Remembering Tom Foley

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Former House Speaker Tom Foley on the plaza outside the U.S. courthouse in Spokane in 2001.  (AP photo)

Former House Speaker Tom Foley on the plaza outside the U.S. courthouse in Spokane in 2001. (AP photo)

Former House Speaker Tom Foley, who died Friday, had deep roots in the Northwest. He never forgot the voters who sent him to Congress for 15 terms. Foley came from the tradition of progressive and pragmatic politicians that included Washington Sens. Henry Jackson and Warren Magnuson, Idaho Sen. Frank Church and Oregon Gov. Tom McCall. His 30-year congressional career stretched from the presidencies of Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton.

I first met Foley in the mid-1970s when I was a reporter for the Idahonian (now the Moscow-Pullman Daily News) and he was the newly elected chair of the House Agriculture Committee. A lawyer by training, Foley became an expert on farm policy – something that endeared him to a generation of farmers in his sprawling district. By including federal support for food stamps in the farm-support bills, Foley built an alliance between urban and rural members of Congress.

Foley once told me that in politics, it’s better to be lucky than to be good. He was both. A thoughtful legislator with a talented staff, Foley was in the right place at the right time to advance in the leadership ranks of the House of Representatives. By 1987, he was the House majority leader, poised to become speaker in 1989 when Jim Wright of Texas resigned.

As a congressional fellow in Washington, D.C., that spring, I heard Wright’s resignation speech form the House gallery and cheered Foley’s succession to the speaker’s chair. His leadership was based on civility, collaboration and compromise – words rarely used to describe the climate in the House today. “I think I am a little cursed with seeing the other point of view and trying to understand it,” Foley said.

Unfortunately, Foley’s tenure as speaker was cut short by the Republican tidal wave of 1994. His own narrow loss (about 4,000 votes) in Washington’s 5th District that year was a blessing in disguise. I don’t think Foley would have been comfortable in the minority caucus, then or since.

After Foley’s defeat in 1994, he donated his congressional papers to the library at Washington State University, where I was a graduate student. My dissertation, completed in 1999, is titled “The Speaker from Spokane: The Rise and Fall of Tom Foley as a Congressional Leader.”

Foley graciously granted four extended interviews to me after leaving Congress. He never tired of telling stories about the people he had met and the legislation on which he worked. And in the course of dozens of interviews with other members of Congress, former Foley staff members, reporters who covered Congress and former political opponents, I found hardly anyone who would say anything evenly mildly critical about the man. That was a tribute to his generous spirit, kind demeanor and sense of fair play.

Maria Hinojosa, journalist & entrepreneur

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Maria Hinojosa

Maria Hinojosa

Award-winning journalist Maria Hinojosa, acclaimed for her coverage of issues overlooked or under-reported by traditional media, will speak Thursday, Oct. 24, at the University of Idaho. A four-time Emmy winner, Hinojosa will present “Stories from the frontlines: Immigration, urban reality, women and Latinos.”  Her talk will begin at 7 p.m. in the International Ballroom of the Student Union Building, Sixth and Deakin streets in Moscow.  It is free and open to the public.  The School of Journalism and Mass Media is one of the co-sponsors for the program.

Hinojosa was featured in the latest issue of Current, an online magazine for public broadcasting managers and staff.  In the article, Hinojosa tells about her independent production company, Futuro Media Group, and tells why public radio and TV must reach out to diverse audiences:

If this is the new American majority, and Latinos and immigrants are not consuming public media, we have a problem on our hands. … It’s not just my problem; it’s going to be my kid’s problem. We have to create this, because this is the future audience.

To get an idea of the types of stories, she reports, check out the 2-minute video here: http://www.futuromediagroup.org/home/

What efforts do media in the inland Northwest or in your hometown make to reach readers, viewers or listeners from ethnic minorities? What are the consequences of not paying attention to changing audience demographics? What questions would you like to ask Ms. Hinojosa next week?

“If this is the new American majority, and Latinos and immigrants are not consuming public media, we have a problem on our hands,” Hinojosa said. “It’s not just my problem; it’s going to be my kid’s problem. We have to create this, because this is the future audience.” – See more at: http://www.current.org/2013/10/gambit-to-go-independent-opens-new-doors-for-hinojosa/#sthash.s9CuB1C5.dpuf

Morris Dees at UI: compare 3 leads

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Morris Dees at UIMorris Dees (photo: Barry Kough, Lewiston Tribune)

At least three reporters covered Morris Dees’ talk at the University of Idaho last week.  Each took a different approach:

Bill McKee, Moscow-Pullman Daily News

Longtime civil rights activist Morris Dees challenged students at the University of Idaho on Tuesday to be stewards of justice in their own communities. “Human rights begins close to home – they begin right here in this town, in this community. This is where people look for justice. I hope those of you listening today will take up this challenge,” he said.

Kaitlyn Krasselt, the Argonaut

Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, was not always aware of the racial issues that have plagued the United States. Dees grew up on a cotton farm in rural Alabama where segregation was all he knew. “I wanted to pick cotton but I had to go to school,” Dees said. “My black friends had to pick the cotton and they didn’t get to go to school. I didn’t know any better.”

Elizabeth Rudd, Lewiston Tribune

MOSCOW – Morris Dees learned a lot from Mrs. Johnson. His elementary school teacher had two lessons: Do not smoke cigarettes and do not drink alcohol. But it was a different lesson that Dees took with him throughout his life. “She told us our colored people were not being treated fairly and that bothered her,” said Dees, who grew up on a cotton farm in a segregated Alabama community in the 1940s.

Dees is the co-founder and chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center and was this year’s keynote speaker for the University of Idaho’s Sherman J. Bellwood Memorial Lecture Series. …

Which reporter did the best job of summing up his talk? Which lead entices readers to continue with the story?

‘Color of Conscience’ documentary preview

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IPTV colors

Idaho Public Television addressed the modern human rights movement in Idaho in an hour-long documentary, The Color of Conscience. It features the story of a small group of concerned citizens who fought against a neo-Nazi supremacist group in north Idaho. Marcia Franklin, the program’s producer, will speak to our class Monday, Oct. 7, via Skype.  Marcia recommends that we view her extended interview with Morris Dees (from 2001) before Tuesday’s Bellwood Lecture.