Bloggers weigh in Andrew Young, Media Consolidation, and new tools for citizen journalists
I got whiplash this week keeping track of the blogworthy developments in the media world. In this post, I offer a sampling of the things that got my attention, beginning with former Ambassador, mayor and civil rights icon Andrew Young's comments about why Barack Obama isn't ready to be President.
By now, I'm sure you've read or seen the remarks Young made at an event in Atlanta, Georgia last Wednesday that were captured on video by the online TV show Newsmakerslive.com. In the clip, Young argued that Obama doesn't have a strong enough support system to withstand the attacks that he and his family will be subjected to.
"It's not a matter of inexperience. It is a matter of being young. There is a certain matter of maturity ... You have to have a protective network around you... Leadership requires suffering. And I would like to see Barack's children get a little older, see, because they're going to pick on them."
Young talked about the torrent of abuse that Martin Luther King endured from the time that he assumed leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott at the age of 26 until his murder 13 years later, and opined that Obama wouldn't be ready for that kind of abuse until about 2016. On the other hand, Young allowed, Obama was "brilliant" and his eclectic family background and early life experience will be invaluable as the US learns to negotiate new relationships with China and the Muslim world.
But Young really went off the rails and set the blogosphere buzzing when he suggested that former president Bill Clinton was "as Black" as Obama, and that Clinton had probably dated more black women. [Other examples of Clinton's black bonafides included starting a "Soul Train" line at the inauguration party for former South African president Nelson Mandela, during which he did the moonwalk.] Young also said that when Bill Clinton ran for president, Hillary Clinton ran a "defense committee" that "neutralized" the women with whom Clinton had past affairs. Here's CNN's report:
"Young is ridiculous. Martin Luther King, Jr. was all of TWENTY-SIX when he was named head of the Montgomery Improvement Association.
"So, Martin Luther King should have just hung around until someone told him that it was ' his time'?
"Do I need to point out that Barack Obama is only ONE YEAR YOUNGER than when Bill Clinton was elected President?"
i'll just add this: Andrew Young is 75 now, and journalists who have covered him say that he has a long history of shooting from the lip. Back in 1984, he opened his remarks at a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists by declaring,"I didn't know that there were this many n------ that could write." Young is from that generation that feels comfortable letting loose "among family," When I heard his remarks, I could hear my Aunt Reet's voice in my head telling me, "Oh, he's jes trying to stir up some MESS! Don't listen to that mess!"
But aside from the "mess" that Young uttered, a few things stand out that might be meaningful in the days ahead.
First, as David L. Evans points out in this letter to the New York Times about yet another story on whether Obama is "black enough" or "black like us," African American voters have sometimes depended on African American leaders' assessments of political candidates who aren't well known in the black community:
"...I do believe that it is unfair to hold Barack Obama to a stricter standard on race than we did Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, all Southern white men. Blacks who didn’t know those men were rightly suspicious, but took them at their word and the words of blacks who did know them."
I thought of Evans when I heard Young complain that he didn't know of any black advisors in Obama's inner circle. You can see some of them in this article from the Princeton Alumni Weekly -- a group of Chicago-based Princeton graduates. [Obama's wife, Michelle, and her brother Craig graduated from Princeton.] Black Ivy Leaguers were among Obama's initial supporters outside of Illinois. I wonder whether the reason that Young doesn't know them is because his network of black leaders came out of the African American churches and traditional African American religious and fraternal organizations? Journalists might do well to expore the impact of these emerging centers of African American power.
Second, the worries that Young expressed about the dangers Obama might face reminded me of conversations from earlier election cycles in with my older relatives. "I hope Jesse Jackson doesn't win anymore primaries," one of my relatives said in 1988, "because if they'll kill him." Similar fears dogged discussion of a possible Colin Powell candidacy in 1992. When you listen to the whole tape, as Young describes what MLK went through, it's at least easier to understand what he means. Indeed, fears that Obama might be assassinated have been persistent among African Americans. In June, a man with a knife was arrested outside a hotel in Iowa where Obama was staying.
Both Barack and Michelle Obama have addressed that fear on more than one occasion, saying that while they know that the dangers are real, they are determined not to be be held back by fear.
In Other News: Media Ownership
On Dec. 5, Juan Gonzales, a past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists testified before the US House Committee on Energy and Commerce on the issue of media consolidation. You can download the webcast of the hearing here, Veronica Villafañe, publisher of Media Moves,notes:
"For years, Gonzalez has spoken out against media consolidation and its negative consequences, including the lack of access to minority broadcast ownership."
Twittering tips and more from Amy Gahran
Poynter.org's Amy Gahran used Twitter to "microblog" sessions she attended at the Knight Digital Media Center's seminar, "Total Community Coverage in Cyberspace.". She shares some lessons about using Twitter as a reporting tool:
"During sessions yesterday I posted VERY frequently -- about once every 2-3 minutes on average. I found that when doing so many "tweets" (Twitter posts), I gave up on also trying to take notes conventionally. Twitter became my session notes -- live and in public. Personally, I found that useful: I found I had to mentally tune in far more sharply to the "so what" of the presentations and discussions, since I knew that people anywhere might be reading my notes immediately. I even was more careful about typos than usual. It was an odd state of heightened awareness; I hadn't realized how often I go on "mental autopilot" when I take notes."
Here's a resource citizen journalists might find interesting: the State Department holds interactive webchats on various topics of interest. You can sign up to participate, join the live chat and ask questions, and access the chat transcripts afterward. On Dec. 6, for example, Thomas Goldberger, director of the U.S. State Department's Israel and Palestinian Affairs office, took questions on the aftermath of the Annapolis meetings between Israeli and Palestinian leaders. Here's an example of a really interesting exchange from that chat:
"Joyce Karam: Joyce Karam with Al-Hayat Newspaper. What will the president push for during his visit? Are you expecting any breakthroughs in terms of day to day issues (Phase I of roadmap) before that?
"Thomas Goldberger: Hi Joyce. Thanks for the question. We'll be working hard for concrete results right away. A key upcoming event is the December 17 donors conference in Paris. We expect to see major financial contributions to the Palestinians. At the same time, we're working with the Israelis and Palestinians to implement their Roadmap commitments and to improve the daily condidtions of life for Palestinians and Israelis. This is an important priority."
That's what's on my monitor this week. Hope you find it interesting!