Did Syrian Children’s Light Skin Motivate Trump?

  • ‘The White-Oriented News Media Avoid Race’
  • Trump Supporters’ Attacks Take Their Toll: Journalists Seek to Foil the ‘Contentious and Ugly’
  • Race Influences Policies on Opioids, Crack
  • How a Series on Latinos Won the Top Pulitzer Prize
  • Short Takes
Amer Ghazzal / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This week, it was the images — gruesome photos of a chemical weapons attack on Syrian civilians — that moved [President] Trump, pushing the president, who ran on an ‘America first’ platform of nonintervention, to authorize the launch of 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian targets Thursday night,” Ashley Parker, David Nakamura and Dan Lamothe reported Friday for the Washington Post.

“Senior administration officials and members of Congress who spoke with Trump said the president was especially struck by two images: young, listless children being splashed with water in a frantic attempt to cleanse them of the nerve agent; and an anguished father holding his twin babies, swathed in soft white fabric, poisoned to death. . . .”


Was Trump struck also because those images were of light-skinned children, with whom he could identify?

Roger Witherspoon, a veteran black journalist who is a board member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and a contributing editor to US Black Engineer and Information Technology Magazine, believes so.

Isaac Kasamani/AFP/Getty Images

Witherspoon wrote Friday on his website, “In South Sudan there were horrific pictures of men, women, and children being massacred or starving in an ongoing civil war. There were some photos (video) of desiccated bodies rotting in the sun, and others of reed-thin waifs, their empty bellies bloated, being held to the last by emaciated mothers with no milk to give.


“The incoming president, during the course of his world briefs, would have had these photos if he cared to look at them and thick dossiers if he cared to read them. But then, a bunch of black women and children dying in the African sun was hardly worth a white man’s tweet. . . .”

Journal-isms asked Witherspoon whether there was anything to be said about the role of the news media.


“The white oriented news media avoids race,” Witherspoon replied by email. “There was a lot of talk about how the videos affected Trump and apparently made him do a 180 in foreign policy over the span of 2 days. But none of the media I saw — from Rachel to Fox — asked what made this set of videos and this gas attack so different from the other 160 documented gas attacks?

“It was JUST 4 years ago that he said the chemical attack murder of 1,400 was none of our business. But at that time, as you know, American newspapers did not show dead bodies. This time, however, he saw a video of people dying.


“is that all it took? maybe. but considering his callousness to dead children everywhere, it seemed to me the difference this time was that the kids appear white and he identified with them as children, not as niggers and slopes,” a derogatory term for a “Vietnamese/Asian person,” according to the Urban Dictionary. “the more I watched last night the angrier I got.”

If a sermon Saturday night at the 7,000-member, historically black Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Va., is any indication, Witherspoon is not alone in his observation.


In a passage denouncing capital punishment, the Rev. Howard-John Wesley asked, “Where were the bombs when 276 girls were kidnapped by Boko Haram?”

“. . . when 800,000 Hutus killed Tutsis in Rwanda [in 1994]?

“. . . when South Africans killed residents of Soweto [in 1976]?

“ . . . when the Chinese were killed in Tiananmen Square [in 1989]?”

. . . Or when tens of thousands are being killed in South Sudan?

There, “Men, women and children have been shot, speared, burned, castrated, hung, drowned, run over, suffocated, starved and blown up, their corpses abandoned where they fell, bulldozed into mass graves or, in at least one case, eaten in ritual cannibalism,” Agence France-Presse reported in March 2016.


The United Nations noted reports this week of “outrageous abuses” by both state and opposition actors against aid workers, as well as reports of horrific attacks against civilians. “More than 3.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes, including nearly 1.9 million people who are internally displaced and more than 1.7 million who have fled as refugees to neighbouring countries. . . .”

Dana Hughes has reported for ABC News, “Former President Bill Clinton has called Rwanda one of his greatest regrets during his presidency, admitting that had the U.S. and the world intervened earlier, some 300,000 people might have been saved. . . .”


ABC News: photos of chemically attacked Syrian children. “Warning! Graphic content”

Steve Coll, New Yorker: Trump’s Confusing Strike on Syria

Laura Crimaldi, Boston Globe: Local Syrians divided in their reaction to US military action


Adam Johnson, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting: Five Top Papers Run 18 Opinion Pieces Praising Syria Strikes — Zero Are Critical

Judy Molland, care2.com: Trump’s Hypocrisy: Bomb Syria But Hate On Syrian Refugees


Margaret Sullivan, Washington Post: The media loved Trump’s show of military might. Are we really doing this again?

Paul Waldman, Washington Post: What did Trump’s strike on Syria really accomplish?

Sharif Durhams, a homepage editor at the Washington Post, reports to the Unity Diversity Caucus on a discussion of how to protect journalists from attacks in the field and online. (Nicki Mayo/Twitter)

Journalists Seek to Foil the ‘Contentious and Ugly’

Donald Trump’s demonization of the news media and the ease of tracking reporters on social media have combined to embolden Trump supporters who mean journalists no good, participants said Friday at the fourth annual Diversity Caucus convened by Unity: Journalists for Diversity.


“I feel that women and people of color, and maybe gay people, are singled out for more abuse,” Carolyn Ryan, senior editor for politics at the New York Times, told about 60 diversity advocates meeting in Washington at the headquarters of the National Association of Broadcasters.

The 2016 presidential campaign was “as contentious and ugly an experience for journalists as I’ve ever seen,” she said.


The harassment of journalists at Trump rallies was documented during the campaign.

In October, the Anti-Defamation League Task Force on Harassment and Journalism released a report “detailing a troubling, year-long rise in anti-Semitic hate targeting journalists on Twitter, with data showing that the harassment has been driven by rhetoric in the 2016 presidential campaign and identifying some of the groups and individuals responsible. . . .”


It said, “The Task Force identified that some 19,253 overtly anti-Semitic tweets were sent to at least 800 journalists in the U.S. during the 12 month study. The top 10 most targeted journalists — all of whom are Jewish — received 83 percent of those 19,253 tweets. . . . The top 10 includes conservative columnist Ben Shapiro, Tablet’s Yair Rosenberg, the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and The New York Times’ Jonathan Weisman, and CNN’s Sally Kohn and Jake Tapper. . . .”

The harassment did not end on Election Day. At the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma at Columbia University was planning a panel for Saturday on “Trolls in the Newsroom.”


“Online interaction holds out the promise of thought-provoking discussion and more engaged audiences, but journalists increasingly face the kind of abuse and harassment that poisons genuine debate and in some cases can lead to real psychological harm,” a description read.

“This panel will offer a guide to trolls, their tactics, habitats and various subspecies, ones which range from those who are mostly thoughtless and inconsiderate to those who are systematically organised and more genuinely dangerous. Panelists will share experience, offer their personal strategies for pushing back against the toxic tide and discuss what it may take to create a free and civil online space for both journalists and their audiences.”


For the journalists assembled by Unity in Washington, the discussion quickly turned to sharing strategies.

Nicki Mayo, a multimedia journalist who is president of the Baltimore Association of Black Journalists, said black journalists had been asked to accompany white reporters who ventured into black communities, but she was not so protected when she worked in Appalachia and assigned to cover NASCAR events at the Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn.


Mayo said she had to set boundaries, such as “who’s allowed to touch you,” and to decide “when to call the station and say, ‘I can’t do that’ “ assignment.

Doris Truong, a homepage editor at the Washington Post, went public with her experience in January.


Angry tweets and retweets claim the home page editor of the Washington Post was caught sneaking pictures of Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson’s notes during his confirmation hearing,” Jill Geisler wrote at the time for the Center for Digital Ethics & Policy. “There’s video. Memes. Calls for her firing because this is proof she’s a ‘scumbag.’ ”

But the woman taking photographs was another Asian American, not Truong, who admitted to being “perplexed and, honestly, shocked” by what took place. Sharif Durhams, a fellow Post homepage editor, agreed with going public in such situations. “We need to be more transparent in what we do.”


Such incidents place more of a burden on supervisors, according to Carrie Budoff Brown, editor of Politico.

In February, right-wing media falsely reported that Politico’s Alex Isenstadt laughed when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told him that a young White House aide became emotional in reporting the death of Chief Ryan Owens, the Navy SEAL killed in action in Yemen.


“He was not laughing,” Brown said. “He felt damaged by that. He said, ‘My friends from high school are calling me.’ . . . I have to think about how I’m supporting him in a public sense and in a private sense. . . .

“There’s a personal dimension and a stinging dimension” to these new attacks, which differ in “volume, coordination and relentlessness,” Brown told the Unity group.


Some journalists said they had been told to “suck it up,” or, as Native American journalist Rhonda LeValdo said, to “just let it go.” After all, said Mizell Stewart, a USA Today Network executive and president of the American Society of News Editors, “If you want to be loved, don’t become a journalist.”

Juliet Beverly, who has been an officer of the Washington Association of Black Journalists, said journalists must remind themselves that historically, “we’ve had to deal with tougher situations” inside and outside the newsroom.


It is also true, said Karen Hansen, membership and programs manager of the Radio Television Digital News Association, that journalists “don’t want to become part of the story.” But, Hansen said, “it’s too late. Journalists have been made players. We need to have a stronger voice,” amplifying cases where journalists have been abused.

Stewart agreed. “It’s incumbent on us to band together in a higher degree than we are comfortable.”


Carolyn Ryan said she was pleased when fellow journalists defended April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks (no relation) when Spicer asked her to stop shaking her head in a March 28 news briefing, a request that was viewed as patronizing. Another participant urged reporters at White House briefings to re-ask questions of other reporters if they are not answered.

The subject of abuse became one for the caucus groups created to recommend solutions to issues raised during the day.


Some of their ideas: Send reporters out in teams; talk about mental health; share protective steps with freelancers as well as staffers; become more proactive with emailing; make protection a collective, not an individual, issue; identify others who have been victimized; conduct debriefings after such incidents.

And take time for yourself, said Jesse J. Holland, who covers race relations for the Associated Press. “It can be emotionally draining,” he said of his job. “You have to have something for yourself that gives me a reason to go back to work.” For him, Holland said, that’s family.


Joe Grimm, a former Detroit Free Press recruiter who teaches diversity issues in his journalism classes at Michigan State University, indicated that the haters might not be winning.

“On Election Night, somebody put hands on one of our students,” Grimm said. Another was called “sweetie.”


“The good news,” he said, “is this is pissing some of them off, and they want to be journalists more than ever.”

Nikki Usher, mediashift.org: Want to Fix Diversity in News? Fix Internships. If Not: Provide Solutions

In last year’s “In the Shadow of Death: Jason’s Journey,” a multi-part “CBS Evening News” series, reporter DeMarco Morgan followed Jason Amaral on his path to recovery. Amaral was then a 30-year-old addict living in the Boston area. (CBS News)

Race Influences Policies on Opioids, Crack

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, President Trump, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush have cited the experiences of friends and relatives in discussing their views on drug addiction, German Lopez reported Tuesday for vox.com.


These stories show how lived experiences and personal relationships can influence serious policy decisions. After all, politicians bring up the people in their lives who they saw needlessly suffer and die due to drugs for a specific purpose: to call for an approach to addiction focused on public health over criminal justice.

“But in this way, these stories also expose the impact of another issue that may not seem related at first: race.


“Even after decades of progress on racial issues, America remains a very segregated country. On a day to day basis, most Americans closely interact only with people of the same race. And that impacts our policies.

“Consider the opioid epidemic, which contributed to the record 52,000 drug overdose deaths reported in 2015. Because the crisis has disproportionately affected white Americans, white lawmakers — who make up a disproportionate amount of all levels of government — are more likely to come into contact with people afflicted by the opioid epidemic than, say, the disproportionately black drug users who suffered during the crack cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s.


“And that means a lawmaker is perhaps more likely to have the kind of interaction that Christie, Trump, Bush, and Fiorina described — one that might lead them to support more compassionate drug policies — in the current crisis than the ones of old.

“Is it any wonder, then, that the crack epidemic led to a ‘tough on crime’ crackdown focused on harsher prison sentences and police tactics, while the current opioid crisis has led more to calls for legislation, including a measure Congress passed last year, that boosted spending on drug treatment to get people with substance use disorders help? . . .”


Hernandez D. Stroud, Time: Our Opioid Crisis Reveals Deep Racial Bias In Addiction Treatment

The 1983 Latino series team after the 1984 Pulitzer Prize announcement (Los Angeles Times)

How a Series on Latinos Won the Top Pulitzer Prize

As the Pulitzer Prize administrators prepare to announce the 2017 awards on Monday, Frank O. Sotomayor, who worked for 35 years at the Los Angeles Times, has published a free online book, “The Pulitzer Long Shot: How Our 1983 Latino Stories for L.A. Times Won Journalism’s Top Prize.”


It begins, “Twice we had been rebuffed. Twice, Los Angeles Times editor Bill Thomas had told us our 1983 series on Latinos was not worthy of a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Twice we had walked dejectedly out of his office in the publisher’s suite. But would we — Frank del Olmo, George Ramos and I — accept no for the final answer? No way!

“We were granted one more appointment with Thomas. On Friday, December 30, as 1983 was winding down, we walked purposefully into his office. Thomas sat at a large desk, his window-lined second-floor office just a block from L.A.’s iconic City Hall and other government buildings.


“We presented our case once again, this time with even more passion and determination than before. We wanted our series, which had won high praise from readers and earlier from Thomas, to be nominated as acknowledgment of our good work. Thomas repeated that the series, although a good product, was ‘not the type that wins a Pulitzer.’

“He said Pulitzers typically were awarded for investigative series that produce change. Besides, he told us, staff members had already prepared 27 Pulitzer entries from the Times, and they were nearly ready to ship them to Columbia University for judging.


“Twice rebuffed, we were not about to accept anything but an affirmative response. We were there representing 14 other journalists, all Mexican Americans, who had initiated the project with a single goal — to inform and educate the public about Mexican Americans and other Latinos.

“We had poured our hearts out while producing an exceptional 27-story series in one of the largest reporting projects in L.A. Times history. We had conducted more than 1,000 interviews to flesh out our portrait of the Latino community of Southern California.


“Going far beyond often-stereotypical news coverage, we had examined and written about education, politics, the job market, culture, religion, immigration, the arts and much more, all with a human focus. . . .”

Short Takes

Roger W. Wilkins

A memorial service for Roger W. Wilkins, civil rights champion in government and journalism who died March 26 at 85, is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 20, at the Robert L. Smith Meeting Room in the Quaker Meeting House and Arts Center at Sidwell Friends School in Washington, the family announced on Saturday. The school is at 3825 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20016. The service is to be followed by a reception at the school. No speakers have been selected, Patricia King, Wilkins’ wife, said by email.

Ernesto Londoño, who has written bilingual editorials for the New York Times as a member of the editorial board, has been named Brazil bureau chief, succeeding Simon Romero, who is joining the National desk, the Times announced on Friday. In addition, the Times Books desk announced the hiring of Concepcion de Leon, a New Yorker by way of the Dominican Republic, as a digital writer, and Julian Lucas, an editor at Cabinet magazine, as a contributing writer. Lucas will be “writing essays, appreciations and reported stories about books and the way books intersect with issues of race, identity, digital culture and the news. . . .”


A prominent House Democrat has proposed boosting diverse minority ownership in the broadcasting business,” John Eggerton reported Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable. “The Expanding Broadcast Ownership Opportunities Act, introduced by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), would boost data and reporting requirements for ownership diversity, restore the tax certificate program and establish a minority incubator program. That bill could have the best chance of traction since Republicans have also called for incubator programs and restoring the tax certificate policy that gave companies a tax break for selling media properties to diverse owners. . . .”

Comcast has pledged to launch two African-American owned and targeted networks in 2019, bringing to eight the number of multicultural services it will have supported as part of conditions the MSO [multi-system operator] agreed to in its 2011 acquisition of NBCUniversal,” R. Thomas Umstead reported Tuesday for Multichannel News. “Throwing its name into the mix for one of the two slots is Washington D.C.-based digital service HBCUX, which focuses on creating programming for and about the 105 historically black colleges and universities around the country,” Umstead wrote, introducing a Q-and-A with veteran cable executive Curtis Symonds, who is leading HBCUX.


The National Center on Disability and Journalism has posted a resource list of disability organizations.

DeMarco Morgan, New York-based correspondent for CBS News, and Dale Hogg, Tulsa’s first black television broadcaster, were to be inducted Friday into the Booker T. Washington High School Hall of Fame in Tulsa, Okla., Greater Tulsa Reporter Newspapers reported on Tuesday.


Wendy Carrillo, a 36-year-old journalist and activist hoping to become the next U.S. representative for California’s 34th Congressional District, trailed in a special election with 24 candidates on Tuesday. Carrillo would have been the first formerly undocumented woman to serve in office. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez and Robert Lee Ahn, a fellow Democrat and former L.A. city planning commissioner, were expected to meet in a June 6 runoff, Christine Mai-Duc reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division spent a year in Chicago after Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder for shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times,” the Chicago Tribune editorialized Thursday. “. . . But the DOJ’s work was interrupted by the election of President Donald Trump, who doesn’t seem to think local police departments can behave professionally and fight crime at the same time. His attorney general, Jeff Sessions, believes consent decrees are a barrier to effective policing. Chicago doesn’t have one yet, and Sessions isn’t likely to push it over the finish line. After reading a 16-page summary of the DOJ report, he dismissed its findings as ‘anecdotal.’ He’d know better if he read the full report. Or the newspapers. . . .”


“Not since Steven Brill’s news watch magazine, Brill’s Content, have the American public and news-junkies-mavens-movers&shakers been better served than with ‘Richard Prince’s Journal-isms.’ The New York Times’ credo, ‘All the News Fit to Print’, could be easily applied to ‘Journal-isms’ with a slight change, ‘Making Sense of All the News Fit to Print’.


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Gregg W. Morris, assistant professor of journalism, Hunter College, City University of New York.


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