Reporter Alleges More Exploitation of Black Women

Raleigh Paper Drops Columnist After 24-Year Run

Sports Columnist Kawakami to Edit at Online Startup

Chicago Sun-Times Calls Out Institutional Racism

Reporting Finds Lead Still Contaminates Urban Soil

Ebony Owner Pledges Payments by Month’s End

Pushback on Trump Backers’ Attacks on Journalism

Statue Honors ‘Willpower Over White Power’

C-SPAN Live From Detroit to Mark ’67 Uprising

On Kaepernick, Some Tell Vick to Speak for Himself

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R. Kelly (Credit: Brianna Paciorka/ | Times-Picayune)

R. Kelly (Credit: Brianna Paciorka/ | Times-Picayune)

Reporter Alleges More Exploitation of Black Women

I think a big question that every journalist in our field . . . has to ask him or herself and that I think the music industry has to ask itself is how have we co-signed this artist for so long?” reporter Jim DeRogatis told Josh Levin of Slate on Monday.

DeRogatis was discussing his blockbuster story in BuzzFeed Monday about R. Kelly’s alleged sex crimes.

Kelly “was on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon singing Christmas songs on Dec. 23 last year. It’s been in full view of the world for 20 years. And yet Kelly has not suffered repercussions on his career. . . .”

Levin asked DeRogatis, “How much of that do you think is because, as opposed to the Bill Cosby case, there haven’t been as many people who’ve put their names to the accusation?”

DeRogatis replied, “I think the biggest factor is one that the African-American scholar Mark Anthony Neal has said: These are all young African-American women, and I think if there had been a white girl it would have been different.”

Levin, Slate’s editorial director, introduced his interview this way:

“On Dec. 21, 2000, Jim DeRogatis and Abdon M. Pallasch wrote in the Chicago Sun-Times that ‘R. Kelly used his position of fame and influence as a pop superstar to meet girls as young as 15 and have sex with them, according to court records and interviews.’

“Two years later, DeRogatis was mailed a videotape that showed a man who looked like Kelly engaging in a sex act with what appeared to be an underage girl. That tape would be at the center of a 2008 criminal trial in which the singer was ultimately found not guilty of producing child pornography. Kelly was acquitted in that case after the judge did not allow jurors to hear evidence — much of which had been dug up by DeRogatis— that Kelly habitually had sex with underage girls, that he’d paid settlements to several of those girls, and that he’d married R&B star Aaliyah when she was 15 years old.

“On Monday, nearly 17 years after he first reported on Kelly’s alleged sex crimes, DeRogatis published an article for BuzzFeed surfacing allegations that the Trapped in the Closet auteur lured multiple young women into abusive, controlling sexual relationships.

“The story focuses primarily on two aspiring musicians from Georgia and Florida — women DeRogatis does not name to protect their privacy — both of whom have cut off contact with their parents. Three women he does name, ‘former members of Kelly’s inner circle,’ told DeRogatis that ‘six women live in properties rented by Kelly in Chicago and the Atlanta suburbs, and he controls every aspect of their lives: dictating what they eat, how they dress, when they bathe, when they sleep, and how they engage in sexual encounters that he records.’

“The sexual relationships described in the BuzzFeed piece involve women who are above the age of consent. The story also notes that law enforcement officials from several jurisdictions have looked into the relationships and have not brought any charges. In a statement provided to BuzzFeed, Kelly’s lawyer Linda Mensch wrote:

” ‘We can only wonder why folks would persist in defaming a great artist who loves his fans, works 24/7, and takes care of all of the people in his life. He works hard to become the best person and artist he can be. It is interesting that stories and tales debunked many years ago turn up when his goal is to stop the violence; put down the guns; and embrace peace and love. I suppose that is the price of fame. Like all of us, Mr. Kelly deserves a personal life. Please respect that.’ . . .”

Raleigh Paper Drops Columnist After 24-Year Run

Barry Saunders (Credit: Ethan Hyman/News & Observer)

Barry Saunders (Credit: Ethan Hyman/News & Observer)

Barry Saunders — who entertained, informed and sometimes enraged readers for more than 24 years as a local columnist — is leaving The News & Observer,” the Raleigh, N.C., newspaper announced on Tuesday.

The reason? “The paper had a ‘reinvention,’ ” Saunders told Journal-isms by telephone on Wednesday. “They’re going more digital, and putting more emphasis on it. They felt they didn’t need a columnist.”

John Drescher, executive editor of the N&O, did not respond to a request for comment. But he was effusive in the N&O story about Saunders’ departure.

“For more than two decades, Barry Saunders has been one of the Triangle’s leading voices,” Drescher was quoted as saying. “He’s been courageous, he’s been insightful, he’s been funny.

“Barry’s deep roots in North Carolina clearly influenced his work and helped make him a must-read for many of our readers.”

The story went on to quote former North Carolina Gov. Jim Hunt, noting that Saunders often used “lingo and down-home country talk” that instantly appealed to readers, who would then discover greater truths in his work.

“We found in Barry a man who has wisdom beyond what we initially expected,” Hunt said. “From my special perch, I can tell you that … his columns helped make North Carolina be a better place.” Also praising Saunders in the story was Durham Mayor Bill Bell.

The story also noted that “For several years at the newspaper, Saunders agreed to make himself look silly if readers gave enough money to an N&O holiday charity effort. . . .”

Saunders, 59, told Journal-isms that “I can’t complain at all. I had 24 great years at the N&O,” and before that, three years at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and six-and-a-half years at the Post-Tribune in Gary, Ind.

“If I were in politics, this is the point where I would say I’m returning to spend more time with my family,” Saunders joked. He added, “I think journalism is something I still want to do,” but that “I can’t really think of any other paper I’d want to write for.”

The N&O wrote of Saunders, “Some of his most memorable columns poignantly showed how Triangle people responded to damaging hurricanes in North Carolina or deadly mass shootings in Orlando or Newtown. He often did obituaries when local people passed away, from a beloved bookstore owner to a judge whose harsh brand of justice Saunders said would not necessarily be missed. . . .”

One of those who passed on was Chuck Stone, founding president of the National Association of Black Journalists and legendary columnist turned distinguished professor, who died in 2014.

Saunders wrote tributes for the N&O and for Journal-isms and spoke at the service.

“Ever heard the adage, ‘You should never meet your heroes’?” Saunders wrote on April 7, 2014, for the N&O.

“That’s presumably because you’ll certainly be disappointed when he or she doesn’t live up to your exalted opinion.

“Bull. I met my hero, and it couldn’t have turned out better.

“Chuck Stone is, quite simply, the reason I’m a columnist today. It’s up to you whether you blame him or thank him for that. Let’s discuss that later. For now, though, just allow me to pay tribute to the man, who died Sunday at 89.

“He is the reason I wear a bow tie and the reason I wore — until I no longer had enough hair to wear —a hightop fade. I also copied — i.e., stole — his unique voicemail greeting: ‘Hi, this is Chuck Stone. Please pardon this electronic impersonality, but I am currently in absentia. … ‘

“Trying to be like Chuck. . . .”

Saunders concluded his remembrance for Journal-isms with this: “I had the honor of speaking about the man I consider my mentor, and related the most important advice Chuck ever gave me. Once, after thinking I’d missed the mark on a column and seeing the News & Observer besieged by calls for my scalp, I called Chuck.

“What should I do? I asked.

” ‘F— ’em,’ he replied.”

Tim Kawakami (Credit: Daniel Terdiman/Fast Company)

Tim Kawakami (Credit: Daniel Terdiman/Fast Company)

Sports Columnist Kawakami to Edit at Online Startup

After 17 incredible, unpredictable, wholly enriching years at the Mercury News, I am leaving the company for an exciting new venture,” sports columnist Tim Kawakami of the San Jose newspaper tweeted July 13. On Tuesday, Kawakami said he was leaving to become editor-in-chief and lead columnist of the Bay Area site of the Athletic, an online sports website with a subscription business model. That’s where he sees the news business heading, he said.

We’re like Wile E. Coyote suspended in midair right now as we’re about to drop,” Kawakami told the Bay Area Sports Guy. “I don’t mean that specifically about Bay Area News Group, I mean that about the entire industry. I know smart people everywhere are trying to figure out ways to make sure there’s something under us when we land. But I’ve seen the numbers. This is happening. It’s happening at a geometrically increased pace every day.  . . . ”

Kawakami confirmed Thursday that he has hired Marcus Thompson, a black journalist who is sports columnist for the Bay Area News Group and author of “Golden: the Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry,” as a columnist.

Kawakami also said, “The Athletic guys are obviously based in San Francisco. We met in November for the first time. They’re the smartest guys I’ve talked to who are interested in this business, who are interested in staying in this business and interested in changing this business. The first time they bring out ‘subscriber model,’ obviously any newspaper guy is going to be a little leery of that. No matter what, even if we’re incredibly successful right away, there’s going to be a dramatic lessening of readership. Just pure numbers.

“But if you think through it, you realize this is the way newspapers, or however we do this in the future, is going to turn out. Has to be. . . .”

The Athletic debuts Aug. 1.

Clarification: This item originally said that Kawakami would be editor of the entire Athletic site. 

Chicago Sun-Times Calls Out Institutional Racism

We’ve got racists in the Water Department. What a shock,” the Chicago Sun-Times editorialized on Wednesday.

“This is Chicago, which is part of America. We’ve got racists preaching from pulpits, writing laws and driving buses, too. . . .”

The editorial was prompted by a report this week from City Inspector General Joe Ferguson detailing how one supervisor “banged out racist emails the way nice people send out birthday wishes. In one email about Chicago’s high murder rate, [district Superintendent Paul]  Hansen joked about a fake ‘Chicago Safari’ package that would guarantee tourists ‘at least one kill and five crime scenes’ and views of ‘lots of animals in their natural habitat.’ . . .”

The editorial also noted, “the Chicago Tribune published a deeply detailed series of reports last month that showed how the assessor’s office uses a mishmash of formulas to overvalue low-priced homes while undervaluing high-priced ones. The pattern hits minority communities particularly hard. . . .”

It concluded, “When you get down to it, baked-in institutional racism is more repulsive than some throwback bigot in the Water Department.”

Reporting Finds Lead Still Contaminates Urban Soil

Childhood lead poisoning dramatically decreased across America as the federal government began phasing out leaded gasoline in the 1970s,” concluded a five-part series published July 12 by ThinkProgress, reported by Yvette Cabrera. “But many children are still being exposed today because of lead’s legacy: polluted environments, particularly in urban areas.

“Now we know that even low concentrations of lead in children are dangerous to their health and well-being. Yet federal, state and local policies have failed to keep up with scientific research and do not protect children from lead’s irreversible consequences. . . .”

The series concluded, “ThinkProgress tested more than 1,000 soil samples in homes and public spaces throughout Santa Ana, Ca. Nearly a quarter of the samples surpassed the hazardous level of 80 ppm set by the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

“. . . Research shows that children who have blood lead levels below 5 mcg/dL can experience serious consequences such as cognitive deficits, behavioral issues, and educational delays, but those children often don’t show acute physical symptoms of lead poisoning. Studies have also found that children with low to moderate blood lead levels experience the most IQ point loss.

“A recent Public Health Institute study found that California and many other states across the country are severely undercounting and underreporting the number of lead-burdened children. African American and Latino children are especially impacted by lead exposure. . . .”

Roland Martin leads a discussion of Ebony’s delayed payments to freelancers Monday on TV One’s “News One Now.”

Ebony Owner Pledges Payments by Month’s End

Ebony magazine, which missed its self-imposed June 30 deadline for paying the thousands of dollars it owes freelance writers, now says “Our goal is to bring everyone current by end of month,” in the words of Michael Gibson, chairman of the CVG Group LLC, which purchased Ebony from Johnson Publishing Co. last year.

“We are continuing to work our plan for paying freelancers,” Gibson told Journal-isms by email. “We are 100% committed to paying everyone 100% of what they are owed. Our goal is to bring everyone current by end of month. We will always use freelancers so there will always be freelancer invoices in our system.”

As Kim Janssen reported Wednesday for the Chicago Tribune, “The National Association of Black Journalists last week handed Ebony a mocking ‘Thumbs Down Award’ for failing to pay freelancers owed as much as $200,000 — while the National [Writers] Union announced plans to sue Ebony on behalf of the unpaid freelancers. . . .”

Gibson did not respond to an inquiry about the company’s move from its Austin, Texas, headquarters. A receptionist at the telephone number on the company’s website said CVG Group moved from its rented space there last month.

Pushback on Trump Backers’ Attacks on Journalism

The RTDNA Voice of the First Amendment Task Force today expressed concern about a new fundraising effort by some supporters of President Trump that capitalizes on his frequent criticism of responsible journalism,” the Radio-Television Digital News Association said Wednesday.

“One of the Political Action Committees raising money for the Trump-Pence campaign is now selling, for as little as one dollar each, bumper stickers that read, ‘FIGHT THE FAKE NEWS.’

“ ‘The Trump Make America Great Again Committee is exploiting the deep political divide that currently exists in America to enhance that rift at the expense of the hard-working men and women in our country who fulfill their Constitutionally-guaranteed duty to seek and report the truth,’ said Dan Shelley, RTDNA Incoming Executive Director, who spearheads the task force.

” ‘Our concern is that the bumper sticker will further empower some people to act out against reporters and photographers.’ . . .”

For its part, a majority of the potential full Federal Communications Commission has committed to speak out against violence or intimidation against journalists, John Eggerton reported Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable.

“That came in a nomination hearing for FCC chairman Ajit Pai and potential commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Brendan Carr, all of whom promised to speak out.” A potentially full commission has five members.

“. . . Pai also reiterated that the White House had not contacted him about retaliating against negative news stories and said he would not do so if asked. . . .”

Meanwhile, many editorial boards welcomed the defeat of Senate Republican leaders’ Trump-backed plan to replace the Affordable Care Act.

This is what happens when you try to muscle through in six months — and in secret — what you could have done over seven years,” the Miami Herald wrote Tuesday. “You bear the brunt of the responsibility for the GOP’s disaster of a healthcare plan getting flushed down the tubes.

“This is what happens when you do anything, short of crawling under a rock, to avoid having to look your scared and angry constituents in the eye at town hall meetings. When you emerge from wherever you’ve been hiding, those constituents are still scared, still angry, having flooded your offices on the Hill with phone calls and emails to make sure you get the message. . . .”

Maggie Walker statue. (Credit: Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Maggie Walker statue. (Credit: Daniel Sangjib Min/Richmond Times-Dispatch)

Statue Honors ‘Willpower Over White Power’

Current events have a way of flying by, but the pace of history often seems glacial — especially here in Richmond. So it was not until this past weekend that the city erected a monument to someone who deserves it more than any other Richmonder: Maggie Walker,” the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch editorialized Monday.

“Walker’s life is a testimony to the triumph of determination over adversity — of willpower over white power. Although she is best known for starting a bank, Walker racked up many other accomplishments, any one of which would have sufficed to earn her a line in history’s annals: She was an entrepreneur, a civil rights leader, a community paragon, and more. . . .”

The editorial concluded, “In the Maggie Walker statue, the city finally has erected, in a prominent location, a dignified and fitting monument to a noble subject whose life exemplified everything that all people should strive to be. It is, in short, a monument in which the entire city can take pride. And should.”

C-SPAN Live From Detroit to Mark ’67 Uprising

This coming Sunday, “American History TV will be LIVE from the Detroit Free Press newsroom 50 years after five days of rioting erupted in the city, sparked by a police raid on an illegal bar and fueled by long-simmering tensions over racism and segregation,” Nina Shelton wrote for C-SPAN on July 13.

“Racial unrest ignited in more than 150 American cities that summer, but Detroit, along with Newark, New Jersey, was the hardest hit. President Johnson dispatched 5,000 federal troops, 43 people died, hundreds were injured, 7,000 arrested and 2,500 buildings were looted or destroyed. Property damage was estimated at more than $30 million. . . .”

Included in the telecast from 1:15 p.m. to 2 p.m EST will be a segment on “Media coverage & aftermath,” with Stephen Henderson, Detroit Free Press editorial page editor, and Tim Kiska, former journalist with the Free Press and the Detroit News.

On Kaepernick, Some Tell Vick to Speak for Himself

Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick

Recently retired NFL quarterback Michael Vick has some advice for Colin Kaepernick, who is still looking for a job after opting out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in March,” Chuck Schilken reported Tuesday for the Los Angeles Times.

“ ‘First thing we gotta get Colin to do is cut his hair,’ Vick said Monday on FS1’s ‘Speak For Yourself.’

“Kaepernick had short, neatly cut hair when he led the 49ers to the Super Bowl following the 2012 season. But before last season, he grew it all out, often sporting a large Afro or sometimes cornrows. . . .”

Schilken also wrote, “In what some are [interpreting] as a response to Vick’s comments, Kaepernick took to Twitter and Instagram on Tuesday morning and posted the definition of [Stockholm] Syndrome. . . .”

The subject was too inviting for some columnists to resist.

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