Swim Champ Would ‘Blame It on the Brown People’

Feds to Phase Out Use of Private Prisons

“Code Switch” Leader to Head D.C. Newsroom

Media Focus on His Past Threatens Filmmaker’s Success

Spanish-Language Networks Getting Out the Vote

Stewart Says Wilmore Raised ‘Underserved Voices’

Short Takes


Dave Zirin of the Nation told “Democracy Now!” that “Ryan Lochte has done the impossible: He’s managed to unite people in Rio who are both against the Olympics and people who are for the Olympics. . . .”

Swim Champ Would ‘Blame It on the Brown People’

Swimmer Ryan Lochte was dubbed ‘The Ugly American’ on Friday as U.S. media turned on the once beloved Olympic champion, saying his made-up tale of being robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro played into the worst stereotypes of Americans abroad,” Jill Serjeant reported Friday for Reuters.

But not all in the news media were willing to call out the racial and North-South implications of the episode. Dave Zirin, sports editor of the Nation, appearing on “Democracy Now!” with hosts Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Friday, was one.

New York tabloids made Ryan Lochte their cover boy.

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Friday's New York Post made it clear that swimmer Ryan Lochte had become a villain.

New York tabloids made Ryan Lochte their cover boy.

But I got to tell you, having just returned from Rio, the anger about this is not going anywhere, because Ryan Lochte has done the impossible: He’s managed to unite people in Rio who are both against the Olympics and people who are for the Olympics, because it’s very paradoxical down there, because, on the one hand, you know, I spoke to teachers, I spoke to people who depend on Brazil’s ramshackle medical system, and people are, of course, furious about the fact that billions of dollars are being spent to put on these Games at a time when there is so much economic and social upheaval in the country, when the country is mired in its worst recession in decades,” Zirin said.

“But paradoxically, there is a lot of pride in the fact that people are kind of holding this together, that volunteers, that low-wage workers are somehow keeping this together and holding the kinds of Games that can have the kinds of events, Amy, that you described, that can create these kinds of moments.

“And to have Ryan Lochte and friends literally and figuratively urinate all over their efforts, and also be the kind of stereotype of the ugly American who believes there is no sin below the equator, who exploits people’s biggest stereotypes about Rio and crime, and attempts to leverage the fact that they’re wealthy and white and Olympians and could somehow just blame it on the brown people, get on a plane and go home, what it manages to do is touch every nerve in Brazilian society right now and create a kind of bizarre unity of Brazilians, who are saying, ‘Wait a minute, we deserve a lot better than this for the effort that we have put in to staging these Games under unendurable circumstances.’ . . .”

Serjeant wrote, “Lochte, 32, is accused by Brazilian authorities of fabricating a story that made headlines around the world of being robbed by gunmen posing as policemen. Surveillance footage and Brazilian investigations showed that Lochte, and three other U.S. swimmers, vandalized a gas station bathroom and urinated in public on their way home from a party last weekend. . . .”

She also wrote, “Lochte’s belated apology on Friday, in a statement posted on his Instagram page, won him few friends. ‘Your apology was poor. Try again. Shame on you,’ wrote Maria Charles on Friday on Twitter.”

On NPR’s “Code Switch,” Leah Donnella added, “Indeed, to many #LochteGate is but another ill-advised, yet ultimately harmless exploit undertaken by the erstwhile star of the reality TV series What Would Ryan Lochte Do? This is, after all, the same adult man who unsuccessfully tried to trademark the word ‘Jeah.’

But others are taking the opportunity to engage in an interesting thought experiment: How would this have played out if Lochte weren’t a white man?” Donnella quoted Britni Danielle, writing for Ebony, and Huffington Post editor Emma Gray.

Danielle wrote, “Can you imagine the level of racially charged outrage about over-paid ‘thugs,’ ‘gangsters,’ or worse, racial slurs that would fill up social media had Carmelo Anthony and his boys torn up the bathroom, then claimed to get robbed by fake police? I have no doubt President Obama would be asked to comment, Black Lives Matter would get blamed, and people would probably never let them live it down. . . .”

 Shane Bauer's account of his four-month stint as a guard in a private prison appeared in the June issue of Mother Jones.

Shane Bauer’s account of his four-month stint as a guard in a private prison appeared in the July/August issue of Mother Jones.

Feds to Phase Out Use of Private Prisons

The Obama administration said on Thursday that it would begin to phase out the use of private for-profit prisons to house federal inmates,” Charlie Savage reported Thursday for the New York Times. “The Bureau of Prisons had resorted to such prisons to ease overcrowding as the incarceration rate soared, but the number of federal inmates has been dropping since 2013.

“In announcing the policy shift, the Justice Department cited that decline, as well as a critical recent report by the department’s independent inspector general about safety and security problems in private prisons. . . .”

Journalism also played a part.

This June, we published a big story — Shane Bauer’s account of his four-month stint as a guard in a private prison,” Monika Bauerlein and Clara Jeffery wrote Wednesday for Mother Jones. “That’s ‘big,’ as in XXL: 35,000 words long, or 5 to 10 times the length of a typical feature, plus charts, graphs, and companion pieces, not to mention six videos and a radio documentary.

“It was also big in impact. More than a million people read it, defying everything we’re told about the attention span of online audiences; tens of thousands shared it on social media. The Washington Post, CNN, and NPR’s Weekend Edition picked it up. Montel Williams went on a Twitter tear that ended with him nominating Shane for a Pulitzer Prize (though that’s not quite how it works).

“People got in touch to tell us about their loved ones’ time in prison or their own experience working as guards. Lawmakers and regulators reached out. (UPDATE: And on August 18, the Justice Department announced that it will no longer contract with private prisons, which currently hold thousands of federal inmates — a massive policy shift.) . . .”

Bauerlein and Jeffery continued, “Shane’s prison project took more than 18 months. That included four months in the prison and more than a year of additional reporting, fact-checking, video production, and legal review, including work by more than a dozen other people on the MoJo staff. And that was the only way we could have gotten that story. . . .

“And we had to take considerable financial risk. Conservatively, counting just the biggest chunks of staff time that went into it, the prison story cost roughly $350,000. The banner ads that appeared on the article brought in $5,000, give or take. Had we been really in your face with ads, we could have doubled or tripled that figure —but it would have been a pain for you, and still only a drop in the bucket for us.

MoJo did have support from three foundations for our criminal justice reporting. That’s amazing —but foundation grants only go so far. They are typically limited in time (a few years, tops) and scope (focusing on a particular issue or initiative). And they are finite: All of our foundation support put together accounts for roughly 15 percent of MoJo’s annual revenue. . . .”

The magazine appealed to readers for continued financial support.

“Code Switch” Leader to Head D.C. Newsroom

Alicia Montgomery, a longtime NPR editor and producer for the network’s “Code Switch” initiative, which reports on race relations, has been named editorial director at Washington’s WAMU-FM, an NPR affiliate that tops D.C.’s commercial stations in the ratings.

Alicia Montgomery

Alicia Montgomery

“Alicia, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, comes to us from partner and neighbor NPR,” the station announced Thursday. “She will lead WAMU’s regional news strategy, as the station deepens its local focus, increases its emphasis on digital platforms, and significantly expands the newsroom over the next five years.

“Alicia impressed the search committee because of her experience leading high quality news teams. Some of her accomplishments include:

  • “Supervising Senior Producer of Code Switch, NPR’s cross-platform reporting initiative focused on race, ethnicity, and culture. Montgomery led the development of the team’s successful podcast, connecting with 185,000 unique downloaders each week.
  • “Production leader for Tell Me More with Michel Martin, where she edited Michel Martin’s Murrow Award-winning essay series, Can I Just Tell You and orchestrated the Michel Martin: Going There event series.
  • “Reporter for Salon.com, covering the 2000 presidential race and its aftermath. There, Alicia created Trail Mix, one of the first daily political blogs. . . .”

The latest RTDNA/Hofstra University Annual Survey, released in June by Bob Papper of Hofstra for the Radio Television Digital News Association, reported,”Non-commercial stations were more likely to have minority news directors than commercial stations.”

“Overall, 6.6% of commercial stations had minority news directors, while 10.6% of non-commercial stations had news directors of color,” Papper emailed Journal-isms on Friday.

Montgomery starts Oct. 3. NPR spokeswoman Isabel Lara told Journal-isms by email Friday, “There will be a search for a new code switch lead, in the meantime Keith Woods will step in.” Woods is NPR vice president for diversity in news and operations.

Nate Parker

Nate Parker

Media Focus on His Past Threatens Filmmaker’s Success

Nate Parker’s ‘The Birth of a Nation’ was supposed to be one of the most important movies of this year and next — if not of the decade,” Lisa France reported Thursday for CNN Money.

“At Sundance, the screening was greeted with tears, an extended standing ovation and wins for the audience and jury prizes.

“Fox Searchlight snapped up the distribution rights for a record $17.5 million. There was going to be a companion curriculum, so that the movie could be taught in schools. And you could already count the statues — Golden Globes, SAG Awards, Oscars — that the film was bound to win.

“But that was before the national media took notice of a disturbing part of Parker’s past: as a college student in 1999, he and his Penn State roommate, Jean Celestin, were charged with rape. Parker was acquitted; Celestin, who co-wrote ‘Birth of a Nation,’ was convicted. (His conviction was later overturned on appeal.)

“It was before sites began sharing links to court documents laying out a harrowing tale of what the accuser said happened, including what she called ‘an organized campaign’ to harass her.

“And it was before the revelation that their alleged victim had taken her own life in 2012, when she was just 30 years old. Her family has said she struggled after the event, and Variety reported that her death certificate said she suffered form “major depressive disorder with psychotic features, PTSD due to physical and sexual abuse, polysubstance abuse….”

“Now, the fate of the movie — the attention and distribution it was supposed to get, the accolades it was going to earn — is up in the air. . . .”

Spanish-Language Networks Getting Out the Vote

We’ve heard it said over and over again: The Hispanic vote could swing this election,” Media Life reported Friday.

“The Spanish-language broadcast networks are too politically savvy to tell their audiences who they should be voting for. But they’re trying to make sure those viewers get to the polls.

“This year all the big broadcasters, from Univision to Estrella, have get-out-the-vote efforts underway, encouraging their viewers to register, educate themselves on the issues, and make it to the polls on election day.

“This isn’t new. For the past few campaign cycles, the networks have been engaging in similar civic activism.

“What’s interesting is you don’t see the same thing with the English-language networks, for a variety of reasons. Two decades after MTV urged young people to ‘rock the vote,’ voter drives are now largely confined to Spanish-language networks. . . .”


Jon Stewart surprises Larry Wilmore Thursday on his last “Nightly Show.”

Stewart Says Wilmore Raised ‘Underserved Voices’

When the final ‘Nightly Show’ aired on Thursday, Jon Stewart showed up to bid farewell to host Larry Wilmore,Ed Mazza reported Friday for the Huffington Post.

“ ‘Your last show?’ Stewart said. ‘Oh my God! What did you, piss off Peter Thiel?’

“Stewart was referring to the Silicon Valley billionaire who bankrolled Hulk Hogan’s $135 million privacy lawsuit that caused Gawker.com to shut down.

“The ex-‘Daily Show’ host then gave some sage advice to his former correspondent: ‘Do not confuse cancellation with failure.’

“ ‘What you, my friend, were tasked to do, you have done and done beautifully,’ Stewart said. ‘You gave voice to underserved voices in the media arena and you did it ― it was a show that was raw and poignant and funny and smart and all those things.’

“After paying tribute to Wilmore, Stewart tapped his chest and said, ‘You did it, my…’ but Wilmore tried to stop him from finishing that sentence.

“ ‘…my mishpocheh,’ Stewart concluded, using a Yiddish term for family and not the word Wilmore was fearing.

“The joke was a reference to Wilmore dropping the n-word on President Barack Obama at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last spring. . . .”

Short Takes

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