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Elaine Rivera Dies, Wrote About Underdogs

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Onetime NAHJ Board Member Was Both Compassionate, Funny

Karen Dunlap Retiring as Poynter Institute President

Suarez: "NewsHour" "Didn't Have Much of a Plan for Me"

Neal Voted First Black Leader of "Seamheads" (Baseball Writers)

One Person's Fun Costume Can Be Another's Racial Insult

Student Journalists Relate Their Side of Grambling Story

Gannett Again Has an African American on Board

Fusion Network Debuts With Brief Obama Interview

ABC Apologizes to Chinese-Americans for Kimmel Show Joke

Short Takes

From left: WNYC-FM's Ilya Marritz, Elaine Rivera, Beth Fertig, Arun Venugopal and R

Onetime NAHJ Officer Was Both Compassionate, Funny

Elaine RiveraElaine Rivera, a teacher of journalism at Lehman College in New York and a veteran of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, New York Newsday, El Diario/La Prensa, Time magazine, the Washington Post and New York's WNYC-FM, was found dead Saturday at her home in the Bronx, N.Y., fellow journalist Evelyn Hernandez told Journal-isms on Sunday. She was 54 and had been battling liver disease, Hernandez said.

A lifetime member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, Rivera was a board member and its secretary in the early days of the organization, founded in 1984. She also taught in the Maynard Institute's Summer Program for Minority Journalists in 1986.

Rivera was "a compassionate, funny, incisive journalist" whose "humor was wide-ranging, and she greeted much of the rough-and-tumble of local news with a hearty laugh," Matthew Schuerman of WNYC wrote in a tribute posted by the station Sunday night. 

News of her passing spread quickly on social media Sunday night.

Rose Arce, a senior producer at CNN, wrote to other alumni of New York Newsday, "This is the Elaine Rivera I will always remember, a determined smile, a zest for life, an anger fast directed at injustice and a thoughtful and generous human spirit. If all journalists worked so tirelessly on behalf of the voiceless, my profession might lift us all to a better place. She was one of the best and most loyal friends I've had and I loved her deeply. There is no good way to deliver the news that she was found dead in her apartment last night after several months of battling liver disease."

Sylvia Moreno, who worked with Rivera at the Washington Post, wrote on her Facebook timeline, "When I think of Elaine: consistent and uncompromising in her values and beliefs; a journalist for all the right reasons; the ultimate advocate for all marginalized people; smart; funny and a friend magnet. I'm so glad to have been among her friends for 25 years. I'm so sad she is no longer with us."

Hernandez told Journal-isms by telephone, "She was a traditional reporter in the sense that she did the reporting, she did the interviews and knocked on people's doors to get the story." She was always interested in stories that benefited the underdog and gave voice to the voiceless, Hernandez, a former NAHJ president, said.

At El Diario/La Prensa, Rivera wrote about the teen suicide rate among Latinas. At Time, where she worked from 1995 to 2001, Rivera reported on the case of Elisa Izquierdo, a 6-year-old victim of child abuse, whose death in New York became a symbol of the nation's "deeply flawed child-welfare system," in the words of the magazine.

In some ways, Rivera's experiences were unique to Latino journalists. Al Fitzpatrick, then an editor at the Akron Beacon Journal who later became president of the National Association of Black Journalists and a Knight-Ridder executive, spotted Rivera in his journalism class at Kent State University. "She was bright, energetic, curious. Fitz encouraged her, bucked her up when she was down," Editor & Publisher reported. She went to work at the Beacon Journal.

But Rivera told Ed Morales of New York's Village Voice that a superior at the Akron paper, "upon finding out she would be leaving for an internship at Hispanic Link newsletter in Washington, D.C., remarked, 'Once a spic, always a spic' [PDF]. And he meant it as a joke."

Morales reported that New York Newsday, which folded in 1995, was a godsend for reporters like Rivera.

" 'You couldn't have asked for a better job as a minority,' Elaine Rivera of Time says about her days at New York Newsday," Morales wrote in his 1996 article.

"The people at Newsday were looking for the middle-class minority readership. They saw it as the future of New York. A liberal tabloid with 'progressive agenda' written all over it, Newsday was a newspaper that covered small communities. At one point there were 12 Latinos on the editorial side, among them reporters Edna Negron, Ray Sanchez, Patricia Hurtado, Evelyn Hernandez, [Linda] Ocasio, and Rivera (though none of them became columnists.) 'When the paper folded, we were starting to do a big, seven-page series on Latinos in New York,' laments Rivera. The paper tried to serve Latino readership, but wound up losing the numbers game — its circulation stagnated around 200,000."

Rivera's nine years at New York Newsday followed stints at Hispanic Link News Service and the Washington Times. She went on to Time, the Washington Post, El Diario/La Prensa, WNYC-FM and Lehman College.

"She could walk the halls of Albany or City Hall and get politicians to open up," WNYC's Enterprise Editor Karen Frillmann said in the WNYC tribute. "But she was most interested talking to the people who live and die by what happens in the halls of power. Prison reform, teen suicide, domestic abuse were some of the topics she covered. She was passionate, smart and had a wicked sense of humor."

At a substitute lecturer at Lehman, where Rivera had been on medical leave for the fall term, she oversaw the conversion of the Bronx Journal, the school's online multilingual news site, from a print to a multimedia format, according to her faculty bio. The Bronx Journal won the City University of New York's 2011 Murray Kempton Award for Journalism in the 'Best Web Publication' category.

Hernandez said that Rivera would be buried in her Cleveland hometown and that a memorial service is planned for New York in the next few weeks.

Karen Dunlap Retiring as Poynter Institute President

Karen DunlapKaren Brown Dunlap, the first African American and first female president of the Poynter Institute school for journalists, is stepping down in January after 10 years in the top job.

Dunlap, 62, is a former journalist whose tenure included coping with a recession that contributed to a $3.8 million annual loss in 2011 and the contentious departure that year of star blogger Jim Romenesko. She told her staff Monday, "We need to take some big steps, and I think it's time for somebody else to do that," Andrew Beaujon and Kristen Hare reported Monday on the Poynter site.

"Dunlap became dean of Poynter in 1994 after a year as interim dean," Beaujon and Hare reported. "In 2012, Dunlap told the Tampa Tribune's Richard Mullins the past few years 'have been difficult times' for the institute, which has seen lower income from the Tampa Bay Times, which it owns. Later that year, Poynter named Christine Martin the president of the Poynter Foundation, aimed at bringing philanthropic support to the Institute.

" 'Karen deserves a thunderous round of applause from the Poynter Institute, and from journalists far and wide,' Poynter chair and Tampa Bay Times CEO Paul Tash said in a statement. 'Building on her superb work, the next president will have the chance to play an enormously important role both at Poynter and in the world of journalism.' "

When Dunlap took the top job in 2003, Wanda Lloyd, then director of the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute in Nashville and later editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, told colleagues, "The fact that an African American (and a woman) is now in charge must not and cannot go unnoticed.

"For many years, Karen has been dean of the faculty at Poynter. She has led the team that develops and presents curriculum to train many of the bosses and others we've had in our newsrooms — broadcasting, online and print. For those of you who have had the opportunity to be in seminars at Poynter, you know the quality and importance of the work they do there. For those who haven't had the opportunity, apply, apply, apply. (It is no small expectation that, with Karen at the helm, diversity has and will continue to be a high priority in content, faculty and participants at Poynter)," wrote Lloyd, now chair/associate professor of the Department of Mass Communications at Savannah State University in Georgia.

According to Monday's news release, Dunlap "added to its industry leading site,, and the array of courses on, the groundbreaking electronic teaching platform founded with support from the Knight Foundation," and "began taking its courses and workshops to news organizations and other businesses in custom programs."

In addition, "Three years ago Dunlap met with owners of the Tampa Bay Rays and created The Write Field to address the high dropout rate of African-American and Latino middle school boys in St. Petersburg. Community involvement and support allow boys to improve writing skills and character. Using what it has learned, the Institute is exploring a digital curriculum to assist other Florida communities in similar programs."

Nevertheless, in January, Poynter found itself in perilous financial shape, the blog SaintPetersBlog reported. "According to the latest financial disclosures gleaned from Poynter's Form 990 Return of Organization Exempt from Income Tax, the Poynter Institute lost $3.815,144 during 2011, the last year for which information is available. This is a dramatic loss compared to the year before, when Poynter found itself in the red to the tune of just $109,206," Peter Schorsch wrote.

Dunlap messaged Journal-isms Monday, "In brief, we've addressed the move to self-funding by constantly innovating, generating new sources of income (new digital and in person programs) and by creating a foundation.

"We have further reduced expenses to a manageable level while maintaining quality programs. Our focus is much more on raising income.  We have a better fix on what's working and will build on those areas."

The deficit news followed the uproar in journalism circles when Romenesko and Poynter parted ways.

"If he didn't invent news aggregation, Romenesko more than anyone else shaped it into something indispensable for media watchers," Mark Lisheron wrote in the February/March 2012 issue of American Journalism Review. "Such was the loyalty to him that when Poynter's Julie Moos publicly questioned the method of attribution he had been using for years, the media criticism establishment savaged what it considered a betrayal. . . ."

In August, Romenesko boasted that his site now ranked 5,260 in website traffic, beating Poynter's, which was 5,753, according to On Monday, however, the rankings were 6,221 for Poynter and 8,229 for Romenesko.

In the aftermath of the split with Romenesko, Dunlap wrote, "Several of us were involved, not just Julie Moos. We didn't all agree. As president, I had the last read. Our conversations were primarily about our standards, our practices, not about taking a stand against a valued contributor.

"Did we make the right choices? Not all of them. Could we have improved the message or tone? Yes. Should we have even raised the issues discussed? Yes, we should have. Practices of attribution are changing in ways that harm journalism. That's an area that needs addressing in useful discussions. We chose to look through the lens of practices that we helped create and are now changing. . . ."

Dunlap also wrote, "Where does Poynter go from here? We will do what we have watched other strong organizations do when their missteps appear on They review their actions and processes. We have already begun. Then they pick up and move on. That's what we are doing. After all, we make mistakes too."

Suarez: "NewsHour" "Didn't Have Much of a Plan for Me"

Ray Suarez (credit:

Ray Suarez, who left the "PBS NewsHour" Friday after working as a senior correspondent for the program since 1999, said Monday that he decided to leave because his contributions were heavily minimized and that he just "didn't see 2014 and 2015 were going to be better" for him than the last couple of years," according to Lucia Suarez, who interviewed the veteran journalist for Fox News Latino.

" 'I felt like I didn't have much of a future with the broadcast,' Suarez said Monday morning. '(They) didn't have much of a plan for me, ' Lucia Suarez wrote Monday.  Francisco Cortes, director of the site, said there was no relationship between the two Suarezes that he was aware of.

Lucia Suarez also wrote, "The 56-year-old, who joined the 'NewsHour' in 1999, said over the last couple of years his contributions to the broadcast were passed over and marginalized many times. He said decisions made recently by the company and new constrictions also played a part in his resignation — It just made it difficult to stay, he said.

" 'When you look at the prospects realistically, I was there 14 years,' Suarez said. 'The responsibility, the high responsibility … had all been gradually taken away.' . . ."

In the last month, Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff became the show's main anchors, making history as the first all-female national anchor team, and Hari Sreenivasan became weekend anchor of "PBS NewsHour Weekend." That extends "NewsHour" across seven days and established the show as the one evening newscast without a white male anchor on any day of the week.

Neal Voted First Black Leader of "Seamheads" (Baseball Writers)

La Velle E. Neal III"La Velle E. Neal III, who has covered the Twins for the Star Tribune for 16 seasons, on Saturday was elected president of the Baseball Writers Association of America at the organization's annual World Series meeting," Phil Miller reported Sunday for the Minneapolis newspaper.

"Neal, 48, is the first black person elected to head the BBWAA, a professional organization for baseball journalists founded in 1908. He succeeds Susan Slusser, a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle who last year became the first woman to hold the position.

"A Chicago native who came to the Star Tribune from the Kansas City Star in 1998, Neal has served 11 terms as the BBWAA's Twin Cities Chapter chairman, and last October he was elected the national organization's vice president," putting him in line to become president.

In January, Neal appeared at the Hall of Fame Awards of the National Association of Black Journalists, accepting a posthumous award for Wendell Smith, the baseball writer who was portrayed in the movie "42" as Jackie Robinson's traveling companion.

Messaging from St. Louis, venue for the World Series Saturday through Monday, Neal told Journal-isms that "the BBWAA serves as the liaison with Major League Baseball on behalf of newspaper, magazine and online reporters, advocating on such issues as access, credentials and standards. At times, it can be like handling the complaint department when reporters feel they aren't being treated properly by clubs. I go into this hoping to work with the league and its clubs to maintain some semblance of harmony.

"Also, more reporters than ever are seeking BBWAA membership," Neal continued. "We want to make sure [the] right people receive BBWAA cards for the right reasons. This is much tougher than it looks because of the proliferation of online media in recent years. Everyone with a website wants membership, and that just can't happen."

Ernest Holsendolph, a retired reporter, baseball fan since childhood and Journal-isms reader, posed these questions to Neal, which Journal-isms passed along:

"I wonder if he does any work encouraging young writers to look at baseball as a beat, dudes and girls," Holsendolph asked. "Also, since baseball has mostly served print and TV, has baseball had any interest in encouraging blogging and other new media in covering and following baseball? Do bloggers and other new media get press box rights? This is important because baseball, more than other sports, is highly statistical and you cannot follow unless you are in the press box."

Neal responded, "Well, I speak to local high school students and have had a couple shadow me at the ballpark. Honestly, I encounter just a few who want to be seamheads (baseball writers). I don't think baseball encourages blogging but it does understand that credible newsgathering organizations produce blogs and tweet from games. I know the Twins have issued credentials to local bloggers in the past, but not on a daily basis. The BBWAA cards are issued to writers who prove they travel with clubs. That's our main requirement. If you are with a credible organization and plan to cover road games, you can receive a BBWAA card. We look at each case separately."

"Seamhead" refers to the distinctive seam on a baseball.

The poster campaign "We're a culture, not a costume," originated at Ohio University.

One Person's Fun Costume Can Be Another's Racial Insult

"A new poster campaign at the University of Colorado is asking students to think carefully when selecting a Halloween costume this year," Sarah Kuta wrote Thursday for the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo.

"The poster campaign, 'We're a culture, not a costume,' originated at Ohio University, and depicts students of various ethnicities, races and social classes holding up photographs of themselves or standing next to themselves in offensive costumes.

"The Center for Multicultural Affairs started hanging the posters on Tuesday in an effort to remind students that some costume choices can demean and isolate their fellow classmates, teachers and university staff. . . ."

Generating outrage from many on social media, "A pair of Florida men decided to celebrate Halloween this year by dressing up as George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, complete with blackface and blood-stained hoodie," as the Smoking Gun detailed.

Student Journalists Relate Their Side of Grambling Story

"The current controversy surrounding the temporary suspension and alleged firing of two Grambling State University student newspaper editors started earlier this semester with seven words: 'David, get the f*ck out the Gramblinite,'" Dan Reimold wrote Friday for College Media Matters, which describes itself as "a leading student journalism industry blog" that "aims to tell the story of college media 2.0."

"Gramblinite adviser Wanda Peters purportedly said this to the paper's online editor David Lankster Sr. in September during a heated staff meeting. Lankster earned Peters' ire for questioning her about her sub-par work, an assessment shared by a sizable portion of the staff. According to multiple editors, Peters has exhibited a noticeably growing indifference toward the paper, symbolized by the rising number of meetings and other staff business she has missed. At the meeting, Lankster also addressed an especially enormous elephant in the room — the perception that Peters' son, Evan, the Gramblinite's production manager and designer, was increasingly serving as a proxy of sorts for her.

" 'Her enthusiasm, it started trickling down and we started not seeing her as much,' said Lankster. 'Me being me, I spoke out at a meeting, and everybody knew I was going to speak out except for the adviser. … [I said] "Ms. Peters, why aren't you and Evan ever at the same meeting? Why is he at a meeting and then you're not at a meeting?" She said, "David, get the f*ck out the Gramblinite." I proceeded to walk out as gracefully as possible. … This is when our rift, I would have to say, started.'

"That rift became a full rupture this past week when Peters condemned Lankster and briefly suspended fellow Gramblinite editor Kimberly Monroe in connection with a high-profile university athletic protest. A front-page article set to run in today's issue of the paper boldly declared it would report on itself, revealing 'The Truth About The Gramblinite Chaos.' However, it contained numerous inaccuracies and was ultimately pulled prior to publication. The staff writer in the byline: Evan, the son of the adviser who cursed out Lankster. (Pause. Shake head. Sigh. OK, keep reading.)

"By comparison, in a session this afternoon at the ACP/CMA National College Media Convention in New Orleans, Lankster and Monroe sought to tell the REAL truth about the recent chaos. . . . "

Reimold concluded, "Moments later, a room full of student journalists, journalism professors and student press advisers applauded Lankster and Monroe for their efforts."

Journal-isms has sought comment from Peters.

Gannett Again Has an African American on Board

Tony A. Prophet

In March, the independent Gannett blog reported the departure of Arthur Harper, the sole African American on the board of the Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper company.

On Monday, Gannett announced the election of Tony A. Prophet, senior vice president of operations, printing and personal systems at Hewlett-Packard Co., to its board.

"Gracia Martore, Gannett's president and chief executive officer, said, 'Tony has strong operational experience that will help enhance our efforts as we continue to leverage our growth opportunities and deliver best-in-class content and services across broadcast, digital, print and mobile platforms.'

"Prophet has been with Hewlett-Packard since 2006, initially as senior vice president of Supply Chain Operations, Personal Systems Group, until 2012 when he was named to his current role. Prior to joining Hewlett-Packard, he served in a variety of roles at United Technologies Corporation, Honeywell International, Inc., Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., and General Motors Company. . . . "

Last month, Black Enterprise magazine reported that in "our listing of black board members from the 250 largest companies on the S&P 500, we discovered that 75 companies — 30% — currently do not have any blacks on their boards including quite a few household names."

Fusion Network Debuts With Brief Obama Interview

The Fusion network, the collaboration of ABC News and Univision that targets millennial English-speaking Hispanics, launched Monday featuring an interview with President Obama.

Interviewed on "AMERICA with Jorge Ramos" by Jim Avila, White House correspondent and ABC News senior national correspondent, Obama answered questions about deportations and the Affordable Health Care Act framed in the context of millennials.

"Are they just the people who are going to finance the older generation in their medical problems?" Avila asked. "Why would someone who's under 30 want to sign up for Obamacare?"

"Well this is pretty straightforward," Obama said. "A study — analysis has shown that if you're between 18 and 34 right now, about half of the people can get high quality health care for less than 50 bucks a month — less than your cellphone bill, less than your cable bill. And about 70 percent can get if for less than 100 bucks a month. Now, you know I know that, or at least I kind of remember when I was in my 20s and early 30s I thought I was invincible, but it turns out I broke my nose playing basketball, it turns out that you know there were times where I had unexpected illnesses or accidents, and making sure that you've got coverage insures that you're not a ending up paying out of pocket thousands of dollars that you may not have.

"And so this is a good investment for young people and you know when you look at the number of young people who actually want health insurance, but are having trouble affording it, that fact that we're making it affordable for them for the first time, that's a big deal."

The president also joined growing numbers of Americans who are eliminating "fewer" from their vocabulary and substituting "less." "Internationally there are less constraints on how our intelligence teams operate," Obama said, word usage that would once make an English teacher cringe.

ABC Apologizes to Chinese-Americans for Kimmel Show Joke

"ABC is apologizing for a segment of Jimmy Kimmel Live in which a child joked about killing Chinese people to help erase the U.S. debt," the Associated Press reported on Monday.

"The boy's unscripted comment ('Kill everyone in China,' he suggested) came during a comedy bit in which youngsters commented on news events. The skit, aimed at poking fun at childish politicians, aired last week on Kimmel's late-night talk show.

"ABC's apology [PDF] came in response to a complaint from a group called 80-20, which identifies itself as a pan-Asian-American political organization.

"In an Oct. 25 letter to the group, ABC said it would never purposefully do anything to upset the Chinese, Asian or other communities. The network says the skit will be edited out of the 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' episode for future airings or any other distribution, including online."

In a news release, the 80-20 group said that Tim McNeal, ABC's vice president, talent development and diversity, "also verbally requested S. B. Woo to convey ABC's eagerness to have Asian American writers, actors and producers apply for jobs with ABC. It is one way to avoid such unfortunate incident in the future — through diversity in its organization. McNeal said, 'ABC takes achieving diversity very seriously.' Interested parties may reach his office at"

Woo, president of the 80-20 National Asian American Political Action Committee, said in an fundraising email to supporters, "80-20 PAC is proud to have served the Chinese Am. component of the Asian Am community by being the ONLY organization to have obtained a verbal & written apology from ABC.

"This incident is a teachable moment for our community — the importance of an Asian Am organization that has the stature & ability to serve the rightful interests of our community. It illustrates the importance of SELF RELIANCE. . . ."

Short Takes

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R.I.P Elaine Rivera

Deeply sadden and hurt by the news. As her former student at Lehman, professor Rivera taught me everything I know about journalism. She would say, "Fatima, in order for you to be a journalist, you have to put up your BS meter." I will miss her dearly. R.I.P professor. 

R.I.P Elaine Rivera

Deeply sadden and hurt by the news. As her former student at Lehman, professor Rivera taught me everything I know about journalism. She would say, "Fatima, in order for you to be a journalist, you have to put up your BS meter." I will miss her dearly. R.I.P professor. 

Ray Suarez

Sorry to hear Ray Suarez has left. Too bad. I would have advised him to do otherwise.  I can think of half a dozen missed opportunities --- reasons to stay. I didn't get a sense from the article that he's firmed up his plan for the future.   His reporting on the Haiti earthquake was so insightful.  I thought at the time that he seemed to have a genuine understanding of pluses and minuses of "island living" in the Caribbean.  

I wish him good luck.


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