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Sunday, December 14, 2008

6 Photogs at Philly Inquirer Get Layoff Notices

Sarah GloverSix members of the photo staff of the Philadelphia Inquirer were told on Tuesday they were being laid off, including Sarah Glover, who was recently elected president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists. 

Michael Perez, a photographer who is Filipino, and Michael Levin, a lab technician who is African American, were also on the list, which was compiled based on seniority, following practices established in collective bargaining.

"To lose anyone is tough," Hai Do, the Inquirer's director of photography, told Journal-isms, "to lose six members is really, really difficult."

Citing declining revenues, the management of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News informed the leadership of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia on Dec. 8 that it intended to eliminate 35 bargaining-unit jobs at the two papers effective Dec. 31, and the Guild told members which job categories were being targeted.

"The layoffs as planned would come primarily from the newsrooms, specifically from the photo and graphic arts departments and the copy desk. The company also plans to cut six positions in advertising," the Guild said then.

Dan Gross, a Daily News reporter who is president-elect of the Newspaper Guild local, noted that in 2007, the company tried to blame the Guild when journalists of color were disproportionately laid off. "Our position is that we are not laying off anyone, the company is," he told Journal-isms.

Do praised the three staffers who are leaving. Glover, who arrived in 1999, is "one of those photographers who can do it all. She's what the future of journalism is," he said, referring to Glover's proficiency at multimedia journalism. Glover is a former secretary of the National Association of Black Journalists.

Perez, who joined the paper in 1998, covered the World Series in October, in which the Philadelphia Phillies emerged victorious; and Levin, who arrived in 1993, streamed live video on both election night and at the funeral of a police officer whose killing in May heightened tensions in the city. Sgt. Stephen Liczbinski had been shot with an assault rifle while investigating a report of bank robbery, police said. [Added Dec. 16.]

Richard Prince's Book Notes™: For Holiday Giving

While some journalists were dodging layoff notices or mulling over buyout offers this year, a few were practicing journalism in book-length form. They wrote about pressing social issues, the craft of journalism, the presidential election or their own lives. Some expanded on stories they covered. Here is the first of two columns on nonfiction books by or about journalists of color that were published over the last year or so.  The second installment will be published in the coming days. 

Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates, a contributing editor to Atlantic Monthly, has "The Beautiful Struggle" (Spiegel & Grau, $22.95). "I can remember being in college being so frustrated [with the media]: 'Where is the other side?'" Ta-Nehisi Coates told Lynell George of the Los Angeles Times, discussing this book. "I really wanted the full humanity of black folks to come across. That's one of the things we don't get."

"And so Coates set out himself to slip behind those late 1980s and early 1990s headlines, the statistics about 'endangered' young black men. 'A cottage industry sprung up to consider our fate,' Coates writes. 'At conferences, black boys were assembled. At schools we were herded into auditoriums. At home mothers summoned us to dinner tables and there they delivered the news: Our time was short.'

"Coates' book is many things: a tribute to his demanding, disciplinarian father (a steely, larger-than-life figure who in the pages of the book is as blunt as he is an enigma) as well as an homage to the complexities of the communities that he grew up in - in and around Baltimore as well as the metaphoric idea of 'black community' itself - and to the various definitions of family, of love, of 'support system.'

"Coates, now a journalist - he has written for the Village Voice and the Atlantic Monthly and was on staff at Time magazine - reconstructs that land of the past in a voice both reportorial and poetic. The result: a lyric, hip-hop epic that meticulously evokes the period through its textures and its talismans - headlines, break beats, back-in-the-day vernacular."

The father is W. Paul Coates, Vietnam veteran and black nationalist who founded the book publisher Black Classic Press. In the Baltimore Sun, Gregory Kane wrote, "Ta-Nehisi writes with the urgency and eloquence of a Richard Wright or a James Baldwin. I predict 'The Beautiful Struggle' will become the 'Black Boy' of its generation. And it's from a guy who flunked English."

An audio version has just been released, narrated by Los Angeles-based actor J.D. Jackson; a paperback is scheduled for Jan. 6.

Jesse J. Holland

Jesse J. Holland, recently assigned to cover the Supreme Court for the Associated Press, wrote "Black Men Built the Capitol: Discovering African-American History in and Around Washington, D.C. " (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95, paper).

With an unprecedented wave of millions of people expected in Washington for the inauguration of Barack Obama, this guide to black contributions to the city and its surrounding area might make a good companion. "Interest has been higher than ever because of Obama's election and the renewed interest in African American history in Washington," Holland told Journal-isms via e-mail. "I've got quite a few interviews set up for inauguration since I'm now an expert on AA history in Washington government!"

Holland explains in the preface that the book originated after he shepherded new AP reporters around the Capitol. "The more I did those quickie tours, the more it bothered me that there wasn't more information about African Americans in the Capitol. I know it's out there: African Americans around here have talked for years about the rumor that slaves built the Capitol and even erected the Statue of Freedom. . . . I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent human being, and I didn't know it to be a fact. Does anyone else? . . If it's true about the Capitol, then what about the White House? I found that slaves built that, too."

The National Mall, which is expected to be packed on Inauguration Day, "sits right on the site of what was one of the city's most bustling slave markets and jails," he continues. "Why doesn't everybody know that? Writers hear it all the time. Write what you would want to read." 

Jason L. Riley

Jason L. Riley, the only black member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board, has "Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders" (Gotham, $22.50). "From his perch at the world's leading conservative newspaper, Riley picks apart the demagoguery of media rabble-rousers such as Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan, as well as the cynical populism of politicians such as Dennis Hastert and Mike Huckabee," Geoff Schumacher wrote in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"This book expounds on two general themes," Riley writes. "The first is that, contrary to received wisdom, today's Latino immigrants aren't 'different,' just newer. The second is that an open immigration policy is compatible with free-market conservatism and homeland security. I explain, from a conservative perspective, why the pessimists who say otherwise are mistaken. I argue that immigrants, including low-skill immigrants, are an asset to the United States, not a liability. Immigrants help keep our workforce younger and stronger than Asia's and Europe's. As entrepreneurs, they create jobs. As consumers, they generate economic activity that results in more overall economic growth. By taking jobs that overqualified Americans spurn, they fill niches in the workforce that make our economy more efficient and allow for the upward mobility of the native population."

He told Journal-isms via e-mail, "Many Americans feel that immigrants are 'stealing' their jobs, but the feeling is especially acute among blacks, since they occupy a disproportionate number of the low-skill service sector jobs that Latin American immigrants are seeking. I discuss whether in fact black Americans are being displaced by these immigrants or whether other factors - such as education and labor regulations - might explain high black unemployment rates." 

Geraldo Rivera

Geraldo Rivera, the celebrity journalist now with Fox News Channel, wrote "His Panic: Why Americans Fear Hispanics in the U.S." (Celebra, $24.95).

Three years ago, Rivera lit up a National Association of Hispanic Journalists awards banquet when he urged attendees not to "let your newsroom push you around on the issue of immigration. Bust them on their hypocrisy," Rivera said. "In vast sections of the country, there would not be a lawn mowed or a dish washed but for illegal immigrants."

Rivera hasn't let up. He traces this book to a televised confrontation last year with Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly, "as close as I've ever come to a fistfight without actually punching someone" over the illegal-immigration issue.

Asked why journalists of color in particular should be interested in this book, Rivera said by e-mail:

"In broad strokes:

"1- Hispanics and the divisive issue of immigration are linked by mainstream culture, incited by wide-spread reckless cable tv and talk radio stereotyping and nativist propaganda

"2- a putrid fog lies over the 46 million strong community, as even citizens are racially profiled and disparaged. Hate crimes rise

"3- in November's election the Latino rising predicted in the original edition of the book happens crippling the GOP and playing a major role in sending Barack Obama to the White House

"4- that new activism and the relentless demographic surge of Hispanics is altering America's destiny

"5- for better and worse, brown is becoming the new black."

"It's hard not to wince when reading a polemic about immigration that comes from the pen of a flamboyant television journalist. Something about Geraldo Rivera's frequent insertion of himself into the story is off-putting," freelance writer Kathleen Daley wrote in the Newark Star-Ledger. "On the other hand, who has better credentials to speak up about one of the hottest topics on the national agenda - illegal aliens - than a Puerto-Rican American who has been on the scene for 40 years?"

The paperback edition is due March 3.

Gregory Rodriguez

Gregory Rodriguez, director of the California Fellows Program at the New America Foundation and op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, has "Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America" (Pantheon, $26.95).

"For much of Mexican American history, advocates fought to be included on one side or the other of the American racial divide," Rodriguez writes. "Before 1970, they sought to be recognized as whites, while afterward they insisted on being 'people of color.'  But . . . Just as the emergence of the mestizos undermined the Spanish racial system in colonial Mexico, Mexican Americans, who have always confounded the Anglo American racial system, will ultimately destroy it, too."

Arnold Garcia wrote in the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, where he is editorial page editor, "Popular tastes notwithstanding, the book deserves a read if for no other reason than it explodes several myths - not just about Mexican immigration but about writing history.

"First, it is a short read and a fun one. Rodriguez covers 500-plus years of history in a compelling way. He meticulously footnotes sources, giving the work a scholarly feel, but it reads more like a novel. That's the second myth he explodes: History does not have to be as dull as the labels on lead weights." 

Suzette Martinez Standring

Suzette Martinez Standring, a past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists, has "The Art of Column Writing" (Marion Street Press, $18.95, paper).

"No matter what happens to the newspaper industry, there's going to be a need for good content, and columnists have always filled that need," Standring told Journal-isms.

"Let's take a moment to deconstruct a newspaper column," she writes. "It compels or captivates with a tale, a message, or a persuasive argument. Jam-pack those thoughts into, say, 600 select words. Create an engaging start, an informative middle, and ideally, a surprise ending, all written in a voice so signature any reader could identify the columnist even without a byline."

"The Art of Column Writing" isn't just about newspaper columns, she writes. Even in the blogosphere, good writing distinguishes the mundane from the must-reads. The Boston-based Standring interviewed 53 people for the book and obtained contributions from various others, some of whom addressed the newspaper columnists group. She excerpts some of those speeches, such as one on blogging by Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post. Standring includes advice on ethics, on working with editors, on copyright, self-editing, specialty columns, syndication and on appearing on the radio.

"Standring's next book project is a novel inspired by her grandmother in the Philippines (where both the columnist's parents are from)," according to Dave Astor, writing in Editor & Publisher. "'She had nine children by a Spanish Catholic priest, but they never married,' Standring said. 'It's quite a love story.'"

Deborah Willis and Kevin Merida

Deborah Willis, a leading historian and curator of photography focusing on African Americans, and Kevin Merida, the Washington Post journalist who was named on Monday to be assistant managing editor for national news, have "Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs" (Amistad, $26.95).

A handsome coffee-table book with a photogenic candidate and his family as subjects, this book ends with Barack Obama's nomination in Denver in August, forgoing the fall campaign against John McCain so that the book could be published, as it was, before the election.

Its journalistic focus distinguishes it from the cavalcade of Obama souvenirs on the market. The text explains next to a photo of Obama and Sen. John Kerry, for example, that "even with the backing of Kerry, Senator Ted Kennedy, and Governor Deval Patrick, Obama still couldn't carry Massachusetts." It includes a photo of a vandalized Obama campaign office that the campaign preferred not be publicized, an item in a story that Merida had reported about racist incidents directed against the Obama campaign.

As with the campaign, the book comes with a cast of familiar characters: Hillary Clinton, Caroline Kennedy, John Edwards and the hordes of Obama supporters. A photo of the candidate and former president Bill Clinton, who had disparaged Obama's candidacy, cries out for the reader to write his or her own caption. There is a shot of the campaign press plane, and a photo of Obama magazine covers in America and of Obama newspapers in Kenya. "Our Super Power Son," one says.

"As a photohistorian," Willis writes, "I decided to include images from amateur photographers because Obama's ability to connect with people of all ages and classes and their desire to preserve his likeness for posterity is essential to the story of his nomination. Their desire to cheer for him, to listen to his every word, to lionize and accord him respect as if he's already president, is palpable. As is traditional with presidential photography, whether he's being photographed by a professional or an amateur, the images, at times, look almost biblical."

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 BugMeNot.com 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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