Saturday, June 24, 2006
Ralph Wiley clearly had his own style. If you ever read ESPN.com's page 2 between 2001 and his untimely passing, you knew Ralph. His musings on everything from O.J. Simpson being an Uncle Tom (and Ralph clearly was not a fan of the verdict), to the women who held the hammers of God in the Kobe Bryant sexual assualt trial, he was entertaining, insightful, witty, and just on point. Bottom Line. I know when I read a Ralph Wiley essay/column/story, I felt smarter, I felt entertained, and even more importantly, I felt motived, inspired, and moved to become what I want to be, and that is a sportswriter.
Aside from humanizing John Thompson, Eric Davis, and Mike Tyson, he also took on a larger role in the black community, publishing books about why it's o.k. to be angry (Why black people tend to shout), but why it's never o.k. for black people to hate eachother.
He worked with Spike Lee on the groundbreaking Malcolm X book/movie project, he mentored the next generation of African American sports scribes, and he never had to dumb down or change for anybody. That alone makes Ralph Wiley my professional hero. continue...
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
So it baffles me when I hear stories such as this recent one out of Texas: A 14-year-old girl and her mother are suing Myspace.com for $30 million, charging that the site doesn't take enough measures to protect kids from sexual predators. The lawsuit comes after the girl was allegedly sexually assaulted by a 19-year-old man she met on the site and eventually agreed to meet with in person.
One of the attorneys representing the young girl told the American-Statesman, "MySpace is more concerned about making money than protecting children online." Myspace chief security officer defended the site in a statement, saying, "We take aggressive measures to protect our members. Ultimately, Internet safety is a shared responsibility."
But not one article covering this story gives any indication of how the child's mother figured into her online activity, or if she policed it at all.
It's the one question that I had when I first heard this story yesterday. It's the one question I still have, five articles and 24 hours later.
Myspace has been running on full damage control mode in recent months, after being skewered by media coverage of sexual predators who troll the site in order to meet underage kids. The site has had to defend itself against schools that want to block students from using it, and against questions about whether its security measures are secure enough. But questions about parental involvement in online harrassment cases go largely unanswered.
Or have they even been asked?
I'm not the only one wondering "Where are the parents?" Teens in Wichita Fall, Texas seem to feel that parental involvement is only common sense, as do residents of Austin, Texas. Some parents have decided that the lack of technological savvy will not get in the way of patrolling their kids' online activity.
So why is it that when something does go terribly wrong and it's time for the media figure out why, that the conventional wisdom of parental involvement takes a backseat to the intrigue of new technology? Aren't we supposed to cover all our bases? continue...
Wednesday, June 14, 2006Black Enterprise isn't what I would call a bastion of activist journalism, and I suppose that there is nothing wrong with that. The magazine is tailored to keep the black middle class folk "middle", and use middle-class status to reach "upper-middle class". BE feeds off this type of code language--and makes very little apology for ascribing to a bourgeouis black aesthetic.
So when Mashaun Simon, National Student Representative for the National Association of Black Journalists, learned that he would have to cut his dreadlocks in order to comply with the company's "corporate" dress code or leave, he did not hesitate. He walked into a SoHo barbershop and thirty-five minutes later he was looking like DJ Clue.
Imagine my surprise when the Advertising Age published a report yesterday in which Butch Graves Jr. criticized the advertising industry "at an event sponsored by the magazine to promote its annual '40 Best Companies for Diversity' special report."
Talk about a staged rant.
"Earl "Butch" Graves Jr. said agencies that specialize in targeting blacks often are not responsible for media buying and planning for products bought by blacks. One source, he said, is 'basic racism. This is one of the most racist industries in this country. Period. I'm angry about it. Agencies are licensed to practice racism, not just in hiring but also in investing in these media.'"When a black-owned company speaks out against what they feel is a racist practice, am I wrong to be under the impression that they embrace liberal ideals of expression, acceptance and tolerance? Well clearly not Mr. Graves, and not BE.
Institutions that look down on dreadlocks are really bad at explaining exactly what it is they are trying to conform to. Practical justification also escapes them.
"In their eyes they honestly feel like by requiring their employees to dress a certain way they are benefitting the community and the way members of the community see and carry themselves," Simon said. "[There is] nothing wrong with that at all.
"The BE corporate culture is one that has been in place for 30-plus years, and I can respect Mr. Graves and his desire to have his employees look and dress a certain way," Simon continued.
Full disclosure: I don't have dreads, and I never will. It's the Tyrese look for me for the rest of time. If the folks that do have them are willing to comply with getting rid of them in order to be a better person, then fine.
"Cutting my hair was, and is, a sacrifice. Under different circumstances, would I have cut my hair? I am not sure exactly," Simon said.
I find it odd that BE is worried about what's on the tops of their employees heads, rather than what's inside of them.
And yet, there they were the other day, claiming to be the victims of racism. continue...
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
“When are you coming back?” my 7-year-old niece asked, her arms forming a vice-grip around my waist. I arrived in town Saturday for her dance recital. It was Monday, and as quickly as I’d come, it was time for me to leave.
“I don’t know, honey,” I coaxed. “Maybe Christmas. But I’ll be back.”
“Noooo,” she cried. “I don’t want you to go.”
I didn’t want me to go either. But I had to catch a 7 p.m. plane back to New England so I could go to work the next day.
I’m a young newspaper journalist. And by default, sometimes it gets lonely.
Don’t get me wrong. I have friends. They stay in New York or Boston or D.C. or Florida or somewhere else other than Rhode Island.
But this isn’t the missing-my-friends kind of lonely. This is different.
It’s the kind of lonely that can only be satiated by a big plate of your mother’s collard greens, cornbread and yams, or by a big hug from a young child.
It’s the kind of lonely that when it disappears for a few days, hours or moments, it makes it all the harder to return back to your life alone hundreds of miles away because you know it’ll come back and there’s nothing you can do about it.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The opportunity for travel and the excitement of strange new zip codes excited me. Each day could be a different place, a new city, a great story. Hypothetically, I could be sent to Istanbul one day, Oklahoma the next and hit up China on the weekend. The promise of seeing far off lands was part of what attracted me to the profession. I would actually be able to experience the world that, as a child, I’d only heard about.
But in the real world, as a young journalist, you often end up in less-exciting places like Burrillville, Rhode Island, writing about a hurricane benefit or school graduation. Vacation time for the newly hired is usually limited and money for plane tickets is scarce. So you plan visits around the major holidays you don’t have to work or try to squeeze your family into some random three-day weekend.
If, in journalism school, they never told you how hard it really is to go back to an empty apartment hundreds of miles away after you’ve spent a weekend with your family, let me drop a little knowledge on you:
It sucks. Hard.
It had been seven months since I’d last seen my family.
In that time, a niece whom I’d held moments after she came into the world learned to crawl and was beginning to walk. Another niece was beginning the third grade and practicing hip hop moves. My mom had bought the lot next to my childhood home – the house that previously stood there now demolished. One friend now had a six month old son. Another was seven months pregnant. Still another was starting the second semester of her sophomore year in college, while another was now, almost a year out of jail.
It’d only been seven months, but when I returned home this weekend, I felt that I was missing out on everyone’s lives. It’s easy enough to forget.
Each day, it’s our job to spring in and out of someone’s life – usually at the lowest points – and tell their story. We learn their heartaches, struggles, triumphs and their losses. We become their friends for 24 hours – longer if it’s a Sunday centerpiece. Then we disappear and move on to the next person, the next tragedy, the next story. You just keep moving in and out of other people’s lives that you sometimes forget that all around you life is still happening for those you love. And when you realize it, it’s almost like a slap in the face or a ton of bricks - choose your own metaphor.
I think this weekend was too much for me. But I needed it so desperately.
I hugged my niece hard and told her I loved her and that I’d see her soon. I tried to sound convincing not only for her, but for myself. I don’t want it to be another seven months until I see her again, but I know most likely it will be.
So, I’ll fly into town with Christmas presents and snap dozens of pictures of everything I’ll see. I’ll eat too much fried chicken and take some cornbread back with me in my suitcase. I’ll hug everyone and tell them I love them and that I’ll miss them. I’ll make promises to visit again soon.
I’ll get on my plane and watch the city lines turn to puffy white clouds, each minute putting more and more miles between my family and I. Then, I’ll turn my head to the window and try not to let my seat mate see the tears flowing from my eyes. continue...
Monday, June 12, 2006first show on Sunday and became NPR’s most-emailed story by the end of the evening. Allison Keyes reported on the recent debate on black relationships that’s been generated by a three-and-a-half-minute movie clip, “Diary of Tired Black Man.”
(Normally, I would link the clip from here, but I don’t want to give the filmmaker any more attention than he’s already seeking. Which doesn’t matter now, because you’re probably going to Google it anyway. Moving on.)
Nowadays, you almost expect anything with a reference to black folk in the headline to reveal the sobering findings of some highly-credentialed statistical researchers. But Allison did something pretty darn cool with her report.
Whereas a number of other reports simply spouted numbers as an indication of the state of the black community (remember Marriage is for White People and Plight Deepens for Black Men?), Keyes explained the nuances -- the opinions, the experiences and the way people think -- of this particular topic. She reported on the findings, not of sociologists, but of people in the community. She allowed the listener to take an objective look what’s being said from all sides, giving them something to think about, something to chew on, something to thoughtfully discuss. She gave more than just bleak statistics to lament over.
Keyes used her power as a black reporter.
For one, in most cases, a black reporter has an innate sense of what affects the African American population. Often, racism isn’t the culprit responsible for the lack of reportage on minority communities. Sometimes it’s just a difference of life experience; the majority is simply unaware of the concerns that permeate other demographics.
(And before you protest that there's no way it’s not racially-motivated, think for a second… and tell me what’s currently impacting Korean-Americans. Yeah, I don’t know either.)
“This is interesting,” one NPR editor said while Keyes was working on her story. “I had no idea that this was an issue.” After Keyes finished explaining her piece, the editor was quite intrigued by the topic and wanted to know more.
The editor’s interest didn’t lie in what statistics suggested; her interest was in what people were saying. And here, the power of the black reporter again comes into play. With a deeper of knowledge of certain issues, minority journalists can go beyond the stats and into in the spectrum of thoughts and ideas. They have a sense of what’s being said and of who to talk to, able to give a story with more depth than someone who is unfamiliar with the issue at hand.
Listeners and readers in the minority community are then provided with something to which they can relate, something that may catalyze a positive change in thinking. And those in other communities have a better understanding of something they may not have known of. Keyes' piece is an example of an answer I was looking for when I posted a question to the YBJ listserve, asking for thoughts on ways black journalists could change how our community is covered. (My question, I have to point out, wasn't answered by anyone. Thanks, guys.)
Now, it’s not all about race. The power of the black reporter is the same as the power of the female reporter, the gay reporter, the Muslim reporter. Any journalist within an underrepresented group is sitting on a goldmine of stories to tell. And it’s about not about simply diversifying coverage; it’s about making sure that those stories are done proper justice. continue...
Saturday, June 10, 2006
I have never been great at school.
For whatever reason I had to work that much harder than the next person just to get C's in school.
So in 9th grade when I somehow snuck into an advanced English course and saw the name "Mrs. Hirsch" on my schedule, I knew I was in for a long semester.
Prior to that year, I had a general idea of what I wanted to do with my life.
It involved anything dealing with sports and my current desire was to do radio like my idol - Jim Rome.
But soon after I was introduced to Mrs. Hirsch, the rest of my life as I would know it would change.
If you close your eyes and picture an older, grandmother type figure with grey hair and blue eyes, you would have a pretty good image of what Mrs. Hirsch looked like.
But don't let her looks fool you, she was the toughest teacher I had during my seven years at LACES.
Our very first essay assignment was to write about a topic of our choice.
A little nervous due to the horror stories I heard about her grading of papers, I jotted down a few ideas until I finally came up with one that I was comfortable writing about.
A couple weeks prior my favorite team in the world, the Los Angeles Dodgers just finished up a disappointing season. It was the combination of bad expensive contracts for washed up players (Kevin Brown) and a bad management (Kevin Malone) which led to the Dodgers struggles.
My topic would be on why the Dodgers struggled that season and what needed to be done to turn the franchise around.
Hardly your typical English essay by any means but I gave it a shot, turned it in, and wished for the best.
Two weeks later and full of red ink, I got my essay back from Mrs. Hirsch.
You would have thought I just scored a 1600 on my SAT - I was thrilled. I went around and asked my peers what they got and there were a lot of 68's and 72's but not many above a 78.
Little did I know at the time that a C+ would give me the confidence and desire I needed to get started in this profession I have come to learn called journalism.
And who said being a C student was a bad thing? continue...
When I first became Sports Editor of The Hornet newspaper in 2002, I was a shy, timid, possibly even inadequate reporter, but I was a tremendous writer. Most people don't know the difference between writing and reporting, but there is a huge difference indeed, and I was horrible at interviewing folks. Aside from help from professors and encouragement from my co-workers at the Hornet, there were two people who gradually helped me come out of my shell and make me the solid reporter that I am today; Dennis Jones and Mike Rogers, Sports Information Department extraordinare here at Delaware State University.
As far as professionally, there was no one better at getting the stats to writers in a timely fashion and fetching players and coaches for Post-Game Interviews better than Mike and Dennis. They got along with everybody, so much so that their office sort of became like the barbershop, where you just went to kill time, shoot the breeze and laugh a little. I admired them also because as a two-person department responsible for each and everyone of the 18 sports DSU has to offer, their jobs were difficult and incredibly stressful. Yet they continued to be there when I needed professional and academic advice.
Dennis Jones, A Philadelphia native who grew up in Camden (which to me makes him down by law) has been in the business of sports media for almost 25 years. He's a fountain of great information and advice for anyone trying to get into this business. A funny guy with a lot of widsom and a good heart.
Mike Rogers is closer to my age (he graduated from State in '02), and he's always good for telling it like it is, giving his frank assesment of any sport team's chances on any given day.
I write so glowingly of these guys because during the course of this summer break, they broke the bad news to me that they would not be returning to Delaware State next year, which is my last as Sports Editor. You see, Delaware State is undergoing a transformation.
Some hate it, some love it, most really don't know where they stand. In the quest to make DSU some great, non-black institution, courtesy, the ablility to relate to people in a positive and cheerful manner, and all the other intangibles that make an HBCU an HBCU are pretty much being tossed out of the window. And to me, Dennis and Mike represent what was good about Delaware State faculty, and the current mode of "business first, relationships second" of the new-look Department of Athletics makes the school look bad. That's just the way I see things, and as an up-close observer, what I see is a bunch of crap.
I'll always remember March of 2004, a full six months before I had a car, and I desperately wanted to attend the MEAC basketball tournament, which was in Richmond, VA back then. I took the liberty of securing a hotel room and signing myself up for a press pass, but how in the world was I going to get there? My mother wasn't letting me take her car, and I still was too young (and broke) to rent my own. Just as all hope seemed lost one day, Dennis said "there's no reason for you to go through all that trouble and not have a way. You can ride with us." And that was probably the most fun Spring Break I ever had. Even though we came up short that particular year, them going out of their way so I could have a chance to cover a major event like that will always be appreciated.
Which brings me to my point; Who says the next person in line will be as friendly, affable, and generous as Mike and Dennis have been? If the associate athletic directors are any indication, then this place is really going to hell in a handbasket.
Well, seeing as I have only one semester left on the job anyway, I'm sure I can tough it out until December. Yet, part of me will be empty as I come to Alumni Stadium two hours early for a football game and miss hearing the mixed CD of Heatwave, Stevie Wonder, and the Dazz band while Dennis and Mike are getting prepared for Game Day. Oh well, we'll always have Richmond. Thank you guys for everything, and God Bless. continue... Talia (bka T Dot), 23, pays bills in Rhode Island but her heart is still at home, in Flint, Michigan. A newspaper reporter, she covers two small towns and public safety. She's unsure of what she wants to do in the next three years, but is enjoying the ride thus far. An alumna of Hampton University, cooking is her therapy; writing, her passion; and gummi bears, her vice.
Darren (bka D. Sands) is 23, an aspiring journalist and author. He reports on black culture, music and education for the City Weekly section the Boston Globe. He plays a lot of sports, reads a lot of books, and loves the Dave Matthews Band.
Marcus (bka Vandy) is a 23-year-old originally from Los Angeles who now resides in the Big Apple. Currently he is an intern at AOL Black Voices where he claims to do "a little of this and a little of that." When he's not up to his neck in work, Marcus is probably either on the next flight back to L.A. or glued in front of a television watching all things that is sports.