A White House correspondent’s participation in a luncheon with Michelle Obama — at which she noticed the banter between the first lady and a White House butler — has led to a book in which members of the White House domestic staff go “dishing about life behind the scenes at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” as Krissah Thompson put it Monday for the Washington Post.
“For her forthcoming book, ‘The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House,’ Kate Andersen Brower managed to elicit stories from domestic staff who witnessed up close the loneliness of President Nixon as he faced impeachment, the weariness of Hillary Clinton as her husband’s sex scandal exploded and other surprisingly intimate moments involving the first families,” Thompson reported.
“Most of these stories — from Nancy Reagan’s tirade over three broken tchotchkes to the tearful hug Jackie and Bobby Kennedy shared with a favorite doorman in an elevator — are attributed to staffers by name, not wrapped in the cloud of anonymous sourcing that usually cloaks reporting about the inner workings of the White House.
“These kinds of stories have rarely been told. But it seems there was never a formal policy demanding secrecy from residence staffers, just a long-standing culture of discretion. That, plus the fact that few people ever bothered to ask them about their time at the White House before. . . .”
Brower was White House correspondent for Bloomberg News from June 2009 to March 2013, according to her LinkedIn profile. Her book, to be published on Tuesday, promises to be different from “Lee Daniels‘ The Butler,” the 2013 hit movie developed from Wil Haygood’s 2008 Washington Post story, in that not only butlers are talking. “These women have biopic-worthy stories,” Glamour magazine said last month.
Andrea Bartz previewed then: “The convicted murderer who became a trusted nanny: In 1970, less than a year after she got a life sentence for killing a man in Georgia, Mary Prince moved into Governor Jimmy Carter’s mansion to care for daughter Amy, three, as part of a prison trustee program. When Carter won the presidency in 1976, Prince’s work release was terminated, and she was sent back to jail. Rosalynn Carter, who believed Prince was wrongly convicted, secured a reprieve so Prince could join them in Washington. Prince was later granted a full pardon; to this day she occasionally babysits the Carters’ grandkids.
“The cook who helped inspire the civil rights movement: Lyndon B. Johnson, a young politician, and wife Lady Bird hired Zephyr Wright to cook for their family in Texas while she was still a home-ec major in college. Wright then moved with them to D.C. for L.B.J.’s budding career; on their drive through the segregated South, several hotels refused to house Wright, who was black. That experience helped inspire Johnson’s civil rights efforts. As President, he sought Wright’s opinions on M.L.K. Jr.’s March on Washington and more. She cooked for them for 27 years. . . .”
Jon Ward added March 29 for Yahoo, “One August day 24 years later, in the summer of 1998, Worthington White, a residence usher, was approached by Hillary Clinton. It was the weekend, a few days before Bill Clinton would admit to the nation that he had lied about having sexual relations with intern Monica Lewinsky.
“Clinton wanted to walk with White to the pool that day, but only with White. Normally a Secret Service agent would have walked ahead of her, but Clinton made it clear to White that she did not want to see anybody’s face but his, and did not want anybody but him to see hers: no security, no groundskeepers or other staff, and certainly no public tours.
” ‘If anybody sees her, or she sees anybody, I’m going to get fired, I know it,’ White told Clinton’s lead Secret Service agent. ‘And you probably will too.’
“Clinton walked with White to the pool around noon wearing red reading glasses, without makeup or her hair done, and carrying a few books. ‘She seemed heartbroken’ to White, writes Brower. She spent three and a half hours at the pool, and returned with White to the elevator the very same way she had come: alone and unseen by anyone except for the usher and the agent trailing her. At the elevator, she turned to White, took his hands and squeezed them, looked him in the eye, and thanked him.
“But the Clintons come in for mostly rough treatment in the interviews that Brower conducted with staff.
” ‘They were about the most paranoid people I’d ever seen in my life,’ said James W.F. ‘Skip’ Allen, an usher from 1979 to 2004.
“[Bill] Cliber, the head electrician, told Brower that he had participated in nine Inauguration Day transitions between presidents, and that moving the Clintons into the White House ‘was by far the most difficult.’ Cliber cited Hillary Clinton’s demand that he rehang seven chandeliers at once as an example of what he said were unreasonable demands. . . .”
Excerpts have also discussed George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Richard M. Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Johnson, who “comes off as a monster,” according to Ward.
Kia Makarechi, Vanity Fair: L.B.J. Demanded White House Shower Be Fitted with Nozzles Aimed at His Nether Regions, According to New Book (March 30)
In what context should that fact be reported? David Jackson of USA Today named the church and on second reference, simply called it “the predominantly African-American church.”
In the Washington Post, Juliet Eilperin wrote, “The predominantly African American church, led the Rev. Howard-John Wesley, has more than 7,000 members, according to its Web site. Wesley’s sermon in the wake of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the killing of unarmed African American teenager Trayvon Martin, ‘When the Verdict Hurts,’ attracted national attention in 2013. . . .”
WRC-TV, the NBC-owned station in Washington, noted that the church’s “history dates back almost 200 years to when Thomas Jefferson was in the White House,” but did not say that the congregation was black.
The Associated Press noted the church’s history and added, “In 2000, President Bill Clinton visited Alfred Street a few days before the November election as he sang with the gospel choir and appealed to black voters to turn out in large numbers for Vice President Al Gore in his race against Republican George W. Bush. . . .”
Stoyan Zaimov of the Christian Post said, “The African-American megachurch has a membership of over 7,000 people, tracing its origins back to 1803, when Thomas Jefferson was serving as the third president.” Zaimov also recalled that “During Easter 2013, Obama attended St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, where the Rev. Luis León spoke out against some in the religious right. . . .”
Ben Wolfgang in the Washington Times called it “a historic Baptist church in Alexandria, Virginia,” but did not mention that it was African American.
Agence France-Presse called it “a historic black church” and added, “The congregation, including the president, rose to their feet during a rousing hymn sung by the choir, with Obama bobbing his head, clapping, and swaying to the accompaniment by a live band.”
The headline writer characterized the service as “boisterous.”
Who had it right?
Colbert I. King, Washington Post: A rising insurrection against Obama
Matt Wilstein, Mediaite: Poll: More Americans Trust Fox News than Obama on Climate Change
“An institutional failure at Rolling Stone resulted in a deeply flawed article about a purported gang rape at the University of Virginia, according to an outside review by Columbia Journalism School professors,” Brian Stelter and Sara Ganim reported Sunday for CNNMoney.
“The review, published Sunday night, says the failures were sweeping and ‘may have spread the idea that many women invent rape allegations.’
“At the same time the review came out, Rolling Stone officially retracted the story and said sorry. But the publisher, Jann Wenner, has decided not to fire anyone on staff. He believes the missteps were unintentional, not purposefully deceitful. . . .”
Asked whether there was “a single point of failure in the process that rises above the others,” Steve Coll, dean of the Columbia Journalism School and co-author of the report, told Elizabeth Spayd, editor of Columbia Journalism Review, “I think it’s the way they handled the three friends of Jackie (the alleged victim) who were present on the night she said she was attacked. . . .The reporter did not make an effort, an independent effort, to identify those three people. . . .”
Sheila Coronel, dean of academic affairs and the report’s co-author, agreed. “I think if you think of it in terms of the one avoidable and easily correctable error, that’s probably it. But if you think of severity in the sense of what was the most serious mistake they made, I think overall it was putting the story, the burden of the story, on just one source and not attempting to verify various aspects of that story. But certainly not contacting the three friends who saw Jackie the night she said she was attacked was the single avoidable mistake. It was the most fundamental error. . . .”
On Facebook, media critic Amy L. Alexander, who is black, wrote, “If an African-American Journo had bungled that UVa story in this manner, she’d have been thrown out of RS right quick.”
Peter Bhatia, former editor of the Oregonian in Portland and former president of the American Society of News Editors, was among others who reacted.
Bhatia is Edith Kinney Gaylord visiting professor in journalism ethics at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. He wrote on Facebook Monday:
“The Columbia University journalism school report is out and confirms what has astounded me about the Rolling Stone-University of Virginia story from the beginning: Where was the fundamental reporting? I tell my ethics students over and over again: One of the ever-important tenets of reporting remains verify, verify, then verify again. That’s what great reporters do.
“As the report notes, RS failed in doing this, especially with the three friends and ‘Drew,’ ” the ringleader of the alleged assault. “As journalists, we must remember what we are all about, even as we adapt, change and embrace new technologies. We have to tell the truth. We have to get it right. In our discussions of the story earlier this semester, my class also talked about the perils of falling in love with your narrative to the point where you can’t see where your reporting truly leads or that you don’t do all the necessary reporting. Again, the report notes that happened in this case. No doubt we will have more interesting discussions to come in class.
“My fear is this story and its aftermath will further set back the media’s coverage of sexual and domestic violence. We have always been timid in these cases, largely out of worthy concern of further traumatizing victims and the stigma attached to victims. Now that I’m out of the newsroom, it is easy for me to say we must do better. But we must, with more stories that do not resort to pseudonyms, again, as the report suggests.
“This must include victims and perpetrators, law enforcement and counselors. It requires courage. But isn’t it time after decades of fumbling about? Can we use the debacle of this story to embrace a depth of coverage that can make a difference?
“Finally, I am stunned no one will face discipline for this disastrous story. It is hard to imagine those responsible not being dismissed in the vast majority of news organizations. Of course, human beings are involved. Many have served the magazine with distinction for a long time. But the credibility of RS — its most important possession — has been permanently damaged. The only option, in my opinion, is harsh action.”
Kelly McBride, Poynter Institute: How can Rolling Stone recover?
Brian Stelter, CNNMoney: Phi Kappa Psi to ‘pursue all available legal action’ against Rolling Stone
Eric Wemple, Washington Post: Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner is in complete denial
“Terrorists stormed Garissa University College in eastern Kenya Thursday and killed 147 people there,” Jarvis DeBerry wrote Monday for NOLA.com | the Times-Picayune. “Those gunmen injured about 80 others. Some of those who managed to survive the attack said they heard the terrorists polling the students they encountered. Those who said they were Christians were killed. Those who identified as Muslims and could quote the Koran were spared.
“One student told a CNN reporter that first ‘they gave us a lecture’ and then they proceeded to shoot the students in the head. That student survived with a bit of subterfuge, smearing her face in the blood of her friend to give the appearance that she’d already been shot. Al-Shabaab, a Somali-based terror group has taken responsibility for the massacre.
“What happened in Kenya last week should outrage freedom-loving people the world over. But does it? Does the wholesale slaughter of young students register with the world when those students are African?
“Why did the murders of 12 staffers at Charlie Hebdo — a French magazine that has gleefully provoked those it considers other — receive so much more sympathy and attention than the murder of 147 students who had done nothing but try to acquire an education for themselves?
“In January, the New York Daily News was full of anger and sanctimony when, after the Charlie Hebdo slayings, President Barack Obama didn’t send anybody of note to the so-called Unity March held in Paris. On Monday, Jan. 12, the cover of that paper had the photos of Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and Attorney General Eric Holder with the finger-wagging headline, ‘You let the world down.’
“But the newspaper didn’t stop there. The next day’s cover shows the president holding a San Antonio Spurs jersey against his chest — the NBA champions had just visited the White House — and the Daily News’ headline is, ‘Terror? What Terror?’
“Well, the Daily News has now had four opportunities to put the Kenyan tragedy on its cover, but, terror? What terror? . . .”
Joe Adama, the Star, Kenya: Obama’s trip to Kenya: Why is he coming?
Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: A tale of two universities.
Jeffrey Gettleman, New York Times: Shabab Militants Learning to Kill on a Shoestring
Faith Karimi, CNN: Kenyans use social media to share stories, dreams of Garissa attack victims
Hassan Ole Naado, the Star, Kenya: State needs to change counter-terror tactics
Christopher Torcia, Associated Press: Kenya Attack Victims Had Big Plans for Life
Machel Waikenda, the Star, Kenya: Garissa attack should not kill our resolve for a secure Kenya
“Whites in the United States approve of police officers hitting people in far greater numbers than blacks and Hispanics do, at a time when the country is struggling to deal with police use of deadly force against men of color, according to a major American trend survey,” Jesse J. Holland reported Saturday for the Associated Press.
“Seven of 10 whites polled, or 70 percent, said they can imagine a situation in which they would approve of a police officer striking an adult male citizen, according to the 2014 General Social Survey, a long-running measurement of trends in American opinions. When asked the same question — Are there any situations you can imagine in which you would approve of a policeman striking an adult male citizen? — 42 percent of blacks and 38 percent of Hispanics said they could.
“These results come as Americans grapple with trust between law enforcement and minority communities after a series of incidents, including the deaths [of] Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and Eric Garner on Staten Island, New York, both black men. Thousands of people protested in the streets last year after the deaths of 18-year-old Brown and 43-year-old Garner, who gasped ‘I can’t breathe’ as police arrested him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. But the survey shows the gap between whites, blacks and Hispanics long predates the recent incidents.
“The poll results don’t surprise experts on American attitudes toward police, who say experiences and history with law enforcement shape opinions about the use of violence by officers. . . .”
“A man freed after 30 years on death row has said those who convicted him of double murder will ‘answer to God’ after the sole piece of evidence against him was overturned,” the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
“Anthony Ray Hinton, 58, spent half his life on Alabama’s death row, sentenced to die for two 1985 murders that for decades he insisted he did not commit.
“He was set free on Friday, after new ballistics tests contradicted the only evidence — an analysis of crime-scene bullets — that connected Hinton to the killings. . . .”
On Pacifica Radio’s “Democracy Now!” on Monday, Bryan Stevenson, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and Hinton’s lawyer, outlined the racism that he said pervaded the case, an aspect not often included in mainstream news reports.
Stevenson told host Amy Goodman, “I might also say, Amy, that race was a factor here, too. I can’t leave that out. The investigators who worked on this case would [have] been previously charged in federal court for torturing black prisoners. They had been using cattle prods to coerce statements out of black prisoners.
“The prosecutor claimed that Mr. Hinton was innocent by looking at him he said he could tell he was evil, just by looking at his face. That prosecutor had been reversed many times for excluding African-Americans from serving on juries. Mr. Hinton was convicted in part because of the burden of — the presumption of guilt that gets assigned to too many black and brown people in this country when they are accused of a crime. . . .”
Emil Guillermo, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: NYPD’s Patrick Cherry’s Apology? Full investigation needed first
Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Kids, jails a bad combination; society can do better
Mychal Denzel Smith, PBS NewsHour: White Millennials are products of a failed lesson in colorblindness (March 26)
Unity: Journalists for Diversity is planning its second Diversity Caucus on Friday in Washington, where it says an array of industry leaders interested in inclusion are expected to attend.
Unity is a coalition of the Asian American Journalists Association, the Native American Journalists Association and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association. Topics at the all-day session, to be held at the Washington Post, include “Our Needs in a Changing Landscape,” “Covering Poverty” and “Race, Ethnicity and News Consumption.” The group plans to develop short-term, two-year and five-year targets.
Scheduled participants include Eloiza Altoro, Unity, interim executive director; Barbara Barrett, McClatchy Corp., regional editor; Brandon Benavides, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, past president-D.C. chapter; Kevin Blackistone, Society for Features Journalism, board member; Sarah Blazucki, Unity, treasurer.
Paula Bouknight, Boston Globe, assistant managing editor for hiring/development; David Brindley, American Copy Editors Society, board member; Bob Butler, National Association of Black Journalists, president; Sally Buzbee, Associated Press, Washington bureau chief; Paul Cheung, Unity board member/AAJA president.
Kathy Chow, AAJA executive director/Unity ex officio; Jen Christensen, Unity board member/NLGJA president; Luis Clemens, NPR, senior editor-diversity; Russell Contreras, Unity, president; Myra Dandridge, National Association of Broadcasters, vice president-government relations.
Sharif Durhams, Unity, board member; Justin Ellis, NiemanLab, staff writer; Leigh Foley, National Association of Broadcasters, vice president-external affairs; Jon Funabiki, Renaissance Journalism Center, executive director; Montrese Garner-Sampson, Associated Press, regional human resources.
Jill Geisler, Loyola University Chicago, Bill Plante chair in leadership and media integrity; Sarah Glover, NBC-owned TV stations, social media editor; Kathleen Graham, Society of American Business Editors and Writers, executive director; Karen Hansen, Radio Television Digital News Association/Foundation, membership and student program manager; Suzan Shown Harjo, Unity, board member.
Teri Hayt, American Society of News Editors, executive director; Demedre Heulett, Bloomberg BNA, corporate counsel/EEO manager; Jesse Holcomb, Pew Research Center, senior researcher; Margaret Holt, UNITY, board member; Mark Horvit, Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc., executive director.
Tomoko Hosaka, Unity, board member; Evelyn Hsu, Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, acting executive director; Mary Hudetz, Unity board member/NAJA president; Chawn Jackson, Bloomberg BNA, senior director-talent acquisition; Michelle Johnson, UNITY Advisory Council, adviser.
Neal Justin, Unity, secretary; Danese Kenon, National Press Photographers Association, board member; Linda Kramer Jenning, Journalism and Women Symposium, president; Rhonda Levaldo, Unity, board member, Anna Lopez-Buck, NAHJ, executive director.
Mira Lowe, CNN Digital, senior features editor; Kevin Merida, the Washington Post, managing editor; Ken Miguel, Unity, board member; Doug Mitchell, NPR consultant/project founder; Ana Lucia Morello, NPR, diversity intern.
Robert Naylor, Robert Naylor Coaching and Consulting, president and managing director; Diane Parker, Associated Press, director of staffing and diversity; Adam Pawlus, NLGJA, executive director/Unity ex officio; Maribel Perez Wadsworth, Unity Advisory Council, adviser; Latoya Peterson, Fusion, deputy editor-Voices.
Paula Poindexter, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, past president; Sonya Ross, Associated Press, race and ethnicity editor; Jodi Schneider, Bloomberg News, Congress team leader; Tiffany Shackelford, Association of Alternative Newsmedia, executive director; Pam Silas, NAJA, executive director/Unity ex officio.
Virgil Smith, Gannett, vice president-diversity; Doris Truong, Unity, consultant; Guy Vidra, the New Republic, CEO; Georgiana Vines, Society of Professional Journalists, past president; Irving Washington, Online News Association, deputy director; Keith Woods, NPR, vice president for diversity, news and operations.
Hoai-Tran Bui, Unity, Journalists for Diversity: UNITY Emerges From Caucus With Ideas, Energy to Improve Media Diversity (March 24, 2014)
David Steinberg, Poynter Institute: UNITY: Diversity Caucus can help push diversity ahead even in trying times (March 17, 2014)
“Monday night’s NCAA men’s basketball final will attract millions of viewers,” Alexandra Starrreported Monday for NPR’s “Code Switch.”
“One player on Duke’s team — Sean Obi — hails from Nigeria. He’s not the only African player who has enjoyed a successful hoops career in the U.S. The most famous is Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon, who starred at the University of Houston before going on to a Hall of Fame career with the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors.
“But not every African student who comes to the United States to play basketball has a positive experience. In the April issue of Harper’s and over at WNYC, I reported on the story of four promising teenage Nigerian basketball players who were lured to the United States with the promise of college scholarships, but ended up with one homeless in New York City and the other three in foster care in Michigan.
“And last month, the Department of Homeland Security raided the Faith Baptist Christian Academy South in Ludowici, Ga., and discovered 30 young boys, mostly Dominican, who had been living in the campus gym, sleeping on the floor. Apparently students had been housed there since 2013. These boys also had been recruited to America with the promise of a high school education and a shot at a college scholarship. . . .”
Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin is Most-Watched College Basketball Game Ever on Cable
Alexandra Starr, WNYC-FM, New York: Trafficked to Play, Then Forgotten (March 17)
The Association of Opinion Journalists, formerly the National Conference of Editorial Writers, annually grants a Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship — actually an award — “in recognition of an educator’s outstanding efforts to encourage minority students in the field of journalism.” The educator should be at the college level.
Nominations, now being accepted for the 2015 award, should consist of a statement about why you believe your nominee is deserving.
The final selection will be made by the AOJ Foundation board and announced in time for the annual symposium Nov.14-15 at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., when the presentation will be made.
Since 2000, the recipient has been awarded an honorarium of $1,000 to be used to “further work in progress or begin a new project.”
Past winners include James Hawkins, Florida A&M University (1990); Larry Kaggwa, Howard University (1992); Ben Holman, University of Maryland (1996); Linda Jones, Roosevelt University, Chicago (1998); Ramon Chavez, University of Colorado, Boulder (1999); Erna Smith, San Francisco State (2000); Joseph Selden, Penn State University (2001); Cheryl Smith, Paul Quinn College (2002); RoseRichard, Marquette University (2003); Leara D. Rhodes, University of Georgia (2004); Denny McAuliffe, University of Montana (2005); Pearl Stewart, Black College Wire (2006); Valerie White, Florida A&M University (2007); Phillip Dixon, Howard University (2008); Bruce DePyssler, North Carolina Central University (2009); Sree Sreenivasan, Columbia University (2010); Yvonne Latty, New York University (2011); Michelle Johnson, Boston University (2012); Vanessa Shelton, University of Iowa (2013); and William Drummond, University of California at Berkeley (2014).
Nominations may be emailed to Richard Prince, AOJ Diversity Committee chair, richardprince (at) hotmail.com. The deadline is May 22. Please use that address only for AOJ matters.