'The First Gay President' -- Not

Newsweek's May 21 cover (Newsweek)
Newsweek's May 21 cover (Newsweek)

Blacks Unlikely to Agree With Newsweek Cover

The new Newsweek cover shows the first black president wearing what is purported to be a gay halo. The legend reads, "The First Gay President." It obviously wasn't designed with most African Americans in mind.

"SIREN: President Barack Obama isn't actually gay," Dylan Byers wrote Monday in Politico.

"But now that Tina Brown, Newsweek editor and grand dame of Manhattan publishing, has adorned him with the rainbow-colored 'gaylo' and ordained him America's 'first gay president,' it hardly seems to matter.


" 'If President Clinton was the "first black president" then Obama earns every stripe in that "gaylo" with last week's gay marriage proclamation,' Brown told POLITICO today, via email. 'Newsweek’s cover pays tribute to his newly ordained place in history.' "

Would such a cover work with African American readers, whose reaction to the same-sex marriage issue is being dissected by pollsters and commentators? Attempts to gain comment Monday from African Americans familiar with the magazine business were only partially successful.

Crystal Howard, speaking for the venerable but cautious Johnson Publishing Co., publishers of Ebony and Jet, said, "We are going to pass on this."

Sheryl Hilliard Tucker, a consultant to Time Warner, where she spent years editing such titles as Money, Essence, Your Company and, before her Time Warner tenure, edited Black Enterprise, said only, "I find the title misleading."


It fell to George E. Curry, editor of the old Emerge magazine, a former president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, editorial director of Heart & Soul magazine and editor of the National Newspaper Publishers Association News service, to break it down:

"As you know, I have no problem with provocative covers and Newsweek's decision to label President Obama 'the first gay president' is provocative, if nothing else," Curry said by email. "There is a tricky balance one must maintain in order to be effective.


"Our Clarence Thomas covers, one with him sporting an Aunt Jemima knot and the second cover with him as a lawn jockey for the far right, were effective because in the minds of many Blacks disgusted with Thomas' voting record, that's exactly what he is. And we had the temerity to say it. The problem with the Newsweek cover is that it's a stretch to call someone gay, especially a happily married heterosexual male, simply because he supports same-sex marriage.

"That cover definitely wouldn't work with Black readers because they don't remotely view President Obama as gay."


The statement that the Newsweek's cover emulates, that Bill Clinton was "our first black president," was widely misinterpreted, according to its author, novelist Toni Morrison.

"People misunderstood that phrase," she told Time magazine in 2008. "I was deploring the way in which President Clinton was being treated, vis-à-vis the sex scandal that was surrounding him.


"I said he was being treated like a black on the street, already guilty, already a perp. I have no idea what his real instincts are, in terms of race," she told Time.

CBS Said to Have Real Story on Obama's Declaration

"Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts deserves credit for her interview with President Obama last week in which he declared that he personally supports same-sex marriage, but CBS News should be touted for the real scoop, according to David Zurawik, writing Friday for the Baltimore Sun.


"Look, this is to take nothing away from Roberts, who was professional and perfectly competent in the interview," Zurawik wrote. "Nor is to take anything away from ABC News, which would be crazy not to toot its metaphorical horn.

"But ABC News did little more than allow itself to be used by the White House, while CBS News served the public with an interview on the morning after Obama made history with his words. The interview was among the very best TV reporting on this story — really.


"The CBS 'This Morning' show interviewed Max Mutchnick, co-creator of 'Will & Grace.' [video] During that conversation, Mutchnick said he was at a 'private function' in Los Angeles two weeks before Vice President Joe Biden announced his support of same-sex marriage on 'Meet the Press.'

"The conventional wisdom all week among political analysts has been that Biden's off-the-cuff remarks last Sunday on 'Meet the Press' forced Obama into making a statement on the matter three days later with Roberts. . . .


"But what Mutchnick heard and saw two weeks earlier in Los Angeles, particularly with someone from the White House recording Biden's Hollywood encounter at the 'private function,' led him to believe the statements by Biden and Obama were 'very choreographed.' Mutchnick uses the perfectly apt show biz metaphor of an out of town tryout for what the administration did with Biden in Los Angeles where he said 'verbatim' what he later said on 'Meet the Press.'

"What Mutchnick says is important, because, at the very least, it makes you question Obama presenting his support for same-sex marriage as a moment of pure conscience. It also makes you question the White House account of Biden 'apologizing' to Obama for his 'Meet the Press' remarks. And what about the tape of the Los Angeles tryout? Was that used for focus groups . . . to see how the public — or, perhaps, fund raising audiences — might respond to the president supporting same-sex marriage? . . ."


Jahnabi Barooah, HuffPost LatinoVoices: African American And Latino Clergy On Obama's Gay Marriage Support

John Blake, CNN: Is the black church guilty of spiritual hypocrisy in same-sex marriage debate?


Ta-Nehisi Coates blog, the Atlantic: The Real Reason Black Voters Will Abandon Obama

Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com: Across country, black pastors weigh in on Obama's same-sex marriage support


Richard Gonzales, NPR: Obama's Gay Marriage Stand May Not Sway Latinos

Huffington Post: Don Lemon Compares Mitt Romney Marriage Comments To George Wallace Segregation Comments (VIDEO)


Viviana Hurtado, Latina: Election 2012: Same-Sex Marriage Now, Immigration Policy Later?

Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Tolerance lacking for gay rights

Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Equality is bigger than the president

Dana Milbank, Washington Post: Barack Obama, the first female president

Nisa Muhammad blog, Third World Press: The Fury and the Facts: Why Marriage?

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Obama's gay marriage gamble

Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Serendipity in Obama's timing on gay marriage

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: In Obama's stance on gay marriage, a return to hope


Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post: Not so subtle Obama-rooting in the media

Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: A big step in the struggle for equal marriage rights


Eric L. Wattree, Black Star News: Dr. Boyce Watkins' Preposterous Position On Gay Marriage

DeWayne Wickham blog: Gay Republican group attacks Obama, dithers over Romney

Clipping Captures Romney Protesting the Protesters

If newspapers are the first rough draft of history, then the old Palo Alto (Calif.) Times captured it in the mid-1960s as the Vietnam War raged and many campuses were in turmoil. Times staffer Gene Tupper photographed a young Mitt Romney protesting the protesters while at Stanford University. The clipping showed up on a website from Patton Oswalt, who describes himself as a standup comedian.


Boston Globe journalists Michael Kranish and Scott Helman describe the scene in their recently published "The Real Romney." They are discussing draft deferments and David Harris, the antiwar leader who became president of the Stanford student body.

"Across the campus, fear spread that the coveted deferment might be undermined. The issue came to a head when it was announced that 850 students would have to take a Selective Service test that could affect their status. The mere presence of the Selective Service on campus prompted a new uproar. Harris and several hundred other students held a protest on White Plaza and then walked to the office of the university president, Wallace Sterling. Two dozen students (Harris not among them) occupied the office overnight, in what became the first sit-in at Stanford.


"Mitt was incensed. Skipping his study discussion group for Western Civilization class, which was focusing that spring on the works of Lenin and Marx, Romney put on a blazer and attached a large sign to a pole: SPEAK OUT, DON'T SIT IN. Gene Tupper, a photographer who then worked for the Palo Alto Times, snapped an indelible image that showed Romney in his white shirt and dark jacket, thick hair sweeping over his forehead, appearing to lecture a protester as he brandished the sign.

"The picture ran the next day in the newspaper with a caption that read, 'Governor's son pickets the pickets. Mitt Romney, son of Michigan Gov. George Romney, was one of the pickets who supported the Stanford University administration today in opposition to sit-in demonstrators.' Mitt was at the forefront of a group of about 350 antiprotesters, who shouted at the antiwar group, 'Down with mob rule!' 'Out! Out!' and 'Reason, not coercion!' When a university official announced that students participating in the sit-in would be disciplined, Mitt shouted, 'Come out of the office and let school continue!. . .' "


Charles M. Blow, New York Times: Mean Boys

Bill Fletcher Jr., Washington Informer: Mitt Romney Leads 'Circle of Clowns'

Michael Kinsley, Los Angeles Times: Mitt Romney, the early years

Askia Muhammad, Washington Informer: 'Miss Ann' Romney is More of the Same

On Diversity, Does "Fresh Air" Need Some Fresh Air?

Friday marked the 25th anniversary of the day the popular interview show "Fresh Air" became a daily national NPR program. Before that, the show was broadcast only on its originating station, WHYY in Philadelphia. To celebrate, the staff posed for this portrait , surrounded by WHYY employees.


WHYY spokesman Brian Rossiter did not respond to an inquiry Monday about whether the photo represented the diversity of the WHYY staff, but the station broadcasts in a city that is 36.9 percent non-Hispanic white, 43.4 percent black, 12.3 percent Hispanic, 6.3 percent Asian and 0.5 percent American Indian and Alaska Native, according to the 2010 Census. Hispanics can be of any race.

At a recent dinner with journalists in Washington, NPR President Gary Knell and Keith Woods, vice president, diversity in news and operations, said many listeners' impressions of diversity at NPR comes from what they see and hear on the local affiliates. "We're a national news organization," said Woods. "We both believe it's NPR's responsibility to lead on this matter. But we know it's imperative that stations get in the game, since they are the key link to the audience."


Reporters From the East Miss Pine Ridge Indian Story

"The 'beer sniffing' reporters from across the country, particularly those of The New York Times, descended upon the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota," Tim Giago wrote Sunday for the Huffington Post.


"First came Diane Sawyer from ABC Television immediately followed by a Tim Williams and Nicholas [Kristof] from The New York Times and Arthur Sulzberger, The New York Times' Bureau Chief for Kansas City, and then Tony Newman, listed as Director of Media Relations for the Drug Policy Alliance.

". . . When Tim Williams of The New York Times called me prior to his sojourn to Pine Ridge he asked if we could meet. . . . The first thing I cautioned him about in our initial phone conversation was not to make the beer selling stores in Whiteclay, Neb., the focus of his visit. Needless to say, that is exactly what he did.


"Like Ms. Sawyer, he made his visit to Whiteclay the centerpiece of his story. When Ms. Sawyer asked the Pine Ridge police chief, Rich Greenwald, about crime on the reservation, he replied that 80 percent of the people his officers arrested for traffic violations or other crimes were alcohol related. How did Ms. Sawyer report this comment? She said that 80 percent of the people living on the Pine Ridge Reservation were alcoholics. Say what? Didn't she hear what he really said or was she seeking some sort of sensationalism at the expense of the Lakota people of Pine Ridge?

"Newman built his column on the fact that 'Nicholas Kristof painted a heartbreaking picture' of the Pine Ridge Reservation. Yes he did, but he made Pine Ridge and Whiteclay synonymous with alcoholism. One is a community whose sole existence is selling beer and cheap wine to the residents of Pine Ridge and the other is a community with active programs struggling financially to combat alcoholism, a community with an extension of Oglala Lakota College in each district, a Boys and Girls Club actively working against crime, alcoholism and the deprivations of poverty, and also a community with four high schools such as Little Wound, Crazy Horse, Pine Ridge High School, and Red Cloud High School, that are working long and hard to stop the very problems caused by alcohol and poverty that the savvy reporters from New York failed to seek out.


". . . As I write this there is a reporter from The Huffington Post sniffing around Pine Ridge for a story on poverty. I hope and pray that his nose doesn't catch the whiff of beer and lead him across the border to Whiteclay. There are too many good stories on Pine Ridge that cannot be ignored."

Pia Gadkari, BBC News: Are beer firms to blame for Native American drink woe? (April 27)


Jose Leonardo Santos, Minnesota Public Radio: U.N. inquiry into U.S. treatment of Indians is overdue

Blacks, Latinas to Time Magazine: We Breastfeed, Too

"For many women, including myself, breastfeeding your child past a year-old is not an option, Maria Eugenia Alcón wrote for NBC Latino. "So when I saw the TIME cover with the title 'Are You Mom Enough?' featuring a 26-year-old stay at home mom still breastfeeding her 3-year-old, I was livid. For one, no one breastfeeds standing up. Second, TIME chose a young attractive mom for a reason, they knew sexualizing breastfeeding would give them more traction. Third, since I didn't see any Latinas interviewed by TIME on this issue, I thought I would offer my opinion."


Ebony weighed Friday in with a piece by author Eisa Nefertari Ulen. "I breastfed my amazing son until he was 2½" she wrote.

"African American women are the least likely to breastfeed of all women across ethnic lines in this country, which is too bad, since breastfeeding is the perfect nutrition for your child, guards against cancers in both mother and child, improves cognitive brain function and leads to higher test scores years after the breastfeeding has taken place."


Jeneba Ghatt, Politic365.com: Hey, Time Magazine: I Am a Black Attachment Parent

Suspect Appears on TV; Irked Cops End Collaboration

"For the past five years, news anchors at Baltimore's Fox affiliate have partnered with city police to hunt down fugitives," Peter Hermann wrote Friday for the Baltimore Sun. "The segments, aired on the last Friday of every month, were more telethon than ride-along, with mug shots, a brief description of crimes and officers shown at desks fielding calls from the public.


"But police pulled out of the collaboration — which helped take more than three dozen wanted suspects off the streets since 2007 — after a man sought in a high-profile assault walked into the studio at WBFF-TV (Channel 45), apologized on camera [video] and left without authorities being notified.

"Station managers are trying to revive the segment called 'Fugitive Files,' but so far their queries to the Police Department have gone unanswered. The last word from police — upset that they missed a chance to arrest the suspect — was an April 14 email that said 'this case raises significant ethical concerns and trust issues.'


"The dispute highlights the sometimes tricky symbiotic relationship between the media and government, where alliances can raise ethical concerns on both sides. . . . "

Accepting Cash From Sources at Issue in Mexico, Africa

"How much does a journalist in Mexico cost?" Tania Lara asked Friday for the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas. "According to an article in the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the answer could be hundreds of thousands of dollars if it's for Joaquín López Dóriga, news host for Televisa, the main Mexican broadcaster.


"The Reforma article, published Friday, May 11, made public receipts showing that current presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto paid roughly $2.4 million for journalistic 'mentions' during his tenure as governor of the state of Mexico from 2005 to 2011, reported Proceso. Of this amount, journalist Joaquín López Dóriga received about $680,000 between January 2006 and July 2007. The payments do not include ad space purchased on Televisa, said Reforma." 

Meanwhile, Joseph Warungu, a Knight International Journalism Fellow from sub-Saharan Africa, wrote May 7 for the International Center for Journalists, "I've been in Tunis attending the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day Conference and the theme this year was, 'New Voices: Media Freedom Helping to Transform Societies.' However, I was attracted by one of the sessions that echoed old voices highlighting an embarrassing problem that imprisons good journalism: the brown envelope.


"The practice of journalists accepting money from news sources, especially politicians, in order to 'facilitate' their stories has become rather common in African media. Some of the journalists defend the habit, saying that media owners subject them to poverty wages and exploitative working conditions, leaving them little choice but to rely on politicians' and other corporate handouts for their daily survival."

Short Takes

"There is a saying that some of the greatest stories go untold. Reporter Matthew LaPlante and photographer Rick Egan made sure that the plight of the killing of 'cursed' children in Ethiopia wasn't one of them," Chelsea Boone wrote for the American Journalism Review. "Their work on the harrowing practice ran in Christianity Today, a monthly magazine, in August 2011 and on CNN.com three months later. On Thursday, May 17, they will receive the 2012 Ancil Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism. . . ." LaPlante, who had planned to leave the Salt Lake Tribune to teach at Utah State University, where he is currently an assistant professor of journalism, quit his job early. He cashed in his unused vacation pay to help finance the project. Egan took vacation time from the Tribune to make the journey to Africa.


In Cleveland, "A former reporter at WEWS NewsChannel5 has died after battling cancer. He was 42," Mike Waterhouse reported Monday for WEWS-TV. Brian McIntyre of Cleveland Heights passed away at the Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland Sunday night. He most recently served as community relations specialist for the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. Prior to his job at CMSD, he worked as a reporter at the Ohio News Network, WNWO-TV and WEWS NewsChannel5."

"Larry Kramer, founder of MarketWatch and 40-year media industry veteran, is USA TODAY's new publisher," John Waggoner reported Monday for USA Today. ". . . Kramer, 62, replaces Dave Hunke, who stepped down in April and will serve as chairman of USA TODAY until he retires in the fall."


NBC Bay Area reporter Jodi Hernandez and her photographer, Rich Goudeau, "had their video camera and tripod stolen in a brazen daylight theft as they were doing a story on San Pablo Avenue on Monday afternoon, but their story still led the 5 p.m. broadcast," Kristin J. Bender reported Monday for the Oakland Tribune.

"Donna Myrow, the founder and executive director of the nonprofit that publishes LA Youth, emails: 'We've received $187,000 from individual donors. Fundraising continues and the presses roll next week [on] the May-June issue,' Kevin Roderick reported Friday for LAObserved. "She had previously said the paper faced closure, prompting items here and mainstream media coverage."


Clarence Aaron, 24, was sentenced to three life terms for his role in a cocaine deal, even though it was his first criminal offense and he was not the buyer, seller or supplier of the drugs, Dafna Linzer reported Sunday for ProPublica. Aaron's case for early release was championed by lawmakers, civil rights activists and the media. Ultimately, the prosecutor's office and the sentencing judge supported an immediate commutation for Aaron. But the George W. Bush administration never knew the full extent of their views and Aaron's application was denied, illuminating "the extraordinary, secretive powers wielded by the Office of the Pardon Attorney, the branch of the Justice Department that reviews commutation requests," Linzer wrote. In December, ProPublica and the Washington Post published stories showing that, from 2001 to 2008, white applicants were nearly four times as likely to receive presidential pardons as people of color. Aaron is black.

Al Jazeera reporter Melissa Chan returned to Southern California last week as the first accredited foreign correspondent to be expelled from China in 14 years, Rosanna Xia reported Monday for the Los Angeles Times. ". . . Chan, 31, says she's not exactly sure what prompted her expulsion after five years of reporting in China. In March, she wrote about a distraught mother seeking a daughter who had been forcibly sterilized and put in an illegal 'black jail' for violating China's one-child policy." Her story "was probably the first" to get coverage on TV."


"NBC's Natalie Morales has signed on to moderate an election-year town hall addressing issues specific to U.S. Latinos," Chris Ariens reported Sunday for TVNewser. "The special, tentatively titled 'We Decide: 2012,' will air in August on nuvoTV, the first English-language cable network geared toward U.S. Latinos. Topics include unemployment, healthcare, education and immigration."

"Students from the Journalism and Mass Communications Department at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) partnered with New American Media's youth-led Voicewaves this semester to cover issues in some of the city's most diverse and economically disadvantaged communities," Brian Addison reported Monday for the Long Beach (Calif.) Post.


Howard Kurtz, host of CNN's "Reliable Sources," sided Sunday with conservative writer Tim Carney, whose microphone was cut off by MSNBC host Tamron Hall Friday after Carney accused Hall of trying "a typical media trick' with her questions. "I'm sorry, it was Tamron Hall who was being insulting by silencing him," Kurtz said. "Carney was perfectly entitled to say that, in his opinion, the story was being hyped. Does Hall only want guests who agree with her handling of every story?"

"Twenty-three students and young journalists from diverse backgrounds have been named Chips Quinn Scholars for summer 2012 by the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute and participating news organizations," the institute announced. "The Chips Quinn Scholar orientation and training will take place May 14 to 22 at the Freedom Forum's John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tenn."


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

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