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AOL Patch: "We Do Not Focus on Race"

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Thursday, August 26, 2010

Diversity Scarce Among New Senior News Managers

USA Today to Cut 9% of Staff, Shift Emphasis to Mobile

Blacks More Likely to Favor N.Y. Islamic Center

C-SPAN to Air Glenn Beck, Al Sharpton Rallies

Joe Davidson Puts Diversity on Federal Column's Agenda

Cristina Saralegui, Univision Talk Queen, Ending Show

Columnist Says Obama Struck Wrong Racial Tone on "The View"

CBS News Colleagues Paying Tribute to Harold Dow

Short Takes

Patch site in Skokie, Ill., shows content ranging from news stories to events listings to classifieds. The network plans to expand to more than 500 U.S. neighborhoods in 20 states by the end of the year.

Diversity Scarce Among New Senior News Managers

AOL's Patch network of hyperlocal news sites, which expects to be "the largest hirer of full-time journalists in the United States this year," has finished hiring a top news management with little racial diversity and declared that "We do not focus on race or ethnicity in the hiring process, but rather finding the best person for each job opening."

Patch announced last week that it had hired four regionally based editorial directors who report to Brian Farnham, Patch's editor-in-chief, completing its hiring its senior editorial field management.

None appears to be a person of color. Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, editorial director of the Northeast Region, told Journal-isms he was a "pure American mongrel," with an Irish mother and Chilean father and having grown up in Ireland.

Asked about Patch's racial composition, Adam Isserlis, vice president of the Rubenstein media relations firm, transmitted this statement from Patch:

'Patch is entirely concerned with hiring the best journalists across the country, reporters who are passionate about local news and reporting. We do not focus on race or ethnicity in the hiring process, but rather finding the best person for each job opening.'

AOL this year did not participate in the American Society of News Editors' voluntary diversity census of online news organizations.

Diversity proponents have long maintained that color-blind approaches to hiring fail to break institutional patterns of discrimination and ignore the advantages of diversity.

Just this week, Michelle Alexander, law professor at Ohio State University and author of "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness," declared on public radio's "The Michael Eric Dyson Show," "Color blindness manifests itself as racial indifference. I firmly believe color blindness is a part of the problem. . . . 'I don't care about racial disparities.' That's how color blindness has manifested itself. We should be color conscious."

Ronnie Agnew

Ronnie Agnew, executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., and co-chair of ASNE's Diversity Committee, said it differently.

"No one should dispute that companies, such as AOL Patch, should seek to hire the very best talent available to ensure success of new initiatives," Agnew told Journal-isms. "But in saying it wants to hire the best, AOL Patch could not have constructed a better job description for recruiting and employing a significant number of journalists of color possessing skills the company says it wants.

"I go on record as saying that ASNE will be vigilant in pointing out to the nation's media companies the importance of diversity as a business imperative. Our industry is falling short. America has too many newsrooms that lack journalists of color, passionate journalists who are passed over because of systems of meritocracy that work against them.

"It is an unfortunate truth that ASNE's annual census and other independent studies have exposed the industry's shortcomings. Very soon, we will receive census data showing significant growth in minority population sectors. As AOL Patch seeks to hire the best, which we support, the company should consider the makeup of America and consider that communities of color do not feel news organizations speak to them or care to understand issues of importance to them."

AOL announced on Aug. 17 that Patch plans to expand rapidly to more than 500 U.S. neighborhoods in 20 states by the end of 2010. It said more than 500 journalists are still to be hired,

According to the Associated Press, AOL CEO Tim Armstrong conceived of Patch in 2007, while he was still an executive at Google Inc. AOL Inc. bought Patch in June 2009 for $7 million in cash as part of its years-long effort to reinvent itself as a content provider reliant on online ads as its legacy dial-up Internet access business fades. "AOL, which split from Time Warner Inc. in late 2009, said in a March regulatory filing that it expects to invest as much as $50 million in Patch this year alone," AP said.

"Patch builds its websites in communities with 15,000-75,000 residents, and each site is staffed by a full-time editor who works with an average of 11 local freelancers to create and produce site content. Content ranges from news stories to events listings to classified ads."

The New York Times added, "One journalist in each town travels to school board meetings and coffee shops with a laptop and camera. Patch also solicits content from readers, pulls in articles from other sites and augments it all with event listings, volunteer opportunities, business directories and lists of local information like recycling laws."

On salaries, Isserlis would say only that "Patch provides competitive salary and benefits packages, including 401-K match and performance bonuses." However, others have said the local editor jobs pay $35,000 to $42,000 plus benefits, and the regional editors, who supervise clusters of local editors, earn $65,000 to $80,000.

Among Patch's overall management team are William Nance, vice president, strategy and development, who is African American, and Sophia Fregosi, director of recruiting, who is Asian American.

USA Today to Cut 9% of Staff, Shift Emphasis to Mobile

"USA Today, the nation's second largest newspaper, is making the most dramatic overhaulUSA Today will 'focus less on print ... and more on producing content for all platforms (Web, mobile, iPad and other digital formats),' according to a slide show shown to employees. of its staff in its 28-year history as it de-emphasizes its print edition and ramps up its effort to reach more readers and advertisers on mobile devices," Michael Liedtke reported Thursday for the Associated Press.

"The makeover outlined Thursday will result in about 130 layoffs this fall, USA Today Publisher Dave Hunke told The Associated Press. That translates into a 9 percent reduction in USA Today's work force of 1,500 employees. Hunke didn't specify which departments would be hardest hit.

"The management shake-up affects both the newspaper's business operations and newsroom."

Journalists at USA Today told Journal-isms privately that it was too soon to say how they would be affected, except that they might get new titles and responsibilities. That was echoed by USA Today spokesman Ed Cassidy: "We are currently in a build-out of this new frame and it's premature to announce any new appointments and responsibilities at this juncture," he said via e-mail Friday.

"In the first wave of change, USA Today, which is based in McLean, Va., will no longer have separate managing editors overseeing its News, Sports, Money and Life sections," the AP story continued.

"The newsroom instead will be broken up into a cluster of 'content rings' each headed up by editors who will be appointed later this year. The newly created content group will be overseen by Susan Weiss, who had been managing editor of the Life section. As executive editor of content, Weiss will report to USA Today Editor John Hillkirk.

" 'We'll focus less on print ... and more on producing content for all platforms (Web, mobile, iPad and other digital formats),' according to a slide show presented Thursday to USA Today's staff.

Blacks More Likely to Favor N.Y. Islamic Center

While non-Hispanic whites overwhelmingly agree more with those who object to building an Islamic center in Lower Manhattan, non-Hispanic blacks are more evenly divided, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

The center's Carroll Doherty, who provided the racial figures to Journal-isms, cautioned that just 92 African Americans were among the sample of 1,003 adults. But he said the differences between blacks and whites were significant on the Islamic center issue. Whites agreed with those who object to the center by 58 percent to 29 percent. Among blacks, 47 percent agreed with those who think it should be built, and 40 percent agreed with those who object.

Overall, "The public continues to express conflicted views of Islam," the center reported on Tuesday. "Favorable opinions of Islam have declined since 2005, but there has been virtually no change over the past year in the proportion of Americans saying that Islam is more likely than other religions to encourage violence. As was the case a year ago, slightly more people say the Islamic religion does not encourage violence more than other religions (42%) than say that it does (35%)."

The second significant racial difference, Doherty said on Friday, was that 73 percent of blacks said they knew a great deal or some about the Muslim religion, compared with 55 percent of whites.

C-SPAN to Air Glenn Beck, Al Sharpton Rallies

"C-SPAN will be covering Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally at the Lincoln Memorial this Saturday, with Sarah Palin among those expected to attend. Coverage begins 10am ET," Chris Ariens reported Friday for TVNewser.

"C-SPAN also will cover the Rev. Al Sharpton's 'Reclaim the Dream' rally at Dunbar High School in Washington, DC. That event will be shown on C-SPAN later on Saturday. Rev. Sharpton will be a guest on C-SPAN's live call-in interview program 'Washington Journal' Saturday morning at 7:45am ET."

Beck announced on his "Restoring Honor" website that the event would be streamed live on the event's Facebook page

Joe Davidson Puts Diversity on Federal Column's Agenda

In taking on the 'Federal Diary' column at the Washington Post, Joe Davidson proposed 'to expose issues of fairness, or the lack of it, in its many forms.' (Credit: Jahi Chikwendiu)When Shirley Sherrod was forced to resign from her Agriculture Department position over an out-of-context video that portrayed her as a bigot, Joe Davidson saw a topic for the Federal Diary, his daily Washington Post column on the federal workforce.

"More diversity might have served USDA well in Sherrod fiasco," headlined a July 30 column. On Wednesday, when Sherrod declined to go back to the Agriculture Department, the headline was, "Can activists thrive in the government workforce?"

That column was followed the next day by, "Interior has way to go on diversity front."

The topic selection is decidedly different from that of previous authors of a column designed to serve a workforce that accounted in 2008 for about 27 percent of the jobs in Washington. The federal government is the city's largest employer.

Two years ago, Davidson, 61, became the first black journalist to author the column, which had been a Post staple since Nov. 29, 1932. Mike Causey, who all but owned the franchise for 31 years and coined the phrase "inside the Beltway," is still covering the beat, but at an all-news radio station under the title, "Mike Causey's Federal Report." Sample headlines from this week show what the column used to be like: "Flip-Flopping Teleworking Rules." "Tuition Relief: Is It Necessary and Fair?" "$60,000 Tuition Payback!" "Federal Unions: What Do They Really Do?"

"Diversity issues have been important to me from before my first column, which was two years ago this month," Davidson, a co-founder of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms. "In the memo I wrote that outlined the approach I planned to take with the space, I said: 'I would seek to expose issues of fairness, or the lack of it, in its many forms, including racial, gender, age and health status bias.' "

Davidson went on to provide examples of how he has addressed the topic since then. And he reminds that the column carries the advantages of any beat. "It is true that in recent weeks I have had a number of columns that deal with various aspects of diversity, discrimination and racism," he continued. "I think these columns have had more depth and punch than my earlier work and that may make them more memorable. Also, the longer I’m in this job the greater number of sources I develop and the more readers turn to me with story ideas. While I’ve always written about diversity, to some extent my recent coverage of diversity issues is related to an increase in the number of good, solid suggestions by my readers."

Cristina Saralegui, Univision Talk Queen, Ending Show

Cristina Saralegui"First, Oprah. Now, Cristina," Yvonne Villarreal wrote Friday for the Los Angeles Times.

"Daytime television is about to lose another talk show queen. Cristina Saralegui, one of Spanish-language media's most powerful women, is ending 'El Show de Cristina' (The Cristina Show).

"After more than 20 years of unabashed frankness and interviews with A-list Latino stars, Univision announced Thursday that Saralegui's widely watched talk show on the largest Spanish-language television network in this country will have its final episode Nov. 1.

" 'It is bittersweet to announce the end of what has been a very rewarding experience, but after many wonderful years, now is the perfect time to retire the show and move on to the next exciting phase of my career,' Saralegui said in a statement.

"The Miami-based show debuted on Univision in April 1989 as a daily program, switching to a weekly format 12 years later. It's estimated to have 100 million viewers worldwide — making it a tough gig to leave behind. But the Cuban American version of Oprah Winfrey isn't totally giving up her mike; she'll remain a member of the Univision family by hosting specials on the network."

A moment on "The View" revealed the constant pressure on President Obama "to gloss over questions of color, starting with his own, and subvert the entire history of black people whose experience he shares," Erin Aubry Kaplan wrote. (Credit: Pete Souza/White House)

Columnist Says Obama Struck Wrong Racial Tone on "View"

"From the beginning, I knew things were going to be tough for him, what with the economy and two wars and all. But I assumed he could at least strike the right tone on matters of race and color," Erin Aubry Kaplan wrote Friday in the Los Angeles Times.

". . . Late in July, Obama described black folks as a 'mongrel people' on the morning talk show 'The View.' Responding to Barbara Walters' question about why he didn't call himself a biracial president, he explained that blacks are mixed and always have been. That's strictly true. But 'mongrel' was a terrible choice of words, the kind of animalistic imagery segregationist whites once used to justify their treatment of blacks (especially men), who they feared would poison a 'superior' gene pool. 'Mongrelization' was in fact a word used passionately by the Democratic Party in the 1850s, by the Ku Klux Klan and by early eugenicists to describe that awful outcome.

"But I can forgive Obama's use of the word. What was less forgivable was that the president missed — or consciously passed up — a racial teaching moment that he is uniquely suited for. . . .

"The celebrity interview glitter of 'The View' masked a clearly white supremacist attitude that demands blackness be defined to its liking and adjusted to its comfort level.  . . .

"The problem is that the real experts — ordinary black Americans — are rarely in on these debates. They aren't asked to be. Or they're invited to participate only to co-sign the 'raceless' point of view that's already been sanctioned. That is the corner Obama was in on 'The View.' He may be president, but what the show made clear is that he's black first.

"Compounding the surreal quality of the moment was black co-hosts Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd sitting silently, nodding at Obama's conclusion that color is less important than people respecting each other. Again, true. But color and mutual respect are closely connected in this country; there is only a shade of difference between them. Obama not only knows this, he has seen it up close. Next time, he needs to tell us that in no uncertain terms."

CBS News Colleagues Paying Tribute to Harold Dow

CBS News colleagues packed a small Hackensack, N.J., church Friday night at a wake for Harold Dow, the newly retired CBS correspondent who died at age 62 on Aug. 14, apparently after an asthma attack.

Harold Dow "CBS News President Sean McManus waited in line for more than an hour to greet the family," CBS reporter Randall Pinkston told Journal-isms via e-mail. Services were to take place in Dow's Hackensack hometown on Saturday.

Others present, Pinkston said, were Susan Zirinsky, executive producer of "48 Hours: Mystery," for which Dow was a correspondent; Patricia Shevlin, executive producer of "CBS Evening News Weekend Edition"; Bernard Seabrooks, the first African American producer at CBS, a unit manager at "CBS Sunday Morning"; correspondents Susan Spencer, Anthony Mason and Maureen Maher; former CBS employees Pat Battle, a WNBC-TV anchor and Joseph Terry, director of the "Oprah Winfrey Show"; Taigi Smith of "48 Hours," and Jay Dow, a WCBS-TV correspondent who is Dow's nephew.

Pinkston said he had prepared these remarks for Saturday's service:

"When Harold was beginning his career as a network reporter with CBS, I was climbing markets from Mississippi to Florida to Connecticut — watching this smooth brother with the cool 'fro filing reports for Walter Cronkite.

"Imagine the thrill I felt when I finally made it to New York and the CBS flagship station — meeting the man I had seen on Network news reports.

"I approached Harold as I had approached other LEGENDS roaming the corridors of the broadcast center in those days — Douglas Edwards, Ed Bradley, Don Hewitt, Dan Rather.

"As a local news reporter, a beginner in the toughest market in the country, I greeted Harold with a sense of respect for his status and accomplishments.

"But he brushed aside my awe — treating me as a contemporary, inviting me to visit his office any time.

"As an African American trailblazer, Harold shared some of his tales of struggle. He was never bitter — using humor to pass on lessons learned — giving me advice and inspiration.

"When we were out of touch, it was usually Harold who would call me to go out to lunch — a NICE lunch — and NEVER the company cafeteria.

"He was my larger than life big brother, my mentor, my friend.

"Producer Harry Radliffe may have said it best. 'Harold was that rare commodity. Harold was real.' Thank you, my friend, for sharing your wisdom — your joy — with me.

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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Comments

AOL Patch

For the last three decades I have been repeatedly amazed at how "finding the best person for each job opening" almost always resembles a whitewash.

AOL Patch

Whenever white corporate interests in whatever area of the marketplace issues a declaration that they seek to hire the best and brightest that signals to people of color especially Blacks folks that these firms have zero interest in inclusion or equal opportunity...

Actions always speak louder than words when RACE is in play...

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