Illustration for article titled First Lady Has Girlfriends Over to See For Colored Girls

When the showing of Tyler Perry's "For Colored Girls" ended Tuesday evening at the White House, first lady Michelle Obama got up and told the 50 guests she hoped they enjoyed it. But those who had come from around the country to share the experience "were just sitting there. I don't think they knew how to respond to it," Shirley Poole, who had arrived from New York, told Journal-isms.

It was mostly a crowd of black women, said E. Faye Williams, though two or three men and some white women were also present. "Most people cried throughout," said Williams, who is national chair of the National Congress of Black Women. "For the majority of the film, you could see that the stories would be very painful. It's meant for black women, and almost all black women could identify with at least one of the women in the picture. . . . The first lady is a black woman. I'm sure she can relate." Indeed, Obama gave everyone a hug on the way out.

The Perry film, based on Ntozake Shange's 1975 "choreopoem" "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow Is Enuf," has been criticized for its portrayals of black men but praised for giving voice to black women's struggles with emotional obstacles. It is White House policy not to comment on activities in the residence, a spokeswoman said, and thus nothing official was said about the screening. In fact, the word was passed that the showing was for the White House staff.

Poole, executive director of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, Inc. in New York, said Obama sat in the first row, dressed casually. Obama told the group she had thought, "What about having the girlfriends over to see it?"

Popcorn and soft drinks were served, just as in the movie houses outside the bubble.

Had there been formal discussion, Williams would not have spent much time on the man-bashing charges. "It wasn't meant for a male," she said of the film. "If I were a man, I would not enjoy seeing the negative characters, but the truth is they exist." More important, the movie helps "black women understand the part we play in allowing these things to happen to us."


Poole might have confessed that she felt better about the stage version. "I felt more empowered when I left the play," she told Journal-isms.

Attendees did network and exchange business cards. Apart from Williams and Poole, some of those cards belonged to Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Bishop Barbara L. King, founder/minister of the Hillside Chapel and Truth Center, Inc., in Atlanta; Blanche Williams, "a national broadcast journalist, acclaimed author, dynamic speaker and change agent" and Neil Irvin, executive director of Men Can Stop Rape.


Neither President Obama nor his senior female adviser, Valerie Jarrett, was present for the screening, but the first daughters, Sasha and Malia, could be seen taking the family dog, Bo, for a walk.

*NBC News: Michelle Obama makes Vogue's top 10 best dressed

*Alex Weprin, TVNewswer: Barbara Walters to Interview President Obama, First Lady for Primetime Thanksgiving Special


College to Own First Black-Owned Building in Chicago's Loop

Johnson Publishing Co. has sold its historic building on Chicago's Michigan Avenue to Columbia College Chicago, the company announced on Tuesday.


It has not yet selected a new home and is to remain in the building for 18 months.

"The sale of 820 S. Michigan is part of the continuing evolution of the company that my father and mother started in the early 1942s," Linda Johnson Rice, Johnson Publishing Co. chairman, said in a statement.


"Just as when JPC moved to this location in 1972, my father would be the first to say it makes good business sense to relocate to space that serves the current needs of the company."

The purchase price was not disclosed, but spokesman Rodrigo A. Sierra, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, said, "It does strengthen our balance sheet. We want to be focused on our businesses and not on upkeep of a building."


JPC said that it uses only about 40 percent of the building.

The announcement said, "The 11-story, 110,000 square-foot historic building, which has been home to EBONY and JET magazines as well as Fashion Fair Cosmetics for almost 40 years, was completed in 1972 as the first major downtown Chicago building designed by an African-American since Jean Baptiste Point DuSable’s trading post, built two centuries earlier."


The building is historic not only because it was designed by an African American, John W. Moutoussamy, but also because it was owned by one — the first skyscraper owned by an African American in the Loop.

In his memoir, "Succeeding Against the Odds," written with Lerone Bennett Jr., company founder John H. Johnson described how he enlisted a white lawyer to buy the land for him when the owner would not sell to a black person.


Writing in the Washington Post in 1980, Carla Hall described the building as it looked then:

"On the wall of the advertising department are framed posters of slick, crisp ads that ran 10 years ago promoting the Ebony readership as a bountiful consumer market to be tapped by companies. The caption on one showing black professionals reads: 'If these men and women have rhythm, they've put it to work on marketing cycles or computer electronics or fabric patterns… Ebony is where 49 million people do their shopping.'


"The $8 million building contains a $300,000 art collection, the work of many black artists all over the country. It is practically a monument — sometimes an ostentatious one — to black success."

After Johnson — father of Linda Johnson Rice — died in 2005 at age 87, a new honorary street sign reading John H. Johnson Avenue was posted on the corner near the Michigan Avenue entrance.


After 18 months, Columbia College Chicago plans to use the site for a library.

Allen Turner, chairman of the school's Board of Trustees, said in a statement, "The purchase of the Johnson Building offered us a rare opportunity for much needed expansion, especially given that the space is central to our South Loop campus. Just as important, we will have a part in preserving the legacy of the Johnson Building and its legendary significance to all Chicagoans."


Lynn Norment, an editor who worked at Ebony from 1977 to 2009 and is now with Carol H. Williams Advertising, also located downtown, said of the building, "It represents wonderful memories, the legacy of Mr. Johnson. It represents a black institution in our community. I spent half my life there, and I was there for more than half of Ebony's life, and I realize now I was there for the heyday. It's kind of sad."


Media Drawn to Cholera Outbreak, Lack of Progress

In January, 70 percent of Americans polled told the Pew Research Center that the massive earthquake that had just shaken Haiti was the story they were talking about with their friends. Nearly half said they gave or planned to give a donation to those affected.


The heart-wrenching catastrophe spawned such pledges as this one by Karl Rodney, publisher of the New York Carib News and chairman of the black press' NNPA Foundation Haitian Project:

"The story of Haiti is the story that the Black Press must own and the Black Press must tell because Haiti is the first Democratic country in the Western Hemisphere, the first Black republic for over 200 years."


As could be expected, public attention eventually shifted elsewhere, but a deadly outbreak of cholera, an upcoming presidential election and continuing frustration with a lack of progress are helping to bring it back.

Wyclef Jean, the hip-hop star, sparked a flurry of interest over the summer when he announced he would seek Haiti's presidency. But elections officials ruled in August that Jean was not eligible because he did not live there; he left Haiti as a child for the United States.


More recently came the cholera epidemic. Monday brought this news: "Protesters who hold U.N. soldiers from Nepal responsible for a deadly outbreak of cholera that has killed nearly 1,000 people barricaded Haiti's second-largest city on Monday, burning cars and stoning a peacekeeping base," as Jonathan M. Katz reported for the Associated Press.

Haiti was again grabbing media attention. In Washington, public radio's "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU-FM broadcast live from Haiti for four days last week, discussing topics ranging from the use of cell-phone technology on the island to the more than $1 billion Haiti receives every year in remittances from Haitian immigrant communities overseas.


In the Columbia Journalism Review, Lauren Kirchner wrote last week about a first-person simulation program in which the participant plays the role of an aid worker, journalist or survivor. " 'Inside the Haiti Earthquake' is designed to challenge assumptions about relief work in disaster situations," she wrote of the creation by Canada's PTV Productions. "You will be given the opportunity to commit to various strategies, and experience their consequences."

On Sunday, Byron Pitts, correspondent for CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," with a team that included Haitian-American producer Magalie Laguerre-Wilkinson, reported from the scene:

"This year had already been a disastrous one for Haiti when a cholera epidemic erupted a few weeks ago that has killed over 700 people in the countryside and is spreading to the capital, Port-au-Prince. It's where millions of people live in wretched conditions — a perfect breeding ground for the waterborne disease to flourish.


"This latest disaster couldn't have come at a worse time: Haiti was already struggling to recover from last January's earthquake that killed 300,000 people.

"To help it get back on its feet, nearly half the households in America donated money and countries from around the world pledged billions.


" '60 Minutes' traveled to Haiti to see what has happened since then and we were surprised to find how little progress has been made."

There seems to be no end to the angles that can be explored. "The difference between life and death in Haiti is now an ordinary bar of soap," William Booth wrote Monday in the Washington Post.


"Soap could slow the terrifying cholera outbreak that is quickly spreading and has just in the past week entered the ravaged capital, according to health care specialists and international aid groups.

" . . . A cake of yellow Haitian soap costs about 50 cents. But many Haitians do not have soap, because they cannot it afford it. More than half of the population lives on less than $1.25 a day."


José de Córdoba wrote Friday in the Wall Street Journal that non-governmental organizations on the ground to help could also be part of the problem.

"As the past few months have made clear, there is little coordination among the NGOs or between the NGOs and Haitian officials. Some NGO plans don't fit or clash outright with the plans of the government. Some are geared toward short-term relief — a classic case of giving a man a fish instead of teaching him to fish," he wrote.


The American news industry had responded with plans to help Haiti's journalists, devastated by the quake like other Haitian citizens, to tell their own stories.

An e-mail Monday to Joe Oglesby, the retired editorial page editor at the Miami Herald who was picked to head this Haiti News Project, found him on the island.


"I'm in Haiti this week, delivering computers, printers and cameras to journalists and newspapers. I will spend the week interviewing media folk here," he wrote. "The cholera outbreak has caused serious concern among the people I've seen so far. Other than the obvious precautions of frequent hand washing and extreme care, there is not much that people can do. So most are resigned to simply be as careful as possible and hope for the best.

"Small delivery this time," he continued. "We're winding down this part of the project and focusing on training. I'm delivering 7 computers, two cameras, two printers and 52 computer bags that were donated by NABJ participants. I have local brokers helping me negotiate the arcane and corrupt Customs process.


"We're working with several small groups of radio and print journalists on a range of projects depending on their skill levels. This we're doing in collaboration with Knight Foundation international fellow Kathie Klarreich. We're also working with Jane Regan who will begin a course in investigative reporting at State University for senior journalism students and active journalists."

The NABJ reference was to the National Association of Black Journalists, whose member donated bags at the summer convention in San Diego.  President Kathy Times made an announcement about the project at a dinner. "The response was overwhelming," John Yearwood, world editor at the Miami Herald and NABJ liaison to the project, told Journal-isms.


A delegation from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, including Richard Muhammad, editor-in-chief of the Final Call, New York freelancer Herb Boyd and talk-show host Joe Madison, went to the island in February. As part of the follow-up, Hazel Trice Edney, editor-in-chief of the NNPA News Service, said then that the publishers planned to open a bureau in the country, staffed by a Haitian journalist who would be trained in Washington. However, Trice Edney left NNPA in September.

Still, Julianne Malveaux, an NNPA columnist, was in Haiti last month, and reported last week in USA Today, "Our indifference, political wrangling and sense of business as usual are nothing short of immoral."


Joel Dreyfuss, a Haitian-American who is managing editor of, has been following the Haitian coverage closely.

"One of the best pieces on Haiti recently is the one that ran in the Wall Street Journal by Jose de Cordoba talking about a backlash against foreign aid," he told Journal-isms via e-mail. "It touches on why so many of the 'well-meaning' efforts are a failure. There's a general oversimplification when it comes to Haiti. It's like, this tiny country can't possibly be that complicated.


"Yesterday's '60 Minutes' piece talked about blocking relief materials at the port, but what about the local economy? one new worry is that free and donated goods will destroy the merchant economy. Should an aid group bring millions of dollars of building material, or buy from local merchants? There is corruption of course, but there is also genuine worry about the long term effect. That's a big issue that's not dealt with very often.

"There is already the story of how all the free medical aid has bankrupted several hospitals and put some very good doctors out of business. The NGOs are out of control.


"So I think the interest has returned because of cholera, but much less attention is being paid to the upcoming election on Nov. 28, which has much more of a long term impact."

There's still time to gear up for that, even for those who want to broadcast from Haiti in person, as Nnamdi did. He offers this advice:

"Once we hooked up with Radio Metropole in Haiti, we were able to get the live broadcasts done. We had to take a lot of equipment that only our engineer understands, but it all fit into a large metal suitcase.


"Apart from that, we discovered that your fixer is everything. Not only driver and translator, but also as producer, since you've got to find people in a hurry, and having someone who knows a lot of people who can find other people in a chaotic city is crucial if you're operating with limited time."

Washington Post Admits Flaw in Labeling Obama Piece

President Obama might have been tending to international affairs last week, domestic politics remained in full tilt back home.


A piece in the Washington Post Outlook section generated the lion's share of Sunday buzz by suggesting that Obama declare that he would be a one-term president.

"Obama has the opportunity to seize the high ground and the imagination of the nation once again, and to galvanize the public for the hard decisions that must be made. The only way he can do so, though, is by putting national interests ahead of personal or political ones," wrote Douglas E. Schoen and Patrick H. Caddell in a piece called "One & done."


Caddell was identified as a political commentator who was pollster and senior adviser to former president Jimmy Carter. Schoen was labeled a pollster who worked for former president Bill Clinton and is the author of "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement Is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System."

But Matt Gertz noted for Media Matters that the Post failed to disclose "that Schoen has been a pollster for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As Bloomberg is considered a possible third-party candidate for president in 2012, the Post basically gave Schoen space to try to push his potential client's opponent out of the race.


"A Washington Post spokesperson now tells Media Matters that the paper 'should have also noted' Schoen's work for Bloomberg:

"Because the piece sought to give advice to President Obama, the Outlook editors thought it was important to highlight the authors' experience working for former presidents. In hindsight, given the speculation about Michael Bloomberg possibly seeking the presidency, we should have also noted that Schoen was a former pollster for Bloomberg."


Meanwhile, ProPublica and PolitiFact, the political fact-checking unit of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, examined this statement by Obama Nov. 7 on CBS-TV's "60 Minutes":

"One of the interesting things about the Recovery Act was most of the projects came in under budget, faster than expected, because there's just not a lot of work there."


Rob Farley of Politifact, and Michael Grabell of ProPublica concluded last Wednesday:

". . . Obama would have been on firm ground had he said 'many' projects have come in faster than expected. Many have. But many have not. And if the claim is based on meeting a deadline to outlay funds, the overall target of 70 percent was reached — barely — by the end of September. That's only faster than expected if you expected the government to fail.


"Obama makes a valid point about this being a good time to get deals on infrastructure projects. The recession has created desperate workers willing to work cheaper, and the cost of materials is still relatively low. Obama's point that this was borne out by the stimulus projects is on target. But he stretched the facts — at least what is actually known — when he claimed most projects have come in under budget and faster than expected. And so we rate his claim Half True."

Separately, a new website has surfaced,

"Nightly Business Report's" Ward Moves to Parent Company

Rodney Ward, executive editor of "Nightly Business Report" on public television, was promoted Monday to executive vice president/special president of NBR Worldwide, the company that acquired the show in August.


"In his new position, he will report directly to NBR Worldwide CEO Mykalai Kontilai on the many new platforms that are planned for NBR content. Ward will no longer be involved with the production or editorial management of the daily program," Stuart Zuckerman, vice president, sales and marketing, told Journal-isms.

"Wendie Feinberg, current Managing Editor, assumes those responsibilities as VP/Managing Editor."


Elizabeth Jensen reported Friday for the New York Times that " 'Nightly Business Report,' the business newscast on PBS, laid off eight people on Friday, or about 20 percent of the staff, in the first major change since it was acquired in August."

According to Ward's bio, "He has been with Nightly Business Report since its debut in 1979, when it was a 15-minute program broadcast only in Southeast Florida.


"Before being promoted into the position he currently holds, Rodney spent 11 years as managing editor of 'Nightly Business Report.' In that capacity, he guided a dedicated news team headquartered in Miami and also operating out of bureaus in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago. Rodney was also directly responsible for leading NBR's regional coverage of Asia. During his tenure as Managing Editor, NBR was recognized with a National Emmy Award as well as numerous other awards for its coverage of business and the economy."

Producer-writer Denise Royal, who is also a black journalist, remains with the program.


Andrew Philemon Jones, Boston Provocateur, Dies at 58

Andrew Philemon Jones (Credit: Kubeshni Govender Jones)
This image was lost some time after publication.

"In all the years I knew Andrew, he was a gentle soul — angry at injustice towards humanity but possessing a great love towards humans. News of the manner of his death in South Africa came as a shock," Brian Wright O’Connor wrote Thursday in Boston's Bay State Banner, describing Andrew Philemon Jones.

"In late October, after an argument with his estranged wife — the mother of their three young sons — Andrew left their office, returned with a handgun, and fired one bullet. The shot went through her shoulder. He pulled the trigger a second time. The gun jammed. Andrew killed himself after she fled from the room. He was 58 years old.


"Andrew had battled demons but demons could hardly explain or condone such a violent end.

"Friends and family who attended his funeral in Johannesburg, the city where Andrew had started a new life after leaving Boston in 1995, were similarly shocked. His wife, Kubeshni Govender Jones, was sufficiently recovered to attend the services, as were their boys — Cochise, Sicelo, and Ayanda.


". . . he studied at the New England Conservatory of Music, but concert halls and recording studios couldn’t contain his searching mind and restless spirit. He got a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University in 1982 and set out to use the media to change the world. Or, as a more seasoned Andrew put it later, 'I switched from one form of entertainment to another.'

"The inevitable clash occurred when ABC sent an executive to the network’s Prudential Tower suite to advise bureau employees, who had long complained about strange fibers in the office air, not to talk to the press about asbestos dust falling from the ceiling. Andrew laughed at the man in the suit and denounced the network in public.


"The end of Andrew’s network producing career gave rise to a successful run as an agent provocateur seeding intellectual sedition through documentary films. In segments for public television stations around the country, including many first aired on Boston’s WGBH-TV, Andrew told the story of the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, captured the growing pains of Russia in the first gasps of post-Soviet life, and conducted pioneering interviews with the reclusive leaders of North Korea.

"He broadcast reports from Indonesia, Vietnam, Japan, Jordan, Malawi, Angola, Mozambique, Brazil, Mexico and Zimbabwe. He picked up a New England Regional Emmy and scores of film awards along the way. His segments aired on NBC, Black Entertainment Television, the British Broadcasting Corporation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the PBS Network and Russia’s TASS News Agency."


Eduardo Suárez to Head Programming at CNN en Español

Eduardo Suárez has been named to the newly created position of vice president of programming for CNN en Español, the network announced on Monday.


"Suárez will be based in Miami, and travel frequently to the network’s bureaus and Atlanta hub, as well as on location to key news hotspots.

"As vice president of programming, Suárez will be responsible for the strategic planning and execution for all network programs, specials and on-location events across CNN en Español’s three feeds: pan-regional, Mexico and U.S. He will supervise production teams in Atlanta and Miami, and the creation of all new media content."


". . . He most recently served as the Vice President of Productions and Programming for Mega TV, and has worked in various leadership roles at Univisión, Telemundo, Discovery Latin America and MGM Latin America, in addition to running his own company."

Politico Assigning 40 Journalists to "Politico Pro"

Politico plans a February 2011 launch of Politico Pro, which "will provide paid subscribers high-impact, high-velocity reporting on the politics of energy, technology and health care reform," the three-year-old Internet and print publication announced on Monday. "And it will do so with a team of more than 40 dedicated journalists — roughly the same number that POLITICO itself had when it started publishing.


"As POLITICO itself did nearly four years ago, POLITICO Pro is moving aggressively to hire the best reporters and editors in the business. Leading the effort will be POLITICO Pro Editor-in-Chief Tim Grieve, currently a deputy managing editor at POLITICO," the announcement said.

LaRonda Peterson, a black journalist, "will serve as POLITICO Pro's production editor, leading a team that will include copy editor Abby McIntyre and web producers Kate Nocera, Jess Kamen and Alex Guillén," it continued.


However, Politico would not identify any journalists of color. "Company policy as well as respect for our employees' privacy and their individual talents preclude us from giving you a head count on hiring. Suffice it to say that we're proud of our track record on Pro," said Beth Frerking, assistant managing editor, partnerships.

Although John F. Harris, Politico's top editor, is a board member of the American Society of News Editors, Politico has not disclosed its diversity information when ASNE surveyed online operations. "Our corporate policies don't allow me to release numerical data," Harris has said.


Nevertheless, Frerking did add, "our second POLITICO Fellow — Juana Summers — arrived today. She'll be on our 2012 political reporting team. She joins Jennifer Martinez, a tech reporter, in a program that we're very proud to have launched this fall.

Summers, who is African American, was a member of the 2009 summer class of Chips Quinn Scholars, the Freedom Forum training program designed to boost diversity in the news business.

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