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After 14 Months, Ebony Names Editor-in-Chief

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Amy DuBois Barnett Fills Slot; "No Plans" to Sell

Ohio Papers Lose Last Black Journalist Covering LeBron

L.A. Times Sports Blog Makes Light of Stabbing

Freed Journalists Providing Accounts of Flotilla Raid

Blacks in Memphis Lose Decades of Economic Gains

Univision Apologizes for Skit With Afro Wigs, Spears

Well, at Least Some Things Digital

Newspaper Vets Finding New Careers in Television

Short Takes

Amy DuBois Barnett Fills Slot; "No Plans" to Sell

Amy DuBois BarnettAmy DuBois Barnett, deputy editor-in-chief of Harper's Bazaar magazine and former editor of Honey, on Wednesday was named editor-in-chief of Ebony magazine, effective immediately, Johnson Publishing Co. announced. Harriette Cole, the magazine's creative director and its acting editor-in-chief since Bryan Monroe resigned as editorial director in April 2009, is leaving the publication "to pursue other opportunities."

Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Co., told the Chicago Sun-Times that "she has no immediate plans to sell Ebony or Johnson Publishing, the company that her late father, John H. Johnson, fashioned into an iconic and influential voice in the African-American community nationwide," Sandra Guy reported in the Sun-Times.

" 'I have no plans to sell the company. None,' Rice said, adding that she cannot say what might happen in the future.  'I'm really excited about Amy [Barnett] now. That's my main concentration now,' Rice said.

" 'She's very forward thinking and very interested in our digital space,' Rice said. 'We need to be able to move the magazine forward, and to come up with additional stories and perspectives, and for it to have a stronger voice in the African-American community.' "

In the announcement, Rice said that "Harriette Cole has been an exceptional contributor to EBONY in her role as acting Editor-in-Chief and Creative Director in the continuing evolution of the magazine," said Rice. "She was an integral part of landing key covers including First-lady Michelle Obama, Oscar-award nominee Gabourey Sidibe and musical icon Prince. We wish her well in her future endeavors.'

Cole wrote an advice column in the New York Daily News, was editor of Uptown magazine, made appearances on "Oprah" and the "Today" show,  and had previously worked at Ebony and Essence. She was based in New York and edited Ebony from that city as well as from Chicago, where Johnson is based, spokeswoman Wendy E. Parks said. Cole is also an author.

June issue of EbonyEbony is the largest magazine targeting African Americans, nosing out Essence with its average monthly circulation of 1,169,870 for the six months ending Dec. 31, according to figures reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Johnson Publishing Co., a privately held company, had been seeking a buyer in a tough economic climate for all magazines. Earvin "Magic" Johnson confirmed in February that an affiliate of his Magic Johnson Enterprises and Johnson Publishing Co. "were in advanced discussions to do business together," but said that "unfortunately we were unable to reach a definitive agreement."

Meanwhile, Johnson proceeded with a "rebranding," redesigning Ebony and Jet magazines and launching a new website for Jet, www.myjet247.com/, last month.

Parks would say only that Johnson had "a number of qualified candidates" for the editor-in-chief job.

The announcement called Barnett, among other attributes, a "brand architect. Most recently, she was the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of Harper's Bazaar. Prior to that stint, Barnett held top masthead positions at Teen People, entering history books as the first African-American woman in the country to head a major mainstream consumer magazine, and at Honey Magazine, where she doubled the circulation," it said.

It quoted Barnett: "EBONY has always represented the best of African-African achievement, society and culture, and I couldn't be more honored to be at the helm as we enhance this icon for the 21st century. I'm excited to bring the EBONY brand to multiple media platforms and to engage new audiences who will surely be moved by its resonant, provocative and authoritative perspective on today's African-American experience."

In her 2007 book, "Get Yours! The Girlfriend's Guide To Having Everything You Ever Dreamed of And More," Barnett wrote, "Take the initiative in your career: Whether it's updating your resume every few months, networking or dressing for success, Barnett urges women not to wait for that great job to fall in their lap - they have to go out and find it," as the Associated Press reported.

Barnett's appointment puts women in the key positions at Johnson Publishing, a decided change from the days when Rice's father ran the company. Rice is CEO, Anne Sempowski Ward is president and COO, Mira Lowe is editor-in-chief of Jet, Candi Meriwether is Jet managing editor, Terry Glover is Ebony managing editor and Parks is director of corporate communications.

LeBron James sits down with Larry King for an interview to air Friday night on CNN, his first since the Cleveland Cavaliers lost in the NBA playoffs. (Credit: CNN)

Ohio Papers Lose Last Black Writer Covering LeBron

George Thomas of the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal was taken off the Cleveland Cavaliers beat on Wednesday, he told Journal-isms, apparently leaving Ohio's major media outlets with no journalists of color regularly covering superstar LeBron James.

The lack of black sportswriters in mainstream Ohio media extends to coverage of other major franchises as well, but James is big news because of his impending free agentry.

In fact, some think he is too much in the news. "Each day ESPN has something new to report on the biggest NBA revolution since the 24-second clock was instituted in the 1950's," Dennis Bakay wrote on the website Phily2Philly. "What is Lebron saying? What teams are hot after Lebron? Will Lebron and Dwyane Wade go to Chicago together? Next, ESPN will be reporting on Lebron James' next gourmet dinner when he's out on the town."

In Cleveland, Plain Dealer Public Editor Ted Diadiun wrote on Sunday, "The Plain Dealer has never had a story quite like this one to cover, with the eyes of the sports world upon us over such a protracted length of time. For the sports staff, it's been like fighting a two-front war, with one being the job of reporting the actual news, and the other trying to get a handle on the vast amount of speculation, innuendo and rumor that rumbles around this story 24 hours a day."

The Plain Dealer used to have a black sportswriter covering James, but Branson Wright was reassigned two years ago.

Now it's Thomas' turn, but he told Journal-isms he did not know what the paper had in store for him. A former movie critic at the paper, Thomas, 45, saw that position eliminated.

"They gave me two years, and they didn't understand the importance of an African American athlete being able to [relate to] someone who may not have all the same life experiences, but can understand where they're coming from," James said. "Having grown up in a similar fashion, I can understand," he said. He cited, for example, his desire to own items his family could not afford when he was a child.

To some, the issue is bigger than coverage of James and the Cavs.

None of the top editors at the Plain Dealer, the Beacon Journal or the Columbus Dispatch responded Wednesday when asked whether journalists of color were covering any of the major teams in the state.

"The NFL is almost 70 percent black, the NBA is almost 80 percent black. African Americans have put a huge imprint on sports," said writer Chris Broussard, who started out at the Plain Dealer and went on to the Beacon Journal, the New York Times and ESPN. He says he takes nothing away from the white sportswriters covering the teams, but "not to have any African Americans is insulting. It's stereotypical. You're good enough to play sports, but not good enough to write about it."

Broussard points out the city of Cleveland's 52.5 percent black population, and said the absence of African American sportswriters was brought home to him last month when the Plain Dealer ran pictures of five of its sportswriters who commented on James winning the NBA's Most Valuable Player award — and all were white. There are also no black sportswriters on Cleveland or Akron radio, he said.

Duane Rankin of the Erie (Pa.) Times-News, who travels 90 miles to cover the Cavs, mainly in the postseason, told Journal-isms it was jarring to see black sportswriters from out of state but not from Ohio.

"Go in Cleveland's locker room? If it's not a national reporter, say a David Aldridge or Chris Broussard or Michael Lee from the Washington Post, it was just George Thomas from Ohio papers," he said.

"One of [the] things I did notice is when George was on the beat, he got better at it. Wasn't his thing, but he did get better and the players and coaches warmed up to him, particularly Coach Mike Brown, who is of course African-American. I remember doing a group interview with Brown and he referred to George as GT. There was a connection there."

For all that, Thomas, who has been at the Beacon Journal for 11 years, acknowledges covering the Cavs wasn't his ideal. "My dream job is always going to be a movie critic, but those jobs aren't available anymore, he said, "and the industry has essentially sold its soul to the bottom line, and that is too bad, because I was a helluva movie critic."

L.A. Times Sports Blog Makes Light of Stabbing

"Ted Green's post for the Los Angeles Times sports blog called 'Your Guide to Hating the Celtics' said of Paul Pierce, "By the way, Pierce's idea of a fun night is going clubbing and getting stabbed. Good times!" Kevin Roderick noted Monday for LAObserved.

"Well, it used to say that. In 2000 Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck and back at a Boston club and had surgery on his lungs; his assailants were sent to prison.

" 'Lakers fans and Celtics fans don't agree on much, but they'll all likely find common ground in believing that a Los Angeles Times columnist crossed the line by making jokes about the night Paul Pierce was stabbed,' says Michael Hurley of New England Sports Network.

"The Times has since removed the line with an editor's note: 'That comment should not have been published and has been removed.' Green, the former LAT columnist, is senior sports producer at KTLA Channel 5. . . .

"* Noted: KTLA is still running Green's original."

Freed Journalists Providing Accounts of Flotilla Raid

"Firsthand accounts from reporters who were on the flotilla of humanitarian activists raided by Israeli forces on Monday are finally coming out as the journalists are released from custody," Rima Marrouch reported for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

"These early reports indicate that soldiers harassed international journalists — at least six had either their equipment confiscated or destroyed, according to CPJ interviews and news reports. Media accounts have indicated that 60 journalists or more were aboard the ships; on Tuesday, CPJ independently verified the names and affiliations of 20 journalists who had been taken into custody.

"Othman Battiri, a senior producer at Al-Jazeera who was on board the Mavi Marmara and released on Tuesday, told CPJ that soldiers confiscated Al-Jazeera's cameras, tapes, satellite phones, and mobile phones. Battiri and his colleagues — Mohamed Vall, Jamal Elshayyal, and Andre Abou Khalil—identified themselves as press, and had their wrists tied with PlastiCuffs. They were also pushed and searched 'in a humiliating way,' Battiri said.

“ 'For sure, there is a psychological aftermath because of the way people were treated, especially journalists,' he said. 'We were supposed to cover this and it is not right that we were treated in this way.' Battiri added that they were released 'only in T-shirts and trousers' and without their equipment."

Memphis' changing circumstances contrast with the images of downtown put forth by Memphis tourism agencies. (Credit: DowntownMemphis.com)

"Blacks in Memphis Lose Decades of Economic Gains"

"Not so long ago, Memphis, a city where a majority of the residents are black, was a symbol of a South where racial history no longer tightly constrained the choices of a rising black working and middle class," Michael Powell wrote Sunday as part of a New York Times' series on "the New Poor."

"Now this city epitomizes something more grim: How rising unemployment and growing foreclosures in the recession have combined to destroy black wealth and income and erase two decades of slow progress.

"The median income of black homeowners in Memphis rose steadily until five or six years ago. Now it has receded to a level below that of 1990 — and roughly half that of white Memphis homeowners, according to an analysis conducted by Queens College Sociology Department for The New York Times.

"Black middle-class neighborhoods are hollowed out, with prices plummeting and homes standing vacant in places like Orange Mound, Whitehaven and Cordova. As job losses mount — black unemployment here, mirroring national trends, has risen to 16.9 percent from 9 percent two years ago; it stands at 5.3 percent for whites — many blacks speak of draining savings and retirement accounts in an effort to hold onto their homes. The overall local foreclosure rate is roughly twice the national average.

"The repercussions will be long-lasting, in Memphis and nationwide."

The Columbia Journalism Review approved. Holly Yeager wrote Tuesday, "Powell’s latest piece has plenty of good on-the-ground reporting, lots of data, and disturbing details about lawsuits around the country against big mortgage lenders that the business press should be tracking carefully. But the story’s biggest strength is the way it pushes past the now-routine stats about foreclosure rates and unemployment trends to get to an under-told story of the crisis."

Univision Apologizes for Skit With Afro Wigs, Spears

"Univision, the premier Spanish-language media network in the United States, apologized Saturday to Los Angeles civil rights leaders for a skit that was aired on the popular morning show 'Despierta America' ('Wake Up America')," Ruben Vives reported Saturday in the Los Angeles Times.

"In the skit that aired Friday, hosts of the TV show wear big black Afro wigs and hold small spears. They dance to music and sometimes aim their spears at the cameras while confetti falls.

"In a company statement released Saturday afternoon, Univision said it was already taking action: 'It is completely unacceptable and against our policies, standards and practices. We sincerely apologize to our viewers and all who were offended.' "

Well, at Least Some Things Digital

"Since its debut in 2003, The Wall Street Journal’s D: All Things Digital conference has been breaking news, highlighting innovation, and bringing you straight-up conversations with the most influential figures in media and technology," the Journal writes about its conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. It is sold out.

"From June 1-3, 2010, creators and executive producers Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher will put the industry’s top players to the test at D8, our eighth annual conference."

The "industry's top players" apparently, are not very diverse.

Newspaper Vets Finding New Careers in Television

"When it came time to find a new manager to oversee the vast Hawaii News Now newsroom, which represents Honolulu stations KGMB, KHNL and KFVE, the best candidate turned out to be the one with the least television experience. Mark Platte started as news director May 10 — leaving his position as editor of the Honolulu Advertiser daily newspaper," Mike Malone wrote Monday for Broadcasting & Cable.

"Honolulu is, of course, a unique market, and deep knowledge of the local manner is essential for any media manager in the 50th State. KGMB General Manager Rick Blangiardi acknowledged Platte’s 'great understanding of how Hawaii works' at the time of the hiring, and it was also a plus that Platte knew how to run a massive newsroom.

"As television enjoys an economic rebound, a number of newspaper veterans are likely to follow Platte into TV news. . . . with papers reeling, print vets appear to be finding new careers in TV, from former Kansas City Star reporter DeAnn Smith now at KMBC Kansas City, to New York Times reporter Louise Story taking a contributing editor role at Bloomberg TV, to Allbritton tapping a pair of D.C. newspaper-business vets, Jim Brady and Erik Wemple, for top jobs at the WJLA Washington/News Channel 8 Website, TBD.com.

"California’s Comcast SportsNet Bay Area added three former newspaper columnists and an editor in the last six months to provide insider scoops, online and on air.

“ 'As stations add new content creators to their newsroom, these are the kinds of folks who can create great content for the Web,' says Mark Toney, senior VP at consulting firm SmithGeiger, 'and who can extend that to the linear product on TV.'”

Short Takes

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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 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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