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Author, Sportswriter Ralph Wiley Dies

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Sunday, June 13, 2004

"Arguably, the Best Sports Commentary on the Web"

Ralph Wiley, author, columnist and former senior writer for Sports Illustrated, died Sunday night of heart failure, ESPN reported today. The Orlando Sentinel said in its Tuesday editions that Wiley died in his Orlando home. He was 52.

Wiley joined's Page 2 at its inception in November 2000 and had written more than 240 columns for the Web site.

"For the past three and a half years, Ralph has produced a body of work that was both exceptional and insightful and arguably the best sports commentary on the web," John Walsh, executive vice president and executive editor, ESPN, in a statement.

Among Wiley's books was a collection of essays, "Why Black People Tend to Shout," and last year saw publication of his "Growing Up King" (Warner Books) co-written with Dexter Scott King, second son of Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

"I got involved with the Dexter King/King book project in the larger sense in April 1968, when Dr. King was shot in Memphis, where I was born, and where I was leaving junior high at the time. Always felt a sense of guilt about it; always wanted to do something, anything, to help make it, if not right, then better," Wiley told Journal-isms then.

"It was hard. Hard to research, hard to structure, hard to write the book so as to make it read easy and yet be deeply exploratory, to maintain a certain lightness of touch almost in spite of the heaviness and darkness of some of the subject matter," Wiley said.

Dexter and an adviser "were more than a little ambivalent, thinking people had a poor opinion of Dexter. I tried to show them people's feelings about Dexter had nothing to do with him, [and that] his family's lives [were] worthy story subjects. So I agreed to do the book, dove into it, [and] found all Coretta Scott King's life and all four of her children's lives, and the lives of those around them, to constitute a compelling tale, especially told from the perspective of what starts out as a 7-year-old boy."

Text of ESPN's obituary at the end of today's posting.

Obituary by National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service

The Wiz could turn a phrase (Ralph Ratto, San Francisco Chronicle and

Black Print Writers Scarce on Campaign Trail

"There are more African-Americans covering the presidential campaign on television than for major newspapers," writes Harry Jaffe in the Washingtonian magazine online.

"To prove the point: Terry Neal, who covers the political campaigns for but not for the daily newspaper, is about to sign a contract to become a political analyst for CNN. He will join Carlos Watson as the second African-American analyzing the campaigns for CNN."

Neal will hold down a part-time political analyst position, mostly for "Newsnight with Aaron Brown" and "CNN Headline News,"

Neal told Journal-isms, as he continues to write for the Post Web site.

"For the print reporters on the campaign bus, the road ahead looks like the great white way," Jaffe continued.

"The principal campaign reporters behind the bylines for the major dailies are white."

The Washington Post's Vanessa Williams "filed solid stories for the Post during the primary season, but there are no assurance[s] that she'll go back to the trail. Mike Fletcher will rejoin the political staff when he and Kevin Merida finish their book about Clarence Thomas.

"Meanwhile, the New York Times's full-time political staff is white as well. The Times did send three black reporters on the trail in the early stages, but they may or may not report on the main presidential campaign. Rachel Swarns, Lynette Clemetson, and Randy Archibold covered the primaries, according to Times editors.

"USA Today has no African-Americans covering the campaign," though the Boston Globe and Knight Ridder Washington bureau do, in Wayne Washington and William Douglas, respectively.

"Comparing the daily papers to television can create a distorted picture because the cable channels pack their presentations with analysts and talking heads, with fewer actual beat reporters. Still, TV does give the impression of diversity," writes Jaffe.

In Atlanta, Ray Charles Beat Reagan in News Play

Some news consumers were more interested in the passing of Ray Charles Thursday than by the preparations for Ronald Reagan's state funeral. And in Atlanta and a few other places with particular ties to the musician dubbed a national treasure, it was Charles who received the prime position in the morning newspaper.

In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the story about the man who sang what became the state song, "Georgia on My Mind," was stripped across the top of the front page, with his image and a snippet of the song lyric, planning editor Sarah Hicks told Journal-isms. Readers were referred to the Living section, which featured an appreciation of Charles that jumped to the back of that section and a poster of Charles as a bonus.

The display was not simply a reflection of Charles' Georgia ties, but of "our music writers' abilities, their understanding of the story," Hicks said. In the center of the front page was a story on the G-8 summit meeting, which took place in Georgia, and at the bottom was a "Georgians remember Reagan" piece.

Looking randomly at Friday's papers, Paul Sparrow, executive producer for media at the Newseum in Arlington, Va., which daily displays the front pages of 291 newspapers in the U.S. and abroad, told Journal-isms today that the Anniston Star in Texas also featured Charles above the fold, as did the Florida papers the Tampa Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, Miami Herald and South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The papers in Florida, where Charles was born, featured large photos of Charles on the front page as well. "Genius and Soul" was the Tampa Tribune headline. In addition, Florida's St. Petersburg Times played the Charles story larger than its Reagan coverage, giving Charles the centerpiece on the page.

But "based on what I saw, it didn't get the universal coverage that Reagan did," Sparrow said of Charles' death. "It was generally in the lower-left hand corner," the space reserved for "life and style" pieces, versus "above the fold in the middle" for Reagan.

However, the Des Moines Register had a Charles piece but none on Reagan on the front page and the Chicago Sun-Times also played Charles above Reagan, Sparrow said.

Ray Charles leaves a legacy that?s real (Deborah Mathis, BlackAmericaWeb)

A song can freeze a moment in time (Les Payne, Newsday)

Commentator Gets Tough on Fellow Whites

A number of observers of color, some of whom are below, have noted the disconnect between white and black America as evidenced in the coverage of Ronald Reagan last week. But few have been as harsh as a white commentator, "antiracist essayist" Tim Wise, whose piece appears on the Black Commentator Web site.

After reciting some of Reagan's insensitivities, Wise writes, "How can healthy people feel good about a leader who does and says the kinds of things mentioned above? Obviously the answer is by denying that racism matters, or that its victims count for anything. Even more cynically, it is no doubt true that for many of them, it was precisely Reagan?s policy of hostility to people of color that made them feel good in the first place. By 1980, most whites were already tiring of civil rights and were looking for someone who would take their minds off such troubling concepts as racism, and instead implore them to 'greatness,' however defined, and 'pride,' however defined, and flag waving.

"Whites have long been more enamored of style than substance, of fiction than fact, of fantasy than reality. It?s why we have clung so tenaciously to the utterly preposterous version of our national history peddled by textbooks for so long; and it?s why we get so angry when anyone tries to offer a correction.

"It?s why we choose to believe the lie about the U.S. being a shining city on a hill, rather than a potentially great but thoroughly flawed place built on the ruins and graves of Native peoples, built by the labor of enslaved Africans, enlarged by theft and murder and an absolute disregard for non-European lives.

"As Randall Robinson points out in his recent book, Quitting America, when such subjects are broached, the operative response from much of the white tribe is little more than, 'Oh, that.'"

More Columnists of Color on Reagan

  • Donna Britt, Washington Post: Tears for Reagan Obscure His Complexities
  • Gregory Kane, Baltimore Sun: Tiny island of Grenada home to big part of Reagan's legacy
  • Norman Lockman, Wilmington (Del.) News-Journal: Reagan still stands over his imitators
  • Tony Marcano, Maynard Institute: "He Just Never Felt Comfortable in Our Community"
  • Roland S. Martin, Creators Syndicate: Let's Be Fair and Balanced About the Reagan Legacy
  • Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Our great racial divide-- From O.J. to Reagan, race looms large
  • Joseph Perkins, San Diego Union-Tribune: The good that Reagan did for black America
  • David Porter, Orlando Sentinel: Reagan's racial gap -- Few warm words from blacks about him
  • Stan Simpson, Hartford Courant: Ronald Reagan's Hurtful Side
  • Cynthia Tucker, Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Fairy-tale presidencies leave real problems
  • Kenneth Walker, Financial Mail, South Africa: Reagan Reconsidered.

Reagan's Indian policies recalled with fervor (

Bugged by Having to Register to View Stories?

"Many online readers must complete registration forms with various kinds of personal data before seeing their virtual newspaper. The requirement has irked some readers and privacy advocates, led to the creation of Web sites to foil the system, and could be failing to provide the solid demographic information the system was intended to capture," writes Joann Loviglio for the Associated Press.

" is one Web site created to allow users access sites without registering. The site provides 'communal' logins and passwords for sites including registration- required sites like those for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Los Angeles Times and now The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

"BugMeNot's home page states that more than 3,000 Web sites have been 'liberated' since its inception in November. The site calls compulsory registrations intrusive, irritating, spam-promoting, and counter to the Internet's free spirit."

Yin Magazine Targets Asian American Women

"YIN Magazine, which launched quietly a few weeks ago, celebrated its debut with a swanky party last Thursday at a New York City art gallery. The magazine -- a fashion, beauty, and entertainment book aimed at 20- to-30-something Asian-American women -- will likely celebrate for only so long, as it enters an emerging market that has a high rate of failure and shaky advertiser support, say several of YIN's potential competitors," Michael Shields writes in Media Post.

Despite the risks, this category of Asian-American, English-language magazines has become more crowded as publishers recognize this growing segment of the population, and as a new generation of American-born, English-preferring Asian Americans cries out for its own media. Whether the advertising world is listening remains to be seen.

YIN, the brainchild of Hoc Poeng, joins a group of titles aimed at Asian women, including similarly fashion-focused Audrey magazine out of California and the more serious Jade magazine, out of New York.

"These magazines, each with small circulations and infrequent publishing cycles, are carving their way just two years after the death of the well-respected A. magazine, a general interest Asian-American title that went defunct after 13 years in 2002."

Vietnamese American TV Show Planned

A magazine-style television show featuring Vietnamese Americans and targeting a teenage-through-30 demographic is being assembled in Fountain View, Calif.

Eleven program segments of "VAX TV" (for "Vietnamese American Xposure") are on the Internet.

Dean Hata, the producer, told Journal-isms today that the show plans to put together 15 episodes before selling the show to media outlets. Some of the programs will deal with the 30th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, planned for April; interracial dating and the relatively high rate of teenage pregnancy among Vietnamese Americans. Hata, 24, said the show has already determined that there isn't enough material to focus exclusively on Vietnamese; he is Japanese-American.

"We'll have open discussion; issues of interest to everybody," he said.

Don Browne of NBC Wins Ida B. Wells Award

"Don Browne, chief operating officer of the Spanish-language television network Telemundo, is the 2004 winner of the Ida B. Wells Award, NABJ President Herbert Lowe and Lynnell Burkett, president of the National Conference of Editorial Writers, announced today," a news release says.

"Bestowed annually by NABJ and NCEW, the Wells Award recognizes media executives who have made outstanding efforts to ensure newsrooms more accurately reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. It is named for the 19th century journalist who crusaded against lynching and is administered by Northwestern University?s Medill School of Journalism.

"Browne, who previously served as president and general manager of WTVJ, NBC's owned-and-operated station in Miami, is a charter member of the NBC News Task Force on Women and Minorities. He currently serves as a member of NBC's Task Force on Diversity and was a key member of the NBC team that arranged the purchase of the Telemundo network.

"Browne was involved in the creation of 'Dateline,' NBC's first successful prime-time newsmagazine, and the launch of the weekend edition of 'The Today Show.' As NBC's Miami bureau chief from 1979-89, he directed news coverage of Central and South America."

"Browne will receive the Wells award on Oct. 1 at NCEW?s annual convention in Chicago."

"Journalism Is Not Just for Non-Indians"

"Young Native Americans can help get an Indian point of view into mainstream media, the leader of the Native journalism organization said," write Jordan Dresser, Travis Coleman and Michael Redstone, students at the American Indian Journalism Institute.

?'Becoming a journalist will help continue to change America?s perspective and stop newsroom excuses' for ignoring Indian issues, said Ron Walters, executive director of the Native American Journalists Association.

"Walters spoke at a dinner June 7 at the American Indian Journalism Institute, a three-week Freedom Forum training program at the University of South Dakota. The 24 students of this year?s AIJI class come from 19 tribes in 12 states and one Canadian province.

?'You are all first agents for change in this industry, and you can change mainstream society?s perception of Native Americans,' Walters told the students. 'Journalism is not just for non-Indians.'?

Young Native American Journalists to Gather

"Native American high school students from throughout the Pacific Northwest will have the opportunity for some hands-on media experience this summer during the inaugural Native American High School Journalism Institute at Oregon State University Aug. 20-24," reports.

"Twenty-five students will spend five days documenting the annual Powwow at Grand Ronde, interviewing elders and others, and then produce a special newspaper and video on the project working with professionals on the OSU campus.

"The institute is sponsored by OSU, the OSU Native American Collaborative Institute, The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Northwest Scholastic Press and The Oregonian newspaper," the notice continues.

San Antonio's Veronica Salazar Retiring

Veronica Salazar, vice president of community relations at the San Antonio Express-News, is retiring at the end of the year after more than 35 years at the paper, Carmina Danini writes in the Express-News.

Her replacement has not been selected.

Former editor Charles O. Kilpatrick said Salazar, 60, "made many contributions to the newspaper, including recruiting Hispanic journalists," Danini wrote.

"We sent her out to every college and university in Texas to recruit. It was a tough sell because we didn't have a good record," Kilpatrick said in the piece. "She did more to advance the role of Hispanics in journalism in Texas.''

"Salazar said she never was daunted by her changing role at the Express-News. She's been a columnist, administrative assistant to the publisher, community relations director and assistant to the publisher for administration and public relations," the story continues.

"In 1993, she was named vice president of the department, one of the first two women to achieve such a high leadership position at the Express-News.

"'I've had the best time of my life here because I like challenges,'' she said.

"One of those challenges was the 'Dedication Rewarded' columns she began writing in 1973 to give a voice to people who appeared in the newspaper only when there was bad news.

"'I wanted to spotlight Hispanics from all walks of life who were living exemplary lives and having a real positive impact at home, in the neighborhoods and in the community,' she said."

Pryor Amused by Elvis Mitchell's Book Plans

"Former New York Times movie critic Elvis Mitchell is pitching a book about Richard Pryor to publishers -? but he's facing some stiff competition from the comedy legend himself," writes Richard Johnson for the Page Six column in the New York Post.

"Pryor tells us he's writing a follow-up to 1995's 'Pryor Convictions,' describing his experience of living with multiple sclerosis and tapping recently unearthed diary entries that mine his colorful childhood.

Pryor, considered by many the greatest stand-up of all time, seems amused that Mitchell, of all people, is writing a book about him ?- since he said Mitchell, after first agreeing, was too busy to write the liner notes to Pryor's nine-CD boxed-set, '. . . And It's Deep Too.' The notes were subsequently penned by novelist Walter Mosley.

"'I don't know [bleep] about Mitchell, but if he's writing a book about me, I figured I'd write one about him,' Pryor joked. 'After I finish the one I'm writing about myself.'

"Commenting on The Post's report on Friday that Mitchell's book could fetch $500,000, Pryor quipped, 'If he can get half a million dollars for writing all about me, when the mother[bleeper] has never even met me, imagine how much I'm gonna get for writing all about me, when I am me!'"

ESPN's Obituary on Author, Sportswriter Ralph Wiley

Ralph Wiley, one of the original Page 2 columnists and former senior writer for Sports Illustrated, died Sunday night of heart failure. He was 52 years old.

Wiley joined Page 2 at its inception in November 2000 and had written more than 240 columns for

"For the past three and a half years, Ralph has produced a body of work that was both exceptional and insightful and arguably the best sports commentary on the web," said John Walsh, executive vice president and executive editor, ESPN.

Wiley also had appeared on ESPN's "Sports Reporters" since 1990. He provided regular commentary for ESPN's SportsCenter and formerly worked as an NFL analyst for NBC.

"Through his perspective and experience, Ralph developed one of the most creative lead voices in the American sports chorus," added vice president and executive editor Neal Scarbrough. "We were lucky to have him as a big part of"

Wiley was born in Memphis, Tenn., in April 1952. His mother, Dorothy, who taught humanities at S.A. Owen Junior College, made an early habit of reading great books to her son: Alexandre Dumas, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Richard Wright. His father, a veteran of the Korean War, died young.

The early literary exposure clearly had a major influence on Wiley, who wrote several plays in high school. "Until I was 18, I never slept where I couldn't reach my hand from my bed to a bookcase," he told Essence magazine in 1993. He attended Knoxville College from 1972-75; while at Knoxville he played wide receiver and landed his first professional journalism job, writing sports for the weekly Knoxville Keyana-Spectrum. He studied business and finance at the school.

Upon graduation, Wiley took a job as a copyboy for the Oakland Tribune. He soon was promoted to a city beat writer, and then, a year later, to sports. By the end of his 6œ-year tenure at the Tribune, he was a regular columnist.

Sports Illustrated hired Wiley in 1982, and he remained there for nine years, writing 28 cover stories, many about boxing (most notably, the Mike Tyson trial), baseball and football.

Wiley grew up boxing in "friendlies," and took a liking to an uncle who had been, briefly, a pro middleweight. "Charlie Boy" Wiley finished his career with a 3-2 record. "Charles was my favorite uncle," Wiley said in SI in 1989. "He was the slowest to anger and the quickest to laugh. And he had ability. It gave him what I call serenity."

That was the theme of Wiley's first book, published in 1989, "Serenity: A Boxing Memoir," which received excellent reviews. In the book Wiley "has taken the reader on an unflinching, sensitive and often sad boxing journey," wrote Bernard Kirsch in the New York Times Book Review.

"The novice will find 'Serenity' a fascinating look at the world of boxing, its winners and losers, which Wiley illustrates with anecdotes that reveal what he has learned about it," wrote Manuel Galvan in the Chicago Tribune.

His second book, a collection of essays entitled "Why Black People Tend to Shout" was rejected, Wiley estimated, "25 or 30 times" by publishers. The book sold well and also got good reviews. "It is not easy to express how it feels to be a black man in the 1990s," wrote Alex Raksin in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "Ralph Wiley is one of the few who have been able to find just the right tone."

Wiley's writing was intentionally provocative. "As an essayist I don't believe in the fiction of an anonymous observer. Rather than the sham of objectivity, I think you should put your perspective up front. That's only fair to the reader," he told Essence in 1993, shortly after the publication of his second book of essays, "What Black People Should Do Now: Dispatches from Near the Vanguard", was published in 1993.

Wiley's third book of essays, "Dark Witness: When Black People Should Be Sacrificed (Again)", was published in 1996. One of the more memorable segments of that book was "Trial of the Century." Wiley wrote of the O.J. Simpson trial from the perspective of having worked with Simpson on TV just a few years earlier. Wiley's portrait of the Simpson he knew was less than flattering.

Wiley also co-wrote many books. "Best Seat in the House: A Basketball Memoir", by Spike Lee and Wiley, was, according to John D. Thomas of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "One of the most honest, opinionated and enjoyable sports books to come out in years, maybe ever."

With Lee, Wiley also wrote "By Any Means Necessary: The Trials and Tribulations of the Making of Malcolm X". He co-authored "Born to Play: The Eric Davis Story" and Dexter Scott King's autobiography, "Growing Up King: An Intimate Memoir".

Wiley also wrote articles for Premiere, GQ, National Geographic, and many national newspapers. Among Wiley's many contributions to sports writing over the years was the phrase "Billy ball" to describe the Oakland A's under Billy Martin.

Survivors include his mother, Dorothy Brown; Susan Peacock, his fiancé; a son, Colen Wiley; and a daughter, Maggie Wiley.

Statement from Neal Scarbrough, VP, Editor-In-Chief,

"Through his perspective and experience, Ralph developed one of the most important lead voices in the American sports chorus," said Neal Scarbrough, vice president and editor in chief, "We were lucky to have him as a big part of"

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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