Critics of Color Assess Comic’s Use of N-Word

New Ebony Owners Blame Johnson Publishing

Investigation Confirms Worst Fears About Prisons

Mug Shots Both Public Service, Tools for Extortion

‘Don’t Put Your Hands on Me’

FCC Expected to Permit Still More Consolidation

Chicago Sun-Times Advocates for Undocumented

Qatar Crisis Threatens Crown Jewel: Al Jazeera

NABJ Launches Black Male Initiative

A Bob Marley Son Invests in High Times

Short Takes

Support Journal-isms


Bill Maher has apologized: “The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.” (Credit: Elyse Samuels/Washington Post)

Critics of Color Assess Comic’s Use of N-Word

On Friday night on live television, viewers will find out the consequences of comedian Bill Maher’s use of the N-word, an utterance on last week’s show that ignited social media, earned a denunciation from his network and caused others to spring to his defense, citing his apology and his progressive political outlook.

Will HBO change its mind and fire him? How contrite will Maher be? And what posture will his African American guests — academic Michael Eric Dyson and rapper-actor Ice Cube — take?

Asked on Wednesday, an HBO spokeswoman did not go beyond the network’s Saturday statement that “Bill Maher’s comment last night was completely inexcusable and tasteless. We are removing his deeply offensive comment from any subsequent airings of the show.”

TMZ reported Wednesday, “Sources familiar with the situation tell us, HBO will not yank Bill from the air or fire him for the comment he made to Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse on last Friday’s show.

“Maher apologized quickly and the fallout from the comment got quickly lost after the London terrorist attack. . . .”

Maher issued this statement on Saturday: “Friday nights are always my worst night of sleep because I’m up reflecting on the things I should or shouldn’t have said on my live show. Last night was a particularly long night as I regret the word I used in the banter of a live moment. The word was offensive and I regret saying it and am very sorry.”

Dave Itzkoff of the New York Times provided this recap on Saturday: “Shortly after 10 p.m. on Friday, Mr. Maher, the comedian and host of HBO’s ‘Real Time,’ was talking to Mr. Sasse on his program about the boundaries between adolescence and maturity, and how adults in California still dress up for Halloween.

“When Mr. Sasse said this did not happen in his state, Mr. Maher said, ‘I’ve got to get to Nebraska more.’

“Mr. Sasse replied: ‘You’re welcome. We’d love to have you work in the fields with us.’

“Mr. Maher said: ‘Work in the fields? Senator, I’m a house nigger. No, it’s a joke.’ . . .”

Three black journalists familiar with the television business have given readers their thoughts.

Wesley Morris, a Pulitzer Prize winner for criticism in 2012 while at the Boston Globe, now at the New York Times, wrote Sunday, “Should Mr. Maher lose his job? That would be too easy. ‘Real Time’ is the sort of laboratory where just this sort of problem is talked — or shouted — out.

“It would be fascinating to see him in the next episode, if there is one, surrounded by a cast of characters who have castigated him for Friday’s scandalette. He may not learn a lesson. But there would be a lesson in that, too. We’ve been not learning that one for centuries.”

Melanie McFarland, television critic at Salon, wrote Tuesday, “Maher will get away with casually blurting out an epithet because he’s spent decades telling us that this is who he is. His identity was in the name of his ABC show [‘Politically Incorrect’] and is on display every week on HBO. He has never implied that he was anything other than who he is.

“But make no mistake: Maher will also get away with it because he is a male celebrity with a potent, wealthy media apparatus invested in helping him help his audience to move on. Never mind that Maher violated one of the basic laws of comedy by using his privilege as a famous, wealthy white guy to punch down . . .

“He’ll take his beatings with that trademark smug grin of his, maybe turn it into one of his ‘New Rules,’ and his mouth will continue to run. . . .”

Eric Deggans, TV critic at NPR, wrote a blog post Monday headlined, “Why I Think Bill Maher Should Lose His Job at HBO.”

This slip of the tongue  . . . is no mere mistake or ham handed attempt at cultural appropriation. It’s evidence of a pattern – one that HBO now needs to decide whether it wants to continue to be associated with, especially for a channel where 22 percent of its viewership comes from black people.

“And, to answer all of the oddballs who came out of the woodwork to engage me in this debate on social media, this controversy — and others like it — is not about avoiding hurt feelings or insult. Images, archetypes and attitudes about people of color that are transmitted through media can affect how America’s white-dominated society handles a myriad of issues affecting people of color — from drug sentencing to policing issues to education funding and much more.

“So it is very serious business when it comes to the question of who ‘gets’ to use the most incendiary racial slur in America’s history on television or elsewhere in mass media. And it certainly shouldn’t be someone who isn’t black who views the issue so cavalierly, he would toss it in an offhand joke that also references slavery. . . .”

Michael Gibson, left, and Willard Jackson of Clear View Group. (Credit: Clear View Group)

Michael Gibson, left, and Willard Jackson of Clear View Group. (Credit: Clear View Group)

New Ebony Owners Blame Johnson Publishing

The co-founder of the company that bought Ebony magazine from Johnson Publishing Co. last year is blaming the magazine’s “deep problems” on Johnson, which owned Ebony since its founding in 1945, Adeshina Emmanuel wrote Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

“In an exclusive interview Saturday, and via a series of text messages Monday,” Clear View Group LLC co-founder Willard Jackson “blamed the magazine’s deep problems on prior ownership. (Johnson Publishing, the family company that owned the title from the beginning, said it wanted out of the publishing business.) Jackson added that Ebony had been slow to shift its focus online and still lacks what he calls ‘a robust digital platform,’ ” Emmanuel wrote.

He also reported, “In the Saturday interview, Jackson insisted delays in payments had nothing to do with the company’s finances. But a company statement released over the weekend said that its freelance budget would be raised to prevent future mishaps.

“On Monday, when CJR reached out again, Jackson responded via text message: ‘Prioritizing of the cash flow from the business to cover all the overhead and expenses is what we’ve had to address. That’s why payments have been delayed and that’s also what prompted the layoffs and downsizing.’ He declined to discuss his privately held company’s financials in detail. . . .”

The National Writers Union is representing 14 writers who are owed $30,000.

Last month, Ebony laid off nearly all of its masthead — as many as a dozen key members of its editorial team, and said it was consolidating editorial operations with sister publication Jet in Los Angeles.

Wesley Turner, a former inmate at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in North Carolina, was stabbed to death in a 2012 prison fight. Investigators and lawyers believe a prison manager knew the attack was coming and did nothing to stop it. (Credit: Chuck Liddy/Charlotte Observer)

Wesley Turner, a former inmate at Lanesboro Correctional Institution in Polkton, N.C., was stabbed to death in a 2012 prison fight. Investigators and lawyers said they believe a prison manager knew the attack was coming and did nothing to stop it. (Credit: Chuck Liddy/Charlotte Observer)

Investigation Confirms Worst Fears About Prisons

A Charlotte Observer investigation found that a hidden world of drugs, sex and gang violence thrives inside North Carolina’s prisons — and that officers who are paid to prevent such corruption are instead fueling it,” Ames Alexander and Gavin Off reported Friday for the Observer.

“Prison officers frequently team up with inmates on crimes that endanger staff members, inmates and the public.

“The newspaper’s five-part investigation found that some officers run lucrative contraband rings inside prisons. Others have sex with inmates. Still others beat shackled prisoners, or team up with gang members to allow brutal attacks.

“State leaders, meanwhile, have created the very conditions that allow corruption to flourish. . . .”

The Daily News showed Tiger Woods' mugshot on its cover.

The Daily News showed Tiger Woods’ mug shot on its cover.

Mug Shots Both Public Service, Tools for Extortion

The police mug shot, which shows those arrested looking their worst and now can appear not just in newspapers but bounce around the internet, was the subject of a story Saturday by the Marshall Project, published in cooperation with the New York Times Sunday Review.

“Mugged!” by Tim Stelloh is subtitled, “How your ugly booking photos (and Tiger’s) became a commodity for cops, hustlers and journalists,” a reference to Tiger Woods, arrested last week on suspicion of driving under the influence.

“Mugshots now present an acute problem in the digital age,” wrote the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals’ Chief Judge, R. Guy Cole Jr. “These images preserve the indignity of a deprivation of liberty, often at the (literal) expense of the most vulnerable among us.”

Stelloh also writes, “Now, the images are available from an expansive roster of mug shot purveyors — everyone from crime fighting social media groups to privately-run, online databases that, in some cases, have been described as extortion operations: They post booking photographs online, then charge exorbitant fees to remove them. . . .”

However, Stelloh also reports, “. . . . In 2013, the Detroit Free Press sued the Justice Department after it refused to release mug shots of four police officers accused of corruption. Federal authorities consider the release of the booking photograph an invasion of privacy, and in its ruling last year, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed.

“Still, dozens of news organizations and press advocacy groups backed the newspaper up in court, including the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. A lawyer there, Adam Marshall, described. . . the mug shot as a memorialization of one of the most important processes of the criminal justice system — the arrest.

“ ‘There are a whole bunch of details the photo can give us,’ he said. What if the police arrested the wrong person? What if the officer assaulted that person? ‘The public expects information from the government about what they’re doing,’ Marshall said. ‘The photo provides the public with that information in a way that a name doesn’t.’ . . . ”

‘Don’t Put Your Hands on Me’

Chauncy Glover, a reporter for KTRK-TV in Houston, was interviewing residents of nearby Texas City after Ku Klux Klan fliers were tossed into 16 front yards when one woman wanted Glover to leave the neighborhood. As she came toward Glover, the reporter repeatedly warned, “Don’t put your hands on me.”

Police said the fliers were weighed down with fishing weights and candyDana Guthrie and Brooke A. Lewis reported May 31 for the Houston Chronicle and chron.com. A detective said Wednesday that police had not yet found the perpetrators.

FCC Expected to Permit Still More Consolidation

The FCC is expected to clear the way as soon as this summer for broadcasters to own up to two or more TV stations in most if not all markets — even if two of the stations are Big Four network affiliates, broadcast industry sources say,” Doug Halonen reported Wednesday for TVNewsCheck.

Ajit Pai, the Trump administration’s FCC chairman, and his fellow GOP commissioner Michael O’Rielly, who now constitute the FCC’s majority, have already made clear their support for deregulation. . . .”

Chicago Sun-Times Advocates for Undocumented

A man approaches a bank teller in Calumet City and demands, ‘Give me $10,000,’ ” the Chicago Sun-Times said in an editorial Monday. In case she balks, he adds, ‘I’ll kill everybody you know.’

“The teller hands over all the cash she can grab, begging, ‘Don’t do this.’ Then, as soon as she is safely out of danger, she calls 911. She tells the cops everything.

“Would you call this woman, 26-year-old Cynthia Salazar, a crime victim? Of course. And did she cooperate with the police? Obviously.

“But the Calumet City Police are treating Salazar like she’s part of the problem, not the solution, and other police departments across Illinois are treating people like her in the same shabby way. In doing so, they are ignoring federal law and making it harder for cops to solve crimes.

“Six months after the June 2016 robbery, Salazar, who is an undocumented immigrant, applied for permanent legal residency under a federal rule that gives special consideration to people who have been victims of crime. The idea is to reward undocumented people who report a crime — because you can bet most of them won’t come forward otherwise for fear of being deported.

“But as Dan Mihalopoulos and Mick Dumke of the Sun-Times reported Sunday, police departments often ignore their obligation to assist such people as required by law. That’s a good argument for a civil liberties suit. We also encourage passage of a state law, pending in the House, that would make the intent of the federal law more pointed. . . .”

Qatar Crisis Threatens Crown Jewel: Al Jazeera

The diplomatic crisis that broadsided Qatar on Monday could spell trouble for one of its crown jewels: Al Jazeera,” Charles Riley reported Monday for CNN.

“The state-backed media network has become a global brand but is also a polarizing force. It made enemies from Riyadh to Cairo with its criticism of Arab governments and coverage of deposed Egyptian president Mohamed Morsy.

“Five Arab states have now broken off diplomatic relations with Qatar, a dramatic move that reveals just how strained the tiny Gulf state’s relationship with its neighbors has become. They have accused Qatar of supporting terrorism, accusations the country says are ‘unjustified’ and ‘baseless.’ . . .”

On Tuesday, Jordan’s Ministry of Information revoked the license for Al Jazeera and said it will close the broadcaster’s Jordanian office, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported.

The organization also reported, “The Saudi government on June 5 revoked the broadcaster’s license to operate in Saudi Arabia and ordered its office to close, according to Al-Jazeera and the official Saudi Press Agency SPA. . . .”

NABJ Launches Black Male Initiative

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is launching its Black Male Media Project, an initiative to help change the narrative around the lives and images of black men in the news and in society, with a series of workshops nationwide on Saturday, June 10, 2017,” the group announced on Wednesday.

“The NABJ Black Male Media Project will launch with 19 NABJ affiliate chapters hosting events in various cities across the United States, including Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, all on the same day. The initiative is designed to inspire, support and develop training and mentorship opportunities for black men working in or aspire to work in journalism and media. . . . ”

Damian Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley and a new investor in the publication, was a recent High Times cover subject.

Damian Marley, son of reggae legend Bob Marley and a new investor in High Times, was the cover subject for its June issue.

A Bob Marley Son Invests in High Times

High Times, the 44-year-old magazine that has long advocated for the legalization of pot, has been sold to a group of investors for $42 million, Keith J. Kelly reported June 2 for the New York Post.

The new group of 20 investors [includes] Damian ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley, the youngest son of reggae legend Bob Marley,” Kelly wrote.

“ ‘When I was in high school I used to grow some herb,’ Marley said. ‘I learned to differentiate the male from the female plant by reading High Times magazine.’ . . . ” Marley is a reggae performer in his own right.

Lead investor Adam Levin “is the founder of the Los Angeles investment firm Oreva Capital and, as of last week, chief executive of High Times Holding Company, or HTHC,Aaron Smith reported Tuesday for CNN. “(Get it? If you don’t, then you’ve never read High Times.) . . .”

Short Takes

Support Journal-isms

Facebook users: “Like” “Richard Prince’s Journal-isms” on Facebook.

Follow Richard Prince on Twitter @princeeditor

Richard Prince’s Journal-isms originates from Washington. It began in print before most of us knew what the internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a “column.” Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.
Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince at journal-isms-owner@yahoogroups.com

To be notified of new columns, contact journal-isms-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns (after Feb. 13, 2016).
View previous columns (before Feb. 13, 2016).