Returning March 6

Jewish Sites Targeted in Alleged Payback Against Ex

Keith Woods Given Expanded Role at NPR

Juan Thompson (Credit: BRIC-TV)

Juan M. Thompson (Credit: BRIC TV)

Jewish Sites Targeted in Alleged Payback Against Ex

A discredited black former journalist fired last year for fabricating stories was arrested Friday and accused of conducting a months-long stalking campaign that culminated in emailed bomb threats to Jewish organizations, federal prosecutors said. They said the campaign was an effort to harass an ex-girlfriend.

However, Juan M. Thompson is not believed to be the main suspect behind this year’s rash of bomb threats, two law enforcement officials told ABC News, Aaron Katersky, Josh Margolin, Mike Levine and Emily Shapiro reported for the network.

“NBC Nightly News” led with the story, and ABC’s “World News Tonight” included it in its first block.

” ‘Today, we have charged Juan Thompson with allegedly stalking a former romantic interest by, among other things, making bomb threats in her name to Jewish Community Centers and to the Anti-Defamation League,’ U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara said in a statement,” Doyle Murphy reported for the Riverfront Times in Thompson’s hometown of St. Louis.

” ‘Threats of violence targeting people and places based on religion or race — whatever the motivation — are unacceptable, un-American, and criminal. We are committed to pursuing and prosecuting those who foment fear and hate through such criminal threats.’

“Thompson, 31, was once a reporter for The Intercept, but he was fired after the New York City-based news site found he had been making up sources. Our investigation turned up even more journalistic problems dating back to his college days at Vassar in Poughkeepsie, New York,” Murphy reported.

“Thompson later briefly surfaced at an online news site, but was fired after someone there learned of his background. He has blamed racism for his difficulties and self-published a piece on Medium blasting The Intercept and ‘the white liberal media.’ ”

[“Before working at Intercept, Thompson was an intern for DNAInfo in Chicago in July and August of 2013, and worked as an intern at WBEZ from May until August of 2014,” Mark Berman and Matt Zapotosky reported for the Washington Post.]

“More recently, Thompson launched a GoFundMe campaign, claiming he was running for St. Louis mayor. (He never filed the necessary paperwork.) . . .”

Jeremy Kohler and Robert Patrick reported Friday for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the alleged campaign by Thompson “culminated with emailed bomb threats to Jewish community centers, schools, a museum and other organizations on eight days in January and February, either using his ex-girlfriend’s name or his own, a federal criminal complaint says. He would later publicly claim on social media that she was trying to falsely implicate him, the complaint says.” The Post-Dispatch and other outlets posted the complaint online.

“University City Police Lt. Fredrick Lemons said detectives would also question Thompson about the headstones toppled at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery on Feb. 18 and 19, but declined to say whether he was considered a suspect.

“Thompson appeared in court briefly Friday afternoon in khakis, boots and a button-down blue shirt. He was shackled at the wrists and ankles.

“Thompson conferred with the assistant federal public defender appointed to his case, Lucille Liggett, before the hearing began. At the start of the hearing, Liggett did not concede that her client was Thompson, saying he was entitled to an identity hearing. . . .”

The Intercept issued this statement: “We were horrified to learn this morning that Juan Thompson, a former employee of The Intercept, has been arrested in connection with bomb threats against the ADL and multiple Jewish Community Centers in addition to cyberstalking. These actions are heinous and should be fully investigated and prosecuted. We have no information about the charges against Thompson other than what is included in the criminal complaint. Thompson worked for The Intercept from November 2014 to January 2016, when he was fired after we discovered that he had fabricated sources and quotes in his articles.”

The ABC News reporters wrote, “After Thompson’s arrest, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement, thanking law enforcement ‘for aggressively pursuing and arresting a suspect in a disgusting series of threats against Jewish Community Centers. When you attack someone because of who they are, how they worship or who they love, you are attacking our democracy.’

“New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill added, ‘The defendant caused havoc, expending hundreds of hours of police and law enforcement resources to respond and investigate these threats. We will continue to pursue those who pedal fear, making false claims about serious crimes.’ . . .”

A BBC report added of Thompson, “On 7 February, he allegedly wrote an email to the JCC offices in Manhattan, saying: ‘Juan Thompson put two bombs in the office of the Jewish center today.

” ‘He wants to create Jewish newtown tomorrow.’

“This was a reference to the 2012 school shooting in Connecticut in which a gunman murdered 26 people.

“In several tweets presented by investigators, Mr Thompson repeatedly accused his former girlfriend of making bomb threats in his name, in order to pin the crime on him.

“He claimed she had hacked his email account.

“[Victim-1], though I can’t prove it, even sent a bomb threat in my name to a Jewish center, which was odd given her antisemitic statement,” he posted on 24 February 2017. [The ex-girlfriend was called “Victim-1.”]

“He also made several posts condemning the anti-Jewish threats.

“It was allegedly part of a months-long campaign against his former partner after they broke up in July 2016.

“Thompson began by sending an email to her manager at a New York-area social service organisation.

“The message claimed she had been pulled over for drunk driving and sued for spreading a sexually transmitted disease.

“He allegedly went on to threaten to publish nude photos of the woman, before escalating to the bomb threats this year.

“On 24 February, he posted on Twitter: ‘Y’all know how to get a social worker in NY barred? I’m being stalked and harassed by a white nasty white woman.’ ”

The Riverfront Times in St. Louis asked last year, "Juan Thompson Wrote About St. Louis for the National Media. But Were Any of His Stories True?" (Illustration by Noah MacMillan)

The Riverfront Times in St. Louis asked last year, “Juan Thompson Wrote About St. Louis for the National Media. But Were Any of His Stories True?” (Illustration by Noah MacMillan)

Keith Woods Given Expanded Role at NPR

Diversity Veteran to Lead Newsroom Training
Cobb, Salomon Added to Free Press Discussion

Diversity Veteran to Lead Newsroom Training

Keith Woods (Credit: Capital Times)

Keith Woods (Credit: Capital Times)

Keith Woods, vice president of diversity in news and operations at NPR, will add newsroom training to his portfolio, the network announced on Thursday.

“Since coming to NPR in 2010, Keith has helped reporters and editors here and at dozens of public radio stations to strengthen their journalism with more inclusive, accurate and precise reporting and writing, especially on the subject of race,” Michael Oreskes, senior vice president, news and editorial director, and Christopher Turpin, vice president, news programming and operations, said in an announcement to the staff.

“Keith will work with the training team to make diversity an integral part of what we do at NPR and with stations, an effort that began when Eric Athas led the team. He’ll add three areas of expertise to NPR’s newsroom training: Leadership, Diversity, and Writing/Editing for the Web. . . .”

Woods’ title will be vice president for newsroom training and diversity, though “he will remain a part of [President and CEO] Jarl Mohn’s executive team to ensure that diversity continues to be a central part of our organizational culture.”

The memo also said, “Keith brings to the job 22 years of experience training journalists, students and college professors from across the country and around the world. In his nearly 40 years in the profession, he has been an award-winning sportswriter and news reporter, a City Editor and editorial writer.

“He was also Dean of Faculty at the Poynter Institute, the country’s leading school for professional journalists, where he taught ethics, writing and coverage of race relations for over 15 years. Our large goal here is to put Keith squarely in the newsroom, here at NPR and all across public media. . . .”

Full memo in the Comments section

Cobb, Salomon Added to Free Press Discussion

A daylong Columbia University discussion on President Trump and the news media that initially included no African Americans or Hispanics is taking place Friday with Jelani Cobb of the New Yorker and Sheryl Huggins Salomon, senior editor-at-large and former managing editor of TheRoot.com, participating. Both are black journalists.

The program was cited in this space last week as an example of how discussions of Trump and the First Amendment were not including sufficient numbers of people of color.

The discussion, “Covering Trump: What Happens When Journalism, Politics and Fake News Collide,” is being livestreamed here, Shelley Hepworth reported Thursday for Columbia Journalism Review.

Kyle Pope, editor and publisher of Columbia Journalism Review, told Journal-isms that the entire video would be available at cjr.org.

Sessions-Russia Revelation Overshadows ‘Good Vibes’ From Trump Speech

March 2, 2017

Could Reporting Do What Rights Groups Could Not?

Fact Checkers Vet Immigration, Jobs Statements

ABC News Chief Vows to Stand Up to White House

Kellyanne Conway Says She Meant No Disrespect

Rhoden Joins Undefeated, Will Create Internships

NAHJ Joins Protest of Show on Nightclub Massacre

Landmark Status Would Save Ebony/Jet Building

Short Takes

Could Reporting Do What Rights Groups Could Not?

So much for a belated honeymoon period. A day after gaining widespread praise in the media for his address to a joint session of Congress, President Trump is facing a barrage of potentially damaging stories,” PR Week wrote in a Thursday morning headline.

“The good vibes in the media from President Donald Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress didn’t last long,” the story began. “A troika — that’s a Russian term — of potentially very damaging stories to the Trump administration broke Wednesday night.

“At the top of the list is a Washington Post report stating that Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a senator and top Trump campaign surrogate, met twice with Russia’s U.S. ambassador last year, but did not disclose the meetings during his Senate confirmation hearings. Democrats are calling for Sessions to recuse himself from an investigation into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Several top Democrats in Congress are demanding Sessions to step down as attorney general. . . .”

If that takes place, the media reports will have accomplished what attention to Sessions’ civil rights record could not.

On Feb. 9, the NAACP issued this statement: “Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III was confirmed as the nation’s 84th US Attorney General this evening, despite intense opposition by the NAACP and hundreds of organizations due to his historically weak and questionable support for voting rights, police accountability and the rights of immigrants and women. . . .”

It also said, “In January alone, the NAACP earned in support of its #StopSessions campaigns gained 43,000 new Twitter followers, generated hundreds of posts earning over 14.5 million views and more than 370,200 engagements.

“With Facebook, our supporters churned out 573,000 page ‘likes,’ and posts were seen 4.1 million times, while videos were watched 1.07 million times in January alone. These numbers represent the floor of our potential activity in mobilizing support for the protection of civil rights rather than its ceiling.

“Despite all our work and the coalitions we’ve collaborated with, Senator Sessions was confirmed today along a clear red versus blue partisan line of 52-47. . . .”

Asian Americans Advancing Justice said then, “It is deeply troubling that the Senate confirmed Jeff Sessions despite his extreme anti-immigrant record and reports that he played a role in President Trump’s executive order to ban Muslims and Syrian refugees . . . .”

Investigative reporter David  Cay Johnston, author of “The Making of Donald Trump,” published last year, said of Republicans Thursday on Pacifica’s “Democracy Now!”  “You’re going to  see them stop defending Donald Trump’s lies and utter incompetence, and  start protecting  themselves. This is the beginning of the end, not the beginning.”

Charlie Savage reported for the New York Times, “Congressional Republicans began breaking ranks on Thursday to join Democrats in demanding that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recuse himself from overseeing an investigation into contacts between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. . . .”

Asked whether he would step aside from investigating alleged ties between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government, Sessions told NBC News, “I have said whenever it’s appropriate, I will recuse myself. There’s no doubt about that,” NBC’s Tony Capra and Erik Ortiz reported.

Trump’s ‘Presidential’ Speech Continues Falsehoods

The topics for commentary on Donald Trump seem limitless. In this animated cartoon, Mike Thomas of the Detroit Free Press focuses on Trump’s ability to profit handsomely from the presidency.

Fact Checkers Vet Immigration, Jobs Statements

President Donald Trump campaigned promising a return to ‘law and order,’ Chiraag Bains reported Tuesday for the Marshall Project.

“Since taking office, he has attempted to fulfill that promise through policies that have been criticized as being thin on substance and out of touch with crime statistics. The president’s approach is misguided for another reason, however: [He] is targeting immigration as a driver of violent crime when it just might have the opposite effect. . . .”

That wasn’t the message Trump delivered later Tuesday in his address to a joint session of Congress.

I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims,” the president announced to audible groans. “The office is called VOICE — Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media and silenced by special interests. Joining us in the audience tonight are four very brave Americans whose government failed them. . . .”

Bains also wrote, “A trove of empirical research contradicts the notion that immigrants are the violent criminal horde Trump makes them out to be. In fact, studies consistently show that they commit significantly less crime than native-born Americans, and although the data are difficult to untangle, this appears to be true of both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. Even more, new findings suggest that immigrants may actually cause crime to decline in the areas where they live. . . .”

Fact-checkers who reviewed Trump’s speech, which was praised by many as “presidential” for its marked evenness in tone, found it premised on other false assumptions and assertions.

“Some of the problems Mr. Trump promised to solve last night don’t actually exist,” CBS anchor Scott Pelley said on Wednesday’s “CBS Evening News.”

Glenn Kessler and Michelle Ye Hee Lee of the Washington Post were among several who examined Trump’s statement that “Ninety-four million Americans are out of the labor force.”

This is an absurd Four-Pinocchio claim, based on a real number,” the Post reporters wrote. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics, relying on a monthly survey known as the Current Population Survey (CPS), shows that, as of January 2016, 94.4 million Americans 16 years and older were ‘not in labor force.’

“How is this number developed? Well, there is a civilian noninstitutional population of 254.1 million people, and 159.7 million are in the labor force. The difference yields the 94.4 million figure.

“But the unemployment rate is only 4.8 percent because just 7.6 million people actively are looking for a job and cannot find one. They are considered part of the overall labor force. In other words, you have to be seeking a job to be counted in the labor force.

“Who are the 94 million not in the labor force? The BLS has data for the year 2015. It turns out that 93 percent do not want a job at all. The picture that emerges from a study of the data shows that the 95 million consists mostly of people who are retired, students, stay-at-home parents or disabled.

“Trump is doing a real disservice in citing this 94 million figure and suggesting it means these people are looking for work. . . .”

ABC News Chief Vows to Stand Up to White House

ABC News President James Goldston has pledged to ‘stand with our colleagues who cover the White House’ and ‘protest’ if the White House does not operate with transparency, he said Wednesday in response to a petition imploring the broadcasting company to take a stand over the White House’s decision to exclude news organizations from a press gaggle last Friday,” Kelsey Sutton reported Wednesday for Politico.

Sutton also wrote, “Earlier Wednesday, Goldston received a petition signed by more than 230 former ABC News executives, correspondents, producers and other former staffers calling on him to refuse to take part in White House briefings if news organizations are barred from attending.

“The petition, a copy of which was reviewed by a POLITICO reporter, referred to an incident Friday during which several news outlets were barred from an informal press briefing with White House press secretary Sean Spicer. Among the signers was former ABC White House correspondent Sam Donaldson, who was known for his tough questioning of White House officials. . . .”

Meanwhile, Steven Perlberg and Adrian Carrasquillo reported Tuesday for BuzzFeed, “Donald Trump on Friday railed against the media’s use of anonymous sources in stories. Four days later, he was one. . . .”

They also wrote, “In a private meeting with national news anchors ahead of his address to Congress Tuesday night, Trump went on background with reporters as a ‘senior administration official’ to discuss issues like immigration, telling attendees that it was time for a legislative compromise from both parties. . . . Reporters were allowed to put some of Trump’s comments back on the record at 6 p.m., according to a person familiar with the terms of the meeting.”

Perlberg and Carrasquillo said that among the attendees were NBC’s Chuck Todd and Lester Holt, CNN’s Jake Tapper and Wolf Blitzer, Univision’s María Elena Salinas and Telemundo’s Jose Diaz-Balart and TVOne’s Roland Martin.

On Monday night, Trump held an off-the-record dinner meeting with 18 local television reporters, representing six station groups, Kevin Eck reported for TVSpy.

Margaret Sullivan wrote Tuesday for the Washington Post, “President Trump and his aides despise and condemn anonymous leaks to reporters. Except, of course, when they are the ones doing the leaking. . . .”

In Asia, “In a sign that President Trump’s criticism of the news media may be having a ripple effect overseas, a government spokesman in Cambodia has cited the American leader in threatening to shutter foreign news outlets, including some that receive money from Washington,” Mike Ives reported Tuesday for the New York Times.

“The spokesman, Phay Siphan, said that foreign news groups, including the United States-financed Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, should ‘reconsider’ how they broadcast — or risk a government response if their reports are deemed to spread disinformation or threaten peace and stability. . . .”

Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway takes a photo Tuesday in the Oval Office. (Credit: Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

Shoes still on, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway takes a photo Tuesday in the Oval Office.  Seeing other photos from the session, some commentators on social media thought Conway was texting. (Credit: Pool photo by Brendan Smialowski/Agence France-Presse)

Kellyanne Conway Says She Meant No Disrespect

After Kellyanne Conway was photographed sitting on her feet on an Oval Office couch, the Internet reached for its best material — and behold, a new meme was born,” Lindsey Bever reported Tuesday for the Washington Post.

“The counselor to the president had her shoes on when she was apparently perching on the furniture Monday to snap a photo of President Trump with leaders of the nation’s historically black universities and colleges. . . .”

Social media exploded. One Conway defender wrote on Facebook, “Do I believe that had I done what Kellyanne has done in the media that I would be still working at the WH? Hell no! I would be blackballed and ruined as a black woman for good. That’s real. We do not get the same chances or privileges. It is what it is. But to attack a woman and call her racist, disrespectful or worse because she took a photo and sat on a couch is just WRONG!!!!”

Karen Mizoguchi wrote Tuesday for People magazine, “Kellyanne Conway spoke out about the couch controversy and offered an explanation as to why she was kneeling on the Oval Office furniture.

“I was very busy today and didn’t follow a lot of it, but I know there are a couple of reports at least showing what happened. And what happened is we had the largest gathering of men and women to date in the Oval Office for a picture,” the White House adviser explained on Tuesday’s episode of Fox News’ Lou Dobbs Tonight.

“I was being asked to take a picture in a crowded room with the press behind us. I was asked to take a certain angle and was doing exactly that. I certainly meant no disrespect, I didn’t mean to have my feet on the couch,” she continued.

“. . . When asked by Dobbs about the ‘deplorable hypocrisy’ and the ‘venom of the left’ regarding the photo’s backlash, Conway blamed an unnamed journalist. . . .”

William Rhoden tells the Journalists Roundtable in Washington last August of the penalties faced by black athletes who protested in earlier eras. (Credit: Sharon Farmer/sfphotoworks)

William C. Rhoden tells the Journalists Roundtable in Washington last August about penalties faced by black athletes who protested in earlier eras. (Credit: Sharon Farmer/sfphotoworks)

Rhoden Joins Undefeated, Will Create Internships

As a new columnist and editor at large at The Undefeated, William C. Rhoden is looking toward the future, and not just his own,” Corinne Grinapol reported Tuesday for Fishbowl. “In his new role, Rhoden will not only be writing columns on sports, culture and race, but is also setting up an internship program to support a new generation of sports journalists.

“ ‘John Skipper and Kevin Merida have helped turn a dream into reality,’ Rhoden said in a statement. “Through The Undefeated, ESPN has provided me with an unprecedented opportunity to identify, mentor and sponsor talented young journalists from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I look forward to passing the torch I received from Sam Lacy and many others to a vibrant, new generation,’ he said, referring to the black sportswriter who worked during and experienced the effects of segregation and also served as a mentor to many generations of journalists.

“ ‘Bill’s pioneering career has been phenomenal, his body of work unmatched. We are grateful to have him leading a new initiative at The Undefeated to develop the next generation of Bill Rhodens,’ said Merida, who is ESPN senior vice president and editor in chief of The Undefeated, in a statement. ‘Thankfully for us, and for our readers, Bill will continue to write — his strong, brilliant voice is still needed.’

“Rhoden had spent almost three-and-a-half decades at The New York Times, the last 26 of them as Sports of The Times columnist, before taking a buyout in July of last year. At the time, Rhoden told Richard Prince that one of his post-Times aims would be a focus on getting ‘young black writers in the pipeline.’ He’ll be doing just that in this new role.”

Faces of some of the Orlando nightclub victims (Credit: Orlando Sentinel)

Faces of some of the 49 victims who died in the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando last June. (Credit: Orlando Sentinel)

NAHJ Joins Protest of Show on Nightclub Massacre

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists Tuesday added its voice to those protesting Univision’s dramatization last Saturday of the deadly mass shooting nine months ago at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

To say the dramatization was unnecessary is to put it mildly,” NAHJ President Brandon Benavides wrote the network. “Your graphic depiction of this terrible crime was simply over the top. We question the judgment behind choosing to focus on nightclub-goers getting shot, blood oozing from their wounds and splattered on the floor; and the chaotic scenes of people running covered in the blood, screaming for help and dying. . . .”

In a response from a Univision representative whose name was redacted in the letter posted on the NAHJ website, the company said, “. . . We deeply respect the outpouring of feelings and opinions we have received this week, including yours. We consulted with numerous family members of the victims and survivors in order to accurately reflect their viewpoints and testimonies.

“We hope that, after everybody was able to watch the entire program and fully understand the interviews and experiences of the victims that participated in it, they will agree that it is a serious and conscientious journalistic effort.”

The Ebony/Jet building on Chicago's South Michigan Avenue was a beacon of Chicago’s African American business community. (Credit: Google Earth via Crain's Chicago Business)

The Ebony/Jet building on South Michigan Avenue was a beacon of Chicago’s African American business community. (Credit: Google Earth via Crain’s Chicago Business)

Landmark Status Would Save Ebony/Jet Building

As the city experiences a boom in new skyscrapers, the house that EBONY/Jet founder John H. Johnson built remains a decaying relic that’s up for sale as hungry developers push the limits of their projects into unchartered waters,” Erick Johnson wrote Wednesday for the Chicago Crusader.

“The buzzards of urban progress are closing in while the EBONY/Jet building stands increasingly vulnerable to extinction as space grows tight on South Michigan Ave. and demands for bigger, stylish skyscrapers climb to greater proportions. . . .”

Johnson also wrote, “On Feb. 2, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the building would be considered for preliminary landmark status by the Commission on Chicago Landmarks — a nine-member group that has granted similar status over the years to over 370 historic sites in Chicago, including the homes of writers Gwendolyn Brooks, Lorraine Hansberry and Richard Wright. The group’s latest move capped a month of researching and writing a preliminary report about the history of the EBONY/Jet building. . . .”

In 2010, Johnson Publishing Co. announced that it had sold the building to Columbia College Chicago. Last June, Columbia College announced its intention to sell the building.

“Completed in 1971, the building not only represented the city’s once mighty position as a publishing powerhouse, but as the home of Ebony and Jet magazines, the modernist high-rise was a beacon of Chicago’s African American business community,” AJ Latrace reported Feb. 3 for Curbed Chicago.

“The planning and design of the building also represents the ethos of Johnson Publishing as the tower was designed by John Warren Moutoussamy, an African American architect who studied under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. According to the city, to this day, the building was the first and remains the only high-rise in downtown Chicago designed by an African American. . . .”

Short Takes

Byron McCauley

Byron McCauley

Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

 

Arlene-Morgan-1“I have come to depend on Richard’s column as one of my main avenues of news and information on how we are doing as a profession in meeting the needs of our diverse communities.

“The Journal-isms column is needed more than ever to document how the media are covering the racial turmoil of the past couple of years and solving the still unresolved issues on how to improve the thought processes of our news organizations in the digital age.”

Arlene Notoro Morgan, assistant dean for external affairs at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.

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