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Black Press Not in Synch with Expanding Web

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Many Still Haven't Reported Hayes, Bernie Mac Deaths

 When two big African American celebrities -- comic actor Bernie Mac and musician and actor Isaac Hayes -- died over the weekend, the last place one could find the news was on the Web sites of the black newspapers in the cities where the two men lived and died.

Neither the Chicago Defender -- in Mac's city -- nor the Tri-State Defender -- in Memphis, Hayes' home -- had the story on its Web site until Monday. Mac had died Saturday and Hayes on Sunday.

Executives at each paper pleaded that they were too small to publish breaking news on the weekend. Meanwhile, their mainstream counterparts took the stories and ran with them.

The chasm in the coverage points out the gap between some in the "legacy" black media -- the black press -- and the new black media -- African American Web sites. And it highlights a conflict between two trends: Both the Web and the ethnic press are said to be among the media's growth areas, but they are not always in synch.

"Like many other African American newspapers, we're just not staffed and resourced to do everything we need to do on the Web site immediately," Dr. Karanja Ajanaku, editor of the Tri-State Defender, told Journal-isms.

He planned to have a story about Hayes this coming Thursday, when the regular print edition is published.

"We're not normally here on Saturday and Sunday," said Michael House, president of the Chicago Defender, like the Tri-State Defender owned by the Real Times organization of African American businessmen. "We don't have anybody 24/7. We're a small black newspaper. Our main objective and goal is putting out a newspaper."

 When the Chicago Defender staff arrived at work on Monday, it posted two Associated Press stories, one each on Mac and Hayes. The weekend site was dominated by coverage of Saturday's annual Bud Billiken Day parade.

The contrast with the "new" black media -- white-owned, but black-oriented Web sites -- was stark.

Black Voices "posted Bernie around 11am on Saturday and Isaac around 5:15 on Sunday," Tariq Muhammad, editor of AOL Black Voices, e-mailed Journal-isms from his BlackBerry.

"It's important for us as BlackVoices to be on top of those stories that are of most import to the community. Our users expect it and we can do no less than try to live up to that expectation. As the 24-hour news cycle has become a reality, our editors have risen to the challenge and routinely check their sources incessantly. In both cases, our Editors collaborated to get the story and get it up as quickly as possible because we have a responsibility to the audience. No matter the hour or day of week.", AOL Black Voices' chief rival, was also eager to boast.

With the Bernie Mac death, "we were up with a news story in our News You should Know blog by 9:15 AM Saturday," editor Nick Charles wrote to Journal-isms. "As you can see it has generated close to 4,000 comments.

"We also had it in our Entertainment Spotlight blog by 10 AM and kept adding to it throughout the day

"We added the full package, timeline, photobook, etc. after noon.

"With Isaac, we were up with something in our Sound Off blog after 4 PM on Sunday and added a news story later on."

"We are always on duty," Charles added. "It's critical that in instances like this, we not only inform the community in a timely manner, but also provide a space for it to come commiserate and mourn. Beloved figures like Bernie Mac and Isaac Hayes belong to the world; but they sprung [from] the black community and honored those roots every time they performed. It is with a great sense of duty and pride that we pay tribute."

Other black weeklies were also proactive. At the St. Louis American, "We have a Web editor who runs her own shop . . . she does Web updates twice a day in between Thursdays," Editorial Director Chris King told Journal-isms, speaking of Kenya Vaughn. As stories are written, Vaughn will post 300 words or so on the Web site, not waiting for the print edition.

Sometimes, the stories are merely rewrites -- with credit -- of stories transmitted by the national media. The National Newspaper Publishers Association, the trade organization of black community newspapers, moved two stories from the American on Monday to its member papers.

Likewise, Barbara Darko of the Afro-American newspapers of Washington and Baltimore said her papers had at least a few sentences about Hayes on their site on Sunday, and more on Monday. "We're pushing our Web site," she said. "We definitely try to make this work. Two African Americans of that magnitude!"

"The Bernie Mac story went up on the Web Saturday night. We are presently working on posting a story on Isaac Hayes as we speak," Johann Calhoun, city editor of the Philadelphia Tribune, told Journal-isms via e-mail on Monday afternoon. "The Isaac Hayes piece will be staff written copy -- talking to local listeners who were big fans of the singer / producer and the importance of Hayes' contribution to Black American music."

The St. Louis American, the South Florida Times and the Los Angeles Sentinel also had locally written stories posted on Monday. The New Pittsburgh Courier ran two Associated Press stories. However, the Los Angeles Wave newspapers, the Dallas Examiner, the Atlanta Daily World, the Kansas City Call, the Washington Informer, the Richmond (Va.) Free Press, the Bay State Banner, the Cleveland Call and Post, the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal, the Indianapolis Recorder, the Michigan Chronicle and the New York Amsterdam News all had nothing on the deaths.

At a "Being Your Own Boss" workshop at the Unity: Journalists of Color convention last month, minority media-ownership advocate David Honig read off several ideas for those looking for entrepreneurial opportunities.

Look at your local black newspaper's Web site, he said. Perhaps it could use some help.

"We have not closed all of the loopholes to meet the expectations," the Chicago Defender's House said, "but it doesn't mean we're not" trying.

Web staff at the Commercial Appeal produced a video on Isaac Hayes.

Meanwhile, at the Memphis Commercial Appeal . . .

A fatal bus crash of a Harrah's casino bus Sunday morning was planned as the big story for Monday's Commercial Appeal in Memphis, until word came about 1 p.m. that local icon Isaac Hayes had died.

"It was very easy to make the decision after that," Louis Graham, assistant managing editor for news, told Journal-isms on Monday. There would be only two stories on the front page, he and Sunday editor Zack McMillin agreed: Hayes and the bus crash, with Hayes dominating.

When the day was done, four or five stories about Hayes were in the paper, the music and movie writers were called in, as was an extra police reporter and another general assignment writer. The paper's space for news was increased.

From the Commercial Appeal Web site, said Lannie Byrd, online content manager, once the news about Hayes was verified with the newsroom, a breaking news e-mail alert went to subscribers, and a text message to texters. Since 60 percent of visitors to the site come via search engines, not through the home page, a big red "breaking news" banner was added to every page on the site, Byrd said.

Video manager Dennis Copeland, who had made videos at the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, put together a photo gallery and a video on Hayes, including footage from a Stax 50th anniversary concert last year. That was posted by 5 p.m., along with links to videos produced elsewhere.

The stories filed for the next day's print edition also went to the Web for immediate posting, and there were constant updates and additional sidebars, including a guest book that garnered 1,200 signatures.

On Monday, the Web site projected 475,000 page views, up from Monday's average 325,000, Byrd said.

Newspaper Reports Culpability in 1908 Riots

Springfield newspaper's coverage of the riots of 1908. "A century ago this week, the normally placid town of Springfield, Ill., the hometown of President Abraham Lincoln, erupted in a two-day spasm of racial violence and mayhem that still has the power to shock today," National Public Radio reported on its "Weekend Edition Sunday" program.

"Goaded by two alleged attacks by black men on whites, a mob of white residents killed two black men, destroyed dozens of black-owned businesses and ran most of the city's black population out of town on Aug. 14, 1908."

On May 31, the Springfield State Journal-Register produced a special section of its Web site commemorating the event.

"The Illinois State Register didn't pull any punches in August 1908 when it reported that a black man had assaulted a white woman named Mabel Hallam," John Reynolds wrote of his paper's predecessor.

"'One of the greatest outrages that ever happened in Springfield took place … last night,' The Register's story began. 'There is no doubt the case is one of premeditated assault . . . no effort should be spared to find the black viper,' the story added.

"Hallam's alleged assault made for a sensational headline and certainly encouraged vigilante justice.

"Tawnya Adkins Covert, associate professor and graduate chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Western Illinois University in Macomb, said such reporting was inflammatory even for 1908 standards. Still, that sort of language was common in newspapers of the era.

"Even on Aug. 15, after the riot had begun, the editors of the Register did not call for an end to the violence. Instead, their daily editor focused on 'That devilish outrage.'

"The acidic tone of the coverage begs the question of how much blame the newspapers shared for causing the riot. At the very least, the newspapers fanned the flames of bigotry."

Pete Sherman, an education writer who coordinated the project, told Journal-isms the paper studiously ignored the riot until the 1980s, when a movement grew to commemorate it. Obituaries of those who died afterward omitted mention of the events that led to their deaths. "The newsroom is currently discussing how and whether it should also take a look at itself," and plans a series examining present-day issues in the city involving race, he said.

Maria Hinojosa, Fernando Diaz Lead NAHJ Honorees

Ray Chavez of the Oakland Tribune shot the series 'The Mayan Way,' documenting the lives of Guatemalans who left behind everything for a chance to work in the United States. (Ray Chavez/Oakland Tribune) Maria Hinojosa, a radio, print and TV journalist and author, and Fernando Diaz, a bilingual investigative reporter at the Chicago Reporter, are among the journalists who will receive the ?± Awards in Washington Sept. 12 from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, NAHJ announced on Friday. They will receive the Leadership Award and Emerging Journalist Award, respectively.

Others to be honored are:

"Diana Washington Valdez of El Paso Times for her stories giving a resounding voice to the powerless, in particular women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

"Ray Chavez of the Oakland Tribune for his photos that beautifully chronicled the lives of Guatemalans and also immigrants working as day laborers in the San Francisco Bay Area, and for mentorship of young Latino photojournalists.

"Jim Avila of ABC News for his work as senior law and justice correspondent on an enterprising team that delivers compelling justice stories and shines light on injustices in the legal system.

"They will receive the Frank del Olmo Print Journalist of the Year Award, the Photojournalist of the Year Award and the Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award, respectively."

Journalism Educators Plan to Step Up Diversity Efforts

"The incoming president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (AEJMC) says that she plans to use her post to rally for increased diversity within the 96-year-old nonprofit organization. AEJMC is composed of journalism and mass communications faculty, administrators, students and media professionals from around the world," Jamal Watson reported Monday for Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

"Dr. Barbara B. Hines, a professor and director of the graduate program in mass communication and media studies at Howard University, is the 14th woman to serve as president of AEJMC. While progress has been made, she says to diversify the organization much more needs to be done.

"'It wasn't until the 1970s that women and then minorities started to become members of the academy and at that time there was really a recognition, in the early 1970s that we needed to be more diverse both in gender and ethnicity,' says Hines, who has taught at Howard University since 1984."

In Debates, Who Decides What the Issues Are?

Michel Martin "So . . . the Commission on Presidential Debates has decided: there will be three debates involving the Presidential candidates. The moderators will be: hold your breath . . . Tom Brokaw, of NBC News, Bob Schieffer, of CBS News and Jim Lehrer of PBS," Michel Martin said Monday in a commentary on her "Tell Me More" show on National Public Radio.

"Let me get this straight . . . in an election year in which questions about race, gender, and generational change have been central to the public AND private discourse. . . the Commission decided these three white men, aged 68, 71 and 74, respectively, are the only people qualified to question the candidates about the issues? When one of the candidates is himself a 70-plus year old white man?

"Can I just tell you? I am not hating the players, only the game. I consider Bob Schieffer a friend and a mentor, he along with the late Tim Russert of 'Meet the Press' and the late Paul Duke of 'Washington Week' were the first people to give me a chance in broadcasting when they put me on their weekend public affairs talk shows. They all do fine work, they have all paid their dues. But you cannot tell me that race and age do not matter in a year when race and age are two of the issues that people bring up when they talk about how they are going to vote and why.

"Think about it . . . If the Commission had picked three 40-something African Americans to moderate ALL THREE debates, do you think somebody would say, 'Gee, is that fair to John McCain?' . . .

"The Commissioners also would like us to believe these debates are all about the issues . . . but exactly what IS an issue is a matter of opinion . . . and perception . . . the time Obama brushed his shoulders off in response to a political attack -- I don't know anybody my age who thought that was a sexist gesture -- but 73-year-old Geraldine Ferraro did enough to complain about it for months. So who gets to decide?"

Oprah Endorsement Said to Be Worth 1 Million Votes

Economists Craig Garthwaite and Timothy Moore of the University of Maryland, College Park, contend that Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama last year gave him a boost of about 1 million votes in the primaries and caucuses, Brian Stelter reported Monday in the New York Times. "Their conclusions were based partly on a county-by-county analysis of subscriptions to O: The Oprah Magazine and sales figures for books that were included in her book club," Stelter wrote.

"Those data points were cross-referenced with the votes cast for Mr. Obama in various polling precincts. The results showed a correlation between magazine sales and the vote share obtained by Mr. Obama, and extrapolated an effect of 1,015,559 votes."

Ombudsman Faults Writer of Piece Slamming Obama

Washington Post ombudsman Deborah Howell slammed Post writer Dana Milbank on Sunday for use of an anonymous quote, since disputed, that Milbank used to portray Sen. Barack Obama as acting as though he were already president.

"Several lessons can be learned here. For reporters: Anonymous quotes should be used sparingly; this one wasn't worth it," Howell wrote. "If you weren't there, be careful about judging the context. Treat readers well; we need them.

"Lessons for sources: Stand up and be named. Be sure reporters understand the context if they weren't there. Lesson for Milbank's editors: Label his column commentary. Lesson for the Obama campaign: Let the press in when your candidate speaks to a large gathering of elected officials."


CNN's Fredericka Whitfield with her dad, Mal Whitfield, a five-medal Olympian. (CNN)

Whitfield Reports on Olympics Through Dad's Eyes

CNN anchor Fredericka Whitfield has an Olympian dad, "Marvelous Mal" Whitfield, who won five medals (three gold, one silver and a bronze) in the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games. On the 60th anniversary of his first medal win, Whitfield and her father will go to Beijing for the final week of Olympic events. Most of the living American Olympians of the 1948 games also plan to be there, witnessing history and reuniting with other Olympians, according to CNN.

Whitfield's interview of her dad has been running on CNN since Saturday. A second report is to air this weekend, with Whitfield profiling more specifically some past Olympians, the network said. She also plans to touch on some of the hardships some former medalists endured, such as Jim Crow laws, discrimination and the military draft.

Short Takes

  • A trio of former Federal Communications Commission chairmen -- former Democratic chairman Newton Minow, former Republican chairman Mark Fowler and James Quello, former acting chairman and longest-serving Democratic commissioner -- joined to ask the Supreme Court to strip the FCC of its power to regulate indecency entirely, saying that it is on a "Victorian crusade" that hurts broadcasters, viewers and the Constitution, John Eggerton reported Friday in Broadcasting & Cable.
  • Chris Pe?±a Chris Pe?±a is joining NBC O&O WMAQ Chicago as assistant news director effective Sept. 8, TV Newsday reported on Monday. Pe?±a has been executive producer of the late news at NBC's WTVJ Miami for the past two years. Prior to WTVJ, he was news director at WSCV Miami.
  • "Univision newscaster Jorge Ramos will receive the Award for a Lifetime of Achievement in Hispanic Television, presented by Multichannel News and Broadcasting & Cable magazines at a luncheon on Thursday, Oct. 23, at the New York Hilton," Multichannel News reported.
  • Randell Beck, executive editor of the Sioux Falls (S.D.) Argus Leader for the past seven years and honoree for his diversity efforts, was named Wednesday as publisher and president of the media company, the Argus Leader reported last week. Beck replaces Arnold Garson, who is taking over as publisher and president of the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal. Both are Gannett papers.
  • "First James Cameron died and now they've closed his museum," Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote Sunday in his Miami Herald column. In his book "A Time of Terror," Cameron recounted his hairsbreadth escape in August of 1930 from a white lynch mob in Marion, Ind., that had already murdered two of his friends. "Cameron went on to found what he called America's Black Holocaust Museum, believed to be the only one in the country dedicated to memorializing a time when racial violence was rampant and widely accepted. Officially, the facility's closure on the last day of July is only temporary as it negotiates with lenders and the city in hopes of carving out some breathing room," Pitts wrote.
  • Pablo Guzman, a WCBS-TV correspondent and a former New York Daily News writer, returned to work last week. He had a heart attack July 22 while being treated for chest pains, Richard Huff reported in the New York Daily News.

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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As pointed out, a lot of African American newspapers/publishers

As pointed out, a lot of African American newspapers/publishers are not able to promptly update their websites, mainly due to lack of resources and able personnel. Their subscribers do not realize the costs needed to be able to do such.

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