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Editor Angela Burt-Murray Leaving Essence

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Sheryl Tucker Returns to Run Magazine on Acting Basis

Read Financial Page to Make Political Forecasts, Analyst Says

Olbermann Suspended Over Political Contributions

Reporter Hurt After Clown Yanks Him Off Halloween Float

Rod Richardson Might Be Laid Off, but He'll Be at Seminar

Michele Norris Was Considered, but Not Included

Short Takes

Sheryl Tucker Returns to Run Magazine on Acting Basis

Angela Burt-MurrayAngela Burt-Murray, editor at Essence magazine for the last five years, "has announced her plan to leave her post and relocate with her family to Atlanta," John Huey, editor-in-chief of Time Inc. told staff members on Friday.

"We are beginning our search for a new editor, but in the interim, Sheryl Tucker, former executive editor of Time Inc., has agreed to serve as acting editor-in-chief. Sheryl, along with Marcia Gillespie, former editor-in-chief of Essence, will assist in the search and selection of a new top editor," he said in a memo.

A visitor to Essence's New York offices told Journal-isms the staff seemed "really, really shocked" after Burt-Murray delivered the news at a late-afternoon staff meeting.

Huey continued in his memo, "When Angela became editor of Essence, she was charged with the task of taking the brand into a new era. She set about building an editorial team that was committed to the traditional mission of Essence and capable of evolving the brand in a quickly changing media world.

"Under her leadership, Essence’s Barack Obama cover became the best-seller in the magazine’s history and Essence hired its first Washington Correspondent and Africa Bureau Chief. Angela created Essence’s first-ever news and relationships sections, the Essence Book Club, published three books and launched the first Essence Hot Hair special issue. Her reinvention of the Essence Music Festival Seminar Series now draws over 200,000 attendees each year.

"Angela and her team can take pride in the work they have done together on the magazine — the recent redesign, new features, and important stories such as the recent pieces profiling Black women serving in the military in Afghanistan, a three-part education series and an investigation into child sex trafficking."

More recently Burt-Murray drew criticism for hiring a white fashion director, Ellianna Placas, but Burt-Murray stuck by her decision. The flap provided a hint that not all was going smoothly internally.

Essence has weathered the recession better than other African American-oriented magazines.

For 2010, according to the Publishers Information Bureau, "Black Enterprise, Ebony, Essence and Jet were down a collective 18 percent in ad pages through the first quarter — about double the industry average," as Jason Fell reported June 17 for Folio. "Time Inc.'s Essence, meanwhile, reported the smallest decline: -0.3 percent."

For the first six months of this year, Essence showed only a 2.4 percent decline in circulation, to 1,066,482, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Sheryl Hilliard TuckerBefore she took a recent buyout, Sheryl Hilliard Tucker was executive editor of Time Inc., working closely with Time Inc.'s editor-in-chief, helping to oversee the editorial content of some 125 magazines, according to her bio.

A veteran of the magazine business, Tucker was deputy editor of Health magazine, executive editor of Money, and editor-in-chief and vice president at Black Enterprise, among other positions. She has also edited several books.

Burt-Murray had been at Essence from 1998 to 2001 and was executive editor of Teen People when she was named Essence executive editor in 2005.

She arrived shortly before Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, and the magazine extended outreach to the victims and strove to return the Essence Music Festival to New Orleans. It did so in 2007 after staging the event in 2006 in Houston. Then-Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, now mayor of New Orleans, said the festival draws about 200,000 visitors over four days and has a $130 million to $150 million impact.

Burt-Murray wrote to readers in the November 2005 issue, referring to longtime editor Susan Taylor:

"The first time I walked into Susan Taylor's office seven years ago, it was for a staff meeting. It was my first week on the job as a fashion-and-beauty writer, and I had no idea what to expect. When Susan arrived she immediately got down to business, guiding us through a list of housekeeping details related to the current issue. Then she began to talk about what she called 'the sacred mission of the magazine' — to serve Black women and Black people, and to give voice to our community. Her words made me feel that I was part of something bigger than myself, and I felt proud to be working for an organization that put our people first. . . .

"As I settle into my new position during this eventful time, I appreciate more than ever what Susan Taylor expressed so passionately in that staff meeting years ago: We are, each of us, here to serve, to give Black women and our community a way to move forward. We're here to tell the stories of ordinary sisters who have overcome extraordinary odds and, of course, to speak the truth to those who most need to hear it. As we embark on the next stage of this journey together, please let me know what's on your mind and how we can better serve you in the days ahead."

President Obama says on "60 Minutes" that he failed to properly explain his policies and persuade people to agree with them. "Leadership isn't just legislation," he told Steve Kroft. (Video) 

Read Financial Page to Make Political Forecasts, Analyst Says

David A. BositisFor the better part of two decades, Dr. David A. Bositis of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies has been one of the key go-to guys for data on African Americans and politics. He says that journalists who want to interpret Tuesday's election results would do well to read the financial pages as much as those about politics.

"This election was solely about the economy," Bositis told Journal-isms on Friday, citing exit polls. And the Federal Reserve Board can affect the economy more than an incoming Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which still must face off against a Democratic-controlled Senate and White House, he said.

If the economy improves sufficiently by 2012, he continued, prospects will look good for President Obama's reelection.

The financial pages seem to offer backup for Bositis' argument. "Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke decided Wednesday to pump $75 billion a month more into the economy over the next eight months," Jon Hilsenrath reported for Saturday's Wall Street Journal, an action taken independent of Congress.

Moreover, "Since the central bank said it would launch a new round of government-bond buying, an effort to drive down long-term interest rates and support a recovery that lost steam around midyear, the economic news has been surprisingly good," the story reported. The Fed might not even need to continue its infusion of dollars for the full eight months, it said.

Bositis, senior research associate at the think tank, also does not agree with pundits who portray the African American turnout as insufficient on Tuesday. Blacks were 10 percent of the electorate on Tuesday, according to exit polls. That is down from 13 percent in 2008 but the same as it was in 2006, Bositis said, and it played a key role in several contests.

"Black turnout was fine. The black population is poorer and less educated than the white population. These are people who don't get midterm elections. There is no focal point at the top of the ticket," he said, as there would be in a presidential election.

In the 2008 presidential election, with Obama on the ballot, 60.8 percent of eligible blacks went to the polls, compared with 59.6 percent of whites, 32.1 of Asian Americans and 31.6 percent of Hispanics. The overall figure was 58.2 percent.

Meanwhile, the Latino vote was credited for playing a decisive role in a number of contests.

"Latino voters may have saved the Senate for the Democrats, even as Latino candidates gained a record number of congressional seats on the Republican ticket," Elena Shore reported for New America Media.

"Political observers say these seemingly contradictory outcomes make one thing clear: Latinos — as candidates and as voters — played a decisive role in Tuesday’s election.

"Ironically, the party that was accused of using anti-immigrant rhetoric gained victories for Latino candidates. Republican Susana Martinez was elected New Mexico’s first Latina governor and Brian Sandoval became Nevada’s first Latino governor. Latino Republicans won five new House seats, and one new Senate seat, giving Latino Republicans a record total of eight seats in both houses of Congress."

Obama taped another interview with Steve Kroft of CBS-TV's "60 Minutes," saying the defeat of his party in the midterm elections was probably because the people thought his emergency stimulus and bailout spending was "a huge expansion of government," the network said. It was a reiteration of what Obama said in his Wednesday news conference, except that the setting was the president's first one-on-one interview since the election. It is to be broadcast Sunday at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Olbermann Suspended Over Political Contributions

Keith Olbermann "MSNBC has suspended star anchor Keith Olbermann following the news that he had donated to three Democratic candidates this election cycle," Danny Shea reported Friday for the Huffington Post.

" 'I became aware of Keith's political contributions late last night. Mindful of NBC News policy and standards, I have suspended him indefinitely without pay,' MSNBC president Phil Griffin said in a statement.

"Politico reported Friday that Olbermann had donated $2,400 each to Reps. Raul Grijalva and Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, and to Kentucky Senate contender Jack Conway. While NBC News policy does not prohibit employees from donating to political candidates, it requires them to obtain prior approval from NBC News executives before doing so.

"In a statement earlier Friday, Olbermann defended his donation, saying, 'I did not privately or publicly encourage anyone else to donate to these campaigns nor to any others in this election or any previous ones, nor have I previously donated to any political campaign at any level.'"

Reporter Arthur Chi'en of New York's WPIX-TV was on board the "Heroes and Villains" float, left, when he was dragged off by a man dressed in a clown costume at Sunday's Village Halloween Parade. (Credit: WPIX)

Reporter Hurt After Clown Yanks Him Off Halloween Float

Reporter Arthur Chi'en of New York's WPIX-TV "was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday, four days after he suffered extensive injuries to his face when an unidentified man yanked him off a float at Sunday's New York City Village Halloween Parade," the station reported.

"Chi'en was on board the 'Heroes and Villians' float when the suspect, dressed in a clown costume, attempted to hitch a ride near W. 14th St. along Sixth Avenue just after 9 p.m.

" 'I started waving him off, telling him it was unsafe but then he grabbed my forearms and tried to pull himself up that way,' Chi'en told PIX 11 News as he recounted the ordeal. 'The combined weight caused the railing at the top of the float to collapse and we went over. I tried to brace myself but he clung onto me as we fell.'

"As the two men fell on the pavement, Chi'en landed face first, causing six facial fractures among other injuries. The veteran newsman was rushed to nearby Bellevue Hospital where he remained hospitalized for two days.

"Chi'en was scheduled to undergo surgery Thursday, where doctors will attempt to reconstruct the half dozen facial fractures they have labeled a 'crash injury.' Recovery will be determined on the outcome of Thursday's procedure, Chi'en said."

Rod Richardson Might Be Laid Off, but He'll Be at Seminar

Rod Richardson, who was laid off this week as managing Rod Richardsoneditor at the Times in Shreveport, La., said Friday he was not sure what he would do next. "I still have a great passion for journalism but I realize there are many ways to make a positive contribution in this world so I won't close my eyes to opportunities in other areas," he said.

As reported Thursday, Richardson, 48, was part of cost-cutting at Gannett newspapers that also claimed Don Hudson, managing editor of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss. Richardson joined the Times in 2004 from the Associated Press, where he was assistant bureau chief in Dallas.

"I still plan to attend a seminar at Poynter this month," he told Journal-isms by e-mail on Friday, referring to the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. "I won an NAA Fellowship to participate in 'Editing 2010: How to wear 5 hats and still succeed.' I was encouraged that the organizers were willing to let me come even after Wednesday's announcement. So, I take that as proof that this temporary setback won't keep me down." The reference is to the Newspaper Association of America.

Michele Norris Was Considered, but Not Included

Michele Norris"When Michele Norris joined National Public Radio in 2002 to host its popular afternoon news show 'All Things Considered,' she made history as the first black woman to host a major show at the public radio outlet," Eric Deggans reported Friday in his St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times blog.

Lee Thornton co-hosted "Weekend All Things Considered" from 1982 to 1984, but Norris had the weekday job.

"But you won't find that achievement in the new book about the news organization's 40-year history, 'This Is NPR,' because Norris was left out of the book completely," Deggans continued.

" 'I'm disappointed,' said Norris, who declined to speak in detail on the issue when contacted by telephone. 'But you have to ask NPR why it happened.'

"Norris was asked to contribute a chapter, along with other staffers or people who appear regularly on NPR for the book, which weaves the stories into a chronological history. Other contributors include Cokie Roberts, Nina Totenberg, P.J. O'Rourke and Paula Poundstone. But because she was on sabbatical writing her own book, 'The Grace of Silence: A Memoir,' Norris couldn't contribute an essay and was not included anywhere else, said NPR spokeswoman Dana Davis Rehm.

" 'It was an inexcusable mistake,' Rehm added. 'She should have been in the book.' "

Short Takes

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Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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