Residents protest in reaction to a mistrial declared in the trial of Police Officer William Porter in Baltimore on Dec. 16, 2015.
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With Mistrial, Opportunity to Repeat Prior Mistakes

A mistrial declared Wednesday in the trial of Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter provided an opportunity for the news media to recycle images of the unrest that followed the April 12 death of Freddie Gray in police custody.  But how true a representation will those images be? 

More trials will follow, as Porter is only the first of six city police officers to stand trial.

On "NBC Nightly News," reporter Ron Mott recalled "more than a week of fiery riots" as he spoke in front of matching background images.

The Baltimore Sun, however, has a more limited use of the term "riots," according to John E. McIntyre, night content production manager. He wrote Journal-isms in June, "We have attempted to restrict use of 'riots' and 'rioting' to the events of Monday, April 27, the day the Freddie Gray protests abruptly turned to arson, looting, and attacks on police officers.

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"We have used the terms 'unrest' and 'disturbances' as umbrella terms for both the day of the riots and the less violent actions on the days preceding and following it: the minor vandalism, confrontations with police, demonstrations that disrupted traffic, and the like.

"So 'unrest' and 'disturbances' have been commonly used as labels. . . ."

Coverage of the Baltimore situation was among those revisited at the summer journalism conventions.

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At September's Excellence in Journalism conference in Orlando, which included the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television Digital News Association and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery discussed major mistakes made by out-of-town reporters.

One was failing to provide context by reporting how wide an area is affected by unrest, a shortcoming compounded when the same images of burning buildings are shown repeatedly on outlets with plenty of time to fill. Viewers receive the impression that the entire city is burning. "Sometimes we don't know what we don't know," Lowery said.

At a Journalists Roundtable session in Washington in May, an all-news radio reporter who filed stories from Baltimore noted the obnoxious behavior of some journalists whom he did not name. One network anchor wanted to hold some young people at the scene after his live shot so the youths would still be there when he went on the air at 10 p.m.

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The anchor's producers said "You can't do that," but the anchor replied, "We need the shot." The assembled journalists agreed with Carla Wills, executive producer of news and public affairs at WEAA-FM in Baltimore, when she said of such stories, "it's not news anymore, it's manufactured."

Wills, now with Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!," said WEAA had a different experience than the outside reporters because WEAA is part of the community.

The kids who were looting were like kids whose parents tell them not to touch the stove — they have to touch it just to see why the parents said not to, she said. WEAA, based at Morgan State University, did not call it a "riot," but "unrest." Ron Nixon, who went to the city from the New York Times Washington bureau, said he called it "pockets of rioting." He also described "pockets of opportunism" when people looted — such behavior had nothing to do with Freddie Gray.

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Editorial: Despite Mistrial, "Damaging" Testimony Emerged

Judge Barry G. Williams of Baltimore City Circuit Court declared a mistrial in Baltimore Wednesday after jurors told him they could not reach a verdict on any of the four charges against Baltimore Police Officer William G. Porter.

The Baltimore Sun editorialized that mistrial or not, the public learned valuable information.

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Whether inaction by Porter "during the arrest of Freddie Gray amounted to a crime is a difficult question, and we were not surprised to see the jury in his trial struggle with it ," the editorial said. 

It also said, "What the trial revealed with great clarity, though, were the failings of the Baltimore City Police Department. We're not sure whose depiction of it was worse: the prosecution's account of police who express a callous indifference to the lives of those they arrest and then lie to cover for each other, or the defense's picture of a department so rife with incompetence that their client's failures were entirely unexceptional.

"Prosecutors didn't just accuse Mr. Porter of lying or engaging in a cover-up. They suggested that the department has a 'stop snitching' code for its officers just as repulsive as the one on the streets. And the defense attorneys didn't just portray Mr. Porter as an inexperienced cop who was following the lead of experienced officers. They drew a picture of a department where training is cursory and where standards of conduct are routinely ignored — if officers even bother to read them in the first place.

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"But what the lawyers said was nowhere near as damaging as the testimony of the police officers themselves. Baltimore police called as character witnesses for Mr. Porter's defense said that they almost never followed general orders requiring the use of seat belts in police vans, notwithstanding the department's multi-year crusade to improve compliance or the memo strengthening the requirement that was issued shortly before Gray's arrest.

"Mr. Porter testified that he didn't seat belt Gray because he was afraid that doing so would expose his gun — despite the fact that Gray's hands were cuffed behind his back, his feet were shackled and he was not by the defendant's own account causing any disturbance. What's worse, an 18-year veteran of the Baltimore department who is now the police chief in Charlottesville, Va., backed that up as entirely reasonable. . . ."

Baltimore Sun: Officer William Porter trial: Freddie Gray case live coverage

Luke Broadwater, Baltimore Sun: Baltimore mayor criticizes media, says city is 'prepared,' not 'on edge'

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Critics Say GOP Debaters Putting Fear on Ballot

"Tuesday's debate was kind of like looking at a traffic accident," Mark Trahant wrote Wednesday for indianz.com. "You drive by not wanting to peek, but then you do, and it's awful, so you think, 'why did I do that?'

"About the closest thing to reality was when Jeb Bush pointed out that Trump is a chaos candidate who would be a chaos president. True. But that idea fits Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, and perhaps others on the stage. And worse, the idea of willful chaos also fits the majority of Republican voters right now. It's these voter groups that are demanding destruction in Washington.

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"Meanwhile in Washington folks are actually trying to govern. The new Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, announced a compromise with Democrats early Wednesday morning on a spending bill to fund the government next year. The current funding bill expires today. A vote could come on Friday. . . ." The new bill includes funding for Indian programs.

For the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Emil Guillermo wrote, "If the fifth Republican debate made you feel fearful and anxiety ridden, here's something to celebrate instead.

"On Dec. 17, 1943, 72 years ago this week, President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Magnuson Act, which repealed the Chinese Exclusion Laws. They were those nasty laws that came out of hateful rhetoric from the U.S. Senate, where the Chinese were called a 'degraded and inferior race' that posed a threat to this country. Add a few epithets and comparisons to vermin and you get the picture. The result was a ban on immigration that lasted more than 60 years.

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"Heard something similar lately?

"In a twist, the law was repealed by the same man who unfortunately would forget his history lesson and later incarcerate 120,000 Japanese Americans.

"But the U.S. would ultimately apologize for that too.

"It's what I call the U.S. political Fear Cycle. Asian Americans have been through it. And Muslims are in it now. . . ."

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Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!," where hosts Amy Goodman and Juan González welcomed Bob Herbert, former New York Times columnist, also picked up on the "fear" theme. From a transcript:

"JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Bob, I wanted to ask you about the role of the media — specifically, in this case, CNN — in framing the discussion, because I was stunned —

"BOB HERBERT: So was I.

"JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — that over an hour was spent just discussing ISIS and what — it was almost as if CNN had decided that fear and the fight against terrorism was now the main discussion that had to occur, because, for instance, in discussing foreign policy, there was no mention of Israel and Palestine —

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"BOB HERBERT: No.

"JUAN GONZÁLEZ: — no discussion of Latin America —

"BOB HERBERT: No.

"JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —or President Obama's decision to normalize relations with Cuba. There was even scant discussion of the situation with Russia and the Ukraine. It was all focused on the Middle East and on ISIS, it seemed.

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"BOB HERBERT: It was all about ISIS and terror and fear, and the subtext — I don't even think it' a subtext; I mean, it's right out there — and fear of Muslims. . . ."

Fear is making strides in American public opinion after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., the Pew Research Center reported Tuesday.

Under the headline, "Views of Government's Handling of Terrorism Fall to Post-9/11 Low," Pew wrote, "Racial divides over these views persist. While only 30% of blacks and 40% of Hispanics say Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence, half of whites (50%) say this.

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"Seven-in-ten white evangelical Protestants say Islam encourages violence more than other religions, the highest percentage of any religious group and little changed from 2014. By comparison, about half of Catholics (49%) and white mainline Protestants (51%) say this. And among the religiously unaffiliated, just 35% say Islam is more likely to encourage violence among its believers. . . ."

Tami Abdollah and Vivian Salama, Associated Press: AP FACT CHECK: Republican debaters go astray

Chris Ariens, TVNewser: 18 Million Watch CNN GOP Debate

W. Kamau Bell and Adam Mansbach, Salon.com: "Whites against Trump": Kamau Bell tells white people — yes, even you good liberals — to "come get your boy"

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Jay Bookman blog: GOP message: 'Be afraid, America. Be very very afraid'

Nick Fernandez, Media Matters for America: Media Explain How GOP Debate Was A National Security "Fear Cauldron"

Richard Fowler, Ebony: GOP Debate: Heavy on Extremism, Light on Immediate Domestic Concerns

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Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Debate fearmongers should celebrate the end of the Chinese Exclusion Act and rethink politics of fear

Itay Hod, theWrap.com: Lester Holt to Moderate First Democratic Debate of 2016

Fred Kaplan, Slate: America's New Know-Nothings

John Nolte, breitbart.com: CNN Debate: Media Laughs at Dr. Ben Carson's Moment of Silence for San Bernardino

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Gunar Olsen, Fairness and Accuracy In Media: What Gets Asked at Debates – and Who Gets Asked It?

Keith A. Owens, Michigan Chronicle: No black journalists need apply to cover Republican debates

Gideon Resnick, Daily Beast: DOJ: Trump's Early Businesses Blocked Blacks

Tod Robberson, Dallas Morning News: Carpet bombing ISIS sounds impressive, but Ted Cruz doesn't understand what it is

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Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Would Cruz be any better than Trump?

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Donald Trump ushers in a new era of pitchfork populism (Dec. 10)

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: Why Reagan would have hated latest GOP debate

Andrew Seifter, Media Matters for America: CNN Debate Ignores Climate Change, Does Not Ask GOP Candidates About Historic Paris Agreement

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Julio Ricardo Varela, Latino USA: Are Cruz and Rubio 'Traitors' to Latinos or Do They Just Have Different Views?

James Warren, Poynter Institute: Who won CNN's debate? Media says it's…

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: The one way to get Donald Trump to shut up

FBI Denies Terrorist Couple Posted Openly About Jihad

"Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik did not make open posts on social media regarding radical Islamic jihad or martyrdom before the Dec. 2 terror attack in San Bernardino, FBI Director James B. Comey said Wednesday, attempting to knock down criticism that U.S. officials had missed the growing radicalism of the couple and could have prevented her from moving to the U.S. last year," Richard A. Serrano reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

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"Speaking in New York, Comey also revealed for the first time that the shooting deaths last July of five people after attacks on two military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn., have now officially been classified as a terrorist attack. The assailant in that attack, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Hixson, Tenn., was killed by police gunfire after he shot and killed four Marines and a sailor and wounded three other people. . . ."

Serrano also wrote, "In the San Bernardino case, Comey said, some news reports about Farook and Malik's social media use had been a 'garble.' He emphasized the distinction between postings on social media and private messages using social media platforms.

The story also said, "An article Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times was consistent with Comey’s characterization. The article reported that federal law enforcement officials had said that Malik had sent at least 'two private messages' on Facebook to a small group of Pakistani friends in 2012 and 2014 pledging support for jihad.

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"Those private messages were sent before she entered the U.S. on a K-1 fiancee visa in July 2014. One of the officials characterized the messages as 'her private communications … to a small group of her friends' that 'went only to a small group.'

"In an article Sunday, the New York Times reported that Malik had 'talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.'

"The two articles prompted critics of the Obama administration to say that officials had not done enough to catch potential terrorists and safeguard the U.S.

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"Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas echoed those complaints during the Republican presidential debate Tuesday night in Las Vegas. . . ."

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: Hispanics and Muslims have common cause

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Why would Royal Street be a terrorist target, and how would car traffic protect it?

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Lewis Diuguid, Kansas City Star: School safety has to be a priority nationwide from terrorist, domestic attacks

Editorial, Chicago Sun-Times: Heed Wheaton College prof's message of unity

Nadia Henni-Moulai, New America Media: After Paris Attacks, France's Ethnic Media See Opportunity for Change

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Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Los Angeles Schools display the nature of terror confronting America

Manya Brachear Pashman and Marwa Eltagour, Chicago Tribune: Wheaton College says view of Islam, not hijab, got Christian teacher suspended

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: The FBI just blasted reporting on the San Bernardino killings"PBS NewsHour" Spotlights "Stagnant" Newsroom Diversity

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Richard Prince discussed many of the news items covered over the years in the "Journal-isms" column in an interview with Charlayne Hunter-Gault that aired Tuesday on the "PBS NewsHour." Hunter-Gault is examining "Race Matters Solutions."

"There is just too much indifference to the whole idea of diversity," Prince said. [video] "Yes, we will do it if we get to it. I mean, the number of newsrooms in this country that have no people of color at all in them is appalling. And the fact that it's allowed to remain, I think is scandalous. [In its 2010 report, the American Society of News Editors wrote, "465 newspapers responding to the ASNE census had no minorities on their full-time staff. This number has been growing since 2006. . . ."]

"But we're fighting apathy, indifference and competing interests. And people are saying, look, I have to worry about the bottom line. And they don't realize that the bottom line is tied to . . . our changing country that's becoming browner and browner. And that's where your potential customers are. . . ."

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However, the columnist also said, "There are a lot of solutions that people are trying. And, as people say, if one thing doesn't work, then you just try something else.

NPR News, Information Staff Is 77.6 Percent White

"Last week I looked at the third year results of NPR's ongoing examination of the gender, geographic, ethnic and racial diversity of its on-air sources — the people who are interviewed on the air, either as experts or participants in events or part of the general public, ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen wrote Tuesday for NPR.

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"Later in this column I will look briefly at a couple of the experiments NPR undertook to improve those numbers. But first, it's time to update the figures for NPR's staff diversity.

"In 2015, the staff of NPR's news and information division, a total of 353 people, was 54.7 percent female, up slightly from 2014.

"Overall, the newsroom staff remains overwhelming white (77.6 percent). The rest of the newsroom staff is 8.8 percent African-American, 8.5 percent Asian, just 4.2 percent Latino and 0.8 percent people who say they are two or more races. (For comparison, the Radio Television Digital News Association has numbers from the broader journalism world.)

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"The NPR numbers are only slightly changed compared to 2014, when the newsroom staff was 9.5 percent African-American, 7.5 percent Asian and 3.4 percent Latino. Put another way, NPR has four more Asian employees in those areas than a year ago and three more Latinos, but two fewer African-American employees. (Those 2014 numbers are slightly different than those cited by my predecessor, who wrote before NPR underwent a voluntary buyout and staff reorganization.)

"Diversity matters in newsrooms. The more eyes and ears on a story before it goes out for public consumption the greater likelihood that it will include information of interest to NPR's increasingly diverse audience. . . ."

The U.S. Census Bureau estimated for 2014 that whites who were not Latino or Hispanic were 62.1 percent of the population.

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Quoting Michael Oreskes, NPR's senior vice president of news and editorial director, Jensen said "NPR is examining how it can step up its hiring of people with strong journalism experience from related industries, such as newspapers and television.

"That is not the obvious strategy it might seem to be; radio requires unique skills and the tendency in the past has been to hire those who are already familiar with the medium. Oreskes said NPR is looking at what kind of retraining might be provided to journalists from outside the radio world, as part of a strategy to broaden its recruitment efforts. . . ."

Tracie Powell, NiemanLab: The Year We Get Our Ethical Houses in Order

Story Makes Case for More Action on Same-Race Crime

The Washington Post weighed in on the debate that pits those who speak up about deadly police violence against civilians and others who argue that more emphasis should be given to intraracial crime.

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"Video released last month that shows a police officer killing 17-year-old Laquan McDonald with 16 bullets ignited passion on the streets of Chicago. Protesters disrupted shoppers along the famed Magnificent Mile, the city's police chief was fired, and the Justice Department launched an investigation into racial disparities in officers' use of force," Michael A. Fletcher reported on the front page of Saturday's print edition.

"Three months earlier, when 9-year-old Jamyla Bolden was cut down by a stray bullet as she did homework in her Ferguson, Mo., apartment, the response was different. There were no protests or demands that city officials step down. The night after her death, demonstrators in nearby St. Louis took to the streets, setting fire to a vacant house and a car — not in response to Jamyla's death, but to protest the police shooting of a young black man in the back during a drug raid.

"The contrasting responses have put the goals of some community leaders at odds with those espoused by groups such as Black Lives Matter, who have seized the political moment with loud protests calling for less-aggressive policing and more accountability for law enforcement. Some political and religious leaders say that what's needed is an equal public outpouring over the severe crime that continues to plague many communities. Compared with the reaction provoked by a police shooting, they said, response to street violence is too often muted, fragmented and brief. . . ."

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Fletcher went beyond the complaints to suggest solutions.

He also wrote, "Some neighborhood and political leaders here and elsewhere . . . say bands of demonstrators could occupy crime hot spots in neighborhoods, press local officials for a greater police presence, or march until there was a political imperative to provide more services such as recreation and after-school programs that can steer young people away from crime. Or they could plug into existing anti-crime groups that are starved for manpower and support. . . ."

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: First Time at a Gun Show

Editorial, New York Times: Don't Blame Mental Illness for Gun Violence

Lottie L. Joiner, National Journal: How Families Pay the Never-Ending Price of a Criminal Record

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Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Another family questions police killing

James Ragland, Dallas Morning News: When it comes to police work, tell both sides of the story

DuPonts Honor Pieces on Michael Brown, Immigration

"St. Louis station KMOV, Baltimore's WBAL and Raleigh, N.C.'s WRAL are all being honored with the prestigious Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award," Chris Ariens reported Tuesday for TVSpy.

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"KMOV's Craig Cheatham and team are being honored for their investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown and the criminal justice system in and around St. Louis in the hour-long, commercial free documentary The Injustice System.

"WBAL's Jayne Miller is being honored for her investigative work on the death of Freddie Gray. 'Her exemplary reports raised important questions about probable cause, police policy, and accountability,' the judges found. 'Miller asked probing, smart questions and followed up with clear analysis of a fast changing story.'

"WRAL reporter Leyla Santiago and photographer Zac Gooch are being honored for their series Journey Alone, about the surge in illegal immigration and the unaccompanied minors who made their way to North Carolina. . . ."

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Announcing the 2016 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award Winners

Documenting Chinese Who Are Adopted, Living in U.S.

"I wanted to tell the Chinese audience how the Chinese adopted live in America," Meng Han told Rena Silverman for the New York Times "Lens" blog, "and what kind of lives they have and what is different."

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Han, a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at the University of Maryland, left China in the spring of 2014 to study English.

A senior photojournalist at Beijing News, Han "sought out families through an online advertisement," Silverman wrote Wednesday, "and the first response came surprisingly enough from Cheryl Wu, a second-generation Chinese woman who had adopted her daughter from China's Jiangxi Province.

"Ms. Wu had taught children with special needs in Washington, D.C. 'My job is to look after handicapped children,' she said, 'so I always hoped to adopt a child from a Chinese welfare house and take care of her myself.”

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"Ms. Wu introduced Ms. Han to a network of families with adopted children who often got together for parties and other occasions. Over about a year, she met some 30 families in 10 states, some through word of mouth, others when a nonprofit organization wrote about her project in a newsletter, and still more through a school where families brought children to learn Chinese and Chinese dance. . . ."

Short Takes

"In a meeting at the White House today, senior representatives from the Society of Professional Journalists importuned the Obama administration to conduct its business with greater transparency," Benjamin Mullin reported Tuesday for the Poynter Institute. "Citing 'policies that constrict information flow to the public,' the representatives pushed back against communications practices perceived as onerous in an hour-long meeting with Josh Earnest, the White House Press Secretary, according to a statement from SPJ. . . ."  On Nov. 30, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorialized about "President Barack Obama's assault on open government."

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Mary C. Curtis, a former Charlotte Observer columnist, New York Times editor and freelance writer, and Eric Garcia, a National Journal reporter who ended his tenure there with a piece describing his experience with autism, are joining CQ Roll Call, Melinda Henneberger, hired as editor-in-chief in October, announced Wednesday. Corinne Grinapol reported for FishbowlDC that Curtis would be political editor and Garcia would be one of three new staff writers at the Washington newspaper covering Capitol Hill.

Clark Bell, journalism program director for the Chicago-based McCormick Foundation, is retiring at the end of the month after serving 10 years in the job, Bell announced on Wednesday. The McCormick Foundation has at various times been a financial supporter of "Journal-isms." His replacement? "Jennifer Choi is the program officer. [The] Civics and Journalism [divisions] have been blended into the Democracy program….John Sirek is the director," Bell messaged.

Mike Woolfolk, a reporter at WXYZ-TV in Detroit, is joining WEYI-TV in Flint, Mich., as morning anchor, Kevin Olivas, news recruiting manager at Sinclair Broadcast Group, messaged Journal-isms on Wednesday. Woolfolk is an active member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

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"A desire to expand the audience for a profile of an influential Latino photographer has spurred WNET’s American Masters to experiment with social media and station-based educational events," Andrew Lapin reported Wednesday for Current.org. "Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey, the first collaboration between Masters and Latino Public Broadcasting's Voces series, premiered Sept. 18. Along with the film, American Masters launched a photography contest on Instagram, the first such campaign the producer has attempted on the platform. . . ."

"For the first time ever, people of African descent living in Mexico were able to identify themselves as black in the national census," Ana Campoy reported Dec. 10 for Quartz. "Mexico's 2015 population survey, released Dec. 8, counted 1.38 million people of African heritage, representing 1.2% of the country's population. Most live in three coastal states, including Guerrero, where they account for nearly 7% of the population, and overall they are poorer and less educated than the national average, Mexico's census bureau (INEGI by its acronym in Spanish) has found. . . ."

Max Cacas, a Washington, D.C.-based radio broadcaster who died Dec. 8 at 61 after an apparent heart attack, met columnist Emil Guillermo when they worked at NPR in 1989. "Both Max and I were ahead of our time. We were of a generation when Asian Americans in general, and Filipinos in particular, were encouraged to go into the 'traditional' Asian-American fields that had 'real' Asian Americans and Filipinos in them," Guillermo wrote Wednesday for NBC News Asian America. "There were Filipino doctors and lawyers, after all. Journalists? Media workers? It was still a short list. But Max would be one of the taller ones on it. . . ."

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"China was the biggest jailer of journalists in 2015 for the second consecutive year, and the number imprisoned in Egypt and Turkey also rose sharply compared with 2014, a free-press advocacy group that monitors journalist incarcerations said in an annual report released on Tuesday," Rick Gladstone reported Tuesday for the New York Times. " 'A handful of countries continue to use systematic imprisonment to silence criticism,' said the group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which is based in New York. . . ."