Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

3 Top Editors Take Ebony, Jet Buyouts

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Sunday, January 11, 2009
Updated January 13

Company Has Said It, Too, Feels Advertising Decline

Forthcoming issues of Ebony and JetLynn A. Norment, Walter Leavy and Malcolm West, three of the four managing editors at Ebony and Jet magazines, are accepting buyout offers from Johnson Publishing Co., the affected journalists and others at the company told Journal-isms.

"I'm excited!" said Norment, 56, who has been with the privately owned publisher since 1977, arriving from the Memphis Commercial Appeal. She said she had been exploring other opportunities in and out of Chicago when the buyout offer came along.

Norment served on the board of directors of the National Association of Black Journalists for six years, and chaired both NABJ's 25th anniversary celebration in 2000 and its 1997 convention in Chicago. She has also been president of the Chicago Association of Black Journalists.

Johnson Publishing did not respond to a request for comment about the buyouts, which staffers said were offered to those whose age and years of service added up at least to 80. But last February a spokeswoman said, "Like most other publishers, we are experiencing a downtrend in advertising revenue, while production, printing and fulfillment costs have all increased. We have made some changes for greater efficiency of operations which resulted in the elimination of a few selected positions and some layoffs."

The Washington office manager is said to have taken the buyout; freelancers have said the company is late in making payments, and calls to the formerly tradition-bound main office in Chicago, as with many other firms, are now answered with automated equipment.

Lynn A. NormentLeavy, 55, came to the company in 1980 from the old Memphis Press-Scimitar. He and Norment split the managing editor duties, with Norment largely handling editorial content and Leavy production. "The magazine has never been late one day," he told Journal-isms, saying his job was to make sure everything in the publication was "where it was supposed to be, when it was supposed to be there."

Leavy formerly wrote the "For Brothers Only" column in Ebony. He emphasized there was "absolutely nothing negative" about his leaving and said the buyout offer provided "an opportunity to step back and appreciate the contributions I made."

West, who shares Jet managing editor duties with Mira Lowe, did not respond to telephone calls. But in a 2003 television interview with WLS-TV's Harry Porterfield, he said of the pocket-sized newsweekly, "I sort of liken the publication of Jet every week to our inviting black America to dinner with Jet. There are several different places where our readers can go to eat. There are different magazines that deal with education, entertainment, sports, but Jet takes the best from each of those publications, periodicals, newspapers, puts them on a plate and serves that up to black America every week, and nobody cooks like Jet (laughter). We deal with the most important people, the most important events, the most important places every week."

Norment told Journal-isms, "I am grateful to Ebony for providing me with many years of wonderful experiences, and the opportunity to meet and interview some of the most renowned newsmakers of our day, including Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama. I've met and interviewed business leaders as well as community leaders, and of course, celebrities. I've had repeat interviews with Beyonce, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Wynton Marsalis, Al Green, Tom Joyner, to name a few."

In the interview with Porterfield, she said, "You know, 58 years after Ebony started, there is still a great need for a magazine that covers black life. People who are doing things, who have goals and dreams, who are passionate about whatever those goals and dreams are, who have something to contribute not only to the black community, but to the world. This is where they can get their stories out."

Byron Pitts Named "60 Minutes" Contributor

Byron PittsCBS-TV's "60 Minutes," which has been without a regular African American presence since correspondent Ed Bradley died in 2006, on Tuesday named Byron Pitts a "contributing correspondent."

Lara Logan, CBS News' chief foreign affairs correspondent, Anderson Cooper, a CNN anchor, and PBS host Charlie Rose are also "contributing correspondents" to the program.  Bob Simon, Scott Pelley, Lesley Stahl and Steve Kroft also started with the show at that position, spokesman Kevin Tedesco told Journal-isms.

"Pitts, who has appeared on 60 MINUTES periodically since 2006, will be featured regularly beginning in the 2009-'10 season and will report at least six stories. He will also continue to work for THE CBS EVENING NEWS WITH KATIE COURIC, but with the new title of chief national correspondent," a news release said.

'It was time to share Byron Pitts' extraordinary talents with millions of viewers in primetime in addition to our Evening News audience,' Sean McManus, president of CBS News and Sports, said in the release. 'Byron has certainly earned the opportunity.'

'Byron is one of the finest reporters in the news business and it is gratifying that he has worked his way up right here at home at CBS News,' said Jeff Fager, executive producer of the broadcast. 'He is a first class human being and a terrific correspondent."

As reported Jan. 2, Pitts' wife, Lyne Pitts, has resigned as one of two vice presidents of color at NBC News to write a book and move "to the next phase" of her career.

"In October Byron signed a deal with St. Martin's Press to publish a book in the fall of this year. It's his story about overcoming childhood reading difficulties and stuttering. We're doing a lot of the writing together and that will be my primary focus for the next few months," she told Journal-isms.

"I wanted to be a part of '60 Minutes' since I was in high school," Pitts, 48,  told Richard Huff of the New York Daily News on Monday. "For me, '60 Minutes' is to broadcast journalism what the Yankees are to baseball: It's the gold standard."  He told Journal-isms the first draft of the book should be finished by the end of the month. [Added Jan. 13.] 

Liz Spayd, Raju Narisetti Named at Washington Post

Elizabeth SpaydElizabeth Spayd, editor of, and Raju Narisetti, a former deputy managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, were named Tuesday as co-managing editors of the Washington Post, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli announced. 

Spayd, 50, is the first woman to hold the post and Narisetti, 42, who is South Asian, is the first journalist of color.

Spayd will be responsible for the hard-news sections of the newspaper; Narisetti will oversee Style and other feature sections, "as well as the visual departments, photography, graphics and video. He will be responsible for day-to-day online operations and will guide product innovation and work with Liz and me on newsroom strategy questions," Brauchli wrote to the Post staff.

"Together, Liz and Raju have talents and knowledge that will strengthen our newsroom at a critical juncture. Journalistically they are a powerful duo, with backgrounds in national, international and business news. Our national staff won four Pulitzer Prizes under Liz, while the Journal's European and Middle East staff under Raju won prizes from the Overseas Press Club, the German Marshall Fund and the World Leadership Forum," Brauchli said.

Raju NarisettiSpayd, a former assistant managing editor for national news, was a candidate for the managing editor's job when Phil Bennett, who resigned last week, was named in 2004. Eugene Robinson, now a columnist, was also a candidate then. Robinson is a black journalist, and his failure to get the job prompted a long-running internal discussion of diversity efforts at the paper.

Both Spayd and Narisetti have online as well as print experience, a priority for the Post. In addition, Narisetti is an enthusiastic proponent of diversity and supporter of Brauchli. He told Journal-isms in July, when Brauchli was named to succeed Leonard Downie Jr.:

"As someone who has worked closely with Marcus for nearly a decade, I can pretty categorically say his role at the Washington Post will also see the newsroom there - both print and online - become a lot more diverse in its appearance but, more importantly, in its thinking and its ability to serve a diverse Washington-based readership (via Washington Post), a smaller but important non-Washington yet US readership (again via Washington Post and its online version) as well as a global readership that turns to the Washington Post (via for an understanding of American policy and politics as well the American view of geopolitics around the world."

Marcus BrauchliWith Wall Street Journal backing, Narisetti launched the daily business journal Mint in February 2007, and stepped down last month as editor. 

According to a bio by the South Asian Journalists Association, Narisetti met his African American wife, Kim Narisetti, while at the Dayton Daily News in Ohio. She is a freelancer who has been an editor at Advertising Age, The Source, and the Journal.

Milton R. Coleman, who is on the ladder to become president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, remains deputy managing editor. [Added Jan. 13]

An overwhelmingly white press corps attended President Bush's farewell news conference Monday. (Photo credit; Chris Greenberg/White House)  

Even Bush Notes Lack of Diversity in Press Corps

Even President Bush has noted that "there need to be more minorities in the press corps," according to April Ryan, White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.

Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz Monday quoted Ryan to that effect in an article that noted the lack of African Americans assigned to cover the coming Barack Obama White House.

"Imagine you're president, at the lectern, looking out at those faces — is this a representation of America?" Ryan said in the piece.

"Eight days before Barack Obama is sworn in, the relative paucity of black journalists at the White House is striking," Kurtz went on. "A mostly white press corps at 1600 Pennsylvania would be cause for concern no matter what the color of the Oval Office occupant. But the advent of the Obama administration seems to underscore that racial progress has been uneven in a business that chronicles that very subject."

"It didn't exactly take a lot of sleuthing" to come up with the story, Kurtz told Journal-isms. "It's been the elephant in the room for years, and the advent of the Obama administration seemed like a good time to take stock of the reality."

Indeed, the journalist organizations of color have been complaining about the lack of diversity in the top political beats for some time. "By our accounts, in the midst of this monumental campaign for the Oval Office, black journalists had little to no opportunity to cover the candidates or the issues," Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said in a statement after the November election.

"Now in the midst of this defining moment, as the White House press corps is being formed to cover this country's 44th President, NABJ urges the news media to gather their own transition team for change."

Coincidentally, Bush held his farewell news conference Monday, speaking to an overwhelmingly white press corps. He called on two black journalists, Ryan and Suzanne Malveaux of CNN.

With Malveaux, Bush joked that this was the first time he had pronounced her first name correctly: Su-ZAHN, rather than Su-ZANNE. He told her he could be called "Zhorjh," simulating the French pronunciation of "George."

He also bantered with Ryan, seated in the rear of the room, before she asked him to reflect on the administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. He defended it. 

Roland Burris to Be Seated; Media Blitz Worked

Roland Burris addresses the news media in Chicago after Senate Democrats accepted him as President-elect Barack Obama's Senate successor on Monday. (Photo credit: CBS News)"Roland Burris will be seated this week as a U.S. senator, taking over the position vacated by President-elect Barack Obama and capping a bizarre, weeks-long saga surrounding the legality of his appointment," as Z. Byron Wolf, Jonathan Karl and Kate Barrett reported Monday for ABC News.

"Senate leaders first rejected Burris and turned him away from the Senate before finally accepting his appointment by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was arrested in December for allegedly trying to sell the very same Senate seat.

"The move reverses an unlikely standoff between Burris, a former Illinois attorney general who has not held elective office in more than a decade, and the powerful Democratic lawmakers who control Congress. The Democratic leaders had wanted to avoid accepting an appointment made by Blagojevich, because of the charges against him."

Burris had undertaken an extensive media campaign in his quest for the seat, and some commentators said that played a role in the Senate Democrats' reversal.

Here is how some commentators of color weighed in:

Amador Bernal works in the mushroom farms of Kennett Square, Pa. He makes $9.03 an hour and works seven days a week. Recent Mexican immigrants have better health than the average American, but their health advantage erodes the longer they live here, according to "Unnatural Causes." The series won an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Award.

Pieces on Health Disparities, Indian Abuse Honored

A seven-part, four-hour series that found that health disparities in the United States are related to income and race; public radio's coverage of a devastating earthquake that hit central China and a two-part series that exposed "gross injustice" to women on American Indian reservations "and the callous inability of bureaucracies to address the problem" were among 13 winners of the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards announced Monday.

"When a devastating earthquake hit central China in May 12, 2008, NPR's Melissa Block, Robert Siegel and their team were the only foreign reporters on the scene. They gave the world its first impressions of the catastrophe, and their ensuing reports contained vivid stories of grief, hope and survival," the Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism announced.

Of "Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick?" the school said, "In this extraordinary series, California Newsreel and Vital Pictures tackle one of the most challenging questions in public health today: Why are the rich so much healthier than the poor? Despite spending more on healthcare than all other countries combined, why does the United States rank so low on the lists of health indicators? . . . the series reveals that beyond habits and genetics, where we live and work directly affects our lifespan. The producers committed significant time and resources to this superb production and made a critical and complex issue accessible to all."

The series was produced with public broadcasting's National Minority Consortia.

The award to National Public Radio and Laura Sullivan said, "This series about the rampant sexual abuse of Native American women and the faulty policing and prosecution of these crimes explore a shocking statistic from the Justice Department: One out of three Native American women will be raped in her lifetime. Sullivan's three-month investigation involved dozens of interviews with law enforcement officials, victims and tribal leaders on reservations in South Dakota and Oklahoma. A devastating case of sexual assault that led to a woman's death was reopened in North Dakota in response to the series' findings. The series also resulted in Congressional hearings, and the Justice Department deputized Indian police officers to arrest non-Indians for the first time."

WFAA-TV in Dallas is to receive a Gold Baton, the awards' highest honor, "for its continuing commitment to outstanding investigative reporting," the first time a local station has won that baton in the award's 20-year history.

Reform-Friendly Obama Classmate Picked to Head FCC

"President-elect Barack Obama intends to nominate his technology adviser, Julius Genachowski, to head the Federal Communications Commission, a Democratic source close to the Obama transition team said," Amy Schatz and Laura Meckler reported for Tuesday's editions of the Wall Street Journal.

"Mr. Genachowski, 46 years old, is a former Harvard Law School classmate of Mr. Obama. He previously worked at the FCC during the Clinton administration. More recently, he co-founded LaunchBox Digital, a Washington, D.C.-based venture capital firm. He worked at Barry Diller's IAC/InterActive Corp. in various executive positions for eight years after leaving the FCC.

"During the campaign, Mr. Genachowski served as the top technology adviser to Mr. Obama, putting together a detailed technology and innovation plan that expressed support for open Internet or 'net neutrality' protections; media-ownership rules that encourage more diversity; and expansion of affordable broadband access across the country."

The media-reform group Free Press welcomed the news.

Obama Inauguration Called Bonanza for Media

"No major media company will miss out on President-elect Barack Obama's inauguration as they swarm Washington, D.C., in hopes of cashing in on an otherwise bleak first quarter," Andrew Hampp wrote on Monday for Advertising Age.

"The week of Jan. 20 will see a media blitz not seen since, well, the week of Nov. 4, when Mr. Obama's victory prompted record ratings for cable news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and Fox News and sent newspapers such as the New York Times, USA Today and the Chicago Tribune clamoring to reprint their Nov. 5 issues. Now everyone from MTV to QVC to Time Inc. is hoping to augment their revenues with commemorative coverage. Even Marvel Comics is in on the action, producing a Spider-Man-meets-Obama special-edition comic book that hits stands Jan. 14."

David Bauder added Monday for the Associated Press:

"In all their planning to cover Barack Obama's inauguration as the nation's 44th president, television networks have paid particular attention to people who must spend their day in front of a computer.

"CBS News has built a special inauguration Web site to show its coverage on Jan. 20. will have four live streams and will allow Facebook users to connect through its site. ABC is offering online archived speeches of past presidents. Fox News and MSNBC Web sites will both stream the inauguration live online."

Radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" announced on Monday it would broadcast live from Washington from Monday, Jan. 19, through Wednesday, Jan. 21. On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, Joyner and co-hosts Sybil Wilkes and J. Anthony Brown will go live from one of Washington's most celebrated soul-food restaurants, Ben’s Chili Bowl. Obama ate there over the weekend.

Should Columnists Appear on the News Pages?

"Grimm, Oppenheimer, Marquez, Reinhard — these are The Miami Herald's famous ''news columnists.'' They write their opinions in such a distinctive voice that we know them like neighbors. But that's the problem, too. What are they doing in the news pages, many readers ask? Why are they also reporting? And why doesn't The Herald just fess up and admit that it mixes news and opinion? Edward Schumacher-Matos, ombudsman for the Miami Herald, asked on Sunday.

He quoted Metro columnist Myriam Marquez:

''I rarely write off the top of my head. I report my columns, either by interviewing officials and others, or reading authoritative reports, or both. Sometimes I try to be light, offer humor,'' she said. Other times, "I write with an edge and an attitude, but also with a heart.

"I'm not one to be pigeon-holed by readers, because I tend to stick up for fairness — I don't align myself with one political party or another. I praise when I believe they do good, and condemn when I believe they've misbehaved and squandered the public trust. I don't skew way to the left or the right, but that doesn't mean that I deliver namby-pamby columns that don't come down on one side or another, with arguments that are researched.''

Separately, members of the Trotter Group of African American columnists discussed the piece among themselves.

"I had thought for years that this argument was silly, that readers are smart Rochelle Rileyenough to know that if a column has a person's big head on it and features the use of first-person analysis that it was obviously commentary," said Rochelle Riley of the Detroit Free Press.

"But lately, I have been re-thinking this because, in the past year, I have broken news during the mayoral scandal in columns that still featured my face at the top.

"Having said that, I do NOT think that columnists should all be shoved into editorial pages, which at some papers, get the least readership of any section. . . .

"We have found a solution, at least for me, at my paper: Now when I break news, I take a byline. When I analyze a story, I take a column sig. This doesn't apply to all columnists, but I quite frankly, have a pretty big opinion, when I offer one."

Eugene Kane, Metro columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, wrote, "I've always believed that most newspaper editors don't really understand columnists, so they assume readers don't, either. Frankly, I write on the Metro front cuz that's where they told me the column would appear. I would still write it the same way if it appeared anywhere else in the newspaper.

"I do think a metro-oriented column should focus on local issues more than national stuff unless you can make the case the issue has local interest. As for style, I consider columnists to be a species of 'soloist' in the orchestra who play their instruments differently than the rest of the band.

"Most readers appreciate this, but every few years you get the editor wondering if all these opinionated columnists are the thing that's really wrong with journalism, and not all of their mis-guided decisions on coverage, diversity, the Internet, revenue stream, etc."

Short Takes

  • The Asian American Journalists Association is holding a BlogTalkRadio conference call on "Journalism beyond the Traditional Newsroom," to talk to print and broadcast journalists who reinvented their careers with online news ventures, National President Sharon Chan told¬†members. It takes place Wednesday at noon Pacific/3 p.m. Eastern. The organization is "forming two task forces: one focused on Reinvention, reinventing careers and the industry to ensure a future for all of you, and one focused on the Power of One fundraising campaign, to ensure a future for Asian American journalists," she said.
  • "In many cities where dailies are struggling to survive and layoffs are plentiful, out-of-work writers are banding together to start websites to compete with the local press," Douglas A. McIntyre wrote¬†on Thursday for the Web site "Setting up these websites is cheap. The reporters already know their subjects as well as anyone else. They only need very modest ad revenue to do relatively well. Business reporters may go the same route. Look for a lot of new, smaller financial websites to open staffed by laid off writers and watch them give the traditional press a run for its money."
  • Andria HallAndria Hall, a former anchor for CNN and WNBC, died¬†on Monday after a two-year battle with breast cancer, according to Caribbean World News and the New York Association of Black Journalists. She was 51. From 2001 to 2005, she hosted the old Faith and Values Media's Sunday morning program "America at Worship," airing on the Hallmark Channel, which for two hours would take viewers to various services around the country, producer Jeff Weber told Journal-isms. Cards of condolence may be sent to her husband, Clayton Sizemore, 25 Ravenswood Lane, Scotch Plains NJ 07076.
  • The drug war in Mexico is "grossly undercovered by the media," former House speaker Newt Gingrich said Sunday on ABC-TV's "This Week." "I just want to raise one issue that did not come up today that I think is going to become very big this year," he said. "There is a war under way in Mexico. More people were killed in Mexico in 2008 than were killed in Iraq. It is grossly undercovered by the American media. It is on our border. It has the potential to extend into our countryside. It's a very serious problem. And we have managed to neglect it to a point ‚Äî and we're fueling it because it's paid for by our drug money. I mean the illegal narcotics teams in Mexico are in a direct civil war with the government in which they are killing the police, killing judges, killing the army."

  • NBC's "Meet the Press" began a series Sunday on how the Obama presidency can confront challenges in the black community, hosting Bill Cosby, Harvard psychiatrist Dr. Alvin Poussaint, Washington, D.C., Mayor Adrian Fenty and Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif. Since David Gregory became the host on Dec. 14, African Americans have appeared as journalists or guests on four of the five shows.
  • "Three bloggers who had sued New York City after the Police Department denied them press credentials because they work for online or nontraditional news outlets were issued credentials on Friday after the police relented, the bloggers' lawyer, Norman Siegel, said," Sewell Chan wrote¬†Friday for the New York Times. Ralph E. Smith publishes the Guardian Chronicle, a Web site for black law enforcement workers; Rafael Mart??nez Alequin started an online publication, the New York City Free Press, and David Wallis is the founder of, a syndication service that provides news coverage to 1,500 publications worldwide.
  • "In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there," Noam Cohen reported¬†on Sunday for the New York Times. "There are six reporters in Gaza, two working for Al Jazeera English and four working for the much larger and more popular Arabic version of the network, Recognizing that its material from Gaza will have influence in the United States only if it is highly accessible online, Al Jazeera has aggressively experimented with using the Internet to distribute the information it has gathered."
  • "In Vibe's February issue, writer Sean Fennessey writes about how to 'save' the Grammy Awards, a show he says omits key categories ('Best Ringtone,' 'Best Hook,' 'Best Hook Artist,' among others) and doles out awards to artists not on the top of most true hip-hop lovers' lists," Vanessa Voltolina reported¬†Friday for Folio, which covers magazines. "Piggybacking on this concept, the magazine has planned the first annual Vammy Awards during this year's Grammys season. . . . it looks like the first annual Vammys will be done online."
  • "Supporters of the ballot measure that banned gay marriage in California have filed a lawsuit seeking to block their campaign finance records from public view, saying the reports have led to the harassment of donors," Steve Lawrence reported¬†Friday for the Associated Press.
  • "The controversial chief executive officer of the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority (ZTA), Karikoga Kaseke, last week verbally assaulted a female journalist with The Standard newspaper, calling her a 'whore,'" according¬†to the Standard, reporting on Zimbabwe on Saturday.

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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The Black Media and the Obama Presidency..

Given the acknowledged fact that the media in America lacks diversity in every apect of the media industry on and off the page and camera, the role of the Black media during the Obama tenure is as critical and significant as any occupation during Obama's tenure . The question from my vantage point as an activist is will the Black media be conduits or filters as their role unfolds during the Obama presidency. Some Black media folks will be handcuffed in part because they are employees of white media outlets even those working for Black media outlets will also encounter shallow editorial oversight as well. One hopes during this historical period that the Black media will elevate and provide its marketplace with authentic coverage, accuracy, depth, transparency and the finest fiction, non-fiction and integrity driven journalism unmatched by those in the MSM. I for one will not accept nothing but the best from those in the Black media...

It is the first time in the

It is the first time in the company’s history that it will not be fully family-owned.  No one should really be too surprised by the announcement considering that Johnson Publishing has been struggling in recent years with declining circulation and advertising sales.  At one time Ebony and Jet averaged respectively, 1,294,824 and 900,000 in circulation.  But by the end of 2010 the circulation numbers dropped to 997,173 and 703,944.  Moreover, Johnson has seen a substantial revenue-drop from more than $472 million to $120 million.

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