December 11, 2019

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‘He helped himself to a part of my body’

We see it all the time. A TV reporter is doing a live shot outside where there are lots of people — maybe near a sports stadium or in a park or downtown. As they are talking, someone jumps into the shot, waving or smiling at the camera.

And so when a Savannah, Georgia, TV reporter was covering a running race over the weekend, it wasn’t unusual to see runners mugging for the camera as they zoomed by. But what happened next remains a stunning piece of video. A man comes up from behind and smacks the TV reporter on the rear end. The look on her face is one of shock and anger.

Reporters being touched on the air is the kind of thing that happens far too often. Sadly and more alarming is women being touched in all occasions.

I wrote about this in Tuesday’s newsletter, but even days after the incident, the reporter is still shaken by what happened, as evidenced by her interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning.” Alex Bozarjian told “CBS This Morning” that her reaction in the video that has gone viral was one of disbelief.

“You feel like, ‘Did that really just happen?’” Bozarjian said. “It took some time to process.”

Bozarjian said she felt extremely vulnerable and that women across the world could relate to what happened.

Lawyers for the runner — a youth minister and Boy Scout leader named Tommy Callaway — said they regret the situation but that he did not act with criminal intentions. Callaway then was interviewed by Bozarjian’s station, WSAV, an NBC affiliate in Savannah.

Callaway was not interviewed by Bozarjian, but he did apologize to her, saying, “It was an awful act and an awful mistake. I am not that person that people are portraying me as. I make mistakes, I’m not perfect and I’m asking for forgiveness and to accept my apology.”

While Callaway seemed remorseful and sincere in the nearly nine-minute interview, he also said he didn’t realize he hit her on the backside — which seems hard to believe if you look at the video. Then again, he should not have touched her anywhere, which he acknowledged in the interview.

Callaway said he hopes for the opportunity to apologize to Bozarjian in person. During her “CBS This Morning” interview, Bozarjian was noncommittal about hearing out Callaway in person, saying, “Whether I’m open to that or not, I want to take my time with that.”

Bozarjian said Callaway “took my power and I’m trying to take that back. … He helped himself to a part of my body.”

Bozarjian’s interview on CBS ended up being cut short because of time. I get that morning news shows are on a tight schedule, but it’s unfortunate the conversation was shut down as abruptly as it was.

Thanks. I’ll just wait for the movie.

The blockbuster news story of the week was a modern-day Pentagon Papers as The Washington Post published “The Afghanistan Papers.”

Now you don’t have to wait for a Steven Spielberg-Meryl Streep-Tom Hanks movie to get the story behind the story. The Washington Post’s Craig Whitlock explains how the Post obtained the papers. The piece also includes a 28-minute filmed interview Whitlock had with John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction.

Britt McHenry is suing Fox News

Fox Nation host Britt McHenry. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Fox Nation host and occasional Fox News contributor Britt McHenry is suing the network, her former Fox Nation co-host Tyrus and several Fox News executives. The story was first reported by Vanity Fair’s Diana Falzone.

McHenry is alleging sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation. In July, HuffPost reported that McHenry had received lewd and inappropriate text messages from Tyrus.

Not wanting to anger Tyrus, McHenry said she tried to deflect his harassment. After several months, McHenry complained to Fox. Tyrus was removed from the show he was co-hosting with McHenry, but was then given his own show — which now could be viewed as a promotion.

On Tuesday, McHenry tweeted:

“I am standing up for myself, for women and for what’s right. I have maintained the same allegations because the truth doesn’t change. I feel for any sexual harassment victim who has their story and evidence dismissed, doubted and not believed.”

She later tweeted, “There is documentation to prove everything I have claimed. I look forward to my day in court.”

A Fox News spokesperson said Tuesday, “Ms. McHenry’s lawsuit recycles the same allegations she filed with the New York State Division of Human Rights in October, to which we filed a response on Friday. As we have previously stated, Ms. McHenry’s allegations have been fully investigated and we are confident our actions will be deemed entirely appropriate in litigation. We expect all of her claims to be dismissed.”

Falzone’s piece dives deep into the allegations and timeline. Also of note, McHenry is being represented by attorney Lisa Bloom, who briefly worked for Harvey Weinstein as women first came forward to claim he sexually harassed and assaulted them. She has since apologized for her association with Weinstein.

More thoughts on ‘Richard Jewell’

Clint Eastwood, left, and Barbara Jewell attend “Richard Jewell” last month. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

A couple leftover bits from my item Tuesday regarding the controversy over Clint Eastwood’s new film “Richard Jewell.” In it, reporter Kathy Scruggs, who was a real-life reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, sleeps with a source to get a story. There is no evidence that ever happened in real life and Scruggs’ friends and the AJC deny it ever happened. Scruggs died in 2001.

What’s interesting is those defending the film, saying Jewell was a victim and the media played a major role in wrongly accusing him of planting a bomb at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But it doesn’t make it OK to make up such a damning allegation about Scruggs even if the movie is partly an indictment on the media.

As Google Cloud editor and former New York Times staffer Quentin Hardy tweeted, “Clint is free to hate on the media, but he (and Olivia Wilde, who was apparently cool with playing it) didn’t need to do this to a human being.”

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen the cliched storyline of a female reporter sleeping with a source in a movie or television show. It happens a lot, such as in “Absence of Malice,” “Sharp Objects” and “House of Cards” just to name a few.

Why does this happen so often? The Ringer’s Bryan Curtis has a good explanation. Not an excuse, mind you, but an explanation. In his “Press Box” podcast, Curtis said, “Journalists are really interesting. Their work is really interesting. The act of journalism is really boring. So you have to invent journalists doing crazy things to try to make that, somehow, cinematic.”

One final bit of irony about this story (as if it wasn’t already wasn’t loaded with it): “Richard Jewell” was written by Billy Ray. Washington Post entertainment business writer Steven Zeitchik points out that Ray directed and wrote the screenplay for “Shattered Glass,” which was about New Republic fabulist Stephen Glass.

Now that’s a commitment to journalism

In 1949, Robert Birkby saw an ad in the Shenandoah (Iowa) Evening Sentinel looking for a farmer’s wife to write a homemaker’s column. He mentioned it to his wife, Evelyn. She started writing a column the next week. And for the next 70 years. As the Des Moines Register’s Daniel P. Finney writes, that made Evelyn Birkby one of America’s longest-serving newspaper columnists. She retired last month at the age of 100.

She wrote about everything, although rarely about politics except to plead with folks to be civil. She closed each column with a recipe.

Birkby also made regular appearances on local radio and published 13 books, including three in the past seven years. Her secrets to a long life? She told Finney it was three things. She didn’t drink or smoke. She was always cheerful. And she drank lots of milk.

“I have around-the-clock care at my age,” she told Finney. “They have to be cheerful, or I don’t let them in the house.”

By the way, my former colleague — Sid Hartman of the Minnesota Star Tribune — still writes regularly and will turn 100 in March.

CityLab has a new owner

Bloomberg Media announced Tuesday that it was acquiring CityLab — The Atlantic’s standalone website on urban innovation and the future of cities. The transaction should close by year’s end.

For more, check out this piece from Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton.

Local news initiative announces funding

For this item, I turn it over to Poynter’s Kristen Hare, who covers the transformation of local news:

American Journalism Project has announced the first 11 newsrooms it will offer funding to in hopes of accelerating sustainability. Among those getting a piece of the $8.5 million is a new Oakland newsroom from the founders of the online for-profit site Berkeleyside. That unnamed site’s new editor, Tasneem Raja, is the founder of The Tyler Loop in Texas.

More on the editor leaving Indy

A quick update from an item in Tuesday’s newsletter. I wrote how Ronnie Ramos resigned as executive editor of The Indianapolis Star to pursue new opportunities. Well, that new opportunity is already here. Ramos has been named executive editor of The Daily Memphian — a primarily daily online publication that covers the Memphis, Tennessee, community. He will start in early January.

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(Photo courtesy of Yahoo News)

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Tom Jones is Poynter’s senior media writer for He was previously part of the Tampa Bay Times family during three stints over some 30…
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