Media Follies July 12, 2001
By Michael I. Niman

 Kissinger Evades Prosecutors

 French Palace of Justice magistrates summoned Henry Kissinger to appear before them for questioning while on a recent visit to Paris.  They’re interested in the former U.S. Secretary of State’s involvement in Operation Condor, a supposed terror network that is, according to The New York Times,  responsible for political deaths and disappearances in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador and Bolivia in the 1970s.  The Magistrates were particularly concerned about five French citizens who disappeared in Chile shortly after a 1973 U.S. backed coup.  They never got a chance, however, to question Kissinger.  He “disappeared” himself, fleeing the country.

 During the three-week period following Kissinger’s return to the U.S., according to the media watchdogs at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting , he was interviewed by PBS’ Charlie Rose(6/20/01), CNN’s Wolf Blitzer(6/21/01) and Fox News’ Paula Zahn(6/13/01).  None of these journalists, however, questioned Kissinger about his abrupt departure from France or the possibility that the French want to prosecute him for war crimes.  While the networks may not think the possible prosecution of a former Secretary of State for war crimes is newsworthy, I certainly do.

 If Kissinger can be charged for war crimes in Chile, then Clinton and Powell can be charged for allegedly ordering the bombing of civilian targets in Yugoslavia, Panama and the Sudan.  Likewise Papa Bush can be charged for ordering the bombing of civilian infrastructure in Iraq as well as his alleged role under President Reagan in overseeing the Contra War against Nicaragua’s civilian infrastructure and the illegal invasions of Grenada and Haiti.  It seems our ex-presidents and statesmen might soon be somewhat limited in their ability to travel abroad.  Stay tuned to this column for more details.  You certainly won’t see them on your Tee Vee. 


My June 28th Media Follies column fell victim to an overzealous copy editor.  Normally the final copy edit is a perfunctory process, a quick scan for misspellings and the like.  On the 28th, however, my column suffered so many changes as to render it no longer my column.  Corrections and apologies are in order. 

My subject was Buffalo’s racially segregated media and how Buffalo’s mainstream media outlets downplayed or outright ignored the Juneteenth celebration.  The problem stemmed, in part, from the fact that the mainstream media in Buffalo is overwhelmingly white.  I wrote that “Not much has changed since the 1994 Alt Press expose charging that the Buffalo News had the third whitest newsroom in the U.S.”  This line and any references to Alt Press were cut.  The edited version of the story included references to an American Journalism Review study which I read about in Alt, but lacked any citation of Alt.  A lack of source citation is a form of plagiarism.  Alt’s staff did the research and should be credited. This is very bad editing.  My apologies go out to Alt Press.

In my original piece I also wrote, “The bottom line is that the Western New York community is ruptured along lines of ‘race’ and the mainstream media is part of the problem, not part of the solution.  For its part, the ‘Alternative’ media has followed suit, with the Alt, Artvoice and Blue Dog Press staffs being primarily white, and The Criterion, Fine Print News and Challenger staffs, primarily black.  Only The Buffalo Gazette seems to be establishing itself as everyone’s media.”  You didn’t read this line, however, since the copy editor cut it.  Blue Dog Press’ editor assured me that this omission did not reflect an editorial decision, but instead reflected a misunderstanding on the part of the part time copy editor as to what a copy editor’s job entails.  Blue Dog Press, he assured me, has a commitment to diversity and has no intention to shy away from this discussion. 

My original piece explained how modern Juneteenth celebrations came into play as an alternative to the hoopla over the bicentennial in 1976.  Many African American leaders at that time, I wrote, felt that a bicentennial celebration of freedom from England was not appropriate since blacks were enslaved for some 90 years after independence, hence they focused on celebrating emancipation from slavery, Juneteenth.  The copy editor cut my references to slavery, thus leaving readers mystified as to why the black community needed an alternative celebration.  Also cut was my contrast of the Juneteenth parade to the Pan-Am Centennial kickoff parade, which occurred one month earlier.  Juneteenth, I wrote, was a people’s parade, featuring lots of music and dance.  The Pan-Am event, I argued, featured an obscene show of military force and hardware, with few community groups represented.  All references to the inappropriately militarist nature of the Pan-Am event were also cut.  Stripped of much of its substance, the resultant story was a choppy read with no bite.  Sorry.

 Buffett’s Not Dull

 The copy editor also added a few lines such as one labeling The Buffalo News’ publisher, Warren Buffett, “The Dullest Man in Omaha.”  I’ve written about Buffett at length in the past, but I’m not obsessed with him.  He’s a major player in the retail, energy and fast food industries so I have quite a lot to say about him.  I have no need, however, to waste valuable copy space by resorting to shallow barbs.  I critiqued The Buffalo News’ lack of Juneteenth coverage, but I really doubt Buffett, who the copy editor identifies in “my” column as, “the world’s second richest man,” came to Buffalo to command his underlings to diss Juneteenth.  In short, I never mentioned Buffett, who, by the way, I think is anything but dull, in my original article.  The addition of new words, ideas and personal attacks I did not write, printed under my by-line, is absolutely unacceptable. 

 I’d like to apologize to regular readers of this column for the adulterated copy.  Blue Dog Press’ editors have assured me that they have taken steps to make sure this problem does occur again.