Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Betty Bayé Among Gannett's 700 Layoffs

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Updated June 22

Louisville Pundit "Had a Long Run to Say What I Wanted"

Gannett Says It Wanted No Group "Adversely Impacted"

Jose Antonio Vargas Discloses He Is Undocumented

Ex-L.A. Times Writer Says He's Vindicated on Tupac Killing

Sharpton, West in Rematch Before Black Press on Friday

Bakewell to Step Down as Leader of Black Press Group

Emerge Magazine Revived as Small-Business Publication

Sandra Thomas to Direct Univision Local, Affiliate News

Short Takes

Louisville Pundit "Had a Long Run to Say What I Wanted"

Betty Winston Bayé, the only African American columnist and editorial writer at the Courier-Journal in Louisville, Ky., was among about 700 employees laid off by the Gannett Co. on Tuesday as the nation's largest newspaper company cut back "to align our costs with the current revenue trends."

Aaron Morrison and Betty BayeBayé, 65, had been with Gannett since 1980 and the Courier-Journal since 1984. A native New Yorker, she had worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, known as SNCC, and in the theater before settling on a journalism career at age 35. 

"I am blessed, and I just told one of my young proteges, you just realize that no matter what happens, the work you do is important," Bayé told Journal-isms. "I had a long run to say what I wanted to say, and it is what it is." She was not given time to write a farewell column.

In a "confidential" memo to members of Gannett's U.S. Community Publishing Division, republished on the independent Gannett Blog, Bob Dickey, president of the division, said:

"National advertising remains soft and with many of our local advertisers reducing their overall budgets, we need to take further steps to align our costs with the current revenue trends. Each of our local media organizations faces its own market conditions, challenges and opportunities. Therefore, it has been up to each local publisher to determine his or her unique course of action.

"While we have sought many ways to reduce costs, I regret to tell you that we will not be able to avoid layoffs. Accordingly, approximately 700 employees within USCP, or about 2% of our company’s overall workforce, will be let go. Publishers will notify people today and we will make every effort to reach everyone by end of day."

Jim Hopkins, publisher and editor of the independent Gannett Blog, wrote, "Today's disclosure of 700 newspaper layoffs is the single largest round since July 2009, when the U.S. newspaper division eliminated about 1,400 jobs, mostly through layoffs. This is the fourth mass layoff since August 2008."

He also pointed out that Dickey was paid $3.4 million last year, linking to Gannett's filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A spreadsheet the blog published listed the largest number of job cuts at Indianapolis, with 62; Phoenix, 40; Louisville, 36; Nashville, 34; Springfield, Mo., 30; and Monroe, La., 27; although not all of those cuts were in the newsroom.

Also affected was Aaron Morrison, the only African American reporter at the Daily Record in Parsippany, N.J. He said a Latina reporter, whom he believed to be the only reporter there fluent in Spanish, was also given walking papers.

Morrison, who turned 26 last month, would have been at the paper for a year next month.

"I would like to continue building my experience as a multi-platform, multimedia reporter and writer," he said by email.

"As of late, I've been interested in a mixture of public policy, municipal politics, sustainability and food economics. I might toss in a business story or two on merits. Whatever I do next, it'll have to require frequent detaching of my behind from an office chair and meeting the people or entity I'm producing content about. That's not to say I haven't always done that, but I enjoy that part of what I do too much to give it up voluntarily. Print, online, broadcast; the type [of] medium is not as important for me."

Bayé said another African American reporter at the Courier-Journal was also laid off.

"There had been rumors," she said, when asked how she received the news. Bayé and a friend decided not to go far for lunch. She had taken one bite out of her chicken tarragon salad when she received a call from the human resources department. After the 10-minute talk, her ability to enter the building was deactivated, and she was carrying her belongings to her car in the rain.

"It was like a bloodbath today," she said. Still, Bayé said, "in some ways, I feel lighter" because much of her time is free for other pursuits.

After all, she continued, "My mother always said it's a poor rat that's got just one hole."

Gannett Says It Wanted No Group "Adversely Impacted"

In the wake of Tuesday's layoffs, the Gannett Co. is "tracking the impact to diversity and we work very hard to ensure no group has been adversely impacted," Gannett spokeswoman Robin Pence told Journal-isms on Wednesday. "As you know, Gannett is tremendously committed to diversity.

"We have maintained our percentage of female and minority employees over the last few years despite reductions and we work very hard to make sure it's a fair process for all employees."

The National Association of Black Journalists said in a statement Wednesday that it had "received reports that there are fewer or no people of color working as reporters, columnists, editors at some Gannett newspapers. NABJ is concerned about its members who are among the 2 percent of Gannett's current workforce who are being dismissed as company executives are rewarded with bonuses that exceed $1 million."

It also announced, "Our organization will compile a list of laid-off members to send them special assistance packages and provide job placement support. Membership for all laid-off employees will be extended six months from their current expiration dates so that these members will have access to services such as job postings at www.nabj.org. These displaced members also will be eligible for financial assistance to attend this year's Convention and Career Fair, scheduled Aug. 3-7 in Philadelphia."

It added, "From a business perspective, we want to remind Gannett that some corporations are strengthening their commitment to diversity as our nation becomes more brown and black. It makes good business sense. Our nation's history is replete with examples of what happens when newsrooms failed to recognize the growing African-American communities."

Doris Truong, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said in a message posted on the AAJA website, "I spoke today with a top executive at Gannett, and we are working to formalize a way in which AAJA can reach out to the affected employees to help them find other work in our industry."

The Native American Journalists Association added, "Diversity is a problem at mainstream newsrooms and layoffs compound the problem in coverage of communities of color. NAJA stands alongside its UNITY alliance partners to help those journalists affected by the layoffs.

"We are forwarding job positions to the Asian American Journalists Association’s (AAJA) president Doris Truong where the information will be shared via Facebook, Twitter, and AAJA’s website (www.aaja.org). We will post that information for our NAJA members that are affected as well."

Likewise, Michele Salcedo, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, wrote, "NAHJ board members are compiling openings in various regions and will work to connect our talented employees with potential employers. NAHJ will share information via social media and our website, nahj.org.

"We also are asking that those affected by layoffs contact NAHJ VP for Print/Financial Officer, Russell Contreras, at russell [dot] contreras [at] gmail [dot] com so that NAHJ can identify those who need assistance."

Jose Antonio Vargas Discloses He Is Undocumented

Jose Antonio Vargas, who shared in a Pulitzer Prize at the Washington Post and went on to become a senior contributing editor for the Huffington Post, discloses in the New York Times Magazine and in an ABC News interview that he has been in the United States illegally since he was a child.

Jose   Antonio Vargas"Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream," he writes in the Times.

"But I am still an undocumented immigrant. And that means living a different kind of reality. It means going about my day in fear of being found out. It means rarely trusting people, even those closest to me, with who I really am. It means keeping my family photos in a shoebox rather than displaying them on shelves in my home, so friends don’t ask about them. It means reluctantly, even painfully, doing things I know are wrong and unlawful. And it has meant relying on a sort of 21st-century underground railroad of supporters, people who took an interest in my future and took risks for me."

A preview of the ABC News interview is online, with Dan Harris' interview with Vargas airing Thursday on "World News with Diane Sawyer" and on "Nightline" and Friday on "Good Morning America," ABC says.

". . . The Washington Post, one of Vargas’ previous employers, actually could have run the piece first but decided not to, after spending several weeks working on it," Michael Calderone reported for AOL. In a separate piece in the Times magazine, the Times' Chris Suellentrop described how the New York paper landed the story. In the Post, Paul Farhi reported that there was "internal discussion about whether the newspaper was getting the full story from its former reporter."

"After all of these years, Vargas is now outing himself as one of the millions in the United States who are living in the country illegally," Harris and Jake Whitman say in their ABC News story. "He is aware of the danger he is putting himself in, and that he could be sent back to the Philippines.

"Vargas says that he made up his mind last December when Congress failed to pass the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, a bill that would allow illegal immigrants who came to this country as children to become citizens, if they go to college or serve in the military.

"To shine a light on a massive problem, Vargas will be starting an online campaign at defineamerican.com to push for passage of the DREAM Act, which is currently stalled in Congress."

Vargas writes in the Times about how he arranged to secure driver's licenses and Social Security numbers but avoided situations where employers would dig too deeply.

"For more than a decade of getting part-time and full-time jobs, employers have rarely asked to check my original Social Security card. When they did, I showed the photocopied version, which they accepted. Over time, I also began checking the citizenship box on my federal I-9 employment eligibility forms. (Claiming full citizenship was actually easier than declaring permanent resident 'green card' status, which would have required me to provide an alien registration number.)

"This deceit never got easier. The more I did it, the more I felt like an impostor, the more guilt I carried — and the more I worried that I would get caught. But I kept doing it. I needed to live and survive on my own, and I decided this was the way. "

Vargas said he had to give up an internship at the Seattle Times when the Times asked all incoming interns to bring certain paperwork on their first day: a birth certificate, or a passport, or a driver’s license plus an original Social Security card.

However, Vargas was able to get an Oregon driver's license in time to work at the Washington Post, where he shared in a Pulitzer for the Post's coverage of the Virginia Tech shootings and became a rising star.

But, Vargas wrote, "About four months into my job as a reporter for The Post, I began feeling increasingly paranoid, as if I had 'illegal immigrant' tattooed on my forehead — and in Washington, of all places, where the debates over immigration seemed never-ending. I was so eager to prove myself that I feared I was annoying some colleagues and editors — and worried that any one of these professional journalists could discover my secret. The anxiety was nearly paralyzing."

Vargas confided in newsroom manager Peter Perl, director of newsroom training and professional development, but kept his status a secret when he moved on to the Huffington Post.

Mario Ruiz, vice president for communications at AOL, told Journal-isms Wednesday, "Jose left a year ago and his residency status is something that we're just finding out about."

Vargas wrote that he left "because I wanted to promote the documentary and write a book about online culture — or so I told my friends. But the real reason was, after so many years of trying to be a part of the system, of focusing all my energy on my professional life, I learned that no amount of professional success would solve my problem or ease the sense of loss and displacement I felt."

He also said:

"I’m done running. I’m exhausted. I don’t want that life anymore."

Ex-L.A. Times Writer Says He's Vindicated on Tupac Killing

Chuck Philips"Former Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Chuck Philips, whose career was ruined when the Times published a rare front-page retraction of his March 17, 2008, article about the infamous 1994 shooting of rapper Tupac Shakur, is demanding that the newspaper apologize and take back its retraction of his story, 'An Attack on Tupac Shakur Launched a Hip-Hop War,'Simone Wilson and Dennis Romero reported Wednesday for LA Weekly.

"Philips’ demand comes several days after his key unnamed source in the Shakur story revealed himself and corroborated Philips’ 2008 reporting.

" 'I want them to run a front-page retraction,' Philips, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, tells L.A. Weekly. 'Same size, same place.'

"Times management has not responded to requests by the Weekly for a comment. A front-page retraction is exceedingly rare in journalism.

"On June 15, Dexter Isaac, imprisoned in New York for murder, admitted to participating in the 1994 attack on Shakur that set off the East CoTupac Shakurast–West Coast rap war. The Times has ignored Isaac’s corroboration of Philips' reporting, covering it dismissively the next day with short wire stories.

". . . The 2008 Times story ruined Philips’ career, he says, when FBI documents referenced throughout the story turned out to be fakes created by con man James Sabatino. Although the FBI documents were bogus, they had been attached to a case in federal court.

". . . Philips believes Isaac’s admission vindicates him — and he wants his reputation back. During nearly 20 years of reporting for the Times, 'I never had a major error in a story before,' Philips says. 'I had a couple small corrections. No serious drama.' "

Cornel West, above, and the Rev. Al Sharpton clashed on an April 10 MSNBC special, "A Stronger America: The Black Agenda," hosted by Ed Schultz. (Video)

Sharpton, West in Rematch Before Black Press on Friday

The Rev. Al Sharpton and Cornel West, the high-profile Princeton University professor, plan to revisit their widely publicized disagreement over President Obama's commitment to African American concerns Friday at the National Newspaper Publishers Association convention in Chicago.

George E. Curry, the NNPA columnist and veteran journalist, is to moderate the discussion.

He told Journal-isms the back story in this edited email:

"May 21, on my regular Friday appearance on Sharpton's radio show, I mentioned that seeing the exchange between him and Cornel on MSNBC's 'A Stronger America: The Black Agenda,' moderated by Ed Schultz, had been 'extremely painful' — those were my exact words. Sharpton replied that he, too, was pained, particularly since he and Cornel had been friends for two decades. On air, I said a discussion on Blacks and the Obama administration still needed to be held and that I would reach out to Cornel to see if that could be arranged.

"I offered to moderate the discussion. Sharpton said that was a good idea and he would be willing to participate. I sent an e-mail to Cornel . . . and he called me within a day or two, agreeing to my proposed June 24 date. I called Danny Bakewell," chairman of the NNPA, "who was excited about the idea and offered to alter the convention schedule to accommodate such a discussion. . . . Sharpton was scheduled to deliver a luncheon address on Friday, but we changed that to the discussion with Cornel.

"Because Cornel and Al always preach Black unity, I thought it was critical for them to demonstrate to Black America that the could come together after that acerbic exchange on MSNBC."

Bakewell to Step Down as Leader of Black Press Group

Danny J. Bakewell Sr., the fiery chairman of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, who gained Danny Bakewell Sr.a national reputation for challenging corporate America over the advertising dollars it spends in the black press, has announced he will not seek re-election at the end of his tenure this week, Hazel Trice Edney reported on Wednesday for her Trice Edney News Wire.

" 'Over the past two years, as promised, I have moved us toward the goal of returning NNPA to its rightful place as one of the most powerful and influential institutions in Black America,' Bakewell wrote in a May 19 letter to the more than 200 Black newspaper publishers also called the Black Press of America. 'It is my hope that the vision of responsible fiscal stewardship and securing advertising for all publishers, which the board of directors and I established and implanted during my administration, will continue with the next administration.'

". . . NNPA member sources told Trice Edney News Wire that Bakewell, publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, has endorsed the candidacy of Cloves Campbell, publisher of the nearly 45-year-old Arizona Informant and former member of the Arizona House of Representatives."

Emerge Magazine Revived as Small-Business Publication

The new Emerge magazineEmerge magazine, an iconic magazine of the black politics, life and culture of the 1990s, has been revived by new owners as a publication catering to small businesses.

"Emerge showcases the companies and individuals that transform ideas into solutions and embody the contemporary entrepreneurial experience. We cover the achievements of start-ups, small businesses and success. Through our content, we provide industry insights and credible solutions to small businesses whether they are start-ups or have been operating successfully for years. Emerge illuminates stories and content to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit," the magazine says on its website.

The original Emerge was launched in 1989 by Time Inc. and was later purchased by BET, as theRoot.com recalled this year. "Emerge earned widespread respect for capturing black life and culture. The articles, which spanned the globe and won awards like Amnesty International USA's Media Spotlight Award, never ran away from controversial topics. BET turned over publishing control to Vanguarde Media in 2000, and the following year, the publishing house decided to combine Emerge with a new magazine: Savoy."

Emerge was edited first by the late Wilmer C. Ames Jr., then by George E. Curry.

The new Emerge was named last week as one of "the 30 Most Notable Launches of 2010" by Samir Husni, a journalism professor at the University of Mississippi known as "Mr. Magazine."

"This magazine is like taking a page from the Harvard Business Review and adding a unique, emotional personal touch to its pages," Husni wrote.

The magazine has a New York address, but calls this week to its Atlanta telephone number reached only a voice mail that said the company also publishes Savoy. The website is registered to Atlanta businessman Lapink Green. [On Friday, Green's office said that Green is an investor in Emerge and publisher of Savoy, but would not be available to elaborate.]

Sandra Thomas to Direct Univision Local, Affiliate News

Sandra Thomas"Univision news veteran Sandra Thomas has been named to the new position of senior director of local and affiliate news at the Spanish-language giant," Michael Malone reported Wednesday for Broadcasting & Cable. "She will be based in San Francisco and report to Daniel Coronell, vice president, Univision News, and Kevin Cuddihy, president, Univision Television Group.

"Univision also announced that Marco Flores has been named news director at KMEX Los Angeles, reporting to Thomas and KMEX general manager Alberto Mier y Terán.

". . . Thomas will oversee all news content for Univision affiliates and will 'serve as the nexus with network news,' said Univision in a statement. Since March of 2009, she has been Univision Television Group's news operations group regional news director supervisor and news director of KDTV San Francisco, a position she held since 1997."

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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