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April 2008

Howard Witt awarded for fairness in reports on race

I am late in posting this but one of my favorite journalists, Howard Witt, has been honored with a well-deserved award for his body of work. If you've been reading this blog for awhile, you already know of him and his objective reporting on issues such as the Jena 6 and the Shaquanda Cotton case. He's also reported on other issues that you can read about below.

Witt was also a finalist for the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in the category of national reporting.

Click here for summary of Howard Witt's work on the Chicago Tribune.

Howard Witt on Bill O'Reilly

Chicago Tribune's Howard Witt wins
Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers
for Reports on Race

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Chicago Tribune Southwest Bureau Chief Howard Witt has won the 2008 Taylor Family Award for Fairness in Newspapers for his coverage of racial issues in America.

Judges recognized Witt for his exemplary evenhandedness in covering the complex, often thorny issues surrounding race relations in the U.S. and the unfinished business of the nation's civil rights movement. They praised his work as scrupulously fair and described him as a "reporter who will not be beat, who plays no favorites, who reveals disturbing truths."

Witt's body of work, "Justice in Black and White," included stories ranging from his groundbreaking reports on the Jena 6 case in Louisiana, to articles about the inequities of the judicial system, environmental racism and the brutal beating of Billy Ray Johnson, a mentally retarded black man in Texas. Through them all, Witt uncovered evidence of the racial tension that continues to divide America.

The Taylor Award judges also recognized two finalists:

The Palm Beach Post and staff writer Christine Evans for the five-part series "America's New Main Street: The Many Faces of Immigration." Evans researched the forces that have transformed Lake Worth, Fla. into a microcosm of the changing face of America today. Her reports about the effects of immigration on the community were recognized as "a richly human and humane treatment of the immigration issue that is too often missing from other accounts…an exercise in fairness, an antidote to stereotypes."

Rocky Mountain News and its four-day series "Beyond the Boom," which examines the impact of oil drilling on Colorado's citizens, environment and economy, and uncovers both the positive and negative consequences of the oil boom. One judge noted that "the editorial mandate that every stakeholder involved or affected be offered a voice in the pieces, the masterful graphics and explainer-sidebars and the attempt by the news organization to illuminate the way to go forward was magnificent."

The team behind the Rocky Mountain series included reporters Laura Frank, Gargi Chakrabarty, Todd Hartman and Burt Hubbard; Matt McClain, photographer; Michael Hall, graphics; Steve Miller, designer; and Tim Burroughs, copy editor.

The Nieman Foundation received a record number of applications for the award this year. Nieman Curator Bob Giles noted that the choosing a winner and two finalists was difficult due to the high quality of the entries: "We saw many exceptional, well crafted, in-depth reports on a wide range of topics. Despite the challenges facing the industry, print journalists continue to do extraordinary work. It's clear that their newspapers strive to ensure that stories are fair in doing so, they render readers a great service."

In making their selections, the judges for the awards identify stories that they believe meet the highest standards of fairness in all aspects of the journalistic process: reporting, writing, editing, headlines, photographs, illustrations and presentation.

The judges for the 2007 Taylor award were Ernest Schreiber, editor of the Lancaster New Era in Lancaster, Pa.; science writer John Mangels of The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio, and a current Knight Fellow at MIT; Maggie Mulvihill, I-Team producer for WBZ-TV in Boston and a 2005 Nieman Fellow; and Walter Ray Watson, a senior producer at NPR in Washington, D.C. and a 2008 Nieman Fellow. Bob Giles, curator of the Nieman Foundation, was chair of the jury.

The 2008 Taylor Awards were presented on April 17, 2008 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard in Cambridge, Mass.

The Taylor honor includes a $10,000 prize for the winner and $1,000 each for the two top finalists. The award program was established through gifts for an endowment by members of the Taylor family, who published The Boston Globe from 1872 to 1999. The purpose of the award is to encourage fairness in news coverage by America's daily newspapers.

William O. Taylor, chairman emeritus of the Globe, embraced the idea of an award for fairness in newspapers as a way to give something back to the craft to which five generations of his family devoted their working lives. The Taylor family's 127-year stewardship of the Globe was characterized by an enduring commitment to fairness. At his invitation, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard agreed to administer the prize starting in 2002.

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard administers the oldest midcareer fellowship program for journalists in the world. Since the program was established in 1938, more than 1,200 journalists of accomplishment from 88 countries have received Nieman Fellowships and have visited the university for a year of study and exploration.

The Nieman Foundation also publishes the quarterly magazine Nieman Reports, the nation's oldest magazine devoted to a critical examination of the practice of journalism. Additionally, the foundation is home to the Nieman Program on Narrative Journalism and the Nieman Watchdog Journalism Project, which encourages reporters and editors to monitor and hold accountable those who exert power in all aspects of public life.

Previous Winners and Finalists of the Taylor Family Award
for Fairness in Newspapers

Winner: Lancaster New Era (Lancaster, Pa.)
Finalists: The New York Times and The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio)

Winner: The Sacramento Bee
Finalists: The Blade (Toledo, Ohio) and East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.)

Winner: The Star-Ledger (Newark, N.J.)
Finalists: Akron Beacon Journal and The Orange County Register

Winner: The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)
Finalists: The Wall Street Journal and The Des Moines Register

Winner: The Boston Globe
Finalists: The Plain Dealer (Cleveland, Ohio) and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Winner: The Hartford Courant
Finalists: The Sun (Baltimore, Md.) and The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, La.)

The aftermath of the Sean Bell verdict

As sad as the Sean Bell murder by three New York cops is, their not guilty verdict cannot possibly come as a surprise. It would have been surprising for them to be found guilty.

Rarely, and I can't think of one instance now, is a law enforcement officer found guilty in shooting a civilian. Unfortunately, that is how our justice system works sometimes.

My heart goes out to Sean Bell's fiancée and family. A not guilty verdict such as this just forces family and friends to relieve the pain of the first time they learned of the loss of their loved one. I can respond from personal experience.

What happens in the days following the verdict remains to be seen. People are angry and need to vent that anger in a manner that will not result in their arrest. The ongoing protests are a good start. New York government and law enforcement leaders must find a way to deal with this. They can start by terminating the employment of NYPD Detectives Michael Oliver, Gescard Isnora and Marc Cooper.

Bill Clinton opens mouth and inserts foot --- again.

Here we go again with race-baiting tactics of former President Bill Clinton. He acted like a real jack earlier this week when pressed on the race issue with this presidential campaign. Clinton claimed the race card was played on him and he had memos to prove it. Please, bring the memos forward so the issue can be dealt with.

South Carolina Congressman Jim Clyburn has publicly taken issue with the Clintons. In the meantime, Bill Clinton using profanity after taken a caller at a radio station is just not cool either.

The Republicans are having a grand 'ole time while the Dems beat up on each other and have launched racist ads in North Carolina. Surprise…surprise.



Say it ain’t so, Erykah!

I dig the talent of one Ms. Erykah Badu. I think she's been a true original when it comes to somewhat recent artists. She's got her own style and that's style and that's cool. I like her with braids, locks, fro, head wraps, whatever but please tell me Black Voices got it wrong when quoting Ms. Badu.

Notable/Quotable: Erykah Badu

Posted Apr 22nd 2008 1:11PM by Karu F. Daniels
Filed under: Entertainment Newswire

By Karu F. Daniels,

"I'm late all the time. I have no perception of time. (laughs) Time is for white people. It doesn't work with me."

-- Grammy Award winning neo-soul singer/songwriter Erykah Badu about a "habit other people find annoying" about her. (Blender)

Who’s kidding who about Democratic Party unity?

As much as Democratic Party leaders and even the presidential candidates publicly try to minimize the fracture in the Party, the truth is that John McCain may be on his way to the Oval Office because of the vitriolic comments and actions waged thus far by the Hillary Rodham Clinton Camp.

Her kitchen sink tactics and the race-baiting of former president Bill Clinton have been nothing less than disgusting. It really almost seems as if they really do prefer McCain over Obama. It may already be too late for the Democratic Party to recover but there is little reason to believe that the venom spewed by surrogates of the likes of James Carville can be pooed-pooed away after the nominee is finally determined.

Yeah…yeah…this is politics but some of what has been said and done won't go away no matter the public face put on this situation. If Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and other heavyweight Dems don't do something right away; this race is over and the Republicans will remain in the White House.

As I've written before, Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, Bill are far too mean-spirited and divisive. Although the mainstream media doesn't seem to want to report it, Hillary can't seal the deal with Black voters. But then again, is the message the mainstream media sends is that the Black voter doesn't matter anyway? Hillary and her husband have so alienated blacks in this country that those who support her are those of the old guard or those with self-serving interests in mind.

Don't forget that the Clintons are friends with media mogul Rupert Murdoch. His power and influence may contribute largely to the 'shaping' of the news we're experiencing rather than the objective 'reporting' of the news.

For the record, there will be no Democratic Party unity if Hillary is the presidential nominee. It's also safe to say that many of my family and friends --- black and white, feel the same.

Anyhoo, if the superdelegates don't decide shortly after the Indiana and North Carolina primaries on May 6th, there may be hell to pay by the DNC.


Is ‘elitist’ code for ‘uppity’?

I am sick and tired of the Clinton camp, McCain camp and the media making a mountain out of a molehill about Barack Obama's use of the word 'bitter'. To listen to his complete statement, in its proper context, shows just how ridiculous the hoopla is.

The more I hear the backlash about the word 'bitter' and hear Obama referred to as elitist; the more pissed off I am. Is it just me or did these folks just call Obama an uppity Negro? I mean that's how 'elitist' translates to me. Some folks think uppity Negro is a derogatory term but it's actually a compliment. Read my post on that issue. Anyhoo, I know that race can be such a sensitive issue for some folks but don't get bent out of shape about it.

Let's be real; Clinton and McCain have much more money than Obama. I don't need to go there about the Clintons taxes because we know about their reported $109M. John McCain's wife is mega-rich but who's even seen their tax returns? Now Hillary Clinton is trying to make an issue about Obama's tax returns for previous years. Give me a break; she really needs to chill. I take that back. No, let her keep that foolishness up and further alienate herself from the voters.

I don't think I consider myself bitter but I am ticked off every time I put gasoline in my car. We'll be paying $4 a gallon soon and some folks are already doing that. Oh, yeah, I'm mad when I think about the number of lives lost in war for weapons of mass destruction that have yet to be located and our people are being killed because of oil.

I know too many people who have lost jobs and companies still experiencing lay-offs. Our economy is really messed up. I am tired of the nit-picking and mean-spirited campaigning. I want to hear about the issues that affect me.

As hopeless as our economy appears, we must get control and turn the situation around; there's no way around it. We can start by electing the candidate of real change, Barack Obama. It's time for the media to focus on what's important rather than spinning minutiae to garner ratings.

So elitist, uppity or whatever; we must do our part as citizens to change the United States for the better.



Skating Champion Debi Thomas

Do you remember the Winter Olympic Games of 1988 and the athletic beauty of a young black woman by the name of Debi Thomas? Well, not only was Ms. Thomas a gifted athlete; she was also gifted academically. She's successfully completed medical school and is a wife and mother.

Here's a retrospective, from 2006, on Dr. Debi Thomas, Olympic champion.


Character Champions
by Terry Brown

A radiant Debi Thomas, dressed in a black sequined skating dress, stood alone at center ice in Calgary, Canada. As the last figure skater on the evening of Feb. 27, 1988, she knew she had a chance to win a gold medal for the United States at the Olympic Winter Games.

The 20-year-old Thomas had halted her studies at Stanford University and trained six hours a day since July for this moment. She felt burned out, but she had decided to try a difficult triple toe/triple toe jump combination to open her 4-minute performance.

The music began, and Thomas started setting up for her athletic jump combination. She stumbled on the landing, and East Germany's Katarina Witt won her second Olympic gold medal.

"I had a 15-second lapse of concentration, and when I missed the combination, I thought, 'How bad would it look if I left the ice right now?'" Thomas said in a recent interview. "It was not the proudest moment of my skating career, but it also was not the end of the world."

Thomas finished her program and won the bronze medal-the first African American athlete to win a medal at the Olympic Winter Games. Elizabeth Manley of Canada took second place and the silver medal.

Today, Thomas, 38, doesn't dwell on her Olympic disappointment. "I have so many other more significant accomplishments that make my life complete," she says.

Indeed, Dr. Thomas works these days making rounds with residents at the Martin Luther King Jr./ Charles Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, where she is a junior attending physician repairing bone fractures and doing other orthopedic procedures.

She also finds time for her husband, Chris Bequette, a financial analyst; and her 8-year-old son, Christopher, whom they call "Luc." She does volunteer work for children's charities and continues to promote figure skating.

Thomas began setting high goals and striving to achieve them early in life. Born March 25, 1967, in San Jose, Calif., she went to see the Ice Follies with her mother before she had turned 4. Later, she asked for a pair of skates and began taking lessons at 5-the same age when she began telling people she wanted to be a doctor.

According to Thomas, her mother, a senior programming analyst for a computer company, insisted education come first. "School was always very important to me, and I knew from a young age that I needed to be well-educated," Thomas recalls. "My mother always said, 'You have too good a mind to waste. Concentrate on your vocation, and if your avocation works out, fine.'"

When Thomas was 10, her mother approached British-born Alex McGowan about coaching her daughter. He agreed and quickly improved Thomas' technical skating skills. But McGowan was based in Redwood City, Calif., and Debi and her mother had to commute everyday from San Jose for practices.

"When I was growing up, she drove more than 100 miles a day to take me to skating lessons," Thomas says, "and she would work two jobs to pay for those lessons."

McGowan was a taskmaster who demanded his students do exactly as he said. Thomas was an independent and strong-minded pupil. Unlike most skaters, she was determined to skate competitively and get an education at the same time.

"There was a constant battle over my insistence on going to school to become a doctor some day," Thomas says. "Mr. McGowan would tell me that I shouldn't do it because I could make so much more money skating."

After graduating from San Mateo High School, she entered Stanford in the fall of 1985. A few months later, she won the 1986 U.S. Figure Skating Championships, defeating Tiffany Chin. A month later, she faced 1984 Olympic champion Katarina Witt at the World Figure Skating Championships in Geneva, Switzerland. After Witt stumbled in her short program, Thomas needed to finish second in the long program to beat her. She skated a clean program and won the title.

"My proudest accomplishment in skating was winning both the U.S. and World titles during my freshman year at Stanford," Thomas says. "I showed Mr. McGowan and the rest of the naysayers that I could do it."

In 1987, however, Thomas lost to Jill Trenary at the U.S. Championships and to Witt at the World Championships.

In early 1988, Thomas returned to form at the U.S. Championships in Denver, and defeated Trenary to win her second U.S. title.

With the Thomas-Witt rivalry at its peak, the stage was set for a showdown at Calgary. Both women had selected the same music from Bizet's tragic opera "Carmen" and neither would change. The press labeled the upcoming competition, "The Battle of the Carmens," which intensified the mind games and preparation for to the Olympics.

"It just wasn't meant to be," Thomas says of her loss to Witt.

After the Olympics, she returned to Stanford in the fall and skated professionally on weekends. She took a demanding load of pre-medical courses and changed her major from microbiology to biology and then to engineering. Along the way, she won three World Professional skating titles. In June 1991 at 24, Thomas received her bachelor's degree in engineering and product design.

In June 1997, she graduated from Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago, and last June she completed the Orthopedic Residency Program at Charles R. Drew University. Thomas plans to spend the next year studying for the American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons' exam. In July 2006, she will begin a one-year fellowship at the Dorr Arthritis Institute at Centinela Hospital in Inglewood, Calif., becoming a specialist in adult hip and knee replacement surgery.

"There's really nothing you can't do if you set your mind to it and are willing to work hard," Thomas says. "The important thing is not to be afraid to try. You may fall on your face many times, as I have, but you will learn from your mistakes and, eventually, get where you want to go."

More than 250 young figure skaters will do just that and set their minds to figure skating gold this winter in St. Louis, Mo. The 2006 State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships will take place Jan. 8-15 at the Savvis Center as figure skaters from across the country converge upon the Show-Me State to become the Debi Thomases of tomorrow.

Remembering King

Today was a great day for Memphis, TN and for remembering the man who has come to symbolize civil rights in this nation. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was radical leader who connected with people of all races and he happened to be a minister.

He preached unity, equality and peace as he led the charge to destroy segregation and poverty in the United States. As a young child I did not understand the personal sacrifice of King and others. The courage required facing injury or death on any given day is unimaginable.

The rights of blacks and other minorities are taken for granted by many in this country today. Some folks don't even want to discuss the segregated America. Many immigrants to the United States have no frame of reference when it comes to the opportunities they enjoy. Those opportunities are owed to Martin Luther King. We cannot change our history but we can change the future of America and her citizens.

Some pontificate on what King would say about the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. I think he would be proud of the opportunity for the two of them to seek office but he would be disappointed in the divisive and mean-spirited language.

More than concerns about the presidential election, I think Dr. King would be particularly dismayed by the overwhelming poverty and health challenges such as AIDS, diabetes and cancer. He'd also wonder what happened to the educational system in this country, why black leaders and elected officials have not done more to help the masses and why our communities have been abandoned.

I'd like to think that King's dream has not died. He'd want us to remember that we must effect change from the bottom up. WE are the change we want to see.

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Special Report on the Assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Don't miss tonight's CNN special report on the Martin Luther King assassination committed on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination is hosted by veteran journalist and CNN special correspondent Soledad O'Brien. It will air on CNN this evening at 9 PM ET.

It is strongly believed that James Earl Ray did not kill Rev. Dr. King. That is a belief shared b the King family and many others. This special is slated to cover the assassination as never before with documents and other information not made available to the masses until now.

Please watch it and feel free to post your views here. Thanks.