward Edition, left the Herald in 2007 to become executive editor of the Broward Times, a black weekly later renamed the South Florida Times.

Bradley C. BennettBennett is now in the Middle East as senior editor at the National, an English-language broadsheet based in the former desert fishing village of Abu Dhabi.

He told Journal-isms by email: "I would say that my experiences as a black man in America, and as the editor of a newspaper covering multiculturally black South Florida, prepared me well for my international experiences here, and the ability to respect people of other cultures.

"I now supervise journalists who hail from India, Bulgaria, the Palestinian Territories (in dispute with Israel) and — of course — the United Arab Emirates.

"I would encourage more black journalists who are seeing fewer opportunities in America to spread their wings a little, and try for a job in the Middle East or the Far East, where newspapers are generally thriving.

"The best part of moving here is that my twin daughters, who were born in South Florida and now attend a school of predominantly Emirati citizens, now speak Arabic and Spanish, as well as English."

The National was featured in a May 22 story by Tsitsi D. Wakhisi in Editor & Publisher.

Bennett moved to the Middle East after "his wife, Adeyela Bennett, was offered a teaching job in the UAE," the United Arab Emirates. "He heard about The National from a friend and decided to apply," the story said.

"The couple arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sept. 11, 2010, with their then 3-year-old twin daughters. Bennett, a former assistant city editor at The Miami Herald, said he sees the opportunity to work in the UAE as a way to wait out the U.S. economic crisis while gaining international experience and keeping his journalism career alive.

" 'The environment for doing journalism in the United States has been very difficult,' Bennett said. 'I have more friends who were formerly in journalism than are working in journalism now. When I was at the Herald, there were constant layoffs and threats of layoffs. A lot of people thought it would be a matter of time before their number came up.' "

Richard Pretorius, a former copy editor at the Washington Post, is a senior editor on the National's foreign desk. "Many of us came to see another part of the world and explore a different culture," Pretorius, who is not a journalist of color, said by email. "Sure, the pay is relatively good, but money was not the primary motivation.

"If you get out, Abu Dhabi offers a wonderful window on the world. You make friends from all over. You can be sitting in a coffee shop or bar, and the seats next to you will be filled with Russians, Lebanese, Turks, Egyptians, just about anywhere. The place is not only rich in oil, but also in opportunities to meet the rest of the world."

Former forward Ira Newble of the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers, far right, traveled

What Happened to Socially Conscious Black Athletes?

"Somewhere along the timeline that began with Paul Robeson, followed by Jackie Robinson, and stretched to Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali, a pattern of disconnect developed between the black athlete and his community," Branson Wright wrote Sunday in the Plain Dealer of Cleveland.

"What was once commonplace has often been reduced to turkey giveaways, and sponsorship-induced, made-for-television opportunities. Let's be honest, foundations for many athletes are used to shuttle funds for tax breaks, or a way to put cousins on a legitimate payroll.

"Back in the day, guys like Robeson, Robinson, Ali and Brown made it their business to help the underprivileged. They were also not afraid to make a public stand when it came to defending or supporting social issues.

". . . The media's role in this indoctrination comes in how it rewards athletes who are focused more on being an entertainer, than on speaking about social issues. Who cares about political views, or social change? Stay silent and just hit the damn ball. In many players' minds, speaking out could cost endorsement money."

Black Scribes Changed Narrative of Black Athletes

In a new "sports journalism" entry for the Oxford African American Studies Center, an online encyclopedia edited by Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., sports journalist Kevin Blackistone says that "African American newspapers and sports writers changed the narrative of the African American athlete in particular and sports in the United States in general."

Kevin BlackistoneBlackistone is a longtime national sports columnist who holds the Shirley Povich Chair in Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland, College Park and is a panelist on ESPN's "Around the Horn."

Here is an excerpt:

"The lens constructed by white sports media to view sports was built primarily to serve white audiences, not the black athletes so often the subjects of sports coverage. As such, white sports journalists often supported rather than challenged stereotypes steeped in beliefs of racial superiority. Most infamously, studies of sports broadcasts in the second half of the twentieth century have shown how the success of black athletes was credited to their perceived natural athletic ability, while the success of their white counterparts was tied to diligence and, most important, intelligence. The basketball star Michael Jordan was lauded for his athleticism; the white basketball star Larry Bird was lauded for making brilliant plays.

"That same lens also more often treated black athletes in a pejorative manner than it did white athletes. Black athletes have been presented as more self-centered, arrogant, and mercenary. They are more often described with words and phraseology that infantilized them. For example, a 2009 study of differences in the coverage of black and white athletes who engaged in contract holdouts found that the black athlete was 'emasculated' and that sports writers treated him 'like a moody adolescent incapable of making significant decisions on his own.' The white athlete who held out escaped criticism and instead was said to be a victim of his employer's 'history of inept negotiating.' Black athletes have continued to be portrayed more as deviants, drug abusers, women-beaters, and menaces to society, or, in general, as 'black men misbehaving.'

". . . African American newspapers and sports writers changed the narrative of the African American athlete in particular and sports in the United States in general. They celebrated rather than derided African American athletes, most notably black baseball players who started their own leagues after being barred from playing in the white-operated major leagues. African American sportswriters also engaged heavily in advocacy journalism, in particular by questioning the legitimacy of whites-only sports."

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