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Black Gossip Sites Lose, News Numbers Rise

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Friday, January 20, 2012

MediaTakeOut Slides, BET.com Gains in Latest Rankings

Narisetti Leaving Washington Post for Wall Street Journal

Gingrich: Work Seems "Distant Concept" to Juan Williams

Univision Names Analysts for Election-Cycle Coverage

What Billie Holiday Told Etta James About Hands

Oakland Tribune, Maynard Institute Get Grant for "Voices"

Was Pulled Strip Making Valid Point About Eyewitnesses?

Ethiopian Editor, Publishing in U.S., Convicted in Absentia

Short Takes

MediaTakeOut Slides, BET.com Rises in Latest Rankings

The number of unique visitors to BET.com rose to 3.6 million in December.Visitors to African American-oriented websites upended the pecking order in December, according to the comScore Inc. research company, ending the long run of the lurid gossip site MediaTakeOut.com as champion eyeball magnet.

That distinction, for now, goes to the website of Black Entertainment Television.

Moreover, the newsier sites HuffPost BlackVoices, theGrio.com, theRoot.com, Essence.com and NewsOne, along with MadameNoir.com, all saw increases from the October statistics, while the more gossipy Bossip.com declined, as did HelloBeautiful.com and BlackPlanet.com.

Luis Defrank, a spokesman for BET, attributed BET.com's boost to tie-ins with the cable network. Unique visitors rose from 2,531,000 in October to 3,649,000 in December, according to comScore.

"The rise of these numbers is timed to when we launched some of our original scripted programming that includes 'Reed Between The Lines' and began sneak peeks of 'The Game' and 'Let's Stay Together,' " Defrank said by email. "On the social media front we received a lot of transaction with our tent-pole events such as the 'Hip Hop Awards.' Our tent-pole events are productions such as the BET Awards, BET Honors and Rip The Runway. These shows offer original content and celebrity-filled moments that engage our audience on our various digital platforms which helps increase traffic to the website."

HuffPost BlackVoices increased from 1,790,000 in October to 2,604,000 in December. TheGrio.com, owned by NBC, rose from 1,288,000 in October to 1,603,000 in December.

Mario Ruiz, spokesman for Huffington Post, did not respond to a request for comment.

But David Wilson, executive editor of theGrio.com, told Journal-isms by email, "TheGrio's continued traffic growth is a direct result of our decision to produce more enterprise reports. Our series on the 'Black 1 Percent,' our special report on the impact of South Carolina's voter ID laws, and our 'Living Forward' series, which highlights black celebs and their philanthropic work, are just a few examples of this effort.

"We've also strengthened our editorial team by hiring our political editor Perry Bacon Jr. and adding regional reporters. NBC News, MSNBC and msnbc.com are increasingly looking to the theGrio for our unique content, which results in more exposure on-air and online. Finally, social media has been a huge part of our growth. Our Facebook page, which has nearly 400,000 highly engaged fans, provides another way for us to drive traffic back to our website. Upcoming partnerships and initiatives promise to make 2012 yet another year of growth for theGrio.com."

Traffic for Bossip.com declined from 1,602,000 unique visitors in October to 1,433,000 in December. At theRoot.com, owned by the Washington Post Co., the comScore figures showed an increase from 1,342,000 in October to 1,408,000 in December. However, Donna Byrd, publisher of theRoot.com, said by email, "There is a discrepancy between internal numbers and Comscore numbers for most sites, including ours."

Managing Editor Sheryl Salomon said of the increase, "The Root’s growth in December was a result of organic viral traffic stemming from our timely news coverage and original features. Our exclusive survey on current views about Kwanzaa, and a companion slide show, helped to drive December’s numbers."

When the Wire, a website from businessinsider.com, last year compiled "the 50 most influential people in media this year," the only two African Americans on its list were Oprah Winfrey and Fred Mwangaguhunga, the former corporate lawyer who founded MediaTakeOut.com.

Mwangaguhunga did not respond to a request for comment. However, in August, answering a question about his success, he said, "We've grown our audience organically, by continuing to put out the biggest news stories in urban entertainment." His site recorded 2,502,000 unique visitors in December, down from 2,828,000 in October.

Figures provided to Journal-isms for other sites included: MadameNoire.com, 1,383,000 unique visitors in December, up from 1,132,000 in October; Essence.com, 988,000 in December, up from 845,000 in October; HelloBeautiful.com, 625,000 in December, down from 779,000 in October; NewsOne, 604,000 in December, up from 556,000 in October; BlackPlanet.com, 480,000, down from 776,000 in October; BlackAmericaWeb.com, 399,000, up from 326,000 in October; EURWeb.com, 352,000, up from 194,000 in October; ConcreteLoop.com, 314,000, up from 304,000 in October. The Ebonyjet.com website, redesigned this week, drew 41,000 unique visitors in December.

Narisetti Leaving Washington Post for Wall Street Journal

Raju NarisettiRaju Narisetti, one of the Washington Post's two managing editors and an advocate of diversity, is leaving the Post after three years to return to the Wall Street Journal, where he will be managing editor of the Wall Street Journal Digital Network, the two news organizations announced Friday.

The digital network "includes WSJ.com, SmartMoney.com, MarketWatch and the Chinese, Japanese and German-language editions of WSJ.com. Mr. Narisetti will also become a Deputy Managing Editor of the Journal, and he will report to Alan Murray, Deputy Managing Editor and Executive Editor, Online," the Journal announcement said.

"Mr. Narisetti currently serves as Managing Editor for The Washington Post, where he oversees the company’s digital content products, staff and strategy. Today’s appointment marks a return to the Journal for Mr. Narisetti, who first joined the paper in 1994 as a reporter in Pittsburgh and most recently served as Editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe in 2006."

[Narisetti told Journal-isms by email on Monday, "I wasn't looking to leave the Post anytime soon but the opportunity to do what I have done here but across multiple brands/websites on a global scale made the decision a relatively easy one.

["Despite the naysayers inside and outside the company, I remain very hopeful that the Post will build on what has been an amazing performance these past couple of years in bringing record number of readers to Post journalism."]

At the Post, Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, who worked with Narisetti at the Journal, said, "Raju has accomplished much in the three years since he came to the Post from Mint, a business newspaper and website he founded in India. He was closely involved in the redesign of our print edition in 2009; oversaw the selection and installation of Methode, the content-management system we use to edit and produce our news products; and has taken a leading role in the integration of our print and digital staffs and operations.

"But that understates dramatically his role. Raju has helped to build an extravagantly talented digital team and provided much of the vision and strategy that enabled The Post to become one of the most innovative and successful digital-news operations anywhere.

"The evidence is in the numbers: The Post’s online traffic has risen sharply in the last two years, with our page views in December up 45% from a year earlier, the number of visitors to our site up 14%, and the time each visitor spends on our site more than double what it was a year ago (according to comScore) — making 2011 our best year ever. We are a leader in the use of social media for delivering news and drawing readers to our site. Our video traffic has tripled in the last two years and our mobile visits doubled in the last year."

Narisetti has his detractors. In 2010, Harry Jaffe wrote in Washingtonian magazine, "Narisetti is nearly silent in the newsroom and has made little effort to relate to reporters. He declined many requests for an interview.

"What’s known is that Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli hired Narisetti for a purpose. Both had worked at the Wall Street Journal, where they met and forged a bond. With Brauchli’s backing, Narisetti is seen as the outsider he hopes will retool the Post newsroom for journalism’s digital age." Some Post newsroom workers revile the Methode content management system. Media blogger Jim Romenesko anonymously quoted another detractor, but others rose to his defense.

Nevertheless, Narisetti, of South Asian Indian background, has long been an advocate of diversity. In 2005, when he was named editor of The Wall Street Journal Europe and European editor of the "global" Journal, he told Journal-isms, "I remain very interested in increasing diversity in both editing and reporting ranks, and again I tend to measure it on a more complicated scale, including ethnic, sexual, linguistic and geographical diversity."

At the Post, he was also proud of the diversity at the top ranks of the Post newsroom. Narisetti met his African American wife, Kim Narisetti, while at the Dayton Daily News in Ohio. A former managing editor of the Source, she co-founded Urban Crayon Press in 2006 to publish children's books and travel guides geared toward families with children.

Brauchli said in his staff memo that for the time being, "those people who have been reporting to Raju will for now report to me." Narisetti leaves Feb. 1. [Updated Jan. 23]

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich Friday directed his objections to commentator (Video)

Gingrich: Work Seems "Distant Concept" to Juan Williams

"Newt Gingrich launched a now-infamous tirade against moderator Juan Williams during Monday night’s GOP debate after Williams dared to ask him if he could understand why some African-Americans were offended by Gingrich’s obsession with food stamps and child labor," Alex Seitz-Wald wrote Friday for thinkprogress.org. " 'No, I don’t see that,' Gingrich sneered back.

"Williams later insisted he wasn’t offended by Gingrich’s pointed defense, but did say his food stamps rhetoric is 'very racial and…unless I missed it, black people haven’t been out there demanding food stamps, or marching for food stamps.'

"Today, during a campaign stop in South Carolina, Gingrich recalled his exchange with Williams and used the same kind of suggestive language that Williams had objected to — this time directed at Williams himself:

"GINGRICH: I had a very interesting dialogue Monday night in Myrtle Beach with Juan Williams about the idea of work, which seemed to Juan Williams to be a strange, distant concept. . . ."

Meanwhile, Mary C. Curtis wrote for the "She the People" section of the Washington Post website: "Among the loudest of Juan Williams’ champions when he was booted from NPR were conservatives who criticized the news executives Williams described as 'elitist.' The mainstream media masters, it was said, could not abide a black man with an opinion that deviated from the liberal script. After being fired from NPR, Williams landed new fans, a book contract and a $2 million job at Fox News.

"But in one moment, at Monday night’s South Carolina Republican debate — on a day celebrating the legacy of Martin Luther King — the cheers turned to boos for that same man when he deviated from a different script. When he asked candidate Newt Gingrich about the racial impact of his criticism of poor Americans’ work ethic and his 'food stamp' attacks on President Obama, Williams found out what it was like to go from hero to black bogeyman."

Separately, "On an episode of her 'Both Sides Now With Huffington [&] Matalin' radio program, multimillionaire Arianna Huffington decided to take the First Lady to task for not being Black enough," Kirsten West Savali wrote Wednesday for NewsOne.com. "Of course, she didn’t say, 'Black enough,' she just said that Michelle Obama should be more like former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and visit 'South Central.' ”

Univision Names Analysts for Election-Cycle Coverage

"Univision Communications, the leading media company serving Hispanic America, is bolstering its news presence and enhancing its political coverage for the 2012 election cycle," the network announced on Friday.

"In addition to extensive interactive and on-air coverage, Univision’s award-winning news division will count with political commentary from analysts Helen Aguirre Ferré (R), Dr. Emilio Gonzalez (R) and Fabian Nuñez (D).

"Furthermore, Univision will unveil new state of the art sets for all editions of its evening newscast 'Noticiero Univision'; for its Sunday morning public affairs show, 'Al Punto' (To the Point); and for its newsmagazine program, 'Aquí y Ahora' (Here and Now), as well as expand its offerings on digital platforms."

Etta James, 1938-2012 (Credit: David Redfern/Redferns)

What Billie Holiday Told Etta James About Hands

dream hampton"In 1997, then Vibe Editor in Chief Danyel Smith sent me to the Sofitel in midtown Manhattan to interview Etta James," dream hampton wrote Friday for Ebony.com.

"Etta was preparing to release her 19th studio album 'Love's Been Rough On Me.' She'd also completed the interviews with David Ritz that would become her 1998 collaborative autobiography, 'Rage To Survive.' She was self-conscious of her appearance, she was still holding onto weight she'd eventually lose, but she acknowledged she was insecure about it aloud and proceeded to disarm me with a story from her early days as a teenage rising star.

"She told me the one time she met [Billie] Holiday was at a radio station, that she was on her way in and Billie was on her way out. Etta was so intimidated by Billie, so unprepared for this moment in the small anteroom of a broadcasting station, that she fixed her eyes on Billie's hands. She remembered Billie's hands were swollen 'like fat little sausages' and that Billie noticed Ella staring at them as she unsuccessfully tried stuffing her fingers in her gloves. Billie palmed Etta's famously round face and tilted her gaze to meet her own and slurred a warning Etta told me she'd never forget. 'Don't you let them do this to you, you hear. My fingers are pumped full of junk and drink, just like my toes. Don't you let this be you girl.' . . . "

James, "the earthy blues and R&B singer whose anguished vocals convinced generations of listeners that she would rather go blind than see her love leave, then communicated her joy upon finding that love at last, died Friday morning, said her son, Donto James," Randy Lewis wrote Friday for the Los Angeles Times. "She was 73.

"She died of complications from leukemia at a hospital in Riverside, said Dr. Elaine James, her personal physician."

Oakland Tribune, Maynard Institute Get Grant for "Voices"

"The Oakland Tribune plans to reshape and expand the way it reports about the community with the help of a $340,000 grant from The California Endowment," Angela Woodall wrote Wednesday for the Tribune.

"The grant awarded in December 2011 by the foundation will be shared by the Tribune and the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, which have collaborated in a variety of projects, including the community reporting program 'Oakland Voices.'

"The California Endowment also underwrote the launch of that program.

" 'So often we filter community voices through journalism,' said Dori Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute. 'Oakland Voices has allowed people to come in and tell their stories about the issues that impact their lives and communities.'

". . . The increased funding will also help the Tribune delve deeper into the impact of violence and trauma on Oakland residents and others areas of Alameda and Contra Costa counties by renewing a fellowship for reporter Scott Johnson. The grant will allow Johnson to further explore issues that affect Bay Area residents, such as inequities based on geography and income."

The Plain Dealer in Cleveland declined to run this Jan. 13 'Non Sequitur' comic, leaving the space blank with a note to readers stating, "Editor's Note: Today's 'Non Sequitur' strip was withheld because it was deemed objectionable by Plain Dealer editors. A replacement strip was unavailable by press time."

Was Pulled Strip Making Valid Point About Eyewitnesses?

" 'Okay, I know how bad it sounds, but they all really do look alike to me...' said the cartoon rabbit to police after viewing a 'line-up' of several animals depicted on the other side of a glass partition," David Protess, president of the Chicago Innocence Project, wrote Thursday in the Huffington Post.

"Was the bunny racially insensitive? Did his comment invoke the cliché that all blacks look alike, or worse, that all black criminal suspects are indistinguishable?

"Apparently, the Cleveland [Plain Dealer] thought so. On January 13, the editors pulled the popular comic strip, 'Non Sequitur,' from the newspaper. In its place was a note that said the strip 'was deemed objectionable.'

"Hundreds of angry readers found this decision objectionable, voicing their complaints in online posts that excoriated the paper for 'outright censorship.' . . . .

"I'm with the readers on this — but for reasons that go beyond the ones they articulated. If anything, I think Wiley Miller's satirical strip didn't go nearly far enough to make the point: Eyewitnesses (the bunny, in this case) are abysmally inaccurate in identifying perpetrators who look different from themselves. For this reason, I would have supported running the strip even if the bunny was white and the suspects behind the glass were black. . . . ' "

[In his Sunday column, reader representative Ted Diadiun wrote that  ". . . despite lots of conversation and hand-wringing, the discussion never reached the office where the buck stops: that of Editor Debra Adams Simmons.

["One would think that a decision about whether a comic strip is too racially insensitive to publish would naturally be made by the woman who is the editor of the paper and would have to cope with any criticism -- and who also happens to be black. Unfortunately, the question never got that far, and she found out about the decision the same time the rest of the readers did."] [Updated Jan. 22]

Ethiopian Editor, Publishing in U.S., Convicted in Absentia

'"Two journalists and a U.S.-based blogger who was tried in absentia were convicted on charges of terrorism in Ethiopia today and could be sentenced to the death penalty, according to news reports," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Thursday.

"Reeyot Alemu, a columnist with the independent weekly Feteh, Deputy Editor Woubshet Taye of the now-defunct weekly Awramba Times, and Elias Kifle, exiled editor of the Washington-based opposition website Ethiopian Review, were convicted today in Federal High Court in the capital, Addis Ababa, according to news reports.

". . . Kifle was sentenced in absentia to life in prison in 2007 on charges of treason over critical online coverage of the government's brutal repression of the 2005 post-election protests, according to CPJ research."

Claire Beston, Amnesty International’s Ethiopia researcher, said, "There is no evidence that these three men and two women are guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. We believe that the five are prisoners of conscience, prosecuted because of their legitimate work and peaceful activities and they should be released immediately."

Kifle's Ethiopian Review lists a mailing address in Springfield, Va., in the Washington suburbs.

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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