Los Angeles Times Reporters Hurt in Baghdad Bombing
Wednesday, December 31, 2003
Three Los Angeles Times correspondents, including black journalist Ann Simmons, were among 24 people wounded when a car bomb tore through a popular restaurant in Baghdad filled with dozens of New Year's Eve revelers. Five people were killed, according to news reports.
"The injured reporters were Chris Kraul, who normally works in The Times' Mexico City Bureau; Tracy Wilkinson, the paper's Rome Bureau chief; and Ann Simmons, formerly The Times' Bureau chief in Nairobi, Kenya. All were hospitalized," reported the Times in a story in which Kraul and Wilkinson shared bylines. "Simmons is British and the two other Times reporters are U.S. citizens," added the Associated Press.
"Tracy Wilkinson has called in to report that she has some cuts. Chris Kraul also sustained cuts but doctors are examining his hands for further damage. Ann Simmons has no cuts and is being evaluated," L.A. Times Managing Editor Dean Baquet said in a memo posted on the Romenesko Web site. [Added Jan. 1:] Wilkinson and Simmons were released from the hospital, the Times later reported.
Simmons was Nairobi bureau chief in the late 1990s and last appeared in the Times in an Aug. 17 story from Washington about Liberia. Bryan Monroe, vice president/print of the National Association of Black Journalists, described her as a longtime NABJ member.
The first paper in Texas to participate in the "Parity Project" between Scripps Co. and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists will drop its "El Gallo" column of outreach to Hispanics after readers at a town hall meeting said they viewed it as tokenism, the editor says.
Tim Archuleta, editor of the Standard-Times in San Angelo, noted in a column that the 2000 census found that Hispanics make up 33 percent of residents and 48 percent of the enrollment in local schools.
"At the town hall meeting, Publisher Jack Pate, our editorial staff and I heard plenty of criticism from readers. We plan to act on that community feedback," he said.
"Several of our readers said they only read about Hispanics when they are arrested or accused of wrongdoing. Others were especially critical of our coverage of former [school] superintendent Dr. Joe E. Gonzales.
"Others said they do not like the Standard-Times' 'El Gallo' column. They said it is not enough. They said Hispanic news should not be limited to a single column. I plan to pull the plug on El Gallo. It was started with the goal of establishing regular contacts in the Hispanic community. It has done that. Our challenge is now to build on that source list."
The paper ran a letter to the editor from reader Eric Sanchez commending the paper: "For some time now, the Standard-Times' Nicole Brambila has taken on the seemingly thankless assignment of addressing these very issues for the Hispanic community in her reporting and in her column, 'El Gallo.' Although it was made clear by some at the forum that 'El Gallo' failed to meet their expectations, it should be noted that Brambila has bravely continued her efforts to embrace the Hispanic community and the issues that surround our culture and heritage.
"We should commend Brambila and the Standard-Times for not giving up their efforts to highlight Hispanic life in our community. There are very few among us who are willing and able to accept such a high-profile position where criticism is so consistently and hastily delivered."
Although Essie Mae Washington-Williams has come forward as Strom Thurmond's daughter, "the Baltimore Afro-American newspapers reported in 1948, the same year South Carolina's then-Gov. James Strom Thurmond was the presidential nominee of the segregationist Dixiecrat Party, that he had several Black relatives, including an uncle and two cousins," Sean Yoes reports in the Baltimore Afro-American.
"The AFRO initially reported in the edition dated Aug. 17, 1948, that a man named Robert Thurmond, from Morristown, N.J., was Strom Thurmond's first cousin," Yoes writes.
Meanwhile, commentators were not done with their observations on the Thurmond family tree:
- Jonetta Rose Barras, Washington Post:
"In many respects . . . Washington-Williams is like millions of women in the world today who dream of an unconditional, requited love from that first man in their lives -- a man who is supposed to protect them, usher their entry into society and serve as their guide to manhood. On far too many occasions, because of death, divorce or physical or emotional abandonment, those dreams go unfulfilled. Walk any street in America and there is a choir of the wounded singing the 'fatherless woman' dirge, as Washington-Williams does."
- Retha Hill, BET.com:
"'It is disturbing that Ms. [Essie Mae] Washington-Williams' mother has dropped out of the story. The emphasis has been on [Strom Thurmond's] lifelong connection to the daughter, as if this is supposed to make him responsible,' says Tricia Rose, chairwoman of the Department of American Studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz and author of 'Longing to Tell: Black Women Talk About Sexuality and Intimacy.'
"'She was 15 at the time and institutionally vulnerable and economically and socially vulnerable, and that was driven by her race and gender,' Rose continues. 'The fact that it is not at the center of the story is a sign of the deep denial and unconscious response that this nation has to this part of the nation's history.'"
- Brent Staples, New York Times:
"A white Thurmond niece spoke for many in the family when she described the revelation as 'a blight' on the family. White Thurmonds who share this sentiment should get over their misplaced shame -- and think about the two lives that were irreparably damaged by 60 years of deception and lies.
"Children born of these relationships were often scorned by both the white and black communities. Those who looked too much like the white master of the house were sometimes cast out by his wife. Black husbands sometimes resorted to the same strategy if their wives had light-skinned babies -- often as a result of being raped on the job.
"Light-skinned children in otherwise brown families were a vivid reminder of black powerlessness in the face of white authority. The cruelty shown to these children was vivid in the early life of another South Carolinian, the actress Eartha Kitt, born a few years after Ms. Washington-Williams. Ms. Kitt's family was forced from the plantation where her mother worked and was later denied shelter by an uncle who refused to have what he called a little yellow girl under his roof."
Ben Johnson Remembered for His Passion
Some 300 to 500 people paid tribute to veteran journalist Ben Johnson Monday at the First Missionary Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. "Ben would have been pleased to know the audience was quite diverse," with community members as well as fellow members of the media present, said Tony Jordan, news director of WEUB radio, where Johnson worked as a talk-show host. Johnson, whose body was found last week, died at age 53 in what has now been officially called a suicide.
Station co-owner Hundley Batts Sr. spoke Monday, as did Johnson's twin sister, Benita, Jordan said. Meanwhile, in print and online, colleagues offered remembrances:
- Wayne Dawkins, BlackJournalist.com:
"Johnson's larger-than-life persona was well known inside the National Association of Black Journalists in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was impossible to be indifferent about him; you either found Johnson endearing or inappropriate. I believe it is reasonable however to say that black journalists on both sides of that divide agreed that Ben Johnson spoke and acted courageously for improving the lives of blacks in the news business."
- John Ehinger, Huntsville Times:
"In Ben Johnson's case, the void he leaves behind -- the handshake, the hug, the smile, the genuine affection -- diminishes not just his newspaper acquaintances but the entire community.
"We ought to remember Ben, as the headline noted the other day, because of his 'passion.' He liked people. He wanted to help people. He believed the world could be made a better place, and he tried to make it one. And who's to say he didn't succeed?"
- Dwight Lewis, Nashville Tennessean:
"Why would Ben, a former Marine Corps journalist who was hosting a talk show, Just Talking, in Huntsville kill himself? Was life that bad, or does this business drive one that far?
"And couldn't he have found someone to lay his burden down to?
"As I think about it, I think he really tried to do just that. Unfortunately, some of us didn't take time to listen."
- David Person, Huntsville Times:
"His anger, like the anger of any good person trying to change the world, was the fire that provided no small measure of heat and light for the rest of us on this cold globe."
"IT was a good 2003 for Janice Min and the folks over at US Weekly," as the New York Post's Page Six gossip column reported Tuesday.
The magazine reached 1 million in single-copy sales with its Dec. 29 "Bachelor Break-ups" cover, a spokeswoman told Journal-isms. She said the publication does not disclose sales of individual issues before the twice-annual reports by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, but said that for the last reporting period, ending June 30, the magazine averaged 506,392 newsstand sales in its 1,150,702 average circulation.
Min, who has been at the publication since March 2002, became editor-in-chief in July after being Bonnie Fuller's executive editor.
"To celebrate, owner Jann Wenner is picking up the tab for the belated US holiday party Jan. 13 at the Canal Room," the Post continued. "Meanwhile, Min stunned her staff by telling them she was pregnant. Janice and her husband, Peter Sheehy [a teacher at Horace Mann], are expecting their first child in June, a spokeswoman confirmed."
"The news that Michael Jackson joined the Nation of Islam (NOI) sent the radio and television talk show hosts into a tizzy. They screamed from their ivory towers, 'How in the world could the King of Pop get himself mixed up with Louis Farrakhan?'" comments Roland S. Martin on his blackamericatoday.com Web site.
"This Jackson-NIO link was first started by The New York Post erroneously reporting Dec. 19 that Jackson had joined the black Muslim sect. . . . Us Weekly got in on the act by reporting the growing influence of the Nation of Islam in the Jackson camp. Their story was the precursor to a Dec. 30 report in the New York Times, which weighed in with a story headlined, "Dispute in Michael Jackson Camp Over Role of the Nation of Islam."
"The Times did report that the NOI issued a statement asserting they have "no official business or professional relationship with Mr. Michael Jackson," but the headline was all that was necessary to raise the racial antenna of critics.
"Why is this an issue? Because it's an effort to use the racially divisive history of an organization for the spin of all those involved in this sordid game."
"The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is expanding into the newspaper business, taking over the Lakota Journal that was founded by Publisher Tim Giago in 2000," reports the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, S.D.
"Tribal President Leonard Eller and Giago announced the sale of Lakota Media Inc. on [Dec. 23]. The company owns the Lakota Journal and the Pueblo Journal, a monthly publication based in Albuquerque, N.M. The purchase price won't be disclosed.
"'When I sold Indian Country Today, there were certain promises made by the Oneida Nation of New York about keeping a strong presence in South Dakota, but this they failed to do,' Giago said. 'I started the Lakota Journal because so many of the Dakota and Lakota people wanted to have their newspaper back. They missed the news coverage we gave them for more than 18 years.'
Giago is founder and first president of the Native American Journalists Association. "Giago said he looks forward to working with tribal leaders and helping them build 'one of the finest printing facilities in the state ... and the biggest and the best Indian newspaper chain in America,'" the newspaper reported.
The Lakota Journal reports a weekly circulation of 10,000.
Tampa's Frank Ruiz Died of Heart Problems
Frank Ruiz, the 18-year Tampa Tribune employee who was found dead Dec. 5, died of hypertensive heart disease, the Hillsborough County, Fla., Medical Examiner's Office told Journal-isms.
Ruiz had a history of heart problems, the office said.
Ruiz, 57, wrote columns and covered business news.
"The state's third-largest newspaper, the Standard-Examiner in Ogden, launched a Christmastime publication called El Estandar and placed 18,000 copies in Latino shops in northern Utah, and some in the Salt Lake City area," writes Rhina Guidos in the Salt Lake Tribune.
"The Standard-Examiner's publisher, Scott Trundle, called the publication 'an experiment' to gauge advertising and readership interest and says that to his knowledge, it's the first time a mainstream newspaper in the state has made such an effort. It doesn't mean that they're getting ready to enter the Spanish-language market yet, but there has been enough advertising interest to look into the market, he said."
Miami Herald Notes Haiti's 200th Anniversary
"Haiti's status as the first black republic created by a slave revolt has remained a source of pride through its 200-year history, even as its people have struggled with bloody juntas, messy politics and epic poverty -- woes that have vexed the country since the beginning," begins a story by Trenton Daniel, part of a special package in the Miami Herald. The story includes a timeline.
- Haitians also face rude reminders of a nation deeply polarized, reports the Herald's Michael A.W. Ottey from Port-au-Prince.
- Some South Florida Haitian Americans have scrapped plans to commemorate the anniversary because of the unrest, the Herald's Trenton Daniel reports.
- "There has been some debate as to the appropriateness of commemorating this occasion given the gravity of the current political crisis in our beloved Haiti," writes Ron Daniels of the Haiti Support Project on The Black World Today Web site.
Chicago Sun-Times television writer Robert Feder names Diann Burns his "person of the year":
"After 18 years at the top-rated ABC-owned station, the former drama student and newspaper reporter from Cleveland relinquished her coveted role as No. 1 news anchor and forfeited a contract renewal that surely would have raised her already record-breaking $2-million-a-year salary.
"Instead, Burns chose to throw in her lot with Joe Ahern, the man who'd once elevated her to 10 o'clock stardom at Channel 7 and had recently returned to Chicago with the seemingly impossible mission of reviving CBS' moribund Channel 2.
"Making the move proved a bit more challenging than Burns and her agent/husband, Marc Watts, might have anticipated."
An interview follows.
"Like many working moms, former Atlanta news anchors Andrea Arceneaux Coleman and Cynthia Tinsley had had enough," writes Alma E. Hill in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"But when the TV newswomen signed off for the last time in 2002, neither Coleman nor Tinsley wanted 'mommy' to be their only title. So each has launched a magazine out of her home, making the orchestration of career and family a bit more harmonious."
Janet Johnson, recently promoted to vice president of long-form program production and scheduling at The Weather Channel, is the subject of a lengthy profile by Woodrow Wilkins Jr. in Mississippi's Delta Democrat-Times.
"'Growing up in the Mississippi Delta in the '60s, two circumstances changed the course of my life. I was blessed that we didn't have a television set until I was 8 or 9 years old. And I was being raised by this loving circle of older African-American women, who'd all outlived their husbands,'" Wilkins writes.
"To keep her busy, Johnson said, the women started her reading -- and reading well -- at the age of 4 or 5."
Among other duties, the piece points out, "Johnson is responsible for overall management of the 'Storm Stories' production team as well as planning and scheduling 'Storm Stories,' 'StormWeek,' 'Forecast Earth' and other productions of 30 minutes or longer."
In the wake of the controversy over Brent Batten's hip-hop parody in Florida's Naples Daily News, for which he has apologized, Miami Herald hip-hop columnist David Ovalle says the real problem might be that people in the news media know only the hip-hop of stereotypes.
"Batten's column may be a blatant example, but the lampooning of hip-hop, and ethnic culture by extension, happens in other media every day. And it's fueled, again, by the narrow version of hip-hop that we are exposed to," he writes.
"As consumers -- and newspaper columnists -- we should dig past obvious ghetto exaggerations.
"I was encouraged that so many people, for whatever reasons, flooded Batten with e-mails. At least, in one small corner of Southern Florida, I hope somebody learned that hip-hop isn't just a bunch of people who, in some people's minds, talk ignorant."
"A journalistic lesson in racism" (Eric Deggans, St. Petersburg Times)
"According to an annual poll done by Harris Interactive, Oprah Winfrey is once again Americans' favorite TV personality. She received the same honor in 1998, 2000 and 2002, and in the 11 years the poll has been taken, has always ranked among the top three, according to an announcement by Harris," TV Week reports.
In fact, Jesse Jackson, appearing Tuesday in the Chicago Sun-Times, wrote a tribute to Winfrey, nominating her for Time magazine's "Person of the Year.'' "Surely, one of the most extraordinary success stories of the century, much less the year, is Oprah Winfrey," he said.
Unfortunately for Jackson, Time already named its choice for 2003 -- the 1.4 million men and women in the U.S. military -- in the issue that went on sale Dec. 22.
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