Arrest of ‘Black’ Man in Beating of Gay Journalist

Randy Gener 

Police Sought "Hispanic" but Arrested a "Black Male"

Police arrested a Queens, N.Y., man Tuesday in the beating of Randy Gener, an openly gay arts journalist who remained in critical condition after undergoing brain surgery as a result of the attack, New York news media reported.


The suspect, Leighton Jennings, was described by police Wednesday as "24-year-old black male," although the police were looking for a man they described as Hispanic, illustrating the errors that can occur with police descriptions of crime suspects. Those descriptions are often publicized by the news media.

Friends had raised more that $55,000 by Wednesday night to pay Gener’s medical bills. A fundraising site, started on Tuesday, hopes to bring in $70,000.


WNBC-TV reported, "The 46-year-old suffered head trauma and has been in and out of consciousness since the attack, family members say. Doctors had . . . to remove a portion of his skull to allow his brain to swell, and it could take more than six months for him to recover. . . ."

Bob Fredericks and Natasha Velez of the New York Post also reported on the midtown Manhattan incident, which occurred on Jan. 18 after Gener was leaving a party before 4 a.m. "Police said the victim bumped into the suspect’s girlfriend and the pair argued before Jennings belted Gener," they wrote.


"The victim, 46, fell to the ground and smacked his head on the pavement after the assault.

"Jennings sped away in a gray, four-door Nissan with Mississippi license plates, police said."


They also wrote, "Police initially investigated the assault as a possible hate crime but determined Gener’s sexuality had nothing to do with it. . . ."

The Asian American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association called attention to Gener's plight this week. He is a member of both organizations, is the U.S. editor of Critical Stages, described as an international journal on global politics and performance, and has written for the New York Times, the Daily News in New York, NPR and other news organizations in the United States, Europe and Asia.


Gener was NGLJA's 2010 Journalist of the Year and in 2007, when he won a Filipinas Magazine Achievement Award, was described as a writer, playwright and associate editor of American Theater Magazine.

Detectives said Jennings had been seen by witnesses and on surveillance video engaged in a confrontation with the journalist, J. David Goodman reported for the New York Times.


In the Daily News, Caitlin Nolan and Joe Kemp reported that Jennings' "stunned mother," Ellen Wilson, said she "couldn't believe Jennings was a suspect in the vicious attack."

A police spokeswoman told Journal-isms that the description of the suspect came from a witness. The assailant was described as "Hispanic male, 20s, approximately 6'0" tall, weighing 160 lbs., with short black hair. He was last seen wearing black jeans and a black jacket." The description also listed the getaway car's Mississippi license plate.


"Hispanic" describes an ethnicity, not a race.

In 2002, when he was at the Poynter Institute, Keith Woods, now vice president for diversity in news and operations at NPR, wrote, "Racial identifiers do carry information — about geography, about bloodlines, about heritage. But they don’t describe much of anything.


"What, for example, does a Hispanic man look like? Is his skin dark brown? Reddish brown? Pale? Is his hair straight? Curly? Course? Fine? Does he have a flat, curved nose or is it narrow and straight? Telling the public that he's 5-foot-8, 180 pounds, with a blue shirt and blue jeans says something about the person’s appearance. But what do you add to that picture when you say Latino?"

Moreover, as Gary L. Wells wrote in 2007 on the Nieman Watchdog website, "Mistaken eyewitness identification is the most common cause of the conviction of innocent people."


"Cross-racial identifications are much less reliable," Ezekiel R. Edwards, the Mayer Brown Eyewitness Fellow at the Innocence Project, said at the time. He said those who have regular contact with people of other races are better at identification, but too many do not have that kind of interaction.

The lesson for journalists, Edwards told Journal-isms then, is to be skeptical when reporting eyewitness accounts of crimes.


Statement from Randy Gener's family

Charles V. Pittman, Diversity Advocate, to Retire in March

Charles V. Pittman, senior vice president for publishing at Schurz Communications and one of the most committed diversity advocates in the news business, announced his retirement on Wednesday.


Pittman said in a brief note to colleagues, "I announced my retirement from Schurz Communications effective March 31st. It has been a great run and I have enjoyed my career thoroughly. I subscribe to the philosophy that it is better to leave too soon than to stay too long. So that is what I am doing. Thanks for allowing me to spend my last 33 years in this business with most of you."

Schurz, based in Mishawaka, Ind., publishes 11 daily and eight weekly newspapers in medium and small markets with a combined circulation of nearly 225,000. It also publishes shopping publications in California, has 10 television stations, owns 13 radio stations and operates three others, and owns three cable companies, a phone directory and a printing company.


Fewer than a handful of African Americans are at the senior vice president level at mainstream newspaper companies.

In 2008, the Associated Press Managing Editors awarded Pittman its Robert C. McGruder Award for his diversity leadership.


As the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education noted at the time, "Pittman, who won in the over-75,000 circulation category, 'has been a persistent and influential voice for diversity and industry change, particularly among the people who lead newspaper companies,' said Jeanne Fox-Alston, vice president of the Newspaper Association of America Foundation. 'Through actions and words, he has leveraged the access that he has to industry leaders, and at his company has set an example for others to follow.'

"Pittman chairs the diversity committee of the Newspaper Association of America, sits on the Associated Press and American Press Institute boards of directors and will be president of the Inland Daily Press Association in 2010.


"In August, UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., announced that Schurz is one of only three media companies working with it to increase the number of senior newsroom managers of color through the 'Ten by 2010' initiative. Each summer, Schurz Communications newsrooms also host a dozen multimedia journalism interns from the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute. And Schurz filled several full-time positions in recent years with graduates of another Diversity Institute journalism-training program. . . ."

Race Missing From President's Diagnosis of Inequality

"In what was characterized by Business Week as a jump off for his 'last chance to get something done,' President Obama gave a sweeping State of the Union address last night in which the issues of income inequality and economic opportunity took center stage," Imara Jones wrote Wednesday for Colorlines.


"For more than an hour Obama urged action on the minimum wage, education, manufacturing, small business help, infrastructure and job training which together he said would reverse the trends that have made the United States the most unequal developed country on the planet. Unfortunately, there was a fundamental element missing from the president's diagnosis of inequality and his prescription for it: race.

"To be fair the president did give some nods in the economic portion of his talk to race. Obama stated that he is 'reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations' as part of unnamed effort 'to help more men of color…reach their full potential.' What this meant exactly was unspecified. He singled out Michelle Obama's College Opportunity Summit whose goal is to 'reduce inequality in access to higher education.' Additionally his push for a $10.10 minimum wage if fully implemented by Congress will lift three million people of color out of poverty.


"Yet Obama's announcement that he will unilaterally raise the minimum wage for all low-wage workers currently employed by companies with government contracts, as The Wall Street Journal points out, will only affect several thousand employees. That's because it only covers those in new federal contracts, not the 200,000 minimum-wage workers in existing ones.

"But the key issue with Obama's speech is that it inaccurately attributed growing income inequality and declining economic opportunity to 'massive shifts in technology and global competition.' But the truth of the matter is that Washington has changed the economic rules of the road over past 30 years in a way that's amped up racial inequity and fueled economic disparities. And until we acknowledge the pivotal role that race plays in driving economic inequality, the gap is likely to widen. . . ."


Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: They can't stand to look

Blacklistpub: Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. Response to President Obama's State of the Union Speech


Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The Incredible Shrinking Presidency

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: The GOP still doesn't get it

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: A thumbs up for Obama and the State of the Union


Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: No, Michael Grimm is a thug

Michael H. Cottman, Obama to GOP: Get on Board or Get Out of the Way


George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Obama Hopes to Sidestep Congress to have 'a Year of Action'

Drew DeSilver, Pew Research Center: State of the Union 2014: Where Americans stand on key issues


LZ Granderson, CNN: A missed opportunity on inequality (second item) 

Emil Guilliermo blog: #SOTU: Obama uses a wounded Army Ranger to unite the country; It’s not corny if it gets us to some common ground and makes us realize the state of our union is much stronger than any of the petty politics in Washington would have us believe


Emil Guilliermo blog: S.F. Mayor Ed Lee works overtime for #SOTU: Maximum Asian, minimum wage in the land of inequality

Daniel Holloway, Broadcasting & Cable: Primetime Ratings: NBC Wins State of the Union Night


Jamilah King and Josh Begley, Colorlines: MLK Boulevard: A Snapshot of King's Dream Deferred (Jan. 20)

Elizabeth Llorente, Fox News Latino: Activists On Both Sides Of Immigration Debate Unhappy With President Obama's State Of The Union Speech


David A. Love, the Grio: Obamacare success overlooked after failures over-covered

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Teen job gap shows how far we have to go

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: A game changer on immigration (Jan. 12)


Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Obama's best State of the Union speech

Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: A 'piecemeal' approach on immigration (Jan. 7)


Erik Wemple, Washington Post: State of the Union 2014: MSNBC, Fox News watched entirely different speeches

Matt Wilstein, Mediaite: Fox Conservative Pundits Pan Obama's 'Embarrasing,' 'Empty,' 'Predictable' SOTU


Matt Wilstein, Mediaite: Jon Stewart: Obama Now in the 'F*ck It' Stage of His Presidency

Stand-Alone Unity Convention Ruled Out for 2016

A convention that includes only the remaining members of Unity: Journalists for Diversity — the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association — has been ruled out as a possibility for 2016, David Steinberg, the Unity president, said Wednesday.


He spoke in a conference call held to answer questions about the alliance from members of the participating associations. 

No decision has been made about 2016, Steinberg said. The coalition is seeking to lay the groundwork for cooperation with other groups and is reaching out to organizations such as the Society for Professional Journalists and the American Society of News Editors.


"Everyone agrees that having [only] the three remaining alliance partners is not the way to go," Steinberg said. "It probably does not offer as much as partnership with another organization might."

Leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which each pulled out of Unity citing financial and governance issues, have discussed having a joint convention in 2016.


Attendance at Unity's 2012 convention, its first without NABJ, was down sharply from previous conferences.

Paul Cheung, AAJA national president, reiterated that "AAJA has no intention of leaving Unity or disbanding Unity" but said AAJA would continue to revisit the question. The call, which began at 1:30 p.m. Eastern time, lasted slightly less than half an hour after attracting relatively few callers.


Egypt to Try 20 From Al Jazeera on Terrorism Charges

"Egypt said 20 journalists, including four foreigners, working for Al-Jazeera will face trial on charges of joining or aiding a terrorist group and endangering national security — an escalation that raised fears of a crackdown on freedom of the press," Sarah El Deeb reported Wednesday for the Associated Press.


"It was the first time authorities have put journalists on trial on terrorism-related charges, suggesting authorities are expanding the reach of a heavy-handed crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since the military's ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi on July 3.

"A trial date was not set, and the full list of charges and names of defendants not yet issued. But they are known to include three men working for Al-Jazeera English — acting bureau chief Mohammed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian, award-winning correspondent Peter Greste of Australia and producer Baher Mohamed, an Egyptian. The three were arrested on Dec. 29 in a raid on the hotel suites in which they were working.


"The charges are based on the government's designation last month of the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization. Authorities have long depicted the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera network as biased toward Morsi and the Brotherhood. . . ."

Committee to Protect Journalists: Anti-press abuses on third anniversary of Egypt uprising


Sochi Coverage Overlooks Russian Human Rights Abuses

"On October 17, 2013, Roman Kuznetsov, a construction worker from the Russian city Orenburg who had traveled to Sochi to help build the media center for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, sewed up his lips using a needle and black thread, staging a one-man protest against his employer's failure to pay his wages for months," Elena Milashina and Nina Ognianova wrote Tuesday in a special report for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "On a blank sheet of paper, Kuznetsov wrote: 'Please help get the reporters' attention! I am not from around here.'


"Exploitation of migrant workers is but one abuse that has stained preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi in February, along with corruption, environmental damage, eviction of local residents with little or no compensation, bankruptcy of local businesses, and adoption of laws contrary to the Russian Constitution, local journalists and activists told CPJ.

"According to these sources and the international organization Human Rights Watch, which has done extensive research and advocacy on human rights in Russia ahead of the Games, these violations are known to local law enforcement, the Russian government, the national justice system, and the International Olympic Committee, or IOC — the Lausanne, Switzerland-based organizer and designated custodian of the Olympic principles of equality and human dignity through sports.


"But the abuses have gone largely uncovered by the Russian news media. The majority of news outlets, particularly those controlled directly by the state, prefer to cover Sochi the way they would cover a deceased man: in a positive light or not at all. CPJ research shows that both official repression and self-censorship have restricted coverage of sensitive issues in the run-up to Sochi — the most expensive Games in Olympic history, according to news reports.

"The information vacuum comes amid a generally poor climate for press freedom across Russia. . . ."


European Federation of Journalists: 10 Things Journalists Need to Know before Going to 2014 Winter Olympics

In a Snowy N'awlins, Northern Critics Get Cold Shoulder

"I don't know what to hate more: freezing stuff falling from the sky and making our highways and bridges dangerous for traffic or the unsolicited input from northern supremacists crowing that we're overreacting by shutting everything down," Jarvis DeBerry wrote Wednesday for and the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.


"If you've got a Facebook account or a telephone or an email address, or any other bit of technology that allows communications to be sent from North to South, then you have probably [gotten] a lecture in winter hardiness from somebody who routinely deals with sub-freezing temperatures. 'You guys are afraid of a little bit of cold weather? A little bit of snow? Why, we go to school and work up here if we get three times what you guys are getting.'

"Well, hooray for all y'all. You can trudge through a blizzard for all we care. If it makes you feel like tougher human beings, go ahead and bask in your self-congratulation. But we're going to use a little more [common sense] down here and resist the impulse to go out and slide across the highways because some Northerners think we're wimps. . . ."


DeBerry also wrote, "Down here we have a Department of Transportation and Development that is liable to forget that bridges freeze first and that, oh yeah, maybe somebody should take measures to decrease the likelihood of a wintry game of bumper cars. But last Friday, for example, DOTD started responding to some icy spots after cars began crashing. . . ."

Writing for USA Today, Larry Copeland, Doug Stanglin, Doyle Rice and Gary Strauss reported Wednesday, "The arctic blast crippling much of the deep South has caused at least 13 deaths and created havoc for millions, prompting six states to declare emergencies . . ."


Greg Bluestein and Katie Leslie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Gov. Deal, Mayor Reed apologize for mistakes leading to traffic jam but resist 'blame game'

Arielle Calderon, BuzzFeed: 19 Startling Photos Of The Snow In Florida

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Give 'the Hawk' the respect it deserves

FCC Shift Could Nix Armstrong Williams' Station Purchase

A decision by the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to review so-called "shared service agreements" — under which stations share such functions as news or advertising — could threaten plans by commentator Armstrong Williams to acquire a third television station.


Williams reported in November that he had won approval from the FCC to buy WEYI-TV, an NBC affiliate in the Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland, Mich., market, and WWMB-TV, a CW affiliate in the Myrtle Beach/Florence, S.C., market, near Williams' hometown of Marion, S.C.

The stations were acquired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., and turned over to Williams under shared service agreements. Opponents see such arrangements as big companies' end runs around ownership limits.


Williams also plans to acquire WMMP-TV in Charleston, S.C., from Sinclair

The arrangements enable Williams to be one of the last African Americans, if not the last, to own a full-power, commercial television station. In December, the Roberts Broadcasting Co. of St. Louis reached a settlement to sell its three remaining television stations.


FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler addressed the shared-service issue at a conference of opponents of media consolidation this month in Oakland, Calif. "Shared services agreements that allow broadcasters to use sidecar companies to control key aspects of multiple TV stations in the same market will be coming under closer scrutiny at the FCC, Tom Wheeler, the agency's new chairman, said late Thursday," Doug Halonen of TVNewsCheck reported on Jan. 10.

Williams' lawyer, Colby May, told Journal-isms by email Tuesday, "Ch. Wheeler's decision to closely review all shared service agreements may impact Armstrong's pending agreement for Charleston, although his previous agreements for Myrtle Beach and Flint are not. They closed months ago and are in effect. Because Armstrong is hands on and produces local Public affairs and community programming — like Town Halls — we are guardedly optimistic even the Charleston deal will be ultimately approved."


Williams told Journal-isms by telephone that he hopes the FCC realizes that "every arrangement is different" and that "when we make our presentation, the FCC will have no choice but to look at us individually and not all together."

In his case, the arrangement "really benefits minorities," Williams said. He said he had already produced 10 or 12 local programs in Myrtle Beach and initiated a community discussion on domestic violence, which is scheduled for a town hall meeting on March 29. A Jan. 20 town hall discussed the Affordable Care Act.


David Oxenford, Broadcast Law Blog: What's Up With TV Shared Services Agreements?

Hispanic Team Anchors English-Language Newscast

"Orlando ABC affiliate WFTV is pairing Nancy Alvarez and Jorge Estevez for its evening newscasts on sister station WRDQ," Merrill Knox reported Monday for TVSpy.


"Alvarez will join Estevez as co-anchor of WRDQ's 10 p.m. newscasts Sunday through Thursday. The pair will also anchor WFTV's 6 and 11 p.m. newscast on Sundays. According to WFTV, they are the first Hispanic team to anchor an English language newscast in Orlando. . . ."

Short Takes

The Asian American Journalists Association complained to the New York Post Tuesday that "Your front page last Thursday showed recently signed Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka in the cockpit of a Japanese warplane, labeling him the '$155M Bronx Bomber' and a new 'Japanese ace.' The depiction was of poor taste, and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is relieved to learn that editors at The Post also found the graphic offensive and pulled it — but not before some editions containing the objectionable cover hit the street," according to a letter to Post Managing Editor Frank Zini signed by Bobby Caina Calvan, AAJA Media Watch chair, and Paul Cheung, AAJA national president.


"The Washington Post has significantly increased its budget and plans to make dozens of newsroom hires under its new owner, the Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, the paper's executive editor, Marty Baron, said in an interview on Wednesday," Ravi Somaiya reported Wednesday for the New York Times.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is launching a $1 million fund to support innovation in nonprofit and public media organizations, Justin Ellis wrote Tuesday for the Nieman Journalism Lab. "The $1 million will go [toward] around 30 projects over the next two years, with most organizations winning grants of $25,000 to $35,000. The grants are open to any online news nonprofit or public media organization in the United States," Ellis wrote. The new INNovation Fund is a collaboration between Knight and the Investigative News Network.


"The University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics seeks applications for the first national Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics," the university announced on Monday. It also said, "The center will award $1,000 to the journalist (or team) whose reporting on a specific story or series best exemplifies seeking and reporting truth, minimizing harm, acting independently, and remaining accountable. . . ."

"Television news viewers proved curious about ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas' battle with alcoholism, with her return to '20/20' on Friday night earning the newsmagazine's biggest audience in four years," David Bauder reported Wednesday for the Associated Press.


"Alexis Wiley delivered her last report on Fox 2 Tuesday night, though she'll still appear there occasionally and will be quoted elsewhere as Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's press secretary," Deadline Detroit reported on Wednesday. " 'I'm leaving for an amazing opportunity that will allow me to serve the city I've grown to love!' she posts on Facebook. . . ."

In Charlotte, N.C., "Former journalist Vince Coakley announced today his candidacy to replace Mel Watt in the U.S. House of Representatives," Susan Stabley reported Tuesday for the Charlotte Business Journal. "Mel Watt, a Democrat from Charlotte, resigned earlier this month from the congressional seat he has held for more than two decades to take the helm of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. Coakley says he intends 'to be the first Republican elected to Congress in the 12th District of N.C.' . . ." Coakley is an 18-year-veteran of WSOC-TV and a conservative radio commentator.


In Orlando, "Mark McEwen, who survived a stroke while working at WKMG-Channel 6, is returning to the CBS affiliate to report inspiring local stories for the noon news," Hal Boedeker reported Friday for the Orlando Sentinel. "McEwen's reports will start airing in several weeks, the station announced Friday." Boedeker also wrote, "McEwen worked at CBS in morning news for 16 years before coming to Orlando in 2004 as a morning anchor. . . "

"A brand that garnered brickbats — and bouquets — last year for its take on modern family life is returning with another 30-second parable about diversity, this time during Super Bowl XLVIII, the year's biggest showcase for advertising," Stuart Elliott reported Thursday for the New York Times. "The brand is Cheerios cereal, which introduced in May a commercial featuring an interracial family that unexpectedly generated an outpouring of vituperative online remarks. . . ."


Legendary folk singer Pete Seeger, who died Monday at 94, "cited the Mohawk teacher Ray Fadden-Tehanetorens as the man who turned his attention to the natural world," Doug George-Kanentiio wrote Wednesday for "Ostracized by most other musicians during the 1950's Seeger found his way into the northern Adirondacks where he met Fadden. He was educated about Iroquois history and philosophy during sessions which included Fadden teaching Seeger a canoe paddling song. . . . Seeger also encouraged Oneida Nation musician Joanne Shenandoah. She was one of his favorite artists. He shared the stage with her on many occasions including a remarkable set with the late Odetta ten years ago and in 2012 when he, Shenandoah and Patti Smith sang at Cooper Union Hall in New York City for a human rights event. . . ."

"The Shirley Povich Center For Sports Journalism at the University Of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism is debuting a sports media project entitled 'Still No Cheering In The Press Box," reported Tuesday. "The project is an extension of the 1973 book 'No Cheering In The Press Box' by Jerome Holtzman that detailed the lives and careers of 24 sportswriters whose careers spanned mostly from the 1920s to the 1970s including Shirley Povich and Red Smith." The first chapter, by Patrick Donohue and Lindsay Simpson, is on ESPN commentator Michael Wilbon.


Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it was "concerned about the tough line that Niger's authorities have begun taking with journalists, arresting four in Niamey in the past five days. Zakari Adamou, the host of a talk show on privately-owned Canal 3 TV, and Ousmane Dan Badji, the editor of the newspaper L’Union, who was a guest on Adamou's show, were summoned for questioning by the police yesterday afternoon and were still in police custody as this press release was being drafted today. . . ."

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince’s Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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

Share This Story

Get our newsletter