His name was John “Black Jack” Pershing and his roots ran deep in 20th century America. He commanded 2 million U.S. troops that helped win World War I and changed the world. America became a global superpower. General “Black Jack” Pershing was his nation’s highest-ranking officer. Behind Pershing’s iron exterior stood a man who endured great personal tragedy and heartbreak.
What natural beauty lies and flies under our noses this Labor Day weekend in my Lincoln, Nebraska yard. The insect world is busy gathering nourishment for the cooler fall and winter temperatures that will begin arriving in the months ahead. I shot this with my Samsung 7 smartphone and a JVC GY-HM600 ProHD video camera. Courtesy music: Nevada City by Huma-Huma.
Pardon my pun but it’s the point of this blog. Don’t drop the Samsung Galaxy S7 because the glass may be easier to break than previous versions of the popular Galaxy phone.
I purchased a Samsung Galaxy S7 this month. I think the photo and video components (sharpness, low light sensitivity, etc.) and longer lasting battery life are outstanding. I like the ability to add micro sd card memory to the phone. It’s also water and dust resistant for weather elements. Overall, the S7 is an excellent communications tool.
What disappoints me about the Galaxy S7? When dropped, it’s easy to break or crack the Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the Galaxy S7. If you do- it’s expensive to replace. The standard Samsung S7 warranty doesn’t cover replacement costs for accidental damage to the phone.
You can get a two-year Samsung Protection Plus warranty when you buy the phone for $129. I wasn’t aware of this when I bought the phone. Even if I had been, I’m not sure I would have bought the extra warranty coverage. It allows up to two replacements in a 12 month period for accidental damage claims but you may also get hit with a $79 deductible cost for each of those two claims.
This AT&T commercial for the Samsung Galaxy S7 suggests that it’s durable enough to survive a tumble down brick steps and a dunk in a mud puddle.
Again- Here’s the S7 bouncing off that brick step:
Below is a photo of my Galaxy S7’s front glass after it bounced on my concrete driveway. It didn’t survive the 3-foot fall after slipping out of my shirt pocket as I bent over to pick a ripe tomato from a potted tomato plant perched on my driveway. So much for the S7 phone’s durability.
In the meantime, I’ve ordered an Otterbox Commuter Series case ($34.95) to protect the phone. I’m hoping the broken glass won’t spider web its way across the rest of my S7’s front glass display. If it does I may have no choice but to fork over a couple of hundred bucks to have it replaced-Perhaps with another competitor’s phone.
One last thing Samsung: Perhaps you might consider giving your customers the same benefit HTC offers it’s customers with the Uh Oh Damage Protection Plan. The HTC plan covers accidental damage (free replacement) to its flagship phone during the first 12 months after a customer’s purchase. It covers cracked glass.
Ali touched so many lives. I was in awe of his brash confidence and exquisite boxing skills while growing up in the 1960’s. I admired that Ali was a strong and active supporter of the civil rights movement.
In my late teens, I was deeply impressed with Ali’s stand as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam war in 1967. It would cost him his heavyweight title, Ali faced time in federal prison, and Ali would ultimately sacrifice an untold boxing fortune during the four years he was banished from the boxing ring. In 1971, his federal conviction for resisting the draft was overturned by an 8-0 vote of the U.S. Supreme Court.
As one Boston newspaper columnist noted, “While white men with means left for Canada to avoid Vietnam, Ali didn’t run and hide, he stood his ground and fought.”
After Ali was cleared of wrongdoing by the U.S. Supreme Court he took his first shot at regaining the heavyweight title with a fight against reigning champion Joe Frazier. Ali lost that first comeback bid to Frazier. He had his jaw broken the next year in another losing fight to heavy hitter Ken Norton.
Ali didn’t surrender. He beat champion George Forman in Zaire in 1974. In a 1975 rematch with Frazier, Ali regained the heavyweight title in the “Thrilla in Manila” 15 round boxing bout before a huge international audience in the Philippines. Ali boasted that his fight against Frazier would be a “killa and a thrilla and a chilla, when I get that gorilla in Manila.” Many boxing critics call it the greatest fight in heavyweight history.
I admired that Ali stood as a symbol of black male pride and yet he inspired me too in the 1970’s; a young, white teen growing up in Kansas. He inspired people of all races and creeds. He was courageous in the face of adversity. He stood firm on his moral and religious beliefs. He persevered and became a transcendent figure who was globally respected and recognized. This old BBC video clip from 1971 reveals a young Ali’s personality better than any I’ve seen.
Ali married four times. He had seven daughters and two sons. Ali supported and remained present in the lives of them all.
This is not to say Ali was perfect.He had flaws too as many, most of us, have had in our lives. The sum of Ali’s life though, I believe, outshines those flaws.
A memory highlight of my life was being invited to introduce Ali at an Islamic dinner in Dearborn, Michigan in the early 1990’s. It was the faith Ali had immersed himself in years before he was stripped of his boxing title. It was the faith that gave Ali’s life deeper personal spiritual relevance and meaning.
I was accompanied by wife Joanne Lohr McCoy and dear friend and former WKBD-TV colleague Amyre Makupson.
I couldn’t have been more nervous that night. I probably gave one of the worst introductory speeches of my life. Even so, Ali could not have been more gracious. He was patient and accepting of me that night, even as Parkinson’s disease had already begun to deeply weigh on Ali’s life, changing it forever.
We knew the end would come sooner to Ali because of his disease. Learning of Ali’s death last Friday at age 74 still took my breath away. Watching his physical demise was heart-wrenching, yet it revealed the enduring beauty of Ali’s spiritual side and his deep faith in a power that existed far beyond the bounds of his once mighty body. There will never be another like him.
To me Ali was the personification of greatness and grace. With Ali there was always heart and hope. A bit of the hope Ali inspired in others rubbed off on me too. He was the greatest athlete of my life. Greater yet, Muhammad Ali remains a role model for me and people around the world.
Did you read the news story about the sexual harassment charges flying at one of America’s most prominent college campuses?
The writers and editors of the San Jose Mercury News knew a great deal about the story. They did an excellent job producing the report.
But is the newspaper aware of questionable sponsored advertising that appears with the story and others like it on the San Jose Mercury News website?
The San Jose Mercury News report detailed the firing of a University of California, Berkeley assistant basketball coach who admitted propositioning a reporter for sex.
It was a solid story by competent journalists at the San Jose Mercury News. It included specific facts, good sourcing of information, and efforts were made to contact all parties involved in the case.
Here’s the story lede:
“In an explosive admission, fired UC Berkeley assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel told a campus investigator that he tried to lure a female reporter up to his apartment for sex after a game last year and later joked in a text about having her over for sex with him and his friend.”
The story reported new details that emerged last week after the university’s release of documents from the sexual harassment case that cost Hufnagel his job. It happened days before the U.C. Berkeley Bears men’s team began play in the NCAA basketball tournament.
The story also mentioned:
“But the revelations come less than week after a lawsuit brought to light the minor sanctions handed to former law school dean Sujit Choudhry after a campus investigation found he had routinely subjected his assistant to unwanted hugs, kisses and caresses.”
“Also last year, another powerful faculty member — astronomer Geoff Marcy — was allowed to keep his job after a campus investigation found that he sexually harassed students for nearly a decade. Marcy resigned in October after the news caused an international outcry and the majority of his colleagues called for his termination.”
I mention these details because one component of sexual harassment often involves the sexual objectification of those who are targets of harassment. That’s why I had questions about the sponsored (also called “click bait”) advertising that accompanied the San Jose Mercury News sexual harrassment story. It looked like this:
“Sexual objectification is the act of treating a person as an instrument of sexual pleasure. Objectification more broadly means treating a person as a commodity or an object without regard to their personality or dignity.”- Wikipedia
Here are two more examples of the San Jose Mercury News click bait advertising that rotate into its story about sexual harassment at U.C. Berkeley:
Here’s another San Jose Mercury News story about a San Jose high school assistant track coach arrested on suspicion of having sex with two students.
Here’s the advertising that goes with the story.
It’s not only the San Jose Mercury News. Other news websites carry similar sponsored advertising and often don’t know what advertising is paired with the news stories they produce. That’s not an excuse. It’s an observation. It can also be a credibility problem for news organizations. Would they knowingly allow sexually suggestive advertising to be paired with a story about sexual harassment. Would they allow an advertisement about the “31 Richest Adult Entertainers Of All Time” appearing with a news story about an assistant track coach charged with suspicion of having sexual relationships with two students to be in good taste? If so, why? If not, who’s minding the content on the news organization’s website?
I emailed and left phone messages for Randy Keith, the managing editor responsible for all digital content on the San Jose Mercury News website. I asked him to answer these questions:
Are you aware of the advertising content that appear with your news stories on your website?
What written policies and criteria do you use to consider the appropriateness of advertising content in its pairing with news content that appear on your website?
Who decides which ads are displayed with news content on your website?
Does someone at your organization screen the advertising content appearing on your website with the news stories produced by your reporters?
How much advertising revenue is generated by sponsored ads appearing on the San Jose Mercury News website?
After two days, I had not received a reply. I then called the Mercury News “breaking news” desk and spoke with a helpful staffer. He said he would forward my emails to Keith and Bert Robinson, managing editor of print for the Mercury News. Robinson is responsible for the newspaper’s Bay Area and statewide news coverage. Another 24 hours passed. I received no reply.
Here’s something else to consider: The San Jose Mercury News makes money from those sponsored click bait advertising. I’m guessing quite a bit of money. According to Cision Digital Research, The Mercury News’ website averages 1.5 million unique visitors each month. Every time a reader clicks one of those sponsored story links, the newspaper makes money.
You’ll have to ask the publisher of the San Jose Mercury News to tell you exactly how much they make from those questionable ads. Then ask them why they allow this to happen at all.
Did GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump confuse fiction for fact when he recounted a story last week for an audience at a South Carolina campaign stop?
The fable involves former WWI General John J. Pershing’s service in the Philippines in the early 1900’s. It claims Pershing ordered U.S. troops to execute Moro insurgents of the Muslim faith by shooting them with bullets dipped in pig’s blood. The pig’s blood was said to have been used as a deterrent that would bar suicidal Muslim terrorists from entering heaven. Watch the Trump video below.
I have found no evidence to support the pig’s blood story told by Trump on the campaign trail, or others in print, social media and on the web in the past several years. The story is of personal interest to me as a university professor who is producing a documentary on Pershing’s life and has spent some time researching General John J. Pershing’s career and personal life in the Library of Congress and National Archives.
Pershing’s life in the Philippines
The pig’s blood narrative supposedly happened during Pershing’s distinguished tenure as military governor of the Moro Province in the Philippines. Pershing governed a half-million citizens in the province. Most were Moros, the rest were Filipinos, Chinese, Europeans, some Americans and other native tribes.
Several noted Pershing biographers (Smythe, Vandiver, Smith, etc.) have detailed Pershing’s time in the Philippines and the peaceful relations he had with many Moro leaders who were called “datos.” Pershing consulted with the datos often and tried to promote peace by working to improve the living conditions of those he governed in the Philippines. As with many societies, including the United States, some terrorists are citizens. Most citizens are not. Some Moros were terrorists. Most Moros were not.
As military governor, Pershing built new roads, and bridges, established schools and health dispensaries during his time in the Philippines. Drawing on the law degree he earned at the University of Nebraska, Pershing made changes in the Moro Province’s legal system. He adapted legal customs of the Western world to fit some Moro traditions. Pershing also worked to create trading opportunities for the Moros. He often toured the province, including one 400 mile trek on foot and horseback that took Pershing through remote jungle and alpine trails to meet with Moro datos during one 11-day span.
At times, another related story has also surfaced. It suggests Pershing’s troops buried dead Moro attackers with the carcasses of pigs. There is some truth to this story, but its historical context is important for the sake of accuracy.
Pigs and Muslims: Myth and fact
Pershing’s own papers in the Library of Congress describe his challenges in disarming dissident Moros who revolted against the law and Pershing’s governance of the Moro Province. Pershing wrote about the practice of “juramentado” in which some Moros revolted by swearing an oath to kill Christians:
“…juramentados, individuals ready to kill Americans at certain sacrifice of their own lives, appeared from time to time even in towns. In the early spring of 1911 there were several such fanatical outbreaks.”
Pershing described one “particularly cruel case” involving the death of U.S. 2nd Cavalry lieutenant Walter Rodney. The lieutenant was walking unarmed in Jolo City with his young daughter. Suddenly, a Moro who had just passed them on the road, drew his long bladed barong, killing the lieutenant “with several quick, vicious slashes from behind.”
Before the juramentado could kill anyone else he was shot dead by another soldier. Other Moro terrorist attacks soon followed and Pershing wrote-
”These juramentado attacks were materially reduced in number by a practice the army had already adopted, one that Muhammadans held in abhorrence. The bodies were publicly buried in the same grave with a dead pig. It was not pleasant to take such measures, but the prospect of going to hell instead of heaven sometimes deterred the would-be assassins.”
John T. Greenwood, former chief of the Office of Medical History, Office of the Surgeon General, U.S. Army, has expertly edited Pershing’s papers into a published book; “My Life before the World War, 1860–1917: A Memoir.” The passage I described above may also be found on pages 284-285 of Greenwood’s excellent book on Pershing’s memoirs.
The late Donald Smythe, a history professor at John Carroll University, is one acclaimed biographer of Pershing’s life. In his book “Guerrilla Warrior: The Early Life of John J. Pershing,” Smythe takes up the discussion on pages 162-163.
“To combat the juramentado, Pershing tried burying him when caught with a pig, thinking that this was the equivalent to burying the Moro in hell, for pigs were impure animals to a Moslem. General Bell, the American military commander in the Philippines, thought it worth a try. “This is a good plan,” he said, “for if anything will discourage the juramentado it is the prospect of going to hell instead of to heaven. You can rely on me to stand by you in maintaining this custom. It is the only possible thing we can do to discourage crazy fanatics.””
Smythe noted the following. It speaks to those who believe(d) dipping bullets in pig’s blood or, in this case, burying outlaw Muslims with pigs would discourage others from committing acts of terrorism:
“A nice theory,” wrote Smythe, “but it was not true and did not discourage anybody, at least not for long. Hugh L. Scott, who had been governor of Sulu (another Philippine province), noted that when one of his predecessors buried pigs with juramentados the only people who got angry were some humanitarians in the United States. The Moros? They “did not care enough about it to even discuss it among themselves.””
Here’s Snopes.com’s treatment of the various versions of pig’s blood, pig’s carcasses, Moros and General Pershing. Snopes correctly notes; “Pershing’s strategy was to surround the Moros and wait them out while attempting to induce them to surrender, a strategy that worked effectively.”
Facing insurgent Moros on Bud Dajo
In late December, 1911, Pershing and 1,000 U.S. troops did just that on Jolo Island. They faced an estimated 800 armed insurgent Moros who, as was custom, took their wives and children and had built trenched fortifications, were dug in, and making an armed stand against the provincial government. Bud Dajo was the Moros’ sacred mountain and highest point on Jolo Island. It’s where the armed Moros made their stand.
Pershing biographers also described Pershing’s earlier efforts to avoid bloodshed and negotiate peace with warring Moro outlaws who were typically held in check only by under-trained local constabulary (police) forces. When the violence continued into September, 1911, Pershing offered Moro citizens a bounty to turn their knives, guns and other weapons over to the government. All weapons not turned over to authorities by December would be confiscated by the provincial government. It was Pershing’s effort to quell the violence, slavery, piracy, kidnapping and other civil unrest that disrupted peace in the Moro Province.
When some Moro tribal factions ignored the government’s disarmament call, Pershing used U.S. troops and friendly Moro Scouts to end the dissident’s terrorist acts. The result was Pershing’s decision to make a troop assault on Bud Dajo in late December of 1911.
Unlike his predecessors, Pershing didn’t order a full-scale military assault against the Moros. Instead, he instructed his troops to circle Bud Dajo and wait the Moros out.
“I am strongly of the impression that they can be induced to come down, or if that is impossible, they can be starved out or will escape in time of their own accord.” – John Pershing
Historian Donald Smythe wrote that Pershing, rather than fight, was “squeezing the fight” out of the Moros. Doing so avoided needlessly risking the lives of Pershing’s troops, and the lives of the opposing Moros. “Have no outposts nearer than 300 yards to summit of mountain,” wrote Pershing in one of his orders. “Avoid contact if possible. Do not return fire but keep hidden.”
During Pershing’s eight-day military operation the Moros eventually ran low on food and water and launched several fierce attacks to try and slip by Pershing’s men and escape their Bud Dajo fortress. Most were repelled by U.S. troops. Pershing sent friendly Moros to urge the hostile Moros to surrender. “He wanted only guns, not lives,” wrote Smythe. “If they would merely surrender their guns they could go home in peace.”
Soon, many hostile Moros, hungry and exhausted, began to surrender; Twenty at first. In the days that followed, Moro groups of 50 to 200 also surrendered to U.S. troops. On the operation’s eighth day, Moro Scouts flushed the remaining Moros out of hiding, killing six of them.
Bud Dajo had been secured. The casualty count for the entire operation: Three wounded on the American side. Twelve were killed, a few others wounded on the Moro side.
Before the operation, some U.S. military officials predicted many Americans would die before Bud Dajo could be taken. Pershing had done it with only three wounded on the U.S. side. He also avoided the “fight to the death” that many Moro warriors had wanted. Wrote Pershing:
“It was only by the greatest effort that their (Moros) determination to fight it out could be broken. The fact is that they were completely surprised at the prompt and decisive action of the troops in cutting off supplies and preventing escape, and they were chagrined and disappointed in that they were not encouraged to die the death of Mohammedan fanatics.” – John Pershing
The battle of Bud Bagsak
Two years later, in 1913, Pershing’s attempts to use “friendly persuasion” with warring Moros led by Dato Naquib Amil failed to bring peace. Pershing described Amil’s followers as “the most stubborn, the most defiant, and the most difficult in the whole Province.” Biographer Frank Vandiver in “Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing,” wrote that efforts by Pershing to negotiate with Amil “produced typical agreement and noncooperation…While talking, Moros raided, snatched slaves, murdered each other and attacked stray cavalry and infantry units.”
Dato Amil and his Moro followers ultimately reneged on their promise to surrender their weapons. They threatened the provincial capital of Jolo City and fired sniper shots at the city’s troop garrison. Against Amil’s open defiance Pershing again resorted to military action. Under the cover of nightfall, he led an expedition of 1,200 officers and men in a surprise military assault against the Bud Bagsak mountain stronghold of Dato Amil and his Moro warriors.
The remote Bud Bagsak summit rose 2,200 feet above the sea. It was surrounded by steep approaches that had to cross several Moro defensive trenches and fortified by five Moro “cottas” (thick log, mud and rock-walled fortresses) that looked down from Bud Bagsak mountain on Pershing’s approaching troops a mile away. Author Robert A. Fulton noted that more than 90 percent of Pershing’s force was made up of Philippine Scouts that included two Moro companies. The U.S. Army contingent included 50 men of Company M, 8th Infantry and a 25-man demolition detail from the 8th Cavalry.
The five-day battle favored the well-armed U.S. troops who fought their way up the mountain, toppling one cotta after another with artillery, pistols and rifles. Nonetheless, they met fierce resistance from hundreds of Moros who chose to fight and die rather than accept an offer by Pershing to surrender their weapons and return to their homes.
The odds did not favor the Moros, nor did it keep them from forcing a bloody contest against the attacking U.S forces. With few guns, many spears and other cutting weapons at their disposal against the overwhelming fire power of Pershing’s troops the Moro losses numbered over 500 dead. Among the dead was Dato Amil. An estimated 5-10 percent of the dead also included Moro women and children. “This was inevitable,” wrote Smythe, “given the Moro policy of taking their families with them when they fought.”
“In that last trench, a scant 25 yards from the cotta, a gory, blood-spattered last stand by the Moros was beaten down. Pistol in hand, Pershing fought forward with his vanguard. By 5:00 p.m Bagsak had fallen and Pershing had won the hardest battle of his life.” –Pershing biographer Frank Vandiver
Government losses from the battle were 15 dead and 25 wounded. At one critical point in the battle Pershing personally stepped into the firing line, taking direct command while dodging flying Moro spears and barongs when “matters looked desperate” for U.S. troops. General Pershing later wrote his wife Frankie and described the Moro fighters in the Bud Bagsak battle:
“The fighting was the fiercest I have ever seen… They are absolutely fearless, and once committed to combat they count death as a mere incident.”- John Pershing
Historian Donald Smythe later wrote:
“The tragedy of Bud Bagsak was that the Moros brought on a battle they could not possibly win. They construed kindness and leniency as weakness. Pershing had offered complete amnesty to Amil and his followers if they surrendered their guns. The Moros treated such an offer with contempt.”
What Donald Trump knew?
It’s fair to ask if Donald Trump knew the pig’s blood story was false when he told it to his campaign audience. To be accurate, Trump should have done some basic fact checking. It’s likely most Americans would expect that of anyone running for political office, much less the presidency of the United States.
Had Trump done better fact checking, he might have learned that General Pershing preferred negotiation and diplomacy with his foes in the Philippines. If negotiations failed, Pershing used military force to end further lawlessness, loss of life and property.
Trump could issue a formal correction, and an apology for his erroneous comments.
The correction should accurately state the facts.
The Trump apology would account for his misrepresentation of General Pershing’s legacy, and for the resulting ethnic and religious divisiveness his political rhetoric has caused.
Would that be asking too much?
We had our first grandson last month. Our first grandchild.
I haven’t experienced such joy since our own two daughters were born some two decades ago.
Weston Glover McCoy arrived into our world two weeks ahead of schedule on November 12, 2015. He’s the healthy son of Emily and Dan Glover.
There are many definitions that describe what it means to be a first time grandparent. This is mine:
“I am at peace. I am at peace because a beautiful new being has been brought into our lives with the promise of making our world a better place. I’m at peace because I know my grandson’s mother and father will be great parents.”
I also like using Adobe’s new Premiere Clip app to assemble and edit videos like this that capture the joyous occasion.
Life is good! May yours be too. – Barney McCoy
Journalists are sometimes targets of criticism for the way we perform our jobs. The criticism is fair if a journalist knowingly get their facts wrong, act with bias, or if self-aggrandizement creeps into their reporting. (See: Brian Williams, NBC) It happens. Not often, but the fact it happens at all is too much.
More often than not, criticisms of journalists are unfair. This was the case Monday at the University of Missouri. Student journalists covering protests over the university administration’s response to racial tensions and other issues at the university were told by some protesters to stop shooting photos and video.
Two of the protesters were university employees. Melissa Click, an assistant professor of mass media at the University of Missouri, ordered student videographer Mark Schierbecker to leave a public area where demonstrators had gathered on campus. Janna Basler, the director of Greek life and leadership at The University of Missouri approached student journalist Tim Tai, spread her arms out and forcefully demanded he “back off” shooting photos of the protestors. Tai later Tweeted “A lot of hardworking journalists were physically blocked from doing their jobs – I just happened to be on video. I didn’t ask for notoriety.”
The irony and something to learn
Members of the press have helped give voice and bring wide public attention to the concerns cited by the protestors. That attention helped facilitate many of the changes the protestors have demanded. Interestingly, this was something professor Click called for in a Facebook post two days before Monday’s confrontation with videographer Mark Schierbecker.
The U.S. Constitution
The right to peacefully assemble to hold protests like the one at the University of Missouri is protected under the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. So is the constitutional right of the press to cover and report on such protests.
Some history is appropriate here
This week’s encounter between the University of Missouri protestors and student journalists sparked a keen personal memory. It took me back to my Kansas City reporting days and a journalist I knew and for which I hold the greatest respect.
Her name was Lucile Bluford. She was “Miss Bluford” to all who knew her. She was owner and publisher of The Kansas City Call, the city’s African-American newspaper.
Bluford was a pioneer, a crusader for equal rights for African Americans and women. Above all, she was a journalist dedicated to getting the news out. Like this week’s protestors, Bluford also knew something about racism at the University of Missouri.
Bluford graduated from her Kansas City high school in 1928 as class valedictorian. She graduated with honors and a journalism degree from the University of Kansas in 1932. Seven years later, Bluford applied to the University of Missouri to work on a graduate degree in journalism. She was accepted into the program, but when she went to Columbia to enroll, she was turned away. University officials didn’t know she was African-American.
The State Historical Society of Missouri wrote of Bluford’s life and went on to tell her story:
She tried eleven times to enter the University of Missouri. She filed the first of several lawsuits against the university on October 13, 1939. Bluford’s case was denied time and time again.In 1941 the state supreme court finally ruled in Bluford’s favor. The University of Missouri had to admit her because no equal program existed at (Missouri’s predominantly African-American) Lincoln University. In response, the School of Journalism closed its graduate program. It claimed that it could not operate properly because a majority of its professors and students were serving in World War II.
Bluford finally received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Missouri in 1989. Bluford said that she accepted the degree “not only for myself, but for the thousands of black students” the university had discriminated against over the years.
To me, Bluford was journalism’s Rosa Parks. Her thoughtful demeanor extended to all, regardless of race, gender, or religion. She was a legend for all the right reasons. In recalling Bluford’s 69 years with the Call, the Kansas City Public Library wrote;
Lucile Bluford made the weekly newspaper a potent force for fighting discrimination. She advanced the cause of African Americans in Kansas City.
Never shy, Bluford once scolded the Rev. Jesse Jackson in front of 3,200 people during a 1984 campaign stop in Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium. “Why are you so late?” Bluford greeted him upon his arrival. The News Tribune of Jefferson City, Missouri reported:
The 73-year-old then scolded Jackson and told him he should have notified The Call about his speech earlier and the paper could have helped with turnout. “She just lit Jesse Jackson up,” said Donna Stewart, the current president and publisher of the Kansas City Call. “She didn’t care about it being Jesse Jackson running for president. She lit him up.”
Bluford died in 2003. She was called the “conscience of Kansas City.” I suspect if Bluford had been one of those journalists confronted by the University of Missouri protestors this week she would have lit them up too.
Kill the messenger
It’s the figurative “Kill the messenger” tactic- Try to discredit journalists because the truths they report expose deceit, fraud, illegal or immoral activity by those who are doing the condemning. “Killing the messenger” should not be confused with “the big lie” which is a gross distortion or misrepresentation of the facts often used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body. The two are often employed together in practice.
Take these recent examples- Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson’s attack on the news media as chronicled by New York Times Opinion Columnist Charles M. Blow or shots at the news media over its reporting by defenders of Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
My point it this: Most journalists are diligent and credible. They care about what they report and why they report it. They seek truth and balance. They attribute their sources, and report what they find. Journalists separate fact from fiction in the communities they serve. They are willing to hold the accountable,,,accountable,even if it means putting their own reputations and lives on the line. Did I add that most journalists earn low salaries and most aren’t in the profession to get rich?
Conditions for the news media are getting worse
In the United States, we are blessed by free press principles. They are an underlying part of our U.S. Constitution but ranked 49th globally for free press principles according to Reporters Without Borders. The group’s Press Freedom Index ranks the performance of 180 countries with criteria that include media pluralism, independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, as well as the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.
The U.S. free press principles should be better, but they’re relatively good. It’s not that way in many other countries where the “Kill the messenger” syndrome is often literal in meaning and being a journalist can make you or your family a marked man, woman or child.
Over the past ten years, over 700 journalists have been killed on the job while countless others have been kidnapped or imprisoned. Last week marked the first annual International Day To End Impunity For Crimes Against Journalists and UNESCO released some interesting figures highlighting the dangers faced by reporters.
According to UNESCO, one journalist dies every week on average with 9 out of 10 cases remaining unresolved. Even though the deaths of foreign journalists attract considerable attention, locals are usually in the most danger. Ninety-four percent of those killed tend to be local media workers.
Freedom of the Press 2015, the latest edition of an annual report published by Freedom House since 1980, found that global press freedom declined in 2014 to its lowest point in more than 10 years. The rate of decline also accelerated drastically, with the global average score suffering its largest one-year drop in a decade. Freedom House noted:
The share of the world’s population that enjoys a Free press stood at 14 percent, meaning only one in seven people live in countries where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
So, consider the role of a free press, warts and all, in any real democracy. Ask yourself if you think our society would be better, safer, as informed, or as independent, without one.
Ask if you’d be willing to trade places with the journalists who have been killed, jailed, tortured, threatened or fired for doing their jobs. When I ask students this question many, sometimes most of them, say “No.” Then they say they’re glad to have journalists among us who are willing to make those sacrifices every day. They do it so the rest of us can stay informed. They do it so we can decide for ourselves what constitutes the truth.