A Look at 3 Black American Journalists Covering the Israel-Gaza Crisis

Alphonso Van Marsh, one of a few U.S. journalists of color covering the Gaza crisis, interviews Micky Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israel National Police on July 21, 2014, in Sderot, Israel. 
David Hawthorne/CBS

3 U.S. Black Journalists Covering Gaza Crisis

Alphonso Van Marsh of CBS News, one of a handful of battle-tested U.S. journalists of color covering the Gaza crisis, stood outdoors Monday interviewing Micky Rosenfeld, spokesman for the Israel National Police, in Sderot, Israel.


"It is one of the heavier hit areas by Hamas rockets. Sunday evening, Israel's Iron Dome defense system blew a Hamas rocket out of the sky over our heads at the same location," Van Marsh messaged Journal-isms.

"Luckily, there was a concrete shelter nearby to run for cover from falling parts."


A photo of the stand-up interview was taken by CBS producer David Hawthorne, a second black journalist, who with Van Marsh is in his third week covering the conflict.

A third black journalist in Israel is Karl Bostic, a veteran former NBC News producer who has covered the Mideast and other crisis spots. He is with Arise TV.


Last year, Van Marsh was named a London-based correspondent for News Services at CBS News, the network's 24-hour television newsgathering service for CBS stations and broadcasters around the world.

"Previously, Marsh spent a decade reporting for CNN, where his assignments took him around the globe," an announcement said. "As a war correspondent embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan, his work was featured on all of CNN's platforms. Marsh broke the story of Saddam Hussein's historic capture in Iraq, earning him a 2004 National Headliner Award. After that, he was a war zone and general assignment reporter in London. Before that, he was a Correspondent and Bureau Operations Director, reporting from Europe, Africa, the Middle East and the Asian subcontinent. . . ."


Hawthorne says on his LinkedIn profile, "I'm a field producer specialized in breaking news and major event stories. I've produced in Somalia, Haiti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Japan, Mexico, Cuba and more. . . . I am at my best in the worst of times. I thrive in the challenge. When it can't be done and some aren't 'available' I am. I'm not worried about reputation. I have a good one. I'm about survival, success and team."

Bostic has lived in London, covering mostly the Middle East, but also Europe, North Africa and Haiti during its 2010 earthquake.


Bostic also survived a bombing in Baghdad in 2005, as the war in Iraq was raging.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams wrote then, "Our own producer Karl Bostic was in the traffic circle behind the bombing and the two bombings that preceded it. Karl's report for air on our broadcast tonight is gripping. I just spoke with him by phone. He's a warrior, totally dedicated, but having said that — I don't know quite how he got through this. For the record, he's crediting our security people.


"Also for the record, Karl survived three bombings (one of which lifted the armored car he was in off the ground) and a firefight. He should be in the thoughts of every employee of NBC News tonight. As he just put it to me on the phone, "I feel like I lost three lives tonight." We came very close today, it is now clear, to losing some very special people. That we did not means we are, for now, on the side of the angels." 

Sources Cite Ratings Jitters, Not Pro-Israel Bias

"NBC News Foreign Correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin returned to Gaza on Sunday, four days after network management told him to leave the conflict zone amid breaking news coverage," Brian Stelter reported Sunday for CNN.


"His exit from Gaza had caused an uproar among his fans and fellow correspondents, some of whom wondered if Mohyeldin, the network's only Arab-American correspondent in the region, was being censored by the network. Ultimately, the public backlash played a role in the network's decision to reinstate him, according to interviews with NBC News employees.

"Until now, little has been reported about the circumstances of Mohyeldin's exit from Gaza. Among some NBC employees, concerns still linger about whether Mohyeldin was singled out for his empathetic stories about Palestinians in Gaza. But the interviews strongly suggest that this was a situation caused by network news infighting and bureaucracy.


"Said one of the employees, 'Everyone's looking for a conspiracy and missing the real story, which is a news division making mistakes through ratings nervousness.' The employees spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing they'd face disciplinary action if they were named. They spoke independently and had similar accounts of what happened in Gaza, in London (where NBC's international coverage is organized) and New York (where the news division is headquartered). . . ."

Stelter also wrote, "Did this decision demonstrate unfairness on the part of NBC, or more mundane internal politicking? [Richard] Engel is one of NBC's most recognizable correspondents, after all, and 'Nightly News' is locked in a battle with ABC's 'World News' for No. 1 in the Nielsen ratings.


Stelter quoted one employee's analysis of NBC's initial reason for replacing Mohyeldin with Engel, its chief foreign correspondent.

" 'The producers are so paranoid about the ratings, they'll do anything to stick with the faces viewers know and trust — so that would be Richard over Ayman,' said one of the employees. 'Plus, there is no tolerance if a story is fed in and doesn't live up to expectations.' . . . "


The removal of the Egyptian-American journalist a day after he live tweeted an Israeli airstrike in Gaza that killed four children drew criticism from fellow journalists and reinforced perceptions that the Western media follow a pro-Israeli line.

"The site Mondoweiss, a pro-Palestinian news website speculated that Mohyeldin's seemingly pro-Palestinian perspective and his criticism for the US policy towards the conflict on social media is probably the cause of his removal from the region," Muhammad Mansour reported Saturday for Egypt Independent.


Mohyeldin, 35, "was born in Cairo to an Egyptian father, and a Palestinian mother. He grew up in Egypt, and the United States. His extraordinary skills led him to cover three Israeli wars in Gaza since 2009, in addition to extensive experience in other hot spots in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Iraq when he was working for Al-Jazeera English and CNN.

"Mohyeldin's wide range of contacts, extensive experience and fluency in Arabic gave him precedence in shining the light on the civilians who pay the price of the Israeli-Hamas war, such aspect seems underreported in the US mainstream media. . . ."


Kristian Davis Bailey, Ebony: Why Black People Must Stand With Palestine (May 21)

Pew Research Center: As Mideast Violence Continues, a Wide Partisan Gap in Israel-Palestinian Sympathies (July 15)


Brian Stelter with Jim Clancy, "Reliable Sources," CNN: Did NBC punish Gaza reporter for bias? (video)

Foreign Minister Wants Al Jazeera Out of Israel

"Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that Israel will work to prevent Al Jazeera TV from operating in Israel," Jack Moore reported Monday for International Business Times.


" 'Qatar (the Gulf state where Al Jazeera is based) has turned into a global problem. Al Jazeera is a central pillar of the propaganda apparatus of Hamas,' he said.

"The news network employs several Israeli journalists. Freedom of the press is enshrined in Israeli law and, according to Anshel Pfeffer, a writer for the liberal daily Haaretz, only the Supreme Court could ban their reports.


Haaretz' diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid revealed the foreign minister's comments in which he said that, just as Britain would not allow Der Sturmer (a notorious Nazi publication) in London or the United States would not permit al-Qaeda TV, Israel would seek to ban Al Jazeera.

Al Jazeera Arabic had earlier reported that Israel had been using phosphorus bombs in east Gaza, which it had pledged to stop using last year.


The company is also funded by Qatari owners, who Israel believe to be financing Hamas.

Meanwhile, "More than 40 Palestinian civilians were killed overnight, and more than 400 were wounded, in Al-Sheja'ia neighbourhood in the east of Gaza City," the Middle East Monitor reported Sunday. "The figures were released by Dr. Nasser Al-Tatar, the Director of Al-Shifa Hospital.


The report also said, "As dawn broke, paramedics and journalists headed to the killing zone, only to be hit by Israeli fire. Journalist Khalid Hamad and a paramedic were killed.

"' The words disaster, war crime and genocide do not match the real description of what happened last night in Gaza,' said Deputy Health Minister Yousif Abul-Rish. . . ."


A photo of Hamad's body, camera resting on his waist and "Press" written in large letters across his chest, was posted on social media.

Jordan Chariton, TVNewser: MSNBC Contributor Slams Media, Andrea Mitchell, for ‘Disgustingly Biased’ Coverage


Jordan Chariton, TVNewser: Al Jazeera Reporter Overcome With Emotion Unable to Finish Gaza Live Shot

International Federation of Journalists: IFJ Strongly Condemns Killing of Palestinian Journalist Khaled Hamad


Correspondents Head for Central America in Border Crisis

"Rosa Flores marked her one-year anniversary at CNN this week with a series of reports from Honduras on immigration, a fitting tribute to her career as a journalist[,]" Merrill Knox reported Monday for TVNewser. "The former CPA decided to pursue reporting after hearing 'heartbreaking stories of people living in extreme poverty' while delivering food and clothing to indigent people on the U.S.-Mexico border. 


" 'I felt a responsibility to tell their stories. It just happens to be that some of those stories were from Central Americans who had walked through Mexico, hoping to make it to the U.S.,' Flores tells TVNewser. 'Covering stories in Honduras for CNN brings my career as a journalist full circle, back to the stories that encouraged me to shed light where there was none.' . . .”

Meanwhile, Fusion announced that Jorge Ramos will anchor 'AMERICA with Jorge Ramos' from the U.S.-Mexican border on Tuesday at 10 p.m. Eastern. "The broadcast will also feature reports from Fusion White House Correspondent Jim Avila, Fusion Correspondent and Univision News anchor Enrique Acevedo, and Univision News’ Pedro Ultreras.


" 'Fusion Live' co-host Mariana Atencio will examine the crisis by the numbers with an ABC News/Washington Post poll outlining how Americans feel about the way President Obama and leaders in Congress have handled the crisis. . . . "

Univision previously announced that anchor María Elena Salinas would travel to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala for a special report that aired Sunday night


Fund Created for Victims of Scam by Immigration Columnist

"Hundreds of undocumented Latino immigrants who were scammed by a former Spanish-language newspaper columnist and television celebrity with false promises of legal immigration status will finally get some justice," Juan Gonzalez reported Monday for the Daily News in New York.


"State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will announce Monday that his office has established a $2.2 million restitution fund for victims of the International Immigrants Foundation Inc. and the International Professional Association Inc. as part of a settlement reached last year with the now-defunct nonprofit groups.

"Before authorities shut them down in 2010, both groups were headed by Eduardo (aka Edward) Juarez, who for years dispensed immigration advice in a column for El Diario-La Prensa and on Spanish-language radio and television. . . ."


Hector Luis Alamo Jr., Latino Rebels: Child Refugees: The Consequences of the 2009 Coup in Honduras

Fusion: Explainer: Child Migrant Crisis (video)

Juan Gonzalez, Daily News, New York: Border Patrol's arrest of Jose Antonio Vargas pushes immigration debate to whole new level (July 15)


Amy Lieberman, Slate: Arizona's Checkpoint Rebellion

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Martin O’Malley attacked for showing heart


O. Ricardo Pimentel, San Antonio Express-News: Losing our country, way of life because of immigration? It's mostly a nativist fear

"39 Pieces of Advice for Journalists And Writers Of Color"

"For people of color, the writing industry can seem an especially challenging space, particularly for those just starting out," Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton wrote Monday for BuzzFeed. "We spoke with 20 established writers of color — cultural writers, investigative reporters, broadcast journalists, and freelancers — and asked them three questions about the advice that they’d give beginning writers:

"What piece of advice would you, as a writer of color, give to burgeoning writers/journalists of color?


"What do you know now about being a writer of color that you wish you'd known when you first started?

"Is there anything you did as a writer starting out that you now regret?"

Participating were Cord Jefferson, Durga Chew-Bose, Jenna Wortham, Danielle Henderson, Mychal Denzel Smith, Joshunda Sanders, Rembert Browne, Lauren Williams, Bim Adewunmi, Corey Johnson, S. Mitra Kalita, Errin Haines Whack, Wesley J. Lowery, Akoto Ofori-Atta, Anna Holmes, Hugo Balta and writers who contributed anonymously.


White House Criticism of Anonymous Sources Backfires

In a briefing Monday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest criticized a Washington Post story for what he called a reliance on anonymous sources, but his accusation backfired when reporters called out the White House for its own penchant for off-the-record briefings and statements that can be attributed only to "senior administration officials."


Andrew Beaujon reported for the Poynter Institute, "AP reporter Julie Pace asked: 'So, Josh, would you guys commit then, when you have situations like today’s call, which is people specifically picked by the White House to roll out a policy of the White House, would you commit to have those people speak on the record?'

" 'Well,' Earnest replied, 'I — what I will commit to is a case by case evaluation of — of the background or the ground rules of each of these kinds of calls and a commitment to an open dialogue with you about the ground rules that will serve your interests and the White House interests the best.' "


New York Times reporter Peter Baker tweeted, "@PressSec condemns anonymous sources. Just arriving in email: White House invitation to reporters for call with anonymous admin officials."

Two weeks ago, the Society of Professional Journalists and 37 other media organizations sent an open letter to President Obama calling on him to stop stifling the media and provide greater transparency.


Andrew Kaczynski, BuzzFeed: White House Criticizes Anonymous Sources, Reporters Note The White House Has An Anonymous Source Call Today

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Washington Post responds to blast from White House

Columnist Apologizes for Quoting "Chink in the Armor"

Oakland Tribune columnist Tammerlin Drummond apologized Monday for quoting a political science professor using the phrase "chink in the armor" in discussing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. "I apologize for anyone feeling that it was somehow racially or ethnically insulting," Drummond told Journal-isms by telephone. "In retrospect, I would probably have done it differently."


Randall Yip, a member of the Asian American Journalists Association, wrote on his AsAmNews site Sunday, "The offensive phrase chink in the armor has once again surfaced in a news piece about a Chinese American.

"This time it occurred in a column written for the Bay Area News Group about Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and the credibility issues raised by a recent accident involving the mayor. The column included the following quote from political science professor David McCuan of Sonoma State University in California:

" 'So a fender-bender now becomes another chink in the armor of someone who has not moved forward smoothly.' "


"One only has to go back to February 2012 to an online column written about Jeremy Lin to know that the phrase chink in the armor is highly offensive to Asian Americans in general and Chinese Americans specifically. . . ."

Yip quoted McCuan. " 'I meant no offense to the Mayor personally or to race relations or identity at all,' said McCuan. 'And, of course, it goes without saying that I can see how it would be offensive.


" 'My meaning was merely about competence at City Hall & running as the Establishment this time out.' "

Drummond, who is African American, said she discussed the issue with editors after receiving Yip's complaint and said she was not aware that the oft-used phrase was offensive.


Webster's New World College Dictionary, a standard in many newsrooms and the authority underlying the widely used Associated Press stylebook, defines "chink" as "a narrow opening; crack; fissure; slit."

As an adjective, however, it is also defined as "slang. Chinese: a contemptuous or patronizing term no longer much used."


Yip wrote, "Intentional or not, its use was inappropriate by all involved."

Black Journalist Preceded Russia Today Anchor in Resigning

"Another Russia Today anchor resigned Friday amid reports that a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down over the Ukraine," Tracie Powell reported Friday for alldigitocracy.org. "Sara Firth tweeted this morning that she had left the US-based, Kremlin-owned television network.


"Firth resigned, she said, because she felt the news channel was 'disrespectfully' blaming the Ukraine for Thursday's disaster that killed 298 people aboard the Malaysian airliner. 'I couldn't do it any more, we're lying every single day. Every single day we're lying and finding sexier ways to do it,' Firth told [BuzzFeed]. She is the second news anchor to publicly quit Russia Today in recent months. Liz Wahl resigned on air in March, saying at the time that she could not 'be part of a network funded by the Russian government which whitewashes the actions of (Russian President) Putin.' But Wahl and Firth are not the first journalists who felt forced to leave the company due to questionable news coverage.

"Jamila Bey, a former host for Russia Today's sister radio station, Voice of Russia, was among a handful of journalists who left the station in November after complaining about plagiarism, bias and other ethical concerns in terms of the editorial product. Bey, who has also appeared on Russia Today and contributed to All Digitocracy, says the two companies, until this week, had been indistinguishable on paper.


"Voice of Russia was abruptly shut down on Monday amid allegations of tax dodging and employee discrimination, according to a report in The Washington Free Beacon. Bey is one of the employees who filed a discrimination complaint against the company with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission earlier this year. . . ."

Short Takes

"The United States considers itself a nation of immigrants, and this map shows just how true that really is," Max Fisher wrote for BuzzFeed on July 7. "It displays the most common ancestry in every county in the U.S., according to the 2000 census. The things you'll notice right away are how dominant German ancestry is across the Midwest — look at all that light blue! — and the predominance of Mexican ancestry in the southwest and African American ancestry in the southeast. . . ." Another map shows "in every state, the most common country of origin for people who were granted legal permanent resident status (green cards) in 2012."


"Ageism, sexism and racism have been at the center of the controversy over Fox Sports' decision to place Erin Andrews in Pam Oliver's No. 1 sideline reporting spot covering the NFL," fierceforblackwomen.com reported on Monday. The site posted "a timeline on Oliver and other black women who have covered sports on air or behind the scenes from the 1940s to the present. . . ."

Frank A. Blethen, publisher and chief executive officer of the Seattle Times since 1985, is the winner of  the Asian American Journalists Association's 2014 Leadership in Diversity Award, AAJA announced on Wednesday. "Frank supports cultural diversity, equal opportunity and the community service. He is a strong advocate for family-owned businesses and independent journalism," the association said.


In "A Troublesome Inheritance," a new book by Nicholas Wade, a longtime science writer for the New York Times, Wade "says modern genetics shows that 'the three major races,' Africans, Caucasians and East Asians, are genetically distinct races that diverge much as subspecies do, and that their genetic differences underlie 'the rise of the West,' " David Dobbs wrote July 10 for the New York Times Book Review. Dobbs also wrote, "These values and institutions, Wade says, were both shaped by and drove the evolution of Caucasian genes. . . ." Steve Rendall of Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting put Wade on his list of "highly placed racists." In the Wall Street Journal, Wade countered that "understanding of genetic differences between human groups does not lead to racism."

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives "overwhelmingly targeted racial and ethnic minorities as it expanded its use of controversial drug sting operations, a USA TODAY investigation shows," Brad Heath reported Sunday for USA Today. Heath also wrote, "At least 91% of the people agents have locked up using those stings were racial or ethnic minorities, USA TODAY found after reviewing court files and prison records from across the United States. Nearly all were either black or Hispanic. That rate is far higher than among people arrested for big-city violent crimes, or for other federal robbery, drug and gun offenses. . . ."


"Michigan State recently announced that ESPN commentator and former Detroit Free Press sports writer Jemele Hill will be the grand [marshal] for the homecoming parade, Sept. 26 in East Lansing," Kirkland Crawford reported Monday for the Free Press.

"A judge has ordered South Carolina's attorney general to turn over documents to a freelance journalist investigating the court fight over the estate of soul singer James Brown," Jeffrey Collins reported Sunday for the Associated Press. "Sue Summer wants to see the records, which include the diary of the woman who said she was Brown's wife when he died in 2006, an appraisal of Brown's assets, and documents about how much trustees and attorneys are being paid from Brown's estate. She requested them under the state's Freedom of Information Act. . . ."


"The granddaughter of George Preston Marshall, the man who founded the football franchise that now calls Washington home, has joined the list of people who think that it is time for the team to find a new name," Travis Waldron wrote Friday for thinkprogress.org. " 'They need to change the name,' Jordan Wright, who said she was Marshall's granddaughter, told Leesburg Today columnist Leonard Shapiro recently . . . . 'In this day and age, it's just not right.' . . ."

As authorities weighed Comcast's bid to buy NBCUniversal in 2010, NBC promised that "from interviews with political newsmakers to our roundtable discussions, 'Meet the Press' is committed to having a more diverse group of voices on the show whose opinions and expertise reflect, not just the news of the day, but the cultural, economical and political landscape of our country." For the last two weeks, "Meet the Press" has introduced black journalists to its discussion. Last week, it was Stephen Henderson, editorial page editor of the Detroit Free Press, and on Sunday, Jason L. Riley, editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal. Riley repeated familiar conservative criticisms of President Obama and consistently referred to the president as "Obama" without an honorific.


Eugene Kane, columnist for the Milwaukee Journal and the Milwaukee Journal/Sentinel, has been selected for the Wisconsin Media Hall of Fame 2014, the Milwaukee Press Club announced Monday.

"As part of the ramp up to this week's special, 'CBS News: 50 Years Later, Civil Rights,' the network has posted the 1964 broadcast 'The Search in Mississippi' on CBSNews.com," Chris Ariens reported for TVNewser. "Anchored by Walter Cronkite, the report followed the disappearance of three civil rights workers. Thursday's live interactive event will be broadcast on CBS's Smithsonian Channel and on CBSNews.com Thursday at 8pmET. . . ."


"U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force and the only Latino Democrat in the United States Senate, today announced the commencement of a third survey to continue to measure the progress leading companies have made on the issue of corporate diversity," Menendez announced on Wednesday. "This year's survey focuses exclusively on Fortune 100 companies to gain deeper insight of female and minority representation at the nation's top performing companies, as well as their use of minority-owned and women-owned businesses in the contracting and procurement process. . . ."

"The body of a television reporter was found in Honduras on Monday a day after he went missing," the Associated Press reported on Monday. "He had been shot twice. National Police chief Ramon Sabillon said the body of TV reporter Herlyn Espinal was left half naked on the side of a highway. . . . Police reported one suspect had been detained.. . ."


In Sudan, "A group of masked gunmen on Saturday had stormed the headquarters of Al-Tayyar daily newspaper in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum and assaulted its editor-in-chief, Osman Mirghani," the Sudan Tribune reported. "Mirghani was subsequently transferred to the hospital. Eyewitnesses told Sudan Tribune the gunmen blamed Mirghani for his 'disgraceful position' towards Israel. They also confiscated all cellular phones and laptops of the newspaper's staff and attacked several journalists before leaving. . . ."

In Thailand, "Critics and journalists raised concerns Saturday about the Thai military government's latest move to tighten its grip on the media by banning them from criticizing the junta's operations and threatening to immediately suspend the broadcast or publication of content that defies the order," Thanyarat Doksone reported Saturday for the Associated Press.


"Nigeria's press is traditionally free to write almost anything about anyone — whether it's true or not," David Dolan and Tim Cocks wrote Sunday for Reuters. "But reporters fear a government sensitive to criticism is now cracking down, especially on coverage of the battle against Boko Haram. After 15 years of democracy, journalists believe the state is trying to tame the vibrant, prolific media during its faltering campaign to stamp out the militant Islamist group. . . ."

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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.

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