Wantwaz Davis

Journalism Fail

Media Missed It: Winning Candidate Served Time for Murder

"We've been hearing the warnings for years now," Vincent Duffy, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Foundation, wrote Thursday. "At journalism conferences, in the trades, and amongst ourselves we've heard some variation of this: 'If newsrooms keep cutting reporters, while demanding higher story counts, and measuring story success by web-hits, important news is going to start falling through the cracks.' Admittedly when we say it, it sounds more like, 'With fewer people and more to produce, when are we supposed to cover the news?'


"The election results last week in Flint, Michigan provide a perfect example of what can happen when 'the media' [don't] do their job well. On election day, voters in Flint's fifth ward elected Wantwaz Davis to be their representative on city council. Davis beat the incumbent by 71 votes.

"The day after the election, the Flint Journal reported, for the first time, that Davis was a 'convicted killer' who served 19 years in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in 1991.

"Yes, you read that correctly, a convicted murderer was on the ballot for city council, and the local newspaper/website, and the local ABC and FOX affiliates, never reported his past until the day after Davis won. (Full disclosure — as a nearly statewide radio station, Flint is also in my station's listening area. We do not have a reporter there and have been trying unsuccessfully to raise money to create that position.)


"Newly elected Councilman Davis makes no effort to hide his criminal past. In fact, helping felons who served their time find employment was one of his campaign issues. All a reporter had to do to discover his past was Google his name and scan the items that came up on the first page. Davis also told one of my reporters that he told voters about his past when he canvassed door-to-door, and it came up during a debate sponsored by the NAACP.

"But it never came to the attention of the newspaper or its political reporter. It wasn’t even mentioned in a now comical looking story by Dominic Adams that the newspaper published under the headline: Everything you need to know about the Fifth Ward Flint City Council race. . . ."

The story is not without its racial component. A website called trunewsusa ran the headline, "Colored Flint Michigan voters elect two convicted Negro felons, two others colored folks with bankruptcies to city council."


The Detroit News reported Monday, "Davis has said he discussed his conviction openly with Flint residents.

" 'The council people are elected. They're going to get sworn in on Monday. Nothing you write about it is going to change it now,' Council President Scott Kincaid said. 'It's not something that was hidden or should be a surprise to constituents in the Fifth Ward,' which Davis will represent.

"Davis, who was 17 in 1991 when Kenneth S. Morris was fatally shot at his home, said Morris 'went and reached in his pocket, so I reached in my pocket and I shot him. When I found out he later died, I turned myself in. I never intended to shoot Mr. Morris. To this day, I am very remorseful.'


"Released on parole in 2010, Davis said he does not shy away from his past and that it will help him on the council.

" 'The elders and youth are looking for someone who actually understands what they're going through and who has rebounded and made something of themselves,' he said. . . ."

Dominic Adams, mlive.com: Flint voters elect two convicted felons, two others with bankruptcies to city council (Nov. 6)


Carrie Healey, the Grio: Flint elects 2 felons to City Council

Jack Lessenberry, Michigan Radio: Journalism failure in Flint

Complaints About Cohen Touch on Gender as Much as Race

When the subject of Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen comes up among those who have worked with him over the years, the conversation is as likely to turn to his treatment of women as about what he has written about race.


Cohen, 72, a columnist at the Post since 1976, landed in hot water this week after a column about New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, took a detour with a paragraph about the interracial family of New York Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio.

"Today's GOP is not racist, as Harry Belafonte alleged about the tea party, but it is deeply troubled — about the expansion of government, about immigration, about secularism, about the mainstreaming of what used to be the avant-garde," Cohen wrote. "People with conventional views must repress a gag reflex when considering the mayor-elect of New York — a white man married to a black woman and with two biracial children. (Should I mention that Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, used to be a lesbian?) This family represents the cultural changes that have enveloped parts — but not all — of America. To cultural conservatives, this doesn't look like their country at all."

Some readers and activists demanded Cohen's firing, saying the sentiment was part of a pattern of anti-black statements over the years.


However, others pointed to behavior of the kind discussed by Warren St. John, writing for the New York Observer in 1998, when the Monica Lewinsky scandal was hot news.

"In its editorials on the Monica Lewinsky matter, The Washington Post has repeatedly urged President Bill Clinton to explain his relationship with the young White House intern, calling his silence 'harmful, not just shifty,' " St. John began. ”Such sentiments have been echoed by Post columnist Richard Cohen, who has suggested that Mr. Clinton should 'fess up and move on.'

"But when Mr. Cohen himself was accused of engaging in 'inappropriate behavior' toward Devon Spurgeon, a 23-year-old editorial aide at the paper, Post management went into its own form of crisis mode: Staff members are forbidden to discuss the matter, the participants in the dispute have been frozen out by superiors, and Post executive editor Leonard Downie Jr. is refusing to comment. The episode has increased tensions between the sexes at the paper, Post staff members have said, and has exposed a rift between a salty old guard and younger colleagues grappling with the complicated issues of interoffice gender politics. . . ."


A former Cohen co-worker who did not want to be named because she is a newsroom supervisor elsewhere, told Journal-isms privately that Cohen was "a walking lawsuit." She wondered why he hadn't been fired long ago. But Cohen remained at the paper; it was Spurgeon who left. Cohen maintained that "it was a personality dispute [that] had nothing to do with sexual harassment as the term applies today." A friend, New York writer Ken Auletta, was quoted as saying, "He's being accused of saying things that are insensitive. Well, grow up.… This is Dick Cohen being Dick Cohen, and politically correct people being wusses."

Cohen's critics say his attitudes are reflected in his columns, as when he argued in 2010 that Anita Hill's sexual harassment charges against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas should be put to rest. "When it comes to his alleged sexual boorishness, he stands condemned of being a man," Cohen wrote.

Cohen is not the only journalist of his generation alleged to have conducted himself on the job in ways that would be considered inappropriate.


In a lawsuit pending in U.S. District Court in New York, former New York Post editor Sandra Guzman charges that "higher-ups at the Post had fostered a hostile work environment for minorities like herself — a black, Puerto Rican female," as Sam Stein and Michael Calderone reported last month for the Huffington Post. Editor-in-Chief Col Allan, Guzman said, "showed her and other colleagues a cell phone picture of a 'naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis,' while other editors and colleagues repeatedly used misogynistic or racist language."

Legendary New York columnist Jimmy Breslin, inducted this week into the New York Journalism Hall of fame and now 82, once was so infuriated by criticism of his New York Newsday column by a Korean-American colleague that he "promptly scurried into the newsroom and threw a tantrum, calling the offending woman a 'yellow cur' and a 'slant-eyed —— ,' " as recalled by Chicago Tribune columnist Stephen Chapman in 1990. Breslin was suspended for two weeks without pay.

Is this behavior that we can chalk up to the outdated mores of a generation that is fading from the scene?


Not so fast.

"It's a tough question, and one that also may make some think you're protecting older men if you say it is generational," Bernard Lunzer, president of the Newspaper Guild-Communication Workers of America, told Journal-isms by email.

"What is safe to say is that what is acceptable behavior on the part of those that file complaints does seem to have become less tolerant. I have seen things that were ignored, or where a woman would tell you should . . . handle it, change to something where a younger woman just simply won't. Is this a change in broader education on the issue? Likely.


"Let's say that the behavior was never welcome and that it's now more likely that someone will file a complaint or a charge.

"It is clear that things have changed, and I think that's a good thing. Younger men are also coming to understand that they need to speak up when they see another man act inappropriately — it's no longer just considered a women's issue, but is a workplace issue."

What's changed most significantly, said Brooke Masters of the Financial Times, a former Washington Post journalist, is the attitude of management. "There is a difference in what's acceptable," she said by telephone Friday. "There's no more 'boys will be boys' anymore." She, too, was reluctant to call the differences generational. "It's not going away any faster if we're somehow giving people a pass" because they're older, she said.


Huffington Post: Washington Post's Eugene Robinson: Richard Cohen's Column Was 'A Mistake' (VIDEO) 

Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Strangely superficial coverage of New York’s de Blasio

4 Radio Journalists Killed, 6 Missing in Typhoon Surge

"Four journalists were killed and six others reported missing in the typhoon that struck the central Philippines on November 8, according to news reports and local press groups," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported Friday.


The press freedom group also said, "Ronald Vinas and Allan Medino, a reporter and technician for dyVL Aksyon Radyo-Tacloban, were killed when a storm surge inundated their seaside radio station office in Tacloban City's coastal Poblacion area, according to local reports. Their news program went off the air while they were providing news updates on the typhoon, the reports said.

"Archie Globio and Malou Realino, both reporters for dyBR Apple Radio Tacloban, were also killed while covering the storm disaster, according to local reports and information compiled from the National Union of Journalists Philippines, a local journalist group.

"At least six other journalists were reported missing as of November 15, according to information compiled by the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility, a Manila-based press freedom organization. They include dyBR Apple Radio Tacloban news anchors Babay Jaca, Jun Estoya, and Lulu Palencia; dyDW Radyo Diwa Tacloban reporter Jasmine Bonifacio; and Leyte-Samar Daily Express newspaper reporter Sarwell Meniano.


"Several local radio stations and newspaper bureaus in Tacloban City were destroyed by the storm, according to news reports. An estimated 2,300 people have perished and over 11 million have been adversely affected, according to reports citing official government and United Nations statistics."

Jordan Chariton, TVNewser: Anderson Cooper Responds To Philippine Broadcaster: 'I Never Said That'

Drew DeSilver, Pew Research Center: More than 3.4M Americans trace their ancestry to the Philippines


Merrill Knox, TVNewser: Philippines Typhoon Coverage Enters Second Week

Sandra Oshiro, Poynter Institute: Reporting on the ground in the Philippines

Lottie Salarda, dyBR Tacloban, and Rommel Rutor, dyMS Aksyon Radyo-Catbalogan, Philippines: THE PRICE THEY PAID | Community journalists give up lives on the frontlines covering 'Yolanda'


Michael Wilbon, Charles Barkley Boast of Using N-Word

Sports journalist Michael Wilbon, cohost of ESPN's "Pardon the Interruption," said Thursday that he uses the N-word "all day, every day of my life" and that others have no right to tell black people how to use it.

Charles Barkley, the former NBA player who cohosts TNT's "Inside the NBA," "told fellow TNT commentators Ernie Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal, 'I'm a black man. I use the N-word. I'm going to continue to use the N-word with my black friends, with my white friends, they are my friends. … Hey, Ernie, in a locker room and with my friends, we use racial slurs. I understand he should not have made it public,' " Ben Golliver reported Thursday for Sports Illustrated.


The admissions were prompted by the NBA's decision to fine Los Angeles Clippers forward Matt Barnes $25,000 Thursday after his ejection from L.A.’s 111-103 victory over Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Officially, Barnes was dinged for "failing to leave the court in a timely manner … and using inappropriate language on his Twitter account."

"I love my teammates like family, but I'm DONE standing up for these n—–!" Barnes wrote, using a racial slur to refer to his fellow Clippers, Golliver reported. "All this s— does is cost me money."

Wilbon's and Barkley's defense of the word agitated Jason Whitlock, an ESPN columnist.


"This is what I was referring to last week when I wrote that black American culture has been turned upside down and corrupted by mass incarceration, the destruction of the traditional family unit and commercial hip-hop music," Whitlock wrote Friday. "The impact of these corrosive forces can be seen in the values and perspective of African-Americans across economic and class lines. We have a new normal. As it relates to the N-word, Barkley and Wilbon, like many African-Americans, have adapted to the new normal. The N-word is a cherished possession.

"We have bought the false narrative promoted by rappers and the corporations that pay rappers to make black-denigration music that the N-word has been stripped of its power to denigrate. We foolishly believe that religiously using the slur given to us by enslavers who saw us as subhuman is a righteous act of defiance against The Man.

"Think about it. Imagine Kunta Kinte in 'Roots' hanging from a tree being beaten by the overseer for refusing to take the name Toby. Fast-forward 200 years and imagine a well-intentioned white person counseling a young black man to avoid adopting the slur given to him by a white bigot. A fight would break out.


" 'Give me the N-word, or give me death!' . . ."

J.A. Adande, ESPN: NBA lost for words after Barnes tweet

Skip Bayless, ESPN: It's time to let the N-word die

DallasBlack.com: Race Matters: Sports Commentators Admit To Using The N-Word "All Day, Every Day" (videos)


ESPN Apologizes for "Peanut Oil" Remark About Jeremy Lin

"Jeremy Lin didn't start tonight in his return to Madison Square Garden, but he had 21 points as the Rockets beat New York in overtime, 109-106 (James Harden had 36, Carmelo Anthony 45 for the Knicks). It was Lin's first sub-30 point performance in the past three games (31, 34), so we have to ask, is Linsanity a thing again?," Rick Chandler wrote Thursday for SportsGrid.

"We would have said no, until we heard this. From Deadspin:

" 'Here’s SportsCenter anchor Jorge Andrés on tonight's 9 p.m. episode making a much more pointed reference to Lin's race, claiming the Rockets star is "cooking with peanut oil." We've included his apology that came 40 minutes later, one that makes it sound as if everything on ESPN's flagship program is ad-libbed and not, you know, written out beforehand.' . . ."


Jackson Davis, ESPN's director of diversity & inclusion, told Journal-isms in August that in the wake of embarrassing racial and cultural gaffes by some of its journalists, ESPN had begun cultural sensitivity sessions.

Analysis Compares Health Care Reform With Katrina

"It didn't take long for Michael Shear's news analysis on Friday's front page to cause what he termed 'an email and Twitter explosion' for the White House correspondent," Margaret Sullivan, public editor at the New York Times, wrote Friday.


"The article compares President Obama's recent troubles over health care reform with President George W. Bush's travails after his handling of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That comparison provoked strong objections from both the left and the right, he told me by phone.

" 'There's a lot of vitriol,' said Mr. Shear, one of The Times's four White House correspondents. 'I'm getting it from both sides.'

"I had been hearing from readers, too. To put it mildly, nobody seemed to like the comparison. . . ."


Sullivan concluded, "I often hear from readers that The Times is too easy on Mr. Obama and his administration, and too willing to see things from his point of view.

"That may have been true at various times in the past, and it may be again. But with one article comparing health care with Katrina, and another implicitly asking if the president was a liar or a fool, it certainly doesn't seem to be the case over the past two days."

Thomas Bishop, Media Matters for America: Fox News Continues To Falsely Label ACA "Government-Run Health Insurance"


Steven Brill, Reuters: Stories I'd like to see

Keli Goff, The Root: Stop Apologizing: Start Firing

Adam Hochberg, Poynter Institute: 'Gloves come off' as journalists debunk each other's Obamacare horror stories


Jason Linkins, Huffington Post: So, About That Whole 'Obama's Katrina' Thing

Mediaite: Has the Media Unfairly Covered Obamacare? The First 'Great Mediaite Debate'

Alyssa Newcomb and Matthew Larotonda, ABC News: Obamacare Website Targeted About 16 Times by Cyber Attacks


Charles Ornstein, ProPublica: Coming in January: Obamacare Rate Shock Part Two

"Diverse" Comcast Networks Launching, but Will They Last?

"Rapper and producer Sean 'Diddy' Combs, director Robert Rodriguez, and basketball legend Magic Johnson each now has his own new cable TV [network]," Mandalit del Barco reported Tuesday for NPR. "Their channels were part of a merger deal Comcast made with the FCC to give a shot to new networks owned by African Americans, Latinos and others.


"Last month, Combs threw on his classic Puff Daddy alias to welcome millennial viewers to his new music network, Revolt.

" 'This is really happening, people,' the rapper said at the launch. 'A boy from Harlem is really standing on a stoop in Brooklyn launching a network worldwide. The revolution is now being televised.'

"Next month, Rodriguez will introduce young English-speaking Latinos to El Rey, on which he's partnered with Spanish-language network Univision to produce an action-packed lineup, including a new Latino James Bond-style series.


" 'El Rey is going to be the king of content,' he says. 'Iconic, addictive, exciting, visceral television.'

"El Rey and Revolt are Comcast's latest moves on diversity. For years, civil-rights groups have pointed to the dearth of programming for and by African Americans, Latinos and Asians. So when media giant Comcast announced plans to merge with NBC Universal, it was a chance for regulators to demand more cable networks owned and run by people of color. . . ."

Del Barco also wrote, "Washington insiders who were close to Comcast's FCC deal say no one expects these networks to survive. But Comcast's vice president [and general manager] of multicultural services, Ruben Mendiola, disagrees. In fact, he says Comcast plans to host a total of 10 independent channels over the next few years. . . ."


Jeff Baumgartner, Multichannel News: Comcast Goes Cross Platform For Native American Heritage Month

R. Thomas Umstead, Multichannel News: Soul Food For The Eyes

"People Behaving Badly" Segment a Worldwide Phenomenon

"The cops are waiting when he steps, blinking, out of the confines of Gunter's Family Restaurant and into the sizzling parking lot," Joe Eskenazi wrote Wednesday for SF Weekly. "They lean on the black-and-white cruiser, arms crossed in front of their oversize, flak-jacketed chests. The older of the two uncurls himself at a leisurely pace and ambles over at an even more leisurely pace before, with a touch of the showman, whipping off his sunglasses.


"The words ooze out of his mouth: 'Staaaaaaaaaanley Robertsssssssss.'

"And then he smiles. A bouncy, even goofy energy overtakes him: 'At last! I get to meet you!' He bounds over to shake the hand of the stocky cameraman in the red flannel shirt. 'I heard 'KRON' on the dispatch. I just knew it had to be you.

"It turns out the aggrieved manager of the adjacent Pacific Market on El Camino Real wasn't merely phoning a heated complaint to the South San Francisco Police Department. He was making dreams come true. Any Bay Area police officer harboring a desire to meet Stanley Roberts need only pine away by the radio and await the inevitable.


"Per the complaint, Roberts, creator of the five-time-a-week Channel 4 news segment People Behaving Badly, 'refused to leave the premises.' This was untrue, but a somewhat milder variant of the standard dubious report relayed to police when Roberts inserts himself where he's not wanted: A suspicious black man with a camera is filming children! Or: A suspicious black man with a camera is casing our store!

"Roberts, however, is anything but suspicious. . . ."

Eskenazi also wrote, "He receives missives from viewers in Asia, Europe, Australia, even Greenland. A Scottish man told him that weekly People Behaving Badly parties are held there, in which the three-minute, jauntily narrated clips of societal misconduct are consumed in marathon sessions. One aficionado matter-of-factly informed Roberts that he watched every People Behaving Badly segment on YouTube. He did this in alphabetical order, from 'AC Transit vs. Stop Signs' to 'You Should Never Grab a Reporter!' — and all the 1,197 videos in between. . . ."


Short Takes

Award-winning cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, known for his biting Latino satire and social commentary, "has signed on as a writer on the upcoming FOX comedy Bordertown,” Nina Terrero reported Friday for NBCLatino. "According to FOX, 'Bordertown' — the latest in the network's list of controversial comedies that includes 'Family Guy,' 'The Cleveland Show' and 'American Dad' — will feature the story of Ernesto Gonzales, an 'industrious Mexican immigrant and father of four.' The series will debut in 2014 and will feature Gonzales' interactions with neighbor Bud Buckwald, a 'white guy struggling to come to terms with being the new minority,' says series creator Mark Hentemann. . . ."

Bob Gabordi, executive editor of the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat, told readers Friday that the newspaper was obligated to report that "a complaint had been filed sometime in the last year alleging sexual assault, saying the woman had named Florida State star quarterback Jameis Winston." Referring to fans who threatened to cancel their subscriptions or demanded an apology, Gabordi said, "I don't think they understand that won't make the bad news go away, but it does make it harder for it to be told, and maybe that's all they want. . . ."


Howard University went live Thursday with HBCU Sirius XM, located on channel 142, a station "meant to be a platform for students to share a mixture of informational, educational, entertainment and cultural programs" from various historically black colleges and universities, Meredith Seay reported forurbanmecca.net.

"It took 150 years, but a Pennsylvania newspaper said Thursday it should have recognized the greatness of President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at the time it was delivered," the Associated Press reported Thursday. "The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, about 35 miles northeast of Gettysburg, retracted a dismissive editorial penned by its Civil War-era predecessor, The Harrisburg Patriot & Union. The president's speech is now considered a triumph of American oratory. The retraction, which echoes Lincoln's now-familiar language, said the newspaper's November 1863 coverage was wrong when it described the speech as 'silly remarks' that deserved a 'veil of oblivion.' . . ."

The John S. Knight Journalism Fellows at Stanford University is reaching out to journalists of color for its 2014-15 class, the program announced. "To that end, the NABJ Digital Journalism Task Force, along with the Asian American Journalists Association and the [National Association of Hispanic Journalists] will hold a conference call on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time to discuss the application process with Director Jim Bettinger." Also on the call will be current fellow Keli Dailey and past Knight fellows Phuong Ly and Claudia Núñez. Those who wish to join may call 1-267-507-0240, and use the code 878554.


Positions for the Associated Press summer 2014 Global News Internship are to be posted on careers.ap.org from Dec. 4 to Dec. 27, the period when applicants must apply. The program "is a paid, highly selective, 12-week individually tailored training program for students who are aspiring cross-format journalists. Interns must have experience and/or training in video and one other format. They will contribute to AP's text, video, photo and interactive reporting," the AP says. For questions, email internship (at) ap.org.

Facebook now reaches more young people each day than ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX combined, Henry Blodget reported Thursday for Business Insider. Jim Edwards reported for the same publication Tuesday, "Google alone is now bigger than either newspapers and magazines. . . ."

"In a move to make the annual RTDNA/UNITY Award for diversity coverage more inclusive, the Board of Directors has approved changes to the award description to now include coverage of stories involving sexual orientation and gender identity," the Radio Television Digital News Association announced Thursday.


Bob Herbert, former op-ed columnist for the New York Times, now a distinguished senior fellow at the Demos public policy organization, was one of eight journalists inducted Thursday into the Deadline Club's New York Journalism Hall of Fame.

When Eva Chen, Lucky magazine’s 33-year-old, social-media-savvy editor-in-chief, Instagrammed the latest cover of her magazine featuring Kerry Washington three days ago, she was in for a surprise, Alexandra Steigrad wrote Thursday for Women's Wear Daily. " 'How did they make her look so bad???? She's so pretty,' one follower wrote of Washington, who is pictured grinning ebulliently in a Dior dress with her hair straightened and windswept. 'This is literally the worst cover I've ever seen and I've been a subscriber since the beginning,' another comment said. . . ."

Lester Holt, weekend anchor of "NBC Nightly News" and co-anchor of the weekend edition of "Today," has been chosen for the Leonard Zeidenberg First Amendment Award, given annually "to a radio or television journalist or news executive who has made a major contribution to the protection of First Amendment freedoms," the Radio Television Digital News Foundation announced Wednesday. The foundation did not elaborate on Holt's contribution.


In Dallas, "Prominent WFAA8 street reporter Monika Diaz will be ending a six-year career with the Dallas-based station after deciding not to renew her contract," Ed Bark wrote Thursday for his Uncle Barky's blog. "Her last day is Dec. 3rd, news director Carolyn Mungo confirmed. . . ."

The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomed the release on bail Thursday of Lingaram Kodopi, an Indian journalist who has been imprisoned for more than two years, and called on authorities to drop all charges against him. Kodopi "was accused of masterminding an attack against a local politician in 2010 and facilitating a money exchange between Maoists and a representative of a steel company wanting to operate in a Maoist insurgent-controlled area, local news reports said. Kodopi denied the allegations and said the police had targeted him because of his refusal to work for them and because of his work exposing police wrongdoing. . . ."

Reporters Without Borders has condemned "Palestinian journalist Mohamed Jamal Abu Khdeir's detention by the Israeli security services since 6 November, when he was arrested at Ben Gurion airport on his return from a reporting trip to Cairo and his Jerusalem home was searched," the press freedom group said Thursday.


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