Aurora Shooter's Race Was First News

Aurora, Colo., theater(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)
Aurora, Colo., theater(Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images)

Racial ID Presaged Suspension of Other Media Rules

News consumers learned that the man suspected of shooting 70 people in Aurora, Colo., on Friday was white before they knew his name.


NPR described the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring at least 58 others as a "white male in his early 20s. "On Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now," host Amy Goodman said the gunman was "believed to be white, about 24 years old."

Later, police arrested  James Holmes, 24, who is in the process of withdrawing from a neuroscience Ph.D. program at the University of Colorado Denver Anschutz Medical Campus. And, yes, he is white.


That might have come as a relief to any who feared that he might be African American, like the D.C. snipers, who terrorized the nation's capital for weeks in 2002 and left 10 people dead, or Asian, like the Virginia Tech killer, who left 32 people dead and wounded several others in 2007.

But identifying suspects by race when it is not clearly germane violates most style guides.

Paul Colford, spokesman for the Associated Press, explained to Journal-isms at midday, "I'm told that 'white' was part of the original police description, though that element will be dropped. Race is included when a story contains a racial element, and so far this one apparently has no such element."

Reporting the suspect's race was the least of the departures from accepted journalism practices.


"Television journalism today proved that it learned little from last month's Supreme Court mishap," Erik Wemple wrote for the Washington Post. "ABC News's Brian Ross, in a rush to break some news on the Aurora, Colo., shooting rampage, incorrectly associated the suspect in the case with the Tea Party.

"Brian Ross: There is a Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado, page on the Colorado Tea Party site as well, talking about him joining the Tea Party last year. Now we don't know if this is the same Jim Holmes — but this is Jim Holmes of Aurora, Colorado.


"Later, on ABC News Special Report, Ross started backtracking or, in the words of the ABC News PR shop, 'clarified the reporting' . . . "

Relying on social media for news presented its own problem. Daniel Oates, Aurora police chief, told reporters at a 2 p.m. news conference, "Please, as responsible journalists, be very careful. We are analyzing all social media that is out there about this event, and I can tell you that we are already finding that there are already a lot of pranks. There is even someone who called a national media station and represented [himself] to be me."


Joanne Ostrow, the Denver Post's television critic, reported that "Network news teams scrambled to report from Denver. The evening newscasts, 'Today,' '48 Hours,' 'Dateline,' Anderson Cooper, and others immediately mobilized to be on the scene Friday evening.

"Email, Twitter and Facebook played an increased role, as victims bypassed traditional media to tell their own stories. Broadcasters at times read the latest information off the Internet."


Some of the reporting was helpful to journalists. Al Tompkins of the Poynter Institute offered "7 tips for covering the Colorado theater shooting" and his Poynter colleague Mallary Jean Tenore wrote "How to approach sources on Twitter when covering tragedies like the Colorado shooting."

For some journalists, the story became personal when an aspiring Colorado sports reporter — who barely missed a deadly Toronto shooting last month — was identified among those gunned down at the Aurora movie theater, as David Ariosto of CNN reported.


Jordan Ghawi, brother of the slain aspiring journalist, Jessica Ghawi, 24, began his blog, "At approximately 0215 CST, I received an hysterical, and almost unintelligible, phone call from my mother stating that my sister, Jessica Ghawi, had been shot while attending the midnight showing of 'The Dark Knight Rises' in Denver, CO." He updated readers for the rest of the day.

"Let us remember the names of the victims and not the name of the coward who committed this act," Jordan tweeted Friday afternoon, Rennie Dyball of People magazine reported.


Erin Carlson, Hollywood Reporter: 'Dark Knight Rises' Shootings: Networks Send Anchors to Colorado

Eric Deggans, Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: Dark Knight movie shooting shows how quickly our pop culture celebrations can be turned against us


Michael Malone, Broadcasting & Cable: Denver Stations Tackle Yet Another Mass Tragedy

Jack Mirkinson, Huffington Post: Aurora Shooting: Networks Go Wall-To-Wall On Tragedy


Rem Rieder, American Journalism Review: Well, It Might Be the Same Guy

Gumbel Surprised at Curry's Treatment as "Martyr"

Former "Today" anchor Ann Curry returned to NBC Friday night to anchor the network's coverage of the shooting in Colorado, Alex Weprin reported for TVNewser.


Curry anchored a special edition of "Dateline" live from Aurora, Colo., at 9 p.m., appeared on "NBC Nightly News," and was to co-anchor "Today" with Savannah Guthrie, her replacement, from Aurora on Saturday and Sunday. They are Curry's first appearances on NBC since she left "Today" on June 28.

Meanwhile, former "Today" co-host Bryant Gumbel expressed no sympathy for Curry's being forced out of the "Today" chair.


" . . . Gumbel, the broadcaster who presided over the morning program for 15 years, said he feels Curry has received overly favorable treatment," Steven Zeitchik wrote Wednesday for the "Show Tracker" feature in the Los Angeles Times. "Curry's ouster, Gumbel believes, was a simple matter of ratings, and he wonders why so many observers and commentators have rallied so vocally to her defense.

" 'I'm surprised and disappointed at this idea that Ann was a martyr, that she was thrown under the bus,' Gumbel told Show Tracker. 'I don't know why she's being portrayed as a modern-day Joan of Arc. In every job, in every walk of life, people are hired to do a job, and if they don't do it well they are relieved of that job.'


"The famously frank journalist added, 'It's a big-boy business, and when things don't work out, people are asked to leave. It's happened to me; it's happened to almost everyone in this business.'"

Devin Gordon, GQ: The Jeremy Lin Debate No One Wants to Have

Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Linsanity, Ann Curry, and a New America Media award


Roy S. Johnson Lands at History Channel Magazine

Seventeen months after his job as editor of Men's Fitness magazine was eliminated, veteran journalist Roy S. Johnson announced Thursday that, "It is with humility, gratitude – and, yes, tremendous joy! — that I share with you the news of my new duties as Editor-in-Chief of the History Channel's magazine and Executive Director of the History Channel Club.


"I am overseeing print, digital, social media and sponsorship activities, and will work closely with my new best friends @HistoryChannel to ensure total integration the network’s tremendous content with those platforms."

"And I can't wait to go hang with the #swamppeople and #pawnstars!

"Fit! Live! Win! will continue operate, as will my other ventures, including Write On Essays! and RSJ Media Solutions. Sleep? Overrated."


Firing Shows "Race Is Third Rail of American Politics"

"In America, talk about race is complex and fraught with danger. It is easy for people of good will to stumble when discussing it — and then trip a landmine. One recent explosion seems to have led to the firing, in late June, of respected Politico reporter Joe Williams," Jennifer Vanasco wrote Friday for Columbia Journalism Review.


"You may have heard the story. Williams, a White House correspondent for Politico and the former Deputy Chief of the Washington Bureau of the Boston Globe, was suspended and then fired after posted a clip of him talking on MSNBC. In the quick clip, Williams, who is black, said, 'But when [Mitt Romney] comes on Fox and Friends, they're like him, they're white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company, so it's a very stark contrast I think and a problem that he's not been able to solve to date and he's going to have to work harder if he's going to try to compete.' Translation: Romney is more comfortable around white people."

Referring to American University professor Leonard Steinhorn, director of the Public Communication Division at the AU School of Communication, Vanasco concluded, " . . . [Williams's] firing has some lessons for journalists. First, race is still 'the third rail of American politics,' as Steinhorn said during the interview with CJR. It is important to be able to back up what you say with facts.


"And second, said Steinhorn, if you're not a columnist or an opinion writer, 'Stop the analysis and stop the advocacy and stick to gumshoe reporting.'

"In our brave new world of talking-head reporters, that may be impossible."

"Lens" Tackles "Race, Representation and Diversity"

"Freedom was in color. That was the indelible memory that Omar Rodríguez Saludes remembered the day he boarded an Iberia flight to Spain from Havana in 2010," David Gonzalez wrote July 10 for the Lens blog of the New York Times. "Until then, his world was sketched in drab shades of gray, green and white. Those were the colors of his imprisonment: gray for his rags, white for the walls and green for the guards.


" 'To see any other color was rare,' Mr. Rodríguez Saludes said. "But in that plane, I saw colors. Everyone was dressed regularly. I saw colors I had not seen in a long time.'

"Seven years, to be exact. Journalism was the reason for his imprisonment. Specifically, everyday shots of Havana life, far from the gleaming tourist hotels and beaches. His world showed a crumbling city with haggard faces, presided over, Oz-like, by billboards with revolutionary slogans.


"He had been among some 20 independent journalists who were rounded up by the Cuban government during a sweep of 75 dissidents in March 2003, and given lengthy sentences after quick trials."

Gonzalez told Journal-isms by email this week, "One of the things I had hoped to accomplish when I came on as co-editor of the Lens Blog was to broaden the types of photographers and images featured on the blog. So, in recent months my co-editor Jim Estrin and I have showcased how West African fotogs see West Africa, or how a Guatemalan fotog created an iconic image to symbolize his country's genocide.


"We have also made a point of raising issues of representation — how 'minorities' are seen by others as opposed to how they portray their own world. One of the most talked about posts was 'My White Friends', where Myra Greene, an African American shooter, made her white friends think about their own race as opposed to accept White as the default position.

" . . . I do think we have delved more deeply into more issues on race, representation and diversity than any other photo blog that I am aware of."


Latino Activist Worries About El Diario-La Prensa

"When earlier this year the Argentinian newspaper, La Nación, bought ImpreMedia, the publisher of El Diario-La Prensa, La Opinión and other US-based Spanish-language newspapers, they made assurances, like most buyers initially do, that not much would change," Angelo Falcón, president of the New York-based National Institute for Latino Policy, wrote Monday for the institute.


"However, recent changes they have announced for their new properties seem to point to the real possibility that El Diario-La Prensa's days may be numbered. The city's Latino community may have to speak up now if they want to see this historic paper (and now news site) to continue to operate," Falcón continued, speaking of New York.

" . . . The takeover of El Diario and ImpreMedia by this politically conservative Argentinian newspaper raised eyebrows in light of El Diario's largely liberal political leanings. But now the question is not so much whether its political orientation will change but whether its new foreign owners will shut it down or allow it to fail.


" . . . Before the La Nación takeover, Juan González and Joseph Torres, in their book, News for All the People, described El Diario-La Prensa's position as follows:

" 'None of the surviving Spanish-language dailies in the United States are owned or controlled by Latinos. Even the most prestigious, El Diario/La Prensa and La Opinión, are run by non-Hispanic investors and executives. ImpreMedia, which acquired La Opinión and New York's Hoy from the Tribune Company, and purchased El Diario separately, has emerged as the largest publisher of Spanish-language dailies in the country, with the Lozano family, former owner of La Opinión, holding a minority share. Founded by Canadian entrepreneur John Paton in 2003, ImpreMedia is a joint venture of three private equity firms — ACON Investments, Clarity Partners, and Halyard Capital . . . — with the specific aim of 'consolidating the Spanish-language newspaper sector.'


"Since then, this media consolidation has gone from one dominant foreign investor from Canada to now another even more dominant foreign investor from Argentina. The paper currently, for example, outsources much of its production to cheap labor in Monterrey, Mexico, undercutting local union workers in the process. So will we being seeing more of this under the Argentinian owners? What this means for the future of not only of El Diario but for Spanish-language dailies in the United States as a whole is anybody's guess at this point. But it certainly has important implications for the way millions of Latinos will be getting their news and defining their issues. . . . "

Ex-Univision Boss Gives to "Anti-Immigrant" Candidates

"Jerry Perenchio, who built a personal fortune as co-owner of the Univision Spanish-language TV network, donated at least $2.5 million to super PACs backing candidates who political analysts describe as anti-immigrant," Janell Ross reported Wednesday for Huffington Post.


"His $2.6 million in super PAC contributions this election cycle — all but $100,000 directed to super PACs backing Republican candidates tough on immigration — makes him one of the nation's 10 biggest known campaign donors, according to Federal Elections Commission records.

"Perenchio, the 81-year-old son of an Italian immigrant, declined to comment on his super PAC contributions through an assistant at Chartwell Partners, the Los Angeles-based boutique investment company where he now serves as CEO. He contributed to super PACs supporting GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Jon Huntsman and to Karl Rove's American Crossroads, which backs conservative candidates."


Fox Hypocritical to Offer Latino Website, Some Say

"Leading Latino leaders are criticizing the Fox News website Fox News Latino, saying it lacks credibility among Hispanics by profiting from them even as they are demonized by the conservative parent network known for anti-immigrant coverage," Joe Strupp reported Friday for Media Matters for America.


"Since it launched in 2010, Fox News Latino has positioned itself as 'the place to go for news that impacts the Latino Community,' covering news, politics, entertainment, and other stories through that lens.

" 'We were skeptical when we heard about this,' Inez Gonzalez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, said of the creation of Fox News Latino. 'Fox News is a big voice in the anti-Latino rhetoric, so we were skeptical. Some of the articles that I have seen have been interesting to me, [but] I think the owners are hypocrites. I think they are totally forgetting there is [doublespeak] here. . . . '"


Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times: Jokes About Fox News Creep Into Obama's Comments as the Campaign Heats Up

Money Request Cost Zimmerman a Talk With Walters

Barbara Walters Friday confirmed a New York Post report that she was set to interview George Zimmerman, accused in the killing of unarmed Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, until Zimmerman asked for money at the last minute, Kristal Roberts reported for ABC News.


"Walters confirmed the posts report on The View, saying that she and her crew were preparing to do the interview when Zimmerman said there was a change of plans. Walters said Zimmerman refused to do the interview unless she paid for the month-long hotel stay.

"She said as a member of ABC News she couldn't do that."

Meanwhile, Colleen Curry, Matt Gutman and Seni Tienabeso reported Thursday for ABC that "Zimmerman's television interview in which he said he had few regrets about the night he killed teenager Trayvon Martin has been entered as possible evidence in his upcoming murder trial.


"In a wide ranging interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity Zimmerman, appearing articulate and calm, said he neither regretted carrying a gun that night nor pursuing the 17-year-old Martin."

Joy-Ann Reid, 5 things George Zimmerman told Sean Hannity that may come back to haunt him


C-SPAN to Televise Harlem Book Fair Saturday

C-SPAN's Book TV is televising the 14th annual Harlem Book Fair live Saturday from 12:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Eastern time from the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


Scheduled are:

12:30 p.m.: "African American Publishing," with Carol Mackey, editor-in-chief, Black Expressions Book Club; Zane, author and publisher; Charmaine Parker, publishing director, Strebor Books.


2 p.m.: "Education," with Akil Khalfani, "The Hidden Debate: The Truth Revealed about the Battle over Affirmative Action in South Africa and the United States"; Baruti Kafele, "Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School & In Life"; John Michael Lee Jr., "The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color: A Review of Research, Pathways and Progress"; Shaun R. Harper, "Student Engagement in Higher Education: Theoretical Perspectives and Practical Approaches for Diverse Populations." The moderator is Carlton E. Brown, president of Clark Atlanta University.

3:30 p.m.: "2012 Presidential Election," with Khalil Gibran Muhammad, "The Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime, and the Making of Modern Urban America"; Cornel West, "The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto"; Fredrick C. Harris, "The Price of the Ticket: Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics"; Sonia Sanchez, author and activist. Moderator: Peniel Joseph, "Dark Days, Bright Nights: From Black Power to Barack Obama."


5 p.m.: "150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation," with Nell Irvin Painter, "The History of White People"; Obery M. Hendricks, "The Universe Bends Toward Justice: Radical Reflections on the Bible, the Church, and the Body Politic"; Farah Jasmine Griffin, "Who Set You Flowin'? The African-American Migration Narrative." Moderator: Christopher Paul Moore, historian and curator, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

Short Takes

Angela "Angi" Carter and Karen Workman, who have most recently served as community engagement editors at the New Haven (Conn.) Register and the Oakland (Mich.) Press, respectively, are joining Digital First Media's national Curation Team as part of Thunderdome, the company’s centralized news operation, Digital First announced on Thursday. Julie Westfall, former associate editor for, was named to lead the new team.


"Journalists, editors and publishers representing ethnic media across Northern and Central California gathered Thursday night in San Francisco to celebrate the 2012 New America Media awards gala," Peter Schurmann reported for New America Media. "Hosted by long-time veteran Belva Davis, the event honored those whose work exemplifies this fast growing media sector."

"Steve Malavé returns to TV after an 11 year absence as Senior Content Producer of News for MundoFox," Veronica Villafañe reported Wednesday for her Media Moves site. " . . . Steve was most recently President & Owner of Malavé Media, a multimedia consulting firm. He was previously News Director for NPR affiliate WUSF in Tampa. Before that, he was News Director of Univision's WXTV in 2001 and Assistant News Director for KMEX in L.A. in 2000."


Caryn Grant of the Telegraph in Macon, Ga., is joining the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., as North Raleigh News/Midtown Raleigh News sports editor, Linda Darnell Williams, senior editor, confirmed on Friday. Grant succeeds Nate Taylor, who is joining the New York Times under a program that hires young reporters on a probationary basis.

"On a recent trip to the West Coast, CNN and TVONE's Roland Martin had a dinner party thrown in his honor at the home of actress Vanessa Bell Calloway," Peter Ogburn reported Thursday for FishbowlDC. " . . . He welcomed semi-famous celebrities, including Elise Neal, Tracey Edmonds, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tatyana Ali, Judge Greg Mathis, Judge Kevin Ross and Jackee Harry."


"The Root (, an online magazine featuring news and commentary from black perspectives, today announced a partnership with The Journal of Negro Education (JNE) at Howard University," the Washington Post Co., owner of the Root, announced on Thursday. "As part of the collaboration, Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, editor-in-chief of JNE, will write a year-long series called 'Show Me The Numbers' that examines some of the most pressing educational and social issues facing African-Americans."

"CNN has significantly beaten its rivals in the latest EMS Africa survey, confirming its position as the single most watched international broadcaster on the continent — winning seven out of ten of the continent's key audiences across all platforms every month — according to results released today by Ipsos Synovate," according to a news release quoted Thursday by David Zurawik in the Baltimore Sun.  "The news comes just after CNN was also named the number one international news channel in Europe (EMS Europe), the Middle East (EMS Middle East) and the Asia Pacific region (Pan-Asia Pacific Cross-Media survey or PAX)."


"The white scars on Mona Eltahawy’s arms are fading, but her determination to fight to bring Egypt a bright future through a constitution that broadly embraces human rights is not," Kristen McTighe reported Wednesday for the New York Times. " . . . A writer and former Reuters journalist, who has written for the International Herald Tribune, Ms. Eltahawy, 44, . . . is an example of people with connections to Egypt who have returned to the country following the revolution and are trying to help shape its future."

In Brazil, "The journalist André Caramante has been receiving threats from former São Paulo military police commander Adriano Lopes Lucinda Telhada and his supporters ever since Caramante wrote a column for the daily newspaper A Folha de São Paulo on 14 July criticising the hate-mongering and obsession with security on Telhada’s Facebook page," Reporters Without Borders reported Friday.


"Idriss Gasana Byiringiro, a journalist working with The Chronicles, a weekly English newspaper based in Rwanda, yesterday said that he faked his own kidnap as part of research for a story," Bosco R. Asiimwe reported Friday for New Times in Kigali, Rwanda. "Byiringiro's plan backfired on him after a police investigation that was commissioned to look into his alleged kidnap and harassment unearthed the details of his plot."

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

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