Painting the Full Picture of What’s Behind These Clashes Between Police and Black People

Protesters participate in a demonstration in Union Square in New York City Dec. 1, 2014, part of a nationwide protest to show solidarity for Michael Brown and the Ferguson, Mo., community. 
TIMOTHY A. CLARY/Getty Images

Writer Raises Questions That Get at the "Why"

An appearance in an Al Jazeera report on media coverage of the developments in Ferguson, Mo., after the grand jury's decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson convinced this columnist that "the media" in such situations has increasingly become defined as television coverage, with radio, the print media and the print media's Internet components barely counting when evaluations are made.

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Still, reports such as this Nov. 25 assessment from Christopher Benson, a blogger for the Chicago Reporter, are worth considering:

"The story of this St. Louis suburb is the story of power," Benson wrote. "It is power that is enforced at street level by the police and up throughout a justice system that has been engaged in the mass incarceration of people of color. It is a political system that powers the criminal justice system in this process. It is a social system that defines people, identifies them in ways that will justify their place in society — high or low, included or marginalized. . . ."

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Benson also wrote, "The story we are missing in this process, though, is the one that provides the full context for the story we are being told — the meaning of it all. The full picture.

"Sure, we get the facts. We get the who, what, where and when of it all. But not the why. The why is the context.

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"It starts with why there is such a wide gap in black and white opinion on the case, whether Darren Wilson should have been indicted for a crime. Why do some people accept police action while others distrust it? At bottom, why are some people angry and others afraid?

"Ferguson is presented as a confrontation story. The problem with that frame is that it ultimately directs our gaze away from the underlying story, which is to say, the actual story.

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"Even more, that very framing can determine public opinion. In a story of confrontation between people you have come to associate with wrongdoing and the police you believe are tied to law and order, the demonstrators are going to lose in the battle for public approval. We need to know why young black people see themselves as victims of prosecutorial discretion and the police as an oppressive force in the process. We need to know why they have come to believe there is a breakdown of the law in their community by people who shoot them down in the street — hands up.

"We also need to know why other people see things so differently. Television is a big part of the why. It emphasizes the visual. The immediate. The impact. The confrontation between the police and demonstrators in Ferguson will 'make for good TV,' President Obama said in calling for peace following the grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson. Good TV. But is it good journalism?

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"Not without balance, it isn't. Not without providing some deeper understanding of the meaning behind the images, the story behind the story. Otherwise, the real confrontation is a clash of perception. A racial Rorschach.

"People tend to see what they want to see, what they have been conditioned to see. We have to help them see what is. To see and to understand.

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"That is the media responsibility — to provide the information we need to make enlightened choices about policy, about consumption, about our social interaction. We can't get there — enlightened decision-making — without understanding the meaning of it all. The context. The why.

"In the many stories that have been told since last summer's confrontations, we have learned more as the result of follow-up reporting. However, even the background stories we are getting, like the ones about the overpolicing of a majority black community by an overwhelmingly white police force, only provide part of the ultimate truth.

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"Even when the media begin to tell us the more nuanced stories and try to clarify that violence during the demonstrations is being committed by only a small minority of people — people who are taking advantage of the demonstration as cover — the TV images of much larger crowds and explosive confrontations tell us something different.

"The tendency among many people in the viewing audience will be to conclude that the demonstrators — overwhelmingly people of color, who already are perceived to be at fault when it comes to issues of wrongdoing — are the people who are responsible when things go terribly wrong. Even when the confrontations are provoked by police. Research shows that the mere display of a gun by one person can cause the other person to be more aggressive.

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"So the challenge of the media is to cut through all this and to do it with careful decisions about what goes in the frame of the story and what is left out. To do it with decisions about how to balance breaking news with more background, more interpretation, more perspectives in follow-up stories.

"While we want to think we are balanced in our reporting, we must consider whether we really achieve that goal. Do you really see the world in a balanced way through a gas mask, or when you are constrained by a bulletproof vest? Is your judgment guided by a sense of journalistic responsibility or a sense of threat? The answer to that question only raises another obvious one and that is, threat by whom? The police? Or the people the police are confronting? What is the perspective you get on such a confrontation from behind police barricades, in a press pen, subject to feeds by the official sources?

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"Without question, reporting the who, what, where and when of it all from the frontlines is tough. But if we don't get at the 'why' through more thoughtful enterprising stories, all the rest of it has no meaning and no impact in helping people move away from biases to make more reasoned choices.

"If we don’t try to do that, then the question we ultimately should be asking is, 'Why not?' "

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Writers Tackle "Hackneyed" Meme About Black Crime

"I certainly have never bought into the hackneyed argument that inevitably arises when black people are in an uproar over the shooting of blacks by white police officers or civilians," John Eligon, Midwest correspondent at the New York Times, wrote in a news analysis Saturday for the Times' SundayReview section.

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"The argument usually goes something like this: 'Why aren't black people this outraged over black-on-black killings?'

"On cue . . . I heard Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York mayor, raise the question on 'Meet the Press.' I'd heard it before in the wake of similar violent incidents, like the killing of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager shot to death in Florida by a man who was white and Hispanic.

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" 'That is just as offensive as if somebody from a foreign country asked, "Why are you guys so outraged by the attack on the World Trade Center when Americans kill far more Americans than Al Qaeda ever has?" ' said Antonio D. French, a St. Louis alderman who has been active in the Brown protests. 'It's just as offensive.' . . .

"Those who make that argument, he added, are typically the ones who ignore what goes on in black neighborhoods in the first place.

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" 'We talk about it nonstop,' Mr. French, himself black, said of the crime problem. . . ."

Leonard Pitts Jr., syndicated columnist for the Miami Herald, also addressed the topic. 

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"Do black people kill one another? Sure they do," Pitts wrote in his Saturday column. "Ninety percent of black murder victims are killed by black assailants.

"But guess what? White people kill one another, too. Eighty-three percent of white victims are killed by white assailants. See, the vast majority of violent crime is committed within — not between — racial groups. Crime is a matter of proximity and opportunity. People victimize their own rather than drive across town to victimize somebody else.

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"So another term for 'black on black' crime is, crime.

"But there is crime and there is crime.

"Redlining, loan discrimination and predatory mortgages have stripped generations of wealth from the African-American community. What is that if not robbery?

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"The Republican Party practices policies of voter suppression. That's the assault and battery of African-American political rights. . . ."

In his Atlantic magazine blog Wednesday, Ta-Nehisi Coates took it a step further.

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"Black people know what cannot be said," Coates wrote, in a sentiment repeated on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

"What clearly cannot be said is that the events of Ferguson do not begin with Michael Brown lying dead in the street, but with policies set forth by government at every level. What clearly cannot be said is that the people of Ferguson are regularly plundered, as their grandparents were plundered, and generally regarded as a slush-fund for the government that has pledged to protect them. What clearly cannot be said is the idea of superhuman black men who 'bulk up' to run through bullets is not an invention of Darren Wilson, but a staple of American racism. . . ."

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Why Woodward Doesn't Put "President" With "Obama"

"White guests greatly outnumbered all other guests on Fox News Sunday's November 30 segments on civil rights protests in Ferguson, MO, and the resignation of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson," Hannah Groch-Begley reported Monday for Media Matters for America.

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"CBS' Sunday morning political talk show had a small majority of white guests during similar segments, while ABC's and NBC's shows were more ethnically diverse. . . . 

"On Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, an all-white panel discussed the developments in Ferguson and how the United States can best combat racial discrimination," Groch-Begley continued.

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One of those panelists was Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, who has become a regular. During his appearances, Woodward is usually critical of the president and routinely refers to "Obama" with no title even on first reference, unlike if he were writing for the Post.

Journal-isms asked him why.

"As you know Post style is to identify the person with a title on first reference," Woodward said by email. "President Obama at first then Obama in all other references. In a television discussion once it has been established that the reference is to President Obama I think then others, including myself, would refer to him as Obama. If I were to be the first to make a reference to him, I probably would say President Obama. Same with references to Bush, Clinton, Carter, or Nixon."

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However, on Sunday, Kimberley Strassel of the Wall Street Journal and Julie Pace of the Associated Press, two of Woodward's fellow panelists, referred to "the president" or "President Obama," even though his name had already been introduced.

So did Chris Wallace, the moderator, in what was not the first time he referred to the president:

"WALLACE: President Obama putting the best face on what from all accounts was the forced resignation of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. We are back now with the panel.

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"Bob, you have reported in depth about President Obama and his national security team. Aside from the personal stuff, Hagel didn't talk up in national security meetings, was does his ouster tell us about Obama and his policies in the last two years? . . ."

Woodward did not respond to a request for further comment.

Wendy Ah, wendyah.wordpress.com: Why this Asian-American woman cares about Ferguson

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Michael Arceneaux, the Grio: Pharrell is a music genius but naive on race relations

Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: America has a race problem and it has nothing to do with the president.

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Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Fury After Ferguson

Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Crime and Punishment

James E. Causey, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mr. President: Go to Ferguson

Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid

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Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Ferguson response shows how Barack Obama struggles to be black and president

Adeshina Emmanuel, Chicago Reporter: Ferguson case highlights need for national data on police shootings

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John W. Fountain, Chicago Sun-Times: Asking about Ferguson: Ain't I a man?

Allen Johnson, News & Record, Greensboro, N.C.: 'Blacklash' in Ferguson

Chip Johnson, San Francisco Chronicle: Oakland protesters show they're in charge

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Kansas City Star: Kansas City police arrest Star photographer at Ferguson protest march

Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Deep South justice in Ferguson

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times: When Whites Just Don't Get It, Part 5

Jerry Large, Seattle Times: We need to put more effort into closing our racial divides

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Judd Legum, ThinkProgress: Justice Scalia Explains What Was Wrong With The Ferguson Grand Jury

Jack Linshi, Time: Why Ferguson Should Matter to Asian-Americans

Olivia Marshall, Media Matters for America: Fox News Pundit Can't Remember Any Of These Times Obama Addressed "Black-On-Black Killings"

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Chris Mooney, Mother Jones: The Science of Why Cops Shoot Young Black Men

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: The stranger and Darren Wilson

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: A local racial clash, a national tragedy

Reporters Without Borders: Reporter Arrested in Ferguson: "I Was Just Doing My Job"

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Levi Rickert, nativenewsonline.net: Custer County Is American Indians' Ferbguson: The Story Won't Make It to CNN

Rochelle Riley, Detroit Free Press: Ferguson: Forget talking and get to work

Geraldo Rivera, Fox News Latino: Ferguson and the denial dilemma

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Dehumanizing Ferguson

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Underlying causes of Ferguson need to be addressed

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Afi Scruggs, alldigitocracy.org: Cleveland.com's journalistic fail: Judging Tamir Rice by His Parents’ Past

Margaret Sullivan, New York Times: Should The Times Have 'Left It Out' — and What, Exactly, Was 'It'?

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Jermaine Taylor, sponsoringyoungpeople.org: Singling Out Young Black Men… Again

Brian J. Tumulty, USA Today: Ferguson protesters lead 'Time' magazine's 'Person of the Year' ballot

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David Weigel, Bloomberg News: How a Conservative Backlash Silenced #Ferguson Reporters for All the Wrong Reasons

Erik Wemple, Washington Post: BillOReilly.com on Ferguson: Racial profiling 'understandable' 

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Matt Wilstein, Mediaite: Charles Barkley Defends Darren Wilson: Without Cops, Ferguson Would Be 'Wild, Wild West' 

Critics Question Terms of ESPN's Janay Rice "Get"

"Transparency is abundant in the editor's note appended to ESPN's story of the long weekend,"Erik Wemple wrote Sunday for the Washington Post. "It's a first-person essay by Janay Rice, wife of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who was suspended from the NFL for hitting her in an Atlantic City hotel elevator back in February. Here's the text of the note:

"Editor's Note: This is Janay Rice's story, as told to ESPN's Jemele Hill. On Wednesday, Nov. 5, Jemele interviewed Janay for three hours at the home of Janet Rice, Ray Rice's mother, in their hometown of New Rochelle, New York. Ray Rice was not present. Janay's account of what happened in Atlantic City, and in the months that followed, was written from Jemele's extensive interview, as well as a phone follow-up. No questions were off limits. Janay Rice was given approval over its content and release date.

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"Bold text inserted to highlight two sentences that merit another editor's note: In what universe can no questions be off limits when the subject has 'approval' over the interview's 'content and release date'?

Wemple also wrote, "Now back to the question at hand, which is whether ESPN cheated its audience by allowing this sweetheart interview deal. The answer is, probably. Thanks to the deal's terms, we won't know what revelations didn't get passed along. What is there, however, is quite compelling. . . ."

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ESPN is without an ombudsman. "This is my first day as former ESPN Ombudsman," Robert Lipsyte told Journal-isms in an email.

Mary C. Curtis, Washington Post: Though others may judge, Janay Rice tells her story her way

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Jarvis DeBerry, NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune: Ray Rice did wrong, but so did Roger Goodell

Demetria L. Lucas, The Root: 7 Revelations From Janay Rice's ESPN Interview

Brian Stelter, CNN: Behind the scenes of the Janay Rice interviews

David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun: ESPN sells out on Rice interview; NBC says no concessions were made

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Director to Exit, but N.Y. Times Student Program to Remain

Don R. Hecker, director of the New York Times Student Journalism Institute, which trains student members of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, is taking a buyout from the Times, Hecker confirmed Monday.

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But the Institute will continue, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet told Journal-isms. "I have every intention of continuing the Institute. I care about it and teach there myself as often as I can," Baquet said by email. "Don't want to comment yet on who will and will not take the buyout yet — there is a period before it is all official. But it won't change my support for the Institute."

Times staffers had until Dec. 1 to formally request a buyout, and the deadline for finalizing buyout paperwork is Dec. 16, Jeremy Barr wrote Oct. 23 for capitalnewyork.com.

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"The Times announced a plan in October to cut 100 newsroom jobs starting with a buyout program," James West added Nov. 20 for Mother Jones. "Dean Baquet, the executive editor, wrote to staff then that layoffs were possible if not enough volunteers stepped forward. "

Times TV reporter Bill Carter said he was taking the buyout after an "agonizing and very, very wrenching decision," Andrew Beaujon reported Monday for the Poynter Institute, adding that "the buyout offer was very compelling." Beaujon began a list of those who planned to leave.

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Hecker told Journal-isms, "Yes it is true. I am leaving. You'll have to bear with me about not saying more about my plans; there are some things brewing that I can't talk about for a bit longer.

"I have not heard specifically of anyone of color taking the buyout though it seems likely some will. The real story, I think, when the dust settles, is how many young people of color have moved in or up in the last three or four months: LaSharah Bunting promoted to senior editor for digital training; Simone Oliver promoted to editor on the hot new newsroom audience development team; Richard Jones hired to run internships, the trainee program and do some recruiting; Henri Cauvin named city editor. (OK, Rich & Henri are over 40, but the word 'young' is taking on new meaning for me.) It is the unchanging story of the old generation leaving and the new one arriving, but the changing part is who that new generation is.

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"Oh, and Nicole Herrington moving into the Culture Desk 'backfield,' or editing pod; and Kaly Soto becoming Culture Sunday editor. The list is so long I'm beginning to forget some of the names!"

Joe Pompeo, capitalnewyork.com: Taking stock of newsroom head counts

Dyson Says Black Journalists Accept Cosby's Words on Poor

"Most black journalists" have accepted Bill Cosby's "moral charges against the black poor" as "homegrown conservatism," social critic Michael Eric Dyson asserted in an opinion piece in the SundayReview section of the New York Times.

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Dyson did not give the basis for his statement nor did he respond to an inquiry asking that question.

"Many whites who point to blacks killing blacks are moved less by concern for black communities than by a desire to fend off criticism of unjust white cops," Dyson wrote. "They have the earnest belief that they are offering new ideas to black folk about the peril we foment in our own neighborhoods. This idea has also found a champion in Bill Cosby, who for the past decade has levied moral charges against the black poor with an ugly intensity endorsed by white critics as tough love and accepted by most black journalists as homegrown conservatism. . . ."

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Cosby, under fire from at least 20 women who have accused him of sexual assault, on Monday resigned from Temple University's board of trustees, a seat he has held for 32 years, Susan Snyder reported for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Grio: Jill Scott supports Bill Cosby, says media attempting to destroy his legacy

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Robert Huber, Philadelphia magazine: Dr. Huxtable & Mr. Hyde

Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Bill Cosby and only Bill Cosby can save Bill Cosby

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Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: The Bill Cosby Takedown

Frank Rich, vulture.com: Chris Rock Talks to Frank Rich About Ferguson, Cosby, and What 'Racial Progress' Really Means

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Asian American Journalists Oppose "Illegal Immigrant"

"We at the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) call on all newsrooms to stop using the term 'illegal immigrant' as immigration reform efforts intensify," Bobby Calvan wrote Monday for the Asian American Journalists Association.

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"The fact is, 'illegal immigrant' is a pejorative term that carries racial overtones best avoided by newsrooms. Newsrooms that continue to use the phrase are no longer neutral on the issue but are adopting language favored by one side of the debate.

Calvan also wrote, "Asian immigrants have long been victims of xenophobia, and the language that some newsrooms use only fuels animosity toward many immigrants, whether they are in this country illegally or not.

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"Although much of the current debate has highlighted migrants from Mexico, some people might be surprised that many more immigrants who work or live in the United States illegally are from elsewhere. In fact, the Department of Homeland Security estimates that more than one in 10 of the estimated 11 million immigrants who aren't authorized to live in the United States are of Asian descent. And about 300,000 come from Europe. . . ."

Latino Rebels: Oh Boy, Yet Another Ignorant and Insulting Immigration Cartoon from a US Newspaper

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Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post Writers Group: Still in a cloud on immigration

Rubén Rosario, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.: Obama's deportation deferral left out some worthies

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Brumsic Brandon Jr., Pioneer Comics Artist, Dies at 87

Brumsic Brandon Jr., a pioneering comic-strip artist whose "Luther" was among the first to run in mainstream newspapers as a result of the turbulence of the 1960s, died in Cocoa Beach, Fla., Friday after battling Parkinson's disease. He was 87.

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Morrie Turner's "Wee Pals," "Luther" and Ted Shearer's "Quincy" all debuted late in the civil rights movement and featured black or multiracial casts of children. Adults of color were considered too threatening. With characters such as "Miss Backlash," "Hardcore" and "Oreo," however, "Luther" was more firmly grounded in black life. 

Brandon "started his career in comics at an early age, submitting strips for mainstream publication since the early 1940s," according to lambiek.net.

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"He also made caricatures and cartoons, some of which were collected in 'Damned If We Do, and Damned If We Don't' in 1966. It wasn't until 1968 that he came up with 'Luther', a strip deliberately set in the working-class black ghetto and dealing less with race relations than with the universal human aspects of a child's struggle for survival."

"Brandon created 'Luther' for Newsday Specials, then a syndicate in Long Island, N.Y. The feature was later picked up by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate and distributed by them until 1986," according to a family biography.

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"With Luther, Brumsic Brandon was determined to 'tell it like it is' . .  . and his daughter Barbara Brandon, who would go on to create her own strip 'Where I'm Coming From', assisted him for a while. . . ."

Brandon's demonstrated interest in children led to appointment as a forum member on the White House Conference on Children in 1970 and work as an illustrator and performer on New York-area children's shows. "He also wrote and illustrated several 'bebop fables' for 'Vegetable Soup,' which were narrated by Dizzy Gillespie," his bio says.

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"During this time, Brandon also generated social commentary cartoons for 'Freedomways' magazine from 1963 to 1986 and for black media, later called Black Resources, from 1974 to 1989. 

"From 1992 to 2002, Brandon created editorial cartoons and wrote a regular op-ed page column for 'Florida Today,' a Gannett newspaper. Many of his cartoons were included in 'Best Editorial Cartoons of the Year' from 1996 to 2003. . . " 

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Barbara Brandon-Croft announced on her Facebook page that services would take place Wednesday at 11 a.m. at Florida Memorial Gardens, 5059 S. US Highway 1, Rockledge, Fla. 32955. She said the family, which includes Washington writer Ivan C. Brandon, also hope to have memorial service in New York.

Short Takes

CNN anchor Don Lemon, who has become more outspoken on the air in the last year, is being praised in the conservative National Review. Under the headline "Mainstream Media Can't Handle the Genius of Don Lemon," Tim Cavanaugh wrote on Sunday, "A while back I laid down a prediction in the National Review office that CNN Tonight host Don Lemon's journey toward out-of-the-closet conservatism that would see him joining Fox News within six months. I've now been at National Review longer than half a year, so my prophecy hasn't quite come true, but I still say Lemon is on his way, for a very basic reason: Ultimately almost everybody's political affiliations are determined less by philosophical principle than by which group makes them feel more comfortable. And nobody on the left has a kind word for Don Lemon. . . ."

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"At their Nov. 20 meeting, the UC Board of Regents approved the implementation of an annual supplemental fee of $7,500 on top of the current UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism basic tuition," Jean Lee reported Sunday for the student Daily Californian. She quoted Melissa Bosworth, a second-year graduate student at the journalism school, who said, "I find it really sad. I'm afraid that the fee hikes of the journalism school are going to affect the socioeconomic diversity at the school. . . ." 

"Colombia's Aguilas Negras (Black Eagles) paramilitary group on Monday threatened to kill journalists working for local news agency RSF, Venezuela-based cable network Telesur and Bogota public television station Canal Capital," the EFE news service reported on Monday.

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"Expanding offerings for Latino viewers, the Telemundo Station Group today is launching a diginet that will air action and adventure programming in Spanish around-the-clock," Diana Marszalek reported Monday for TVNewsCheck. "TeleXitos will feature TV series from the 1970's on, including Miami Vice, The A-Team and Ripley’s Believe It or Not, as well as action flicks like Hulk, The Interpreter and The Musketeer . All content will be in Spanish — i.e. no subtitles. . . ."

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