Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

A 1945 Plea from the New York. Times' First Black Reporter

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Sunday, October 12, 2003

A 1945 Plea from the N.Y. Times' First Black Reporter

"It's not my intention to make you feel more uneasy than you already do, under these barroom stares," said George Streator, who in 1945 became the New York Times' first African American reporter, to Arthur Gelb, who had been hired the year before. Streator, a graduate of Fisk University and Western Reserve and son-in-law of Brig. Gen. Benjamin O. Davis, was the only black person in the Times Square saloon, and he and Gelb were the object of stares, as Gelb recalls in his new 644-page memoir, "City Room" (Putnam, $29.95), a treat for junkies of newspaper lore.

"I'm willing to bet you've never invited a Negro boy to your home and that there isn't one Negro kid among all your friends," Gelb quotes Streator as saying. "You must understand that it's young kids like you who are probably our best hope."

"Warming to his subject," Gelb continues, "he went on to make his case. 'Wouldn't it be something to cheer about if the paper hired Negro copyboys and gave them the same sort of chance you and your friends are getting in the city room -- even letting them prove their talent as members of your [in-house] Timesweek staff?' He reminded me that the pool of qualified Negro journalists in the country was infinitesimal because there was no training ground for them; not only were they unwelcome as copyboys, but talented black students were not encouraged to take journalism in college."

"'Opening doors for training Negro kids is the only way to free us from this awful tokenism,' he said, looking me straight in the eye. 'And now I'm beginning to feel bad for harassing you. It's just that I don't expect to be at the paper much longer. I have a feeling you're going to get someplace at the Times someday. I simply want you to remember what I've been telling you'."

Streator left the Times in 1949 to become editor of a weekly paper published by the National Maritime Union. His tenure did not end happily. Gelb does not mention it, but Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones write in their 1999 book "The Trust" that Streator, "having worked only at activist publications . . . had no training in the Times' tradition of objectivity" and sometimes "made up quotes in order to present blacks in a more positive light." He was fired.

Yet Gelb, who became metropolitan editor and managing editor, staying at the Times until 1990, writes that he kept Streator's barroom words in mind.

On April 4, 1968, the night the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, Peter Kihss was assigned to take Earl Caldwell's "detailed notes dictated from Memphis. The story would lead the paper under an eight-column headline. My thoughts momentarily flashed back to the time when George Streator was the single 'token Negro' in the city room. Now here was Caldwell phoning in the lead story from Memphis, and Tom Johnson writing the front-page reaction story for the late editions with facts supplied from Harlem by Gerald Fraser and from Bedford-Stuyvesant by Rudy Johnson. The photographer on the dangerous scene in Harlem was Don Hogan Charles, who also was black," Gelb writes.

Streator's words are recalled again when Gelb discusses this year's Jayson Blair scandal, which led to the resignation of the Times' first African American managing editor, Gerald Boyd. "Gerald had made journalistic history when he was appointed in September 2001. It had taken a little over half a century for the vision that George Streator had described to me at Child's, during my early days at the Times, to approach realization," Gelb says.

Journalists Make "Most Influential Hispanics" List

Maria Hinojosa of CNN and National Public Radio; Soledad O'Brien of CNN; Sonia Nazario of the Los Angeles Times, a Pulitzer Prize winner this year; Astrid Garcia, a San Jose Mercury News vice president who is president of the National Association of Minority Media Executives, and former Washington Post reporter Roberto Suro, now director of the Pew Hispanic Center, have made Hispanic Business Magazine's annual list of the country's 100 Most Influential Hispanics, reports Daisy Pareja in Pareja Media Match.

Ted Shen, AAJA Chicago President, Dies at 50

"Ted Shen, 50, a Chicago freelance journalist, arts critic and independent film producer whose passionate enthusiasms, ranging from music and film to Asian arts and women's fashions, made him a familiar figure on the local cultural scene, died Thursday, Oct. 9," John von Rhein reports in the Chicago Tribune.

He had been president of the Chicago chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association since 2000, AAJA said, and the chapter?s vice president for programs in 1999.

"Ted had enormous skills in fundraising, helping both the Chicago Chapter and the national office raise funds for various scholarships, internships and other program initiatives. Through his efforts, significant individual and foundation contributions were received as part of the AAJA Challenge Fund for Journalism launched last summer," an AAJA statement continued.

"His roommate, Fred Swanson, said Mr. Shen was known to have a heart condition but that the cause of death has not yet been determined. More than a week before his death, Mr. Shen complained to colleagues at the Chicago Reader that he was short of breath and had difficulty walking even short distances. He was scheduled to visit his doctor the day he died," the Tribune said.

"Mr. Shen, a former piano student of [Chicago pianist and artistic director] Gerald Rizzer, held degrees in mathematics and social sciences from the University of Chicago. He wrote classical music reviews and feature stories on various arts-related subjects for the Chicago Tribune, the Reader and Chicago magazine, where he expressed his strong, sometimes idiosyncratic opinions for some 25 years," the Tribune obituary continued.

Anchor's Contractions Started While on the Air

"Why was Renee Chenault-Fattah holding hands with Tim Lake under the anchor desk at WCAU?" asks Gail Shister in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

"Not to worry . . . The mother-to-be was secretly communicating to her 4, 6 and 11 p.m. co-anchor that she was having some early contractions last month.

"'Tim and I had a system,' says Chenault-Fattah, who gave birth to daughter Chandler Faith Sept. 27. 'I'd grab his hand or nudge him to let him know he should read the next story."

"The normally unflappable Lake was a bit flapped when Chenault-Fattah experienced her first on-air contraction, in mid-August.

"When she went into labor, for real, at 1:30 a.m. Sept. 27, [her husband, Rep. Chaka] Fattah was in Washington to chair the Congressional Black Caucus' annual prayer breakfast later that day.

"With her father in the passenger seat, Chenault-Fattah drove herself from East Falls to Pennsylvania Hospital 'because I know the shortcuts.' But after five hours of pushing, 'there was nothing,' she says.

"By the time her doctor decided to do a C-section, Fattah had arrived. When he came into the delivery room, Chenault-Fattah was surprised.

"Chandler Faith weighed in at a healthy 6 pounds, 11 ounces. Chenault-Fattah plans to return to work Jan. 5."

Wiley Hall, Dwight Cunningham Find Life After Afro

Wiley A. Hall III, who served two years as executive editor of the Afro-American newspapers' Washington and Baltimore editions before leaving over the summer, and Dwight Cunningham, who served as editor of the Washington Afro from November to April, have each landed new gigs.

Hall, who had been a reporter and columnist at the old Baltimore Evening Sun, is a general-assignment "newsman" in the Associated Press' Baltimore bureau, said Denise Cabrera, the bureau chief. When Journal-isms caught up with Cabrera on Friday, Hall was in training to do editing.

Cunningham, who has an extensive resume, is an adjunct professor at Howard University, teaching advanced reporting and the fundamentals of journalism. He continues to work as an on-call public information officer for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), working on Hurricane Isabel, and he has started an editorial consultancy, with the National Football League Players Association among his clients. "I'm still underemployed, and am putting together more clients," Cunningham told Journal-isms.

The two men's Afro service was seen as an example of the black press reaching out to African Americans in the mainstream media to improve its product and the black journalists in turn "giving back" to the community. The experiment, in this case, was short-lived.

Detroit Appeals to Keep NABJ Convention

The Detroit chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists made a last-minute appeal Friday to the national organization not to move the 2006 convention from Detroit to Indianapolis.

After a lengthy conference call, the national board members told the local chapter they would have a final decision by the end of the week, according to Darci McConnell of the Detroit News, the local chapter's vice president/print.

Reductions in available convention space in Detroit were given as a primary reason for the national board's decision. McConnell told Journal-isms that the Detroit officers presented counterarguments to the national concerns and were pleased they were afforded a hearing.

J-Lo's Sister Hired by WCBS New York

"Jennifer Lopez's sister has been hired by WCBS/Ch. 2 ? after being dumped as a deejay at WNEW radio," Richard Huff writes in the New York Daily News. Lynda Lopez (she's the one not linked with Ben Affleck) will start work as an on-air correspondent on Oct. 20 and report primarily for the station's 5 p.m. newscast.

"Lopez and her boyfriend Chris Booker were dropped as the morning drive-time personalities at WNEW's Blink 102.7 on Sept. 12.

"At Ch. 2, Lopez is expected to cover such topics as fashion, celebrity news and pop culture trends.

"She'll appear at least three times a week."

Rick Sanchez Returns to Miami Airwaves Today

"Meet the new Oprah-fied" Rick Sanchez, writes Glenn Garvin in the Miami Herald.

"No more frenzied shouting over howling sirens or crackling gunfire. No more paranoid warnings about neighborhoods under siege. Now he wants to talk about pets and kids and feelings -- or, better yet, listen to you talk about them. When The Rick Sanchez Show debuts at 4 p.m. today on WTVJ-NBC 6, it'll be South Florida's first live daily TV program produced in front of a studio audience since Skipper Chuck's kiddie show of the 1960s.

"Sanchez's confidence in the show might seem misplaced, considering his latest broadcasting experience, a much ballyhooed departure from Miami for a news/talk show on MSNBC, was a disaster."

Telemundo Stations to Get Internet Sites

"NBC plans to introduce Internet sites for its 15 Telemundo stations within the next few months, a groundbreaking move that could position Telemundo as first out of the gate in the race to win the online Hispanic audience," Daisy Whitney reports in Media Week.

"Except for a few Web sites that primarily provide programming information, neither Telemundo nor front-runner Univision have had unique Web sites for each of their local TV stations."

N.J. Paper Succeeds With Spanish Supplement

Positioned as "the Latino voice of Central New Jersey," Nuestra Comunidad (Our Community), a free-distribution Spanish-language weekly, offers news, information and advertising of special interest to readers in the greater Middlesex, N.J., market, explains Ray Ollwerther, executive editor of the Home News Tribune in East Brunswick, N.J.

"The tabloid, which made its debut June 6, offers colorful, photo-driven pages, with a magazine approach on the cover and inside pages. We emphasize people stories and plenty of news you can use.

"The new publication is produced by an editorial staff of two full-time and two part-time staffers, all fluent in Spanish. A central ingredient to the publication's success, however, has been the synergy between the Comunidad staff and the Home News Tribune staff," Ollwerther writes.

First Black Owner of Ad Agency Dies in Chicago

"Fresh from service as a Marine combat artist during World War II, Vincent T. Cullers stocked his portfolio and knocked on doors of Chicago advertising agencies," writes Barbara Sherlock in the Chicago Tribune.

"Unable to find work, Mr. Cullers and his wife, Marian, opened an advertising art studio in 1947 and nine years later founded Vince Cullers Advertising, the first black-owned full service advertising agency in the nation. When the black pride movement began, Mr. Cullers revolutionized marketing by creating ethnic-targeted advertising. Throughout the agency's 45 years, its roster of clients included Kellogg; Sears, Roebuck & Company; and Johnson Products.

"Mr. Cullers, 79, of Chicago died of congestive heart failure Saturday, Oct. 4, in Kindred Chicago Lakeshore Hospital.

"'In those days, no African-Americans were working in advertising," said Tom Burrell, founder of Burrell Advertising in Chicago, also an African-American owned agency. 'They not only couldn't get in the door, they didn't go beyond the lobby. So he started his own agency, and after that we saw a number of other agencies be created in New York and Chicago,'" Sherlock wrote.

Poll Says 45% Believe News Outlets Too Liberal

"Nearly half of Americans think its news media [are] too liberal despite the rise of controversial hard-right cable channel Fox News," writes The Guardian newspaper in England, reporting on a Gallup poll.

"TV news channels in the US came under fire during the war on Iraq -- including criticism from some of their own reporters -- for their unquestioning support of the White House during the conflict.

"But this criticism is not shared by viewers at home, some 45% of whom believe their country's news outlets are too liberal.

"Only 14% of Americans believe the media to be too conservative, according to a poll by Gallup carried out around the second anniversary of the September 11 attacks."

The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information.

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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