It isn't unusual for journalists to try other jobs, sometimes out of necessity, but the days of a George Plimpton — who a couple of decades ago told us about his adventures in professional sports, as a stand-up comedian, a movie bad guy and a circus performer — seem to be gone. Plimpton, who died in 2003, called it being a "participatory journalist" and wrote nearly three dozen books about his lives in other folks' shoes.
On Facebook Friday, Rick Taylor, laid off as a USA Today sports copy editor in 2010 and working intermittently with the parent Gannett Co. for a short time afterward, offered a stirring defense of his occupational choice for the last three years. He's been a bus driver for a school system in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C., that is prosperous but not without challenges.
"I always wanted to drive a big vehicle as a kid in Detroit and be out in the open," Taylor, 59, told Journal-isms by email. "If nothing else, I wanted to prove to myself there is life after USA TODAY (20 years as a copy editor), the San Jose Mercury News (3), the Detroit Free Press and the Ann Arbor News."
Taylor told his Facebook followers:
"I will be finishing a chapter of my life as I end a 3-year run as a bus driver for Fairfax County Public Schools. It seems like yesterday when one of my favorite aunts lovingly chastised me for taking that position. 'You have a degree — it seems you can use your abilities for something better.'
"Well, auntie, let me tell you about my colleagues and the degrees of abilities they utilize:
"— Psychology. Try cajoling kids from ages 5-19 daily to behave and be their best in school while focusing on the road with a 16-ton vehicle. Don't forget those parents who think their darlings can do no wrong, but said parent doesn't see their child to and from school. The driver has to keep his or her cool when talking to adults.
"— Math. If you drive a 16-ton vehicle and have to activate your yellow (caution) lights 'x' feet from the stopping point and tell your kids they have to stay 'y' feet from the same stopping point so you don't slide into them in rainy or snowy conditions. You have to back up the bus in a cul-de-sac or at a T-intersection. Plus, the driver has to make anywhere from 2 to 20 stops per run and calculate when to hit the lights and take infrequent bathroom breaks. Don't forget about a long midday break and how long that quick nap will take. That's math and science rolled into one.
"— Economics. An FCPS driver has to make a paycheck that averages only between 30 and 35 hours a week stretch to handle life's basic necessities. And imagine how that check looks after taxes, insurance and a 403(b) or retirement contributions. It ain't easy.
"— International relations. English isn't the primary language for some of the kids, as well as some drivers. We have a sheet that explains some cultural characteristics. But a smile is understood worldwide.
"Yeah, auntie, maybe I didn't utilize my bachelor's degree driving. But I did have a degree of satisfaction working with some of the best people around as well as affecting the lives of tomorrow. I got to sit with a kindergarten girl today while instructing my successor on my run. The girl and I whistled 'Jingle Bells' and 'Thriller.' She started crying saying she didn't want me to go. That let me know I must've done something right."
Will Taylor go the Plimpton route and write about the last three years? "I'd love to chronicle my experiences as well as my colleagues down the road, but I can't violate the kids' privacy," he said by email. "Our team meeting today centered around us not touching kids or using terms of endearment because parents are super-sensitive."
Cuba on Group's 'Press Freedom Predator List'
Fidel Castro "has been hailed as one of the leading figures of the 20th century and father of the Cuban people in many of the thousands of messages that followed the announcement of his death," Reporters Without Borders said on Friday.
"But behind the revolutionary’s romantic image lay one of the world’s worst press freedom predators. The persecution of dissidents was one of the distinguishing features of his 49 years in power, and constitutes the harshest aspect of his heritage.
"The current situation in Cuba speaks to this. Cuba continues to be one of the worst countries in Latin America for media freedom and ranks 171st out of 180 countries in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. Fidel Castro’s brother Raúl, who replaced him in 2007, is now also on RSF’s press freedom predator list.
"Cuba’s constitution permits only state-controlled media outlets. Independent news agencies and bloggers who try to dispute the state’s monopoly of news and information are subjected to intimidation, arbitrary arrest and draconian censorship.
"As a result, independent news agencies have often had no choice but to go into exile and post their news reports online from abroad. This is far from ideal because Internet access within Cuba is still very problematic (only 5% of households have internet access).
"Finally, with two journalists currently jailed, Cuba continues to be one of the few western hemisphere countries where reporters can still be found behind bars. Venezuela and Panama are the other two. . . ."
Rosa María Payá Acevedo, Washington Post: Let Cubans Choose Their Future
Sam Fulwood III, Center for American Progress: The Complex American Response to Castro’s Death
Brooke Gladstone with Anthony DePalma and Herbert L. Matthews, "On the Media," NPR: How (NOT) to Cover Cuba! (audio)
Daniel Marans, Huffington Post: Cuban-American Journalists Warn Against Romanticizing Fidel Castro (Nov. 26)
Marc Morial, National Urban League: Fidel Castro: A Legend Loved and Loathed
Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Most Americans Have It All Wrong About Castro, Cuba
Andrés Oppenheimer, Miami Herald: Castro’s death may not trigger economic recovery in Cuba
Manuel Rueda, Fusion: Here’s how the world’s cartoonists are remembering Fidel Castro
Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald: Fidel Castro leaves this world with more blood on his hands
Tonyaa J. Weathersbee, the Undefeated: Resiliency of Cuban people will live on after Fidel Castro’s death
Lewandowski Says Dean Baquet 'Should Be in Jail'
"Corey Lewandowski, Donald Trump’s first campaign manager, said Thursday that New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet 'should be in jail' because the newspaper published parts of the president-elect’s tax returns during the race," Madeline Conway reported Friday for Politico.
"Lewandowski, who has been floated for a possible role in the White House or the Republican National Committee, had previously said he hoped Trump would sue the Times 'into oblivion' for publishing several pages of his 1995 tax returns, which reported a loss of nearly $1 billion — enough that he could have avoided paying federal income taxes for 18 years as a result.
"But Lewandowski’s comments Thursday, made at a Harvard University conference that gathered campaign officials from both parties for a postmortem of the presidential race, are a step up. They now carry the weight of coming from an informal adviser and possible future employee of the next president, who already faces criticism for regularly disparaging the press and taking few questions from reporters. . . ."
At the same conference, Jeff Zucker, president of CNN Worldwide, defended his hiring of Lewandowski, "who was constrained as an analyst by a nondisclosure agreement with the Trump campaign," Michael M. Grynbaum reported for the New York Times. " 'It was important to have people who could give us a peek into what people supporting Trump were thinking,' Mr. Zucker said. . . ."
Grynbaum also wrote, "In extraordinary exchanges, aides to Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush openly accused Mr. Zucker of enabling Mr. Trump and undermining their candidates in the Republican primary, heckling from their seats as Mr. Zucker spoke on a panel in a hotel ballroom.
“ 'You showed hours upon hours of unfiltered, unscrutinized coverage of Trump!' shouted Todd Harris, a top adviser for Mr. Rubio. A Washington Post reporter, Karen Tumulty, prompted applause when she pressed Mr. Zucker on why he allowed Trump surrogates to spread falsehoods on his network. . . ."
Reporter Barred From Carrier News Conference
In Indianapolis, "Call 6 Investigates Chief Investigator Rafael Sanchez was denied press credential access to the announcement event at the Carrier plant that will detail the deal the west-side Indianapolis plant made with President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence to keep more than half of the jobs of the original 1,400 slated to be moved to Mexico," PJ O'Keefe reported Friday for WRTV-TV, known as the Indy Channel.
"Sanchez's credentials were denied by Carrier executives during an approval process that saw another RTV6 reporter and photographer, and several other local media approved . . .
"Sanchez spearheaded the investigation into Carrier's intended exodus from Indianapolis beginning in February when a video of the announcement to the employees went viral.
"When asked, Pence's press secretary, Marc Lotter, said it was not the Trump-Pence campaign that denied Sanchez access to the event.
"We sent Sanchez across the border to explore the plant there and the life that was ahead for Carrier's new employees, detailing the expected wages of just $3/hour without health benefits for the new workforce that Carrier was moving 1,400 of its jobs in Indianapolis (and 700 more in Huntington, Indiana) to Monterrey, Mexico.
"Sanchez spoke with dozens of Carrier employees about their frustrations and prompted attention from the city of Indianapolis to provide services to re-integrate laid off employees back into the workforce. . . ."
N.Y. Times Will Use 'Alt-Right' — With Explanation
"A number of people inside and outside the newsroom have asked about the term 'alt-right,' ” Philip B. Corbett, the New York Times associate managing editor for standards, wrote staff members Friday. "Some have argued that the phrase should not be used at all; they see it as a euphemism that disguises the movement’s racism.
"After discussing the issue with several knowledgeable reporters and editors, I don’t think banning the term is the best approach. Readers are hearing and seeing 'alt-right' elsewhere — it’s used both by adherents and by experts who study and track these groups. But many readers have only the vaguest notion of what it means. Our job is to make sure readers understand the term so that it doesn’t function as a euphemism.
"Let’s avoid using 'alt-right' in isolation, without an explanation (which means it will rarely be appropriate in headlines). We don’t need to adopt one-size-fits-all boilerplate, but any description can touch on some key elements, based on our own reporting about the 'alt-right':
"It’s a racist, far-right fringe movement that embraces an ideology of white nationalism and is anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic and anti-feminist. It is highly decentralized but has a wide online presence. Followers rail against multiculturalism and what they see as 'political correctness.'
"So, for example, we might describe someone as 'a leader of the so-called alt-right, a far-right fringe movement that embraces white nationalism and a range of racist and anti-immigrant positions.'
"We can also make it clear that this is the term adopted by the movement itself — by putting it in quotes on first reference, or with a phrase like 'so-called alt-right' or 'who describe themselves as "alt-right." ’ As always, it’s best to be specific and provide details in describing the views of individuals and groups, rather than relying solely on shorthand labels.
"We’ll be doing much more reporting on this topic, so I’m confident our readers will get a full, unvarnished picture. . . ."
On Monday, John Daniszewski, vice president for standards of the Associated Press, ruled similarly. "Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience," he wrote. "In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist. . . ."
The Anti-Defamation League concurred in a statement Thursday, saying, "The problem is not so much with the term 'alt right' but in how people define or not define it. It is crucial that whenever the term 'alt right' is used, it be defined clearly and put in the proper context. . . ."
ABC Considering Trump Voters in Plans for Dramas
"Donald Trump may or may not make America great again, but his unexpected election triumph last month is already causing at least one American TV network to question its programming philosophy," Josef Adalian reported for vulture.com.
"Channing Dungey, the recently installed president of ABC Entertainment, told the Content London media summit on Tuesday that Trump’s election — powered in part by a surge in support among white rural and blue-collar voters — has prompted Alphabet execs to wonder whether the network’s slate of flashy, upscale hour-long series (think How to Get Away With Murder or Designated Survivor) adequately reflects all parts of America.
“ 'With our dramas, we have a lot of shows that feature very well-to-do, well-educated people, who are driving very nice cars and living in extremely nice places,' Dungey told the conference, according to a report from U.K.-based TV industry trade C21.
" 'There is definitely still room for that, and we absolutely want to continue to tell those stories because wish-fulfillment is a critical part of what we do as entertainers. But in recent history we haven’t paid enough attention to some of the true realities of what life is like for everyday Americans in our dramas.'
"Dungey’s self-critique is notable since ABC has been miles ahead of its broadcast rivals in terms of racial and cultural diversity. . . ."
Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Donald Trump’s ‘Monster’s Ball’
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: The Constitution’s power lies not in its words, but with those who protect it. Trump endangers it.
Joe Davidson, Washington Post: Continue diversity efforts under Trump, civil servants urged
Susan B. Glasser, Brookings Institution: Covering Politics in a Post-Truth America
Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: How Trump's business partner in the Philippines, Jose E.B. Antonio, does business with Filipino Americans
Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press: The electoral college and its racist roots (Nov. 20)
Allen Johnson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: Are we out to get Donald Trump?
Shaun King, Daily News, New York: Even Frosted Flakes says the website built by the new White House Chief Strategist is too hateful for their ad
Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council: MMTC to Trump Telecom Transition Team: Twelve Imperatives to Close the Digital Divide and Advance Multicultural Media and Telecom Ownership and Procurement in the New Administration (memorandum) (PDF)
Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: In defense of Kellyanne Conway
Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Alt-right? All wrong. New haters, same old backlash (Nov. 25)
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Trump will helm a government of, by and for corporate America
Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker, Washington Post: Shouting match erupts between Clinton and Trump aides
Erik Wemple, Washington Post: Trump supporters bought bogus Obama conspiracy theory peddled by Fox Business
Watters, Fresh From Chinatown, 'Out of Control'
"Last spring, ambush virtuoso Jesse Watters of Fox News got into a physical confrontation with Huffington Post Washington bureau chief Ryan Grim at a late-night party in Washington," Erik Wemple wrote Thursday for the Washington Post. "Weeks ago, he propagated a series of Asian stereotypes and outright barbarity in a field trip to interview people in New York’s Chinatown regarding U.S. politics.
"And now he is officially out of control.
"In a segment that aired Wednesday night, Watters ambushed Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash and, from the looks of the footage, stuck his foot inside the man’s residence as a way to force him to account for his actions.
"Those actions are quite controversial these days: On the day after the presidential election, students lowered the campus American flag, a 'reaction to the toxic tone of the months-long election and the escalating number of news reports from across the country over recent months and years of hate speech, harassment, and violence against people of color, immigrants, international citizens, and Muslims,' notes the school in a timeline.
"On Nov. 10 — two days after the election — it was burned. Then, on Nov. 18, Lash announced that the college would stop flying the flag on the campus pole to prompt discussion and 'focus our efforts on addressing racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric and behaviors.' Protests have ensued. . . ."
Wemple quoted a school spokesman as saying that Watters was out of line and that the college called campus security and the local police department.
The flag was raised again Friday. Brian Flood added Friday for the Wrap: "Watters claimed 'victory' on Twitter, but Hampshire College says its decision to return the American flag to campus has nothing to do with his recent segment on 'The O’Reilly Factor.'
"The school raised the flag on Friday morning after removing it to 'enable discussion,' when students of the liberal arts school became upset by Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in the presidential election. . . ."
'Positive' Stories on Evening News About Black Men
The "CBS Evening News" and "NBC Nightly News" each closed their broadcasts this week with heartwarming, stereotype-defying stories involving black men.
On NBC Monday, Kevin Tibbles reported for its "Inspiring America" series a story from North Carolina described this way: "Former NFL player Jason Brown was earning millions of dollars on the gridiron but, at the height of his career, he left it all behind to pursue a wildly-different life on the farm."
Brown bought a farm he named "First Fruits" and gives away the first harvest to feed the hungry. This year, the harvest topped 250,000 pounds of sweet potatoes.
On CBS Friday, Steve Hartman reported a story headlined, "Nighttime encounter leads to unlikely friendship between white cop, black teen." It featured Jourdan Duncan, 18, and Benicia, Calif., officer Kirk Keffer. Duncan who walked seven miles, for 2 ½ hours nightly, to his job at a laboratory.
"To ease his commute, Keffer got the police association buy Jourdan a new bike," Hartman reported. ". . . . Keffer also raised an additional $20,000 to help him buy a car and pursue his career — to be a police officer."
'Best Year Ever for Black People in Cinema'
"The African American Film Critics Assn. released a statement Monday naming 2016 the best year ever for black people in cinema," Tre'vell Anderson reported Monday for the Los Angeles Times. "The national organization also predicted an end, albeit potentially temporary, to #OscarsSoWhite.
“ 'The studios and major film distributors really gave it to us this year,' said Gil Robertson, AAFCA’s co-founder and president. 'By any measurement, it’s been an exceptional year for blacks in film. From comedies to high-quality dramas and documentaries, 2016 will forever represent a bonanza year for black cinema, and all cinema really.' . . . .”
The "Journal-isms" "Stay Woke" fund drive, which officially began on "Giving Tuesday," is "trending," with $6,350 raised from 67 people as of Saturday morning. Many added comments extolling the site's value. The overall goal is $50,000. List of supporters.
"A first-of-its-kind investigation by USA TODAY shows that black people across the nation — both innocent bystanders and those fleeing the police — have been killed in police chases at a rate nearly three times higher than everyone else," Thomas Frank reported Thursday for USA Today.
"The National Association of Hispanic Journalists exceeded projected revenue by $120,000 [for] the 2016 joint conference [with the National Association of Black Journalists] this August, ending with the total net revenue of $340,000," NAHJ announced on Friday. Immediate past president Mekahlo Medina disclosed on Wednesday, “We doubled @NAHJ conf revenue from 2015."
"Jay Thomas doesn’t have much of an office now due to an overflow of donations from the community to support law enforcement at the Dakota Access Pipeline protest near Cannon Ball," the Bismarck (N.D.) Tribune reported Friday. "Thomas, an afternoon radio-show host at WDAY in Fargo, started the drive after seeing a post shared on social media Nov. 22 from KFYR, a radio station in Bismarck. The post said 'donations needed for Morton County Law Enforcement Officers due to budget issues.' . . ."
"Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated has named LeBron James the 2016 Sportsperson of the Year," Chris O'Shea reported Thursday for FishbowlNY. "SI has been awarding the SOTY since 1954. James, who previously won in 2012, is now only the second two-time winner (Tiger Woods won in 1996 and 2000). . . ."
"In rehab from the stroke that felled her on live TV Friday, news anchor Dawne Gee can move her body," Jere Downs reported Thursday for the Courier-Journal in Louisville. "But it doesn't feel the same. . . ."
Writing in Native Sun News, James Giago Davies reminded readers why he calls his column "Iyeska Journal," referring to a word meaning mixed blood. "An Iyeska, with a critical understanding of both worlds, can articulate perspectives neither extreme could ever comprehend on their own, however intelligent and open minded they deemed themselves to be," Davies wrote Nov. 23. "But Iyeska have never been acknowledged or honored by either side, each side thinking the adoption of their distinct identity is an undeserved gift to a recipient so suspect he threatens the purity of either."
Kimbriell Kelly of the Washington Post and Jesse J. Holland of the Associated Press are to interview the ranking members of the House Judiciary Committee about police-community relations Sunday on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers." Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and John Conyers, D-Mich., "look more widely at police shootings in Dallas, Baton Rouge, and other communities and at police killings of black citizens in Ferguson, Charleston, Baltimore and other communities," C-SPAN announces. The show airs at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET.
"Even as the Panama Papers disclosures have sparked at least 150 official investigations in at least 79 countries around the world, they have also provoked pushback from individuals and governments displeased with revelations of the hidden economic holdings of the global elite," Will Fitzgibbon reported Thursday for the Poynter Institute. The Panama Papers refers to an investigation based on a leak of documents from a law firm that has helped politicians, oligarchs and fraudsters create and use secrecy-veiled shell companies.
"The former head of a Taiwanese bank linked to the Panama Papers and two aides have been indicted, prosecutors said on Friday (Dec 2), the first suspects charged in a case that has shaken the island's financial sector," Agence France-Press reported.