Tag Archives: journalism

“Have the last 64 days been a relatively colorblind time?

by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said

What, Ann Compton? This reminds me of all those times that I have met someone who wants to appear all egalitarian and unbiased and unfazed by my black self, but then reaches to find random “black” topics to discuss with me, clearly illustrating that my race is top of mind. (My favorite such conversation, at a work dinner eons ago: “Hey, have you seen that new show ’24?’ Yeah, they have a black president on there. I thought that was really interesting…that they have a black president.” Okay…)

Ann Compton’s question seemed the equivalent to one of those eye-rolling conversations. (You can tell the Prez thinks so, too. Just look at his face as she’s asking it.) When every citizen is talking about the economy, wondering if they can keep their homes, wondering if they will keep their jobs, wondering if they can send the kids to college, wondering if they can retire, Compton stands before POTUS and all the world and basically says, “You’re black…and the president. Yeah, I think that’s really interesting.”

Worse than the subject matter of the question is the fact that it was vague and unanswerable. How can President Obama know how other world leaders perceive him? And, is it me, or was there an assumption in Compton’s question that other world leaders are not “of color.”

Ann Compton, Chuck Todd, Ed Henry–the ineptitude of the corp at last night’s presser was maddening and Obama’s deft and intelligent handling of the event made participating journalists look even more deficient in comparison. Sweet fancy Moses! Having a smartypants president sure highlights the failures of the modern Fourth Estate.

CNN’s Special on Women in Iraq: Painting Iraqi Women With the Victim Brush

by Racialicious special correspondent Fatemeh Fakhraie, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

On Saturday and Sunday, CNN ran a program called On Deadly Ground: The Women of Iraq. Hosted by Arwa Damon, the program briefly profiled several women who live in Iraq; at the beginning, she promises, “You will meet the women of Iraq.”

The program opens on a street somewhere in Baghdad: unpaved, muddy, with trash lying in heaps on the street. Damon’s voiceover introduces us to a young woman who squats in a decrepit building with her children because she has divorced her husband—she won’t live with her family because they will make her return her children to her ex-husband. When speaking about her living conditions, Damon’s tone is that of incredulousness and even disgust: “They’re squatting in an old building,” she says in an attempt to elicit a sympathetic response from the viewer. “What you see her [the young woman] going through…this is normal.” She wants us to realize how badly this woman (whose name is not shared) has it, and the fact that she is not the only one: “They [displaced families] are tragically becoming more and more the norm.”

Damon tells us that “Iraq is a country of contrasts” and makes this the official theme of the program. She contrasts the divorcee living in poverty with Iraq’s remaining elites who can afford to play at private pools. She contrasts these same elites with women who cannot afford to feed their children and thus live two lives: one life with husbands and children, a second life as a prostitute to earn the money that feeds their families. Women without agency to a woman with an agency: Yanar Mohammed, the founder of the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq. Then, Samar, a 25-year-old woman on death row because she is accused of being an accomplice to murders committed by her fiancé. Another contrast, between a young woman who will either be put to death or spend her life in prison, and 14-year-old Wurud, who chats on the internet and whose father is a high-profile Iraqi official. A girl who believes in Iraq’s government vs. the wife of an insurgent who is against the government. Then Dr. Eaman, who disassociates herself from her only son to keep him safe from the insurgents that threaten her own life, but treats Iraqi children. And, finally, Nahla: she still has her child, but she no longer has her husband, who was killed in an attack.

The program does not focus on the overall condition of Iraqi women as the title might imply. This was a missed opportunity: the security of and increased violence against Iraqi women has made headlines, with male gynecologists in Iraq being targeted and increased attacks on women who attend school or don’t wear headscarves.

Instead of focusing on all Iraqi women, the program zeroes in on these women and their particular difficulties. It is the common tragedies of these specific women’s lives that Damon makes into a second theme. All of these women live with fear of raids or bombs, and all of their stories feature tragic events. Even the “positive” stories like Wurud’s or Mohammed’s, stories about women making or wholeheartedly believing in change, are tinged with bitterness and despair. When Damon asks Wurud if she is ever afraid, she brushes this off with teenage bravado: “I am never afraid.” The viewer understands this as boasting: we still feel sorry for her life that is interrupted by bomb blasts and the fact that her beloved father is a target. Even Mohammed and Dr. Eaman, both women who work for positive change, leave behind their sons. Mohammed tells us that she continues to return to Iraq because, “all the people that I love have been crushed.” Continue reading

Anderson Cooper 360: The Asian American Vote

by guest contributor Jenn Fang, originally published at Reappropriate

On Friday night I just happened to turn CNN on, and heard something I really though I would never have heard before. Anderson Cooper was telling his viewers to stick around for a segment on (gasp!) “The Asian American Vote”. We exist!

I dutifully waited about a half-hour for this segment, which turned out to be a short, two-minute piece by CNN reporter Gary Tuchman. After Cooper gave us a quick background about the California exit polls that revealed Asian Americans supported Clinton by a three-to-one margin, Tuchman was sent to Seattle Chinatown to interview Real Live Asians ™.

Let me get it straight: I’m delighted to see even a few minutes dedicated to trying to understand our community. But that doesn’t mean I really liked this segment.

Tuchman went to a local Chinese grocery store and asked the staff and customers who they voted for. Inexplicably, every single person interviewed had a thick Asian accent, and every single one chose Clinton (or in the case of one child, “Lincoln”).

Tuchman asked the interviewees why they chose Clinton, but seemed to edit out their answers. One person mentioned Bill Clinton’s experience, another alluded to Clinton being more qualified. A professor at the University of Washington suggested that Clinton’s name recognition and message of returning to the first Clinton administration appealed to immigrants, whereas Obama’s message of change will fail to resonate with immigrants (sounds a lot like what’s been said in the blogosphere already, including what I covered in my own post: “What Happened to the Asian American Vote“). However, overall, either a language barrier or apathy on Tuchman’s part left the segment scant on explanations as to why the APIA vote leans so heavily towards Clinton.

Tuchman did interview a fourth-generation Japanese American who supports Obama, but he was depicted as a minority, noting that other Japanese Americans are afraid to vote for a change from the status quo.

But what was most clear to me was that this segment was a half-assed fluff piece by a disinterested reporter. When Anderson Cooper asked for more details from Tuchman following airing of the piece, Tuchman launched into a description of the size of Obama’s rally compared to Clinton’s rally. No, not about Asian Americans — the focus of his segment. No, he talked about the size of the rallies. As if he really couldn’t give less of a shit as to why Asian Americans support Clinton.

So, I guess we exist. Sorta.

The uncomprising journalistic standards of The New York Times

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

Am I the only one who finds this Bill-Clinton-has-black-cred story in today’s New York Times ridiculous?

While the blogosphere and commentariat rang this weekend with angry declarations that he had crossed a line in his criticism of Barack Obama, many in Harlem seemed to mull it over, shrug their shoulders and say they understood, even if they didn’t quite agree.

“What Bill Clinton said — well, his wife is running for office,” said Tonya Burnett, who was waiting outside the building to visit a city housing office. “He’s got to represent just like she represented when he was running. I don’t think it’s such a big deal.”

To be sure, interviews conducted on a single day, in front of a single building, are apt to produce a narrow point of view. Yet the building, at 55 West 125th Street, is an important piece of real estate in Mr. Clinton’s world.

To be sure, interviewing a handful of people is largely meaningless, but we’ll still go with the headline blaring “In Harlem, Backing Up Bill Clinton.”

Just in case the story was too subtle, and you didn’t quite get the Bill-Clinton-is-blacker-than-Obama subtext, they chose to end the story on this note, emphasis mine:

Bruce Gordon, 47, had visited a notary inside the building. He said the criticisms might even sharpen Mr. Obama.

“These questions have to come up. If Obama gets the nomination, folks will ask, ‘So who are you?’ So far, he’s a nice white middle-class guy,” said Mr. Gordon, acknowledging the cheekiness of his remark with a cagey little smile. “You try to pull a black thing on Bill Clinton, he’s going to say, ‘Now wait a minute now.’ ”

The blackness olympics are on!

It’s almost as bad as the story earlier this month in the Times about how Latinos won’t vote for a black man. Cause you know, Latino and black are mutually exclusive categories. Not like there are any black Latinos, or anything.

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez brilliantly broke down exactly what was wrong with that story:

The article quotes a random 20-year-old woman on the streets of Los Angeles as their only legitimate source for the headline screaming about Obama’s lack of support among Latinos, ostensibly because of his “blackness.” This is your source? Natasha Carrillo of East Los Angeles? Holy crap. Are you joking? Is this the best you can find? Why not go the CUNY, and talk to the Dominican and Puerto Rican studies experts there? Why send reporters to a freakin’ taco stand in East Los Angeles? I’ll tell you why: The story was written in the minds of the editors before it was reported; that’s why it WAS NEVER reported. It was made up. And because it was on the front of the NY Times, you are going to have pundits from coast to coast quoting it as the gospel truth, all because Natasha Carrillo, 20, of East Los Angeles, said so.

Curry metaphors are a must when writing about desis

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

The New York Times licks its typing finger and reels off Yet Another Curry Review, because after all these years, it’s so original. Even lamer, the movie is about a 2nd genner. You can take India out of Shelley Conn, but Shelley can’t take herself out of India — the Times won’t let her:

A cloying blend of Bollywood sentiment and Amélie whimsy, Nina’s Heavenly Delights is a lesbian-foodie fairy tale… the director, Pratibha Parmar, is more interested in pappadams than passion… Fetch the turmeric! … groans beneath ethnic stereotypes and half-baked performances. Blander than a cumin-free curry… cringeworthy dance routines (courtesy of a flamboyant troupe known as the Chutney Queens)… [Link]

One can only imagine how the Times reviewed Alfonso Cuarón:

A cloying blend of mariachi music and lucha libre whimsy, Y Tu Mamá También is more interested in tacos than pasión. Fetch the cayenne pepper! Acting worse than a two-dollar chimichanga and blander than a chili-free burrito.

Oh, it didn’t? Not even a whiff of exoticism?

… one of those Bildungsroman films… The director, Alfonso Cuarón, works with a quicksilver fluidity, and the movie is fast, funny, unafraid of sexuality and finally devastating. The film, which takes place in Mexico, follows two hormonally consumed teenage boys, Julio (Gael García Bernal) and Tenoch (Diego Luna), whose infantile macho games seem more like baby steps when they meet Luisa (Maribel Verdú), a sad-eyed young woman who is married to Tenoch’s older cousin. [Link]

Snark is great, but what’s with the baby talk? On the plus side, the Times has finally run a review as badly-written as its movie. Much respect. There’s a kind of beauty in that.

Update: Reviewer Jeannette Catsoulis writes back that the piece’s clichés were partly intentional:

… When reviewing a film in 200 words or less, I usually try to give readers a flavor (no pun intended!) of what to expect, and, to be honest, this film was one long cliché. I responded with clichés of my own, mostly out of irritation and disappointment. As for the curry/spice issue, I grew up in Britain (in Glasgow, which had made me more excited about the film), and was probably corrupted at a very early age. No excuse, however, for falling into the pit of knee-jerk regional metaphors — however well they seem to suit the tone of a particular film…

But most of the time the Great Curry Metaphor strikes papers unironically and with maximum kitsch.

Black women support Hillary Clinton because their men cheat too?

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I’m glad the bad-ass ladies at What About Our Daughters? are speaking out about this. I watched this segment on CNN early this morning too but was not quite awake enough to trust my reaction to the piece. Glad I wasn’t the only one thinking, WTF?

This Week’s Wagging Finger of Shame Award Goes to Essence magazine editor Tatsha Robertson for being a complete and total embarrassment to Black women everywhere for saying this foolishness on CNN:

“Even though she’s Hillary Clinton, they [Black women] see themselves, you know, within her, dealing with the family issues, the infidelity issues.”

According to CNN’s Chris Lawrence Robertson says Clinton’s ultimate embarrassment is her greatest asset. Robertson went on to say:

“She decided, you know, whether she wanted to stay or not, and I really think, you know, people respect that about Hillary Clinton, especially black women. “

Really? Is that why black women like Hillary? Because their men are cheating on them too, so they identify with Hillary’s marriage problems? As opposed to say, her accomplishments or views or positions or personality?

Check out the transcript here.

Propaganda week

newsweek pakistan yellow peril xenophobia

by guest contributor Manish, originally published at Ultrabrown

This scare story was loaded with terrorism hype. By the time I finished the story, it seemed like jihadis were on the verge of overrunning not only Islamabad but India too. And yet with all the advantages of Musharraf’s rigging, Islamist parties crested at a tiny minority of votes in the last election.

Check out the photos in the print edition, all foreboding black and white like a cheesy re-enactment by a TV crime show:

  • Cover: Scary, screaming, bearded man
  • First photo: Bleeding man lying on road, pierced with shrapnel from the Bhutto attack, looking directly at the camera. This is the kind of gruesome verité the American media refuse to show about Americans at home or American soldiers in Iraq, but think it perfectly acceptable to show about those not like us. I’m in favor of showing it all, not this disgusting double standard.
  • Second: Osama bin Laden t-shirt vendor
  • Third: Bullet-pocked walls
  • Fourth: Street scene with signs in Urdu / Arabic script
  • Fifth: Bearded mullah and a Koran

Here’s the thing — it’s a milestone that the media are beginning to drop the artificial he-says-she-says between India and Pakistan. They’re beginning to report the ISI and Pakistani military’s continued support of terrorism, and the fact that Islamists in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are far more dangerous than was the tinpot dictator of Iraq. Some of the content of the story is excellent.

But its packaging and tone are yellow journalism at its worst, ignoring everyday life in Pakistan and puffing up a tiny circle of jihadists using the trashiest techniques of propaganda.

Racism special on CNN tonight

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

paula zahn racism special cnnJust spotted this on TVNewser:

CNN is devoting tonight’s hour of Paula Zahn Now to “Skin-Deep: Racism in America.” Guests include Whoopi Goldberg and the Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

The show “will examine the Michael Richards incident and its repercussions,” the press release says. Correspondent Keith Oppenheim “will profile the town of Vidor, Texas, reporting on racial tensions there.” And Zahn will talk “to multicultural ten-year-olds about racism and reports on the results at the end of the special.”

Also, check out the results of this survey on racism that was just released (thanks to Karen and Philip for the tip!). Basically, most Americans agree racism is a big problem, half say they know someone who’s racist, but almost no one thinks that they themselves are racist.

Update 10:10 PM: Wow. Ok, I have opinions aplenty, but I’m going to save them so I can do a rant on Monday’s episode of Addicted to Race. But please share your thoughts in the comments section, as some of you already have started to do.