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Bryan Monroe's Top Job Cut at Ebony, Jet

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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Robert Churchwell Dies, Pioneer in Southern Journalism

Sandra Gregg, former Washington Post reporter, dies


Staffers Told to Apply for New Jobs in Shakeup

A major reorganization is under way at Johnson Publishing Co., publishers of Ebony and Jet magazines, iThe editorial director supervised Ebony and Jet magazines.n which Editorial Director Bryan Monroe has seen his job eliminated and he and others have been told they may reapply for jobs at the company, Johnson employees told Journal-isms.

Monroe is eligible to apply for one of the newly created executive editor jobs at Ebony, the monthly, or Jet, the weekly pocket-sized newsmagazine, employees said.

Asked about his choice, Monroe told Journal-isms on Sunday that it was probably best to refer any questions to the company's public relations director.

The job descriptions are expected to be posted this week. On Friday, the human resources department called some employees to tell them whether their jobs would be part of the new structure.

[Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO of the company, said in a statement to Journal-isms on Monday, "I am deeply committed to maintaining our presence and long-standing legacy in the African-American community. Reshaping our organizational design will help ensure that we continue to evolve with the ever-changing media landscape."]

News of the reorganization was first delivered to employees at a staff meeting three days after the presidential inauguration, which Johnson employees were told to cover using their own funds, for reimbursement later. Some drove the 11 hours from Chicago to Washington and stayed with friends.

Ad pages were down 22 percent at Ebony and 43.1 percent at Jet last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures. Jet magazine has been combining issues once a month and calling each a "special double issue."

Freelancers continue to complain about not being paid.

While Johnson's woes can be partly attributed to the declining economy, "the costs of running Ebony and Jet have increased tenfold" since Monroe came aboard, one employee said, adding that the editorial director's authority had recently been reined in.

The mood at the Chicago-based company ranges from "fear and apprehension" among longtime employees to "wait-and-see" among the newer hires, one employee said.

"The people who were retiring are joyous," another told Journal-isms, having attended recent retirement parties.

As reported on Jan. 12, Lynn A. Norment, Walter Leavy and Malcolm West, three of the four managing editors at Ebony and Jet, are accepting buyout offers.

On Jan. 23, the same day as the staff meeting, company spokeswoman Staci R. Collins Jackson issued a statement declaring Johnson's intention to "continue to be the pulse of Black America," adding, "We are executing a multi-phase reorganization by adding new capabilities to service the changing media environment and expand the presence of our iconic brands while strategically improving our operational efficiencies."

She did not explain the statement.

Monroe, 43, was named editorial director in July 2006, recruited by Rice, who is the daughter of company founder John H. Johnson. Monroe was then president of the National Association of Black Journalists and joined Johnson a week after Knight Ridder Inc., the nation's second-largest newspaper chain, went out of business. Monroe was assistant vice president for news for the defunct company.

His appointment was unprecedented in that Jet and Ebony, the nation's largest black-oriented magazine, traditionally had separate editors and they came from inside the company. Monroe quickly brought in outside talent, such as Sylvester Monroe, longtime Time magazine correspondent, Eric Easter, formerly of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, Terry Glover, managing editor of Savoy magazine, Harriette Cole, syndicated columnist and author, photo director Dudley Brooks of the Baltimore Sun and Mira Lowe of Newsday.

"The magazines have been successful for 60 years in the black community, but in the last decade or so, they've gotten a little bit stagnant," Monroe told the Chicago Tribune in January 2007. "The current issue exemplifies where we're headed. We are going to be newsy and timely, but we also want to be fun."

However, rising expenditures for the new talent, travel and the staff-shot Ebony covers apparently were not matched by sufficient increases in newsstand sales and advertising. Ebony published a lavish issue on the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album, took a stand against the N-word, and featured eight different covers for its August issue on "the 25 Coolest Brothers of All Time."

Partly because of Rice's ties to fellow Chicagoan Barack Obama, Ebony scored the first post-election interview with the president-elect, though it was not published until Obama had already granted other interviews.

Monroe's desire to interview the top celebrities himself - he did both Obama and Jackson - rubbed some staffers the wrong way, and the decision to pull rapper Ludacris from a 2007 Ebony cover because he had been accused of promoting misogyny - which Monroe had just condemned in the case of shock jock Don Imus - was also costly.

Without naming names, columnist Wil LaVeist, who had been brought in to be director of Web development, wrote about his unceremonious firing by Monroe in his self-published book, "Fired Up: How to Win When You Lose Your Job."

Monroe also had the challenge of finding the right niche for a black general-interest magazine long after mainstream general-interest publications such as Life and Look disappeared, at least as weeklies.

And, "for a lot of black folks," one staffer said, "Ebony was still seen as a magazine for your grandparents or parents."  [Updated Feb. 2.]

February 2, 2009

Ebony-Jet Won't Release Details on Reorganization

After volunteering to answer questions about the shakeup under way at its Chicago headquarters, Johnson Publishing Co. sent back word late Monday that, "Specific details of our ongoing multi-phase reorganization will not be released."

Staci R. Collins Jackson, assistant vice president and director of corporate affairs for Johnson Publishing, had received a list of questions for the company's president and its chief operating officer. She had asked for the list in light of Sunday's column reporting from Johnson employees that a major reorganization was under way at the privately owned company. She offered to shed more light on the situation.

Meanwhile, David Carr reported in the New York Times on Sunday that like those from Johnson, reporters at the New Yorker magazine also drove to Washington for the inauguration and stayed with friends, though it was only from New York, not Chicago.

"When the current editor, David Remnick, ordered up a bunch of articles for the magazine's formidable presidential inauguration issue, some of the reporters drove to Washington and stayed at friends' houses," Carr wrote in a story about Conde Nast magazines. "Mr. Remnick, who was among those who bunked with a friend in Washington, declined comment, beyond suggesting it was just common sense to preserve assets for other articles. 'Steve Coll can't stay at a friend's house in Afghanistan,' he said."

Sportswriter Larry Fitzgerald Sr., father of the Arizona Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald Jr., with Edgerrin James of the Cardinals. (Credit: David Kadlubowski/Arizona Republic)

Dad Made Super Bowl History, Even if Son Didn't

Larry Fitzgerald Sr. became the first journalist to cover a Super Bowl with his son playing in the game, the Ledger in Lakeland, Fla., noted on Monday.

"Fitzgerald Sr. said he wasn't going to cheer, and he wasn't lying. Granted, there wasn't much for the Arizona receiver's dad to cheer about in the first half of Super Bowl XLIII," Katherine Smith added Monday in the Tampa Tribune.

"But the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder reporter had plenty of opportunities in the fourth quarter, and he didn't."

Fitzgerald Sr. and his Minnesota weekly were the subjects of a number of articles in the days leading up to Sunday's game. He wrote his own story in the New York Times, saying, "it's been uncomfortable lately when other reporters start challenging my objectivity or my organization's credibility on football's biggest stage. I have had my parenting questioned and second-guessed."

In an online chat last week with Bill Simmons, known as the Sports Guy on, Pete of Minneapolis wrote, "Most overrated SB story??" referring to the Super Bowl. "All of articles of Larry Fitz Sr. not cheering from the press box. I'm 45 yrs old, have lived in the Twin Cities all my life and have never seen or heard of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, the newspaper Larry Sr. writes for. The real story is how Larry Sr. has been able finagle 28 straight SB trips out of this gig."

Simmons responded, "I've gotten multiple e-mails about this. What the hell is the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder? It sounds like one of those fake newspapers that Tom Hanks would work at in a romantic comedy or something. . . and all you need to know about why newspapers are going out of business is that the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder has sent someone to cover 28 SB's. Good business plan!"

The Spokesman-Recorder says on its Web site that it celebrated 75 years of serving the black community in August, describing itself as the oldest minority-owned business in Minnesota.

On Sunday, the Tampa Tribune wrote, "Larry Fitzgerald Jr. was pretty much a non-factor throughout most of the game, picking up just one reception for 12 yards in the first three quarters, but he got heavily involved in the fourth. With Arizona trailing 20-7 heading into the final quarter, the wideout came alive with two touchdowns to put the Cardinals ahead with a 64-yard touchdown catch and run with 2:37 remaining in the game.

"Sitting in the auxiliary press box, Fitzgerald Sr. calmly kept notes throughout the game. When Fitzgerald scored his first touchdown of the game, a 1-yard pass from Kurt Warner midway through the fourth quarter, the elder Fitzgerald wrote in his reporter's notebook: Warner to Larry. No exclamation point or even a smiley face.

"He wrote the exact same note when Fitzgerald scored his second touchdown."

Ken Catalino/Creators Syndicate

Cartoonist Says Characters Didn't Take Any Lip

Cartoonist Ken Catalino of Creators Syndicate has responded to criticism of a political cartoon he drew depicting President Obama with large lips and a white character without any,

"For every Steve Benson or Mike Luckovich who is zeroing in on a swell, spot-on Obama, there seems to be a cartoonist who invokes 'caricature' in the most grotesque sense of the word. Obama's lips have been rendered in such unnatural tints, and at such dimensions, that somewhere, even R. Crumb would blush," Michael Cavna, who writes a column called "Comic Riffs" for, wrote Wednesday.

As one example, he cited Catalino's cartoon.

"At first glance, this Obama caricature didn't immediately stop me — but then my eye wandered over to the 'non-lipped' figure speaking to Obama. Looking at them side-by-side, suddenly Obama's mouth seems utterly out-of-whack in its conspicuous prominence. We're left to wonder: Why?"

Catalino replied to Journal-isms on Monday:

"I believe that if you take a look at a sample of my other cartoons, with or without President Obama, you'll see that the characters who are not depicting any known person and who usually represent the person on the street. are, most unilaterally, depicted the same way — lipless. I'll keep that in mind going forward, though, to give people with lips (who include me), their due. As far as the purple hue observation, it didn't look that way on my computer — if that really is the case, I may have to use a different color palette. Without being facetious, drawing a new political figure is usually an evolutionary process, especially for me. In time, you may like my rendition of the president and the fuller lipped characters who populate my cartoons."

No African Americans Yet in White House Press Office

There are no African Americans assigned so far to President Obama's press office, according to a memo distributed Monday by Press Secretary Robert Gibbs.

The memo, providing reporters with contact information, listed the White House press office staff as Gibbs; deputy press secretaries Bill Burton and Josh Earnest; assistant press secretaries Jen Pskaki, Tommy Vietor, Reid Cherlin, Nick Shapiro and Ben LaBolt; press assistants Ben Finkenbinder, Priya Singh and Katie Hogan; Marissa Hopkins, special assistant to the press secretary; and Katie Lillie, deputy director of advance for press.

The vice president's press staff includes Elizabeth Alexander, press secretary (no relation to the inaugural poet of the same name); communications director Jay Carney (formerly Washington bureau chief of Time magazine); communications director Courtney O'Donnell; and Annie Tomasini, deputy press secretary.

First lady Michelle Obama's press staff includes Camille Johnston, communications director; Katie McCormick Lelyveld, press secretary; and Semonti Mustaphi, deputy press secretary.

While African Americans are so far absent from the press office, there are still slots to be filled, as Ben Smith pointed out Jan. 19 in a piece on the press office for Politico.

In addition, there are press aides in the media affairs and communications offices, including those assigned to the ethnic press.

Coincidentally, at least two black women journalists covered the first lady on Monday: Darlene Superville for the Associated Press and Nia-Malika Henderson of Politico, who filed the pool report.

Deputy campaign communications director Dan Pfeiffer did not respond to requests for comment.

[Updates: On Feb. 3, Pfeiffer replied "there are" African Americans in the press office, but did not name them, referring to question to Corey Ealons. an African American in the media affairs office who deals with the African American press.

[See Feb. 11 column: "I Am Biracial, That's Right."] 



Robert Churchwell Dies, Pioneer in Southern Journalism

Robert Churchwell Sr."Robert Churchwell Sr., the first African-American journalist at a major white-owned newspaper in the South, died early Sunday morning in Nashville," Colby Sledge reported Sunday in the Tennessean.

"He was 91.

"Mr. Churchwell came to the Nashville Banner in February 1950 to cover the African-American community, and later became the paper's education writer. He often referred to himself as "the Jackie Robinson of journalism," and worked for the Banner for 31 years before retiring in 1981."

Dwight Lewis, the Tennessean's editorial page editor, wrote in a column Sunday, "In journalism, I don't know that I could have put up with some of the things he had to go through. For instance, Mr. Churchwell told me about the time, about 1956 or 1957, when he was in his office writing a story and a political reporter sitting not far from him 'yelled up to the city editor, Bob Battle. He was asking about a black man from Memphis who had been appointed to a relatively high position by the governor at the time.

"'But he yelled, 'Hey, Bob, what's that n …. r's name from Memphis?' I stopped what I was doing and just looked at him. Then, he got up from his desk and walked up to the city editor. When he sat back down, I rolled my chair over to him and told him I was surprised he would do something like that.

"'At first, he wanted to know what I was talking about, and then he apologized. He told me he had a lot of 'colored' friends, and I could ask them what type of person he really was.'

". . . Yes, Mr. Churchwell, I stand on your shoulders, and I will never forget it. But so do so many others, and I am sure they are just as proud of the hero in you as I am."

Marilu Lozada, 42, Florida Producer, Dies of Cancer

Marilu LozadaMarilu Lozada, an Emmy award-winning producer for WPBT-TV, a Miami public television station, as well as for Univision died Wednesday in Miami after a 22-month battle with cancer, two days after her 42nd birthday.

"She is Coordinating Producer at Channel 2, where she's written and produced a wide variety of feature and public affairs programs and specials. Her recent documentary 'Mi Colombia,' which depicts the colorful traditions of the Colombian people, was broadcast nationally on public television. Marilu has also worked as producer of the 11:30 p.m. live national newscast at Univision Network. Currently she is producing a second documentary on Colombia, which highlights that country's rich musical heritage," according to a bio.

Her brother, Carlos Lozada, an editor at the Washington Post, and his family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her name to the Cancer Research Institute, One Exchange Plaza, 55 Broadway, Suite 1802, New York, N.Y. 10006 (attention Devi Sharma). Donations may also be made online at



Sandra Gregg, Ex-Washington Post Reporter, Dies

Sandra GreggSandra R. Gregg, a former Washington Post reporter who went into public relations, died Monday night after struggling with "a swift and virulent cancer," her family announced on Tuesday. She was 53.

The family made its statement on a CaringBridge site, where friends and colleagues may leave messages.  "We will be in touch via this site with arrangements once they are made. In the meantime, please feel free to use it to send your messages and memories — especially to Journey, who will be able to have a valuable store of remembrance of his amazing Mom to carry with him for a lifetime," it said, referring to Gregg's 12-year-old son.

Gregg, known as "Sandee," worked at the Post from 1981 to 1987, her byline appearing over local stories.

One of those she worked with there was Gwen Ifill, now at PBS, who became a close friend. "She was a generous woman who reached out in concentric circles and changed the lives of everyone she knew, " Ifill told Journal-isms. Other contemporaries were Michel Martin and Michele Norris, now both of National Public Radio.

Gregg joined Kaiser Permanente as vice president of communications and external relations for its regional office in suburban Rockville, Md., in 2005. Kaiser's announcement said then, "Most recently, Gregg was the principal in her own consulting firm, SRG Consulting, working with nonprofit organizations such as the Washington Area Women's Foundation and the National Education Association.

"Prior to SRG Consulting, Gregg served as partner in Venture Philanthropy Partners, a Washington, DC organization in the emerging field of high-engagement grant-making. Previously, Gregg was the communications director at The Enterprise Foundation, and the United Negro College Fund; and was director of public affairs and marketing for the Washington Hospital Center. Gregg began her career as a reporter for The Washington Post before becoming the southern bureau chief of U.S. News & World Report."

She was also active in the Washington Association of Black Journalists. [Added Feb. 3]

Short Takes

  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch said Friday it will require all nonunion employees to take a week off without pay in the next two months, as parent company Lee Enterprises tries to cut costs and renegotiate $306 million in debt that is coming due, Tim Logan reported in the Post-Dispatch.
  • In Toledo, Ohio, "Four WNWO-TV, Channel 24, employees including evening co-anchor Shenikwa Stratford, were laid off Wednesday, and one position was eliminated through attrition," the Toledo Blade reported¬†on Saturday.
  • Herb Boyd, veteran writer, longtime contributor to the New York Amsterdam News, and managing editor of the Web site the Black World Today, has been nominated for a NAACP Image Award, Boyd wrote¬† Monday on his site. "His book, "Baldwin's Harlem ‚Äî A Biography of James Baldwin" (Atria/Simon& Schuster, 2008), will compete in the autobiography/biography category against two other Atria Books, '21 Nights' by Prince and 'The Black List,' by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders and Elvis Mitchell. The ceremony is to be aired by Fox on Feb. 12.
  • "In just two months, Carlos Watson has leap-frogged within the ranks at MSNBC from on-air guest to contributor to political analyst to co-anchoring the daytime news with Contessa Brewer. Now, the 39-year-old Harvard graduate, who was once labeled a problem child, is inching up to the edge of political punditry, ready to lead the Obama generation into a new era of information," Cristina Kinon wrote¬†Sunday in a q-and-a with Watson in the New York Daily News.
  • Black Entertainment Television intends to produce more programming related to education, according to Scott Mills, BET's president and chief operating officer. He told¬†Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting & Cable on Monday: "One of the things that's fabulous about the First Family is that education is so integral to their values." BET "has an important role to play with respect to communicating and helping address education issues in the African American community. We think the president and Michelle Obama are wonderful exemplars for us to drive home the point we're looking to make."
  • "When President Lyndon B. Johnson was about to sign the Immigration and Nationality Act on Oct. 3, 1965, he chose to do it at the foot of the Statue of Liberty," Tim Giago wrote on Monday for Indian Country Today. "That day he said, 'Our beautiful America was built by a nation of strangers. From a hundred different places or more they poured forth into an empty land, joining and blending in one mighty and irresistible tide.' Built by a nation of strangers? An empty land? Joining and blending? Out of sight, out of mind and out of consideration is a credo so embedded in the American media when it comes to Native Americans that not one reporter or news organization even questioned the ignorant remarks by President Johnson in his 1965 speech even though it grated upon the ears of every living Native American." Giago said he has asked¬† the South Dakota Newspaper Association to talk at its next convention about racism and the media, "but so far my pleas have fallen on deaf ears."
  • "Reporter Francis Nyaruri was found decapitated and with his hands bound on Thursday in a forest in western Kenya. Nyaruri, who wrote for the private Weekly Citizen under the pen name Mong'are Mokua, had been missing since January 15, according to local journalists and relatives," the Committee to Protect Journalists reported¬†on Friday.

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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Johnson Publishing Company

Are they going out of business? How can you run a business without all the talent that help make it what it used to be? I heard they also got rid of the kitchen staff. The cosmetic division went through the same kind of "reorganization" last year and it is still in deep trouble.

Carlos Watson

Remember a few years back when Carlos Watson was supposed to be the fresh, hot talent at CNN? What happened with that? I'm willing to bet a small amount, though, that Watson gets the 10 p.m. slot at MSNBC.

African Americans in White House Press Office

I am getting so sick and tired of black folks just itching to critize my man Barack. There IS African Americans in his press team... A LOT OF THEM here is a few... Im not going to waste my time and list every single one of them: Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton Director of African American media Corey Ealons Director of message events Daniella Gibbs Leger Regional Communications Gannett Tseggai ****And what about the Hispanics? Director of broadcast media Dag Vega Deputy director of message events Joelle Terry Director of Hispanic media Luis Miranda Deputy director of research Margaret Olmos Researcher David Gomez ****And what? Asian Americans don't count? Special Assistant to the Press Secretary Marissa Hopkins Press assistant Priya Singh Deputy director of communications Jason Djang Director of specialty media Shin Inouye So stop your whining and complaining, give the man a chance. He has a lot on his plate right now, and he doesn't have the time to pander to people like you with extreme "CRAB IN THE BARREL SYNDROME"!

I didn't realize how much I didn't know...

Thank you Mr. Prince for all your information about the journalism business in the lives of people of color. I will be a faithful reader of your writings. best, Sharon

Since a lot of post office

Since a lot of post office in our state had their closures, I think it’s time for us to be aware of its locations. A post office locator can come in handy in a pinch. If you have a package you really need to get in the mail, or if you waited to the last minute to do your taxes on the 15th of April, and haven't joined the 21st century yet and E-Filed (you Luddites, you), take heart. You won't need personal loans to air mail it, because some post offices will be open until midnight on April 15th. It isn't all of them, so you need to find out if it applies to your nearest one. You don't want to need debt consolidation for fines from the IRS because you couldn't use the post office locator.

Cornell West's remarks on 7/13/09 Black Experience Program

Certainly there has been no greater influence on Black America than Dr. Cornell West. That is clearly obvious to anyone who listens to black views as they are expressed in the media. Indeed, it's unlikely that the black community in America could have succeeded in their struggles for progress as well as they have without his arden efforts to bring those issues to the forefront of American thought. His desire to elevate not only the Obama's of the world but also the common folk still residing in poverty and less desirable circumstances is admirable but perhaps not so different from White America - since welfare is a very expensive use of taxes that, while necessary, has few future returns. Moving beyond Jim/Jill Crow mentality is critical to American race relations, and educational opportunity appears to have been the only method of doing so - for both whites and blacks. The critique of Clarence Thomas by both West & Smiley shows that both are hoping for a more integrated experience between blacks and whites than the mere tolerance or acceptance of elite blacks operating within white settings, the equivalent of tokenism). That same perspective is present as well within the gender-bias aware community unwilling to settle for tokenism. And progress may be achieved by both groups, but coercion and involuntary acceptance lacks political legitimacy to make it happen for either group, and it becomes a forced prerogative, thrust upon the world much like affirmative action programs that the world is inclined to resist. The better progress for both the minority communities and women may be to continue to induce commerce, government, and religious and cultural organizations to accept both in a spirit of positive integration that doesn't ignore social inconsistencies that create friction within either community sought to be integrated. Familiarity doesn't breed contempt in such a process but celebrates the diversity that each community brings to the total human experience. It might well be called the diversity experiment, rather than the diversity experience, since experience is produced in hindsight, not in foresight. The only thing available to humans in foresight is vision.

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