Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

5 of Color Out at L.A. Times

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Sunday, October 26, 2008
Nia-Malika Henderson to Join Politico After Election

In Third Cutback of the Year, 75 Are Losing Jobs

Carina ChocanoMovie critic Carina Chocano, veteran black journalists John Mitchell and Lynell George, Latino cultural writer Agustin Gurza and sportswriter Lonnie White, another African American, are leaving the Los Angeles Times as the paper undergoes yet another staff trimming, the five journalists said on Monday. In his farewell note, Mitchell said he was the last African American male on the Metro staff and that there were none on the National or Foreign staffs.

"I deeply regret to report that today, 75 of our friends, colleagues and capable staff members in Editorial will be told that they are losing their jobs. This is about 10% of our total staff and these cuts are comparable in scale to those made on the business side of The Times last week," Editor Russ Stanton said Monday in an e-mail to the staff.

"Yes, I've been forced to take the buyout package," White, 44, the Inside/Behind The Lines sports columnist, told Journal-isms via e-mail. "I've been working at the LA Times since 1987. When I began, the LA Times had only one African American sportswriter (Chris Baker) and when I leave 21 years later," there will be two (Kurt Streeter and Brad Turner).

"As a former USC player who actually played in a Rose Bowl game, it was a pleasure to cover the game as a sportswriter for the Times."

"No matter how far we saw it coming, it still feels like a shock," Gurza told Journal-isms.

"No plans so far. Once I gather my wits, I have to start scouting for work." Gurza said he spent almost 10 years with the Times. Before that, he worked about seven years each with the Orange County (Calif.) Register and the Riverside (Calif.) Press-Enterprise.

Mitchell, 57, joined the paper in 1979 and has been a suburban reporter, metro reporter, deputy state editor and south county bureau chief, his current position. He said he was leaving voluntarily because "It's time.

John Mitchell"I've got some projects I'm thinking about," he said, but meanwhile, he said, he would just take some time off. "It's been a tough year for everybody. This is the third buyout in a year," he said.

In 1993, Mitchell was a member of the team of Times reporters who won the Pulitzer Prize, awarded for coverage of the second day of the Los Angeles riots. Before coming to the Times, he worked as a reporter for the New York Post. He is a graduate of City University of New York, according to a bio.

He said this in his farewell note:

"It's my turn to say farewell. Nearly thirty years ago, I began working at The Times in a small suburban office next to a fish market on the Westside. I was among a wave of new hires brought in at a time when the paper's resources seemed limitless. I've enjoyed one hell of a ride at one of the best newspapers in the nation with colleagues who are second to none. I've had the pleasure of working on some of the biggest stories of our time and I've enjoyed finding tales that, in their own way, were timeless. I've been an editor working with some of the best talents in the business.

"But as this phase of my life comes to a close, my good fortune is tempered by a troubling reality: I am the only African American male on a metro staff responsible for covering the most diverse city in the nation. There are no blacks in Foreign. And at a time when the nation may elect the first African American president, there are none on the national staff.

"As I head for the door, I know I owe a lot to this place. It's been part of my identity for more than half my life. I've raised two children and have made more friends than I can count. And for all of that, I'm deeply, deeply thankful."

Chocano, who joined the L.A. Times in 2003 as a television critic, said she would like to write a book. Her first, "Do You Love Me, or Am I Just Paranoid?: The Serial Monogamist's Guide to Love," was published in 2003.

Chocano's family hails from Lima, Peru. She has a fan at the MediaBistro Web site FishBowl LA. "We're outraged by the bone-headedness of this decision: The LAT needs more excellent, smart coverage -- not less," FishBowl LA Editor Mayrav Saar wrote on Monday, "something bigger and better. Hell, with all the cuts these days, it won't be hard to find something bigger and better than the L.A. Times." Saar called Chocano "one of the best film critics in the country."

George, an arts and culture writer who said she was busy quickly cleaning out her desk, had been at the paper since 1993.

According to a staff memo last year when George joined the Calendar section, "Lynell joined The Times in 1993 in the View section. A decade later, she became a member of the Pop Music staff in Calendar, where she covered jazz, pop and world music. Through the years, her eclectic tastes, distinctive voice and graceful writing have set her work apart -- and brought many honors, including a National Assn. of Black Journalists Award for her six-part series 'Sometimes a Light Surprises: The Life of a Black Church.'

"Prior to coming to The Times, Lynell was a staff writer at L.A. Weekly, where she wrote about culture, the arts and social issues. Her work has appeared in various magazines, including The New Left Review, Ms., Essence and Vibe, as well as in several essay collections, including 'Writing Los Angeles: A Literary Anthology.' She is the author of 'No Crystal Stair: African-Americans in the City of Angels.'"

Frank O. Sotomayor, a former editor at the newspaper who is now associate director of the Institute for Justice and Journalism at the USC Annenberg School for Communication, told Journal-isms:

"The newest buyouts -- and force outs -- at  [the] L.A. Times represent another harsh setback to serious news coverage. And with the departures of Agustin Gurza, John Mitchell, Lynell George, Lonnie White -- and, likely, other outstanding journalists of color -- the Times is now less able to cover the incredible diversity of Southern California. Gurza, for example, provided knowledgeable perspectives about the Latino music, arts and culture scene in a city that is 50% Latino. I don't understand why the Times would not retain such a valuable asset." Sotomayor is also a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.

Stanton said in his memo, "The growing economic downturn is forcing us to undergo another round of job reductions and cost cuts." 

Mayor Wants Follow-Up on Bailey Project Findings

Oakland Police Sgt. Derwin Longmire (Credit: Nader Khouri/Contra Costa Times),Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums said Monday he will ask for an outside investigation by either the state or federal justice departments into city homicide Detective Sgt. Derwin Longmire's handling of journalist Chauncey Bailey's 2007 killing, the Chauncey Bailey Project's Thomas Peele, Bob Butler and Mary Fricker reported early Tuesday.

They had reported Sunday that the lead detective assigned to investigate Bailey's killing ignored evidence linking Yusuf Bey IV, former leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery, to a role in the killing and interfered in two other unrelated felony cases involving Bey IV.

"The Bailey Project's reporting has led to a police internal affairs investigation of that detective, Sgt. Derwin Longmire, and whether his close relationship with Bey IV may have compromised the case.

"Law enforcement officials said the investigation of the Bailey killing is in crisis.

"If Longmire is charged with administrative or criminal wrongdoing, the chances of convicting the one person charged, Devaughndre Broussard, might be jeopardized.

"At the same time, if a vigorous investigation of Bailey's killing using the evidence Longmire ignored is not quickly undertaken, chances of ever charging others and fully solving the most prominent slaying of an American journalist since 1976 could be lost."

The Chauncey Bailey Project is a joint venture between the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education and more than 20 other news organizations that came together to complete the work of Bailey, an Oakland editor and writer who was gunned down in August 2007.

A follow-up piece reported that well before Bailey's killing, Longmire twice interfered in felony investigations of Bey IV, according to police documents obtained and interviews.

"In both cases, Bey IV was charged with crimes despite Longmire's actions," it said.

'Will you be my black friend?' has prompted readers to share their stories about interracial friendships.Workplace Too Pale, So GQ Writer Goes to Craigslist

How white is the magazine and book publishing industry?

So much that a white editor at GQ magazine placed an ad on Craigslist seeking a black friend.

"My Craigslist post said, among other things, 'I'm a 36-year-old white guy. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood and have always gone to diverse schools,' Devin Friedman, senior correspondent for GQ, wrote.

"'I've always had a decent number of black friends. That's changed over time. I work in the publishing industry, which is super white, and I've realized that my group of friends is getting whiter and whiter. . . . It's amazing to me that almost everyone I know has either black friends or white friends, but not both. We could have a black president, and still not have a very mixed country."

It's not news that the magazine industry is not very diverse.

Two years ago, for instance, the New York Observer conducted a survey of leading New York magazines with the help of magazine staff members who agreed to review their mastheads and provide diversity breakdowns.

"The results, magazine by magazine, looked like the far end of assorted paint-color chips: ivory, bone, mist," Lizzy Ratner wrote in the piece, headlined, "Vanilla Ceiling: Magazines Still Shades Of White."

"The New York publishing scene is an insular place, run, in many cases, on old tribal principles of friendship, family and college connections. It is hardly unique in this respect, but magazines' tight margins, small staff and overall insidery competitiveness may make these tendencies more intense. People hire who they know – and perhaps people that mimic their advertisers' preferred demographics," the story continued.

Devin FriedmanFriedman, who grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, during the age of busing, "All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons," said he found diversity in the New York publishing scene lacking. It wasn't just the workplace, he said, but the parties and a culture that fails to confront the race issue directly, as the characters did in those '70s Norman Lear sitcoms. "In a way we have a post-racial world" on television now, he said, that doesn't reflect reality.

After a slow start, Friedman got some promising nibbles in his quest for black friendship. "I received an e-mail from a guy named Mike A——. Gingerly, the way you teach an injured bird to eat from your hand, we were able to convince each other that if we met, neither of us was going to try to kill the other one and make a dress out of his skin. He was from Nigeria and worked as a doorman in Tribeca," he wrote.

Eventually, Friedman made "a bunch of friends," including a criminal justice lawyer, his dad's occupation.

Since the piece has run, he said, he's received an "overwhelming" reaction. "Some people are angry with the silliness of it" -- placing an ad on Craigslist for such a purpose. Others, both black and white, wanted to tell him their experiences with friendship across the color line.

But why aren't there more African Americans to befriend right there in the workplace? One black art director told Friedman it was because black parents are too conservative to spend so much money on their children's education for such low-salaried results. Another said he had an opening for an editorial assistant but no people of color applied.  Friedman acknowledged that his colleague might not have looked in the right places.

As for solutions, "I'm an affirmative action guy. If it's not happening naturally, a little social engineering" might be in order, though Friedman hastened to add he was not advocating a quota system.

"The Project is a stunt, yes, but it's also an entreaty," Friedman wrote. "And it's not just about generic diversity . . . It's an argument for American white people, specifically, to be friends with American black people, specifically. It's a statement that there's nothing wrong with counting your black friends. It's that familiar affirmative-action argument: If it were happening naturally, we wouldn't need something artificial to create change. And I would say that the white man who doesn't know the black man doesn't know America."

On Obama, Juan Williams Never "Drunk the Kool-Aid"

Juan Williams, the African American on the "Fox News Sunday" pundit panel and one who has often been critical of Sen. Barack Obama on that show and elsewhere, was praised by his Fox colleagues Sunday for not having "drunk the Kool-Aid" as others have.

Here's how it went:

CHRIS WALLACE: Brit, has there been a liberal bias toward Obama not just in the general election, but also in the primaries? And how do you explain it?

BRIT HUME: Do you think? You explain it by the normal media tendency to favor Democrats and liberals. It's always been there since I've been a reporter in this town, and it's there again today.

You add to that the romance, if you will, of the Obama candidacy. Here's this extraordinarily appealing, young and obviously talented and intelligent young man who comes to the fore and surges through a well-managed campaign to his party's nomination.

I mean, look. There's something about -- and I feel this way about it. There's something about the Obama candidacy that kind of gladdens your heart, and reporters are caught up in this, and that's feeding into this equation.

And of course, here's McCain. You know, he's out there being the Republican, which is a strike or two against him to start with, and what you see is a reflection of all that, and . . .

WILLIAMS: Gladdens your heart? Ooh, he's a politician. I mean, Look. I mean, the Republican problem is that they have been running with a shrinking base of voters and they -- and that should have been -- gladdens your heart? I don't care if he gladdens your heart. He's a politician and...

HUME: Juan, I've got to -- I must say this to you, you know. I know -- and I've sat with you on election night when Obama's moving ahead, and I -- and you have expressed, as a black man would, the historic nature of what's happening.

WILLIAMS: Absolutely.

HUME: But you never really drunk the Kool-Aid.


HUME: But you're one of the few who has not, I mean, of all reporters. It's out there. Some of them have even acknowledged it.


HUME: I just think it's a factor in the campaign. But I would say to you at the end of the day that I still hold the view that for all of that, and the bias is real, that it has been the conditions and the events of this campaign -- not the campaign events, but the external events and the conditions in the country, perceived and real, that have decided this campaign. 

Chris Lopez Named Editor of El Paso Times

Chris Lopez "Chris Lopez, a 25-year veteran of daily newspapers who has held various leadership roles throughout his career and spearheaded coverage of some of the biggest news stories in the country, has been named editor of the El Paso Times," the Times reported on Sunday.

"El Paso Times Publisher Ray Stafford selected Lopez after a 2¬?-month executive search to find a successor to former editor Don Flores, who left the newspaper in mid-August. Lopez will begin work Oct. 29.

"Lopez is the former editor and vice president of news for the Contra Costa Times newspaper in Walnut Creek, Calif., and more recently a managing editor and general manager of The Desert Sun newspaper in Palm Springs, Calif.

"Like the El Paso Times, the Contra Costa Times is owned by Denver-based MediaNews Group, while The Desert Sun is a Gannett-owned newspaper."


George Coleman, 86, Edited Atlanta Daily World

George Coleman George Coleman, an editor and writer at the Atlanta Daily World who tutored some of the top black journalists who came through Atlanta, died Oct. 21 in Atlanta after a long battle with tonsil cancer. He was 86, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Sunday.

Coleman "was a beacon at the Daily World," Paul Delaney, a retired senior editor at the New York Times who once worked at the Daily World, told Journal-isms. Among the journalists Coleman tutored were Lerone Bennett and Robert E. Johnson, who attended Morehouse College and later became reporters at the Daily World and later editors at Johnson Publishing Co., John Britton, who also worked at Jet, and Harmon Perry, photographer who was the first black journalist at the Atlanta Constitution, Delaney said.

"George used to regale us with tales of his World War II service in North Africa," he continued. He was a truck driver in the Red Ball Express, a black unit in the segregated Army that supplied fuel for tanks and other vehicles as the Allies stormed across Algeria and Morocco.

"As one of his rookie reporters, I was fascinated by those stories, his poetic presentations of them. One in particular about his love for Oran, west of Algiers on the Mediterranean, so impressed, that when I was New York Times bureau chief in Madrid, where North Africa was an important part of the beat, I made it to Oran and sat at sidewalk cafe, looking out at the sea and toasted George. He smiled when I later told him my tales from a part of the world he so admired. Yes, he wrote poetry that he read to us; many of his poems appeared in the World."

Britton added these others that Coleman tutored: "Stanley Scott, who went on to become a White House aide during one of the Nixon terms; Samuel Adams, who went on to become a topflight journalism educator at the University of Kansas' William White School of Journalism; Eddie Williams, who retired not long ago as president of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies; and Francis Ward, now a professor at Syracuse University who was a former correspondent for The Los Angeles Times.

"You've heard the concept of 'managing up,' when a person of superior
ability, but a lower position, actually trains his/her boss.  Well,  Coleman did that with William Gordon, who, with the sponsorship of the legendary Ralph McGill, left The World" and became one of the first black Nieman Fellows in the class of 1953.

Nia-Malika Henderson to Join Politico After Election

Nia-Malika HendersonNia-Malika Henderson, a Newsday reporter and one of the few black print journalists who covered Sen. Barack Obama on the campaign trail, is joining Politico, the political newspaper and Web site that promised to improve its staffing diversity after its sole African American reporter left last month to write a book.

Henderson "will join us in mid-November," Editors John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei told staffers in a memo. "She's currently a reporter at Newsday, where she's covered the presidential race as well as features, crime and government news. Before Newsday, Nia worked as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun, as an intern at The Washington Post and as a news assistant at The [New York] Times. She's got a master's in journalism from Columbia and another in American studies from Yale."

Politico announced a post-election expansion last month to comprehensively cover the next president. Next year, it plans to expand its staff to more than 100 employees. The organization currently has a staff of 85.

Harris told Journal-isms he hoped the new hires would improve the diversity of the publication's staff. Helena Andrews, Politico's only African American writer, left in September.


Politicians Make for Winning Magazine Covers

The March 24 cover of New York magazine, featuring disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and the same magazine's June 30 cover, depicting presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama doing a "fist bump" at the beach, were among the winners this month at the American Society of Magazine Editors' 2008 Magazine Cover of the Year awards.

In explaining its choice for cover of the year, the organization said, "One of the biggest stories in New York this year was the fall of Governor Eliot Spitzer, after the stunning revelation that he had patronized a prostitution ring. New York's March 24, 2008 cover treated the scandal in a bold yet disarming way that managed to make news itself—telling the story of the governor's fall with a wry and unflinching point of view."

Its background on "Best Leisure Interest Cover" said, "Photographer Andrew Eccles shot two body doubles on a studio set, then chose the perfect head shots of the candidates, with meticulous attention to lighting, expression, and angle, to complete the photo-illustration. Like all successful leisure covers, the Summer Issue makes readers smile, and makes them want to have fun."

Short Takes

  • "In a shameless show of hypocrisy, CNN like the slave masters who profited from racism and slavery, decided that there is still money in racism and found just the Negro to help it cash in. At 10 P.M. on Saturday, October, 25, 2008, CNN premiered 'D.L. Hughley Breaks the News,'" Christopher J. Metzler wrote¬†Monday on David Mills said on his "Undercover Black Man" blog, "Oh well. You can't spell cooning without C-N-N." The show was also roundly panned Monday as unfunny and indulging in¬†stereotypes on the e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists. A CNN spokeswoman said, "This is a comedy show and there is no expectation that people will agree with D.L. all the time," adding that the show is evolving.
  • "The Chicago Tribune opened its Washington bureau during Abraham Lincoln's White House bid in 1859, and the Los Angeles Times did so in 1914. Now Tribune Co. boss Sam Zell has decided to combine them into one operation that will serve all the company's papers," Howard Kurtz reported¬†Monday in the Washington Post. "The current total of 42 staffers will be reduced by about 12, insiders say, and most duplicate beats will be eliminated. Who will manage the bureau is unclear."
  • "An outraged Rev. Al Sharpton is calling for the New York Post to take immediate action to address a column in Monday's editions that he called 'blatant racism' and a 'media lynching,'" the New York Daily News reported. "Post columnist Steve Serby began his column in Monday's editions with 'Good for Tom Coughlin. Good for Coughlin for tightening the noose around Plaxico Burress.'" The wide receiver has been fined and benched by the New York Giants for infractions that include tardiness and missing practices.
  • A wake for New York writer and broadcaster Clayton Riley will be held Wednesday at Frank E. Campbell, The Funeral Chapel, 1076 Madison Ave. at 81st Street from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the family said Monday.¬† The funeral service is to be held on Thursday at 11:30 a.m. at the funeral chapel. As reported Friday, Riley died that day at age 73. The cause was idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, according to his wife, Joy Vida Jones.
  • The Detroit News Web site provided a story and photo gallery¬†of Monday's funeral for Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops. Some 3,200 attended. "Voice of a generation still echoes," Cary Clack wrote¬†in the San Antonio Express-News.
  • ¬†Howard University journalism students will get a day off from the classroom to gain practical experience in the field on Election Day. The project coordinated by the John H. Johnson School of Communications will allow students to write stories and blog, as well as capture video, audio and photos during the historic¬†Nov. 4¬†election, the university announced.
  • "Just as the Internet is changing newspapers, so it is also changing the AP. In its efforts to survive the tectonic shifts destabilizing most daily newspapers and to brand itself online . . . the wire service is evolving into the world's largest virtual newspaper and a direct competitor to the papers that own it. When the news organization entrusted with calling elections sets off down the slippery slope of news analysis, it's hard not to wonder: Is the journalism world losing its North Star, the one source that could be relied upon to provide 'Just the facts, ma'am'?" Jay Newton-Small wrote¬†Sunday in the Washington Post, describing the Associated Press.
  • "Crystal Gail Mangum, the discredited accuser in the Duke lacrosse case . . . has decided to tell her story the way she wants it told. That version is 'The Last Dance for Grace, Crystal Gail Mangum,' a 200-page memoir that she co-authored with Vincent "Ed" Clark, a self-employed publicist from Eastern North Carolina," Anne Blythe wrote Friday in the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer.
  • "In Angola Prison in Louisiana, two men spent 36 years in solitary confinement ‚Äì the longest period of isolation for any American inmates in modern history. NPR correspondent Laura Sullivan has the story of the two Angola inmates, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, convicted of the 1972 murder of a young prison guard, Brent Miller, and the questions that remain about whether the right men were convicted." Sullivan's account from Angola is airing in three parts through Wednesday on NPR News' "All Things Considered," NPR announced.
  • In Nigeria, the Human Rights Writers Association on Sunday "cried out over continued detention of the United States-based online journalist, Jonathan Elendu, by Nigeria's security agencies," the Daily Independent in Lagos reported¬†on Monday. "It also expressed serious concern over the reported deteriorating condition of health of the journalist. Elendu has been held in solitary confinement by the State Security Service (SSS) for over nine days and without charge."

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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Fox News analyst didn't drink Obama's Kool Aid?

Did Brit Hume just pat Juan Williams on the head? How condescending. McCain, "out there being the Republican," Hume says, has two strikes against him? Golden boy McCain was and still is a fave of the press because he makes himself accessible. Howeveer, McCain has inflicted so many wounds on himself it is embarrassing. He is running against Obama, G.W. Bush, and sometimes the GOP extreme right. Now there are news reports that McCain is feuding behind the scenes with Sarah Palin, who wants to cut her losses and get ready for a 2012 run. Geez.

Fox Cable News is Jonestown

Kool-Aid, liberally spiked with white lightening, is the only beverage served at Fox Cable News. Juan couldn't have sipped any of the Obama Power-Aid even if he wanted to quench his thirst.

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