Veteran Chicago Reporter Helps Free Wrongfully Convicted Man

Tyrone Hood
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"Even After I Retired, This Case Still Bothered Me"

"After 20 years I was finally able to get a wrongfully convicted man named Tyrone Hood out of prison," Renee Ferguson, who retired as an investigative reporter for Chicago's NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in 2008, messaged Journal-isms on Friday.

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"I figured out that he was innocent during my work as an investigative reporter for NBC5 in Chicago back in 1995 and I never gave up on the case. I stumbled upon the fact that Hood was charged with a crime that I figured out another man, a serial killer I was investigating, had done. Because Hood was wrongfully convicted, the real killer remained free to kill two other people before he was locked up. I did a bunch of stories but it didn't change a thing for Hood.

"Even after I retired the case still bothered me. Finally Nick Schmidle from the New Yorker Magazine wrote a story that gave the case national attention. NBC Discovery is doing an hour long documentary in March.

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"I worked with Nick and Discovery in order to help Tyrone. Frank Whittaker of NBC5 Chicago stood behind me and my [reporting] on this for decades," continued Ferguson, a former board member of Investigative Reporters and Editors.

"Finally, two weeks ago I sent a text to outgoing governor Patrick Quinn asking him to pardon Hood. He commuted his sentence the next day. Hood's attorneys had filed papers asking for commutation but so had hundreds of others.

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"When I was a rookie reporter in Chicago, Quinn was a rookie civil rights attorney. We knew each other and I was sure that if Quinn knew the facts he would act as a matter of conscience. He did.

"When I think of where we've come in terms of race relations in this country, I know we have a long way to go. But I also know that on a Saturday two weeks ago, an African American reporter and a Caucasian American governor joined forces to right one terrible wrong.

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"Hood, who is innocent, said he always knew he would be released from prison. I wasn't so sure. As a journalist I was trained to be completely objective and always fair. But this case called for advocacy and I'm proud that I was in a position to make that call. The New Yorker and NBC Discovery and the Chicago Tribune all did stories on Hood after I retired. I appreciate their hard work. . . ."

Chicagoland Radio and Media wrote on Wednesday, "Former WMAQ-TV/NBC 5 investigative reporter Renee Ferguson is due a hearty round of applause."

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Stacy St. Clair and Steve Mills reported Jan. 12 for the Chicago Tribune, "Hood, 51, was serving a 50-year sentence for the 1993 shooting death of Marshall Morgan Jr., an Illinois Institute of Technology basketball standout. Hood has long maintained his innocence and said police should have looked at the young man’s father more carfully.

"The Tribune has reported extensively on the case and the links to Morgan's father (accessible via search engine). Marshall Morgan Sr. was convicted of manslaughter in the 1977 shooting death of a friend who owed him money. He was questioned in the death of his son in large part because, in the months before his son was slain, he was struggling financially and took out a life insurance policy on his son. He was a suspect two years later in the murder of his fiancee, whose life he also insured.

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"Authorities never charged him in the deaths of his son or fiancee. But he was charged and convicted in the 2001 shooting death of his girlfriend and is serving a 75-year sentence. After inquiries from the Tribune in 2012, Cook County prosecutors announced that Hood's case would be among the first re-examined by the office's new Conviction Integrity Unit. And though the unit has set aside other convictions, it has not done so with Hood, who was not set to be paroled until 2030.

" 'It's a huge victory from the sense that Tyrone will have his freedom back,' said Gayle Horn, Hood’s lead attorney. 'But we still want to clear his name because he is innocent.' . . ."

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Patrick M. O'Connell added for the Tribune two days later, "Quinn commuted Hood's sentence but did not issue him a pardon, so Hood has been placed on parole for three years. (accessible via search engine). Processing paperwork delayed Hood's release until Wednesday.

"As part of his parole, Hood will be fitted with an electronic monitoring ankle bracelet, and he must regularly visit and speak by phone with a parole officer. He also will be subject to random drug testing, according to Tom Shaer, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Corrections. . . ."

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O'Connell began his story describing Hood's release:

" 'I feel like I can breathe,' he said. 'Being in that prison, it felt like the life was being choked out of me day by day. … It's undescribable words. But it is incredible.'

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"In his first few minutes outside, Hood said he relished walking wherever he wanted.

" 'This freedom reminds me of reality,' he said. '… I don't have to eat the stuff they tell me to eat, I don't have to wake up when they tell me or get in the cell when they tell me to. I don't have to sleep on a 2-inch mattress. That's good.' . . ."

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Exoneration Project: Tyrone Hood

kaielz, Chicago Defender: Quinn Made 126 BOLD pardons, including 1 of Dixmoor Five

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NPR: Released From Prison After 22 Years, But Still 'Locked Up' (Jan. 16)

Nicholas Schmidle, the New Yorker: Crime Fiction: Did the Chicago police coerce witnesses into pinpointing the wrong man for murder? (Aug. 4)

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Johnson to Sell Historic Photo Archive; Jet App Shelved

"A picture is worth a thousand words. You know that," Robert Channick reported Friday for the Chicago Tribune.

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"Measured in dollars, Johnson Publishing is hoping 5 million of them will fetch closer to $40 million.

"Looking to raise cash, the Chicago-based publisher of Ebony magazine has put its entire photo archive up for sale. The historic collection spans 70 years of African-American history, chronicling everyone from Martin Luther King Jr. to Sammy Davis Jr.

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"Johnson Publishing has had its collection appraised and recently hired a consultant to shop its wealth of iconic images, including a 1969 Pulitzer Prize winning photo of King's widow and child, taken at his funeral.

" 'It's just sitting here,' said Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers. 'We really need to monetize that in order to ensure growth in our core businesses.'. . ."

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Channick recalled that last year, "Johnson Publishing announced plans to replace the print version of Jet with a new digital app. The digest-size weekly had been a staple among African-American readers for 63 years but a source of red ink for its publisher in the digital era.

"Jet had a circulation of 720,000 and an annual subscription rate of $19.99 when it published its final print edition in June. The digital app rolled out in July, with promises of fresh content on a weekly basis, video interviews, 3-D charts and archival photos.

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"By October, it was essentially shelved, despite an unknown number of users who 'mistakenly,' as Rogers describes it, paid $19.99 for an app that was promoted as free on an introductory basis.

"As of last week, Apple's App Store still offered a 30-day free trial with any subscription deal and featured dozens of negative reviews from paid Jet Digital subscribers. Rogers said Jet notified Apple in October that they had decided to offer the app for free, but a complaint dated as recently as Jan. 5 carried the headline 'Waste' and said, 'I'm constantly billed … but I can't access the magazine.'

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"Rogers said Apple informed the company Thursday that they had processed all of the Jet Digital refunds, but would not disclose how many subscribers had paid for the app.

" 'The process to get here has been a little choppy,' Rogers said.

[Rogers told Journal-isms Saturday by email, "The JET APP is being reformatted to make it simpler for readers. More soon. We have taken our readers comments and used them for the remix."]

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"Also looming is a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Johnson Publishing and a freelance writer filed in August by a Georgia FBI agent and his wife, claiming a series of articles that ran in Ebony magazine falsely implicated their sons in the death of a high school classmate.

"That case is working its way through the U.S. District Court in Georgia. . . ."

In 2012, Johnson Publishing made part of its photo archive available for public purchase for the first time.

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Jon Stewart Asks, Where's Huge Rally for Nigerian Victims?

"Tonight Jon Stewart and Daily Show correspondent Trevor Noah reminded everyone that Boko Haram still, unfortunately, exists, and should maybe get at least a fraction of the global reaction the Paris terrorists who attacked Charlie Hebdo got," Josh Feldman reported Thursday for Mediaite.

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"Noah said unlike Paris, zero heads of state showed up in Nigeria to show their support. He added, 'At least you could have sent us James Taylor!' "

"He and Stewart tried to explain how evil Boko Haram is by comparing it to America's current enemy, ISIS. Noah called Boko Haram 'black ISIS' and said the Nigerian victims should at least be included in the world's marches.

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"Stewart's excuse for the West: 'But we’re so busy.' "

Tracie Powell reported Sunday for alldigitocracy.org, "Government efforts to co-opt journalists in Nigeria has been an ongoing problem for decades, but in light of a looming election in February and recent deadly attacks on villages in the Northern half of the country, communication from President Goodluck Jonathan's administration is practically non-existent, said the editor of Nigeria’s leading investigative newspaper on Sunday.

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" 'Communication from the Nigerian government has been so flawed, that rumor has become the staple in reporting on this crisis,' said Dapo Olorunyomi, managing editor of The Premium Times of Nigeria. 'The government didn't even bother to say anything about this until it had become a major national scandal.'

"Over the past week, there have been sparse reports of 2,000 people massacred in Nigeria: 'Hundreds of bodies, too many to count,' reads one story in the January 10th edition of The Guardian. Nigerian government officials deny this, saying only 150 people have been killed in the attacks. 'In the end, what does it matter? Whether it's 2,000 or 150, one is too many,' said Olorunyomi, who is also founder of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Reporting. . . ."

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Julianne Malveaux, National Newspaper Publishers Association: World is Indifferent to Missing Nigerian Girls

Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Nigeria lives matter, so should Nigeria news (Jan. 16)

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Univision's Ramos Turns His Focus to the Republicans

"Jorge Ramos, the Univision and Fusion television anchor who is often called the Walter Cronkite of Latino America, was in his suburban Miami broadcast studio when he all but pounced on the chairman of the Republican Party, Reince Priebus, who was appearing from Washington," Jackie Calmes reported Friday for the New York Times from Doral, Fla.

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" 'The Republicans' immigration policy is 'deportations, deportations, deportations,' Mr. Ramos said. 'Why?'

"Mr. Priebus, who stared out from multiple screens in a control room here looking as if he would rather have been doing anything but talking to Mr. Ramos, insisted it was not so. But Mr. Ramos would not have it.

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" 'The message,' he retorted, 'is anti-immigrant.'

"For years, Mr. Ramos largely aimed his ire at President Obama for breaking his 2008 campaign promise — made directly to Mr. Ramos — that he would propose an overhaul of the nation's immigration system in his first year in office, and for deporting two million people since. Even after Mr. Obama announced late last year that nearly half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants could apply to work without fear of deportation, Mr. Ramos confronted him during a Nashville forum for having 'destroyed many families' by not acting sooner.

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"But Mr. Ramos's focus has changed, he said in an interview here: 'Now is the turn of Republicans.'

"This weekend, the Spanish-language Univision and Fusion, its English-language venture with ABC News, will cover the first gathering of 2016 Republican presidential aspirants, at a conservative forum in Des Moines on Saturday organized by Representative Steve King of Iowa. . . ."

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. . . Columnist Says GOP Was Right to Shun Univision

"Republicans seem to have finally figured out the Spanish translation for 'Democrats' Communications Department.' It's pronounced: 'Univision,' " Ruben Navarrette Jr. wrote Friday for the Washington Post Writers Group.

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"The Republican National Committee recently announced the television networks that will broadcast and moderate a series of debates between GOP candidates in the 2016 election. The nation's largest Spanish-language network was left off the list.

"Some people were shocked, others we#mce_temp_url#re outraged.

"I was neither. MSNBC, which is unabashedly liberal, also didn't make the cut.

"There could be more than a dozen Republicans onstage debating each other. Should they really have to debate the moderator as well?

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"Besides, while it has made a fortune broadcasting stereotypical telenovelas and misogynistic variety shows, Univision isn't a real news network. And many of the folks who work there don't practice real journalism. It's best described as advocacy TV, and it advocates one cause above all others: immigration reform. Republicans are cast as villains. . . ."

In a statement to the Huffington Post last week, "Univision spokesman Jose Zamora didn't specifically address the Republican Party's decision, but spoke broadly of the need for both parties to engage the network's large audience," Michael Calderone reported then.

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" 'There is a very simple political reality — Hispanics will decide the 2016 presidential election,' Zamora said. 'No one can match Univision's reach and ability to inform, provide access and empower Hispanic America. Anyone who wants to reach and engage Hispanics will have to do it through Univision.

"The Hispanic community deserves to hear the policies and views of all political parties and Univision is committed to providing access to all points of view. We have an open invitation to all political parties to address our community on issues of importance and relevance. Candidates should not miss the opportunity to inform and engage with the fastest growing segment of the electorate.' "

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Danielle Belton, NBCBLK: About Last Night: Live-Tweeting The State of The Union

Ruben Navarrette Jr., Daily Beast: Is Ted Cruz 'Post-Hispanic'?

Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: What is the GOP thinking?

No More "VP/Broadcast," "VP/Print" for AAJA

"It has been an exciting and productive year for the Asian American Journalists Association's governance restructure plan. On December 6, 2014, the AAJA governing board adopted bylaw changes to reflect the restructure plan approved in August," AAJA President Paul Cheung told members Friday on the organization's website.

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"Restructuring AAJA's governing board is transformative, but necessary. The new structure allows AAJA to carry out its mission while adapting to the changes in the journalism industry. Two important changes were made in order to accomplish this:

"vocations were removed from vice president titles

"a process for affinity groups has been created.  . . ."

The National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists have opted for digital officers in addition to vice presidents for print and broadcast. NABJ voted last summer to create the new position of vice president-digital. NAHJ has a vice president for online. The Native American Journalists Association has an officer called simply "vice president."

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Taliban Threatens Journalists Who Don't Toe Its Line

The International Federation of Journalists and the Pakistan Federal Union of Journalists said Thursday they "strongly condemn threats made to a Peshawar-based journalist and media rights activist by the Taliban."

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Both groups "call on the Pakistan Government to take immediate steps to ensure the safety of this journalist and the entire media profession in Pakistan.

"Recently, the Taliban's central spokesperson Ihasan Ullah Ihsan issued death threats to Zia ul Haq, the Peshawar-based assistant general secretary of the PFUJ and news bureau chief of ARY News. Ihsan, using an international mobile number . . . called Haq's personal mobile and warned him of severe consequences if ARY News continues to not propagate the Taliban’s views and the PFUJ continues its opposition of the Taliban.

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"The IFJ and the PFUJ is seriously concerned about the safety of Haq and urge the Government of Pakistan, and the Interior Ministry, to [provide] security to Haq. . . .

"In a letter to the Interior Minister, Mr Chaudhry Khan, the IFJ Asia Pacific said: 'We also want to notify to you and the Government of Pakistan that Pakistani journalists have been continuously receiving death threats from the Taliban and living under the continuous danger of being attacked or killed for performing their duties as journalists.' . . ."

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David Bauder, Associated Press: CNN's Cooper says he was mistaken on Muslim zones

International Federation of Journalists: IFJ calls for release of Japanese journalist in Syria

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Justin McCurry, the Guardian, Britain: Mother of Japanese Isis hostage Kenji Goto makes tearful appeal

Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Facts don't support no-go zone fears

Mari Saito, Reuters: Islamic State deadline on Japanese captives passes with no word on fate

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Thomas Sowell, westernjournalism.com: Europe Is Paying The Price For 'Diversity,' And America Will Soon Follow

J.K. Trotter, Gawker: The NYPD Is Patrolling Gawker Because of the Charlie Hebdo Attack

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Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press: Students at MSU write short guide to Muslims

Jim Moss, 72, Realized Dream of Becoming Publisher

"Jim Moss, who as publisher of the Times Herald-Record from 1996 to 2006 devoted much of his life to bettering the community the newspaper served, died Tuesday," Steve Israel reported Friday for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y.

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"Moss, one of the only black publishers of a major American newspaper, was 72. The cause of his death was throat cancer.

"Moss, who lived in a Town of Newburgh home overlooking the Hudson River, led the Record during a time of transition from print to digital. Yet, even as the industry changed, he remained committed to community journalism, twice hiring the ultimate community journalist, the late Mike Levine, as executive editor. Moss spent a lot of money to cover that community – even sending reporters and photographers to faraway places such as India and Mexico to cover stories with local connections. . . ."

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Israel also wrote, "Early in Jim's career, he was inspired by his relationship with Donald Graham, who was, at that time, the publisher of The Washington Post. I remember Jim saying to me that his dream was to be a newspaper publisher. He set out to make that dream a reality, and achieved it as one of the first African-American publishers of a daily newspaper in the country. Newspapers were Jim's passion, his life and his legacy."

Sheldon Scruggs wrote for the Times Herald-Record in 2007, "Moss was born and raised in Norfolk, Va. He graduated from American University in 1967 with degrees in government and public administration. After teaching for two years, he joined the Washington Post Company in 1969 and worked in sales. He stayed there for 11 years.

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"In 1980-81, Moss was the director of advertising for Black Enterprise magazine in New York City. Then he worked for the Knight-Ridder Newspaper organization. Within two years, he became the president and publisher [of] the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa.

"When Moss became the publisher of the Record, he was one of a handful of black publishers of major newspapers in the country. . . ."

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Wonder to Produce Series on Underground Railroad Love

Adapting former Detroit News columnist Betty DeRamus' 2005 book "Forbidden Fruit: Love Stories From the Underground Railroad," NBC announced that it is producing "Freedom Run," an eight-hour miniseries about love stories on the Underground Railroad, Esther Zuckerman reported Friday for Entertainment Weekly.

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Stevie Wonder is executive producer. DeRamus' book is also being developed as a stage musical, with Wonder composing the score, Zuckerman wrote.

DeRamus left the Detroit News temporarily to write "Forbidden Fruit," published by Atria Books, a division of Simon & Schuster. She took a buyout in 2006 after 17 years at The News.

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"The book is mostly about enslaved and free black people who went to extraordinary lengths to stay together, fighting bloodhounds, bounty hunters, wolves, mobs and traitors," DeRamus said in the press material. "I'm talking about people like John Little, who carried his wife to freedom, and Joseph Antoine, a free black man who became a slave to stay with his wife, and James Smith, who searched for his enslaved family for 17 years. Many African Americans don't want to confront this part of American history. It's too drenched in pain.

"I wanted to write a book about slavery that would stress triumph as well as tragedy, achievement as well as suffering and love in a time of hate. I wanted young African Americans, in particular, to understand that our slave ancestors did far more than transform scraps of tossed-away food into delicacies and turn field hollers and chants into powerful music."

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"Forbidden Fruit" was named one of Black Issues Book Review's "best history books" of 2005. She followed up in 2009 with "Freedom by Any Means: Con Games, Voodoo Schemes, True Love and Lawsuits on the Underground Railroad."

Short Takes

"The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced a new initiative designed to enhance diversity across the entertainment industry," the school announced Thursday. "The project, which will rate and reward media companies based on how inclusive they are, comes in the aftermath of this year's Academy Award nominations, which have been criticized for a lack of diversity. . . . The USC Annenberg Comprehensive Analysis and Report on Diversity (CARD) will serve as Hollywood's diversity 'report card,' charting how the major entertainment players fare when it comes to hiring, casting and content. . . ."

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"The remaining six staff photographers at Sports Illustrated magazine were all laid off yesterday," Donald R. Winslow reported Friday for News Photographer magazine. "Staff photographers Robert Beck, Simon Bruty, Bill Frakes, David E. Klutho, John W. McDonough, and Al Tielemans were informed of the decision around noon Eastern time on Thursday. . . ."

Maria Newman, a senior editor in the New York Times food section who took a buyout last month, has been named Columbia Journalism School's new director of alumni relations, Ernest R. Sotomayor, dean of student affairs, announced Friday. "She is a 1980 graduate of the J-School who spent the last 23 years at New [York] Times. She worked at six other newspapers before joining the Times as a reporter whose coverage spanned many beats, including the Bronx, schools, public housing, New Jersey and politics. She was also a key NAHJ member for many years, working to boost multiculturalism in our business," Sotomayor wrote on Facebook, referring to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

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In Washington, "Longtime television news anchor J.C. Hayward is retiring from WUSA Channel 9 after four decades on air, following a hiatus that began in late 2013, when she was linked to allegations of financial irregularities at a D.C. charter school whose board she chaired," Michael Alison Chandler and Emma Brown reported Friday for the Washington Post. "The first female news anchor in the Washington area 43 years ago, Hayward has been a prominent supporter of local charities and is a familiar face to many residents. . . ." Hayward was inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame (video) in 2011.

"Sabrina Rodriguez left Sacramento Superior Court on Friday morning trailed by television cameras, the same devices that once defined her life and career and made her arrest last year on shoplifting charges a local sensation," Sam Stanton reported Friday for the Sacramento Bee. "After pleading no contest to a single misdemeanor theft charge and agreeing to pay $2,480 in restitution, the former Fox40 anchor is expected to spend 30 days wearing a monitoring device on her ankle and then try to rebuild her life. . . ."

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Prison journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal received more support Wednesday in his effort to repeal a Pennsylvania law aimed at preventing him from making public statements. "Pennsylvania just passed an awful new law that bars convicts from publicly discussing their crimes if doing so could cause victims 'a temporary or permanent state of mental anguish,' Radley Balko wrote Wednesday for the Washington Post. "Journalist Christopher Moraff is part of a group that's suing to have the law overturned. At the Daily Beast, he explains why striking down the law, which he calls the 'Silencing Act,' is so important. . . ." The Philadelphia City Paper and one of its senior writers joined a federal lawsuit this month siding with Abu-Jamal.

"A dedicated fan of Ann Curry made a tribute video to the former NBC anchor and it's a must-watch video," Brian Flood wrote Thursday for TVNewser. "The song is set to the beat of Eminem's hit 'Stan,' and features classic lines such as, 'I felt so dismayed, I felt so betrayed, NBC wanted me to live without my bae. I don't think so, no way.' . . ."

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"Florida Courier writer Penny Dickerson was selected as one of 20 U.S. journalists from print, online and broadcast outlets to receive an H.F. Guggenheim reporting fellowship organized by the New York City-based John Jay Center on Media, Crime and Justice housed at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice at the City University of New York," the Courier, a member of the black press, reported on Thursday.

Amber Payne, a former "Nightly News" producer who is heading the new NBC website NBCBLK, told Alicia Banks of theWrap on Thursday, "Anytime you're starting something new, there's always going to be a mixed reaction. It has 'black' in the name; it was destined to be controversial, and that's fine. [But] it could bring more attention or conversation to issues in the black community. What is black? Who is black? and What does that mean? I know that it's sparking conversation, which I think is good. . . ."

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"In an interview on Wednesday, actor Anthony Mackie accused theGrio of editing his controversial statements suggesting that black men with 'dreadlocks' lead to racial profiling," David A. Wilson wrote Thursday for theGrio.com. Wilson also wrote, "TheGrio takes Mackie's accusations very serious and stands by the original interview published. . . ."

Reporters Without Borders said Thursday that it was "happy to learn of the release on bail of six Eritrean journalists who had been held since a wave of arrests in February 2009. They are Bereket Misghina, Yirgalem Fisseha Mebrahtu and Basilios Zemo of Radio Bana, Meles Negusse Kiflu, who worked for Radio Bana and Radio Zara, Girmay Abraham of Radio Dimtsi Hafash and Petros Teferi. . . ."

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