Standing Rock Talk, at Issue, Now to Take Place

Amy Barnett to Lead the Grio; Plans Relaunch

Don Lemon Files Police Report After Death Threats

Loosening of Broadcast Ownership Rules Likely

Media Groups Appeal to St. Louis on Press Freedoms

3 African Countries Worth Our Attention

Short Takes

‘We Are Sorry to Learn That He Has Decided Not to Continue With the University of North Dakota’

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Mark Trahant (Credit: University of Alaska Anchorage)

Mark Trahant (Credit: University of Alaska Anchorage)

Standing Rock Talk, at Issue, Now to Take Place

Veteran Native American journalist Mark N. Trahant said Thursday he will not renew his endowed professorship at the University of North Dakota because the school denied his proposals to discuss the high-profile dispute over the Dakota Access Pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

On Friday, after Trahant made his decision known, the university said it would hold a session on the pipeline.  “President [Mark] Kennedy does like the idea of an event that takes a balanced look at the DAPL issue,” university spokesman Peter Johnson said in a message to journalists.

Trahant said Saturday that the keynote speaker would be journalist Jenni Monet, who was arrested while covering a protest against the pipeline.

However, Trahant told Journal-isms, his decision to leave still stands. “I’ll stick through May but I am thinking newsroom not classroom.”

In announcing his decision, Trahant said on Thursday, “I am disappointed and disgusted that the university is not an institutional leader in this state. It should be a beam of light, shining on the protected realm of rational discourse.

“Last year, for example, I was asked to coordinate a journalism lecture series,” Trahant said in a posting on social media. “I proposed hearing from the journalists who covered Standing Rock.

“Nope. Instead the series was ‘put on hold.’ This year I suggested a conference on technology and society, again leading with a conversation about Standing Rock and social media. Again, no, and I learned about senior administration fears that the legislature might retaliate.”

In a statement issued Thursday night, a spokesman for University President Mark Kennedy denied any role fear played into the school’s decision to cancel a lecture topic,” Dave Kolpack reported for the Associated Press.

” ‘The University of North Dakota senior administration has never, to my knowledge … expressed any fear of retaliation by the North Dakota Legislature,’ Peter Johnson said, adding that Kennedy ‘regrets any perception that the university would have prevented a faculty-led activity from taking place based on perceived fears of legislative response.’ ”

In his message to journalists made available Friday, [statement at the end of this column] Johnson said that “President Kennedy didn’t know about, hadn’t heard anything about, Mark Trahant’s proposed events until the question was raised by media Thursday.”

Johnson also said, however, that “the university has to make decisions about expenditures. Not every lecture topic is funded by the university, particularly in times of fiscal constraint.  That doesn’t preclude individuals from seeking alternative funding sources.  In this instance, there was concern expressed at the college level about using university funding at this time for the activities proposed by Mark Trahant.  The topic wasn’t new to the North Dakota University System.  . . .”

Trahant messaged Journal-isms on Friday, “We will be doing a major event examining Standing Rock and the media. It’s a good step forward for UND and more important public discourse. Working schedule out now but likely March.”

Trahant, a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, is a former president of the Native American Journalists Association who led the editorial page of the late Seattle Post-Intelligencer, blogs on Indian affairs in his Trahant Reports and was 2014 Atwood Chair of Journalism at the University of Alaska Anchorage. In 1988, he and two colleagues at the Arizona Republic were finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. He was named to the North Dakota professorship in 2015.

“Mark Trahant is a highly respected journalist and communication faculty member, as evidenced by the fact he has been made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been named an editor for an upcoming 2018 edition of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences,” Johnson said in his note to journalists.

When he was appointed in 2015, Debbie Storrs, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, said in a news release, “Mark has the commitment and the experience to help train the next generation of media-savvy students, including those from tribal communities.

“He’s also going to help students at large understand how the news is nuanced today through different social media outlets, such as Twitter, blogs, and other forms of social media. It’s all about telling stories through multiple avenues.

“ ‘It’s an incredible opportunity for our students to be mentored by a professional like Mark,’ Storrs said.

“Trahant also will specifically encourage Native students to come to UND to major in journalism, and go back to communities to help them tell their stories. . . .”

 

 

Rob Port, a columnist with the Forum in Fargo, N.D., described Trahant’s politics as leftist.

I do wonder – with vast swaths of the electorate seeing the press as overwhelmingly liberal – if it’s a good idea to have someone so clearly left of center teaching journalism at our public universities,” Port wrote on Thursday.

“Would it be valid for the Legislature, or anyone else, to be critical of discussion on the #NoDAPL protests and [the] way they were covered that was one sided? Are the taxpayers under any obligation to fund the work of an academic who has so clearly picked a side in the war over pipelines? . . .”

Trahant said in his Thursday social media posting, “Right now my inclination is to leave the academic world and focus on journalism (but I have some time to figure that out). My TV project with FNX is launching soon and I will work harder to raise funds for my other worthwhile projects.”

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe continues to battle the pipeline company, Energy Transfer Partners, in court even though oil began flowing through the pipeline this summer. The 1,000-mile, $3.8 billion conduit transports up to 520,000 barrels of crude a day from North Dakota to Illinois. Opponents argued construction would compromise sacred lands. They also worried that part of the pipeline under the Missouri River could leak and pollute local drinking water, as Jeff Brady reported for NPR.

Amy Barnett to Lead the Grio; Plans Relaunch

TheGrio.com, one of the first African American-oriented websites to be launched by a major media company, plans to reboot in 2018 as a “video-centric destination for black millennials” under its latest owner, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios.

Amy DuBois Barnett

Amy DuBois Barnett

The black-owned operation announced Thursday that Amy DuBois Barnett, a former top editor at Ebony, Teen People and Honey magazines, has been named the Grio’s executive vice president, digital and chief content officer.

Entertainment Studios bought the Grio in 2016 from co-founders David A. Wilson and Dan Woolsey.

David A. Wilson in Brazil. (Credit: Facebook)

David A. Wilson in Brazil. (Credit: Facebook)

Wilson, who had remained as executive editor, has now left the company, Entertainment Studios spokesman Eric Peterkofsky told Journal-isms by telephone on Thursday. At the National Association of Black Journalists convention in New Orleans in August, Wilson said he had relocated to Brazil two months earlier but was continuing to conduct business. “My phone is my office now,” he said.

Wilson messaged his Facebook friends from Brazil on Oct. 5, “My philosophy is that the only way African people across the globe will rise above the largest man-made disaster in history, known as slavery and colonialism, is if we begin to rely on each other and build economic, educational, social and cultural ties. I am here to help inspire the creation and expansion of more black revenue-based media in Brazil. . . .”

The Grio was a product of NBC at its 2009 founding, then was sold in 2014 back to Wilson and Woolsey. Its current owner, Allen, is a television entrepreneur and former comedian and performer who served as co-host of NBC’s “Real People,” an early reality show.

Byron Allen

Byron Allen

Today he is a billionaire entrepreneur. “I want to build a media company that rivals Warner Brothers, rivals Disney,” Allen said in a recent interview at his company’s Century City, Calif., headquarters, according to an Oct. 3 profile by Rebecca Keegan in Vanity Fair. “That’s who I think about. Rupert Murdoch . . . Walt Disney. I think about the biggest media companies in the world. That’s what I’m chasing.”

Barnett told Journal-isms by email Thursday, ” I am planning on relaunching theGrio in 2018. We’ll be maximizing the resources of Entertainment Studios to make theGrio the premier video-centric destination for black millennials. Ultimately, theGrio will become a multi-platform media powerhouse, with digital properties, television and film projects, events and e-commerce.

“The opportunities are vast… .”

Barnett did not address personnel changes. The current managing editor, Todd Johnson, referred questions to Entertainment Studios.

The Grio ranked 11th in average monthly unique visitors in 2016 on a list of African American-oriented websites submitted to the comScore, Inc. research company, with 2,190,000 average monthly unique visitors.

Don Lemon Files Police Report After Death Threats

CNN anchor Don Lemon said he received death threats from a self-proclaimed white nationalist after appealing to President Trump to stop attacking the widow of a US soldier, according to the NYPD,” Yaron Steinbuch reported Thursday for the New York Post.

“The network’s security personnel called police after the black journalist was attacked on Twitter with several messages, including ‘F— you n—- can’t wait to stab your neck’ and ‘U r a pile of rotting Dogs—-, racist, communist, socialist, Liberal moron ass—, I will find u U will pay. ill see u real soon,’ police sources said.

“The alleged user described himself on Twitter using the handle @1jeff4trump2 as a ‘white nationalist conservative . pro gun anti islam anti terrorist anti leftist yes i HATE demorats,blm,antifa ,socialists. heavily armed racist.WLM.’

” ‘Police were not sure of the identity of the person, whose Twitter account was deleted Thursday, other than they believe he is a white 47-year-old who identifies with the alt-right.

” ‘The NYPD report was made for aggravated harassment — but the incident also is being investigated as a possible hate crime, sources said. . . .”

Loosening of Broadcast Ownership Rules Likely

The Federal Communications Commission will vote next month on ending a rule that prevents joint ownership of newspapers and TV or radio stations in the same geographical market,” Jon Brodkin wrote Thursday for Ars Technica.

“The change is part of a larger overhaul of media ownership rules announced yesterday by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. Currently, the FCC says its newspaper/broadcast station cross-ownership rule ‘prohibit[s] common ownership of a daily newspaper and a full-power broadcast station (AM, FM, or TV) if the station’s service contour encompasses the newspaper’s city of publication.’

“Pai is proposing to eliminate that rule and others. He announced the move during an FCC oversight hearing in Congress yesterday, saying he wants to ‘pull the government once and for all out of the newsroom.’

“Pai also proposes eliminating a local radio/TV cross-ownership rule that prohibits one entity from owning more than two television stations and one radio station in the same market unless that market meets certain size criteria. There would still be some restrictions on the number of stations one entity could own in a market because separate TV and radio ownership rules will remain on the books.

“The FCC will vote on the proposal on November 16. It will likely pass because Pai leads a 3-2 Republican majority. . . .”

Mike Faulk, reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was caught in the sweep when police arrested dozens of people after telling protesters to disperse. (Credit: David Carson)

Mike Faulk, reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was caught in a September sweep when police arrested dozens of people after telling protesters to disperse. (Credit: David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Media Groups Appeal to St. Louis on Press Freedom

RTDNA and its Voice of the First Amendment Task Force joined the Committee to Protect Journalists and other press freedom groups in calling on the city of St. Louis to review police-news media relations, following the arrests of at least ten journalists who were covering civil unrest in the community,” the Radio Television Digital News Association said on Wednesday.

“St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson has already requested investigations into citizens’ complaints surrounding the police response to protests that broke out following the September acquittal of a white former police officer in the shooting death of an African-American man.

“In a letter sent to the mayor, RTDNA and the other groups state, ‘We applaud your calls for an independent investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. As you coordinate this investigation with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department and the Civilian Oversight Board, we urge you to include a thorough consideration of the impact of law enforcement actions on freedom of the press.’

“According to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which RTDNA is a founding partner, some of the journalists who have been arrested merely for doing their jobs in St. Louis allege police officers physically assaulted them and blatantly disregarded their clearly visible press [credentials] and factual assertions that they were, in fact, journalists covering the protests, not participating in them.

“In one of the more notable arrests, Mike Faulk, a reporter for The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, says officers threw him to the ground, pinned his head to the pavement with a boot and pepper-sprayed his eyes from a close distance. Faulk says he was kept in jail for 13 hours, even though his editor arrived at the jail with bail money within about two hours, and repeatedly was denied medical attention for injuries he suffered during his arrest. . . .”

3 African Countries Worth Our Attention

“As U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley travels in Africa and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a classified briefing Thursday with Pentagon officials on the deadly ambush in Niger, where five Nigerien soldiers were killed along with four U.S. soldiers, we speak with reporter Nick Turse, who says U.S. military activity in Africa is a recruiting tool for terror groups,” Amy Goodman said Friday on “Democracy Now!”

Turse, a fellow at the Nation Institute and contributing writer at the Intercept, is author of “Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan.”

“AMY GOODMAN: Is there anything else you want to add that you think people in the United States — certainly, the corporate media hardly focuses on Africa. I mean, when you have, for example, the attack, what they call the Mogadishu massacre, of 358 people dead, almost no attention. Of course, right away, there is a mention of it. But in the aftermath, the devastation, the loss of life. What should people understand across Africa right now and be looking for?

“NICK TURSE: Well, you know, I think it’s important to keep an eye on places like South Sudan, which we talked of earlier, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic. These are places where the United States had a more robust diplomatic effort before, but has— the United States has pulled back, in many ways. And these are places where the United States — the United Nations has warned of potential genocide, of ethnic cleansing campaigns. I think these are stories that are completely under-, and sometimes un-, covered in the United States, but I think they’re places that will be making the news in the future, for all the wrong reasons. . . .”

Short Takes

‘We Are Sorry to Learn That He Has Decided Not to Continue With the University of North Dakota’

Peter B. Johnson, interim vice president for university and public affairs at the University of North Dakota, issued this statement on Friday concerning Mark Trahant:

Dear Journalists:

Mark Trahant is a highly respected journalist and communication faculty member, as evidenced by the fact he has been made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and has been named an editor for an upcoming 2018 edition of Dædalus, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. We are sorry to learn that he has decided not to continue with the University of North Dakota.

The University of North Dakota senior administration has never, to my knowledge — and that includes conversations in the past two days, expressed any fear of retaliation by the North Dakota Legislature or by North Dakota legislators related to academic content. Nor has the North Dakota Legislature or any North Dakota legislators ever, in my experience, given the University of North Dakota any indication that there should be cause for any fear.

The University has engaged in all sorts of topics in ways that explore the full spectrum of positions related to those topics. In fact, President Mark Kennedy and First Lady Debbie Kennedy founded the Eye of the Hawk Lecture Series to explore all kinds of issues from all angles. The lecture series was developed with the notion that you have to be able to look at a topic from all angles to broaden your views, in the same way that a flying hawk sees landscapes without the artifice of political boundaries.

At the same time, the university has to make decisions about expenditures. Not every lecture topic is funded by the university, particularly in times of fiscal constraint. That doesn’t preclude individuals from seeking alternative funding sources. In this instance, there was concern expressed at the college level about using university funding at this time for the activities proposed by Mark Trahant. The topic wasn’t new to the North Dakota University System. There had been a session on DAPL during the NDUS Fine Arts and Humanities Summit in September 2016.

So, to be clear: President Kennedy didn’t know about, hadn’t heard anything about, Mark Trahant’s proposed events until the question was raised by media Thursday. President Kennedy regrets that there is any perception that the university would have prevented a faculty-led activity from taking place based on perceived fears of legislative response. In fact, although President Kennedy still likely doesn’t know exactly what Mark Trahant had in mind (nor do I, but nor have I visited with Mark Trahant about it), President Kennedy does like the idea of an event that takes a balanced look at the DAPL issue.

Finally, I know Mark Trahant and admire him. I am (and we, as an institution, are) sorry to learn that he has decided to not continue at the end of his term. I wish him the best.

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