This is NEWS & NOTES. I'm Farai Chideya. Today we've got plenty of controversy on our Bloggers Roundtable. The L.A. Times is all apologies after running a story that falsely implicated P. Diddy in a mid-1990's assault on Tupac Shakur. Plus, it's hard out here for a reporter. As the campaign trail gets pricy, media organizations cut back on sending reporters to cover the candidates. Joining me now, political commentator Jasmyne Cannick of Jasmynecannic.com; Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik, creator of Afrobella.com; and Robert Redding, he publishes the reddingnewsreview.com. Ladies, gentleman, thank you for coming on.
Ms. JASMYNE CANNICK (Blogger): Thank you.
Ms. PATRICE ELIZABETH GRELL YURSIK (Blogger): Hi.
Mr. ROBERT REDDING (Blogger): Hi.
CHIDEYA: So let's hit this off with come hip-hop news. First up, the L.A. Times ran a story earlier this month that said Sean P. Diddy Combs was part of a brutal attack on the late rap star Tupac Shakur, but it turns out the story was based on bogus information from a prisoner known for bogus information. The Times apologized for buying into the hoax and implicating Combs. So I'm going to go to you Jasmyne. Do you think that Combs essentially should retaliate against the Times, whether it's a lawsuit or something like that, or is this something that's understandable?
Ms. CANNICK: I don't think it's understandable. What Mr. Combs does is ultimately going to be up to him. I mean I'm not in his position. I'm not, you know, sure whether or not he should sue or not. My personal opinion is that, beyond all of this, I mean this is very embarrassing for the L.A. Times, okay. And I just think that of all the resources or the minimal resources that they have, because they continue to make these drastic cutbacks over there at the paper, if you want to investigate shootings and killings and murders, you know, why not start in your very own city with those that are unsolved?
I'm just a little peeved that they put all these resources, false as they may have, you know, come out to be, but into this old story. This is old news. Like why are we still reliving this? Why is this still news when we have all of these unsolved murders and shootings in Los Angeles, their very own city, our very own city, where you know, they don't dedicate any resources to it?
CHIDEYA: You know, do you feel the same way, Patrice, that basically this is a case of someone gunning for a big story when the newspaper should have been focused on, you know, issues that are more important to people on a local level?
Ms. YURSIK: Yes, I mean I definitely think so. I work at a newspaper myself. I know how mistakes like this happen. It's hasty reporting. Journalists are put under pressure to turn out these big stories at breakneck speed and to move copies and to get people clicking on those ads, you know? And it is so embarrassing for the L.A. Times. And their own coverage of it was so self-congratulatory. You know, so Puffy must just be laughing all the way to the courthouse.
CHIDEYA: In what way?
Ms. YURSIK: They had an interview online with - on one of their music blogs, August Brown was interviewing Chuck Phillips, and you know, Chuck Phillips starts waxing poetic about "The Wire" and drawing parallels between this case and "The Wire" and...
CHIDEYA: Phillips is the reporter.
Ms. YURSIK: Yes, exactly, and the funniest part is, the last season of "The Wire" was all about kind of the fall of journalism and journalists grasping at straws. So there's definitely irony there.
CHIDEYA: Robert, when you see this case, what do you see? Do you see, you know, a collapse in some of the newspaper ethics? Do you see, you know, a rightful desire to pursue what happened in the Biggie Tupac years? What do you see?
Mr. REDDING: Well, as the reporter said, or me - I've reported as well for a number of news organizations, and I think this is a lawsuit, and while I think the Times will live, Puffy might not live because people don't read corrections the way they read initial stories. And that's what they're going to remember. They're going to remember that initial story, and that's what an attorney's going to argue, because we're talking about possible malice here. And if something happens to Puffy because of this report, blood could be literally on the Los Angeles Times' hands.
CHIDEYA: Wow. Well, I want to move on to more of the, I guess, it's not blood itself. In some cases blood, the gun culture within hip-hop. The latest rap sheet includes Clifford Harris, better know to ya'll as Atlanta rapper TI. If you don't know the rap world, you might know him from the movie "American Gangster," where he plays Frank Lucas's nephew. TI got busted last year for trying to buy machine guns. Last week he pled guilty to Federal weapons charges. He has to complete at least a thousand hours of community service, will get sentenced next year.
Then there's Remy Smith, aka Remy Ma. She's one of only three female rappers to reach number one on the billboard charts. That was for a single called "Lean Back" by the Terror Squad. Now, she's got some bigger things on her mind. She was convicted last week on four assault charges. They relate to the shooting of a woman outside of a New York nightclub last summer. She is sentenced to be - scheduled to be sentenced in April. Now, Jasmyne, you blogged about them and asked why can't these successful artists stay out of trouble? So why can't these successful artists stay out of trouble?
Ms. CANNICK: You know, I don't know, but I'm willing to bet though that their album, this will definitely help boost album sales. I think it's a shame, actually. I mean you're given this opportunity that very few have, and it's almost as if you squander it. I mean it's, you know, no different from sort of Art Kelly and some of the other, you know, entertainers that find themselves in all of this trouble.
And it just, you know, it really just goes to show that regardless of the money and the fame, that people still don't know how to act pretty much. You know, they just don't know how to act. They don't know what to do with it, and it reminded me at some point of that old saying that we have, and I might mess it up, but like how you could take the person out of the hood but you can't take the hood out the person?
Ms. CANNICK: It's almost, you know, brining that to life. And you know, I think it's embarrassing. I think it doesn't bode well for people who are sort of looking at us as a community in terms of, you know, our entertainers and rappers. But also on the flip side, like I said at the beginning, you know, it has a weird way of helping album sales spur.
CHIDEYA: Yeah. Absolutely.
Ms. CANNICK: Yeah, I'm sure there's some executive at the top of some chain that are very happy right now.
CHIDEYA: Well, Robert, you know, TI was already a convicted felon. So he wasn't allowed to have guns. Now as part of his community service he's going to talk to kids about guns, gangs, drugs. He's not exactly known for conscious hip-hop. How well is it going to go over when the man who rapped long live the game stands in front of kids and tells them to stay out of the game?
Mr. REDDING: Well, I think it's not going to be believable, but I think that they will love to see TI in their classroom clearly. He needs to be doing this and he needs to really be honest about this and needs to try to really show them that he's turning his life around. TI, you know, I have to give full disclosure here. I have a publicist friend who actually is a long-time publicist of mine, Adrianne Jackson, a good friend. She also has provided services for TI, so I might be a little biased on this particular topic. But I think TI has to step to the plate here and - I hate to use this old cliché - be a man and grow up here.
CHIDEYA: But Patrice, you know, there's something more than a little strange about people being convicted and then asking to preach the gospel of, you know, turning around. And I'm thinking here of Method Man. He was convicted. He's another rapper, popular rapper from the Wu-Tan clan. He was busted holding marijuana last year and sentenced to talk to New York City high school kids and tell them not to smoke weed. Now, this is the man who's lied about smoking weed. He did the stone movie "How High." I don't know if he walked into the classroom with a wink-wink while he was talking about, you know - I mean how high were the people who sentenced him when they asked him to do that kind of community service?
Ms. YURSIK: I think, I mean I'm sure somebody behind the scenes thought it was a little amusing to be sending Method Man of all people to do an anti-drug just-say-no type thing. But you know, sometimes maybe those are the people who you need to hear from versus, you know, the clean cut, you know, I've always been a good person and led the straight and narrow path, like those are the people who might reach a kid like that more than anybody else. I think, you know, if TI walks into your classroom, you might be more likely to listen to him as versus, I don't even know who's a clean rapper anymore. I don't know, like a Will Smith type guy who you can't relate to at all.
CHIDEYA: Well, you know, I want to reintroduce the Bloggers Roundtable in case anyone is just tuning in with me on today's Bloggers Roundtable. We've got political commentator Jasmyne Cannick of Jasmynecannick.com and Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik of Afrobella.com, Robert Redding who publishes the Reddingnewsreview.com.
We have been talking about hip-hop and all of the various manifestations of bad behavior. But there's a flip side, which is when politics and rap can and do mix, and there is a little bit more of a positive or political side to it, the rap star Big Boy, half of Atlanta's dynamic duo OutKast, is working on a new album. He's got a single, "Royal Flush," and it includes some political verses. You know, he says impeach the president because he don't think before he talk. Iraq got that now he's gunning for Iran. Rob, you do a lot of writing about politics, and this song caught your attention. Why does it have you excited?
Mr. REDDING: Well, because also I have a hip-hop background. I used to do a lot of work from Georgia and Louisiana in terms of hip-hop radio and I actually had a hip-hop label one time ago, believe it or not, before I got into politics. So I know the music of OutKast very well. So when I heard this, I said this is a natural progression, it seems, like for OutKast at this point, because he's made some political statements after "Speaker Box," their last album that they did together. Of course this is his album. So I found it significant when I heard it on Greg Street's show in Atlanta when I was listening online, and I said this is something that has to be written about. And I think the New York Times is now writing a piece about it in their issue of their newspaper. And I think it's news because OutKast is one of those groups that's extremely popular and Big Boy making statements like this is something that people need to know about, that rap is kind of finding its legs. People are getting older and getting a little bit more conscious.
CHIDEYA: Jasmyne, what do you think about the whole hip-hop politics movement? Is it going to be big in 2008? You know, you had P. Diddy's, you know, whole citizen change movement four years ago. Are you getting the sense that there's a grassroots swell of people who were willing to bring this to the table?
Ms. CANNICK: Well, you know, there's always been sort of an underground, you know, political movement in rap. I mean, it just hasn't always reached the mainstream airwaves. And I think - I haven't heard the track yet, but I'm definitely going to check it out - but I think - and I'm a die-hard OutKast fan as well.
With people like Big Boy, you know, that sort of, with his popularity, it could bring it to the forefront. Again, you know, you're talking to someone who truly does believe that the music industry wants to continue to dumb down blacks, and so I'm not that - I don't have that much faith that a lot of, you know, music with, you know, politically conscious messages are going to become the norm.
You know, I come - I'm Gen X, so I come out of X-Clan and Public Enemy, and that is what I used to love to listen to, and quite frankly, we just don't get that anymore. I'd be very surprised if in 2008, you know, those kind of lyrics made a comeback. I'd be happy, but I'd be surprised.
CHIDEYA: Patrice, what do you think?
Ms. YURSIK: I mean, I definitely think OutKast is a good group to do it. They take musical risks, and it doesn't surprise me that - you're not going to hear this kind of stuff, I think, on the mainstream, Clear Channel type of radio stations.
You know, there have been underground rappers who have continued to be outspoken. You've got Dead Prez, you know, Blue Scholars, The Roots, and you don't hear that stuff on the radio. And it's true, like that Public Enemy era, it's a little depressing sometimes when you listen to it now, and you hear Flavor Flav, of all people, saying don't believe the hype and fight the power.
CHIDEYA: Right. Well, let's move out to the larger question of how political messages are conveyed. The New York Times reported that media organizations are cutting back on coverage of the White House race. Now, some of the biggest newspapers like USA Today, some of the television stations, are thinning the numbers of reporters they send out or the number of days they're on the campaign trail.
It can cost thousands of dollars a day to put a reporter on a campaign plane. And Robert, you've been following this, and what do you think we lose as media consumers by not getting first-hand, up-close stories from professional reporters on the trail?
Mr. REDDING: Well, first of all, we lose that the last time Obama spoke, he spoke to 20,000 people, and we lose what he said to those people and the things that happen as a result of walking up to the podium and walking down from the podium and the fact that he probably shook just about half the people's hands, and they probably said some important things to him.
Look, I've been talking about the fact that we're cutting back in terms of the presidential campaign for about a month now, and I was kind of pooh-poohed by one of your guests, I can't remember who it was.
I'm not taking it personal, but the fact is I saw this thing coming, we wrote an article about it, and I also saw this attack that has befallen the campaign coming as well, because what I see in the mainstream media right now is an attempt to marginalize and minimize his campaign, for better or for worse or however you want to argue it, depending on your political slant - I'm an independent, but I think that that's wrong just because these guys might be running out of money.
CHIDEYA: Now, there's a couple of different issues here. One is about the Obama campaign, the other one is about how news is delivered. But Patrice, when you think about the news delivery, is this just a natural evolution because of the rise of the blogger and the rise of opinion journalism, and should we just not be so sprung over the idea that there are fewer reporters on the bus?
Ms. YURSIK: I think the rise of the blogger is definitely, you know, it's a positive thing that's coming out of the overall negative trend. I think there's a direct correlation between, you know, the lack of reporters and last week's story that newspaper advertising revenue is falling at a record rate.
You're going to have, you know, more of these incidents of plagiarism, like I think the New York Times recently ripped off the Miami Herald, and it's because you've got more people - you're trying to do more with less.
So I mean, it's very important to have those mainstream, accepted voices out there, you know, who you can turn to, because a lot of the time bloggers report from the heart. It's opinion-based writing. So you need somebody who's like, you know, the A.P. and the Reuters to kind of - to try to cover things as objectively as possible.
CHIDEYA: Jasmyne, is there a constituency to push for more on-the-ground reporting? And what I mean by that is networks have been cutting back on the number of international bureaus, as have news magazines. I mean, there's been a general shrinking of the investment in getting first-hand reporting. But who is the constituency for - I mean, are, you know, all of a sudden newspaper readers rise up or something? I mean, is there anyone who's going to advocate for a different standard, if there is one?
Ms. CANNICK: I'm not sure who's going to advocate. I know I'm pushing for our two black networks or so-called black networks to try to pick up some sort of daily newscasts. I mean, come on, it's 2008. We've got a black man running for president. I can't even get any, you know, news from an African-American point of view except for NPR NEWS & NOTES on a national basis, you know, on television. Like that's a gripe that I have when you talk about cutbacks and all that.
But one point that was made about like the mainstream media cutting back, you know, I also think it's important to understand that mainstream media, mainstream reporters, are also very biased. All right, there's a big difference, for example, with the L.A. Daily News and the L.A. Times from the New York Times to the Chicago Tribune.
And I think it's also important that you don't just have sort of those mainstream reporters but there is access to sort of, you know, the less non-traditional folks are allowed at the table as well, because what we haven't talked about in this conversation is where is the black media?
You know, if it's $2,000 to ride on a plane with one of the presidential candidates, where does that put, you know, Spanish-language media? Where does that put the black media? Where does that put other traditional forms of media where we get our information?
CHIDEYA: All right, well, we're going to have to end it there with that provocative question. Thank you, guys.
Ms. CANNICK: Thank you.
Mr. REDDING: Thank you.
Ms. YURSIK: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: We've been talking to political commentator Jasmyne Cannick, who blogs at jasmynecannick.com; Patrice Elizabeth Grell Yursik is the creator of afrobella.com, and she joined us from member-station YLRN in Miami; and Robert Redding, who publishes the reddingnewsreview.com, he's on the line from the Radio People studios in Monroe, Louisiana.