Shorthand Misses Scope of Anger Unleashed in '92

"I saw my page 1 proof tonight with the [AP's] Rodney King hed on it," Robin Washington, editor of the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, messaged Journal-isms on Sunday.

"Rodney King, whose beating led to LA Riots, dies

" … and changed it to:

"Rodney King, whose beating sparked national outrage, dies

"Be interesting to see how many news outlets ran the AP version uncritically, and to know the thinking of whoever wrote it. Yes, it's true, but only indirectly — like saying 'Archduke Ferdinand, whose assassination led to the Holocaust.' "


Washington has a point. King was beaten on March 3, 1991, sparking national outrage. But the riots didn't come until three L.A. police officers were acquitted on April 29, 1992. It was not just the beatings that led to the riots, but the additional insult of a criminal justice system that seemed to turned a blind eye to the obvious. An angry Mayor Tom Bradley publicly declared, "Today, the jury told the world that what we all saw with our own eyes was not a crime."

Asked for comment, AP spokesman Paul D. Colford said, "I noticed that many papers did go with AP's headline:

"But as with all AP headlines, they may be changed by the AP member newspapers and other AP customers."


That response misses the point. A scan of Monday's front pages, many of which played the death of King, at 47, in his own swimming pool, as their lead story, shows that a surprising number were not as rigorous as others in nailing the outrage that made Rodney King a national symbol. The Google search that Colford referenced showed 3.24 million results for the AP headline.

A good number of news organizations did approach the subject with nuance, however, and their headlines, stories and analyses, looked more deeply at what King represented. Not all emphasized the riot.

Writing for Time, Touré  reminded readers that, " . . . The video became an instant national phenomenon — it went viral before that was a common word — and played endlessly on cable news until it seemed as if the entire country had watched it 10,000 times. And in that way King also became an early symbol of a world where video cameras were ubiquitous, which changed society, and of a nation where 24-hour news media was like wallpaper, replaying stories or tape so incessantly that we moved from outrage into a numbness, which also changed society.


"It was the media that transformed King's horrific ordeal into a moment that would never die."

Here is how some headline writers framed King's death, courtesy of the front pages posted on the Newseum website. Many began with "Rodney King, 1965-2012":

Anniston (Ala.) Star: "Motorist whose police beating led to 1992 L.A. Riots dies"


Birmingham (Ala.) News: "Rodney King, whose beating led to LA riots, dies"

Daily News, Los Angeles: "A voice against riots: Videotaped beating by police led to L.A.'s darkest chapter"

Press-Telegram, Long Beach, Calif.: Rodney King, "whose 1991 videotaped beating by the Los Angeles police officers was the touchstone for one of the most destructive race riots in the nation's history . . . "


Los Angeles Times: "A reluctant catalyst: He is found dead in his pool. His 1991 beating led to reform, but he struggled with the expectations placed upon him."

San Francisco Chronicle: "The beating of the black motorist by white officers in Los Angeles helped fuel one of the most destructive race riots in the nation's history."

San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News: "King, 47, center of L.A. riot, dies."

Denver Post: "Beaten driver wanted us all to 'get along'." In smaller type above the main headline: "The video of Rodney King's 1992 beating by Los Angeles police led to a public outcry against police brutality."


Washington Post: "Rodney King dies at 47: The motorist whose videotaped police beating led to the 1992 L.A. riots apparently drowned in his pool."

Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times: "Symbol of Police Brutality Dies"

Chicago Tribune: "Key figure in '92 LA riots found dead: Rodney King, whose videotaped beating in 1991 by Los Angeles police officers became a national symbol of police brutality, was found dead Sunday in a swimming pool. The officers' acquittal in 1992 set off some of the most violent riots in U.S. history, despite King's famous televised plea: 'Can we all get along?' "


Times-Picayune, New Orleans: "Rodney King, key symbol in riots, is dead: His beating helped reshape police tactics"

Detroit Free Press: "Rodney King, the black motorist whose 1991 videotaped beating by Los Angeles police officers was the touchstone for one of the most destructive race riots in the nation's history . . . "

New York Times: "Police Beating Victim Who Asked 'Can We Get Along?' "

Philadelphia Inquirer: Rodney King dies: Mr. King, 47, found dead at home, was attacked in 1991 by Los Angeles police while a bystander shot a video. . . . "


Writers who wrote the stories approached King by discussing, among other angles, the birth of "citizen journalism," the persistence of police brutality, the reforms of the Los Angeles Police Department that followed the King case, King's role as an accidental historical figure and the prospects of Americans ever "getting along."

Karen Grigsby Bates, NPR: Rodney King Dies In Swimming Pool At Age 47

Andrew Beaujon, Poynter Institute: Rodney King, dead at 47, sparked citizen journalism that's now commonplace


Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Rodney King will never see if we can get along

Brandon Bowlin, HuffPost BlackVoices: Rodney King: Death of the Common Man

CNN: Rodney King Found Dead on Father's Day

Neal Conan, "Talk of the Nation," NPR: The Lessons We Learned From Rodney King

Linda Deutsch, Associated Press: Rodney King seen as catalyst for policing change


Linda Deutsch, Associated Press: Rodney King Dead: Reporter Remembers Trial That Sparked L.A Riots

Tammerlin Drummond, Oakland Tribune: Rodney King death brings back memories of L.A. riots

Emil Guillermo blog, Can we all get along? Recalling injustice from Rodney King to Vincent Chin


Melinda Henneberger, Washington Post: May Rodney King rest in the peace he called for

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: The Tragedy, Triumph and Tragedy of Rodney King

Emily Langer, Washington Post: Rodney King death sparks debate over civil rights legacy, call for peace during 1992 riots


David A. Love, Rodney King dead: How he put police brutality on the map

Michel Martin, "Tell Me More," NPR: Rodney King on How He Wanted to Be Remembered

Sylvester Monroe, Rodney King's Legacy: A Civil Rights Symbol

Patt Morrison, Los Angeles Times: The burden of being Rodney King

James Braxton Peterson, Daily Beast: What Rodney King's Death Symbolizes for the Black Community


Cathy Scott, Forbes: Rodney King: His Race, His Plea, His Death

Jesse Washington, Associated Press: Rodney King's plea measures his lasting meaning

Phil Willon, Los Angeles Times: Rodney King's death: Police confiscate marijuana from his home


Clinton Yates, Washington Post: Rodney King dies: Was he a civil rights hero?

TV Reporter Assaulted Covering Immigration Raid

"A man was arrested for assaulting a Valley reporter and damaging his camera during an immigration raid Thursday," Hatzel Vela reported for KNXV-TV in Phoenix.


"Julio Cisneros, a Telemundo reporter, set up his camera on a sidewalk in front of Autofit, the Phoenix company raided by Maricopa County Sheriff's deputies.

"While he was shooting video, he noticed the business owner Mahmoud Emadi-Dehagi approaching him.

"Emadi-Dehagi was quick to start demanding Cisneros stop recording and delete the video.


" 'Delete what you record from me,' he told Cisneros, as he slapped the camera. 'Delete it. Delete it. You need to delete it.'

"Cisneros said, "OK," but continued recording.

"Emadi-Dehagi is seen once again hitting the camera and that's when Cisneros said a piece of the camera came off.


"Cisneros is glad an average citizen, who had just exited a public bus, saw what was happening and started defending him.

" 'You can't do that,' said the Good Samaritan.

" 'It's my property,' Emadi-Dehagi said.

" 'This is not your property. This is a sidewalk,' the Good Samaritan said. 'You can't do that though man.'


"Cisneros questions whether the heated immigration debate in Arizona may be contributing to such anger.

"He admits this is not the first time he has been harassed while out in public covering a story.

" 'When I do my standup, of course I have to do it in Spanish. That's my first language,' Cisneros said. 'And I hear people, you know, when they walk by they say go back to your country. This is my country.'


"Emadi-Dehagi was charged with a felony charge of criminal damage.

" . . . Six people were arrested at the business and are believed to be in the country illegally," according to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Emily Arrowood, Media Matters for America: Anti-Immigrant Slur Makes Its Way to Fox News Sunday


Emily Arrowood, Media Matters for America: Fox Pushes Yet Another Falsehood To Fearmonger Over Immigration Policy Change

Gabriel Escobar, Dallas Morning News: Two cousins, a dream and a nightmare

Janell Ross, Huffington Post: Jose Antonio Vargas, Left Out of Obama's Major Immigration-Policy Shift, But Happy


"You Cover a Lot of Crime and a Lot of Weird People"

"David Houston's sign that called the president a racist name and a pedophile drew the attention of the U.S. Secret Service but didn't get him in trouble with the law, police say. His televised confrontation with a reporter did," David Hench reported Saturday for the Portland (Maine) Press-Herald.

"Houston, 59, is free on bail after his arrest on a charge of simple assault against WGME-TV reporter Steve Roldan. Houston is accused of grabbing the reporter by the throat Thursday as Roldan asked him about the sign near Houston's home in Bridgton.


"Roldan has worked for the CBS affiliate for 20 months. Before that, he spent seven years reporting for a station in San Antonio, a high-crime city with 1.3 million people.

" 'You cover a lot of crime and a lot of weird people, and even in a city like that, I never had any physical encounter with anybody,' Roldan said Friday. 'People have made threats they're going to do this, do that. This is the first time somebody has actually done anything toward me.'

"Bridgton police learned of Houston's sign, erected on the lawn at the intersection of Fosterville Road and Route 107, when a resident complained about the offensive message Tuesday.


"The sign included a racial slur, accused President Obama of raping children and urged people to join a Bridgton version of the Ku Klux Klan, the white supremacist hate group with a history of violence against black people."

Mark Blumenthal, Huffington Post: Race Matters: Why Gallup Poll Finds Less Support For President Obama

Erika Bolstad, Miami Herald: Cristina Saralegui says she'll endorse President Barack Obama


Beth Fouhy, Associated Press: Obama, Romney Ads Target News Shows

Martin Lobel, Nieman Watchdog: Job destroying taxes? Ask pols, which ones are those?

David Maraniss, Washington Post: How Obama became black

Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista: Has Obama sewn up the Latino vote?

Peter Wallsten, Washington Post: President Obama bristles when he is the target of activist tactics he once used


Raves for Reporter's Book on First Lady's Ancestry

"A new book by New York Times reporter Rachel L. Swarns traces first lady Michelle Obama's ancestry to white slave-owners in Georgia, whose white descendants have mixed feelings about the revelation," Donovan Slack reported Monday for Politico.

" 'You really don't like to face this kind of thing,' said Joan Tribble, whose ancestors owned the first lady's great-great-great-grandmother, according to Swarns.


This image was lost some time after publication.

"Swarns used DNA tests and conducted more than two years of research for the book, 'American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama,' which is scheduled to be released Tuesday."

Reviewing the book Sunday in the New York Times Book Review, historian Edward Ball wrote, " 'American Tapestry,' a fascinating account of the first lady's family, corrects the omission of race from the Obama White House. No political memoir has ever looked or sounded like this one: the book spans several generations of Mrs. Obama's people and reads like a panorama of black life."


Swarns "has uncovered the story of an ordinary black American family, typical in so many details: generations of forced work on Southern farms; sexual exploitation; children born half white; attempts to flee slavery; emancipation at the end of a rifle barrel; terrorization by the Klan during Reconstruction; futility stirred in with pleasure and church in the 1900s; a stepladder into the working class — and finally, the opportunity that allowed for Michelle Obama's superior education and unlocked 150 years of bolted doors.

"The book is nonfiction, but with some 30 characters competing for space it's like a saga or perhaps a mini-series, minus the dialogue. . . . "

Dawn Turner Trice, Chicago Tribune: First lady's ancestry an American story

New Black Networks Push Back Launch Dates

"When plans were revealed for a pair of start-up multicast networks targeting African-American viewers and competing with Bounce TV, the space looked as lively as any. But as the third quarter approaches, principals at the new concepts, KIN TV and Soul of the South, have realized just how hard it is to bring their channels to life," Michael Malone wrote Monday for the subscriber-only section of Broadcasting & Cable.


"Soul of the South had initially pegged the first quarter for its debut; network executives are now saying the first half of September. KIN TV, which no longer has MGM on board, is shooting for August with a modest launch group.

" . . . Soul of the South's holdup, say its execs, is tied to the decision to launch its own master control operation, which they say will go live in Little Rock, Ark., in the next few weeks. 'We decided to step back and get a handle on technology and infrastructure,' says chairman/CEO Edwin Avent.

"Soul aims to set itself apart with a trio of newscasts — content coming from headquarters, from affiliates, and from a dozen or so bureaus around the South. With massive political spending targeting TV news come fall, the network has incentive to be on the air by then.


" . . . KIN TV, meanwhile, is targeting a mid-August soft launch for five to 10 stations. 'We’re still very much alive,' insists CEO Lee Gaither.

"That's despite some big setbacks. Initially, MGM was said to be a distribution partner; now it's not. Some Fox-owned MyNetworkTV stations were lined up to air KIN, but a Fox representative says that's no longer the case. Gaither says former NBA star Charles Barkley remains a KIN partner. 'He's involved in every content decision,' says Gaither. (Barkley's management confirmed his role.)"

Knight News Challenge Awards $1.37 Million

"Ranging from an aggregator of mobile video streams of breaking news to a platform that coordinates community disaster recovery, six media innovation ventures were awarded more than $1.37 million as winners of the Knight News Challenge on Networks," the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced on Monday.


Among the winners is Mohamed Nanabhay, who was the head of online at Al Jazeera English, where he led the team that produced award-winning coverage of the Arab revolutions in 2011.

"With newsrooms stretched for resources, editors have to increasingly make difficult decisions about which stories get covered and promoted," the foundation said of Nanabhay's proposal. His project,, "aims to help, by tracking social engagement with the news — scanning social network activity to provide real-time information on what's resonating with readers. Editors are able to track their own — and competitors' — stories."

Ala. Public Television in Row Over Religious Videos

"Three members of an authority that helps raise money for Alabama Public Television quit this week after another commission fired two top network executives amid the possible addition of Christian-themed historical shows and a broader restructuring, officials said Friday," Jay Reeves wrote Friday for the Associated Press.


"The chairman of the Alabama Educational Television Commission, Ferris Stephens, said three of the five members on the Alabama Educational Television Foundation Authority resigned following the commission's decision earlier this week to terminate the director of Alabama Public TV, Allan Pizzato, and another executive.

" . . . Commission members who spoke with The Associated Press confirmed the firings came as the panel considered a push by at least one member of the seven-person board to have the network air videos produced by WallBuilders, a Texas-based Christian group headed by evangelical historian David Barton that promotes the idea that the United States is a Christian nation based on the Bible."

J. Holland, a newly appointed member of the Alabama Educational Television Commission, "told, a blog about public broadcasting published by American University's communications school, that Pizzato and his staff had 'grave concerns' that the videos were inappropriate for public broadcasting because of their religious tint.' "


Black Men Get Good Press for Father's Day

Father's Day might be the only time of year when the preponderance of coverage of black fathers isn't about the dads who don't care for their children, end up incarcerated or otherwise fail to measure up.

It certainly seemed that way over the weekend. Instead, many media outlets went out of their way to transmit testimony about the successful ones, from those who know them best. The good feelings even extended to black men in prison. Yahoo News posted "Father's Day in Prison," a slide show about "Get on the Bus," an annual Father's Day event that brings children in California to visit their fathers in San Quentin State Prison. Photos were by Lucy Nicholson of Reuters.


Alexandra Styron, New York Times: Thoughts on Fathers and Families

Kunbi Tinuoye, How black dads play an active role in their children's lives

Short Takes

"East African journalists fleeing violence in their countries make up nearly half of the more than 450 journalists forced into exile in the past five years, the Committee to Protect Journalists found in its 'Journalists in Exile 2012' report marking World Refugee Day," the committee reported Tuesday.


"The D.C. spending bill approved by a Senate panel this week would help the District government stay open in the event of a federal shutdown and would allow the city to place a statue of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass in the halls of the Capitol, advancing a pair of key priorities for local leaders," Ben Pershing reported Friday for the Washington Post. Douglass published the abolitionist paper the North Star in Rochester, N.Y., and is the namesake of the highest award of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"In perhaps a new effort to step up its international programming, CNN replaced its noon hour of 'CNN Newsroom' with 'Newsroom International' on Monday," the Huffington Post reported Monday. "The addition retains the format of 'Newsroom' with a focus on international news and events. Suzanne Malveaux, who anchors news coverage from noon to 2 p.m. ET, will continue to host the new hour. She is joined by CNN International anchors Michael Holmes, Richard Quest and Hala Gorani."

"A video journalist covering the Syrian uprising for The Associated Press was wounded while filming clashes between rebels and the Syrian army," the Associated Press reported Sunday. "Ahmed Bahaddou, a Belgian citizen, was struck in the shoulder by a bullet during a firefight Friday in northern Syria and was evacuated Sunday to London. He was admitted to a hospital in stable condition, and the wound was not considered life threatening."


"Conservative bloggers at the RightOnline conference on Saturday assailed the Daily Caller's Neil Munro for interrupting President Barack Obama during remarks at the White House — but tempered their criticism by arguing that such tactics wouldn't be necessary if the president regularly took questions from the press and the media asked tough ones," Tim Mak reported for Politico. Meanwhile, Frances Martel of Mediaite reported Monday that CNN's Don Lemon "went after Munro for his 'hissy fit' before the President and asked his boss, Tucker Carlson, to explain how he could be 'proud' of Munro's behavior. Lemon then took it a step further, asking how Carlson would have felt being heckled during his brief stint on Dancing with the Stars.

In Buffalo, "Channel 4 morning and noon anchor Victoria Hong will be the next personality at the station to walk out the door of the Elmwood Avenue studios," television writer Alan Pergament reported Monday. "Hong confirmed this afternoon that she will be leaving the broadcasting business to become the director of communications at the Delaware North Companies as soon as Channel 4 allows her to leave. That is the same business where her husband, Vito Buscemi, works as director of marketing for Sportservice."

In Atlanta, "Scores of viewers came to WSB-TV's midtown studios for a chance to meet one of local television's most beloved personalities, Monica Pearson," the station reported Saturday. "The historic station event celebrated Monica's commitment to the Atlanta community, whom she has served from the Channel 2 Action News anchor desk for 37 years."


Gus Garcia-Roberts of Miami New Times, online columnist Mary C. Curtis and Wade Kwon of Magic City Post were among the winners of the Green Eyeshade Awards, it was announced Friday. Created by the Atlanta Professional Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the awards are now administered by regional directors for the society. Entries came from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and West Virginia.

In Bangladesh, Zamal Uddin, a journalist hacked to death by unidentified assailants, was probably killed because of his reporting on the illegal drug trade in southwestern Bangladesh, the police said Saturday, the Associated Press reported.

On Monday, Charlayne Hunter-Gault discussed a weekend meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with a government minister about journalist Eskinder Nega, who is in prison there on terrorism charges. Hunter-Gault was accompanied by Rob Mahoney, deputy director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, "on whose board I serve, and Dele Olojede, a board member on the African Media Initiative (AMI), which I co-chair." "For the good of this young democracy, we each encouraged the minister to let our people — his people — go. The final disposition of the imprisoned journalist Eskinder Nega is due on June 21," Hunter-Gault wrote.


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