Now Media Can Disclose the Other "Trent Lotts"
Friday, December 20, 2002
Now Media Can Disclose the Other "Trent Lotts"
The Trent Lott affair is giving the news media a welcomed chance to disclose the heretofore undereported racial politics and policies of our politicians, and some have risen to the occasion.
For example, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote about Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.:
"Back in 1994, while campaigning for a second term, Mr. Burns dropped by a local newspaper, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle, and told an editor an anecdote about one of his constituents, a rancher who wanted to know what life was like in Washington, D.C.
"The senator said the rancher asked him, 'Conrad, how can you live back there with all those niggers?'
"Senator Burns said he told the rancher it was 'a hell of a challenge.'
"The anecdote was published and Senator Burns apologized. When he was asked why he hadn't expressed to the rancher any disapproval of the use of the word nigger, Senator Burns said, 'I don't know. I never give it much thought.'"
The Charlotte Observer reported today that Rep. Cass Ballenger, R-N.C., said some of his constituents might empathize with Lott's remarks, and acknowledged that one black colleague so provoked him that "I must I admit I had segregationist feelings."
Syndicated columnist E.J. Dionne Jr. in the Washington Post wrote that
"For all their attacks on Lott, most contemporary Republicans are just as committed as Lott is to states' rights doctrines.... While most Republicans now support the old civil rights measures, they continue to cast themselves as the party of states' rights, and proudly so. "
Dionne concluded that "Lott's Republican critics who share his states' rights views on many contemporary matters need to explain why states' rights doctrines that were so wrong as a general proposition in 1948 are right today."
In a case crying out for correction, the controversy had syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, also in the Washington Post, and one of the first to criticize Lott's remarks, explaining why conservatives were angered by Lott's comments. Explaining that he categorizes three strains of contemporary conservatives, Krauthammer wrote that "neoconservatives oppose affirmative action on grounds of colorblindness and in defense of the original vision of the civil rights movement: judging people by the content of their character and not the color of their skin."
Perhaps the news media will counter this revisionism as well. The civil rights movement's rallying cry was integration, not colorblindness.
On a Web site devoted to debunking the revision of Martin Luther King's beliefs, In Motion Magazine has posted the following exchange.
Reporter: "Do you feel it's fair to request a multi-billion dollar program of preferential treatment for the Negro, or any other minority?"
Dr. King: "I do indeed. . . . Within common law, we have ample precedents for special compensatory programs. . . . America adopted a policy of special treatment for her millions of veterans . . . They could negotiate loans from banks to launch businesses. They could receive special points to place them ahead in competition for civil service jobs . . . There was no appreciable resentment of the preferential treatment being given to the special group." -- (Interview, 1965)
In the CounterPunch story referenced in the next item, writer Tom Gorman notes some Democrats' records, writing: "Carl Levin, Democrat from Michigan, said on Sept. 24, 'I am pleased to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Senator Strom Thurmond and honoring him for his unparalleled record of public service to this Nation.' At the same event where Lott made his offensive remarks, Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, praised Thurmond as 'an institution within an institution,' a 'man of iron with a heart of gold.'"
Many of the stories about Trent Lott used this 1948 quote from Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C.: "All the laws of Washington and all the bayonets of the Army cannot force the Negro into our homes, our schools, our churches."
But Tom Gorman, writing on the CounterPunch Web site, says these accounts of this speech have been sanitized, replacing the word "nigger" with "Negro." According to Gorman, audio recordings of the speech have Thurmond saying the former.
Journal-isms hasn't heard the tape, but concedes that in those days, the closest many Southern politicians could come to pronouncing "Negro" was "nigra."
Black Entertainment Television executives have gotten heat from leading members of Congress over the recent cancellation of two long-running news programs on the network, while the Congressional Black Caucus is also believed to have filed a complaint, sources have told Newsday.
Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., is believed to have contacted BET founder Robert Johnson over the cancellations of "BET Tonight with Ed Gordon" and the Sunday public affairs show "Lead Story," which will end their long runs early next year, Newsday said.
Johnson: Why Doesn't Black America Take Up a Collection?
BET founder Bob Johnson turned up on Kojo Nnamdi's show on Washington public station WAMU-FM Thursday and confirmed that it was his decision to cancel the shows because "they were losing money."
"As a businessman, when I look at businesses and programs that are not making money, I have to make a decision about the enterprise and the interests of the shareholders that have a stake in the enterprise, because if I didn't make that decision, I have to ask how much money you want me to lose . . . I'm not in business to lose money." He went on, "I would ask the question -- why me? Why doesn't black America take up a collection" if they want to save the shows? "They didn't turn it on. They didn't watch it. I'm not in the business of losing money just to say I put on news just for the few people who watch."
It's a measure of how far the news media have come since the days when news programming was not expected to be profitable, and when the Federal Communications Commission enforced the concept that when broadcasters use the public airwaves and cable companies use the public streets to string their cables, they have an obligation to act in the public interest. The words "public interest," ironically the name of Nnamdi's show before Sept. 30, when National Public Radio dropped it from national distribution, never crossed Johnson's lips.
Increasing media concentration and a new Federal Communications Commission policy on the Internet will likely make any hope of greater ownership diversity well nigh impossible, argues Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, on alternet.org
"Hope that there will be greater diversity and creative freedom to establish cable channels is also now threatened, due to industry mega-mergers like the recent AT&T and Comcast marriage," Chester writes. "Comcast and AOL Time Warner, for example, intend to exploit their cable monopoly clout and establish new national and local channels focused on minority audiences. These channels will be firmly under their control, reducing the possibility of independent, alternative fare.
"For example, according to trade reports, Comcast will soon unveil 'services targeting the Hispanic and African-American communities . . . 'According to Multichannel News, Comcast has insisted on 'operational control' of these channels, including one backed by rap music notable Russell Simmons and another by actor-producer Tim Reid. Comcast is also said to be in discussions with GE/NBC about co-investing in a number of new Spanish-channels. NBC swallowed up Telemundo this year, the second largest Spanish-language cable service."
To test whether employers discriminate against black job applicants, Marianne Bertrand of the University of Chicago and Sendhil Mullainathan of Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted an unusual experiment, reports the New York Times. They selected 1,300 help-wanted ads from newspapers in Boston and Chicago and submitted multiple résumés from phantom job seekers.
The researchers randomly assigned the first names on the résumés, choosing from one set that is particularly common among blacks and from another that is common among whites.
So Kristen and Tamika, and Brad and Tyrone, applied for jobs from the same pool of want ads and had equivalent résumés. Apart from their names, applicants had the same experience, education and skills, so employers had no reason to distinguish among them.
The results are disturbing, the Times said. Applicants with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to be called for interviews than were those with black-sounding names. Interviews were requested for 10.1 percent of applicants with white-sounding names and only 6.7 percent of those with black-sounding names.
"This is to inquire about how many Latino and Asian-American candidates are in the pipeline for Denver Post jobs," begins a letter to Denver Post Editor Greg Moore from Louis Aguilar, a business reporter for the Post, reports the Denver weekly Westword.
"If we can help find more top contenders, we'd be happy to do so. As you know, Latinos make up a third of Denver's population and 17 percent of the state. Further, Latinos have a deep and rich history in Colorado. The Asian population grew 67 percent in Colorado between 1990 and 2000, which surpasses their 48 percent growth nationally. I think we all agree the newsroom staff needs to reflect that reality in order to best serve our readers. . . . But the Post has recently declined in the number of Asian-Americans and Latinos in the newsroom, and that is not good."
That anything was said to Moore at all is a modest surprise, Westword says. "By any measure, he's one of the most powerful African American editors in the country and is known nationally for his dedication to luring a wide range of individuals into the print-journalism profession."
According to figures he provided, Moore has brought 14 people aboard since joining the Post in June. Five of these hires are African-Americans, and six are women. But none of the new Posters are Latino or Asian-American.
This wouldn't have been the case had Moore gotten his way. "Before we could offer a job to another Latina, she was given the assignment at her paper that she had been seeking for months. She got that assignment the day after returning from her visit with us," Moore pointed out. "We also offered an assistant managing editor position to an Asian, and a week later, she was promoted to the same job at her paper."
A coalition of 16 journalism groups has urged the Bush administration to abide by guidelines the Pentagon and media groups established after the 1991 Persian Gulf War if an invasion of Iraq occurs.
The journalism groups urged the government to ban military censorship of news reports.
Among those signing the statement were the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association and the Native American Journalists Association. Condace Pressley, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said later that she supported the statement.
Jerelyn Eddings Returns to D.C. From Africa
Jerelyn Eddings has joined Howard University's WHUT-TV as coordinator of the Howard University Television Africa Initiative, starting Jan. 1, the station announces.
She succeeds Noluthando Crockett-Ntonga, the former Phyllis Crockett, who has returned to her home in Cameroon after serving as inaugural Africa coordinator last summer.
Eddings covered Africa for the Baltimore Sun and U.S. News & World Report starting in 1990. From 1997 to 2001, she was Africa director of the Freedom Forum, coordinating media training and programs on press freedom from Cairo to Cape Town.
Last year, she co-founded and directed the Foundation for African Media Excellence, based in Johannesburg, after the Freedom Forum media foundation announced it could no longer afford its international division, including its Africa office in Johannesburg.
"I will remain a director of FAME and of course I will always be co-founder, but we are in the process of finding a program manager who will continue the work in Johannesburg and elsewhere in Africa," Eddings told Journal-isms. "I still hold the title of executive director, but at our next directors' meeting, I will formally give up that title and we will install the new program manager."
For WHUT, Eddings is to coordinate acquisitions of movies and television programs from African producers and distributors. She will also supervise production of Africa-related programming for WHUT.
"FAME will be a resource for HUT in South Africa, and we're hoping to organize projects which would allow the station and the foundation collaborate to produce excellent Africa-focused television programming," Eddings said.
Bryant Gumbel should have told his HBO viewers of his membership at men-only Burning Tree Club in Bethesda, Md., writes Chicago Tribune sports columnist Ed Sherman.
The current installment of "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" features his interview with Martha Burk, the head of the National Council of Women's Organizations and Augusta National's recurring nightmare. The show had its HBO debut Tuesday, with numerous replays set throughout the weekend and next week.
Burk said Gumbel informed her of his Burning Tree membership during a break in filming their piece.
"I told him it is the wrong kind of statement not only to the public, but also to your own daughter," Burk said Thursday of their off-camera discussion. "It makes the wrong kind of public statement for a person in his position."
Gumbel's membership, however, wasn't brought up when the cameras began rolling again.
Gumbel discusses his golf club memberships in Travel and Leisure magazine
On Dec. 28, Gail Shister will commemorate 20 years as the premier television columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, reports the Philadelphia City Paper. She has also been active in the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association.
"What I do is I don't pretend to be somebody I'm not. When I came to the Inky in 1979, I was the first 'out' reporter EVER here, ever. I didn't advertise that I was gay, but it was perfectly obvious -- you'd have to be brain-dead and without a pulse to think that I'm heterosexual. My philosophy is I don't hide who I am and, hopefully, by doing that, that's going to open people's minds to be more accepting," Shister says.
She also says she believes that gays are on the same track as blacks in being taken seriously in dramatic roles.
A Chilean court has sentenced television commentator Eduardo Yáñez to 18 months in prison, the Committee to Protect Journalists reports.
On Wednesday, the Chilean Court of Appeals convicted Yáñez, a panelist on Chilevisión's debate show "El Termómetro," of "disrespect." In addition to jail time, the court ordered the journalist, who is also a businessman and an environmental activist, to pay a $425 fine.
The sentence stemmed from a November 2001 episode of "El Termómetro" in which Yáñez described the Chilean judiciary as "immoral, cowardly, and corrupt" for not providing compensation to a woman who had been imprisoned for a crime she did not commit. Yáñez told CPJ that the decision set a bad precedent for freedom of expression in Chile. He said he plans to fight the decision "on constitutional grounds." He has six days to appeal before being sent to prison. "We condemn this prosecution and urge the government to reform the 'disrespect' provisions," said Ann Cooper, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Subjecting journalists to criminal prosecution stifles public debate and inhibits the full development of Chilean democracy."
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 BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.
To be notified of new columns, contact firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us who you are.
- Books to Ring In the New Year
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2012
- In-Your-Face Holiday Reads
- Fishbowl Interview With the Fresh Prince of D.C. (Oct. 26, 2012)
- NABJ to Honor Columnist Richard Prince With Ida B. Wells Award (Oct. 11, 2012)
- So What Do You Do, Richard Prince, Columnist for the Maynard Institute? (Richard Horgan, FishbowlLA Aug. 22, 2012)
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2011
- Who Am I? What's Race Got to Do With It?: Journalists Explore Identity
- Catching Up With Books for the Fall
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2010
- Richard Prince Helps Journalists Set High Bar (Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com, 2011)
- 10 Ways to Turn Pages This Summer
- 7 for Serious Spring Reading
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2009
- Diversity's Greatest Hits, 2008
- 7 Candidates for the Journalist's Library
- 9 That Add Heft to the Bookshelf
- Five Minutes With Richard Prince (Newspaper Association of America, 2005)
- 'Journal-isms' That Engage and Inform Diverse Audiences (Q&A with Mallary Jean Tenore, Poynter Institute, 2008)
Sign up for our Newsletter and get job tips
and the latest on diversity in the media
and the latest on diversity in the media
Find us on Facebook
Richard Prince Journal-isms Archive
Dori Maynard tweets on Diversity, Media & More
@brokeymcpoverty You can probably end that sentence at Maury.
Black man is hero. News media, nation seem mystified. It flies in the face of usual distorted media depiction #Ramsey http://t.co/RerQL9WEGG
@SherriEShepherd Childless by choice & always happy 2 help those w/kids before going to my quiet house Thx for keeping the human race going!