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AOL Claims to Employ 4,000 Journalists

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

500 Said to Be Full-Time; Diversity Still a Question

Departing Anchor Considered for Statewide Ticket

Janice Min Named to Lead Hollywood Reporter

Bob Ellison, White House Correspondent, Dies at 67

Gwen Thompkins, Deb Price Among Nieman Recipients

Reporter's Intrusion Into Late Pianist's Room Criticized

FCC Loads Up on Questions for NBC and Comcast

More Disappointment With Quality of J-Students

Short Takes

AOL celebrates its 25th anniversary by inviting its alumni back to the company's Dulles, Va., campus to celebrate with co-founders Steve Case and Jim Kimsey, and Ted Leonsis, vice chairman emeritus (Credit: Russell Hirshon/AOL)

500 Said to Be Full-Time; Diversity Still a Question

"It's no secret that AOL is aggressively building out its content strategy," Leena Rao wrote Tuesday on "Today at TechCrunch Disrupt, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong says that the company now employs 4,000 journalists, 3,500 of which are part-time or freelance. As of last October, the company employed roughly 3,000 journalists.

"That's pretty decent growth in a matter of six months. Of course, AOL has launched a number of content initiatives, including buying hyperlocal news site Patch and launching content machine Armstrong says that AOL is really 'taking local to a local level.' Patch is now in 53 markets in 5 states, including Connecticut and California. And it's been reported that AOL will pour $50 million into Patch this year and plans to roll out the model to 'hundreds' of communities in the future.

"We know that Armstrong is not only bullish on niche content but is also looking for AOL to become a content powerhouse. But Armstrong said today that he's not interested on creating a 'content farm.' He believes the future of AOL's content strategy is in quality news. Hyper local is clearly a part of this strategy."

AOL is celebrating its 25th anniversary this week with a celebration of commemoration activities that kicked off on May 20 with a global employee volunteer day across 18 cities.

An AOL spokeswoman was unable to say on Wednesday how many of the new journalists AOL has hired have been of color, but the diversity at AOL appears to be uneven.

The AOL News team started life last year as AOL Sphere, with 17 writers and editors, all white. Today it has 19 writers and editors who all appear to be white, but people of color are among the "contributors."

AOL Sports has, however, hired writers of color, such as Terence Moore, Calvin Watkins and Terrance Harris.

AOL was listed as one of the online companies that did not supply diversity figures this year to the American Society of News Editors for its annual diversity census.


Twin Cities anchor Robyne Robinson of KMSP-TV begins to tear up Wednesday night in her final newscast. She was the first African American anchor in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Departing Anchor Considered for Statewide Ticket

Twin Cities anchor Robyne Robinson ended 20 years at the local Fox station Wednesday as a prospective candidate for lieutenant governor, with critics questioning the ethics of how she and the station handled that prospect.

"Robyne said earlier this week that she's been asked to run on the gubernatorial ticket with Democrat Matt Entenza," Neal Justin wrote Wednesday in his Star Tribune blog. "She says she's seriously considering it. (Entenza's campaign says no one has been asked, a strange contradiction.)

"She and her station say there's no conflict of interest until she officially announces she's a candidate. Bull. The minute she said openly that she'd think about it should have been the minute Fox officials thanked her for her service and showed her the door."

Referring to Minnesota's Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, David Brauer wrote Monday on

"On a day when the Pioneer Press quoted [Jeff] Passolt's co-anchor Robyne Robinson saying she'd been offered the lieutenant governor's job on DFLer Matt Entenza's ticket, Fox9 chose to leave Robinson on the air but not tell viewers a thing about what was up.

"This despite Passolt narrating a story about Mark Dayton picking Robinson's potential adversary Yvonne Prettner Solon as his number two, then tossing to the woman who could be Prettner Solon's adversary. As analyst Blois Olson tweeted, 'How do Passolt and Robinson not just start giggling?'

"Fox9 did publish a brief web story during the broadcast at 5:21 p.m. But geez, folks, you have the newsmaker on the set."

The Fox9 station manager referred questions to a Fox spokesman, who said, "There is a clear difference between being invited to be a candidate and announcing that you are a candidate," the Star Tribune reported.

"The candidate said he would announce his pick in the next few days on Twitter," KARE-TV reported.

Janice Min Named to Lead Hollywood Reporter

Janice Min"Janice Min has been named editorial director of the Hollywood Reporter, owner e5 Global Media announced Wednesday," Dylan Stableford and Sharon Waxman wrote Wednesday for the Hollywood website theWrap.

"Min was formerly the high-profile editor-in-chief of Us Weekly, where her contract negotiations with Jann Wenner were tabloid fodder in New York.

"Min, who took over the top job at Us in 2003 when Bonnie Fuller jumped to Star magazine, was making a reported $2 million a year — a figure Wenner wasn't willing to pay again. Min left Us last July.

"The move by e5 has been awaited with expectation within Hollywood, which has observed the severe decline of the once-dominant trade [magazine].

"E5 bought The Hollywood Reporter last December along with Billboard and other Nielsen-owned trade publications.

"Min's position is a new one, and will cover editorial leadership of various platforms.

". . . whatever her celebrity status on the New York media landscape, Min is an unknown entity within the clubby world of Hollywood, and does not come from the world of business reporting."

In an interview with TheWrap, e5 CEO Richard Beckman said this was not an issue, the story continued. "She understands the entertainment industry. She may not have run a business to business publication, but she truly understands the entertainment industry. I have 100% confidence in her ability to bring together strong team and strong vision," he said.

Bob Ellison, White House Correspondent, Dies at 67

On his Facebook page, Bob Ellison is pictured cycling.Bob Ellison, a former White House correspondent for the Sheridan Broadcasting Network and the only African American ever to be president of the White House Correspondents Association, died Monday at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. He was 67.

In a newscast on American Urban Radio Networks, which succeeded Sheridan, Ellison's son Michael said his father had pulmonary disease and a history of prostate cancer. "He was a former smoker. He did his best to quit," Michael said.

Ellison was most recently a senior vice president of Walls Communications, a Washington public relations firm. As White House correspondent, he covered the Reagan, Bush and Clinton administrations.

"Bob was a proud father and grandfather, a devoted journalist and a true friend," Wendell Goler, White House correspondent for Fox News, told Journal-isms via e-mail. "He took me under his wing when I arrived here at the White House in 1986 and was a source of support for many years after. Bob took the old Sheridan Broadcast network, now American Urban Radio, beyond advocacy journalism to the mainstream.

"His questions for the President and Vice President and their aides always went to the heart of the story. At the same time he never shortchanged his audience. He was accomplished at his craft and a source of pride as leader of the Correspondents Association. Under his guidance, the 1991 Correspondent's Association dinner focused less on the glamour of the evening and more on the scholarship provided to a local Washington, D.C. high school student. Bob and his wife Pam were gracious enough to attend most of the major events of the Goler household, from graduation parties to anniversary celebrations. My wife and I will miss him dearly."

"I will never forget him serving as emcee" of the 1991 correspondents' dinner, Jerry Lopes, AURN's president, program operations & affiliations, told Journal-isms via e-mail.

"As chair you emcee the sit next to the President (George H. Bush), you host the pre dinner reception for the President and First select the entertainment for the event (Sinbad) and the menu for the event. In honor of that historic occasion we had four tables and invited [the] entire civil rights leadership as our guest to witness the event....among those leaders who came ...John Jacob from the Urban League...Ben Hooks from the NAACP...Dorothy Height from the NCNW," the National Conference of Negro Women, "and Jesse Jackson from Operation Push.  Bob handled himself throughout that event with grace, humility and professionalism. We at Sheridan Broadcasting/AURN will never forget that. Oh did I mention he also did a bang up job as our correspondent covering the White House each day."

Lopes added, "I plucked Bob from WOOK-FM Radio in DC," a black-oriented music station.

According to Ellison's bio, "Before entering the public affairs and journalism fields, he designed and evaluated U.S. foreign assistance projects for the Agency for International Development while serving in Ethiopia, Thailand and Liberia."

Gwen Thompkins, Deb Price Among Nieman Recipients

Heading to Harvard: Gwen Thompkins, left, and Deb PriceGwen Thompkins, East Africa correspondent for National Public Radio, and Deb Price, who started what is believed to be the first column on gay and lesbian issues to run in mainstream newspapers, are among the 11 American journalists selected for the 2011 class of Nieman fellows, the program announced on Wednesday.

Thompkins is the only African American in the class, in a year when black journalists have been underrepresented in fellowship selections. Only one other American black journalist was picked among the programs at Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan: James Thomas, a Web editor at the Detroit Free Press, who was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at Michigan.

The Nieman fellows will spend an academic year at Harvard as a mid-career break from their daily work. "This year, a large number of them are freelancers and some have launched innovative journalism projects. They represent a new breed of pioneering journalists who will carry us, well informed, into the future,” curator Bob Giles said in the announcement.

Thompkins "plans to study the art of storytelling within a variety of disciplines, including music composition, filmmaking, epic poetry and the history of science," the announcement said.

Price, Washington correspondent for the Detroit News, "will study China’s explosive growth and the opportunities and challenges it presents Michigan. She is the Louis Stark Nieman Fellow. The fellowship honors the memory of the New York Times reporter who was a pioneer in the field of labor reporting." Price's column on gay and lesbian issues began in the Detroit News in 1992, and is now syndicated.

Among other recipients, Tony Bartelme, projects reporter at the Post and Courier in Charleston, S.C., plans to "examine the human, social and environmental costs of coal-fired power generation with a special focus on how the United States exploits coal reserves in South America," and Tyler Bridges, an author and freelance journalist based in Lima, Peru, "will study the changes, challenges and opportunities for delivering news in the digital era, in both the United States and Latin America."


[Giles provided this breakdown of the applicant pool on Thursday:

["In the US applicant pool there were 16 African American (15 a year ago); 15 Hispanics (15 a year ago); 4 Asian Americans ( 10 a year ago) 2 Native Americans (1 a year ago).

["Among the US finalists interviewed, there were 3 African Americans (1 a year ago); 2 Hispanics (3 a year ago); 1 Asian American (3 a year ago).

[The total US pool was 137 compared with 164 a year ago. The international application pool numbered 161 this year and 150 a year ago.

[The new class has 7 journalists of color --- 6 internationals and 1 US.

[There are 6 print journalists in the US portion of the new class, compared with 3 a year ago. The trend of fewer print applicants continues."] [Updated May 27]


"This was not intended to define Hank Jones and his legacy," New York Times writer Corey Kilgannon protested, defending his description of the deceased musician's apartment.

Reporter's Intrusion Into Late Pianist's Room Criticized

"Last Sunday, the legendary jazz pianist Hank Jones died peacefully at the age of 91, at a Bronx hospice," journalists who write about the New York Times anonymously for the nytpicker website noted on Sunday.

"By the next day, NYT reporter Corey Kilgannon had talked his way into Jones's room in an Upper West Side apartment. On Tuesday, Kilgannon (sharing a byline with City Room editor Andy Newman) posted a piece on the City Room blog that portrayed Jones as a lonely old man in a messy studio — setting off a firestorm of complaints from Jones's family and friends that he'd invaded Jones's privacy, and besmirched his legacy.

"We'd say the complainers are right on both counts. Intentionally or not, the City Room post reads like an attempt to make Jones's life look lonely and sad, made even worse by the reporter's brazen disregard for Jones's privacy by snapping — and publishing — a photo from inside his room."

Kilgannon replied on the same blog. "I found it touching that Mr. Jones chose such an isolated life, towards the end, and I probably could have been better at describing that it seemed by-choice, out of passion for his art, not out of depression or some sense of shame," he wrote.

"This was not intended to define Mr. Jones and his legacy by the condition of his room, but rather to attempt to glimpse him as a human, to add to the official and public image we already have of him. If he lived in a mansion, I would have been just as eager to visit and write about that."

FCC Loads Up on Questions for NBC and Comcast

"Looks like the legal teams at Comcast Corp. and General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal are going to be working this holiday weekend," Joe Flint wrote Tuesday for the Los Angeles Times.

"Last week, the Federal Communications Commission sent questions to Comcast and NBC Universal as part of the regulatory agency's review of the merger between the nation's largest cable and broadband provider and the entertainment giant.

"The questions are, to put it mildly, very detailed and probing and no doubt will require both companies to reveal confidential information, much of it involving third parties. About the only thing the FCC doesn't want to know about Comcast and NBC is what's on the menu at their respective cafeterias."

Meanwhile, "a group advocating Black media ownership and a former Federal Communications Commission chairman are spearheading a crusade against cable giant Comcast and their proposed merger with NBC/Universal over the cable operator's lack of African-American owned channels on its national platform," Pharoah Martin wrote Monday for the National Newspaper Publishers Association.

He was referring to a group called the National Coalition of African American Owned Media and former FCC chairman Kevin Martin.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists also opposes the merger.

More Disappointment With Quality of J-Students

Dwight Cunningham"Today, I have a new 'F Troop,' and I am not amused," Dwight Cunningham wrote on his blog this month. "These troopers are my failing or mediocre journalism students at Howard University in Washington. They don't know that mid-year elections come every two years, that 33 (or 34) U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs, that 'ensure' means something totally different than 'insure' — and they don't care about their collective ignorance.

"They just want a passing grade, to get them to some unknown next level of stupid oblivion.

"I don't get it. I don't understand how we as Black Americans could have let this happen at Howard University, so called 'The Mecca' of black higher education. If this is the Mecca, then Mohammed must be in Acapulco."

Cunningham was describing his "Reporting and Writing" class, and his observations dovetailed with those of Jack White, who wrote on his own blog that he had failed half of his "Writing for the Media" class at Howard.

Julianne MalveauxWhen White posted a link to Cunningham's blog post on his Facebook page this week, one of those who responded was Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women.

"It reminds me of the work that we have to do to reinforce standards for our young people," she wrote. "However, students with get-over (plead the case, be the exception, my dog died) mentalities are usually the offspring of get-over parents. Okay, I'm not supposed to say that! So I'll stop. In any case, I am grateful to all of you who embrace HBCUs, who work with us under less than ideal conditions, for a fraction of the pay you could command, and mostly because you care."

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 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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Dwight Cunningham

I can see that Mr.Cunningham was very disappointed in quality of his J-School students at Howard University. He should be since he really didn't teach them anything worthy beyond an "F" grade. Instead of complaining about their online viewing habits and failures to read major Journalism books. He must demand full accountability from his students for their negligent academic actions by having them sign contracts at the beginning of each semester while passing out the syllabus!

Dwight Cunningham

It's societal. This generation of students is called the "millenials." Thanks to Dwight for his courage in calling them out. My hunch is that he'll pay a price. Howard U. is probably like UC Berkeley, which gives students the opportunity to write evaluations of their instructions. My experience is that students react negatively when you lean on them. They strike back by making negative comments about the instructor in the evaluations, which are anonymous. These evaluations are a primary consideration in tenure and promotion cases. It's like evaluating your urologist right after receiving a prostate exam.

Bob Ellison

Rest in peace Bob Ellison. I started out in journalism cutting Bob's radio spots in the newsroom at Sheridan Broadcasting Network. I started there when I was 19 and a sophomore at Pitt. Jerry Lopes was my first boss, and Bob was my first example of a Washington journalist. He was incredibly warm and generous and cheerful when he called in his stories, and he was always patient and understanding when I was just learning to cut audio (with razor blades, back then) and would leave the edges of his sound bites ragged or too sharp. He taught me very early on that journalists did not have to be pushy and rude to get their questions answered. And he never talked down to the newbies. He was a solid journalist and a solid role model. He will be missed. - Lynette Clemetson, Knight-Wallace Fellow 2010

Quality of J-Students at Howard University

I matriculated at Howard University in the 80s. My professor for my journalism and public relations courses was Dr. Barbara Hines. Dr. Hines established very high academic standards for her students. From what I could observe, most of her students met those expectations. I earned a 4.0 from her and it wasn't easy. She possessed a rare combination of being highly credible (in that she was very knowledgeable), challenging, extremely well organized, inspiring, approachable, and she always kept her word. I credit much of my success as a professor from what I learned from her at Howard University. Mona Freeman Leonard, Professor and Department Chair of Communication and Journalism -Jefferson Community and Technical College

Bob Ellison

I first met Bob when we both worked at WOOK, both Super Soul 1340 WOOK and when it became OK100 FM in 1976. Bob was hired by Carl Ferguson, the legendary News Director at WOOK, who took Bob under his guidance and allowed him to develop his abilities. Bob was always pleasant to talk with and had a great sense of humor, but was an especially serious journalist. I'll never forget how surprised and elated I was to find out he was at the White House for Sheridan Broadcasting, and continuing to be Bob, when we saw each other for the first time in a few years. he invited me to come to his little booth in the White House Press area, something I cherished at the time, not knowing that many years later, I would get to do weekend coverage at the White House during the Clinton Administration for NPR. In the last few years, it has been my distinct pleasure to do stories on his son Mike, who has become a great singer and musician known as Mike-E, and is loved immensely in Ethiopia, where he makes numerous appearances and just happens to be the place of his birth. My condolences go out to Bob's family and friends. I'm so glad we talked last month. His voice and his willingness to selflessly help others learn their craft will be missed immeasurably.

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