Civil Rights Leaders Confront Sony Over Racially Insensitive Emails

"SONY CEO and Chairman Michael Lynton said of "The Interview" Friday, "It was only when the movie theaters themselves had said that they couldn’t take the movie that we had to say that we couldn't release it on the 25th of December."
Sony Pictures Entertainment

Pullback of Movie Demonstrates "All Films Are Political"

"Black leaders, angered by racially insensitive emails sent by Amy Pascal, the movie chief at Sony Pictures Entertainment, emerged from a meeting with her on Thursday saying they had reached an understanding about how to move forward," Brooks Barnes reported for the New York Times.

"Ms. Pascal, who is also co-chairwoman of Sony Pictures, met at a Manhattan hotel with the Rev. Al Sharpton and the president of the National Urban League, Marc H. Morial, after the disclosure last week by hackers of unseemly racial banter in private emails. The email exchange in question, between Ms. Pascal and the producer Scott Rudin, turned on President Obama's supposed taste for black-themed films. . . ."

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Meanwhile, Obama "on Friday said that the United States 'will respond proportionally' against North Korea for its destructive cyberattacks on Sony Pictures, but he criticized the studio for giving in to intimidation when it pulled the satirical movie "The Interview," that provoked the attacks before it opened," Michael S. Schmidt and David E. Sanger and Nicole Perlroth reported for the Times.

However, Michael Lynton, CEO of Sony Entertainment and chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, told NPR Friday, "I think the issue here is that there has been a general misunderstanding with the press and the public about how these events unfolded . . . it was only when the movie theaters themselves had said that they couldn't take the movie that we had to say that we couldn't release it on the 25th of December."

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In a front-page news analysis in the Washington Post, film critic Ann Hornaday made a point that will win agreement from people of color who have complained about the effects of negative images in the media.

"The truth that the Sony/'Interview' debacle has laid bare is that all films are political, from the most banal escapist romp to the self-valorizing action adventures we aggressively send to the overseas markets — especially in Asia — that account for around 70 percent of the movie industry’s profits," Hornaday wrote.

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Hornaday began, "There's really no bright side to discern from this week's bizarre, unprecedented spectacle involving Sony Pictures and 'The Interview,' a Seth Rogen-James Franco satire about the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

"After weeks of suffering through the most destructive corporate hack in history, and on the heels of theaters refusing to show the comedy because of terrorist threats made by the hackers (now believed to be sponsored by the North Korean government), Sony finally pulled 'The Interview' on Wednesday, refusing even to make it available on demand.

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"It was a particularly distressing choice given that the decision arrived the same day President Obama announced a new, liberalized policy with Cuba — a softening of relations presumably designed to bring American democratic values to the communist country. This is what freedom of expression looks like, extruded through the priorities of late corporate capitalism and aggressively asymmetrical global politics. . . ."

The meeting of Pascal, Morial and Sharpton "was prompted by leaked emails from Pascal to producer Scott Rudin, in which the pair joke about Barack Obama's likely taste in films," Ben Beaumont-Thomas reported Friday for the Guardian. " 'Would he like to finance some movies?' Rudin asked, ahead of Pascal meeting the president. 'I doubt it. Should I ask him if he liked Django?', replied Pascal, referring to Quentin Tarantino's slavery-revenge thriller Django Unchained. The pair also suggested Obama might like 12 Years a Slave as well as films by black comedian Kevin Hart. . . ."

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In November, an email from Clint Culpepper, president of Screen Gems, a division of Sony Pictures Entertainment, went viral after he referred to Hart as a 'whore' for demanding more money in return for promoting his films on his social media platforms, Chris Witherspoon reported Thursday for theGrio.

In addition, "An unnamed producer wrote in an email to Sony chairman Michael Lynton that films with black actors — using Denzel Washington in The Equalizer as an example — don't perform well because the international audiences are 'racist,' according to documents found in the Sony hack, Mary Ann Georgantopoulos reported Thursday for BuzzFeed.

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Morial told the Times' Barnes in a telephone interview, "I left feeling that Amy is someone we can work with. It's important that we look forward. Amy again expressed her deep regret and committed Sony's help in pushing for far greater diversity in movies and television.

"Asked whether Ms. Pascal had his support in keeping her job, Mr. Morial said: 'One executive losing a job does not change the larger picture. The larger picture is our focus.'

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"Mr. Sharpton, who had harshly criticized Ms. Pascal after the online publication of her email exchange with Mr. Rudin, which he called 'offensive, insulting,' wrote on Twitter that Thursday's 90-minute meeting was a 'very pointed and blunt exchange.' He added in comments with the news media that Ms. Pascal and other Sony leaders had agreed to meet again soon with civil rights leaders. . . ."

Brooks Barnes and Michael Cieply, New York Times: Sony Defends Itself Against Criticism That It Bowed to Hackers' Threats

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John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable: President: Sony Made Mistake by Pulling 'The Interview'

Dade Hayes, Broadcasting & Cable: Sony Pictures Urges Media to Destroy Hacked Documents

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Liz Hester, TalkingBizNews: Coverage: Sony damage gets worse

Yeojin Kim, New America Media: S. Korean Youth Weigh in on 'The Interview'

Brent Lang, Variety: Sony Cancels Theatrical Release for 'The Interview' on Christmas

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Don Lemon, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Did Sony Surrender Our Freedom To The Enemy?

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: In the film credits, Sony stars in a fiasco

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Jen Yamato, Deadline Hollywood: Sony Responds To President Obama's Criticism: "We Had No Choice," Still Hope To Release 'The Interview' 

President Lists What He's Done for Black America

In the last question of a news conference in which only female reporters were called on, "America Urban Radio reporter April Ryan asked President Obama today about the state of black America today compared to before he took office six years ago," Josh Feldman reported Friday for Mediaite. "Obama said, 'Like the rest of America, black America, in the aggregate, is better off now than it was when I came into office.'

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"He brought up America's 'troubled past' while acknowledging it's 'not an excuse for black folks.' But while many African-Americans work hard to provide for their families, 'they're starting behind, oftentimes, in the race. . . .'

"Obama touted economic progress in the black community and improved education stats among black youths, lamenting how race relations in the U.S. have been colored by the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. . . ."

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Text of the president's answer in the Comments section.

Separately, "In an interview with People Magazine published Friday, President Barack Obama said basketball star LeBron James 'did the right thing' by wearing an 'I Can’t Breathe' shirt during pregame warm-ups earlier this month," Andrew Desiderio reported for Mediaite.

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" 'We went through a long stretch there where [with] well-paid athletes the notion was: just be quiet and get your endorsements and don't make waves,' the president said. 'LeBron is an example of a young man who has, in his own way and in a respectful way, tried to say, "I’m part of this society, too" and focus attention.' ”

" 'We forget the role that Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe and Bill Russell played in raising consciousness,' Obama continued…"

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Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post: That time Obama called on only women at a press conference

Press Freedom Group Urges Release of Cuban Journalists

"In the wake of the US and Cuban announcements of a resumption in the diplomatic relations severed more than half a century ago," Reporters Without Borders said Thursday, it "would like to draw attention to the lack of freedom of information in Cuba and to call for the release of imprisoned journalists.

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" 'Now that diplomatic bridges are being built, it is high time that Cuba improved relations with its own independent journalists, and it could start by immediately releasing the two journalists and the blogger who are unjustly detained,' said Claire San Filippo, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Americas desk.

" 'A thaw in relations also needs an end to threats and intimidation, and the possibility for news providers to carry out their activities freely and without being subjected to harassment. More than ever before, Cubans need pluralist, independent and diversified information.'

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"This will pose a major challenge to the authorities in Cuba, where freedom of information is extremely limited. The government maintains a complete monopoly of news and information and tolerates no independent media aside from a few Catholic Church magazines. . . ."

"The authorities are currently holding two journalists — [Yoeni] de Jesús Guerra García and José Antonio Torres — and the blogger Ángel Santiesteban-Prats, who has repeatedly reported being tortured. . . ."

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Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Viva La Cuba.

Jorge Castañeda, HuffPost LatinoVoices: Behind Cuba's Opening to the U.S.: Dropping Oil Prices Are Forcing an End to Venezuela's Subsidy of the Cuban Economy

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Raoul Lowery Contreras, Fox News Latino: Opinion: A new paradigm for Cuba/America?

Editorial, Daily News, New York: Now end the Cuba embargo

Editorial, Miami Herald: The pain of Cuban exiles

Sheila Anne Feeney, am New York: Most Cuban New Yorkers applaud opening dialogue

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Meagan Hatcher-Mays, Media Matters for America: Media Erroneously Claim Obama Overstepped His Authority By Restoring Diplomatic Relations With Cuba

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: What's Really Behind Obama's Cuba Move

Ronald Howell, Quartz: Why black Americans love Fidel Castro (Dec. 20)

Mark Joyella, TVNewser: How Scott Pelley Made It to Cuba Just in Time for 'The CBS Evening News'

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Meghan Keneally, ABC News: These American Fugitives May Be Hiding Out in Cuba

Eugene Kiely, factcheck.org: Is Cuba a 'Leading' Sponsor of Terrorism?

Hirania Luzardo, HuffPost LatinoVoices: We Are All Cubans

Albor Ruiz, Daily News, New York: Cubans will celebrate the historic pact with the U.S.

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Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Pragmatism, not emotion, must guide Cuba policy

Rick Sanchez, Fox News Latino: This is the Cuban quandary

Kenon White, BlackAmericaWeb.com: What Does Ending The Cold War With Cuba Mean For Afro-Cubans And African Americans

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Byron Pitts Replacing Dan Abrams as "Nightline" Anchor

"Byron Pitts is replacing Dan Abrams as Nightline anchor; Abrams will remain ABC News' chief legal analyst, news division chief James Goldston announced this morning," Deadline Hollywood reported on Thursday. "Pitts came to ABC News in 2013, after serving as chief national correspondent for CBS Evening News and a 60 Minutes contributor. . . ."

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Goldston said in a memo to staffers, "Byron is a truly passionate storyteller and deep thinker about the critical issues of our time, as his work from Soweto to Ferguson makes clear.

"Last week for our 'Race. Justice. In America' series, Byron delivered compelling reports told with incredible compassion and his singularly distinctive voice. He reported on the distrust between the public and the police in his hometown of Baltimore, and he delved deeply into how fathers and sons talk about race.

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"Our chief national correspondent since 2013, Byron has been committed to finding stories and voices rarely heard on the national stage. He profiled an American lawyer — inspired by Nelson Mandela — helping hundreds of South African orphans go to school; got a closer look at New Orleans' comeback as the Hollywood of the South; and memorably talked to the self-described pope of Satanism preaching in the heart of the Bible Belt. . . ."

Cosby Says "Media" Quote Was Misconstrued; Blasts Dyson

"Bill Cosby hasn't said much about the growing number of allegations against him," theGrio reported on Friday.

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"But he would like to clarify one thing — he says his 'black media' quote has been 'misconstrued in a way that can only call into question the fair-mindedness of certain commentators.' "

The statement was delivered Thursday evening by Cosby's attorney John P. Schmitt and posted on NBCNews.com and several other news outlets, the story continued.

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"It references a story earlier this week where Cosby was quoted as saying he expects 'black media to uphold the standards of excellence in journalism' and '…go in with a neutral mind.'

"It's not just black media, Cosby insists:

"To be clear, Mr. Cosby did not ask for special treatment from the African-American media. To the contrary, he asked that they adhere to journalistic standards and approach the story in a neutral manner — without a predisposition on either side of the story. It is of course what we would expect of all media.

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"Cosby wasn't finished. The statement also takes MSNBC political analyst Michael Eric Dyson to task for criticizing Cosby’s black media quote. . . ."

Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Has the press not played it straight regarding Bill Cosby sexual assault allegations?

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N.Y. Times Plans to "Rebalance" Newsroom Talent

In response to a Journal-isms item Wednesday reporting that the New York Times is laying off two black female reporters and leaving its Culture section devoid of journeymen black journalists, a Times spokeswoman said Friday that the newspaper plans to "undertake the process of rebalancing newsroom talent.

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"In the wake of our staff reductions, heading into the New Year we will undertake the process of rebalancing the newsroom talent," Eileen Murphy said an email to the Huffington Post, she confirmed to Journal-isms. "It's too soon to know what the diversity makeup will look like in any one department," the email read. "A diverse newsroom remains a priority for us."

The Times is implementing plans to reduce its newsroom staff by 100 via buyouts and layoffs.

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Ferguson Reporter Sues Police for False Arrest, Defamation

"St. Louis County police falsely arrested a reporter covering the Ferguson protests and then defamed him online, the man claims in Federal Court," Joe Harris reported Wednesday for Courthouse News Service.

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"Gerald Yingst III, a reporter for News2Share.com, sued St. Louis County and its police Lt. James Vollmer on Tuesday, alleging battery, illegal search and seizure, false imprisonment, defamation and other offenses.

"Yingst claims he was videotaping interactions between police and protesters on Nov. 22 around 11:30 p.m. when he was arrested.

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"Officers at that time were yelling at protesters to clear the street and move to another sidewalk, Yingst says. Yingst was standing with other reporters on South Florissant Road, where many of the protests occurred.

"He claims that Vollmer pointed at him and 'a few subordinate patrolmen' surrounded him.

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"Yingst, fearing imminent arrest, told defendant Vollmer, 'Sir, I'm just standing on a public sidewalk.'

"Defendant Vollmer then told his subordinate patrolmen to 'lock him up,' the complaint states.. . ."

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. . . Poll Shows Latinos Believe Cops Use Excessive Force

"Unfortunately missing from the raging national debate over recurrent police killings of African American men and boys — defined as an issue pitting blacks against whites — is the question of where other minority groups stand," David R. Ayón reported Dec. 11 for Latino Decisions, a Latino political opinion research firm.

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"This omission is particularly unfortunate in the case of Latinos, who bring their own substantial experience to questions of racial discrimination, the use of force by authorities, and the need for oversight and accountability.

"At the heart of how Latinos view law enforcement are nuanced attitudes revealed by a major new national poll conducted by Latino Decisions for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF). In spite of widespread optimism among Latino adults regarding the opportunities they see ahead, and in spite of the overwhelming majority's belief that local police are there to protect them and their families, two out of three Latinos worry that law enforcement will use excessive force against them. . . ."

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Dana Canedy, New York Times: The Talk: After Ferguson, a Shaded Conversation About Race (Dec. 13)

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post Writers Group: The rainbow that isn't

Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: A spike in Oakland killings since Oct. 1

Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica: School Segregation, the Continuing Tragedy of Ferguson

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Allen Johnson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: Pointing out bad cops doesn't disparage good ones

Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: White screaming drowns out black voices at protests

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Rebecca Klein, Huffington Post: ACLU Lawsuit Says Ferguson School District Discriminates Against African-Americans

Rafael Olmeda blog: The right time to take a stand

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Stopping the wholesale slaughter will require more than marches

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Alyssa Toomey, E! Online: Whoopi Goldberg and Rosie O'Donnell Scream at Each Other While Debating Racism on The View: Watch the Controversial Fight!

Phil Yu, Angry Asian Man: "We Choose Resistance." Join the Model Minority Mutiny.

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Florence L. Tate Dies, Pan-African Activist, Ex-Journalist

Florence L. Tate, the first black female reporter at the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News, who became a civil rights movement activist and press secretary for such figures as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the late D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, died Tuesday at age 83, her son, writer Greg Tate, told his friends Wednesday on social media.

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Tate lived in Sarasota, Fla. The cause of death was not immediately disclosed.

Referring to Facebook, the son said, "We know how much her rocksteady FB crew meant to her sense of well-being and global connectivity as a 'retired Pan-Afrikan activist and grandmother'."

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A biography posted on the website of Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement says:

"Active with Dayton, Ohio CORE, 1963-66; Dayton Alliance for Racial Equality (DARE) 1966-69. SNCC fundraiser and southern Ohio campus liaison, 1966-68. National info coordinator for first African Liberation Day demonstrations in US organized by ALDCC [African Liberation Day Co-ordinating Committee] in 1972, Washington DC. Press secretary for Marion Barry's first campaign for mayor of Washington, DC and press secretary in his first administration. Journalist at the Dayton Daily News — [1964]-1966. (No problem with conflict of interest in those roiling times!) Director of Communications, National Urban Coalition, 1971-74.

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"Organized 'Friends of Angola' a support group for Angolan independence in 1974 and disbanded in 1976 because of Angolan civil war and resultant international political conflict, confusion and acrimony. Press secretary for the 1984 Jesse Jackson for president campaign. Currently a charter member of the National Black Alternative School Organization recently founded in Milwaukee by Dr. Howard Fuller (Owusu Sadaukai), founder of Malcolm X University in Greensboro and national chairman and organizer of ALDCC.

"I am now a board member of Forum 2004: Truth for a Change, a Sarasota-based non-profit organization which was organized during this election year (2004), to inform and educate the citizens in this Florida area. We organize and sponsor public events featuring well-known speakers, writers and activists who address current issues affecting us all: the criminal justice system; civil /human rights; womens' rights; the environment; health and welfare; voting rights and voting fraud; racial equality and justice; unemployment/underemployment; future supreme court appointments; and other political and social issues of national concern.

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"Former CORE member and SNCC supporter Florence L. Tate will be presented a LIVING LEGACY AWARD from ASALH (the Association for the Study of African American Life and History) at its 87th annual black history month luncheon in Washington, D.C., February 23, 2013.

"Tate has served as communications director and press secretary for a number of organizations, institutions and political figures, including National Urban Coalition President M. Carl Holman, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and the 1984 U.S. presidential candidate The Reverend Jesse Jackson. Using her freedom of information file as a guide, she is currently writing her memoir, 'THE FBI'S MOST WANTED PRESS SECRETARY.' "

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J.A. Morton, hopeforwomenmag.com: Women Warriors: Florence L. Tate, Civil Rights Activist, Journalist, and Press Secretary (April 2012)

Short Takes

"Redskins isn't a profane or obscene name, the Federal Communications Commission ruled," Todd Shields reported Thursday for Bloomberg. "The FCC in an order released today dismissed a request to deny the license renewal of a Virginia radio station that broadcast the word 'Redskins.' John Banzhaf III and others said use of the name for the Washington team during National Football League games was objectionable because it's a 'derogatory racial and ethnic slur' against American Indians. . . ." FCC ruling [PDF]

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"Thanks to a staff overhaul, cost-cutting and increased ad revenue," Cheryl Mainor, who became publisher of the 110-year-old Chicago Defender in May, "has returned the Defender to profitability," Lynne Marek reported Dec. 6 for Crain's Chicago Business. "The business will net $100,000 to $200,000 this year on revenue of about $2.3 million, she says." Marek also wrote, "America's racial tensions are grabbing headlines everywhere. Few are covering the issue like the Chicago Defender: from the perspective of African-Americans." Mainor is quoted as saying, "If we're not screaming that out of our pages, then the story becomes that black people are violent — it becomes the narrative that bleeds and leads.  . . ."

"Raycom has named Sarah Miles VP & GM of Myrtle Beach, S.C. NBC affiliate WMBF," Kevin Eck reported Wednesday for TVSpy. "Starting in January, she replaces Ted Fortenberry who was promoted to VP and GM of WLBT in Jackson, Miss. . . . Miles has been news director at WMBF since 2010. Before that, she was executive producer at Raycom’s WAVE in Louisville, Ky. . . ."

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"Euclid Media Group, the parent company of the Current, has announced the appointment of veteran journalist Hernán Rozemberg as the new editor-in-chief for the San Antonio alt-weekly," Albert Salazar reported Friday for the San Antonio Current. "Rozemberg will assume the helm of the Current's editorial team beginning January 13, 2015. . . "

Reporter Ryan Young of WSB-TV in Atlanta will join CNN as a correspondent, it was announced internally Friday at CNN. Andrew Morse, CNN senior vice president, wrote: "Ryan is an outstanding journalist who will bring a wealth of experience as well as boundless energy and enthusiasm to our newsgathering team. We are thrilled he is joining CNN."

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"Russell Simmons' pop culture site GlobalGrind.com was acquired by Interactive One, the two companies announced Thursday," Jordan Chariton reported for TheWrap. "GlobalGrind will anchor a new Millennials channel for Interactive One (iOne), made up of over a dozen sites that target the younger demographic. Over the last year, iOne has collectively grown 145 percent to 33 million unique visitors per month. . . ."

"Fusion today announced that it will be expanding Alicia Menendez’s daily primetime show, 'AM Tonight,' to an hour in 2015 and that Kim Gamble is joining the network to executive produce the show," Brian Flood reported Friday for TVNewser.

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"Brooklyn College journalism students delivered 219 petition signatures from fellow students, alumni, and community members to President Karen Gould's office Thursday, calling for a reversal of a supposed decision to not reappoint journalism program professor Ron Howell," Priscilla Perez reported Tuesday for the Excelsior at New York's Brooklyn College. "Howell, who teaches News Writing: An Introduction to Journalism, Beat Reporting, and Introduction to Multimedia Journalism announced on his blog Dec. 4 that Gould would advise the CUNY Board of Trustees that he leave by late August 2015. . . ." The college's media relations manager, Ernesto Mora, told Journal-isms that the school does not comment on personnel issues. Howell was a reporter for Newsday, the Associated Press and the Daily News in New York, among other outlets.

"WNET in New York, public television's largest market, will remove PBS's documentary showcases Independent Lens and POV from its main channel starting Jan. 5 and replace them with a repeat of PBS arts programming," Dru Sefton reported Dec. 8 for Current.org.

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Art Coulson, Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, who left the Pioneer-Press in St. Paul, Minn., as editorial page editor in 2006, started at Lee Enterprises on Dec. 1. "I am director of the Lincoln Design Center," in Lincoln, Neb., "one of three Lee Regional Design Centers that produce the company's 350 plus newspapers and specialty publications," Coulson messaged Journal-isms on Friday. "I oversee a staff of more than 30 page designers and team leaders. Before my return to daily journalism after an eight-year hiatus, I was a communications director for county government and a communications consultant for Xcel Energy in Minnesota."

"In my 19th annual Graduation Gap Bowl, Florida State, the defending national champion, graduated 57 percent of its black players, compared to 100 percent for the white players, giving it the worst racial gap of all 76 bowl teams, according to National Collegiate Athletic Association statistics," Derrick Z. Jackson wrote Friday for the Boston Globe. "The Seminoles remain symbolic of big-time programs which refuse to join the schools that have felt the pressure to live up to the true ideal of student athlete. . . ."

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"Words to Harriette Cole are the canvas of expression," Janelle Harris wrote Wednesday for MediaBistro of the writer, author, advice columnist and media trainer. "She wants to see them used beautifully, sparingly and, probably just a smidge above all, responsibly. 'I tell every one of my clients: show me rather than tell me. Whether you’re talking to the media or your staff or your boss,' she coaches, 'when you can bring an image to life through your words, people listen.' . . ."

"After days of detainment, Ekrem Dumanli, editor of the Turkish newspaper Zaman, was released from prison today for lack of evidence," Deniz Ergürel wrote Friday for the Poynter Institute. "Dumanli was held under custody for an article that was published in his paper. However another detainee, Samanyolu TV General Manager Hidayet Karaca, was arrested on charges of forming and leading an armed terrorist organization. Alleged weapons of crime? Broadcasting a soap opera. In a highly politically motivated trial, Turkish journalists are paying a heavy price. . . ."

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Reporters Without Borders Thursday urged Cameroon's President Paul Biya "to reject an anti-terrorism law with provisions that would have a disastrous impact on freedom of information if implemented in a heavy-handed manner." For journalists, "defending terrorism" in spoken or written word is punishable by 15 to 20 years in prison and/or a fine of 25 million to 50 million CFA francs [$50,000 to $90,000 U.S.], the press-freedom group said.

"As part of activities marking the 2014 press week, the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ, Kaduna state council, on Wednesday, secured the release of 10 inmates from Kaduna Convict Prison," Abdullahi Garba reported Thursday for the Premium Times in Nigeria. The report also said, "Speaking during the release of the prisoners, the Chairman of NUJ Kaduna State Council, Yusuf Idris, said it was the tradition of the Council in line with the celebration of its Press Week to always secure the release of prisoners who were either minors or aged but with bailable offenses and their release would not be a threat to the society. . . ."

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Respected journalist Bheki Makhubu was refused bail by controversial judge Mpendulo Simelane at Swaziland's High Court on December 5 2014," meaning he will spend Christmas in jail, the Media Institute of Southern Africa - Swaziland reported Dec. 6. The institute also reported that Makhubu's criminal conviction stems from articles written by himself and human rights lawyer and Nation columnist Thulani Maseko in The Nation in February and March 2014. "Both articles criticise the actions of Swaziland's chief justice Michael Ramodibedi, while calling for a more tolerant and democratic system of governance. . . . Makhubu and Maseko in their 'contemptuous' articles also criticise the actions of judge Simelane, who was the then-Registrar of the high court. . . ."

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