ESPN announced Thursday that it is suspending commentator Rob Parker for 30 days over his on-air remarks about Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, tightening editorial oversight of the "First Take" show and taking "appropriate disciplinary measures" against employees who played a role in allowing Parker's remarks on the air.
On Dec. 13, Parker questioned whether Griffin was a "real" black man and was suspended "until further notice" two days later. ESPN said it was "conducting a full review."
Parker had defended his remarks before the suspension, but he apologized on Wednesday, saying in an extended Twitter message, "I blew it and I'm sincerely sorry. I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care. This past Thursday I failed to do that. . . ."
Some, such as Sam Laird of the Mashable website, expected a worse fate for Parker. "ESPN is now reportedly considering firing Parker altogether," Laird wrote on Wednesday.
Others questioned whether "First Take" itself should be reined in, saying the program's atmosphere was too freewheeling.
Doug Farrar of Yahoo Sports wrote Saturday, ". . . those within the network who have decided to abdicate any sense of journalistic responsibility in favor of a craven desire for ratings and 'buzz' should probably take a few minutes and consider that they created and nourished an environment by which Rob Parker, who had made multiple professional missteps before, could thrive by saying stupid stuff and getting away with it."
ESPN addressed that sentiment in its Thursday statement from Marcia Keegan, a vice president of production for ESPN, who oversees First Take:
"ESPN has decided to suspend Rob Parker for 30 days for his comments made on last Thursday's episode of First Take. Our review of the preparation for the show and the re-air has established that mistakes both in judgment and communication were made. As a direct result, clearly inappropriate content was aired and then re-aired without editing. Both were errors on our part.
"To address this, we have enhanced the editorial oversight of the show and have taken appropriate disciplinary measures with the personnel responsible for these failures. We will continue to discuss important issues in sports on First Take, including race. Debate is an integral part of sports and we will continue to engage in it on First Take. However, we believe what we have learned here and the steps we have taken will help us do all that better."
Parker said in the fateful broadcast:
"Some people I've known for a long time. My question, which is just a straight, honest question, is … is he a 'brother,' or is he a cornball 'brother'? He's not really … he's black, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black, but he's not really like the guy you'd want to hang out with. I just want to find out about him. I don't know, because I keep hearing these things. He has a white fiancée, people talking about that he's a Republican … there's no information at all. I'm just trying to dig deeper into why he has an issue. Tiger Woods was like, 'I have black skin, but don't call me black.' People wondered about Tiger Woods early on — about him."
Although Parker apologized in his Tuesday Twitter post, he insisted, "I believe the intended topic is a worthy one. Robert's thoughts about being an African-American quarterback and the impact of his phenomenal success have been discussed in other media outlets, as well as among sports fans, particularly those in the African-American community.
"The failure was in how I chose to discuss it on First Take, and in doing so, turned a productive conversation into a negative one. I regrettably introduced some points that I never should have and I completely understand the strong response to them, including ESPN's reaction.
"Perhaps most importantly, the attention my words have brought to one of the best and brightest stars in all of sports is an unintended and troubling result. Robert Griffin III is a talented athlete who not only can do great things on the field, but off the field handles himself in a way we are all taught — with dignity, respect and pride. I've contacted his agent with hopes of apologizing to Robert directly. As I reflect on this and move forward, I will take the time to consider how I can continue to tackle difficult, important topics in a much more thoughtful manner."
While Parker was widely condemned for his remarks, media critic Eric Deggans of the Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times wrote that suspension should take place only after Parker goes back on "First Take" and has the right kind of discussion about race.
". . . There's a lot going on here. African Americans have a long, tortured struggle with self-identity in a white-dominated society which has often associated our culture with the worst shortcomings in morality and intelligence," Deggans wrote last week.
"It's understandable that some people would be wary of black celebrities who might seek to minimize, disavow or downplay their connection to black people as if they are sidestepping something undesirable. . . .
"If any ESPN executives are still reading, let me suggest you avoid the corporate reflex of burying this controversy and instead have Parker return to First Take with some people who can talk about this issue with intelligence and insight."
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz told Journal-isms by email, "this decision involved several people in management…and to answer your question, yes, African Americans were actively involved in that decision/discussion."
Gregory H. Lee Jr., president of the National Association of Black Journalists and sports editor at the SunSentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., told Jason McIntyre of the Big Lead sports blog on Tuesday, "We have had internal discussions and at some point, we will speak to ESPN about it. I know a lot of people there, and we want to grasp what they're trying to accomplish on the show … But given that the show comes on 365 days a year, how often do you have a slip up on one of those shows?
Lee went on: "I understand what Rob was trying to say, but the execution was poor. When they have discussions concerning race … if you misinterpret something … the way Rob executed what he said, the way he said it … the perception is he was race-baiting."
Gregory L. Moore, editor of the Denver Post, is to receive the National Press Foundation's Benjamin C. Bradlee Award as Editor of the Year "for leading his paper's coverage of the Aurora theatre shooting spree — which occurred at midnight after the paper had gone to bed and relied almost exclusively on social media to inform the community of the horrific events that evening," the foundation announced on Wednesday.
In answering questions from Journal-isms readers in July about coverage of the shooting spree, in which 12 people were killed and dozens wounded, Moore said, "We are doing whatever we feel we need to do to cover this story right. We had people on the scene within an hour of the shooting, maybe sooner . . . We had some people on the scene for 17 hours."
Jorge Ramos, longtime anchor of Univision News who is also a public policy show host and the author of 11 books, is receiving the Sol Taishoff Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism.
Frank Deford, the legendary sports journalist whose work is found on NPR, HBO and in Sports Illustrated, is to receive the 2012 W.M. Kiplinger Award for Distinguished Contributions to Journalism.
The National Press Foundation was created by the National Press Club, but the two organizations are independent of each other, Foundation President and CEO Bob Meyers told Journal-isms.
A PBS "Frontline" documentary that "follows a group of violence Interruptors to the front lines of inner city violence and profiles their efforts to combat it with dignity" was among the winners of the duPont-Columbia awards announced at Columbia University on Wednesday.
"The Interrupters" was "shot over the course of a year" as "filmmakers Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz captured the streets of Chicago during a period of widespread violence that drew national attention. With extraordinary initiative, enterprise and access, the team opened doors into places most people can't go, telling complex stories about former gang members working to break the cycle of violence," the announcement said. "The documentary provides new understanding of a stubborn societal problem through strong characters and excellent reporting, shooting and editing."
Whites and blacks differ sharply on gun control, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Monday through Wednesday in the aftermath of the deadly shooting spree in a Newtown, Conn., elementary school.
Asked which was more important, to protect the right to own guns or to control ownership, 51 percent of whites said "to protect the right to own guns." Only 24 percent of blacks did. Sixty-eight percent of blacks said "to control ownership," a choice selected by 42 percent of whites. Eight percent of each group said they did not know.
Asked whether gun ownership does more to protect people from crime or puts people's safety at risk, 54 percent of whites said it protects people from crime, but only 29 percent of blacks did. Fifty-three percent of blacks said it puts people's safety at risk. Only 33 percent of whites did.
Asked about the effect of allowing citizens to own assault weapons, both whites and blacks said it would make the country more dangerous. Eighty-three percent of blacks said so, as did 61 percent of whites. Only 26 percent of whites said it would make the country safer, along with just 10 percent of blacks.
Asked whether they had any guns, rifles or pistols in the home, 42 percent of whites said yes, but only 16 percent of blacks did. Eighty-three percent of blacks answered no, as did 52 percent of whites.
Overall, Pew reported, "The public's attitudes toward gun control have shown only modest change in the wake of last week's deadly shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Currently, 49% say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 42% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.
"This marks the first time since Barack Obama took office that more Americans prioritize gun control than the right to own guns. . . . "
The survey was taken at a time of increasing criticism from African Americans that the steady killing of blacks in urban areas has received far less attention than the Newtown killings.
Meanwhile, Kristin Stoller reported Thursday for USA Today, "In honor of the 20 children and six school staffers who died, people nationwide have pledged on Twitter to perform random acts of kindness.
"Ann Curry of NBC News took the idea viral when she tweeted, "Imagine if all of us committed to 20 mitvahs/acts of kindness to honor each child lost in Newtown. I'm in. If you are RT #20Acts."
"The movement quickly turned into #26Acts and became a national action."
Shahid Abdul-Karim, New Haven (Conn.) Register: Some black Connecticut residents question media attention on Newtown shootings
Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Obama: From talk to action on gun violence
George E. Curry, National Newspaper Publishers Association: Violence is 'as American as Cherry Pie'
Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune: Guns as the solution to guns, even after Newtown?
John Eggerton, Broadcasting & Cable: NAB Ready to Cooperate With Congress On Violence Study
Jeff Gewert, the Advocate, Stamford, Conn.: Newtown resident: Media is to blame for school tragedy
Ted Johnson, Variety: Pols call for study on violent videogames
Michael Malone, Broadcasting & Cable: Newtown and News Media: A Mix of Tension and Gratitude
Dori J. Maynard, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education: It's Time for Ordinary People To Lead Discussion on Guns
Elspeth Reeve, the Atlantic: What Obama Can Do On Guns Right Now, Without Congress
Barbara Reynolds, Washington Post: Newtown shootings: Focus on mental illness first
"Charlie Rose and his production company have agreed to pay as much as $250,000 to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by a former unpaid intern who claimed minimum wage violations," Steven Greenhouse reported Thursday for the New York Times.
"Under the settlement, Mr. Rose and his production company, Charlie Rose Inc., will pay back wages to a potential class of 189 interns. The settlement calls for the interns to receive generally $1,100 each — $110 a week in back pay, up to a maximum of 10 weeks, the approximate length of a school semester.
"The main plaintiff was Lucy Bickerton, who said she was not paid when she worked 25 hours a week for the 'Charlie Rose' show from June through August 2007. Ms. Bickerton said her responsibilities at the show, which appears on PBS stations, included providing background research for Mr. Rose about interview guests, putting together press packets, escorting guests through the studio and cleaning up the green room.
"Ms. Bickerton in an interview described the settlement as 'a really important moment for this movement against unpaid internships.'
"This is the first settlement in a series of lawsuits brought by unpaid interns who asserted that they had suffered minimum wage violations. Other such lawsuits have been filed against the Hearst Corporation and Fox Entertainment — both companies deny that they failed to comply with wage and hour laws regarding their interns. . . ."
The Dow Jones News Fund is recruiting media and news organizations to hire 2013 summer interns for 10 weeks in its business reporting internship program," the news fund announced on Thursday.
"DJNF business reporting interns will participate in an intensive training course at New York University from May 25 to 31. The 2013 program director is Will Sutton, a Society of Business Editors and Writers member who serves on its diversity committee. Sutton has supervised business coverage as a newspaper editor and he was a 2012 Donald W. Reynolds Visiting Professor of Business Journalism at Grambling State University. He is a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a co-founder of what became UNITY: Journalists of Color. Interns will be ready for work by June 3. . . ."
In April, while a visiting professor at Grambling, Sutton offered an 11-point plan for adding diversity to business journalism ranks.
The Dow Jones announcement said, ". . . To enroll to hire one of more than 75 applicants, contact Linda Shockley at email@example.com or 609-520-5929. Details at https://www.newsfund.org."
Rhonda Lee, the meteorologist who was fired by KTBS-TV in Shreveport, La., after responding on Facebook to a viewer who questioned her short Afro hairstyle, said Thursday that she hasn't had any job offers but that her Facebook fan page is exploding with new "fans."
Lee appeared on Pacifica Radio's "Democracy, Now!"
From the transcript:
"AMY GOODMAN: So, what has been the response to your firing, Rhonda Lee, as you gain more and more national attention?
"RHONDA LEE: I think it has been such a blessing. It's been a blessing in disguise, that's for certain. I really had no idea that this story would go around the globe. I mean, I still continue to be overwhelmed and just so grateful for the support. I mean, the first day after the story broke, by Richard Prince with the Maynard Institute, it was phenomenal. I mean, I logged onto my fan page, and I had maybe about 600 'likes,' I think, and then it said 'new fans, 800-and-something.'
"And I said, 'That can't be right.' And then, as the day went on, I suddenly had a thousand fans, 2,000 fans, 5,000 fans. I think I'm up to 7,000-and-something now. I mean, the support has been overwhelming. I really didn't expect this to go any further than maybe Texarkana, maybe into Dallas, a couple hours away. But it has opened eyes, most importantly. And I feel that perhaps that's what this was supposed to do. I really thought it was just a labor dispute, but it turned into something bigger than myself, I feel. And it's become a good talking point and a good catalyst for perhaps moving the conversation of black women and our hair forward into the 21st century and beyond.
"AMY GOODMAN: As the former meteorologist for KTBS, what is your forecast? Do you think they're going to offer you your job back? Have you been offered other jobs?
"RHONDA LEE: I would love to have my job back. Even to this day, I maintain I had a great work environment. I really did. My co-workers were great. I loved what I did. I loved my hours. I loved everything about it. I haven't had any other job offers as of yet. Where do I go from here? Right now I'm just going to try to get through the holidays and see what happens. But I really — like I said, more than anything, I hope that the conversation for race issues, particularly here in the South, is furthered a little bit further than what it — what I think it has been nowadays. But my forecast is: It's looking pretty sunny, I think. . . . "
"Four Israeli attacks on journalists and media facilities in Gaza during the November 2012 fighting violated the laws of war by targeting civilians and civilian objects that were making no apparent contribution to Palestinian military operations," Human Rights Watch said Thursday, adding that it had conducted a detailed investigation into the incidents.
"The attacks killed two Palestinian cameramen, wounded at least 10 media workers, and badly damaged four media offices, as well as the offices of four private companies, Human Rights Watch said. One of the attacks killed a two-year-old boy who lived across the street from a targeted building.
"The Israeli government asserted that each of the four attacks was on a legitimate military target but provided no specific information to support its claims. . . ."
Federal prosecutors will be forced to retry David Warren, the former rookie New Orleans police officer who gunned down Henry Glover days after Hurricane Katrina, hours before another cop ignited Glover's lifeless body inside a car on the Algiers levee," John Simerman, reported Tuesday for NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune. As Columbia Journalism Review wrote in September, A.C. Thompson's reporting on transgressions by New Orleans police "led to an article in The Nation, a reporter position at ProPublica, three convictions (one since overturned) for the police officers involved in the murder of a man named Henry Glover, and, starting September 23, a character on HBO's Treme."
President Obama was named Time magazine's "Person of the Year." Is that news or a public relations ploy? David A. Graham of the Atlantic wrote Wednesday, ". . . Time manages to get everyone to treat its warmed-over sweepstakes as a major news event, year after year. In doing so, it converts the press into a gigantic public-relations arm of Time Inc. (This is how it's done, Tina Brown.)"
"Nielsen Holdings N.V. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Arbitron Inc. in a $1.26 billion deal, TVNewsCheck reported on Tuesday. Separately, David Honig, president of the Minority Media Telecommunications Council, called the acquisition welcome news because "Nielsen has unparalleled expertise in accurately measuring multicultural viewership, demographics, and consumer trends such as audience engagement."
The Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University now has a studio capable of streaming live video to major television networks at a moment's notice, Jared Council reported Dec. 14 for Inside Business: the Hampton Roads (Va.) Business Journal. "We can do it fast because anyone here on campus can be in that seat within seven or eight minutes and can be on the air within another five minutes," Dean Brett Pulley said.
"Antonio Mora, a weekday prime-time anchor at WFOR-Channel 4 in Miami/Fort Lauderdale, was let go Monday after station honchos refused to renew his contract," Jose Lambiet reported Wednesday for his Jose Lambiet's Gossip Extra. "The happy-go-lucky Mora, 57, was the solo anchor of the station's 6 p.m. news."
In New York, "The Daily News is disbanding its pool of photo permalancers, employees who work full-time hours for the tabloid on set day-rates but are not salaried employees with benefits, Capital has learned," Joe Pompeo reported Thursday for Capital New York. Among those losing the regular full-time schedules they've had for years is Marcus Santos, "the photographer who was famously decked by Alec Baldwin while on assignment covering the '30 Rock' star's marriage license acquisition last summer, said a source with direct knowledge of Santos' employment status."
"Ben Williams, a retired KPIX-TV staffer who was one of the first African-American television reporters in the nation, has died at the age of 85," the Bay Area station reported Tuesday. "Williams passed away on Monday, his daughter-in-law told CBS 5. Williams spent his entire broadcast career at KPIX before retiring in the 1980s; he got his start as a reporter at the San Francisco Examiner before moving to television." The National Association of Black Journalists paid tribute.
"Media critics have long lamented the decline of even-handedness in American news coverage," M.R. reported Monday for the Economist. "The fashion for partisan stridency on channels such as Fox and MSNBC, they say, has cheapened the national debate and split the voting public into blinkered, self-reflective camps. But the critics haven't seen the worst. The political jousting on American networks looks like child's play compared with the rhetorical fireworks that now regularly erupt on screens in Egypt. . . . "
"State security agents in Southeast Nigeria blocked a reporter from filing a story Saturday evening about the status of a governor who hasn't been seen for several months," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Tuesday, condemning "this act of crude censorship."
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Journal-isms is published on the site of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education (www.mije.org). Reprinted on The Root by permission.