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"Afro Picks" Apology Not Unanimous

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Black Editor Asks, "Why Are So Many . . . Ashamed?"

Essence, Black Enterprise in Digital Magazine Era

Tiger Woods Voted "Athlete of the Decade"

Mexican Reporter Seeks Asylum in El Paso

Dale R. Wright, 86, Integrated a New York Newsroom

Threats to Environmental Journalists Growing

Stanley Crouch, Jack White Exchange a Few Words

Black Film Critics Association Picks "Precious"

Short Takes

Black Editor Asks, "Why Are So Many . . . Ashamed?"

Some black women bloggers saw red.The headline might have read "Publisher's Weekly apologizes for 'Afro Picks' cover," but the black journalist who chose the cover - and explained it to readers on Tuesday - says that headline doesn't speak for him.

Journal-isms asked Calvin Reid, PW's senior news editor and co-editor of PW Comics Week, whether it would be fair to call his words an apology.

"Ha!" Reid replied on Wednesday. "I certainly didn't use the word 'apology.' My editor in chief did, however, in speaking for the magazine.

". . . I'm happy to talk about it because I think there's a lot to talk about. Like why are so many black people ashamed of the black pride symbols of the 1970s. What's up with that!!"

The controversy involves the image used on the cover of this week's edition to illustrate its annual feature on African American book publishing.

As Reid explained to readers Tuesday, "The image was a photograph taken from a new book from W.W. Norton, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present by Deborah Willis, a collection of carefully chosen photographs intended to highlight the physical and cultural beauty of African-American life.

"The image (Pickin', 1999) by Lauren Kelley is a photograph of a black woman whose hair is full of Afro picks, the ubiquitous metal toothed hair-comb of the 1970s, complete with plastic handle in the form of a black power fist. The afro picks are arrayed in the woman's hair to create a kind of giant sculptural Afro hair-do and the woman is leaning slightly forward to give the viewer a better look at the quirky artificially created hair-pick crown. The coverline for the image is: Afro Picks! New Books and Trends in African-American Publishing and it refers to the feature story 'African-American Books in Today's Marketplace,' a look at the current marketplace for black books written by Felicia Pride.

Some bloggers, black women in the vanguard, hit the roof.

"Publishers Weekly Reduces Black Writers With Afro Picks," read the headline on a blog called "Womanist Musings." "This image is clearly reductive. It certainly conveys the message that the work of Black authors need not be taken seriously because it is somehow tribal and other. I am surprised that they didn't put a bone through the models nose," the author, identified as Renee of Niagara Falls, Canada, wrote.

"I don't even know where to begin in deconstructing this bizarre image. The black woman as the exotic, wild creature with crazy hair is not, perhaps, the wisest choice of images. Why not just have Venus Hottentot bare breasted and holding a book parading around the cover?" Roxane Gay wrote on her blog, under the headline, "This is Why Black People Always Seem Angry." She tied the image to what she called a marginalization of black authors.

Calvin Reid: 'I think the tide is turning.'On BlogHer, another blog by women, Nordette wrote, "Here we are in this brave new world of so-called post-racial sensibilities and yet each day reality pokes us in the eye, mocking us with 'You have not yet arrived.' "

Some even called the image "racist." Soon the cover became a Twitter topic, with its own hashtag, #afropw.

In Reid's public explanation on Tuesday, he quoted PW's editorial director, Brian Kenney. "My apologies to anyone who was offended by our cover - that certainly wasn't our intent," Kenney said in the piece. "At the same time, I'm delighted that Publishers Weekly was able to draw so much attention to Lauren Kelley's powerful photograph, Deborah Willis's wonderful book, and especially Felicia Pride's absolutely terrific feature on African-American book publishing.'

But that apology wasn't from Reid.

"I said I 'regret' that some people were offended," he told Journal-isms on Wednesday. "I 'acknowledged' that some people were offended. And I said that while I thought no one would be offended by the image, I was 'very wrong' because indeed some people were offended.

"I wanted to explain why I chose the image and why I wrote the coverline. I love that image. It's powerful and sweet and evocative of the black power and black pride movements of my youth. There's no need to apologize for using that image. It's an inspirational image and very empowering and creative," said Reid, 57, who wrote about contemporary art for Art in America magazine for about 15 years. Holder of a master's in fine arts, he joined Publishers Weekly in 1987.

"However, I am not so arrogant that I can't acknowledge that there are differences of opinion," he continued. "I respect that some folks don't like it and I'm happy to talk about it because I think there's a lot to talk about. Like why are so many black people ashamed of the black pride symbols of the 1970s. What's up with that!!

"One more thing. I think the tide is turning and I'm seeing lots of posts and blog comments that are supportive of the image. Thoughtful people are stepping up to say, what is going on. Why is the beautiful image being demonized. So, in the end, I think thoughtful people of good will are recognizing that it was an effective and appropriate image and this is a lot [of] noise that obscures the fact that nobody is reading Felicia's fine story about the black book market."

Essence, Black Enterprise in Digital Magazine Era

Essence is already on mobile "After letting the Internet slip away from them and watching electronic readers like the Kindle from Amazon develop without their input, publishers are trying again with Apple iPhones and, especially, tablet computers," Stephanie Clifford wrote Tuesday for the New York Times.

"Although publishers have not exactly been on the cutting edge of technology, two magazines — Esquire and GQ — have developed iPhone versions, while Wired and Sports Illustrated have made mockups of tablet versions of their print editions, months before any such tablets come to market. Publishers are using the opportunity to fix their business model, too."

Magazines targeting people of color appear to be taking a wait-and-see attitude. A survey on Wednesday found that Black Enterprise, in partnership with San Francisco-based, which calls itself "the largest newsstand in the world," has since March 2006 offered a digital version at the same price as its print-magazine subscription. Zinio is awaiting approval to include a Black Enterprise application on Apple's iPhone, spokeswoman Lisa Hagendorf said.

Essence magazine, owned by Time Inc., is already available via mobile phone. Other publishers of print and online publications targeting African Americans and Latinos did not respond to the inquiry, apparently not yet ready to make the leap.

Yet their readers would appear to be. An April survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project found, "African Americans are the most active users of the mobile internet — and their use of it is also growing the fastest. This means the digital divide between African Americans and white Americans diminishes when mobile use is taken into account."

Felix Contreras reported this month on National Public Radio, "Both the Pew Center and the Nielsen Co. report that blacks and Hispanics are using their phones more robustly than are whites."

Clifford wrote in her Times story, "The new approaches depend on two assumptions: that consumers will finally embrace the tablet computers that manufacturers have promised for years, and that they will want to read magazine-style content on them. Publishers are creating magazinelike products for these devices, but different mediums lend themselves to different reading styles, as the Web showed."

Amy Galleazzi, a spokeswoman for Time Inc., was asked about People en Espa?±ol. She said, "all Time Inc. titles will be looking at how they develop their brand for these new E-reader devices."

To a question about AOL Black Voices, Kurt Patat, director of AOL corporate communications, said, "We don’t have anything for 2010 that we can share right now, but can circle back to you in the near future if that changes."

Dan Woolsely, speaking for, a product of NBC Universal that targets African Americans, pleaded that his was a young site. "With the help of our partner, NBC, we plan to grow organically and healthily. This goes for not only the editorial side of things, but for advertising and tech as well. Our initial focus is on gathering and keeping a healthy audience base and putting out the best content we can. That having been said, we are developing a mobile site and new engaging ways to present and spread content. We are not currently involved in the development of any web-viewing devices like SI's tablet, but it sure does look cool!"

Some are more future-oriented than others. In November, David Hirschman asked Leonard Burnett, co-CEO and group publisher of Uptown Media Group, which purchased Vibe magazine, about Vibe's online version.

Burnett replied, "it'll be a combination of blogs, aggregated content, video, social media, iPhone. In digital today, you've got to have a vision," he said. "You want to know where you want to go, and you want to be able to adapt and adjust to the digital things that are coming on every day.

"You don't want to just hang your hat on Twitter or Facebook; we're going to have all that stuff, but there's going to be new stuff that comes along the way.

"Our motto is going to be that we want to be able to try anything that we think is going to be useful to us as a social media opportunity. We want to measure it quickly and see if it works (its ability to drive traffic and engage the consumer), and if it doesn't work, then get off of it. We're not even in the radio era of digital, and it's going to change. And so you want to build upon a platform that's agile enough to adjust and test and try, and invest in what works. The idea is to allow the consumer to be part of that process."

Tiger Woods Voted "Athlete of the Decade"

Wednesday's New York Post says wife is taking kids.As his marriage disintegrates and his golf career remains on hold, "Tiger Woods was selected Wednesday as Athlete of the Decade by U.S. sports editors, a result that reflects 10 years of greatness on the golf course rather than three weeks of headlines about a shocking sex scandal," golf writer Doug Ferguson wrote for the Associated Press.

"Woods received 56 of the 142 votes cast by Associated Press member newspaper editors since last month. More than half of the ballots were returned after the Nov. 27 car accident outside his Florida home that set off sensational tales of infidelity.

". . . Few other athletes have changed their sport quite like Woods. His influence has been so powerful that TV ratings soared whenever he played, even more when he has been in contention. Prize money has quadrupled since he joined the PGA Tour because of his broad appeal.

"A new image emerged quickly in the days following his middle-of-the-night accident, when he ran his car over a fire hydrant and into a tree. He became the butt of late-night TV jokes, eventually confessed that he 'let my family down' with 'transgressions' and lost a major sponsorship from Accenture.

"Even so, U.S. editors found his work on the golf course over the last 10 years without much of a blemish. . . .

" 'Despite the tsunami of negative publicity that will likely tarnish his image, there's no denying that Woods' on-the-course accomplishments set a new standard of dominance within his sport while making golf more accessible to the masses,' wrote Stu Whitney, sports editor of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader."

Mexican Reporter Seeks Asylum in El Paso

"Ricardo Ch?°vez Aldana, a reporter for the Radio Ca?±??n radio station in Ciudad Ju?°rez, Chihuahua, northern Mexico, is seeking asylum in the United States¬†after receiving death threats from individuals presumed to be members of an organised crime group," the International Freedom of Expression eXchange and the Mexico-based Center for Journalism and Public Ethics reported on Tuesday.

"According to information published in several national newspapers, before fleeing with his family to El Paso, Texas, the journalist reported on the 9 December 2009 assassination of two of his nephews and two of their friends.

"On the radio station's evening news programme, the journalist demanded justice and the arrest of the individuals responsible for the assassination, saying that the killers walk freely on the streets of Ciudad Ju?°rez 'as if they are protected by the police and military personnel.' On the same night that he reported on the killing, Ch?°vez Aldana received a call on his mobile phone in which the callers warned him that 'for being a talker' he would be the next one to be assassinated.

"The reporter said that he did not take the threat seriously at first, but that the next day he received another telephone call threatening both him and his wife and son. As such, he decided to cross over to the United States with his family and request asylum. 'Before crossing, I knew we would be arrested by the immigration authorities, but it's preferable to be locked up versus dead,' Ch?°vez Aldana said.

"Ch?°vez Aldana is the fourth Mexican journalist in the last two years to request asylum in another country after receiving death threats."

Reporters Without Borders Tuesday urged immigration authorities to grant an emergency residence permit — followed as soon as possible by political asylum.

Dale R. Wright, shown in a New York newsroom the late 1950s or early 1960s, was willing to put up with indignities for the greater good, his daughter said. (Credit: Family photo)

Dale R. Wright, 86, Integrated a New York Newsroom

Did Dale R. Wright ever talk about what it was like to be the first African American reporter in the newsroom of the old Scripps Howard paper, the New York World-Telegram and Sun?

"Yes, he did," his daughter, Kim Wright-King, told Journal-isms on Tuesday.

"He spoke of childish newsroom pranks, his being locked out of bathrooms, conversations stopping when he crossed shared work space, his food and drink he would leave at his desk being messed with and spat into — really adolescent pranks that were played on him for years by jealous, angry, childish and racist white news guys at NY WT&S. But my father thought the cost to him was little because he knew that having a Black perspective on such a prominent news team was critically important at that time and place."

As reported on Monday, Wright, an associate editor of Ebony and Jet magazines and a reporter for the World Telegram and Sun, died Sunday in the Bronx, N.Y., at age 86, his family said.

He died of chronic kidney disease and cardiopulmonary arrest. The family said Wright won numerous awards and was active in several journalism organizations.

"Dale's watershed account of the misery of migrant farm workers' plight and his first hand experience as a ‘stoop worker’ created a furor when they appeared in the New York World Telegram and Sun," where he became the newspaper's first black reporter in January 1960. The series was expanded into a book, "They Harvest Despair: The Migrant Farm Worker."

The 10-article series on migrant workers ran in the World-Telegram, and an article from the series was published in 1962 in Negro Digest. It won the Newspaper Guild's Heywood Hale Broun award, among other honors. A Pulitzer Prize jury forwarded the work to the Pulitzer board among three recommendations in the national reporting category.

He was also "the Press Secretary and Public Relations Director to New York political luminaries, including Mayor Edward I. Koch, Senator Jacob K. Javits, and Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller," the family said. Negro Digest said he also worked at NBC. And for 20 years, Wright owned and operated Dale Wright Associates, a business specifically designed to serve the public relations needs of emerging and established New York area black businesses.

Steve Duncan, a black co-worker at the World-Telegram and Sun who went on to work for the New York Daily News, became part of the "Daily News Four" who won a landmark discrimination case against the News in 1987.

David W. Hardy, leader of the four, told Journal-isms that Duncan often spoke "quite glowingly" of Wright, whom Duncan called "an unappreciated black reporter." Duncan died in 2002.

Services for Wright are scheduled for Benta's Funeral Home, 630 St. Nicholas Ave. in New York on Saturday. Viewing takes place from 10 a.m. to noon, with services from noon to 2 p.m.

Threats to Environmental Journalists Growing

"Cherelle Jackson turned a deaf ear to the threatening calls she got after publishing the first two parts of a story about a government-sponsored development project that was proceeding despite the misgivings of an environmental impact assessment," Betwa Sharma wrote from Copenhagen Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "But, when someone set her office on fire a little over two years ago, the twenty-seven-year-old Samoan reporter fled to New Zealand without publishing the third part.

" 'In small countries it’s really easy to access people,' she said Friday at the international climate summit here, walking and talking as she rushed to a press conference about threats to environmental journalists. 'Part of your job is to deal with the threat. So, I usually ignore the calls, but the burning down of my office is not easy to ignore.'

"The number of environmental journalists that are being attacked and threatened is growing, according to twenty-six press freedom organizations who sponsored the press conference. A representative of Reporters Without Borders said fifteen percent of the cases that the group monitors worldwide are now linked to the environment. Other watchdog groups have also found that stories exposing environmental degradation wrought by governments, industry, mafia organizations, and even small-time polluters are increasingly risky for environmental reporters."

Stanley Crouch, Jack White Exchange a Few Words

Writers Stanley Crouch, left, and Jack WhiteIn the middle of a column Monday about Tiger Woods, New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch paused to note "the racist article written by the creole Jack White for Time magazine. White wrote that O.J. Simpson had committed a crime against black women by marrying Nicole Brown."

Crouch did not respond to an e-mail asking him to identify the offending column, but on on Tuesday, White responded. He said Crouch "dredged up and totally distorted a column I wrote 15 years ago for TIME magazine," and wondered why, "When it comes to my skin tone, Crouch appears to have been stuck in a rut for more than a decade." 

White drew this lesson:

"Back in the day when I was still writing for TIME, most of the people I tangled with were bigoted white conservatives and neo-conservatives like David Horowitz, Don Imus and the Republican National Committee. Now I’m being blasted by fellow black commentators — one of whose insights are so superficial they are, literally, only skin deep. In the new, post-racial America, some Negroes have the freedom to make fools of themselves in the newspapers where everybody can witness their minstrelsy. I suppose you could say that such writing is progress."

Black Film Critics Association Picks "Precious"

The African-American Film Critics Association has named "Precious," the Lee Daniels-directed film about an abused black teenager, as best picture of 2009, the group announced on Monday.

Morgan Freeman was selected as best actor for "Invictus." Nicole Beharie was best actress for "American Violet."

In what it said was the first unanimous vote in an acting category in the organization’s history, Mo’Nique was chosen as best supporting actress for "Precious." Anthony Mackie was best supporting actor for his performance in "The Hurt Locker." Daniels was best director for "Precious," with a tie for best screenplay between Ron Clements, Rob Edwards and John Musker jointly for "The Princess & The Frog," and Geoffrey Fletcher for "Precious."

Short Takes

  • "The estimated time when whites will no longer make up the majority of Americans has been pushed back eight years ‚Äî to 2050 ‚Äî because the recession and stricter immigration policies have slowed the flow of foreigners into the U.S.," Hope Yen reported for the Associated Press. "Census Bureau figures released Wednesday update last year's prediction that white children would become a minority in 2023 and the overall white population would follow in 2042. The earlier estimate did not take into account a drop in the number of people moving into the U.S. because of the economic crisis and the immigration policies imposed after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks."
  • "The Comcast Foundation said it will make a $50,000 grant to the National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) in an effort to foster greater adoption of broadband Internet services within African American homes," R. Thomas Umstead reported Monday for Multichannel News. "The NBCSL/Comcast Broadband Legislative Fellowship will help spearhead efforts to reverse what is a disproportionate rate of broadband accessibility and adoption among African American communities."
  • "Regret the Error's" Craig Silverman awarded his "Correction of the Year" distinction to the Washington Post, for changing a Public Enemy reference to "911" to "9/11." "It‚Äôs Correction of the Year because it communicates that people notice and care about corrections, and because it demonstrates the participatory potential being unleashed by the Internet," Silverman wrote.
  • Rafael Olmeda, a reporter and blogger at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote Tuesday that when his son asks him what race he is, he'll tell him "human." "My son is descended from white Europeans. And black Africans and Native American Asians," Olmeda wrote.
  • Herbert LoweHerbert Lowe, journalist and new media entrepreneur, will join the faculty of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University as a professional in residence, the university announced on Tuesday. "Lowe, a past president of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), will teach journalism courses and help to create and lead a program that meshes entrepreneurship with business and investigative journalism, said College of Communication Dean Lori Bergen."
  • "More than one-third of the 23 young journalists who will take part in The New York Times Student Journalism Institute Jan. 2-13, 2010, at the University of Arizona are from the UA School of Journalism," Kate Harrison of the School of Journalism wrote. "Students were competitively selected by a panel of journalists at The New York Times from among a national pool of student members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists."
  • Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, the progressive national media watch group, has launched a petition to call on PBS to find "worthy replacements" for its shows "Now" and "Bill Moyers Journal," which will be taken off the air in April.
  • "Rep. Bobby Rush claims that the 'white-dominated' media are ignoring an African-American candidate running for President Obama‚Äôs old Senate seat," Sean J. Miller wrote Wednesday for the Capitol Hill newspaper the Hill. "Rush supports the only black candidate running for Obama‚Äôs old Senate seat, former Chicago Urban League President Cheryle Robinson Jackson (D)."
  • Named one of the "Power 150" by Ebony magazine, commentator Roland S. Martin was asked, "do you feel powerful?" Martin told Betsy Rothstein of MediaBistro: "I've always felt the media industry was the second strongest institution in the world. When you see folks overtake a country, they always take over the military first because you have to take the guns, Then they take over the newspapers, radio and TV stations. That is the direct way to the hearts and minds of the people, so we carry an extra burden in what we do in our daily jobs."
  • Avis Thomas-Lester, a reporter who is now blogging at the Washington Post, asked readers for advice on whether she should become a reporter again. "I am happy to have the opportunity to return to traditional reporting, but I'm not sure I don't want to keep blogging."
  • "The managing editor of a private newspaper in Cameroon has been held in police custody since Thursday, accused of insulting President Paul Biya, according to local journalists and news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Tuesday . "Managing Editor Jean-Bosco Talla of the weekly Germinal was picked up by police in the capital, Yaound?©, on Thursday and taken to the State Secretariat for Defense, headquarters of the military police, for questioning over a front-page item, according to the same sources. The item was an excerpt from a 2001 book published in Yaound?© by Daniel Ebal?© Angounou, a former government informant, alleging that late President Ahmadou Ahidjo‚Äôs handover of power to Biya in 1982 was linked to sexual relations between the two."
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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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Afro picks

Regarding the story about Publisher's Weekly: In addition to the wordplay, I LOVE the afro picks / Lauren Kelley photograph. If I could, I'd wear tee-shirts and accessories with the photo and paste stickers of it wherever I could. I'd hand them out for free at community events and wear it for every dressed-down occasion in which I'm allowed to present to youth. Now, some disclaimers: - I have worn a close-cut, medium length, and/or long (but who'd know it) natural haircut and a multitude of natural hairstyles for more than ten years. It's so ingrained that I let the ten year anniversary of cutting the perm pass without even celebrating, in spite of my pride and more secure sense of self. - I frequently hear that I was born at the wrong time or in the wrong decade. Even though I was born in 1980, people say I'm right out of the 1970's, and besides my hair, they usually reference my media work/voice, common musings, and overall sense of self(worth). For those who would be offended at the adulation of the afro, I'd like to posit that I am appalled and concerned at the growing phenomenon of Black girls and women (my sistahs) with no idea of how to care for their own hair (natural or relaxed), and with receding hairlines revealing physical and deep psychological damages that continue to grow (unlike their hair) from messages that straight is great. In closing, I love Reid's acknowledgment about differences of opinion, and feel it's worth stating that I respect those who make choices that make sense to them (including members of my own family in terms of their hair choices). Blocking images and photos like this, though, reduce or eliminate those choices, perpetuate the dangerous idea that there is only one way to be Black, and implies that Black artists should censor or limit their work and/or their insertion of politics into it. I hope the PW / Kelley critics give some thought to those potential consequences in terms of their objections.

PW Afro-pick cover

"However, I am not so arrogant that I can't acknowledge that there are differences of opinion. I respect that some folks don't like it and I'm happy to talk about it because I think there's a lot to talk about. Like why are so many black people ashamed of the black pride symbols of the 1970s. What's up with that!! Note to Calvin Reid: I was undecided about the cover when I first saw it, and when I saw the reaction. Then I saw your comment. You're not so arrogant? Claiming that anyone who didn't like the cover was "ashamed of the black pride symbols of the 1970s'' - that's arrogant as all hell. So was insisting that "so many black people'' feel that way. What's up with THAT, Mr. Reid?? (Extra question mark, to match your extra exclamation point.) Fine if you don't want to apologize, but how did you come to the decision to be insulting, presumptuous, patronizing and condescending instead? Way to wield your authority. Now I really do wonder why you chose that photo, and wonder if you even know why you did - since making fun of black people seems to come so easily to you.

NY TIMES Jan 2010 Student Journalism Institute

"More than one-third of the 23 young journalists who will take part in The New York Times Student Journalism Institute Jan. 2-13, 2010, at the University of Arizona are from the UA School of Journalism," Kate Harrison of the School of Journalism wrote. "Students were competitively selected by a panel of journalists at The New York Times from among a national pool of student members of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists." NO OTHER JOURNALISM STUDENTS OF COLOR IN THAT "NATIONAL POOL"?? ---- Eric, This is not the only class. The second is held "the last two weeks in May for student members of the National Association of Black Journalists or students at historically black colleges and universities." See: Richard Prince

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