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COMMENTARY: Media Responsibility and Accountability in the Era of #MeToo

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “The statistics confirm that sexual harassment is alive and well across all industries and women of color working low-wage jobs are facing the brunt of this abuse,” Emily Martin, the vice president of Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center, said in response to those statistics.

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Recently, the recurring challenge for journalists has been demonstrating fairness and objectivity in the wake of the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

In a world with an ultra-competitive, 24-hour news cycle, journalists are often urged by their editors and publishers to be first with the story.

Unfortunately, in doing so, some have traded accuracy for sensationalism.

Being first to break a story might provide accolades and even financial rewards, but whether printed, published online, or broadcast, a journalist’s words can have serious repercussions for both the accuser and the accused.

A 2018 Pew Research survey found that about two-thirds of American adults (68 percent) say they at least occasionally get news on social media. About the same percentage share the news and information that they find on social channels.

While Pew notes that many of these consumers are skeptical about the information they see there, noting that a majority (57%) say they find information on social media to be inaccurate, the pervasiveness of social channels makes it more imperative than ever for the press to present facts and stray from innuendo.

In some cases, mainstream media has failed to adequately report or focus on stories that would benefit the public.

For example, FBI statistics indicate that more than 424,000 girls have gone missing since the beginning of 2018, yet many say the media hasn’t done enough to shine a light on the crisis, which includes a large number of African Americans.

News reporting is a key witness in the court of public opinion

Take for example the case of  Emmett Till, the black teen lynched and killed by white men after he was falsely accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi in 1955.

Author Michael Oby noted that the Black Press shed light on Emmett Till’s brutal murder and continued to press the case for decades afterwards. Though Emmett’s killers never spent a day in prison, in the APMreports series, “In the Dark: Acquitting Emmett Till’s killers,” Peter Vesco notes, “Pictues of Till’s battered, unrecognizable face were printed in JET magazine and publications across the country. News of his hideous lynching led to outrage around the world.”

Oby said news coverage by the Black Press proved to be crucial in the mobilization of African Americans at that time because it ignited the civil rights movement of the mid-1950s.

In a 2007 interview with historian Timothy Tyson, Carolyn Bryant, wife of Roy Bryant, one of the two men who faced trial for the killing, and Emmett’s false accuser, admitted that she lied, and in 2018 federal prosecutors reopened the case.

Today, it may be difficult for some to maintain high journalistic standards, especially since so many ‘citizen reporters’ are using cell phones and other handheld devices to chronicle criminal activity and expose wrongdoing that would have otherwise never been seen – or believed.

Diamond Reynolds filmed the police shooting of her fiancée, Philando Castile, who was pulled over by an officer because his car’s break light wasn’t working.

While the officer claimed he feared for his life because Castile was reaching for a gun, Reynold’s video showed that Castile informed the officer that he had a firearm and was licensed to carry it. It also showed that he never reached for it.

In July 2014, video captured by a citizen reporter shows police questioning Eric Garner of Staten Island, New York, after he allegedly sold loose cigarettes. Officer Daniel Pantaleo then used a chokehold on Garner, who heard repeatedly telling police “I can’t  breathe!”

Garner later died.

During that same year, cellphone video captured the tragic moment when 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by police, just seconds after exiting their patrol car, while he was playing in a park in Cleveland with a toy gun.

A police dispatcher had alerted Timothy Loehmann, the officer that fatally shot the boy, that Tamir had a fake gun when she sent authorities to the scene, but Loehman still got out of his car and shot the young boy to death.

Ava DuVernay’s recent documentary, “When They See Us,” has brought attention to the “Central Park Five,” a group of young men who spent eight years in prison after being falsely accused of raping a woman in New York’s Central Park in 1989.

Much has been made about Donald Trump’s position on that case, including when he took out full-page ads in several New York newspapers calling for the death penalty after the incident.

But very little attention was given to the failure of the press to accurately report that story. Instead, the media sensationalized. For his part, Trump continues to refuse to acknowledge that he was mistaken and apologize to the young men who were ultimately exonerated.

When asked by a reporter in mid-June whether he would apologize, Trump replied, “Why do you bring that question up now? It’s an interesting time to bring it up.  You have people on both sides of that. They admitted their guilt. If you look at Linda Fairstein and you look at some of the prosecutors, they think that the city should have never settled that case, so we’ll leave it at that.”

Recently, the recurring challenge for journalists has been demonstrating fairness and objectivity in the wake of the #MeToo movement, founded by Tarana Burke in 2006 to help survivors of sexual violence.

Because there are often no other fact witnesses to the allegations levelled by accusers or corroborators that support the denials made by the accused, #MeToo’s gray areas have proven to be the places where the media fails to adequately practice journalistic standards or exercise caution. Many accusations associated with #MeToo have been substantiated. However, others were proven false.

It Matters if You’re Black or White

The National Organization of Women – or NOW – noted that, for African American women, sexual assault and violence are “incredibly pervasive issues that routinely go unreported and under-addressed.”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reported that, between 2012 and 2016, black women filed sexual harassment charges at nearly three times the rate of white and non-Hispanic women.

Data shows this is true regardless of the type of industry.

“Black people in the United States have never been given a presumption of innocence in the criminal justice system. Their entire relationship to justice is not a standard of ‘not guilty’ but one of ‘not guilty, yet,’” said Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Karen Thompson, who released a report earlier this year that revealed that more than 220 black men have been exonerated by DNA while on death row after they were falsely convicted of various serious crimes.

“The statistics confirm that sexual harassment is alive and well across all industries and women of color working low-wage jobs are facing the brunt of this abuse,” Emily Martin, the vice president of Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women’s Law Center, said in response to those statistics.

Sexual assaults and harassments are serious charges and false accusations can be devastating and career-ending, especially when amplified by news reports.

For example, in 2018, multi-talented actor, singer and songwriter Jamie Foxx was accused of assaulting a woman after she allegedly refused to perform a sex act.

The woman reported the 2002 incident to Las Vegas police and the media seized upon it, threatening Foxx’s career.

Foxx’s attorney said his client didn’t even know the woman, but reporters still swarmed to get her story.

“Jamie emphatically denies that this incident ever occurred,” Allison Hart, Foxx’s attorney said in a statement.

“The first time [Foxx] became aware of this woman’s absurd claims about an incident that supposedly occurred 16 years ago was when [celebrity website] TMZ contacted his representatives about this story,” Hart said.

Eventually, Foxx was cleared of any wrongdoing, but little was written about his innocence.

Even in instances where the truth is not immediately evident – a he said/she said scenario – like that faced by entertainment mogul Russell Simmons, the press has an obligation to objectively present the facts when reporting the story.

Simmons, who maintains that he’s never been violent with a woman or forced any to have sex, said aspects of the #MeToo movement will help ensure that his own daughters will have a better future.

“I see no benefit in getting in the mud with my accusers or the media,” Simmons said. “I’m certain that my truth will come out sooner or later.”

To accuse someone who was doing the kind of work Simmons was doing – “using his money and fame to raise more [money] to help those who needed it, you have to wonder why?” said Barbara Mealer, author of the novels “The Jillian Factor” and “Abilene: No Place to Hide.”

“The media must ask these questions before running with a one-sided story: Did he reject them? Were they just trying to get even with him for some slight? Were they just jumping on the bandwagon so they could get notoriety?” Mealer said.

One high-profile individual who requested anonymity for this article, told NNPA Newswire that, “There’s a case pending against me, which my lawyers said will probably be dismissed shortly and the court has indicated it will be.”

“I’m lucky, right? But, why do I have to spend $600,000 or whatever the number is, to defend myself against a woman who said I did something not her 31 years ago and I don’t ever remember meeting her and she couldn’t produce one friend who she ever told she knew me or one photo or one thing to prove that she ever met me,” the individual said.

The media has been guilty of exacerbating claims, including those of Jackie Coakley, who provided an unsubstantiated story to Rolling Stone magazine that formed the basis of 2015’s “A Rape on Campus,” saying that she had been gang-raped by fraternity members at the University of Virginia.

The story went viral, making headlines in newspapers and television news broadcasts throughout the country, until it was discovered that Coakley made up the story. Even using fake text messages to support her false claims.

Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely failed to verify Coakley’s story and the magazine ultimately settled the lawsuits with the fraternity and its members.

In 2013, blogger Susan Shannon accused Col. David “Wil” Riggins of sexually assaulting her in 1986 while they were both cadets at West Point. The allegations caused Riggins to lose a promotion to general, leading him to retire. A jury heard both sides and sided with Riggins, awarding him $8.4 million in damages.

A July 2019 Forbes Magazine article referenced an earlier story in The New Yorker. Jane Mayer’s piece is highly critical of the frenzy that led to the forced resignation of Al Franken from the Senate.

“Mayer described Franken’s fall as ‘stunningly swift’—so swift that it left far too little time to sort the facts,” Forbes reported.

“Every accuser should be heard, but their rights should be no more substantial than the accused, a fact that separates the United States from every other country,” New York-based marketing strategist Tracey Campbell said. “The press must be above that and must recognize that the burden of proof can’t be found in one corner or the other, even when a reporter is convinced the accuser is telling the truth,” Campbell said.

“Believe women,” a slogan that gained popularity during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, refers to the need to accept women’s allegations of sexual harassment or sexual assault at face value. Don’t assume women as a gender are especially deceptive or vindictive and recognize that false allegations are less common than real ones, says Elle Magazine’s Sadie Doyle.

The professional press has an obligation to do as much as possible to “get it right,” present a fair and balanced summary of the facts to its readers and resist the urge to encourage a presumption of guilt.

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COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.
The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Burl “The Coach” Jones, Sports Editor, Houston Forward Times

Recently, Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban made a statement that Texas A&M bought every player they signed with NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) deals.

Alabama came in second in recruiting this year. That has rarely happened since Saban stepped on campus at Alabama. He also stated that Jackson State University, an HBCU coached by Deion Sanders, signed the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal.

The NIL phenomenon was created in June 2021 by the NCAA. This allows athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image, and likeness. Previously, the NCAA made billions in revenue off the backs of college athletes. With the advent of the NIL, expect a shift in the landscape of college football recruiting.

Schools like Texas A&M, Texas, and Oklahoma, have very rich boosters and alumni who have access to millions. They will come up with very creative ways to offer lucrative NIL deals to 5-star recruits. This apparently doesn’t sit well with Coach Saban, who is used to having his way, and getting most of the 5-Star recruits to sign with Alabama.

This will definitely level the playing field and gives schools like Texas A&M, that hasn’t won a National Championship in decades, a chance to recruit 5-Star athletes on a national level and could eventually lead to them winning a National Championship in the near future.

At least that’s what they hope in College Station.

As far as Coach Saban’s statement about Jackson State signing the #1 recruit in the country to a $1 million NIL deal is concerned, that was quickly debunked by Coach Prime, who immediately tweeted that he will address that lie. He followed that up with this statement:

“I haven’t talked to Coach Saban. I’m sure he tried to call. We need to talk publicly- not privately. What you said was public, that doesn’t require a private conversation. Let’s talk publicly and let everybody hear the conversation.”

Coach Saban is speaking from a place of privilege and bigotry. He is used to having his way and getting the players he wants. How dare a little old HBCU such as Jackson State get the #1 recruit in the country? It’s a slap in the face to all HBCUs to insist that they must pay a Black kid to attend an HBCU.

Paying recruits is certainly not new; it has been going on for years.

Former Houston Texan Travis Johnson, who was a 5-Star recruit, recently stated that Alabama offered him six figures in 2000 when he was being recruited.

“Y’all were the NIL before the NIL,” he said.

Jackson State will continue to get its fair share of 5-Star recruits. Coach Prime and all HBCUs can offer an experience that Alabama certainly can’t. It’s nothing like an HBCU experience. This is just the beginning. We will continue to see 5-Star Black athletes signing with HBCUs.

Coach Saban needs to be concerned about that pipeline that he had in Texas, getting those 5-Star recruits to leave the state. That oil money in Texas will be keeping those boys at home. Texas and Oklahoma will be joining the SEC in a few years and that will also influence Saban’s ability to recruit in Texas.

With all those factors coming into play, here is a bit of advice Coach Sabin:

SHUT UP AND COACH!!

“I’m just Telling It Like It Is!!”

The post COMMENTARY: Coach Saban, Shut Up and Coach first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings

NNPA NEWSWIRE — Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th. Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head. Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people. It’s that simple and that sad. Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.
The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By James B. Ewers Jr. Ed.D., Houston Forward Times

Racism is a longstanding social illness in the United States of America. Seemingly, there is no cure for it.

It has been with us for as long as I can remember. The result of it has created heartache and heartbreak.

Lives have been lost and it has left the stain of disgrace on this country. Accomplishments, it could be argued, are sometimes overshadowed by our blatant disregard for some members of our beloved community.

I know for sure that racism will be around for as long as I live. It has been a part of my life experiences.

Unfortunately, and I say this with no pride, I have witnessed racism up close and personal.

I have been around long enough to watch the many levels of racism that exist in this country.

For example, we have had educational racism. Segregated schools were the norm until the case, Brown versus the Board of Education of Topeka ended it.

Did that stop us from getting an education?

The answer is a resounding no!

Black colleges, now called Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), were founded in order that higher education was afforded to African Americans.

At this moment, HBCUs are the hottest and most talked about educational venue in the land.

Everybody wants to attend an HBCU. I am a graduate of an HBCU (Johnson C. Smith University), and I know the power and influence they have.

The right to vote has always been problematic for African Americans. It is a fundamental right for all Americans, according to the Founding Fathers.

The problem is that the ‘current fathers’ don’t see it that way.

Will that stop us?

The answer is another resounding no!

African Americans are now voting in record numbers and that trend will continue.

There are states in this union that are creating trumped-up rules to keep us from exercising our privilege at the polls.

Some in this country have taken racism below ground zero. There are people in our states who hate Black people and want to kill us.

That is a powerful statement, yet it is factual and true.

Interestingly, there are citizens who believe the opposite. I suspect their experiences are different, and they live in an almost contactless America.

If you are one of those people, pay close attention now.

Racial tragedy struck Buffalo, New York, on May 14th.

Hate came up from the ground and reared its inhumane and immoral head.

Ten Black people were murdered by a White man who hated Black people.

It’s that simple and that sad.

Payton S. Gendron, 18 years old, was the shooter. He also injured 3 people as well during this shooting spree.

The victims were assaulted at a Tops Friendly Markets store and the victims ranged in ages from 20-86.

This crime of hate is unthinkable and was done with malicious intent.

The killer was not a Buffalo resident. He drove approximately 200 miles from Conklin, New York, to commit this heinous crime.

Gendron had already scouted out the place for his crime. He knew that many African Americans shopped at that location. That is sick beyond words.

According to reports, Police Commissioner Joseph Gramaglia said, “We found some things that show he was here in early March, and then again, we know he was here on Friday, basically doing reconnaissance on the area.”

Gramaglia added, “He was in the store, both on Friday and Saturday.”

These statements were made by him to CNN’s Erin Burnett.

Payton S. Gendron surrendered to police after this life-altering atrocity.

America, where are we headed? Only time will tell.

The post Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings appeared first on Houston Forward Times.

The post COMMENTARY: Racism Rears Its Ugly Head in the Buffalo Shootings first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices

NNPA NEWSWIRE — A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.
The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The average price for a gallon of gasoline has hit record numbers in Los Angeles and Philadelphia.

This week prices rose nationally by four cents, and consumers wondered why the cost is so high.

A study of fact sheets provided by the American Petroleum Institute suggests that the complicated answer includes more production in America, which could add more supply. “More U.S. supply means relief for the global market,” Lem Smith, API’s vice president for Federal Relations, wrote in an op-ed.

“America has an abundance of resources right under our feet, and policymakers should send a clear message that America is open for energy investment,” Smith declared.

API noted that gasoline prices are determined by the supply and demand of crude oil and expenses for refining, distribution, retailing, and taxation. Those fundamental market realities drive prices at the pump, officials stated.

The main components of retail gasoline prices are the cost of crude oil, taxes, refining costs, and distribution and marketing costs, API officials stated.

Of those, the price of crude oil has the most significant impact – accounting for 56 percent of the cost.

“Because of this, changes in the price reflect the global cost of crude oil, which is influenced by current conditions and expectations of consumer demand, supply, inventories, geopolitical events, and other factors, generally have an effect on pump prices,” the organization stated in a fact sheet.

Further, federal, state, and local governments levy various taxes in fees on transportation fuels.

The nationwide average tax on gasoline is 57.09 cents per gallon, including a federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon and state-level taxes that range from 68.15 cents per gallon in California and 15.13 cents per gallon in Alaska.

API President and CEO Mike Sommers recently discussed the critical importance of American energy leadership “at a time of geopolitical volatility and rising energy costs around the world.”

Sommers urged policymakers to advance U.S. natural gas and oil production to support stability in global energy markets and ensure access to affordable, reliable energy for American consumers and our allies overseas.

“Most everyone knows that the world needs oil and natural gas in a big way and will for decades or more to come; the only question is where that oil and gas is going to come from,” Sommers remarked.

“As much as ever, we need to think hard about that economic truth and our energy future. That means recognizing energy from natural gas and oil as the critical strategic asset it is to America.”

“We can’t treat oil and natural gas as a kind of switch that is turned on or off to suit the moment,” Sommers continued.

“Production and delivery don’t work that way. Yet the overriding policy lately has been to cancel pipelines, block permits and deny leases – all things that discourage investment.

“As more Americans face the consequences of bad policy, the elements of good policy become that much more apparent and desired. We have an opportunity together to re-center the energy discussion with basic realities and good common sense as our starting point.”

Sommers called on the administration and Congress to develop a new five-year offshore leasing program; hold onshore leases on federal lands per the Mineral Leasing Act; approve LNG export applications and allow the approval of exports to non-free-trade-agreement nations, and craft transparent, consistent permitting regulations to enable the development of vital energy infrastructure.

The U.S. has pledged to increase LNG exports to Europe by 65 percent over the next six years.

How quickly could U.S. oil producers scale up production to put downward pressure on domestic gasoline costs?

What could the federal government do to promote that production?

API officials said it begins with access to resources, advancing infrastructure, and enabling – rather than deterring – the industry’s financing.

“Importantly, financial markets have become less hospitable to the natural gas and oil industry partly because of the Biden administration’s positions, policies, and signals,” API officials asserted.

“Those who have capital may be reluctant to invest in long-lived energy assets in such a climate, and a relatively fixed pool of cash flows that could be re-invested by industry have been increasingly spread thin.”

API listed four “concrete actions” the organization believes the Biden-Harris administration could immediately take to support American production.

They include conducting federal lease sales, completing a new five-year program for federal offshore leasing, supporting energy infrastructure, and reopening access to Alaska.

“The administration should reinstate the leases it suspended in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the permit development it approved in the National Petroleum Reserve,” API officials wrote.

“These were permitted with stringent environmental standards and could prove a significant source of domestic production over time.”

The post American Petroleum Institute Lays Out Solutions to Rising Gas Prices first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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