Jim Morin/Miami Herald
Jim Morin/Miami Herald

L.A. Times Not Waiting for Pieces by a Fact Checker

"A few years back, the Los Angeles Times considered joining a runaway industry trend," Erik Wemple wrote Friday for the Washington Post. "Everywhere you clicked on the political web, it seemed, someone was putting the drywall and paint on a stand-alone, cleverly branded fact-checking machine or at least some sort of discrete truth-outing posts.


". . . Top editorial thinkers at the Los Angeles Times, however, passed up the temptation. 'Our feeling was that the resources you would lose from overall newsgathering and putting them only on fact-checking — that the cost was just too high,' says David Lauter, Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune.

"They came up with a prescription that nowadays looks revolutionary: 'We could do fact-checking in the course of people's normal reporting,' says Lauter.


"That's precisely what Lauter did this week, a feat that won him temporary cult status on the Internet. The topic of his story was a convention speech by Rick Santorum. Here's what the headline said:

" 'Rick Santorum repeats inaccurate welfare attack on Obama'

"That 'attack' was the well-worn GOP line about how President Obama has 'waived' work requirements for welfare. . . ."

Both Republicans and Democrats have lied. Robert Farley of FactCheck.org wrote last month, "A grieving widower in a new pro-Obama TV spot says his wife contracted cancer and died 'a short time after' Mitt Romney closed the steel plant that employed him and left 'my family' without health coverage. That's not quite so."

But as such writers as Thomas B. Edsall and Ezra Klein have pointed out in the New York Times and Washington Post, respectively, the difference with the welfare falsehoods is that they are about race.


Edsall, a former Post reporter now a professor of journalism at Columbia University, wrote last week, "The Republican ticket is flooding the airwaves with commercials that develop two themes designed to turn the presidential contest into a racially freighted resource competition pitting middle class white voters against the minority poor."

Klein wrote, "Beyond being flatly false, Romney's ads are puzzlingly anachronistic. Welfare is a shrunken program. Where it helped 68 of every 100 families in poverty in 1996, it only helped 27 of every 100 families in poverty in 2010. Meanwhile, few think the problem in this country is that the poor don't want to work. Rather, it's that millions of Americans - the poor and undereducated most of all - can't find work no matter how hard they try. It's as if a political strategy from 1992 slipped through a wormhole and began playing out in 2012.


"In modern politics, however, when a campaign begins doubling and tripling down on an unusual line of attack, it's because it has reams of data showing the attack is working. What's worrying is why this ad might be working. . . ."

Dan Balz, Washington Post: Obama did not change Washington. Was there a way around united Republican opposition?


Charles M. Blow, New York Times: The G.O.P. Fact Vacuum

Dylan Byers, Politico: Reporters: We loathe 2012 campaign

Michael Calderone, Huffington Post: Paul Ryan's Convention Speech Ignites Media War Over Facts


Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post: Truth takes a beating in Tampa

Patrick Coffee, PRNewser: Little White Lies: What Good Are Fact Checkers Anyway?

Ted Diadiun, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Burning questions about pants and such

Angie Drobnic Holan, J.B. Wogan, politifact.com: A scorecard on President Obama's campaign promises


Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Convention speeches simplify to the point of omitting chunks of reality

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: The GOP's steady diet of whoppers

David Shepardson, Detroit News: Ryan criticizes Obama on '08 GM plant closure from before he took office (Aug. 18)


Shauna Theel, Media Matters for America: NBC's David Gregory Allows Gingrich To Lie About Obama's Abortion Record

Jay Smooth, Ill Doctrine: The GOP's Rick Ross Convention (video)

Jerry Zremski, Buffalo News: Truth torn to shreds by presidential campaign ads

"Maybe It's No Surprise Time's Culture Rejected Me"

". . . Now, eight months after leaving my job, there's no use pretending everything's fine," Steven Gray, Time's last African American correspondent, wrote Monday for salon.com. "For much of the year, I've been among the roughly 8.2 million Americans considered 'part-time employed.' My world seemed rich with possibility only a couple of years ago. In August 2009, I was promoted to be bureau chief on a high-profile project. Time Inc., one of the world's largest publishers, bought a six-bedroom house near downtown Detroit that'd become an office, conference space and living quarters for visiting executives, editors and reporters from the company's very autonomous magazines - Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated.


". . . the project succeeded, and brought me to the attention of John Huey, the company's editor-in-chief. A Southerner who came of age in the civil rights era, Huey has for years fought to break up Time's very white, very Ivy League fraternity. As a reward for the Detroit assignment, Huey gave me a one-year contract to report from Washington for Time.

"It was complicated. Projects of mine that were quickly green-lit in Chicago and Detroit suddenly weren't taken seriously — in one case, until a new, white reporter pitched the Washington bureau chief a similar idea. When I felt excluded from covering politics, I didn't complain — it's so easy to be labeled a whiner, especially when you're black. It's tricky challenging a seemingly omnipotent bureau chief — especially when you're on a contract. So I kept my head down, hoped to break through a rough patch by writing about topics no one else was covering, including race. Then, I was reminded of an editor's warning: To succeed at Time, don't write about race, or what it means to be black.


"Part of my issue, surely, was the transition from field to office work. Some of the people who'd promoted my career had left. The last straw came last year, when the magazine announced the team that would cover the 2012 presidential campaign - a reason I'd agreed to take the job. I wasn't on the list. The team included a 20-something who'd been an unpaid intern the previous summer. Last December, the managing editor, Rick Stengel, hosted a lunch in the Washington Bureau's glass-walled conference room to discuss plans for covering the campaign. As the former intern stumbled through her idea, I got up, and walked out of the room. An advertising executive who watched part of the episode emailed, 'Everything okay?' I wrote back that it was like a 'country club.' Maybe it's no surprise that Time's culture rejected me. . . ."

In June, the National Association of Black Journalists awarded its 2012 Thumbs Down Award to Time magazine "for its lack of diversity within its reporting corps."


. . . The Story Is the Fragility of the Black Middle Class

Steven Gray's essay for salon.com weaves his personal story into a larger one: the status of the black middle class.


"On the night of Barack Obama's election, I was reporting in the crowd of Chicago's Grant Park, and like many Americans felt hopeful that our country was finally ready to deal with the vexing matters of race," it begins. "Obama's election was an incalculable accomplishment, and the arrival of a middle-class black family in the White House seemed to tell the world that the American Dream is alive, that our country's establishment has successfully absorbed a people it once enslaved, and unapologetically marginalized.

"And yet, when the Obamas moved into the White House, the country's economy was already in free fall, and its fragile black middle class was, to put it simply, vanishing. Between 2005 and 2009, the year the Great Recession officially ended, the average black household's wealth fell by more than half, to $5,677, even as their white peers held about $113,000 in assets. Nearly one-quarter of African-Americans have no assets besides a car, and roughly the same share have lost their homes, or they're close. The African-American unemployment rate hovers around 14 percent, and according to a Pew report released in July, nearly 70 percent of blacks raised in families at the middle of the wealth ladder fall to the bottom two rungs as adults. The exodus of blacks from cities like Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans and even Detroit is driving a sense of eroding political power. Perhaps most depressingly, one in three black boys can expect to be incarcerated at some point in his life. . . . "


Gray told Journal-isms by email, "I'd been trying to do this story since I was in Detroit for Time, but the magazine wasn't interested. Nevertheless, I kept gathering string after moving to DC. The statistical evidence was mounting, and I was living a lot of this stuff. When I left the magazine, I knew this was one of the projects I wanted to pursue. It was luck/good timing that Barbara Ehrenreich was developing the [Economic Hardship Reporting Project].

"I spent about a month reporting the story proposal, and then we shopped it around to a couple outlets, starting with the NYT Magazine. Thankfully, Salon took the piece. In total, it took about five months finish the project - including some time in Louisiana going through family property records."


Wayne Dawkins, NABJ Journal, National Association of Black Journalists: Black Journalists are Left and Right at Political Conventions

Mike Green, Huffington Post: Will Romney's Run Expose Lack of Diversity in Private Capital Industry?


Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Jobs dialogue will remain in focus

Donna Ladd, Jackson (Miss.) Free Press: Flipping the 'Race Card'

Rchelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Black delegates sing, pray, prepare to fight for Obama


Rod Watson, Buffalo News: The gulf between God and the GOP

Harris-Perry Explodes in Discussion of the Poor

"Melissa Harris-Perry had what was probably her most passionate and intense television outburst ever when she delivered a fiery monologue about being poor in America on her Saturday show," the Huffington Post reported on Sunday.


"The moment occurred during a long segment on what Harris-Perry felt was the demonization of welfare recipients as 'undeserving' of aid. She clashed repeatedly with guest Monica Mehta, labeled by the show as a business and finance expert.

"Harris-Perry's frustration with Mehta rose perceptibly when Mehta said that welfare payments should not be 'limitless.'


" 'Limitless?!' Harris-Perry shot back. 'The limits currently … established under a Democratic president are appalling.'

"A few minutes later, Harris-Perry, referring to the debate about welfare recipients 'deserving' aid, said, 'I just feel like, from the bottom, you have to be able to say, "I deserve the ability for class mobility." '


" 'Which is funded by public education, by low-cost health care,' guest Nancy Giles said. 'Which is enabled by taking risks,' Mehta cut in.

"Slamming her hands down on her desk, Harris-Perry exploded:

" 'What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously, what in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. . . . ' "


Crunk Feminist Collective: At the Risk of Sounding Angry: On Melissa Harris-Perry's Eloquent Rage

Alessandra Stanley, New York Times: How MSNBC Became Fox's Liberal Evil Twin

Teresa Wiltz Joins Essence as a Deputy Editor

Teresa Wiltz, who has been a reporter or editor at the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and theRoot.com, starts work Tuesday as a deputy editor at Essence magazine, the Time Inc. publication for black women plans to announce Tuesday.


"Wiltz will be responsible for management, conceptual planning, development and top editing the News and Culture department, as well as center-of-book features," a spokeswoman said by email.

Wiltz worked in the Tempo section of the Tribune from 1991 to 1999, then worked in the Washington Post Style section as a writer or editor until 2008. She was a senior culture writer and senior editor at theRoot.com until 2011.


The Essence editorial team is led by Constance C.R. White, editor-in-chief; Vanessa K. Bush, executive editor; Greg Monfries, creative director; and deputy editor Rosemarie Robotham.

Bradley Bennett Leaves Newspapers to Save the Planet

Just three months ago in this space, we were writing about Bradley C. Bennett, a member of the inaugural class of the Maynard Media Academy who was in the Middle East as senior editor at the National, an English-language broadsheet based in the former desert fishing village of Abu Dhabi.


"I would encourage more black journalists who are seeing fewer opportunities in America to spread their wings a little, and try for a job in the Middle East or the Far East, where newspapers are generally thriving," Bennett said.

On Monday, Bennett posted his message on his Facebook page:

"Yesterday, after 22 years of working as a writer and/or editor in the newspaper business, I left the industry to join the corporate communications department at Masdar, a renewable-energy company that strives to make life on our planet Earth more sustainable. May God continue to bless me and my family in my exciting new career!!!"


Bennett explained in a message to Journal-isms:

"I was enjoying my job at The National, and I wasn't really looking for this opportunity. Masdar approached me through a headhunter via my LinkedIn profile. So I can tell you it's a good thing to always keep that updated! I was then presented with the choice between remaining in newspaper journalism, which has a precarious future at best — especially in the States — and renewable energy, which has a very bright future and is growing exponentially. The choice was clear. I can now use my writing and editing skills to help protect the future of our planet for my children and, eventually, my children's children."


Bennett is a former assistant city editor of the Miami Herald's Broward Edition who left the Herald in 2007 to become executive editor of the Broward Times, a black weekly later renamed the South Florida Times.

He and his family left for Abu Dhabi in 2010.

Former N.Y. Times Co. Papers End Endorsements

The former regional newspapers of the New York Times Co. will no longer endorse candidates, on orders of new owners the Halifax Media Group, the newspapers told readers over the weekend.


Halifax closed a deal in January to buy 16 regional newspapers from the New York Times Co. for $143 million. They are primarily in the Southeast and in California.

In an editorial Sunday, the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., noted, "The Oregonian recently told readers that it would not make an endorsement in this year's presidential race. The Chicago Sun-Times announced in January that it would stop recommending candidates, noting, 'our goal … is to inform and influence your thinking, not tell you what to do.'


"These changes are founded on the belief that endorsements fuel a perception that newspapers are biased, and the best solution is for newspapers to stick to what they do best - giving readers the information they need to make decisions for themselves.

"Halifax Media Group, which acquired The Press Democrat in January, has had a no-endorsement practice for its flagship paper in Daytona Beach, Fla. The company has now decided to adopt this policy for all of its member newspapers, including The Press Democrat.


"For most of these publications, it will mean no change. The majority of these newspapers, including some that were previously part of the New York Times Regional Newspaper Group along with The Press Democrat, already had removed political endorsements from their list of editorial offerings. We were one of those that still offered recommendations on candidates."

In June, Halifax bought from Freedom Communications eight daily and 11 weekly publications in Florida and North Carolina.


Sun Myung Moon, Washington Times Founder, 92

"The Rev. Sun Myung Moon, the Korean evangelist, businessman and self-proclaimed messiah who built a religious movement notable for its mass weddings, fresh-faced proselytizers and links to vast commercial interests, died on Monday in Gapyeong, South Korea," Daniel J. Wakin reported Monday for the New York Times. "He was 92.


". . . Building a business empire in South Korea and Japan, Mr. Moon used his commercial interests to support nonprofit ventures, then kept control of them by placing key insiders within their hierarchies. He avidly backed right-wing causes, turning The Washington Times into a respected newspaper in conservative circles."

Hyung-Jin Kim reported Monday for the Associated Press that Moon "leaves behind children who have been groomed to lead a religious movement famous for its mass weddings and business interests - if family feuds don't bring down the empire."


Erik Wemple, Washington Post: As the Rev. Moon goes, so goes the Washington Times?

Cheryl Wetzstein, Washington Times: Rev. Moon, Times founder, dies at 92

Kansas City Fears Google Will Add to Digital Divide

"Google is poised to stumble into Kansas City's racial past, entangled in the historic boundary between black and white that is Troost Avenue," Mary Sanchez wrote Thursday for the Kansas City Star.


"Sept. 10 is the day of reckoning. That's the day after Google's deadline for people to pre-register for its ultra-fast Internet service.

"Predictions of a backlash that Google neither fathomed nor intended are being voiced this week in community meetings with company representatives.


". . . The maps tell the story. The demarcation line of Troost is stark.

"Areas shaded green, with enough pre-registrations to be wired with the new service, lie west of Troost. Areas to the East remain yellow and are not meeting goals set by Google.


"Not enough pre-registrations could mean there won't be wiring to those neighborhoods' schools, community centers, police stations, libraries — a range of public buildings that Google promised free access if goals were met.

"Few schools east of Troost have hit the percentage of pre-registrations of surrounding homeowners that Google deemed necessary to trigger the free hookups. Low-income areas of Kansas City, Kan., also are struggling."


Short Takes

Rick Hancock, digital platform director at the Hartford Courant, contacted Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, over NAHJ's concerns about using Google Translate to publish a Spanish-language version of the newspaper, Balta wrote Monday on the NAHJ website. "He assured me that his team can and will do better in serving the Latino community," Balta said. "Mr. Hancock accepted NAHJ's offer of providing guidance as the Hartford Courant moves forward in developing and executing better initiatives to serve their Spanish-language readers."


"The sudden ending to what's affectionately known throughout the entertainment community as The Cosby Writing Program has resulted in an outpouring of gratitude tinged with despair for the loss of a program that, during its 18-year-history, trained and placed hundreds of writers of color behind the cameras of some of America's most well-known and respected television series," according to members of the Writers Guild of America. ". . . Weary of seeing so many negative images of minorities in film and television, Bill and Camille Cosby established the program in 1993. . . ."

"WBOC, the CBS affiliate in Salisbury, MD, showed off the power of local media by helping an area produce stand owner nab a suspected thief," Kevin Eck reported Friday for TVSpy. "Allen Cole, the stand owner, set up a surveillance camera to watch over his stand. When the camera captured a suspected thief taking money out of a cash jar he keeps near his produce, he sent the footage to WBOC. Reporter Ko Im told TVSpy she posted the footage on the station's Facebook page . . ."


"Michelle Galván is the newest addition to the Univision KXLN Houston news team," Veronica Villafañe reported Monday for her Media Moves site. "Starting Tuesday, September 4, she will be anchoring the 5 and 10 pm weekday newscasts with Osvaldo Corral. Michelle joins the station from Monterrey, Mexico, where she was most recently an anchor for Televisa-owned FORO TV."

"On a Saturday afternoon last February, journalist Carl Bernstein got up on stage at the grand ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan and delivered a speech questioning the listing of an obscure Iranian group called the Mujahadin-e Khalq (MEK) on the U.S. government list of officially designated foreign terrorist organizations," Justin Elliott reported Friday for ProPublica. ". . . ProPublica reported in July that syndicated columnist Clarence Page had spoken at a large rally in Paris featuring MEK leader Maryam Rajavi; after we reached out to Page, he said he would reimburse his $20,000 speaker's fee, and the Chicago Tribune reprimanded him for violating the company ethics code."


In Dayton, Ohio, Letitia Perry has been named to co-anchor WHIO-TV's "Daybreak Edition," the station announced on Friday. Perry has been co-anchor of "News Center 7" at 11 p.m. for the past six years and is in her 12th year with WHIO.

Rosalba Ruiz has been hired as an online producer for the Associated Press Latin America desk, according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. "She was previously a Washington correspondent for the Orange County Register and also has done work for Hispanic Link News Service." Ruiz is treasurer of the NAHJ Washington, D.C., chapter.


The board of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists decided in an Aug. 25 conference call that joining the Radio Television Digital News Association for its 2013 convention in Anaheim, Calif., "provided limited opportunities for sponsorship and revenue, so that option was tabled," according to a summary of the meeting on the NAHJ website. "The possibility of joining with CCNMA [the California Chicano News Media Association] for a convention in Los Angeles is currently being studied. A convention in Albuquerque is still a possibility."

"Tanzanian TV journalist Daudi Mwangosi died yesterday after being struck by a gas canister as police dispersed a crowd at a rally staged by an opposition political party," Roy Greenslade of Britain's Guardian newspaper reported Monday for his media blog. "The Channel Ten reporter was killed while covering the opening of a branch office of the Chadema cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Party for Democracy and Progress) in Nyololo."


Follow Richard Prince on Twitter.

Facebook users: "Like" "Richard Prince's Journal-isms" on Facebook.

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

Share This Story

Get our newsletter