50 Cent at the Daytona 500, where he garnered headlines for a failed attempt to kiss ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews. Andrews is a spokesperson for SK Energy, the energy drink company cofounded by 50 Cent. (Photo Credit: Marc Serota/Newscom).
Recently it was announced that Erin Andrews, a prominent ESPN sportscaster, is the newest spokesperson for an energy drink owned by rapper and entrepreneur 50 Cent. Days before the announcement, Andrews and 50 Cent made the news during coverage of the Daytona 500. While Andrews was scrambling live on air for an interview with Danica Patrick, the popular female driver on the racecar circuit, Andrews just happened to bump into 50 Cent, who is apparently a motorsports fan as well. The rapper (I respect his marketing genius) attempted to kiss Andrews, but she turned away. The video of the “non kiss” went viral across the Web, garnering substantial attention on social media. In a Huffington Post article posted after her spokesperson deal announcement, Andrews explained that the incident “was my fault,” while mentioning – yet again – the energy drink. Annual spending on energy drinks is estimated at $2.3 billion and it is the fastest growing segment of the soft drink industry.
There’s nothing wrong with journalists promoting a product if it falls outside of their coverage beat and they disclose their relationship to it. Andrews disclosed her relationship to SK Energy after the “non kiss” news event. If someone wants me to pitch a brand, I’ll take the check, as long as I believe in the product. But pitching can be a problem if it involves manufactured news.
Product placement in journalism is becoming more and more of an issue as large corporations take over news organizations and the Internet continues to disrupt traditional revenue models. TV news anchors have been on air live sipping iced coffee paid and provided for by the brand. In 1999, The Los Angeles Times was ripped for a scandal over its revenue sharing agreement with the Staples Center in which part of the deal was to publish a 168-page supplement.
Product placement can erode journalism’s critical role as the defender of the public trust. Soon, we may not be able to tell if what we’re consuming is objective news or a marketing script. During the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, CNN reporters commented on how many people were taking photos with a particular brand of mobile phone and its compatible tablet. Innocent statements? Maybe, but then again CNN anchor Don Lemon has been very giddy on twitter and elsewhere about his affinity for the same brand.
If the people can’t trust the press to deliver real straight news, then whom can they trust? This is where the Church can do some good. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution reads:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
There’s a reason why the Founders put the Church and the press in this clause, which is at the heart of what keeps Americans free. The Church and the press are two important institutions that deal with our minds. How we think determines what we do. If you can control a person’s thoughts, you can control his life. As mega corporations gain more control of the media, through ownership and advertising, and use that power to influence and control the government through lobbying and elections, we will be living within a very different America.
Preachers often rail against the media from the pulpit, yet underutilize the media’s power on behalf of the Kingdom. When people distrust the information they’re getting in the world, we must ask: can they honestly turn to your church for the truth? Congregations can learn something from Andrews and 50 Cent and become more media savvy.
Celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelsson (Photo Credit: Mariela Lombard/Newscom)
I have read many books in my life and have had many, different reactions. Some have prompted great sorry. Some have made me laugh. This book stands alone among those that elicited a reaction from me for an interesting reason: it made me hungry, for both food and life.
Yes, Chef: A Memoir by Marcus Samuelsson chronicles his journey from life as Ethiopian orphan to becoming the youngest chef to ever receive a New York Times three star rating. His journey, however, didn’t stop there. He went on to win TLC’s Top Chef Master competition and the opportunity to prepare President Obama’s first state dinner…at the same time.
When I read about all the accolades he’d won, I was nervous that this book might be cerebral and stale. I was pleasantly surprised. The narrative is personable and refreshing. It is layered with the richness that Chef Samuelsson accomplished with his food and there is something for every palate. Unlike other memoirs, which capture a snapshot of a season of life, Yes, Chef portrays a full picture of Samuelsson’s life and struggles.
The book is divided into three sections: Samuelsson’s life as a boy, as a chef, and as a man. Each of these sections evoked a different kind of hunger for me. The first section made me hungry to overcome adversity. Samuelsson tells about how his young life began with his mother walking he and his sister seventy-five miles to a hospital, all while they were sick with tuberculosis. Despite that and his mother’s death, Samuelsson recovered but faced more adversity when a Swedish couple adopted him.
Here we see Samuelsson’s first introduction to cooking through his grandmother since his mother didn’t hold cooking in as high regard as his grandmother. Here we also find something else that makes this book great: Samuelsson writes great imagery. He writes that his mother made “…pasta as not even a prisoner would tolerate it…”.
The second section stirred up the hunger to persevere as it gave an intimate look not only into Samuelsson’s progression as a chef, but the service industry as a whole. I found myself in awe of his drive to become the best, amazed at how he endured unkind treatment for the sake of perfecting his craft. Most of all, this section documents Samuelsson’s remarkable desire to learn; a desire which, as he notes, is not always present in African-American youth.
One piece of this story that made reoccurring appearances in the book was the racism Samuelsson experienced. Since he wasn’t a traditional African-American male, his thoughts gave an “outsider looking in” feel to parts of his narrative. He also highlights the subtle racism in the food service industry with his aversion to the term to the French and Swiss term negre, a word used for lower level kitchen assistant.
Race also plays another role in this book, a significant one. Samuelsson’s journey to becoming a chef took him through several different cultures and ethnicities. Having visited or eaten many of cuisines mentioned in the book, I appreciated how he incorporated them into his life and cooking.
And the cooking! Most readers snack while they read, but this book took snacking to a new level. My mouth watered for the dishes he described, especially the section on fried chicken. Given Samuelsson’s poetic writing style, I could almost taste the flavors of his cuisine. He learned his craft well and it shows in the pages of this book.
Samuelsson’s endurance is to be applauded and celebrated. Too often success in our culture is presented in a microwave perspective. Although achieving goals appears to happen overnight, Samuelsson’s journey illustrates that success comes from years of persistence and perseverance.
The last section reads like the serving of a great dish. It shows how all of the flavors of Samuelsson’s life come together. Reading the end of the journey is as satisfying as a wonderful meal, but even better because it shows how the events of his life shape his character. One of my favorite things about this book is that it’s not just for readers who admire Chef Samuelsson or for people who love food. It’s for anyone in love with life and Samuelsson doesn’t disappoint – just be sure to keep a snack nearby.
CLEARING LIFE’S HURDLES: Lolo Jones on Aug. 6, 2012, during an Olympic preliminary race for the 100-meter hurdles. She hopes to prove wrong the critics who are asking whether she’s more flash than substance. (Photo: Splash News/Newscom)
On Twitter, Lolo Jones sports a playful sense of humor, making jokes about her love life and Olympic adventures, and sometimes sparking controversy.
Her Twitter following skyrocketed after she talked about her decision to save sex for marriage in a May interview on HBO’s Real Sports, gaining herself about 20,000 more followers in four days. Jones has said her purity commitment is rooted in her Christian faith.
As she competed in the women’s 100-meter hurdles this week, Jones found herself in the spotlight again, and media outlets haven’t forgotten the buzz surrounding her virginity. The New York Times wrote about it this past weekend in a controversial article, provocatively titled “For Lolo Jones, Everything Is Image,” which suggested Jones was playing up her virginity, beauty, and poor upbringing for undeserved media attention. That piece has since come under fire.
But despite doubts that her athletic ability warranted attention, the 30-year-old track star came just shy of a medal on Tuesday, August 7, placing fourth in the 100-meter hurdles. Of course that fourth-place finish held little consolation for Jones, who had come so close to a gold medal four years earlier in Beijing before clipping the second-to-last hurdle and falling out of medal contention. Many viewed London as her chance for redemption — or at least that was the narrative that the media played up. Time magazine, for instance, recently featured her as one of three Olympians on the cover of their Olympics special issue and wrote about her trip-up in “Lolo’s No Choke.”
Unfortunately, Tuesday’s outcome fell short of a storybook ending. “I’ll definitely be reading my Bible and try to grasp the positives and see what God has to teach me from all this,” Jones said after the finals. “That’s the only way I feel I can get rebalanced right now, because I am so broken-hearted.”
Without fail, crude jokes about Jones’s virginity lit up Twitter and other social media following her loss.
Faith in the Public Eye
The New York Times wasn’t the first to criticize Jones for talking about her virginity or using sex appeal. TMZ made fun of her virginity. Others also questioned if her ESPN body issue photo compromised her values. On May 25, Jones tweeted in response:
“go to a museum & look at naked pictures/statues of ppl & its considered art but what I did is not? u see no parts exposed” and later, “Ryan hall is another christian. He’s done missions in africa & posed in latest issue. Shall u judge him as well? John 8:7”
Some suggested she date fellow Christian virgin Tim Tebow, to which Jones had a witty tweet: “Ask Tebow if he wants a glass of milk. If he says yes, ask him if he prefers chocolate. if he says no, then no more Tebow date suggestions.”
Jones is African American, Native American, French and Norwegian.
COLORFUL PERSONALITY: In interviews and on Twitter, Jones has been known to be outspoken and irreverent in her comments, which has sometimes landed her in hot water. (Photo: Walter Bieri/Newscom)
Even before this current New York Times controversy, Jones had been stirring things up in the media while awaiting her race in London. Her recent tweet about the Olympic skeet shooting competition drew criticism in light of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting: “USA Men’s Archery lost the gold medal to Italy but that’s ok, we are Americans… When’s da Gun shooting competition?” Jones later tweeted that she had been referring to Americans’ experience with hunting.
Sometimes Jones tweets about her faith, such as on July 26: “As I arrive in London for the Olympics, I’m overwhelmed with emotions. Thank you Lord for another chance and for holding me as i waited.” She thanked people for praying for her on July 22, but after criticism, clarified that her prayer was “to be an inspiration & to honor God,” not to win a gold medal.
“I never have prayed to win a gold medal at Olympics and never will,” Jones tweeted. “The Lord is my Shepard and I shall not want. May His will be done.”
Bonding Through Struggle
In her Real Sports interview, Jones said saving sex for marriage has been “the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, harder than training for the Olympics.”
But outside the spotlight, Jones tells how her Christian faith has sustained her through her struggles, and how her sister Angie Jefferson has encouraged her along the way.
Jones wrote about her older sister in an essay for the O.C. Tanner Inspiration Award, which recognizes a person who has inspired an Olympian to succeed. In it, Jones quoted Romans 9:12, “The older will serve the younger,” and wrote, “Angie is my reminder from God to stop at never.”
Growing up poor, Jones learned how to shoplift TV dinners and make a quick escape if she needed to, according to Time. Her family moved around frequently, and was at one point rendered homeless, living in a Salvation Army church basement.
Money was tight, but Jones has told stories about how her mother and sister helped her succeed. In a Procter & Gamble video series, “Raising an Olympian,” Jones said, “My mom would always try to do by any means necessary to make sure that we had what we needed. I definitely do not think I’d be going for this dream had I not seen her pick herself up so many times and keep fighting for us.”
STOPPING AT NEVER: Jones credits her sister for helping her develop a persevering spirit.
Meanwhile, her sister Angie Jefferson, then a teenager, recognized her talent and bought Jones her first running gear — which Jones said in her essay saved her the embarrassment of wearing old clothes.
When Jones moved across the country to go to Louisiana State University, Jefferson was again there for her sister through visits and tearful phone calls.
“Life was hard because the ghosts of my childhood were still there,” Jones wrote in her essay. “But thankfully, so was [Angie] — constantly reminding me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t overcome and survive with God’s help.”
Now, Jefferson serves as Jones’s manager. She encouraged her when Jones faced spine surgery a year ago. “It’s going to be okay,” Jefferson said, according to Jones’s essay. “I have a peace about Dr. Bray and his ability to help you. We are going to pray for God’s favor and trust God to take care of you.”
Jones wrote that she remembers seeing her sister with her prayer journal before a January 2012 race. It gave her a sense of peace. After Jones’s victory, the sisters hugged and cried together.
“It was a moment that words can’t express, a bond that together, can overcome anything,” Jones wrote.
On Monday, before her qualifying race in London, Jones was seen mouthing Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Even after Tuesday’s disappointing result, one suspects she’ll continue to hold onto that truth.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated to address the results of Jones’s finals race on Tuesday, August 7.
The weekend has passed and it seems like every major news outlet has published an article (or three) about how Black clergy are responding to President Obama’s announcement that he supports same-sex marriage. I’m tempted to refer them to Terry Mattingly’s GetReligion question from last Tuesday: “Do … editors realize how offended many African-American pastors are when told that they are important simply because of their political clout, and not their roles as pastors and community leaders?” Instead I’ll refer you to our own contributors’ reflections on the issue, before directing you to the onslaught.
America’s Black churches were “conflicted” about the president’s position at Sunday services, USA Today reported. “Some churches were silent on the issue. At others, pastors spoke against the president’s decision Wednesday — but kindly of the man himself. A few blasted the president and his decision. A minority spoke in favor of the decision and expressed understanding of the president’s change of heart,” the article said. How USA Today knows what all the nation’s Black churches said and did yesterday, I have no idea, but that’s what its reporters wrote.
Evolving or Not With the President
At CNN, the Reverend Kenneth L. Samuel said he “evolved” on the issue just as the president did, and cited a gay friend’s suicide as a factor. Conversely, the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant told the network that the Black church sees same-sex marriage as a “human rights” issue and cannot embrace “gay bashing” or “homophobia,” but that doesn’t necessarily mean endorsing same-sex unions.
In another article, Black liberation theologian James Cone said it is “unfortunate” that Black Christians oppose same-sex marriage. The Rev. Fred Robinson disagreed.
In a third CNN article, the Rev. Emmett Burns, “a politically well-connected black minister,” is quoted as saying he supported President Obama in 2008, but held a public event at his Baltimore church last week to withdrew that support. Likewise, the Rev. Beverly Brown told the Orlando Sentinel that she’s “trying to separate his personal view from his political view.” However, she said she’ll continue to support the president as long as his views stay personal and he doesn’t push for same-sex marriage to become legal everywhere.
Doing Damage Control
Perhaps anticipating this type of reaction, the president “gathered eight or so African-American ministers on a conference call to explain himself” about two hours after making his May 9 announcement, The New York Times reported.
Fighting Amongst Ourselves
Stating the obvious, The Times also reported that the fight over same-sex marriage is not simply sacred vs. secular. “Religion is on both sides in this conflict. The battle is actually church versus church, minister versus minister, and Scripture versus Scripture.”
Michael Coogan, a lecturer in Old Testament and Hebrew Bible at Harvard Divinity School compared the conflict to that which existed when slavery was debated. “The proslavery contingent quoted the Bible repeatedly, saying that God has all these commandments about slavery and nowhere in the Bible, including the New Testament, is it stated that there’s anything wrong with slavery,” Coogan said. “The abolitionists also quoted the Bible, but used the same sort of more general texts that supporters of same-sex relationships are using: love your neighbor, treat others as you would have them treat you, the golden rule.”
Homosexuality Historical ‘Non-Issue’ for Black Christians
Some might be surprised to read that homosexuality was a “non-issue” in Black churches until the 2004 presidential election, according to the Rev. Madison T. Shockley II. Writing in The Los Angeles Times, Shockley said that’s when “anti-civil union and marriage equality laws were put on ballots in key states to draw ‘values voters’ to the polls” and “part of the Republican strategy was to have white evangelical leaders actively recruit black clergy to the anti-gay movement.”
Playing Politics With the ‘First Gay President’
Speaking of political maneuvering, with a provocative cover photo of the president sporting a rainbow halo, Newsweek dubbed him the “first gay president” and said, “For once Democrats aren’t worried about the image that projects” because “demographics are on his side” and “the campaign has seen another week elapse where the Obama economy was not front and center.” That, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat asserts, is the whole point of Obama’s “historic” announcement.
What do you think?
Are clergy and journalists playing the politicians’ game?
Some think the president may be courting Black voters with his "evolving" view on same-sex marriage. (Newscom Photo)
After Vice President Joe Biden drew attention to President Obama’s “evolving” views on same-sex marriage by expressing his own unequivocal support for it on Meet the Press last Sunday, The New York Times and The Washington Post both linked the president’s ambivalence to concerns about alienating socially conservative Black voters.
Courting ‘Politically Influential’ Pastors
Same-sex marriage “is opposed by socially conservative blacks, particularly politically influential ministers, whose strong turnout Mr. Obama needs,” The New York Times reported.
Exposing Internal Tensions
The Biden episode has exposed “internal tensions within Obama’s team” between those who want the president to affirm support same-sex marriage before the November election and “others who worry about a political backlash if he does,” including “African Americans who are Obama’s most loyal support bloc but tend to oppose such unions,” reported the The Washington Post.
Ignoring Opposition Voices
There’s a “complete absence” of African American opposition voices in both articles, said media critic Terry Mattingly at GetReligion.org. “Do Times editors realize how offended many African-American pastors are when told that they are important simply because of their political clout, and not their roles as pastors and community leaders?” asked Mattingly. He predicts “new and/or renewed coverage, soon, of how young African-American pastors are clashing with old African-American pastors on this issue.”
Calculating the Political Risk
It may not be worth alienating “devout” African Americans, or working class Whites and Latinos, said Keith Owens at Jack & Jill Politics. He also said he’s not sure it is “correct” to assume that the president secretly supports same-sex marriage, even though there is legislative precedent to assume that he does, like his repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.
Not Showing ‘Backbone’
It’s time for the president to give a speech in favor of same-sex marriage, said David Swerdlick at The Root. Among the reasons: “Older voters are more skeptical of same-sex marriage, but across the political spectrum, everyone favors showing some backbone.”
Underestimating Black Support
It may not matter either way, said Perry Bacon, Jr. at The Grio, because “it’s not clear” that socially conservative Black voters would swing toward Romney if the president were to come out in favor of same-sex marriage. “The president has intense popularity in the black community,” said Bacon Jr.
What do you think?
Would it cost the president votes with socially conservative Black voters if he came out in favor of same-sex marriage?