Category Archives: Journalism/Media

Juneteenth Feature: Rep. Bennie Thompson, “An Avid Hunter,” Closes In On The Biggest Target of All

NOTE: the Jan. 6 committee has announced two more dates and times for hearings:

> Tuesday, June 21: 10 a.m. Pacific

> Thursday, June 23: noon Pacific

Now York Times: ‘He Took Jan. 6 Personally’

Representative Bennie G. Thompson, chairman of the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol, has spent his career fighting to protect the right to vote.

Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi has spent nearly 30 years on Capitol Hill, but his leadership of the Jan. 6 committee represents his most significant turn in the national spotlight. Credit…CreditAndré Chung for The New York Times

BOLTON, Miss.— It was here, in this majority-Black town of 441 people, that Representative Bennie G. Thompson attended a segregated junior high school. It was where his father spent a lifetime working as a mechanic and paying taxes, but never enjoying the right to vote. And it was where the future congressman, in the early 1970s, campaigned for mayor while packing a gun, after receiving threats from white people loath to give up their political power.

So it came as little surprise, to those who know Mr. Thompson well, that he was quick to mention Bolton, Miss., after gaveling to order the first hearing of the committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

“I’m from a part of the country where people justify the actions of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and lynching,” said Mr. Thompson, the committee chair. “I’m reminded of that dark history as I hear voices today try and justify the actions of the insurrectionists on Jan. 6, 2021.”

A Pre-Autopsy of the Senate Gun Package: Not half a loaf; not half a slice; a few crumbs at best. So pass it already.

COMMENT: The restrained Associated Press headline on its story reads “Senate negotiators announce a deal on guns, breaking logjam.”

The Raleigh NC News & Observer called it (more accurately, I think) an OUTLINE of [a] gun violence agreement.” The story’s lead paragraph dubbed it a FRAMEWORK.” [Emphasis added.]
The AP article, by Alan Fram, ASSOCIATED PRESS, Updated June 12, 2022, also acknowledged that:

> “The proposal falls far short of tougher steps long sought by President Joe Biden . . . .” And it was at best a
> “limited breakthrough offering modest gun curbs . . . .” Further,
> Leaders HOPE to push any agreement into law rapidly — they HOPE this month — before the political momentum fades that has been stirred by the recent mass shootings . . . .” [Emphasis added.] But

> “Participants cautioned that FINAL DETAILS and LEGISLATIVE LANGUAGE REMAIN TO BE COMPLETED, meaning FRESH DISPUTES AND DELAYS might emerge.” [Emphasis added.]

Senate bargainers announced a bipartisan framework Sunday responding to last month’s mass shootings, a noteworthy though limited breakthrough offering modest gun curbs and bolstered efforts to improve school safety and mental health programs.

The proposal falls far short of tougher steps long sought by President Joe Biden and many Democrats. Even so, the accord was embraced by Biden and enactment would signal a significant turnabout after years of gun massacres that have yielded little but stalemate in Congress.

Leaders hope to push any agreement into law rapidly — they hope this month — before the political momentum fades that has been stirred by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. Participants cautioned that final details and legislative language remain to be completed, meaning fresh disputes and delays might emerge.

Participants cautioned that final details and legislative language remain to be completed, meaning fresh disputes and delays might emerge.

North Carolina’s Republican senators, Thom Tillis and Richard Burr, were among 20 senators, including 10 Republicans, who released a statement calling for passage. That is potentially crucial because the biggest obstacle to enacting the measure is probably in the 50-50 Senate, where at least 10 GOP votes will be needed to attain the usual 60-vote threshold for approval.

“Families are scared, and it is our duty to come together and get something done that will help restore their sense of safety and security in their communities,” the lawmakers said.

The group, led by Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., John Cornyn, R-Texas, Krysten Sinema, D-Ariz., and North Carolina’s Tillis produced the agreement after two weeks of closed-door talks.

WHAT THE AGREEMENT WOULD DO ON GUNS
COMMENT: A MORE ACCURATE SUBHEADING: WHAT the “framework” MIGHT Do; Further comments follow the AP article’s summary of the “outlined” potential provisions:

AP: – The compromise would make the juvenile records of gun buyers under age 21 available when they undergo background checks. The suspects who killed 10 Black people at a grocery store in Buffalo and 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde were both 18, and many perpetrators of recent years’ mass shootings have been young.

— The agreement would offer money to states to enact and put in place “red flag” laws that make it easier to temporarily take guns from people considered potentially violent, plus funds to bolster school safety and mental health programs.

— Some people who informally sell guns for profit would be required to obtain federal dealers’ licenses, which means they would have to conduct background checks of buyers.

“Right now we have people who are practically dealers, but they’re kind of viewed as hobbyists or various other categories,” Tillis told McClatchy last week as he disclosed details of the package he was negotiating with Murphy, Sinema and Cornyn.

— Convicted domestic abusers who do not live with a former partner, such as estranged ex-boyfriends, would be barred from buying firearms, and it would be a crime for a person to legally purchase a weapon for someone who would not qualify for ownership.

Congressional aides said billions of dollars would be spent expanding the number of community mental health centers and suicide prevention programs.

Continue reading A Pre-Autopsy of the Senate Gun Package: Not half a loaf; not half a slice; a few crumbs at best. So pass it already.

Fox News Vs. the January 6 Hearing

Washington Post: Fox News didn’t just ignore the Jan. 6 hearing. It did something worse.




By Philip Bump
 — June 10, 2022

Fox News didn’t need to announce that it wasn’t going to cover Thursday night’s prime-time hearing from the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. The network has been all-but-completely ignoring the subject for 17 months; skipping this hearing was a continuation of a pattern, not a break from one. . . .

When 8 p.m. Eastern rolled around, though, it became clear that the network wasn’t simply going to not cover the hearing. Instead, it began more than two hours of commercial-free rebuttal. It didn’t simply cover other things, it focused almost entirely on the hearing as though it was former president Donald Trump’s defense team — without, of course, showing its audience the prosecution’s case. Continue reading Fox News Vs. the January 6 Hearing

Hey, Charlie Brown: Will You Ever Kick That Football??

AP News: “A Good Man”: Exhibits honor ‘Peanuts’ creator Schulz on 100th

May 27, 2022

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — In a series of “Peanuts” comic strips that ran in midApril of 1956, Charlie Brown grasps the string of his kite, which was stuck in what came to be known in the longrunning strip as the “kiteeating tree.”

In one episode that week, a frustrated Charlie Brown declines an offer from nemesis Lucy for her to yell at the tree.

“If I had a kite caught up in a tree, Id yell at it,” Lucy responds in the last panel?

The simplicity of that interaction illustrates how different “Peanuts” was from comics drawn before its 1950 debut, said Lucy Shelton Caswell, founding curator of the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum at Ohio State University in Columbus, the worlds largest such museum.

“The idea that you could take a week to talk about this, and it didn’t have to be a gag in the sense of somebody hitting somebody else over the head with a bottle or whatever,” Caswell said. “This was really revolutionary.”

New exhibits on display at the Billy Ireland museum and at the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa, California, are celebrating the upcoming centenary of the birth of “Peanuts” cartoonist Schulz, born in Minnesota on Nov. 26, 1922.

Schulz carried the lifelong nickname of Sparky, conferred by a relative after a horse called Sparky in an early comic strip, Barney Google.

Schulz was never a fan of the name “Peanuts,” chosen by the syndicate because his original title, “Li’l Folks,” was too similar to another strip’s name. But the Columbus exhibit makes clear through strips, memorabilia and commentary that Schulzs creation was a juggernaut in its day.

At the time of Schulz’s retirement in 1999 following a cancer diagnosis, his creation ran in more than 2,600 newspapers, was translated into 21 languages in 75 countries and had an estimated daily readership of 355 million. Schulz personally created and drew 17,897 “Peanuts” strips, even after a tremor affected his hand.

The strip was also the subject of the frequently performed play, “Youre a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” as well as “Snoopy: The Musical,” dozens of TV specials and shows, and many book collections.

Bill Watterson, creator of “Calvin and Hobbes,” described in a 2007 Wall Street Journal review of a Schultz biography the difficulty of looking at “Peanuts” with fresh eyes because of how revolutionary it was at the time.

Benjamin Clark, curator of the Schulz museum, describes that innovation as Schulzs use of a spare line that maintains its expressiveness.

Schulz “understood technically in drawing that he could strip away what was unnecessary and still pack an emotional punch with the simplestappearing lines,” Clark said. “But that simplicity is deceptive. There’s so much in these.”

The exhibit in Columbus displays strips featuring 12 “devices” that Schulz thought set Peanuts apart, including episodes involving the kiteeating tree, Snoopys doghouse, Lucy in her psychiatry booth, Linus obsession with the Great Pumpkin, the Beethovenplaying Schroeder, and more.

“Celebrating Sparky” also focuses on Schulzs promotion of womens rights through strips about Title IX, the groundbreaking law requiring parity in womens sports; and his introduction of a character of color, Franklin, spurred by a readers urging following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

In addition, the display includes memorabilia, from branded paper towels to Pez dispensers, part of the massive “Peanuts” licensing world. Some fellow cartoonists disliked the way Schulz commercialized the strip.

He dismissed the criticism, arguing that comic strips had always been commercial, starting with their invention as a way to sell newspapers, Caswell said.

While 1965s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is one of the most famous cartoon TV specials of all time, the characters have also returned in dozens of animated shows and films, most recently in original shows and specials on Apple TV.

Those Apple programs introduced new viewers to the truth of what Schulz drew, his wife, Jean Schulz, told The Associated Press last year. She described that truth this way:

“A family of characters who live in a neighborhood, get along with each other, have fun with each other, have arguments sometimes with each other, but end up always in a good frame hugging each other or resolving their arguments,” she said.

Caswell, who first met Schulz in the 1980s, said one of the exhibits goals was to surprise people with things they didnt know about the man. In that, “Celebrating Sparky” succeeds admirably.

Who knew, for example, that Schulz, a hockey and iceskating lover, is in both the U.S. Figure Skating and U.S. Hockey halls of fame? (Perhaps that isnt surprising, given multiple strips that featured a hockeyplaying Snoopy or Zambonis driven by the little yellow bird, Woodstock.)

By focusing on Schulz, the exhibit also aims to show he worked hard to perfect his drawing style before “Peanuts” was launched and was intentional about what he wanted the strip to be, Caswell said.

“This was a person of genius who had a very clear, creative focus to his life, and enjoyed making people laugh,” she said.

“Celebrating Sparky: Charles M. Schulz and Peanuts” at the Billy Ireland museum runs through November and was mounted in partnership with the Charles M. Schulz Museum.

The Charles M. Schulz Museum has two exhibits commemorating Schulzs birth: “Spark Plug to Snoopy: 100 Years of Schulz,” which explores comic strips and artists who influenced Schultz (running through Sept. 18); and “The Spark of Schulz: A Centennial Celebration, exploring cartoonists and artists influenced by Schulz (from Sept. 25, 2022, through March 12, 2023)
___

Associated Press US Entertainment Video Editor Brooke Lefferts in New York contributed to this report

Newspapers vs the Southern Baptist Sex Abuse Coverup

[NOTE: Besides (another) sleazy church “leader” sex saga, the Southern Baptist coverup scandal (which should, if there’s justice, demolish the denomination’s thoroughly corrupt lying superstructure, and send numerous pervy pastors and their protectors to do some praying in prison) is telling another very significant story: the crucial role of a healthy, smart, dogged free press in cutting through the church crap and dragging that cesspool into the light of day.

The “church leaders” who perpetuated the coverup could teach the CIA some lessons about squalid secrecy.  But the key lesson about journalism here is simpler, even mundane: to unmask the coverup and break the story took months of meticulous, quiet but relentless work by a slew of reporters and researchers. as the report below explains.

And to do that work, besides stamina and tenacity, the reporters first and above all had to be there. But viable newspapers and reporting jobs are a vanishing species, as threatened as Monarch  butterflies.

Whatever press awards this story gets will surely be deserved. But more important to them —and the public; that’s us — will be whether their achievements translates into more subscribers, and increases their employers’ business viability.

And the outcome of that story is still hanging in the balance.

Washington Post: How two Texas newspapers broke open the Southern Baptist sex scandal


A 2019 investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News prompted this week’s massive disclosure about church leaders implicated in sex abuse cases.

By Elahe Izadi
 —May 25, 2022

Houston Chronicle city hall reporter Robert Downen was on the night shift one evening in 2018, just a few months into the job, when something caught his attention.

Scrolling through an online federal court docket, he spotted a lawsuit that accused Paul Pressler, a prominent former judge and leader of the Southern Baptist Convention, of sexual assault. While the case had been previously reported, newly filed documents painted an even more damning picture, including the revelation that Pressler had previously agreed to pay his accuser $450,000.

Downen, then 25, probed more deeply and discovered other survivors of church abuse, who made it clear to him, he recalled, that “if you think this problem is confined to one leader, we have quite a bit to show you.”

Downen’s ever-growing spreadsheet of cases soon inspired a larger reporting effort to quantify the scope of sex abuse within the massive Protestant denomination. Journalists at the Chronicle and the San Antonio Express-News teamed up to create a database of cases involving nearly 300 church leaders and more than 700 victims for their landmark 2019 “Abuse of Faith” series.

A wave of outrage in response to the series rocked the Southern Baptist Convention, prompting its Executive Committee to hire an outside firm to investigate. The result was Sunday’s release of an explosive, nearly 300-page report that found church leaders had covered up numerous sex abuse cases and belittled survivors.

Among other key findings: SBC leaders kept a secret list of ministers accused of abuse — all the while insisting to the Texas reporters who first inquired about the scope of the problem back in 2019 that such records would be impossible to compile, according to Chronicle investigative reporter John Tedesco. (On Tuesday, the leadership said it was planning to release names of the accused on Thursday.)

“It is beyond frustrating as a journalist and as someone who knows many of these survivors,” said Downen. “How many years of survivors pleading for this and the tears they cried, and how much work and how many hours of journalism we could have put elsewhere, in this story or any other, was wasted because they just didn’t want to say they were doing this.”

Downen worked with Tedesco — who moved from the Express-News to the Chronicle during the investigation — and Lise Olsen, then an investigative editor and reporter for the Chronicle. They spent several months hunting down and combing through court records, traversing the state, interviewing local district attorneys and sending letters seeking comment to every alleged abuser person they had learned about. Data journalists Matt Dempsey and Jordan Rubio helped create the database and verify the case details, as did a team of lawyers for Hearst, the parent company for both newspapers.

They discovered 380 people in the church, including deacons, youth pastors and Sunday school teachers, who had been credibly accused of abuse; at least 218 of them had been convicted or pleaded guilty to sex crimes over two decades. Some of them, the papers found, remained in their positions at the church or returned after serving prison time.

After the newspaper series published in 2019, the Chronicle set up a confidential tip line that was contacted by more than 400 people with accounts of being abused. The newspapers followed up with another three-part series with more victim accounts. “Their courage made all the difference,” said former Chronicle executive editor Steve Riley, who also oversaw the investigative team at the time.

One victim, who was abused as a child by a former pastor, wrote to the Chronicle that “over the years I’ve learned to cope with this and I’ve also realized that I am not alone. Your article reaffirms this and I feel more empowered knowing that more people will now better understand what is really going on.”

The newspapers reprinted “Abuse of Faith” and distributed it free at the 2019 annual SBC meeting in Birmingham, Ala., where the sex abuse crisis dominated discussion. In 2021, thousands of delegates at the annual meeting overwhelmingly voted in favor of having a task force oversee a third-party investigation, rather than the Executive Committee.

“There had been survivor advocates who had been pushing and trying to raise awareness for a long time before we came along,” Tedesco said. “We were part of that puzzle. I think our story opened a lot of eyes, but there were eyes already opened and trying to alert people to the problem before us.”

The Chronicle broke online readership records with the series, and other media organizations around the country relied on their database to investigate abuse cases in their own coverage areas.

But compiling the database — which involved a detailed and extensive corroboration of every case, some relying on court files that could be retrieved only in person — required the efforts of more than a dozen journalists. “In a newsroom of 200, that’s a pretty big commitment,” said Riley. He fears that many local and regional newspapers, struggling with shrinking circulation and ad revenue, will be increasingly unable to tackle similar stories in their own backyards.

“If it is only the New York Times or The Washington Post and ProPublica who are able to do this kind of work, then they’re going to miss a lot and they’re not going to be around to follow up once it’s done,” he said.

And yet local news reports from smaller media organizations that the Houston and San Antonio reporters dug out of archives played a vital role in helping them uncover the big story.

“Sometimes things happen in plain sight: A pastor gets arrested and reassigned from a church and it’s a daily story that maybe gets forgotten,” said Tedesco. “Sometimes you have to put those pieces together, and there’s real value in taking the time to do that.”

It’s all the more reason the public should be alarmed by the state of local news, said Downen, “because we are absolutely losing the source material for so many other investigations.”

Since 2005, about 2,200 local newspapers have closed across the country, and over 200 counties across the country have no newspaper at all, according to a University of North Carolina study.(Emphasis added.)

“That’s why it’s crucial for people to support the press financially and in other ways,” Downen said. “You don’t think that the small-town paper with a readership of 5,000 could be the genesis of a massive and historic report 25 years later, because it is some local journalist writing about a local abuse case. But we can’t know what we can’t see.” (Emphasis added.)