Texas News Outlets Oppose Effort to Put Confederate Flags on License Plates

Proposed Texas license plate featuring the Confederate flag 
Sons of Confederate Veterans

Texas Dailies Say Keep Confederate Flag Off Plates

The Sons of Confederate Veterans continued to fight the Civil War all the way to the Supreme Court on Monday, but Texas' major dailies oppose the group's demand for a Texas specialty license plate that features the Confederate battle flag.

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"The Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) insist that their proposed license plate is not meant to spread fear or hatred. They view the Confederate flag as a symbol of sacrifice, independence, and Southern heritage, and they argue that the state should not be permitted to muzzle that message," Warren Richey reported Monday for the Christian Science Monitor.

"The case is potentially important because it forces the justices to explore a murky First Amendment middle ground between government-permitted censorship of objectionable speech in some limited cases and guarantees of free speech in most cases even when that speech is offensive. . . ."

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The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, Austin American-Statesman, San Antonio Express-News, Waco Tribune and Fort Worth Star-Telegram have all supported the state's decision to keep the flag off the plates.

"No one argues that much of our ancestry, history and culture is caught up in the antebellum South, including the city of Waco," the Waco Tribune editorialized in 2011.

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"But the Confederate flag goes far beyond all this. It remains a potent symbol of disunion, racism and oppression. The state's carefully worded declaration of secession doesn't mince words: Texans left the union in 1861 because the cherished institution of slavery was threatened, not because of the general concept of states' rights or any undermining of Old South culture. . . ."

The San Antonio Express-News wrote in December, "You may like the Confederacy, but that doesn't mean the state has to sanction a license plate that does too. You can put a Confederate bumper sticker on your car instead."

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In a stage setter Friday for the court arguments heard Monday, Michael A. Lindenberger of the Dallas Morning News' Washington bureau reminded readers, "Texas wanted to join the Confederacy so badly in 1861 that it kicked a reluctant Sam Houston out of office to pave its way to secession."

Lindenberger quoted people on both sides of the debate:

" 'I have a heritage, too,' said Texan Frank Johnson of Cleveland, a leader of the veterans group that wants the customized tag. 'My family fought for the South, and I’m proud of what they did. This is important because of them, and I have a right to stand up for them and insist my heritage isn’t trash.'

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"But even free speech has limits, said Texas NAACP president Gary Bledsoe.

" 'It's not just making a statement about the Confederacy,' he said of the plate's Civil War-era symbol. 'This puts it in our eyes and exalts white supremacy. Let's put it on the table: That's what this flag stands for.' "

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Texas newspapers have given op-ed space to Jerry Patterson, identified as a Republican who "is Texas Land Commissioner, responsible for managing billions of dollars of state assets, investments and mineral rights. He is a retired U.S. Marine, Vietnam veteran and former state senator."

Patterson contended in July in the Houston Chronicle, "A request by Sons of Confederate Veterans to honor the service of the group's forefathers with a Texas license plate is a simple fund-raising effort by a historical association with a long history of civic involvement.

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"Race-baiting and politics, however, seem to play more of a role in the coverage of this issue than the actual facts of the matter . . ."

Patterson also wrote, "As a statewide elected official, I sponsored the plate because of my commitment to Texas history — even the history others might find offensive.

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"It's the same reason I sponsored a license plate to honor the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum, another private, nonprofit organization interested in marketing its members' heritage with a license plate that displays the group's logo and name. . . ."

He continued, "But an examination of the Buffalo Soldiers' actions could also be deemed insensitive and politically incorrect. They were sent to Texas to implement a national policy of subjugation and enslavement of the Native American population, which is exactly what they did. They implemented a national policy forcing Indians into reservations to live essentially as prisoners of war held by the U.S. government. 

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Tod Robberson, an editorial writer for the Dallas Morning News, wrote a column in January noting that the Confederate issue encompasses more than license plates. He spoke of the newly inaugurated governor.

"So, if Attorney General Abbott felt strongly enough about defending the state's right to keep offensive symbols off license plates, how does Gov. Greg Abbott feel about keeping Jan. 19 of each year as a state holiday, Confederate Heroes Day?," Robberson wrote.

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"It shouldn't matter whether it's a visible symbol on a license plate or the in-your-face knowledge — especially among African American taxpayers of the state — that Texans have to pay state employees for the day off to commemorate people who were enemies of the United States and who fought for the right to preserve slavery. It's offensive either way to a huge number of people.

"My guess is that the vast majority of Texans have no idea that Jan. 19 is a state holiday for this purpose. This year, irony of ironies, Confederate Heroes Day fell on the national holiday commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. (a holiday the Texas Legislature avoided acknowledging for years). . . ."

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In February, the Dallas Morning News editorialized, "A few thousand white Texans and 47 blacks fought for the Union, but there is no commemoration of them. Union loyalists died by the scores in massacres and mass executions carried out by Confederates both in uniform and under civil authority. Would these be among the Confederate heroes honored each year by the state's list of holidays?"

The editorial supported a proposal from state Rep. Donna Howard, D-Austin, that would create a Civil War Remembrance Day in May and remove the Confederate commemoration from the calendar in January.

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"No slice of Texas history should be erased from our collective memory. Lawmakers should not purge history; they should complete it. They can accomplish that, we believe, with malice toward none," the editorial concluded.

Dylan Baddour, Houston Chronicle: Confederate memorials go beyond license plates in Texas

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Froma Harrop, Creators Syndicate: License Plates Are Not Bumper Stickers (Jan. 14)

Editorial, Austin American-Statesman: Perry right to reject Confederate plate (Oct. 27, 2011)

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Editorial, Houston Chronicle: Don't put Confederate flag on Texas license plates (Sept. 8, 2011)

Editorial, San Antonio Express-News: Keep Confederate flag off Texas license plates (Dec. 8, 2014)

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Rodger Jones, Dallas Morning News: Let's replace Confederate Heroes Day (Feb. 12)

Steven J. Niven, The Root: Mary Bowser: A Brave Black Spy in the Confederate White House

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Jerry Patterson, Houston Chronicle: Confederate license plates honor history (July 17, 2014)

Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: The North wins again, every time

New NPR News Chief Calls Diversity "a Real Problem"

"The short answer to your question is I am determined that the answer will be yes," Oreskes, currently vice president and senior managing editor at the Associated Press, told Journal-isms Sunday by email.

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Will the appointment of Michael Oreskes as top news executive at NPR have any bearing on diversity there?

"I worked with Milton Coleman a few years ago on that commission report searching for answers to this challenge.

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"As I told the news leadership Thursday, we just have to do better. That applies both to npr and the whole news industry."

Before working at the AP, Oreskes was executive editor of the International Herald Tribune and deputy managing editor of the New York Times. In 2011, he worked with Coleman, then senior editor at the Washington Post and past president of the American Society of News Editors, on "Leadership in Diversity: New Models for Growing Audience, Talent and Revenue," a conference intended to kick-start interest in diversity in the news industry. He was an active member of the planning committee.

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NPR announced Oreskes' hiring as senior vice president of news and editorial director on Thursday; he begins in the position April 27. Oreskes will report directly to NPR President and CEO Jarl Mohn.

His wasn't the only appointment.

"Since last summer, former All Things Considered Executive Producer Christopher Turpin has served as NPR's chief news executive. NPR said Turpin has accepted a role as Oreskes' deputy in a new position, vice president for news," David Folkenflik reported for NPR.

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Oreskes expanded on his diversity views Thursday with Southern California Public Radio:

"This is a huge challenge, and it isn't just NPR's challenge," he said. "This is a challenge the entire news industry — newspapers, radio, television broadcasts — all of us are facing this problem. We simply have not been able to find the people of color that we ought to have to represent the communities that we cover. And that's a real problem, and it's been a problem for some time now, and I'm sad to say it's gotten worse.

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"The recession did a lot of damage to a lot of newsrooms and unfortunately we lost more people of color than we lost total numbers. I served a couple of years ago with Milton Coleman who was the deputy managing editor of the Washington Post on a commission that looked at this issue of diversity, and it was quite sobering and upsetting because we really are going in the wrong direction.

"So yes, NPR has a challenge, and so does the whole news industry. I think we have to look at this all together, and we have to look at some creative approaches because the old approaches simply aren't working."

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N.Y. Times Public Editor Rethinks Ferguson Critique

"In the heat of a very hot news moment last summer, I criticized a Times story about the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.," Margaret Sullivan, public editor of the New York Times, wrote Monday.

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"Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I want to acknowledge that I misjudged an important element of that story.

"In my post, I found fault with what I saw as 'dubious equivalency' and the vaguely described anonymous sourcing in an article that led the paper on Aug. 20.

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"Giving implicit credence to the named sources who described Michael Brown as having his hands up as he was fired on by Officer Darren Wilson, I criticized the use of unnamed sources who offered opposing information: They said that the officer had reason to fear Mr. Brown. I even went so far as to call those unnamed sources 'ghosts' because readers had so little ability to evaluate their identity and credibility.

"Now that the Justice Department has cleared Mr. Wilson in an 86-page report that included the testimony of more than 40 witnesses, it's obvious to me that it was important to get that side of the story into the paper. . . ."

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Meanwhile, the Washington Post announced a new beat for Wesley Lowery, who covered much of the Ferguson story for the Post and was detained by police there during the early protests in August.

"Wes Lowery is pioneering a new beat focused on a national issue of critical importance: the interactions between law enforcement officials and their communities," an announcement said.

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Jean Marie Brown, alldigitocracy.org: Why is scrutinizing citizens, but not officers, in police shootings now the norm? (March 10)

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, syndicated: If Ferguson Stays Ferguson, Blacks Have No One to Blame But Themselves

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Carolyn Kellogg, Los Angeles Times: Justice Department's Ferguson report to be published by New Press

Harry Siegel, Daily News, New York: Why Black Lives Matter activists aren't winning over whites

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The Nation Issues "Blockbuster" 150th Anniversary Edition

"The Nation, America's oldest weekly magazine, celebrates its 150th anniversary with a quintuple-length, blockbuster edition of the magazine featuring the best and brightest of its past and present — out today," the publication announced Monday. "Co-edited by Nation editor and publisher Katrina vanden Heuvel and long-time correspondent D.D. Guttenplan, the contents are a 'who’s who' of the greatest American writers, thinkers, politicos, personalities and activists of the past two centuries, and a gathering of the journalists and rabble-rousers committed to instigating progress today.

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The announcement also said, "Founded by abolitionists in 1865, The Nation has chronicled the breadth and depth of American political and cultural life from the debut of the telegraph to the rise of Twitter. This 268-page special issue . . . while an indelible print experience," is being offered "freely as a downloadable PDF for the first time ever. A select number of print copies are also available upon request.

"In a fascinating conversation that spans generations, contemporary writers offer their own reflections on some of the most engaging articles from the archives. New York City mayor Bill de Blasio takes on a radical remedy for homelessness from 1920; MSNBC host Touré engages with Langston Hughes's landmark commentary on black culture; historian Greg Grandin discusses William Appleman Williams and America-sans-empire; [Vivian] Gornick responds to Emma Goldman's exploration of statelessness; and Paula Giddings reflects on Howard Zinn and the civil-rights movement.

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". . . James Baldwin, Ralph Nader and Hunter S. Thompson — all of whom published their first pieces in The Nation — are featured, as are Martin Luther King, Jr., Albert Einstein, Henry James, Frederick Law Olmsted, Hannah Arendt, John Steinbeck, [I.F.] Stone, Jean-Paul Sartre, Stephen F. Cohen, Ray Bradbury, W.E.B. [Du Bois], Gore Vidal, Barbara Ehrenreich, Christopher Hitchens, Melissa Harris-Perry, John Leonard, Alexander Cockburn, Alice Walker, Edward Miliband, Tony Kushner, Molly Ivins, Jonathan Schell, Patricia J. Williams and Christopher Hayes, among others. . . ."

300 Attend Joint D.C. Journalism Job Fair

The second annual Journalism Job Fair in Washington Saturday drew 300 people, including 215 job seekers and 18 companies that came to recruit, according to organizer Brandon Benavides. The event was co-sponsored by the D.C. chapters of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Asian American Journalists Association, the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists.

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The event was hosted by Georgetown University's Master of Professional Studies in Journalism program and sponsored by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

NAHJ South Florida also held a job fair Saturday in Miami in conjunction with AAJA Florida, the South Florida Black Journalists Association and SPJ Florida. It drew 43 registered attendees and eight recruiters, according to Suzette Laboy, president of NAHJ South Florida.

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Harris Faulkner Might Be Busiest Presence on Fox News

"Bill O'Reilly or Megyn Kelly reach more viewers in a single hour than nearly anyone else on Fox News Channel, but are they as busy as Harris Faulkner?," Brian Steinberg asked Thursday for Variety.

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"Faulkner, 49, has quietly become an almost ubiquitous presence at the 21st Century Fox-owned network, hosting an hour of 'Fox Report Weekend' on Sunday evenings as well as serving as a co-anchor on 'Outnumbered,' the noontime program that has 'one lucky guy' spar with four female panelists Monday through Friday.

"Faulkner may not be what viewers typically expect on their TV screen. 'I challenge you to go and turn on the other cable networks to find a face like mine in primetime,' says the correspondent of female African-Americans hosting evening programs.

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"Yet her presence at the network is very deliberate. 'I chose Harris for these roles because she’s an excellent journalist with a distinct ability to handle breaking news on the 'Fox Report' and seamlessly transition to an issue-driven talk show like 'Outnumbered,' " said Roger Ailes, Fox News' chairman and chief executive, via email. 'Her dedication to the news product and dynamic presence have become a key part of the network.' . . ."

Unity to Meet on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation

"In a move signaling a major shift in the organization, UNITY: Journalists for Diversity announced Monday that the coalition will hold its first regional conference for an event planned on the homeland of the Oglala Sioux Tribe in South Dakota," the coalition of Asian American, Native American and lesbian and gay journalists announced Monday.

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"The regional event titled 'Empower Your Lakota Story' on May 2 will bring journalists around the country to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation for a gathering centered on media literacy, multimedia training, entrepreneurial journalism and a special town hall.

"The conference comes weeks after 57 children from American Horse School were racially harassed at a Rapid City minor league hockey game. Calls by the community and the tribe have been made to get the story out beyond the usual stereotypical pieces. . . ."

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Time to Tell Readers, Viewers to Get Tested

The Food and Drug Administration issued this media advisory Monday as part of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month:

"Among cancers that affect both men and women, colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer in the U.S. representing 8.2% of all new cancer cases.

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"Minorities have higher mortality rates and higher incidence rates of colorectal cancer than their white counterparts. Lack of information and knowledge of resources available is a major part of the problem, but if everyone aged 50 years or older had regular screening tests, at least 60% of deaths from colorectal cancer could be avoided. . . ."

Journalists were urged to contact the FDA Office of Media Affairs, <fdaoma@fda.hhs.gov>, for more information.

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Dwight Lewis retired as editorial page editor at the Tennessean in Nashville four years ago. He periodically warned readers to avoid his experience.

Lewis wrote in 2009:

"I want to use this space once again to warn some of you not to be like me when it comes to getting medical screenings, and in this particular case, screenings for cancer.

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" 'I tried to get you to come in to get your colon examined when you turned 50,' said Dr. Jeffrey Eskind, a gastroenterologist who practices at Nashville's Saint Thomas Hospital.

" 'You almost waited too late, and if you had waited just a little while longer, you would have been dead meat.'

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"Because I wasn't having any symptoms of colorectal cancer, Dr. Eskind said he was just going to look at my lower colon.

" 'Everything is beautiful,' I could hear him saying (I wasn't sedated). 'Since you're taking it OK, I am going to go ahead and look up top.'

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"Thank goodness he did, because he discovered a small tumor. His brother, Dr. Steven Eskind, removed it during surgery the next day.

"Further examination revealed that the cancer had not spread. I was released from Saint Thomas four days later and, luckily, did not have to have any chemotherapy or radiation treatments.

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"That was because the tumor was discovered in its early stages. As Dr. Eskind told me, if I had waited just a little while longer, I would have started having symptoms and 'would have been dead meat.'

"I am not the only one today who will tell you that early screenings for cancer can help prevent you from getting the disease or enable you to get treatments early enough so that cancer isn't a death sentence."

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Short Takes

"Gannett Co. Inc. paid its five top executives collectively more than $24 million last year, the company's annual proxy filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission shows," Kerry Feltner reported March 17 for Rochester (N.Y.) Business Journal.

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"Anchorage police served a search warrant on the Alaska Cannabis Club's downtown clubhouse on Friday afternoon, taking boxes of evidence from the residence as club owner Charlo Greene watched," Laurel Andrews reported Friday for Alaska Dispatch News. Andrews also wrote, "Police arrived about 1 p.m., Greene said. Greene, whose legal name is Charlene Egbe, is a former television news reporter who achieved national notoriety in September when she quit on-air after announcing she was the owner of the club. . . ."

Merlene Davis of the Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., might have been the first columnist of color to weigh in on Ted Cruz's declaration of his presidential candidacy on Monday. "I can't think of anything scarier than Cruz as our next president," Davis wrote of the Texas senator, a Republican. She added, "I've heard similar points made by candidates in Kentucky running for governor," noting later, "That last recession knocked a lot of breadwinners to their knees. Many of the companies they worked for no longer exist. Is anyone talking about training programs to get those workers reintroduced to jobs that would provide the living wages they lost? . . ."

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The San Francisco Chronicle "told a compelling, visually engaging story about gentrification without ever using the word," according to alldigitocracy.org. Marshall A. Latimore wrote Monday that "the massive project . . . boasts a 22-minute documentary, 13 vignettes, 13 accompanying photo galleries, long-form analysis stories, 24 additional multimedia vignettes, a number of 360-degree panoramic views as well as some breathtaking aerial videography of the neighborhood captured by drones." It "was birthed in a number of brainstorming sessions conducted in the Chronicle's new 'Incubator,' a tiny newsroom away from the newsroom — in fact, a whole building away — decorated with teal walls, cushy sofas, lots of sunlight and plenty of white boards to help generate — and record — ideas. . . ."

Danielle Belton, who came to the attention of many with her provocatively named blog "the Black Snob," has joined The Root as associate editor. She "will continue to do some of the outstanding writing that she's done for The Root over the past few years," Managing Editor Lyne Pitts told Journal-isms by email. "But she will also take on responsibility for editing some of our writers in the pop culture and feature areas." David Swerdlick, associate editor since November 2013, is joining the Washington Post's Outlook/PostEverything sections as assistant editor, the Post announced on March 9.

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"Ernestine Chasing Hawk will be the new editor of the Native Sun News effective April 1, according to a news release," the Rapid City (S.D.) Journal reported on Sunday. "The veteran journalist is now a staff writer at the Rapid City-based newspaper as well as a longtime employee of Native Sun News publisher Tim Giago, who said he is excited to announce her promotion. . . ."

"Wayne State University has announced its local Spirit of Diversity winners for 2015 — Free Press reporter Cassandra Spratling will be honored along with Alyssa Martina, president and publisher of Metro Parent Publishing Group, and Pulitzer Prize winner Angelo Henderson, who is being awarded posthumously," the Detroit Free Press reported on Saturday.

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"Elle Editor-in-Chief Robbie Myers and Hugo Boss Americas president and CEO Dr. Gerrit Rützel honored the 10 women chosen for the publication's fifth annual 'Women in Washington Power List' last night at the home of the German ambassador to the United States," Corinne Grinapol reported Thursday for FishbowlDC. " 'PBS [NewsHour]' co-anchor Gwen Ifill and 'The View' co-host Nicole Wallace represented the media personalities in a list that included Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg and DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, among others. . . ."

Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN) Africa, a division of Viacom Inc. . . . has partnered with MultiChoice to launch a new localized BET channel exclusively on DStv in South Africa, which will serve as the tenth channel and multimedia entertainment brand on the continent operated by VIMN Africa," Viacom International Networks announced from Johannesburg on March 10. BET, a Viacom property, has an international feed visible in 52 territories across Africa, having launched there in November 2008, a BET spokeswoman said by email on Monday. East African Business Week story.

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"South Africa is synonymous with crime in the eyes of many — as evidenced by the recent mugging of a TV crew live on camera — but for the press, a more sinister threat to freedom lies in the growing number of cases where it is the police, in flagrant denial of their orders, who intimidate and threaten journalists, forcing them to delete photographs of police on the job," Sue Valentine reported Friday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "The latest incident took place on a street outside the parliamentary precinct in Cape Town on March 11. . . ."

In Swaziland, Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer and journalist, has written a letter from jail in appreciation of the support that he and Bheki Makhubu, editor of the Nation magazine, have received from around the world. On March 18, 2014, the two were detained in jail on contempt of court charges after they wrote and published articles critical of the Swazi judiciary. In July 2014 they were both sentenced to two years jail, Swazi Media Commentary reported on Monday. The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights in the United States distributed Maseko's letter.

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