Media Attention Turns to Laws That Excuse Fatal Police Shootings

  • Columnists Raise Issue After Stephon Clark Death
  • Poynter to Boost News Literacy for Students of Color
  • 37% of New Hires at N.Y. Times Were of Color
  • ProPublica to Formalize ‘Rooney Rule’ on Hiring
  • ASNE Honors Stories on Harassment, Border Wall
  • Newsroom Harassment Bigger ‘Than Anyone Thinks’
  • Indian Country Isn’t Into #DeleteFacebook
  • Ethiopia Rearrests Freed Press-Freedom Hero
  • Short Takes

Private pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, former chief medical examiner in San Joaquin County best known for his research on football-related concussions, describes what he found in his autopsy of Stephon Clark, who was killed by Sacramento police. (Credit: Sacramento Bee)

Columnists Raise Issue After Stephon Clark Death

The fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police has renewed calls to change laws that allow police to shoot and kill black men with impunity — and for other citizens to resist the desire to “move on.”


Clark was shot at least six times in the back and eight times total by Sacramento police officers, according to a private autopsy released Friday morning by his family’s legal team,” Sam Stanton,Tony Bizjak and Nashelly Chavez reported Friday in the Sacramento Bee.

Stephon Clark
Screenshot: CBS Sacramento

“Clark, 22, was killed March 18 after Sacramento police received reports of a car burglar in the Meadowview area.

“Two officers followed Clark into the backyard of his grandparents’ home, where they ordered him to show his hands. One officer is heard saying ‘gun’ before the officers fired 20 shots at Clark, according to body camera video released by police three days after the shooting.


“Clark was later found to be carrying only a cellphone. . . .”

“What will it take for Sacramento to move past painful days of strife over the shooting death of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police?,” columnist Marcos Bretón asked Thursday for the Sacramento Bee.


“It will take more than African Americans demanding justice for Clark and his family. Or more than an understanding of a criminal justice system that kills and incarcerates black men at alarming rates. More than the realization that an unarmed man should not have lost his life because cops were looking for a guy breaking windows.

Paul Butler
Photo: Sharon Farmer

“And it will take seeing Clark as more than a ‘criminal,’ as he is too often branded by non-African Americans. . . .”

Paul Butler, a Georgetown University law professor who is a former federal prosecutor, wrote in his 2017 book “Chokehold (Policing Black Men): A Renegade Prosecutor’s Radical Thoughts on How to Disrupt the System,” “The problem is the criminal process itself. Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do. Virtually every objective investigation of a U.S. law enforcement agency finds that the police, as policy, treat African Americans with contempt.”


In a notable exception to common practice, “Police in Baton Rouge announced Friday night that they will fire officer Blane Salamoni for violating department policies during the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling in July 2016,” Mark Berman and Wesley Lowery reported for the Washington Post.

Erika D. Smith, associate editor and editorial writer at the Bee, made a point similar to Bretón’s in a column on Wednesday. “What happened to Clark most certainly should be a crime, but it’s probably not one. Not under the straitjacket of two U.S. Supreme Court rulings that make it all but impossible to charge and convict officers for shooting suspects in the line of duty,” she wrote.


“Tennessee v. Garner allows that it’s OK to shoot a fleeing suspect when ‘the officer has probable cause to believe that the suspect poses a threat of serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.’ And Graham v. Connor states that ‘the reasonableness of a particular use of force must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene, rather than with the 20/20 vision of hindsight.’

Erika D. Smith

“These rulings are, in part, why this week Louisiana’s attorney general declined to charge two white officers for shooting Alton Sterling outside a convenience store in 2016 — and why so many other officers in so many other cases haven’t been charged or convicted either.

“Complicating matters is California’s own use-of-force statute, which states any ‘officer who has reasonable cause to believe that the person to be arrested has committed a public offense may use reasonable force to effect an arrest, to prevent escape or to overcome resistance.’


“By law, as opposed to policies set by individual police departments, de-escalation tactics that protect the sanctity of life are after-thoughts rather than priorities — and it shows.

“Instead of giving people in Sacramento false hope and raising expectations for [Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie] Schubert to file charges that likely will never come, why don’t we talk about how to change state law so it’s easier to hold officers accountable for their actions? Because it’s possible. . . .”


Under the headline “Our Stephon Clark lie – ‘Diverse’ Sacramento is not as tolerant as we think,” Bretón added, “We can reform police practices or insist on independent investigations of police shootings. Or lobby for juridical reform that rethinks the wide latitude cops are given under law to use deadly force. But changing our biases about Stephon Clark are just as daunting. . . .”

Marcos Bretón, Sacramento Bee: Here’s another result of the Stephon Clark autopsy — cops can’t investigate cops


Editorial, Sacramento Bee: Justice for Stephon Clark must start with righting injustice in Sacramento

Editorial, Sacramento Bee: Sacramento made the right call to protect public trust on Stephon Clark


Benjy Egel, Dale Kasler and Tony Bizjak, Sacramento Bee: Kings announce partnership with activist groups after Stephon Clark protests shut down arena

John Eligon, New York Times: The Quiet Casualties of the Movement for Black Lives


Ricardo A. Hazell, Shadow League: NFL Team Owners Can Learn From The Sacramento Kings’ Protest Response

Roy S. Johnson, Alabama can’t wait a year to ban racial profiling, so lawmakers need a Hail Mary


German Lopez, Stephon Clark was shot by Sacramento police eight times from behind or the side, autopsy finds

Mary Mitchell, Chicago Sun-Times: Top cop’s ruling in Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones shooting disappointing


Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: A mystery panhandler ignites a useful conversation on police racial profiling

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Questions, like tears, fall after Stephon Clark’s death

The MediaWise project, part of the Google News Initiative. aims to reach a million students, with at least 50 percent coming from underserved or low-income communities.
Photo: Local Media Association

Poynter to Boost News Literacy for Students of Color

The Poynter Institute will lead a project funded by called MediaWise, a groundbreaking endeavor aimed at helping middle and high school students be smarter consumers of news and information online,” according to the institute — and it is seeking a multimedia reporter and an editor/program manager to lead it.


“Google is investing $3 million over two years in MediaWise, which will bring together experts from the Local Media Association, the Stanford Graduate School of Education and Poynter,” the Poynter Institute said in a March 20 news release.

“MediaWise will feature a curriculum to be taught in classrooms and a first-of-its-kind teen fact-checking initiative online. The project aims to reach a million students, with at least 50 percent coming from underserved or low-income communities. . . .


“At the center of the project is a body of research from the Stanford History Education Group (SHEG) that shows that despite being constantly online, the vast majority of teenagers are unable to correctly evaluate the credibility of online news and information. (Adults didn’t do much better, according to Stanford’s research). Over the next two years, Stanford will develop a new curriculum for use in schools to teach better information literacy and improve what it calls, ‘civic online reasoning.’ . . .”

The job description for the editor/program manager reads, “You’ll be the editor/publisher. You’ll be among some of the world’s best journalism teachers. You’ll be working alongside Poynter’s PolitiFact and the International Fact-Checking Network. You’ll steward our relationships with researchers at Stanford, YouTube creators and other journalism partners. You’ll be in St. Petersburg, Fla., and see the water from the office.


“And you’ll be doing work that’s critically needed. . . “

Wendy Wallace, director of advancement at Poynter, noted for Journal-isms that the application deadline is April 13.


The Local Media Association said its role “will be to work with Poynter and Stanford to take the skills and knowledge of this project into communities through events, newspaper in education programs and news coverage. Over 2,800 newspapers, TV stations, radio stations and digital news sites are members of the Local Media Association across North America.

LMA is looking for local media companies to partner with on the educational events. Those interested in learning more may contact Lindsey Estes at Lindsey.estes (at)

“We believe releasing this data on a yearly basis will make us accountable to the public — and ourselves — for improvement,” the Times Co. said.
Image: New York Times Co.

37% of New Hires at N.Y. Times Were of Color

For the first time, “we are sharing detailed data about the ethnic and gender composition of our staff members — data that we intend to update and make public annually,” the New York Times Co. reported on Wednesday.


“We believe releasing this data on a yearly basis will make us accountable to the public — and ourselves — for improvement. And we hope that in doing so we can contribute to the broader conversation about equality and representation in journalism.

“As the charts. . . show, many of the numbers are moving in the right direction — though not far enough or fast enough. Over the past three years, representation of women has increased at every level of The Times. Over all, our employees are now evenly split between men and women. Women in News and Opinion leadership increased to 46 percent in 2017, from 38 percent in 2015, and in business departments, to 46 percent, from 41 percent.


“The trend is not as uniformly positive for people of color. There have been gains in places, including in business leadership, where people of color now make up 21 percent of the total, up from 16 percent in 2015. But gains like this have not been consistent — the charts below show declines in certain areas — and improving that trajectory is a focus for us.”

The company also wrote, “One important way to improve diversity is through our recruiting and hiring. The steps we have taken include creating tools and policies to further minimize bias.


“We’ve expanded our outreach to underrepresented groups, working with organizations dedicated to diversity in technology (e.g. Code2040), journalism (e.g. National Association of Black Journalists), and media (e.g. The Emma Bowen Foundation). And we’re helping to broaden the pipeline of the industry as a whole through our Student Journalism Institute by providing training for diverse groups of college students interested in pursuing a career in journalism.

“It will take time for these efforts to be reflected in the overall data, but there is evidence that they are already paying off. Company-wide, 61 percent of our new hires in 2017 were women, and 39 percent were people of color. . . .”


In December 2016, Liz Spayd, the Times’ final ombudsman before the post was abolished, wrote, “The Times can be relentless in questioning the diversity at other institutions; it has written about the white ranks of the technology sector, public schools, police departments, Oscar nominees, law firms, legislatures, the major leagues and the Ivy League,” Spayd wrote. “Fixing its own problems comes less easily.

“The newsroom’s blinding whiteness hit me when I walked in the door six months ago. It’s hardly a new problem here, but it’s one that persists even as the country grows more diverse and The Times grows more global. . . .”


A. G. Sulzberger, 37, succeeded his father, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., as publisher of the Times on New Year’s Day.

Monica Drake, New York Times: Dear Times Reader . . .

ProPublica to Formalize ‘Rooney Rule’ on Hiring

ProPublica, which describes itself as “an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force,” released diversity figures Tuesday showing its newsroom to be 76 percent white, 8 percent Hispanic/Latino, 8 percent Asian, 4 percent black, 4 percent two or more races and 1 percent other.


The news organization, in a story by Lena Groeger, Sisi Wei and Stephen Engelberg, also announced, “As part of our commitment to diversity, starting this year we intend to formalize a practice we have already followed on most hires. We will interview at least one person of color for every posted job in line with the practice pioneered by the NFL and known as the ‘Rooney Rule.’ Many other entities have adopted this approach to increasing their diversity. . . .” Engelberg is editor-in-chief.

The story also said, “We’ve expanded many of the programs and scholarships we started in 2015. Specifically:

“The Emerging Reporters Program, which offers grants to college students of color who are interested in doing great journalism, is in its third year. Learn more about these talented journalists.


“The Diversity Scholarship program. For the third year in a row we’ll be awarding scholarships to student journalists of color to attend journalism conferences. This year we’ve increased the number of scholarships from 12 to 20 and increased the amount of each scholarship from $500 to $700. We are also excited to be working with the Association of LGBTQ Journalists for the first time. . . .

“The ONA Diversity Mentorship breakfast. For the fourth year in a row, we’ll be pairing journalists of color with managing editors, executive editors and other top journalists at our ONA Diversity Mentorship Breakfast. . . .”

A screenshot from USA Today Network’s Vive Virtual Reality experience. The project won the Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling.
Photo: Journal-isms

ASNE Honors Stories on Harassment, Border Wall

Coverage by The New York Times on sexual harassment in Hollywood and beyond, a report on “how the bankruptcy system is failing black Americans,” Chicago Tribune columnist Dahleen Glanton and the staff of the Arizona Republic with the USA Today Network are among the winners of this year’s ASNE Awards for distinguished writing, digital storytelling and photography, the American Society of News Editors reported Thursday.


“Times reporters unearthed revealing, on-the-record details on the abusive behavior of Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and took readers to factory floors to reveal an endemic culture of harassment at the Ford Motor Company. The Times’ stellar reporting, combined with the power of the institution, made this the story of the year,” ASNE judges said, awarding it the Batten Medal, honoring achievement in public service journalism.

Paul Kiel and Hannah Fresques of ProPublica are the winners of the Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism, which celebrates journalism that overcomes ignorance, stereotypes, intolerance, racism, hate, negligence and indifference. They will receive $2,500 for winning the award, sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in memory of Dori J. Maynard, who was an ASNE board member and a strong advocate for news and newsroom diversity,” ASNE said.


‘Too Broke for Bankruptcy’ [PDF] skillfully marries masterful data journalism with nuanced reporting about those affected to create a powerful report that shines light on a little-known but deeply disturbing trend,” the judges said. “It is a compelling and important read that starts in Memphis, and ProPublica’s reporting has already led government officials to take action. It truly meets the criteria of this award, journalism that fights for justice for those who are disadvantaged. . . .”

Dahleen Glanton

Glanton is to receive $2,500 for winning the Mike Royko Award for Commentary/Column Writing, [PDF] “which recognizes excellence in writing by an individual that expresses a personal point of view. The award is sponsored by the Chicago Tribune in memory of legendary columnist Mike Royko, who died in 1997.”

The judges said, “Dahleen Glanton writes with thunderous passion and uncommon clarity about the issue that affects Chicago worst and most: violence, too often by and against the young, spawned by the hopelessness of the city’s high-poverty neighborhoods. Her empathy for the underdog and her ability to put voice to unpleasant truths are infused in every sentence she writes.”


In addition, “The staff of The Arizona Republic with the USA TODAY Network is the winner of the Punch Sulzberger Award for Online Storytelling, which recognizes excellence and innovation in the use of digital tools to tell news stories. The staff will receive $2,500 for winning the award, sponsored by The New York Times in memory of former publisher Arthur Ochs ‘Punch’ Sulzberger, who died in 2012.

“The editors of the USA TODAY Network knew that the president’s much-ballyhooed border wall was no mere abstraction. It’s not a cliche to say that the immigration debate, on the ground, is one of blood, sweat and tears. This hyper-ambitious, thoroughly comprehensive online project recognizes that and gives voice and space and vision and context to the barrier’s potential impact on both sides of the southern border. ‘The Wall’ made the most its online-storytelling ambitions, ensuring that viewers can access and interact with the multi-pronged story in the way that is most comfortable for each individual: photos and text, of course, but also video, podcasts and VR. . . .”


Newsroom Harassment Bigger ‘Than Anyone Thinks’


One year ago this week — Sunshine Week — I set out to chronicle journalism in America in 2017 by driving 10,000 miles,” Meredith Cummings (pictured, left) wrote March 17 for

“As a former full-time journalist turned journalism professor I wanted to step out of my own newsroom experiences and learn. I was interested in holding a mirror up to the journalists who bring us the news every day. ‘Who,’ I asked, ‘is watching the gatekeepers?’ I visited news outlets big and small, for-profit and non-profit, traditional and cutting-edge across all media. . . .”


Cummings also wrote, “The lessons I learned on my adventure to document American journalism have taken me a year of digesting what I saw — and many notes — to find patterns and overarching truths from my trip. I truly believe this strange, quirky journey I took is important. Regret is difficult to forecast, but I know I will not regret this.

“Journalists are not angry. . . .

“Journalism is also under attack from within. . . .

“Newsrooms have a bigger sexual harassment and assault problem than anyone thinks. . . .


“Newsrooms are strange places and have strange things in them. . . .

“Journalists don’t document their own stories. . . .

“Journalism — long a champion of openness and transparency — is anything but. . . .


“Journalism can be a painfully lonely career. . . .

“Journalists talk a good game when it comes to diversity in newsrooms, but do not put that into practice. . . “


“Journalism is alive and well in America. . . .

On sexual harassment, Cummings wrote, “So far, most coverage has focused on large, [well-known], national, corporate newsrooms, but we cannot forget the thousands of newsrooms in smaller towns and communities that also have a problem. Their voices are not loud, but I am here to tell you, they are there and the sheer number of them is unconscionable.”


Ben Beaumont-Thomas, the Guardian: R Kelly accused of grooming 14-year-old girl as ‘sex pet’

Indian Country Isn’t Into #DeleteFacebook

Jenni Monet

In the last 48 hours, I’ve seen several people turn to one social network, Twitter, to vent their frustrations about another one: Facebook,” Jenni Monet wrote March 23 for yes! magazine.

“In the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, in which data from over 50 million Facebook profiles were secretly mined for voter insights, it sparked what some have called a #DeleteFacebook movement.


“But not in Indian Country.

“Deleting Facebook would be like pulling the plug at the party, rendering total darkness and, what’s more, deafening silence (where there’s already plenty of that).


“And it’s not just Indian Country that would feel the extreme disconnect in a Facebook-less scenario. The entire Indigenous world would reel from its absence. To be sure, the social network has done more for bolstering the modern Indigenous rights agenda than perhaps any other platform of our time. . . .”

Liz Mineo, Harvard Gazette: Battling stereotypes of Native Americans

Ethiopia Rearrests Freed Press-Freedom Hero

The International Press Institute and other press-freedom groups are strongly condemning the re-arrest of recently freed Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega and other journalists, bloggers and politicians, calling for their immediate release.

Eskinder Nega

Ethiopian authorities on Sunday made the arrests at a gathering outside the capital city of Addis [Ababa],” Alma Onali, an IPI fellow, reported Monday.


“Nega, who received the IPI-IMS World Press Freedom Hero Award in 2017, had been recently released after spending more than six years in prison on a spurious terrorism conviction.

“Local media have said authorities also rearrested . . . journalist Temesgen Desalegn; bloggers Befekadu Hailu, Zelalem Workagegnehu, Mahlet Fantahun and Fekadu Mehatemework; and politicians Andualem Aragie, Woineshet Molla, Yidenehackew Addis, Sintayehu Chekol and Tefera Tesfaye.


“According to reports, the reasons given for the arrests were the display of a prohibited national flag at the gathering and the violation of a ban on unauthorized gatherings under Ethiopia’s state of emergency. . . .

“Earlier this year, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn initiated a mass release of political prisoners from Ethiopian jails following anti-government protests. However, Desalegn announced his resignation shortly thereafter, and the government promptly declared a state of emergency. Ethiopia is expecting a new prime minister to take charge in the next few days. . . .”


Short Takes

Myriam Marquez

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Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.


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