Sonya N. Hebert/White House
Sonya N. Hebert/White House

Pundits Display Personal, Ideological Filters

The coincidence of the nation's first black president being inaugurated for the second time on the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday Monday did not go unnoticed by pundits. Neither did President Obama's delivery of what some called the most inclusive inaugural speech ever.

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How they interpreted that speech depended on the lens through which they viewed it.

CNN pundit David Gergen called it "one of the most important Barack Obama has given as president," calling it a "declaration of conscience."

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On MSNBC, Chuck Todd said the president was attempting to mainstream "the liberal-progressive" agenda the way Ronald Reagan did the conservative one.

Chris Wallace of Fox News Channel did not hear mainstreaming. Wallace said Obama's plan "appears to be, 'Let's jam it down their throats.' "

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Given Fox's political orientation, the criticism was not so surprising. In fact, satirist Andy Borowitz wrote a piece for the New Yorker over the weekend saying that Fox News Channel planned to shut down for what it called "routine maintenance" Monday morning at 11:30 ET, broadcasting "a continuous photomontage of white people" during the 12-hour shutdown. Some on social media and at least one website, Loop21, reported the joke as straight news.

African American-oriented cable networks BET and TV One covered the inaugural speech live and emphasized the event's significance for African Americans.

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Many of them no doubt felt the way Eugene Robinson did at the Washington Post. "Reaction to the address took remarkably little notice of the fact that Obama is an African American," Robinson wrote. "That seems to be old news.

"Not for me, though. Not for a black man who grew up in the segregated South, who attended a rally (my mother tells me) at which the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, who lived through the defeat of Jim Crow and the triumph of the civil rights movement."

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Michael Steele, the African American former Republican National Committee chairman, agreed in his comments on MSNBC. "As an African American who grew up in Petworth," a District of Columbia neighborhood, "this is a very powerful moment," Steele said. "We're not just in the room but at the table."

Steele was critical of "some of those Republicans who had to leave town and wouldn't be a part of it today," saying Obama's speech carried with it a "great tone, and I think the president should be applauded for that."

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Obama used his address "to cast modern-day priorities — fighting climate change, welcoming immigrants, and ensuring gay rights — as the extension of a long struggle to live up to the Founders' ideals," David A. Fahrenthold and Debbi Wilgoren reported for the Washington Post under the online headline, "Obama calls for greater equality for all."

Matt Smith and Tom Cohen of CNN noted, "The loudest cheer of Obama's address came when he said the nation's journey remained incomplete 'until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts,' and 'until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.' "

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Obama became the first president to ever mention homosexuality and gay rights in such a speech, Andrew Kirell reported for mediaite.

The president referred to key locations in the struggle for women's, African American and gay rights. He said, "We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths — that all of us are created equal — is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."

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"It feels like a very fresh, modern" approach to an inauguration, Rachel Maddow said on MSNBC. In mentioning constituencies whose gains came through protest, she said, Obama's message was that "the country gets better because people fight to make it better," and he telegraphed "how he sees that change happens in the future."

With the choice of Beyoncé to render the Star Spangled Banner, and the presence of singers Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor, Maddow said the event seemed "a combination of pop culture and patriotism."

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USA Today columnist DeWayne Wickham, a panelist during BET's coverage, called the address "very much a victory lap" with "specific messages to those who backed him."

Ed Gordon, who anchored BET's coverage, embraced Beyoncé with a familiarity appropriate for BET's audience. "Looking at that little girl from Houston, Texas, speaks to what America is all about," Gordon said, calling her "arguably the top entertainer of the country."

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On Fox News, Obama's implied criticism of Republican ideologues did not sit well.

"The people who are Obama supporters believe the Republicans have been obstructionist," commentator Brit Hume said. But the Republicans say, "We'd love to do business with this guy, but he never offers us anything." Hume said that it is normal for passages in second inaugural addresses to note areas of commonality with the other party. But "this is completely bereft of an outreach to the opposition."

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Surprisingly, Hume's colleague Chris Wallace challenged Hume. Wallace pointed out Republican filibusters during Obama's first term and recalled the pledge early on by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate minority leader, to make Obama a one-term president. "I don't think you can lay it all on the side of the White House," Wallace said.

Still, Fox correspondent Jim Angle cited Obama's statement that, "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate" to say, "I think there are a lot of Republicans who would say you could say that about the president himself."

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The inaugural symbolism extended to the selections of Richard Blanco, who is gay and Latino, to deliver the inaugural poem, and Myrlie Evers-Williams, widow of slain civil rights figure Medgar Evers and a civil rights leader in her own right, to deliver the invocation. The Bibles chosen were those used by Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Sonia Sotomayor, the first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, administered the oath to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

No Asian Americans or Native Americans seemed to have a part in the ceremony.

Roland Martin, who anchored TV One's coverage, called attention to an African American presence that went back to 1972, saying that the Rev. Jesse Jackson's presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 "made this possible." He also mentioned the 1972 campaign of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, D-N.Y., for the Democratic nomination.

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Jackson's campaigns led to the elimination of winner-take-all and "bonus" primaries from Democratic Party elections after the 1988 race.

Martin invited Arnaldo Torres, who was broadcasting in a nearby Telemundo booth, to join him to discuss closer cooperation between African Americans and Latinos. Torres said that when he was national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) from 1980 to 1984, he joined with the Martin Luther King Center in Atlanta to propose funding for such a coalition.

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"Not one liberal foundation wanted to fund us," Torres said. "A lot of people are very afraid to see people of color coming together in a serious way."

Pacifica Radio's "Democracy Now!" took the African American connection much farther back.

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Clarence Lusane, author of "The Black History of the White House," pointed out that both the Capitol and White House were built with slave labor, that 25 percent of all U.S. presidents were slaveholders and that black people were held in bondage in the White House itself.

Joyner, Smiley Clash Again Over Obama

The differences between syndicated radio host Tom Joyner and media figure Tavis Smiley, once a regular commentator on the Joyner show, show no signs of mending. Joyner wrote on his blog Monday, "What do many Republicans, the spokesmen, for NRA and Tavis Smiley have in common? Once they start down a road, no matter how dangerous or ridiculously wrong it is, they won't turn back."

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Joyner added, "I believe that Tavis is the one fascinated with Dr. [Martin Luther] King's legacy, but more importantly Tavis is fascinated with his own legacy, and that's not good. He wants more than anything to be remembered the way Dr. King was, and to some how make that kind of mark on the world. . . . "

Smiley said on CBS' "Sunday Morning," "I've heard people exclaim that President Obama is the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream. Well, not exactly. . . . The interrelated triple threat of poverty, militarism and racism that King talked about still looms large in a yet-deeply-divided America."

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Joyner wrote, ". . . Dr. King knew good things would be said about him in death and he was humbled at the idea of it. Tavis is afraid of what will be said about him and it's driving him crazy. He points out on the day of President Obama's swearing in that the President is not the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream, but maybe a good down payment. I wonder what that makes Tavis, and sadly, does he. . . ."

Meanwhile, Cornel West, Smiley's partner on the "Smiley and West" radio show, "says he is outraged that Mr. Obama would use Dr. King's personal Bible at the inauguration without endorsing Dr. King's 'black freedom struggle,' " Susan Saulny reported Sunday in the New York Times.

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" 'Martin went to jail talking about carpet bombing in Vietnam and trying to organize poor people, fighting for civil liberties,' Mr. West said. The president, he said, 'has a compromising kind of temperament.' "

Chris Ariens, TV Newser: Al Roker Gets Parade-Side Interview with Pres. Obama and Handshake from VP Biden

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Sandy Banks, Los Angeles Times: Obama's second inauguration a mark of progress in its own right

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Obama's Second Inaugural

Editorial, Al Día, Philadelphia: As Salazar and Solís Leave, Obama's Cabinet Left Without Latinos

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Editorial, Philadelphia Inquirer: King Day again time to reflect

Hazel Trice Edney, TriceEdneyWire.com: On MLK Day, Blacks Concerned About Obama's Agenda

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James Fallows blog, the Atlantic: Obama's Startling Second Inaugural

Robin Givhan, Washington Post: First lady Michelle Obama serves as fashion icon (Jan. 22)

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LZ Granderson, CNN: How Obama made opportunity real in America

Emil Guillermo blog: The President's Inaugural Address lays out a poetic hint of an agenda, with a touch of reality

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Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Dream Day: The Martin Luther King Day and Inauguration Day Coincidence

Kristen Hoerl, Communication Currents: Forgetting Racial Injustice in Press Coverage of President Obama's Inauguration

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Clyde Hughes, Journal & Courier, Lafayette, Ind.: Beyond a dream and on to today

Tom Joyner, Black America Web: Who Cares About the Color of Obama's Cabinet? (Jan. 17)

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Jodi Kantor, New York Times: Chang e Comes: After 4 Years, Friends See Shifts in the Obamas

Merrill Knox, TVSpy: WTTG's Wisdom Martin Interviews President Obama Look Alike on National Mall

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Sandra Lilley, NBCLatino: Latinos have an agenda for the President's first 100 days

Julie Moos, Poynter Institute: Inauguration front pages combine Obama's second term, Martin Luther King Jr. legacy

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Kevin Powell, cnn.com: Martin Luther King's dream is alive

Mark Preston, CNN: First on CNN: Attracting minority voters a key GOP goal as Obama begins second term (Jan. 17)

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Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: I Have Another Dream

Susan Saulny, New York Times: Among Blacks, Pride Is Mixed With Expectations for Obama

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Robert Siegel with Roger Wilkins, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., Shelby Steele and Sherrilyn Ifill, "All Things Considered," NPR: How Large Does President Obama Stand In Black History?

Vanessa Williams, Washington Post: After the first black president, who will be second?

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Asian American Voters Relied on Ethnic Media

"Around half of Asian Americans relied on ethnic media for news during the last election in which the growing community voted overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama, a study said Thursday," Shaun Tandon reported for Agence France-Presse.

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"Massive support by minorities played a vital role in Obama's re-election on November 6. Asian Americans made up 3.4 percent of the electorate and could play a greater future role as they form the fastest expanding racial group.

"The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, releasing detailed findings from its exit polls, found that 48 percent of Asian Americans considered ethnic media, led by television, to be their prime news source.

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"Asian Americans of Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese heritage are most likely to consider vernacular-language ethnic media their main news source. The figure dwindles for Indian and Filipino Americans for whom fluent English is the norm."

The AALDEF's nonpartisan multilingual exit poll reached 9,096 Asian American voters in 14 states, the largest survey of its kind in the nation, the group said.

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Seventy-seven percent voted for Obama.

Thirty-seven percent were limited English proficient, defined as speaking English "less than very well."

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Voters were asked if they encountered any voting problems. The organization said 249 responded that they were required to prove their U.S. citizenship, 307 said their names were missing or there were errors in the list of voters at poll sites, 215 had to vote by provisional ballot, 165 said poll workers did not know what to do, 136 voters said poll workers were rude or hostile, 183 voters said no interpreters or translations were available when they needed their help and 105 were directed to the wrong poll site or voting machine/table within a site.

Google Drops "Make Me Asian" Smartphone App

" 'Make Me Asian,' a smartphone app that drew the ire of Asian-American activists for what they say are stereotypical depictions, is no longer available on the Google Play Store," Gene Demby reported Thursday for NPR.

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"The 'Make Me Asian' app let users alter photos to turn faces into stereotypical Asian caricatures — think Fu Manchu-style mustaches and rice paddy hats. Its creator, 'KimberyDeiss,' developed similar apps, like Make Me Indian, Make Me Russian, Make Me Frankenstein and Make Me Fat. Those apps are no longer available, either, and KimberyDeiss's Google Play profile has been deleted.

". . . In a recent conversation with NPR's Allison Keyes, columnist Jeff Yang of The Wall Street Journal said he wasn't surprised that the app didn't raise the sort of objections that apps about other ethnic groups might have.

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" 'There is less inherent social and political power associated with these groups,' he said, so the consequences often aren't as serious 'if you parody, satire or mock or offend these communities.' "

Cristina Azocar Named Interim J-Chair at S.F. State

Cristina Azocar, director of the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University for more than 10 years, has resigned to become the interim chair of the Department of Journalism, the school announced on its website.

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Azocar, a member of the Upper Mattaponi Tribe, is a past president of the Native American Journalists Association and serves on the board of the Women's Media Center.

"Associate Professor Rachele Kanigel will become the acting director of CIIJ while a new direction is planned for the 23-year-old organization," a separate announcement said.

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Founded at San Francisco State University in 1990 by Betty Medsger, the Center for Integration and Improvement of Journalism says it "believes that accurate and responsible journalism reflects the changing demographics of the society it serves. We develop programs and conduct research aimed at recruiting, retaining and revitalizing journalists and journalism educators. We seek to make journalism more inclusive from the classroom to the newsroom."

Azocar is to serve while Chair Venise Wagner is on leave during the spring semester.

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Hans Massaquoi of Ebony Dies, Grew Up Among Nazis

"Hans Massaquoi, a former managing editor of Ebony magazine who wrote a distinctive memoir about his unusual childhood growing up black in Nazi Germany, has died. He was 87," Freida Frisaro reported Monday for the Associated Press.

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"His son said Massaquoi died Saturday, on his 87th birthday, in Jacksonville[, Fla.] He had been hospitalized over the Christmas holidays.

" 'He had quite a journey in life,' said Hans J. Massaquoi, Jr. of Detroit. 'Many have read his books and know what he endured. But most don't know that he was a good, kind, loving, fun-loving, fair, honest, generous, hard-working and open-minded man. He respected others and commanded respect himself. He was dignified and trustworthy. We will miss him forever and try to live by his example.'

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"In an interview in 2000, the elder Massaquoi told The Associated Press that he credited the late Alex Haley, author of 'Roots,' with convincing him to share his experience of being 'both an insider in Nazi Germany and, paradoxically, an endangered outsider.' His autobiography, 'Destined to Witness: Growing Up Black in Nazi Germany,' was published in the U.S. in 1999 and a German translation was also published.

"Massaquoi's mother was a German nurse and his father was the son of a Liberian diplomat. He grew up in working class neighborhoods of the port city of Hamburg.

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". . . . He worked first for Jet Magazine before moving to Chicago-based Ebony, where he rose to managing editor before retiring in the late 1990s."

Jessica Lum, Multimedia Journalist, Dies at 25

Jessica Lum, a journalist who combined multimedia skills with enthusiasm for telling stories to report news and share her personal struggle with cancer on Facebook, died Jan. 13 of cancer, her family said. She was 25, Robert D. Dávila reported Thursday in the Sacramento Bee.

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"Ms. Lum, who graduated from McClatchy High School, was a senior at UCLA when she was diagnosed in 2008 with metastatic pheochromocytoma, a rare cancer. Having documented much of her college life in comments and photos on Facebook, she instinctively turned to social media to announce that she had cancer and to seek support.

"She posted updates about her health for more than 1,000 Facebook friends. She voiced private feelings in a public forum with 'an online style of honesty mixed with humor and sarcasm,' according to a Bee story in 2009.

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". . . For her master's thesis, Ms. Lum spent weeks in the Colorado Desert in Southern California interviewing, photographing and writing about residents of Slab City, a squatters haven in Imperial County. Her multimedia project, 'Slab City Stories,' won the 2012 Online News Association award for best feature by a student. (The project is online at slabcitystories.com.)"

Short Takes

Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state and national security adviser in the Bush administration and a professor at Stanford University, has joined CBS News as a contributor, the network announced on Sunday. Bill Carter noted in the New York Times, "Other figures from the Bush administration have been hired as television commentators, including Karl Rove, the former deputy chief of staff, and the former United Nations ambassador, John Bolton, both at Fox News."

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While continuing as host of "NewsNation" weekday afternoons on MSNBC, Tamron Hall has signed to host "Deadline: Crime with Tamron Hall," a 13-part series for Investigative Discovery, Robert Feder reported Saturday for Time Out Chicago. "The 2004 murder of Hall's sister Renate, who was a victim of domestic violence, makes Hall uniquely qualified to host the series, according to a statement by the network."

Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, challenged Alan Mutter's analysis of last week that roughly three-quarters of newspaper readers are now over age 45. Rosenstiel wrote for the Poynter Institute, "He based his analysis on data from the Pew Research Center that I was involved in producing from summer 2010 and summer 2012. (I left the Pew Research Center in December to take the helm of the American Press Institute). The problem is, the analysis doesn't reflect reality."

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Al Sharpton told NPR's Corey Dade that the idea for his "PoliticsNation" on MSNBC "came from Paula Madison, then the executive vice president and chief diversity officer for NBCUniversal. She envisioned Sharpton hosting a weekly program similar to the CNN show hosted by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson in the 1990s. Sharpton says he pitched the idea to MSNBC President Phil Griffin, who rejected it before eventually deciding to hire him as a daily host." Dade's "The Rev. Al Sharpton, In Six True-False Statements" appeared on the NPR site on Saturday.

On Saturday, the Bronx Documentary Center in New York opened "Seis del Sur: Dispatches from Home by Six Nuyorican Photographers," an exhibition of photographs, video and ephemera by Joe Conzo Jr., Ricky Flores, Ángel Franco, David Gonzalez, Edwin Pagán and Francisco Molina Reyes II, all photographers of Puerto Rican descent. Gonzalez and Franco work at the New York Times; Flores at the suburban Journal News. "The exhibition depicts the South Bronx in the 1970s, 80s and 90s as captured by those who lived through the famous devastation. This groundbreaking exhibition, a combination of street photography, portraiture, crime scene photos, and snapshots from the birth of hip hop, has been 'thirty years in the making,' " an announcement says. The exhibition runs until March 8. Review by Charlie Vázquez of Latino Rebels.

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In Hawaii, "News anchor Teri Okita will leave Hawaii News Now at the end of the February Nielsen ratings period and former anchor Grace Lee, who left the stations in November of 2010, will be returning, the Star-Advertiser has learned," the Honolulu newspaper reported Friday.

In New York, "WABC reporter Marci Gonzalez is joining ABC News as a New York-based correspondent for NewsOne," Merrill Knox reported Friday for TVSpy. "Gonzalez joined the New York City ABC O&O as a reporter in 2011. She has also worked at WPTV in West Palm Beach and News 12 The Bronx."

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

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