11 years later, Idi Amin’s son objects to Guardian obit for his father

Ugandan dictator Idi Amin died over a decade ago, in August of 2003. Like news organizations all over the world, The Guardian published an obituary that told the story of how Amin grew up, came to power and then led with a bloody, iron fist. (As noted in the obit, the International Commission of Jurists in Geneva estimated the death toll during his leadership to be at least 80,000 and likely closer to 300,000.)

Amin’s death and the obits that followed it are old news. But not for his son, Hussein Amin. He recently wrote to Chris Elliott, The Guardian’s readers’ editor, to object. “Allow me to raise my displeasure at a Guardian obituary about my father, Idi Amin,” he wrote.

Amin, it seems, intends to run for public office and wants to clear some things up about his dad. Elliott detailed the request and his response in a fascinating column. It offers some insight into how the organization sought to try and recheck some of the details in an 11 year-old obit, which was written by a now-deceased correspondent.

“The readers’ editor’s office always considers a complaint seriously, from wherever it comes,” Elliott wrote. “The son of the principal is always worth listening to, although that relationship does not guarantee the complainant will always be right.”

Here’s a sample of Amin’s objections, via Elliott:

The concerns included the death toll during Idi Amin’s regime; whether he took part in the Burma campaign during the second world war; his part in the Turkana massacre; and even the estimated date of his birth as stated in the obituary: “Amin was born around 1925 – exact records were not kept for Africans in those days – in Koboko county in West Nile district, home of the Kakwa tribe.”

Elliott worked with the paper’s research department to recheck details of the obituary. In the end, the younger Amin’s arguments about death tolls and other gruesome details were rejected by The Guardian. But it seems they concede a point regarding the date and location of Idi Amin’s birth.

“My father was born in 1928 while my grandfather was serving in Kampala and my grandmother was a herbalist treating the royal family of Buganda where the capital Kampala is,” Hussein Amin wrote.

Elliot conceded this point, writing that, “Details of Amin’s family life have some authority when told by his son.” (Though the paper has not added an update to the obit to add in this information.)

Apart from that point, Elliott concluded that “Hussein Amin’s other assertions, no matter how deeply felt, could not be independently verified.” Read more

Hand reaching from the grave

How your byline could outlive you

mediawiremorningGood morning. September. Media stories. Let’s do this.

  1. Facebook may not be publishers’ friend: Editorial decisions are increasingly replaced by Facebook’s opaque algorithm, Emily Bell writes: “Accountability is not part of Silicon Valley’s culture. But surely as news moves beyond paper and publisher, it must become so.” (The Guardian) | Related: “Get ready to see a new set of Facebook publishers who see big and mysterious traffic boosts in the near future, as Facebook rolls out its autoplaying video.” (Re/code)
  2. Who will run Condé after Si? At some point Si Newhouse will no longer run the company. Soon-to-be-former Fairchild honcho Gina Sanders is someone to watch, Joe Pompeo writes. (Capital)
  3. What you need to know about this Jennifer Lawrence nude-pictures thing: The FBI is investigating how naked photos of several celebrities ended up online. (AP) | Gabrielle Bluestone‘s primer on the mess. (Gawker) | More photos began circulating Monday. (BuzzFeed) | David Kushner‘s exquisitely timed profile of Anonymous. (The New Yorker)
  4. Mental Floss finds success with video listicles: The publication’s John Green-hosted videos, which have names like “48 Names for Things You Didn’t Know Had Names,” were “each viewed an average of about 921,000 times,” Christine Haughney reports. Those videos “account for about 12 percent of the magazine’s advertising revenue and 5 percent of the company’s overall revenues, which includes circulation and e-commerce.” (NYT) | From February: “Mental Floss a big winner after Facebook’s mysterious ‘high quality’ algorithm change” (Poynter)
  5. Death of print may not arrive on schedule: “I do think that someday print will not be around, but I’ll have to say that it’s much farther into the future than many of us were talking about four years ago,” Atlantic muckety-muck Bob Cohn tells Samir Husni. (Mr. Magazine)
  6. Lessons from being The Guardian’s women’s editor: “No longer can I enter a room, watch TV or simply take part in a conversation without thinking, ‘What about the women?’” Jane Martinson writes. (The Guardian) | She’s leaving the role to oversee The Guardian’s media coverage. (The Guardian)
  7. CNN remembers Sarmad Qaseera: The photojournalist died Monday. He was 42. (CNN)
  8. How a dead reporter’s name can end up on a New York Times obit: When subjects of advance-written obituaries outlive their author, “if the byline is celebrated enough — and the writing too good to consign to the dustbin — our editors may decide to publish the obit, as if from beyond the grave, once its subject has joined its author,” Margalit Fox writes. “The result is a vivid journalistic status symbol the author will never see.” (NYT) | Sort-of related: How the Times put together Anthony Shadid’s obituary. (Poynter)
  9. How NYT covered Arthur Sulzberger Jr.’s wedding: The publisher’s wedding to Gabrielle Elise Greene received “no major notice in the Times Sunday styles wedding pages, garnering the same announcement as anyone else.” (Strupp Blog)
  10. Job moves, edited by Benjamin Mullin: Shekhar Gupta is now editorial adviser for India Today Group. Previously, he was editor-in-chief there. ( | David Muir is now the anchor and managing editor of “World News Tonight.” Previously, he was a fill-in anchor for Diane Sawyer (ABC News) | Rona Fairhead has been chosen to chair the BBC Trust. Previously, she was CEO of the Financial Times Group. (The Guardian) | Chelsea Clinton is leaving NBC News. Previously, she was a special correspondent there. (Chelsea Clinton) | Lesley Visser, Amy Trask, Tracy Wolfson, Dana Jacobson and Allie LaForce will be panelists on “We Need to Talk.” Visser is a reporter for “The NFL Today.” LaForce is a sideline reporter for CBS. Trask is the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders. Wolfson is a sports reporter for CBS. Jacobson is a host for CBS Sports Network. (CBS Sports) | Job of the Day: Chalkbeat is looking for a staff reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs) | Send Ben your job moves:

Major thanks to Sam Kirkland for keeping this roundup going while I was away. Suggestions? Criticisms? Would like me to send you this roundup each morning? Please email me: Read more


Obits reflect bias ‘of our forebears,’ NYT editor says

New York Times obituaries editor Bill McDonald said “I understand the complaint” that the Times publishes far more obituaries of men than women. “But I don’t accept the notion that the predominance of men on our pages is a reflection of sexism or male insensitivity or any other kind of ingrained bias on the part of the obituaries editors, as Margaret Sullivan and others imply.”

Sullivan, the Times’ public editor, wrote Monday that “Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective. It’s not outrageous to wonder what might change if more women were involved in all aspects of their selection and presentation.”

In an email, McDonald wrote, “I would submit that it’s a reflection of social history.”

Our mission is to note the deaths and explore the lives of people of one of two (or more) generations removed who essentially made news or reached a level of fame or achieved something that had wide impact. That’s a high bar. That said, we actually make an effort to reflect more diversity on our pages, within that standard of newsworthiness. The fact remains, though, that women and minorities of past generations were not allowed much of a chance to move and shake the world — and to have their obituaries appear one day in The New York Times. The fact remains that the world of the 1940s, 50s, 60s and beyond was essentially a white man’s world. (This is not news.) If our pages reflect entrenched bias, it was that of our forebears. We’re a rear-view mirror on the past, not a reflection of the world as it is.

Read more

New York Times is still mostly writing obituaries about men

The New York Times | Mother Jones | Slate

After Lynn Melnick pointed out on Twitter that women made up 7 of the 66 people recently memorialized in The New York Times’ obituaries section, Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan counted, too: “My count yielded similar numbers,” she writes.


“Obituaries are chosen on the basis of the newsworthiness of their subjects; but that is subjective,” Sullivan writes. “It’s not outrageous to wonder what might change if more women were involved in all aspects of their selection and presentation.”

A Mother Jones story late last year found that about 21 percent of the Times’ obituaries were for women. Overall, 77 percent of obituaries at top newspapers were for men, Dana Liebelson reported.

Just “waiting for prominent women to die is a depressing solution,” Amanda Hess writes in Slate, noting that “because women outlive men, even women who were prominent in the 70s and 80s won’t be written up as soon as men from the same era.”

Melnick tells Hess: “I would guess there are dozens of writers, scientists, and academics whose lives and deaths go unnoticed because the men’s lives are perceived as more of note.”

Related: In a story about diversity at liberal magazines, New Republic Editor Franklin Foer tells Gabriel Arana VIDA’s annual count of women’s bylines is “a form of shaming I think is actually fairly effective” and that his staff “began keeping tabs on the number of male and female bylines in each issue and established a goal they want to reach before next year’s numbers come out.”

Also related: Many publications are still ‘Dudeville,’ VIDA says in annual count Read more


1940-2014: Michael Janeway, former editor of The Boston Globe, The Atlantic Monthly

The Boston Globe | The Atlantic

Michael Janeway, former editor of The Boston Globe and executive editor of The Atlantic Monthly, died Thursday at his home in Lakeville, Conn., at age 73.

The Globe’s Joseph P. Kahn quoted author Todd Gitlin on Janeway’s career:

“When Mike saw journalism slipping off the edge into inconsequence or superficiality, he was on the case,” Gitlin said. “He recognized it was a matter of moment to the political life of democracy. I see him as a standard-bearer for professional journalism, a connoisseur of the nobility of intellectual life and journalism’s responsibility to honor it.”

Read more

Joe McGinniss, scourge of politicos and chronicler of crime, dies at 71

Associated Press | Los Angeles Times 

Stories about author-journalist Joe McGinniss are re-emerging in the wake of news that he died Monday in a Worcester, Mass., hospital from complications of prostate cancer.

He once moved next door to Sarah Palin to gather material for his unauthorized biography about her, according to the Associated Press. The subject of his best-selling book, “Fatal Vision,” sued him, claiming McGinniss tricked him into believing the convicted murderer was innocent. McGinniss’ publisher settled out of court for $325,000.

Associated Press reported:

The tall, talkative McGinniss had early dreams of becoming a sports reporter and wrote books about soccer, horse racing and travel. But he was best known for two works that became touchstones in their respective genres — campaign books (”The Selling of the President”) and true crime (”Fatal Vision”). In both cases, he had become fascinated by the difference between public image and private reality.

McGinniss worked for the Philadelphia Inquirer as a columnist while writing the book on Richard Nixon. Nixon’s campaign allowed him access, not suspecting he would turn out a book exposing the soul-less marketing of the presidential candidate. He was unflinching with Democrats as well, although his book, “The Last Brother: The Rise and Fall of Teddy Kennedy,” attributed imagined thoughts to Ted Kennedy and drew rounds of criticism, the Los Angeles Times reported.

On his website, the Times said, McGinniss wrote:

Penetrating the façade of institutions and people in public life can be an exhilarating but risky business. Sometimes the results are culturally ground-breaking and wildly popular, sometimes disillusioning and distinctly unpopular, sometimes personally heartbreaking.

He is survived among others by his wife Nancy Doherty and his son, author Joe McGinniss Jr. Read more


New York Observer’s Peter Kaplan dies at 59

The New York Times | The New York Observer | The Huffington Post

Peter Kaplan, The New York Observer’s editor from 1994 to 2009, died Friday of cancer, The New York Times and Observer reported. He was 59.

The New York Observer described Kaplan as “an outsized figure at the newspaper and across the city itself, not least for launching the careers of writers in every corner of journalism, book publishing and beyond.”

The Observer reprinted Kaplan’s tribute to editor Clay Felker as an example of Kaplan’s adage: “Never hold your best stuff.”

The Huffington Post wrote of Kaplan’s tenure at the Observer:

During his time there its distinctive salmon-colored pages gained a reputation as an authoritative source on the activities and the foibles of New York’s notables. More importantly, the paper became a breeding ground for journalistic talent, and Kaplan pioneered a sharp, sardonic tone that would go on to influence the entire architecture of the media world.

The New York Times reported his survivors include his second wife, Lisa Chase, and their son, David. He was also previously married to Audrey Walker and they had three children. Other survivors include his brothers, James and Robert.




Raul Ramirez, KQED's executive director of news and public affairs, died Nov. 15, 2013. (KQED Photo)

‘Power of voices’: Inspiring last words from journalist Raul Ramirez

Raul Ramirez, KQED’s executive director of news and public affairs, died Nov. 15, 2013. (KQED Photo)

Editor’s note: Raul Ramirez, KQED Public Radio’s executive director of news and public affairs and former Poynter Ethics Fellow, died Nov. 15 at age 67. He was scheduled to receive the 2013 Distinguished Service to Journalism Award from the Northern California chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and deliver an address that announced creation of the Raul Ramirez Fund for Diversity in Journalism at San Francisco State University. Ramirez passed away before he could give his speech. In his place, Jon Funabiki, SFSU journalism professor who had known Ramirez for 25 years, presented his friend’s address at the chapter’s awards event on Tuesday. The speech is reprinted here with permission from KQED, which originally published it:

Dear Colleagues:

In my four decades as a journalist, the power of people’s voices has shaped my work. To me, journalism has always been about the power of voices.

My earliest adolescent writings were inspired in part by a graphic sticker I plastered on buses and doorways as a young teenager in another country and in another time. Above a drawing of a firing squad executing a man, it proclaimed: “Ideas are to be debated, not assassinated.”

My first true lesson on the power of voices came when I signed up for a journalism course at a South Florida high school. As a native Spanish speaker, I was hoping to learn enough English to end the streak of failing grades that had littered my short scholastic path in the United States.

For this class. I interviewed a fiercely taciturn school crossing guard then approaching retirement, and wrote a story about him. The day the interview was published, an amazing transformation occurred in the crabby guard, who had long terrorized students who defied his mandates. Students gathered around him. They asked him about anecdotes in the story. He smiled and smiled. At one point, he bowed in response to the students’ good-natured ribbing. He seemed pleased, and happy. At the end of the school day, he pointed at me, raised his hand to stop traffic and, with a grandiose and comical sweep of his arm, invited me to cross as he might have done for royalty.

For a neophyte reporter with linguistic challenges, this was a lesson to learn: Give a man his voice and wonderful things can happen. The crossing guard finally had his voice. And I had found mine. I was hooked on this power of journalism to give someone a voice.

It would be a while before I reflected on another aspect of that power: The power to deny a voice to  those whom journalists ignored.

In my early newspaper years, covering poverty, immigrant communities and the criminal justice system, I was very aware of the power of human stories to change the perceptions of readers and, sometimes, to influence the powerful. I thought of my role as that of a storyteller, without whom people and even entire communities would remain in obscurity, marginalized and ignored.

I came to see that I did not give voice to others, but that my role was to amplify authoritative voices that lacked only access to the means to spread their messages.

But as the years passed and my journalistic experience grew, I gradually realized that the power of words was not something that I, the journalist, bestowed on the people and communities I covered.

The power, I came to understand, was in the stories that people chose to share. I was merely a conduit for the dissemination of those stories. I began to see how journalists could frame the story, to give it context and depth, but that we could not own the story. I came to see that I did not give voice to others, but that my role was to amplify authoritative voices that lacked only access to the means to spread their messages.

This became a master narrative about my work. And I came to feel that journalists must also be generous, thoughtful, civic-minded and caring. Even now, with an Internet explosion that gives every voice more power than it ever had and raises new and vexing questions about the true role of a journalist, it is these values I hope to encourage with the creation of the Raul Ramirez Fund for Diversity in Journalism at San Francisco State University. I have endowed this fund to promote the journalistic values — diversity and excellence  — that have been at the core of my entire professional career, and to do so long after l am no longer able to personally advocate for them.

Journalism is sometimes described as a mirror that society holds up to itself. When the public looks in that mirror, it is important that it see faces that reflect the diversity of the community. But it must see more, much more. lt must see that the stories we tell, the experiences we illuminate, the public policies we explore, the communities we describe — the entire body of the very work we do — reflect those same diverse realities.

To do that, we cannot be mere stenographers to the powerful. Journalists must be agents of the truth in all its forms, wherever it resides, and we must work harder and more consciously to seek out the stories that don’t come to us because they lack the resources to bring them to our attention.

I am very grateful to the Society of Professional Journalists for honoring me with this award. There is something special about recognition from one’s peers. To have the respect of so many whom I admire is humbling. Thank you.

— Raul Ramirez

Contributions to the Raul Ramirez Fund for Diversity in Journalism can made by mail or online through the San Francisco State University. (In the About Your Gift drop down menu, select Other and enter the designation The Raul Ramirez Diversity in Journalism Fund.)

Related: Journalist Raul Ramirez dies at 67
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Journalists remember Mary Thom, a feminist editor and writer

The Women’s Media Center | The New York Times | CNN | Ms.

Women’s Media Center Editor-in-Chief Mary Thom died in a motorcycle accident Friday. She was 68. Thom was the former executive editor of Ms. magazine, which she joined in 1972.

We who are Mary’s friends and family haven’t absorbed her loss yet; it’s too sudden,” Women’s Media Center co-founders Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan say in a statement on the site.

Thom, Javier C. Hernández writes, “arrived at Ms. magazine convinced of the need for more scrutiny of lawmakers and their views on issues like abortion and birth control.” Read more


New York Times revises Koch obit to address AIDS controversy

The Huffington Post | NewsDiffs
The New York Times’ 5,500-word obituary of Ed Koch has been revised at least three times today to update the former New York mayor’s statements about his sexuality and to include the controversy over his handling of the AIDS epidemic, which began during his tenure in the 1980s.

Huffington Post’s Jack Mirkinson details criticism of the original obit. NewsDiffs documents what was added to the Times’ obit by Robert McFadden: Read more


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