Brutal Prizefighter Injuries Raise Questions About Coverage

Mike Perez lands a hard left-cross on the head of Magomed Abdusalamov during their heavyweight bout Nov. 2, 2013. Abdusalamov underwent brain surgery after the fight to remove a blood clot from his brain and emerged last month from a medically induced coma.
Joe Camporeale/USA Today

Some Still Say Fighters Fare Better in Ring Than in Streets

"In the span of two weeks last fall, two prizefighters went to the hospital after their bouts. Francisco Leal, 26, died of a brain injury after a knockout loss to Raul Hirales on October 19," Alan Neuhauser wrote Thursday for Columbia Journalism Review.


"Magomed Abdusalamov, 32, remains in a medically induced coma as I write, with a blood clot near his brain, after a November 2 fight with Mike Perez. The incidents provoked a flurry of self-flagellating stories in the boxing press, from Mike Gallego's 'Boxing is Still a Goddamned Tragedy' on the Gawker site Uppercutting, to Greg Bishop's A1 story in The New York Times that explored 'why we cover this brutal sport.' [Abdusalamov was reported to have emerged from the coma on Dec. 9, but Thomas Hauser wrote on Christmas for, "Some people would choose to not continue living under the current circumstances of Magomed's life."]

Neuhauser continued, "A better question might be: Why don’t we cover this brutal sport more? For amid the thousands of words about Leal and Abdusalamov, an issue that has become one of the defining sports stories of our time was conspicuously absent: the connection of repeated concussive and subconcussive hits to long-term brain damage that surfaces years later. 'Writers tend to write much more often when a guy's battling for his life with a subdural hematoma than when a guy is potentially sustaining consequences from subconcussive hits,' says Lou DiBella, one of boxing's biggest promoters. 'I don't think the writers give a rat's ass about concussions.'

"Bart Barry, a reporter for the boxing-news website 15 Rounds, described it more charitably: 'I think we all kind of hide from it — what, we're learning more and more, is really bad for you.'

"But this may be starting to change. And the implications, for boxers, boxing fans, and boxing writers, are profound. 'We've all helped make a lot of myths,' says The New York Times' Bishop, who also covers college football. 'Somebody needs to be looking out for these guys.' He acknowledged having had 'trouble sleeping for a few nights' after covering a fight. 'I don't get that watching football,' he says.


"That boxing is dangerous is hardly news. [Just] look at Muhammad Ali, Meldrick Taylor, or countless other veterans of the sweet science, their hands shaking, their speech slurred, their gait unsteady. But the growing unease among some boxing writers is something new. . . ."

Some see a difference in perspective between white boxing writers and those of color. Tim Smith, a black journalist laid off from the Daily News in New York in May, now freelancing and known primarily as an award-winning boxing writer, told Journal-isms Friday, "I've always had misgivings about covering the sport," but that journalists have an obligation to do so.


Smith said by email, "I've seen four guys die as a result of injuries sustained in the ring. It's very disturbing. There is no justification for boxing as a competitive sport other than it's a violent entertainment vehicle with millions of fans around the world and there are billions of dollars being spent on the sport. To me it's no more or less violent than football.

"To not cover it would be irresponsible, because the abuses would run rampant and unchecked. To call for safety gear changes the fundamental nature of the sport, but it's probably the only thing that will curtail long term head injuries. You can argue that because boxers who get knocked out are forced to sit out for 90 days makes it somewhat safer than pro football in terms of head injuries, but it's a specious argument. You can walk away from covering it, but it's not going to make the sport disappear.


"I find no particular joy in watching the violence, but I think the boxers are some of the most noble sportsmen in the world. They are the only reason I cover the sport. The only question I have about this particular article [in CJR] is I don't know what the recent science is on boxing and long term head injuries. We know it's not good to get hit repeatedly in the head, regardless of what any study says, but I'd still like to see the latest studies."

Gautham Nagesh, a Wall Street Journal reporter and national treasurer of the Asian American Journalists Association, also is founder and editor of the Stiff Jab website, which covers boxing. He agreed with Smith's sentiment about boxers.


"For those who condemn boxing out of hand, they probably live in a world where violence exists only on the screen, in the news, or inside a ring," Nagesh wrote in September for NPR's "Code Switch" blog. "They are fortunate to lead such a mundane existence, as am I; violence is not something we risk every day just by walking down the street. But reality is far different in many neighborhoods, especially those that produce fighters. To many of the young boxers I've met, violence is a fact of life. The boxing gym is one of the few places where that violence is controlled, and paradoxically, often a safe haven from what waits in the streets.

"For the young men I've followed over the past few years, almost all African-American, the ring is a place to channel their anger and violent surroundings into something positive. Some learn to fight outside of the ring, but learning to box often saps them of aggression and gives them remarkable self-control. Anyone in boxing will tell you that fighters are often some of the most gentle, decent, nonconfrontational people you will ever encounter. The embrace between fighters at the end of a match is not the forced handshake of rival NFL coaches — it's a remarkable moment when two men instantly pivot from trying to destroy each other to being grateful they have both come through the battle still capable of standing. . . ."


Obit Writers Cautious on Labeling Radio Talker a Racist

"What would you call someone who routinely referred to black people as 'savages,' and declared that, as a white person, New York's nonwhite majority was a 'bad thing'?," Peter Hart wrote Friday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.


"Someone who wondered why it was taking basketball star Magic Johnson 'so long for the HIV to go into full- blown AIDS,' and who thought a proper response to a gay rights parade would be 'to have a few phalanxes of policemen with machine guns and mow them down'? Someone who used his perch on the public airwaves to promote white supremacist organizations?

"A bigot and a racist, one might think.

"But read the New York Times obituary (1/3/13) for right-wing talk radio icon Bob, and you get a different sense. . . ."


Grant, who died Tuesday at 84, was described in obituaries Friday as the father of modern talk radio. But they differed in characterizing Grant's views on race.

In 1996, the National Association of Black Journalists gave Buckley Broadcasting Corp. of Greenwich, Conn., its annual Thumbs Down Award for syndicating Grant after he was dropped by WABC radio in New York after a string of racially offensive comments.


"In 1996," the Times' Paul Vitello wrote in his obituary of Grant, "WABC fired him over a remark he made after news reports said a plane carrying Ronald H. Brown, the commerce secretary in the Clinton administration, had crashed in Croatia. In a comment on the air following the news bulletin, Mr. Grant seemed to express the hope that Mr. Brown, an African-American and a perennial target of his scorn, had not survived. All 35 people aboard the plane were killed. . . . " Grant later apologized.

Janelle Griffith reported for the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., "Grant fervently denied he was a racist, saying he insulted people of every skin color."


She wrote, "despite his popularity, Grant frequently came under fire for crossing a line from candor to caustic rants and, some charged, outright racist attacks on blacks and immigrant groups.

"He referred to former New York City Mayor David Dinkins as a 'men's room attendant' and lambasted Martin Luther King Jr. as 'that slimeball' and 'this bum, this womanizer, this liar, this fake, this phony.' "


The conservative website Newsmax made no reference to race or racism in its obituary. Neither did David Hinckley in the Daily News in New York, although News columnist Errol Louis in 2009 had called Grant "the granddaddy of race-baiting broadcasters."

"Grant, of course, has always denied being a racist," Louis wrote then. "On Dec. 13, 1993, in fact, he suggested whites aren't permitted to express racist thoughts in public: 'If they did allow it, the thugs, the savages, the refugees from the Kalahari would tear the place apart,' he said. 'But I guess our group has evolved too far. I guess that's the price we pay for being a little higher up on the evolutionary scale.' "


Newsday's Verne Gay examined Grant's stance toward racism more extensively than most, quoting Grant's statements and those who said the charges were unfair. The New York Post web site ran an Associated Press story that included this passage:

"He once said of blacks: 'I can't take these screaming savages, whether they're in the African Methodist Church, the A.M.E. church, or whether they’re in the streets, burning, robbing, looting.' "


The news media's reluctance to tag people as racists is not new. When Sen. Jesse Helms, the late North Carolina Republican, retired in 2001, David S. Broder of the Washington Post, dean of political reporters, wrote a column headlined, "Jesse Helms, White Racist."

"Those who believe that the 'liberal press' always has its knives sharpened for Republicans and conservatives must have been flummoxed by the coverage of Sen. Jesse Helms's announcement last week that he will not run for reelection next year in North Carolina. The reporting on his retirement was circumspect to the point of pussyfooting,"  wrote Broder, who died in 2011.


Broder also said, "What really sets Jesse Helms apart is that he is the last prominent unabashed white racist politician in this country — a title that one hopes will now be permanently retired."

He added, "What is unique about Helms — and from my viewpoint, unforgivable — is his willingness to pick at the scab of the great wound of American history, the legacy of slavery and segregation, and to inflame racial resentment against African Americans. . . ."


Paula Madison Wants Out of Money-Losing WNBA Team

"The WNBA is searching for a new Sparks owner after Sparks Chairman Paula Madison told the league her family-owned company would no longer be involved with the team, The Times has learned," Melissa Rohlin reported Thursday for the Los Angeles Times.


Madison retired in 2011 as executive vice president and chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal after more than 35 years in the news media. She and her family are majority owners of the Los Angeles Sparks and of the Africa Channel. She told Journal-isms on Friday that her other investments are not affected.

"We're still the owners and still have the rights to operate the team. We have informed the WNBA that we can't continue to fund the team at a loss," she said in an email. "We informed the WNBA that we're exploring options and asked the League to assist us."


Doug Feinberg reported for the Associated Press, "Madison said in a phone conversation that the team had lost $12 million since she took over ownership in 2007, including 1.4 million this past year and her family couldn't sustain the losses any more.

"'This is a sad time for my family because we want L.A. to have a thriving championship women's basketball team,' she said, 'and, most importantly, we had hoped to continue employing these great behind-the-scenes employees who worked tirelessly on behalf of women's basketball.'


"All Sparks front office personnel, including the team's president and general manager, were laid off on New Year's Eve via e-mail. . . ."

Roberts Disclosure, "Duck Dynasty" Could Be Tipping Point

"Some people insist that Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts acknowledging her girlfriend of 10 years in a Facebook post isn't news at all," Eric Deggans wrote Wednesday for NPR.


"Roberts reportedly was open in her personal life about her sexual orientation. And she has survived two high-profile cancer struggles with partner Amber Laign at her side; so a holiday message expressing gratitude for lots of things including 'my longtime girlfriend Amber' seemed appropriate.

"When GMA's former weatherman Sam Champion announced his engagement and marriage to partner Rubem Robierb in 2012, ABC News sent out a news release and a photo of the happy couple.


"And celebrity revelations of same-sex relationships have moved from the covers of best-selling magazines to offhand comments in Facebook posts and lines buried deep in New York Times profiles (never mind that ABC News and first lady Michelle Obama both sent supportive messages as word spread of Roberts' post, ensuring further coverage).

"But at a time when the A&E network essentially had to back down from its effort to punish Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson for giving an interview where he compared homosexuality to bestiality and promiscuity — suspending him and then reinstating him without really affecting the show's filming — it's obvious America remains at a crucial tipping point on this issue. . . ."


Charles M. Blow, New York Times: ‘Duck Dynasty’ and Quackery (Dec. 20)

Jarvis DeBerry, | the Times-Picayune: As 'Duck Dynasty' star criticizes homosexuality, Uganda moves to punish it with life imprisonment (Dec. 20)


Stuart Emmrich, New York Times: 'In Other News:' ' TV Personalities’ Low-Key Coming Out

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: Dynasty Proved Again Bucks Always Trumps Bigotry


Sherrilyn A. Ifill, The Root: Forget Duck Dynasty; There Are Important Civil Rights Battles to Fight

Don Lemon, Free Speech Still Costs: Why Phil Robertson Shouldn't Be Fired from 'Duck Dynasty' (Dec. 19 )


Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Phil Robertson has right to his faith without condemnation (Dec. 23)

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: Racism Rears its Ugly Beard (Dec. 23)

Fox News Keeps Cable News Ratings Title for 2013

"Fox News retained its top spot in the cable news ratings battle in 2013 despite falling viewership, according to Nielsen data reported by TVNewser," Roger Yu reported Thursday for USA Today.


"The network, owned by 21st Century Fox, tallied nearly 1.1 million total viewers for primetime shows and 1.76 million day viewers. Total viewership fell 5%, reflecting the broader struggles of the cable business, which is steadily losing customers to other video options.

"Fox News shook up its lineup in September for the fall season, moving Shepard Smith from the 7 p.m. ET slot to lead a breaking news division, and assigning anchor Megyn Kelly to the 9 p.m. ET prime-time slot.


"CNN, which completed its first year of operation under the leadership of Jeff Zucker, trailed Fox and MSNBC in primetime viewership, which totaled 568,000. It was CNN's lowest 8-11 p.m. ET [rating] in 20 years, according to TVNewser. . . ."

MSNBC last week called itself the most diverse cable news channel. Monday through Sunday, 6 a.m. to 2 a.m., 30 percent of MSNBC's 25-54 audience was African American,   and 7 percent was Hispanic for the year. "2013 is the fourth consecutive year MSNBC primetime is #1 among cable news nets among African-American viewers with both A25-54 and Total viewers," a news release announced.


Steve Benen, MSNBC: The Great 2013 Sunday Show Race

Deadline Hollywood: CNN Chief Jeff Zucker: "We Have Had A Really Good Year" (Dec. 24)


TVNewser: 2013 Cable Ranker

"10 More Journalists and Trends to Watch in 2014"

Media watcher and allDigitocracy founder Tracie Powell weighed in Friday with "10 More Journalists & Trends to Watch in 2014."


She listed TV One host Roland Martin; Al Jazeera America; Matt Thompson, manager of digital initiatives at NPR; Don Lemon, CNN anchor and "Tom Joyner Morning Show" commentator; Unity: Journalists for Diversity; Matt Lauer, co-host of NBC-TV's "Today" show; television host Katie Couric, now at Yahoo News; Robin Roberts of ABC-TV's "Good Morning America"; English-language Hispanic media and HuffPost Live.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Reporter listed its "Head-scratcher race stories of 2013," beginning with "Is Miss America American enough?"


"When Nina Davuluri became the first Indian American to be crowned Miss America in October, the racist corner of the Internet exploded with predictably ignorant bile," the site recalled.

Wesley Lowery Moves from Boston Globe to Washington Post

Wesley Lowery, a reporter for the Boston Globe who from 2011 to 2013 was the student representative on the board of the National Association of Black Journalists, "will be joining our political team covering Congress as part of our online strike force, contributing primarily to The Fix and Post Politics," Washington Post editors announced on Friday.


Lowery wrote on Facebook, "It's been my dream since I was 14-years-old to be in DC, covering national politics. Overwhelmed at this opportunity. God is good.

"At the same time, I'm torn. Never imagined I'd find a job or a team as much as what I have here at the Boston Globe. Have never loved a newspaper or a team as much as this one. . . "


The Post editors wrote in a memo, "Wesley has the unique skill set that positions him perfectly for this role. During his time in Boston he distinguished himself on both political and breaking news coverage. He was at MIT, tweeting from the scene of the police officer's shooting as well as covering the Watertown shootout two nights later. He covered the 12-candidate Boston Mayor's race, writing breaking news and features for digital and print. And he was one of two reporters to lead the coverage of Odin Lloyd's murder and the subsequent arrest of New England Patriots' star tight end Aaron Hernandez, a story he's likely to revisit for us once the trial starts this spring.

"Wesley has reported for the Los Angeles Times and has interned at the Globe, the Wall Street Journal, the Columbus Dispatch and the Detroit News. He describes Twitter, on which he has more than 18,000 followers, as a reporter's notebook for a 21st century journalist and enjoys karaoke. He'll join us Feb. 3."


At the Globe, Jennifer Peter, deputy managing editor/local news informed the staff of the news "with heavy heart (and no shortage of ill-will for our former editor)." Post Executive Editor Martin Baron joined the paper from the Globe, where he was the top editor as well. "In all seriousness, Wes has been a pleasure to have as part of our team, if only for a short time," Peter added.

Short Takes

"Warning that Virginia's economy still faces 'major headwinds' with federal budget cuts and sequestration, Gov. elect-Terry McAuliffe today tapped Maurice A. Jones, an Obama administration official and ex-publisher of the Virginian-Pilot newspaper, as Virginia's next secretary of commerce and trade," Jim Nolan wrote Thursday for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Nolan also wrote, "Jones previously served as vice president of Landmark Publishing Group within Landmark Media Enterprises, where he coordinated strategic planning efforts of several Landmark newspapers, including The News & Record in Greensboro, N.C.; The Roanoke Times; The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md.; and Landmark Community Newspapers Inc., based in Shelbyville, Ky. . . ." 


Were you a late December baby? Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, born Dec. 29, commiserates. He interviewed others in the same situation and concluded, "The best thing about being born at the end of December is the tax deduction your parents got to take for the entire year."

Craig D. Lindsey, who was laid off in 2011, as staff writer and film critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., had raised $7,775 by midnight Friday after his public appeal on New Year's Eve for at least $900 to help pay his rent. Asked what's next, Lindsey told Journal-isms by email, "Quite frankly, I don't know. Of course, I'm going to pay off my rent, among other things. I'm sure I'm going to spend the next couple of weeks mapping out my next move."


In New York, "The Daily News has pulled the plug on Desi News, a South Asian-centric vertical fueled by the New York-based content-licensing platform NewsCred," Joe Pompeo reported Friday for Capital New York. "Sources familiar with the matter told Capital that the site was quietly shuttered last month, capping a nearly two-year experiment in curating news for Metropolitan-area residents with ties to India, Bangladesh and other neighboring countries. . . . "

"Mario Vazquez, president and c.e.o. of KLRN in San Antonio, resigned his position effective Dec. 31," Dru Sefton reported Thursday for Sefton also wrote, "Vazquez was the first Latino to head the 50-year-old station, the local Express-News noted in 2012, 'and one of the few Latinos to head a PBS station nationally.' " 


"The gunshot victim in this week's Harrison Township kitchen table incident is 50-year-old photographer Monica Morgan, a well-known photographer who covered Nelson Mandela's funeral two weeks ago," Alan Stamm reported Wednesday for Deadline Detroit. "She's in serious condition at McLaren Macomb Hospital in Mount Clemens, where she had surgery, reports Zahra Huber of WWJ. The shot was fired by General Holiefield, a national UAW vice-president who married Morgan in Venice, Italy, on Sept. 30, 2012." Holiefield was cleaning his gun, police said.

A course in Mexican-American history has been added to the Texas Board of Education's "wish list" for the future, Patrick Michels reported Thursday for the Texas Observer, "but the board should advance its plans for those new courses in its meeting later this month. University of Texas history professor Emilio Zamora says this is the biggest advance in Mexican-American studies education in a decade. . . ."


In Pakistan, senior journalist Zakir Ali, also known as Shan Dahar, bureau chief of television news channel Abtak, became the world's first journalist to be killed in 2014, according to news reports. He had been rushed to the hospital "after he sustained a bullet wound in the back in Badah on the midnight between Tuesday and Wednesday. The journalist fraternity of Larkana blamed the doctors of [Chandka Medical College Hospital] for not attending to him promptly," according to the Express Tribune of Pakistan. "Dahar was standing at a medical store near the Badah press club when a bullet pierced his back. He was rushed to the Chandka Medical College Hospital in Larkana but no doctor was available at the time. Despite fervent calls to the medical superintendent, Dr. Safiullah Abbasi, no action was taken to save the dying man. The surgeon, according to the journalists, arrived in the morning but Dahar had already succumbed to his injuries by that time. . . ." The journalist disclosed the name of his killer to his close friends before his death, the Dawn newspaper reported.

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