Every Day, Hazardous Waste Is Burned in Open Air

Jim Vance, Longtime D.C. Anchor, Dies at 75

O.J. ‘Not Looking to Be Involved With the Media’

Rights, Media Groups to Help Citizens Record Police

Writer Alarmed by A&E’s Live Version of ‘Cops’

Artist Shows That News Is a Matter of Perspective

Spicer Should Have Expected His Time to End Badly

Backlash Over Piece on White Women

Ex-Reporter Sues; Forced Out Over Use of N-Word

Only 15% in U.S. Aware of Famine Crisis Abroad

Short Takes

Support Journal-isms

‘Early one evening, I went out for a run,’ Australian photographer Ashley Gilbertson wrote for ProPublica from Colfax, La. ‘I took a route out by Lake Iatt, passing through acre after acre of logged land, trailer homes and lush green farms. It was an easy out and back, but as I rounded the last corner, I was alarmed by clouds of black smoke that were blowing my way. Explosions crackled in the distance. The sounds put me back in Iraq, where I’d spent a bunch of tours as a photographer, listening to gun battles being fought in nearby towns or neighborhoods.’ (Credit: Ashley Gilbertson/VII/special to ProPublica)

Every Day, Hazardous Waste Is Burned in Open Air

Two years ago, the U.S. military had an embarrassment on its hands: A stockpile of aging explosives blew up at a former Army ammunition plant in Minden, Louisiana, sending a cloud of debris 7,000 feet into the sky,” Abrahm Lustgarten reported from Colfax, La., Friday for ProPublica.

“Local residents, alarmed by toxic contaminants from the accident, were nothing short of furious when they learned what the military intended to do with the 18 million of pounds of old explosives still remaining at the depot. The Army was set to dispose of the explosives through what are known as ‘open burns,’ processes that would result in still more releases of pollutants.

colfax-map“Facing an uproar, the Army turned to a familiar partner to help placate the residents of Minden: A private facility in Colfax, 95 miles south, operated by Clean Harbors, a longtime Defense Department contractor and one of the largest hazardous waste handlers in North America.

“The Colfax plant is the only commercial facility in the nation allowed to burn explosives and munitions waste with no environmental emissions controls, and it has been doing so for the military for decades. And so while the Army ultimately commissioned a special incinerator to dispose of most of the Minden explosives, more than 350,000 pounds of them were shipped here.

“Over the ensuing months, the munitions were burned on the grounds of the plant, fueling raging fires that spewed smoke into the air just hundreds of yards from a poor, largely black community. . . .”

The story is part of a series examining the Pentagon’s oversight of thousands of toxic sites on American soil, “and years of stewardship marked by defiance and delay.”

It continues, “The burns take place several times each day, and when they do, they turn parts of Colfax into a virtual war zone.

“ ‘It’s like a bomb, shaking this trailer,’ said Elouise Manatad, who lives in one of the dozen or so mobile homes speckling the hillside just a few hundred yards from the facility’s perimeter. The rat-tat-tat of bullets and fireworks crackles through the woods and blasts rattle windows 12 miles away. Thick, black smoke towers hundreds of feet into the air, dulling the bright slices of sky that show through the forest cover. Manatad’s nephew Frankie McCray — who served two tours at Camp Victory in Iraq — runs inside and locks the door, huddling in the dark behind windows covered in tinfoil.

“Like most of the people who live there, Manatad and McCray find it difficult to believe the booms and clouds aren’t also exacting some sort of toxic price.

“Colfax is a rough-hewn, mostly black town of 1,532 people that hugs a levee separating it from the surging mud and wild alligators of the Red River. Fleeing former slaves once camped under thatched tents in the bayou, and a historic marker serves as a reminder that more than 150 ‘negroes’ were once massacred here. Another monument, in the graveyard a few steps away, praises the three white men who also died, as ‘heroes … fighting for white supremacy.’ . . .”

Jim Vance, Longtime D.C. Anchor, Dies at 75

Jim Vance (Credit: NBC)

Jim Vance (Credit: NBC)

Jim Vance, who might have been the longest-serving television anchor in the nation’s capital, died Saturday, WRC-TV, the NBC owned-and-operated station where he worked for more than 45 years, announced. He was 75 and had announced in May that he had cancer.

Jackie Bradford, president and general manager, said in a statement, “For more than 45 years, Jim Vance was not only the soul of NBC4 but of the entire Washington area. His smooth voice, brilliant mind and unforgettable laugh leaves each of us with a tremendous void.

“Vance always celebrated the good and acknowledged the parts of life that didn’t go so well. That made him a great man.

“To everyone in the Washington area who is heartbroken today, please know we grieve right along with you.

“Jim loved his job, his family and Washington with all his heart, and we will all cherish the legacy he has left us forever.”

Vance was named to the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame in 2007. NABJ noted then that his pairing with Sue Simmons between 1976 and 1980 resulted in one of the first African American anchor teams at a major market television station. NABJ also noted that Vance had won 15 Emmy Awards.

In June, Vance won another honor dear to him: His image was added to the outdoor mural at the popular Ben’s Chili Bowl soul food spot, which has become a favored tourist attraction. (video)

In a city of news junkies and scores of high-profile figures in politics and the media, the most-watched journalist in Washington may well have been Jim Vance,” Matt Schudel wrote Saturday in the Washington Post. . . . He presided over the area’s top-rated newscasts and became a public figure in his own right. He gained broad sympathy for his openness about his struggles with drugs and depression. . . .”

Vance was known as cool and down to earth. Music promoter Darryl Brooks, discussing Vance on the “House of Soul” rhythm ‘n’ blues show Saturday on Washington’s WPFW-FM, said, “he was like a brother’s brother.” Vance was an anonymous donor to the listener-supported “jazz and justice” station.

Vance was close friends with another icon among black journalists, the late CBS correspondent Ed Bradley. They were in the same class of 1964 at Cheyney University, and Vance was master of ceremonies at a memorial service there for the “60 MInutes” journalist in 2006.

Bill Alexander, a Washington journalist who worked with Vance at WRC-TV, has a remembrance in the Comments section.

(Credit: Reno Gazette-Journal)

O.J. ‘Not Looking to Be Involved With the Media’

I’m at a point in my life where all I want to do is spend time, as much time as I can with my children and my friends,” O.J. Simpson said Thursday at his successful parole board hearing, Chris Ariens reported for TVSpy. Simpson added, “I’m not looking to be involved with the media. I’ve had so many offers for interviews when I’ve been here and in Lovelock [Correctional Center] and turned them all down. I’m not interested in any of that.”

Steven Battaglio reported Friday for the Los Angeles Times, “TV ratings aren’t as big as they used to be, even for O.J. Simpson.

“Based on preliminary Nielsen data provided by various networks that carried the hearing, around 13.5 million TV viewers watched the Thursday hearing in which the former football star, actor and pitchman was granted parole after serving nine years in prison for a Las Vegas hotel room heist. The hearing was carried across four broadcast networks and several cable outlets, including ESPN.

“The estimated figure pales next to previous multinetwork broadcasts of culturally iconic Simpson moments. An estimated 150 million viewers watched Simpson’s 1995 acquittal after standing trial for the murder of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. In June 1994, 95 million people tuned in to see police in a low-speed pursuit of Simpson in his white Ford Bronco through the streets of Los Angeles and on the 405 Freeway.

“Those events rank among the most-watched TV moments in history, but occurred in an era when people had far fewer channel options and no Internet streaming. . . .”

Separately, Dennis Hof, owner of the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, six miles east of Carson City, Nev., said he is prepared to offer Simpson a job as a greeter at the brothel, Sarah Litz reported Friday for the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Some candles were lit as darkness fell Monday at the sidewalk kmemorial to Justine Damond, the Australian woman slain by a Minneapolis policeman. (Credit: Jeff Wheeler /Star Tribune)

Some candles were lit as darkness fell Monday at the sidewalk kmemorial to Justine Damond, the Australian woman slain by a Minneapolis policeman. (Credit: Jeff Wheeler /Star Tribune)

Rights, Media Groups to Help Citizens Record Police

Civil rights groups are planning to train a legion of volunteers on how to record police encounters in minority neighborhoods in hopes that fear of being videoed will deter misconduct like illegal shootings of unarmed men and women,” Jesse J. Holland reported Friday for the Associated Press.

“The Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and other groups officially announced the Santana Initiative on Thursday, which will train citizens on their rights to record police interactions with the public.

“The recording of the deaths of several black men at the hands of police, including Walter Scott, Philando Castile and Eric Garner, has made police relations with minority communities a national topic, said Kim Keenan, the MMTC president. Video becomes a tool to help prosecute wrongdoing, or even clear police officers when they are in the right, she said.

” ‘So we have to have a way to record this, so the truth comes out,’ Keenan said.

“The program, which is being supported by groups like the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, U.S. Black Chambers of Commerce and the National Congress of Black Women, is named after Feidin Santana, who in 2015 recorded the fatal police shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina. . . .” Also participating are the Black College Communication Association and the International Black Broadcasters Association. The “NNPA has volunteered to receive video uploads and distribute them to local Black newspapers who can then break the stories,” Honig told Journal-isms.

Holland also wrote, “The MMTC has already posted on its website guidelines on how to legally film public police interactions, vetted pro bono by the legal firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP. In addition, it plans to train volunteers to learn how to legally record people trying to intimidate minorities at voting places or trying to keep people from showing up to vote. . . .”

In a pre-taped segment for Live PD, officers enter a home. (Screenshot via YouTube)

Officers enter a home in a pre-taped segment for “Live PD.” (Screenshot via YouTube)

Writer Alarmed by A&E’s Live Version of ‘Cops’

In January, Johann Johnson of Richland County, South Carolina, found out that her son had been shot dead,Ann-Derrick Gaillot reported Monday for theoutline.com. “She didn’t hear the news through a phone call or after a knock at the door. But rather she watched live on national TV, learning of her son’s death at the same time over a million other Americans who tuned into A&E’s hit reality crime show Live PD did. It was perhaps one of the worst days of Johnson’s life. And it was being shown on TV as entertainment.

Live PD, a twice-weekly show, has been on the air since October 2016. Since then, Variety reports, its viewership has risen 92 percent to draw an average of 1.4 million viewers per episode. That runaway success has prompted the network to order 100 more 3-hour episodes scheduled to run through 2018.

“I hope you never see the program, but it’s still important to know what happens on what A&E calls the ‘top unscripted crime series on cable.’ Hosted by ABC News anchor Dan Abrams, Live PD follows select law enforcement departments from across the country — including Greenville and Richland counties, South Carolina; Calvert County, Maryland; Jeffersonville, Indiana; and Spokane County, Washington — as officers go about their jobs, responding to emergency calls, serving warrants, arresting suspects, and occasionally partaking in high-speed car chases, amongst other routine cop duties.

“The show is an obvious descendant of mega-hit series Cops on Spike, but with a twist. Everything that happens, happens live and unedited. On a typical episode, Abrams directs viewers between feeds from different parts of the country, cutting between them as they become more or less interesting. . . .”

Gaillot also wrote, “Claims of balance and transparency . . . are absurd. Dashboard cameras and body cameras themselves do not tell complete stories. Meanwhile, the basic format of the show lends itself to sympathize with the law enforcement officers it follows. . . .”

The New York Times’ coverage of Ryan Lochte’s Rio Olympics scandal, as reimagined by Alexandra Bell. (Courtesy We Are Not Pilgrims via Village Voice)

The New York Times’ coverage of Ryan Lochte’s Rio Olympics scandal, as reimagined by Alexandra Bell. The Times headline “Accused of Fabricating Robbery, Swimmers Fuel Tension in Brazil” is changed to “Rio Gas Station Footage Reveals White-American Swimmers Were Offenders*.” The dominant photo becomes one of Loche, above the new caption headline “Olympic Threat.” (Courtesy We Are Not Pilgrims via Village Voice)

Artist Shows That News Is a Matter of Perspective

We met in May, close to midnight on a quiet industrial street in Bushwick, in front of an unremarkable steel building,” Alexandria Neason wrote Wednesday for the Village Voice, referring to the Brooklyn, N.Y., neighborhood.

“On the second floor was Alexandra Bell’s small, square studio, its walls plastered with blown-up reproductions of the front page of the most recognizable newspaper in America — specifically, the edition delivered to newsstands and doorsteps on August 25, 2014.

“In skinny strokes of red permanent marker, she’d circled words, crossed out sentences, and written notes and questions in the margins, a public humbling designed to present the paper of record as little more than a series of decisions made by human hands and brains — decisions Bell was now questioning with force. Earlier that evening, at Shoestring Press, a print shop in Crown Heights, we’d picked up copies of the finished versions of those same augmented articles. Michael Brown’s eyes seemed to follow us around the room, staring intently from beneath the jaws of a giant black printer. Bell rolled the finished product into cylinders and tucked them away.

“Bell’s public art series, called ‘Counternarratives,’ reworks or redacts text from real stories that ran in the New York Times, exposing the long, ongoing tradition of media reliance on stereotypes — itself a print term — in coverage involving people of color.

“By deploying marginalia, obscuring whole passages with fat black ink, and rewriting headlines, captions, and other text, Bell, who is 34 and a Chicago native, highlights the often overt bias that still survives the editing process. The series is a trenchant questioning of these sometimes baffling choices, made by workers in an industry that prides itself on its fairness. . . .”

In March, April Ryan, left, asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, right, what the administration does to revamp its image. He asked her, "please stop shaking your head." (Credit: CNN)

In March, April Ryan, left, asked White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, right, what the administration does to revamp its image. He asked her, “please stop shaking your head.” (Credit: CNN)

Spicer Should Have Expected His Time to End Badly

Sean Spicer, who came to office a respected, if combative, Washington insider, resigned on Friday as White House press secretary, leaving office with a damaged reputation after completing an ignoble six months in the office,” Pete Vernon wrote Friday for Columbia Journalism Review. “Spicer, as first reported by The New York Times, chose to resign rather than serve under new White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci.

“Coming to the job with years of experience in the Capitol and solid relationships with many members of the press, Spicer quickly demonstrated a willingness to serve as President Trump’s attack dog, castigating reporters over coverage of the inauguration and demonstrating a tenuous relationship with reality that would continue in later months.

“The demands of the job, along with criticism from both . . . the press and the president, along with a mocking Saturday Night Live imitation, seemed to wear on Spicer as spring progressed.

By May, Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was taking more turns behind the Brady Briefing Room lectern, as rumors swirled over Spicer’s ouster.

“Perhaps in an effort to avoid that outcome, Spicer doubled down on criticism of reporters. Instead of working to bridge the divide between a often-incredulous press corps and an administration that referred to the media as ‘the enemy of the American people,’ Spicer chose to parrot his boss’s most strident and disingenuous criticisms, attacking the press for fake news and complaining about a biased agenda.

“He also dealt with problems of his own making, including a condescending confrontation with American Urban Radio Networks’ April Ryan and a comparison between Bashar al-Assad and [Adolf] Hitler that necessitated a rare apology. . . .”

Margaret Sullivan added in the Washington Post, “There’s something about Sean Spicer that inspires pity. He’s had so much to deal with: The brutal ‘Saturday Night Live’ skewerings. The fact that his boss, President Trump, wouldn’t let him meet Pope Francis during the Vatican visit. That ill-fitting suit he started out in. And so, so much more.

“But don’t give in to that emotion. To use current parlance, resist.

“Because Spicer should have known from the very start that this would end badly. There was never any other possibility for a press secretary who was in the most unacceptable position for a White House press secretary. A classic CNN chyron last month got it just right: ‘President’s Spokesman Says He Can’t Speak for the President.’ . . .”

Backlash Over Piece on White Women

Greg Howard

Greg Howard

The New York Times is facing blowback on social media after publishing an essay by an African-American reporter who accused white women of racism for not ceding space on city sidewalks to black men,” Joe Concha wrote Friday for the Hill.

“In a Wednesday essay titled ‘Was That Racist,’ reporter Greg Howard singled out white women for forcing him ‘off the sidewalk completely’ when walking toward him, not allowing a straight path.

” ‘In seven years of living and walking here, I’ve found that most people walk courteously — but that white women, at least when I’m in their path, do not,’ Howard writes.

‘” ‘Sometimes they’re buried in their phones. Other times, they’re in pairs and groups, and in conversation. But often, they’re looking ahead, through me, if not quite at me,’ he continues. . . .”

Ex-Reporter Sues; Forced Out Over Use of N-Word

Valerie Hoff

Valerie Hoff

Valerie Hoff, a former veteran 11Alive reporter, has sued the NBC affiliate for what she deemed ‘breach of contract’ after she was forced to resign in April over a joking use of the N-word in a private Twitter exchange with a source who is black,” Rodney Ho reported Friday for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“In the lawsuit filed Thursday in the state court of Fulton County against WXIA-TV owner TEGNA, she wrote that she complied with her contractual agreement regarding her behavior. At first, the station gave her a two-week suspension without pay.

“But when news of her snafu hit FTVlive.com, a broadcast news gossip website, the TV station changed its tune and asked her to leave the station, suggesting a resignation looked better than a termination, according to the lawsuit. . . .”

Ho also wrote of Hoff, “On April 13, 2017, she was seeking a video of a white police officer assaulting a black driver. She found the video on the Twitter feed of Curtis Rivers and sought his permission to use it. He noted on his public Twitter that ‘I just posted a video to get some justice now I got news n****s all up in my DMs [direct messages] telline me to call them smh [shaking my head].’

“She jokingly wrote back in a DM ‘Please call this news n*****. lol. I’m with 11alive.’ At first Rivers laughed it off with a ‘LMFAOO.’ But he soon realized Hoff was white and became offended that she was calling him the N-word, even in its shorter version that ends with an ‘a.’

“She apologized immediately, writing, ‘No I called myself one. I’m a news lady at 11alive I thought you were referring to all of us. So sorry if you didn’t understand…again, I’m sorry I offended you. I was not offended by what you called the media but I should not have used it back even in a pm [private message].’ . . . ”

Only 15% in U.S. Aware of Famine Crisis Abroad

Less than a fifth of Americans are aware that extreme hunger threatens the lives of 20 million people in Africa and the Middle East, yet the overwhelming majority regard it as the most pressing global issue once they have been told, a poll of US voters has revealed,” Hannah Summers reported July 13 for the Guardian.

“Research by the International Rescue Committee showed that millennials, loosely defined as young adults born between 1981 and 1997, are the generation most concerned about solving the hunger crisis in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria.

“Yet overall public awareness of the situation is low, with only 15% of Americans apprised of the facts even though 73% said, once informed, that it was a major global concern. . . .”

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).