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Changeover at Black America Web

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Wickham, Dawkins Turn Over Reins at Joyner Site

Radio personality Tom Joyner's Web site, BlackAmericaWeb.com, is changing the leadership of its news pages as veteran journalists DeWayne Wickham and Wayne Dawkins, executive editor and managing editor, respectively, leave effective Jan. 7.

Sheena Lester, previously an editor at RapPages, Vibe and XXL magazines, and former vice president of music content at BET Interactive, has been named managing editor.

Despite the difference in backgrounds, Neil Foote, a spokesman for Joyner's Reach Media, told Journal-isms that the thrust of the Web site will remain the same, "What Tom wants it to be -- timely, relevant news," he said. "The edge and drive is still going to be there."

Wickham, a columnist for USA Today, author and a former president of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms that, "For the past two years the news portion of the site has been outsourced to me. Beginning in January it will be moved in-house to Reach Media. I've been offered a contract to continue in my role as executive editor, but I've decided that this is a good time for me to move on."

Dawkins is a former reporter and editorial writer, and unofficial historian of the National Association of Black Journalists. He has his own book publishing company, August Press.

As reported last month, Wickham is moving his Institute for Advanced Journalism Studies from Delaware State University to North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, N.C., where he will also be A&T's distinguished professor of journalism and mass communications.

Black America Web has 800,000 registered users, executives said last month when it was announced that Radio One, which owns 69 radio stations, was buying 51 percent of Reach Media. The site is expected to be key to Radio One's goal of developing a leading Internet portal targeting African Americans.

In an April 30 story in the Dallas Morning News, reporter Dianne Solis noted that, "BlackAmericaWeb distinguishes itself from other sites geared to minority groups in that it moves beyond entertainment, culture and dating-service offerings to more serious fare." She said, "BlackAmericaWeb is prospering even though Internet usage among blacks falls below that of many other groups."

"I just had a remarkable 16-month run," Dawkins told Journal-isms. "It was an amazing experiment -- a virtual newsroom. I worked with two or three different editors and supervised a network of two dozen corespondents, including a foreign correspondent," a reference to Kenneth Walker in South Africa, all from his Virginia home. "I thought of us as the new sheriff in town," he continued, saying that stories had to be multi-sourced, as a newspaper story would be.

Dawkins said the experience was a testament to the networking possible through organizations such as the National Association of Black Journalists, through which he made many of his contacts. He said he would continue to write a column for the site and remain a contributor to Black Issues Book Review.

Foote told Journal-isms that for the time being, the Web site would be run by Katrina Witherspoon, vice president for Interactive Media at Reach Media, and Lester, with an executive editor named sometime later.

Plans unveiled for syndicated Tom Joyner television show (news release)

TV News Viewers Less Supportive of Civil Liberties

"In a study to determine how much the public fears terrorism, almost half of respondents polled nationally said they believe the U.S. government should -- in some way -- curtail civil liberties for Muslim Americans," according to a survey released Friday by Cornell University.

"The survey also showed a correlation between television news-viewing habits, a respondent's fear level and attitudes toward restrictions on civil liberties for all Americans. Respondents who paid a lot of attention to television news were more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties, such as greater power for the government to monitor the Internet. Respondents who paid less attention to television news were less likely to support such measures," the release said.

Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement reacting to the survey that, "Elected representatives, government officials and other opinion leaders must finally recognize that Islamophobia is a growing phenomenon in American society that must be urgently addressed." He said the Cornell study confirmed a CAIR survey from October that indicated that one in four Americans believed anti-Muslim stereotypes.

Knight Ridder Trims Claim Ga. Assignment Editor

Tim Turner, sports assignment editor at Georgia's Columbus Enquirer, is the latest victim of cost-cutting orders from the Knight Ridder Co.

"They had a restructuring and had to make cutbacks," Turner said he was told.

Turner, 43, joined the paper in 2000 after having been a features editor at Tennessee's Jackson Sun. He started as Sunday projects editor, then became assignment editor for news and then assignment editor for sports.

"People have to be aware of the reality of what can happen," he told Journal-isms. "You have to be mobile and prepared in terms of 'what if'."

"Tim Turner is a sharp, energetic journalist," Enquirer editor Ben Holden told Journal-isms, "who we enjoyed working with, who does outstanding work. We wish him well."

Turner said he would prefer to stay in the South or Southeast for his next job.

KKK Fliers Wrapped in Louisville Newspapers

"Residents of several Louisville neighborhoods awoke this week to find fliers for the Ku Klux Klan wrapped in various newspapers in their driveways," the Courier-Journal reported.

"The newspapers included The Courier-Journal, Velocity, the Southeast Outlook and the Highland Commerce Guild Bardstown Road Festival Guide.

"Bernard Faller, who lives in the Mockingbird Garden area, said the fliers bear an application on which 'you attest that you are white and not of Jewish ancestry.' They also have information opposing gay marriage and 'it encourages those who oppose it to join the KKK,'" the Kentucky newspaper reported.

Reporter Discovers "Gross National Happiness"

"A reclusive Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas is offering the world a different vision of the future ?- a society that measures success not by wealth but by Gross National Happiness," reported Hema Easley of the Journal News, a Gannett paper that covers Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties in New York.

Easley, who was describing the kingdom of Bhutan, was one of six members of the Asian American Journalists Association who participated in a five-day AAJA/United Nations Development Programme Media Tour, sponsored by Hearst Newspapers.

Others chosen for the Nov. 8-12 tour were Sharon Chan, reporter, The Seattle Times, Rene Ciria-Cruz, editor/writer, Pacific News Service, Craig Gima, reporter/assistant city editor, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Ken Moritsugu, national correspondent, Knight Ridder, and Putsata Reang, Santa Clara County reporter, San Jose Mercury News.

Macarena Hernández Gets to Tell Family Story

"More than a century ago, the Reyna family first came to the United States as migrant laborers, but still called their small ranch in northern Mexico home," began the introduction to the special section, "One Family, Two Homelands" in Sunday's San Antonio Express-News.

"The next generation crossed into South Texas and stayed. Now another generation, born in the USA, looks south and sees only death and memories connecting them to their rancho origins. This is the story of the great Mexican migration, told in the voices of one family, by one of their own ? Express-News Rio Grande Valley Bureau reporter Macarena Hernández."

In his column yesterday, Express-News editor Robert Rivard wrote that, "Macarena, the newspaper's correspondent in the Valley, spent more than a year researching and writing her family's story. She persuaded editors to give her the time and space after the episode last year when Jayson Blair, a troubled reporter working for the New York Times, plagiarized one of her stories.

"The theft marked the end of Blair's career as a journalist, but it caused Macarena to reconsider her own career path and ask herself whether she wanted to stay in daily journalism. More than anything, she told us, she wanted to write her family's story."

Editorial Writers Get $150,000 From Knight

The National Conference of Editorial Writers is on its way to raising an endowment to permanently pay for its Minority Writers Seminar, thanks to a five-year, $150,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the editorial writers group announces.

"The seminar, in its 10th year, is aimed at bringing more diverse voices to the editorial pages and broadcasts of America. Experienced opinion writers donate their time and services each spring in cooperation with the Diversity Institute of the Freedom Forum, First Amendment Center at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.," a news release says.

"The program trains at least 20 journalists of color each year, those who want to go into opinion writing or who are opinion writers with two years' experience or less at newspapers and TV stations."

One such graduate is Brian Lewis, associate editorial page editor at the News-Leader in Springfield, Mo. Lewis, 29, was covering religion at the Tennessean in Nashville until earlier this year. "It was pretty good timing," he told Journal-isms today. "I went to the Minority Writers Seminar a week before I came in here to interview."

Lewis said he had seen Don Wycliff, the Chicago Tribune's public editor and former editorial page editor, while a student at Notre Dame and again at the seminar, and was inspired both times. The seminar confirmed "how much fun being an editorial writer could be -- that it wasn't something unattainable," he said.

Chuck Stokes, editorial/public affairs director of WXYZ-TV Detroit who has long been a faculty member at the seminar, told Journal-isms that at least one person from every class landed a job on an editorial page. Some of the others just wanted to find out about editorial writing, he said, while others could not find jobs in the field.

As reported in September, the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation approved $20,000 a year for five years to additionally fund the seminar. The editorial writers group said it needed $500,000 to operate the program permanently.

Katie Couric in Rather's Anchor Chair?

A number of media observers -- including departed NBC anchor Tom Brokaw himself -- have noted that the trio of white male anchors on the broadcast networks' evening news will likely be succeeded by more of the same. Now, J. Max Robins, a writer for the trade publication Broadcasting & Cable, floats the name of Katie Couric as successor to Dan Rather at CBS.

"One scenario gaining commerce among industry cognescenti is that CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves will name an interim placeholder ?- The Early Show co-host Harry Smith, Face the Nation moderator Bob Schieffer or 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley ?- until he can land a superstar to take over," Robins wrote. "If that's the tack he takes, what I hear is that the big name he's most likely to court is Katie Couric, arguably the most incandescent of all the stars in the news constellation."

Minority anchors don't get networks (Chris Baker, Washington Times)

Content Analysis: Few Stories on Reparations

"In all probability, few people know that several developments in the reparations debate occurred this year," Venise Wagner wrote for the News Watch project of the Center for the Integration and Improvement of Journalism at San Francisco State University.

"In March, eight African Americans filed a $1 billion lawsuit in a Manhattan federal court charging that Lloyd?s of London, FleetBoston, and R.J. Reynolds committed genocide in the slave trade against the plaintiffs? African ancestors. These descendants of slaves used DNA to link themselves to specific African tribes that were enslaved.

"This was the second suit accusing firms of involvement in the slave trade.

". . . Why are people generally unaware of these developments? Few stories have appeared in the nation?s newspapers. A Lexis-Nexis search found 114 stories written about reparations so far in 2004. The previous year?s database, 134 stories were found. This paltry coverage is evidence of reluctance in mainstream media to take the issue seriously, a charge that is supported in a 2002 content analysis I conducted of slave reparations coverage in major newspapers across the country."

TV One Cable Channel to Arrive in L.A.

"Comcast announced on Wednesday it will launch of TV One on its cable systems in Los Angeles, which serves more 500,000 subscribers," Megan Larson wrote in Media Week.

"The cable operator began previewing the entertainment and lifestyle channel targeting African-Americans age 25-54 on Dec. 15. It will formally launch on February 15."

N.Y. Anchor Forgives Hit-Run Driver

"Sade Baderinwa forgives the hit-and-run driver who ran her down in July, but she'll never forget the pain he caused," Richard Huff reported Friday in the New York Daily News.

"'I've never been angry,' the WABC/Ch. 7 anchor told the Daily News yesterday. 'When it comes to the driver, I forgive the driver. I think what he did was wrong. I think the whole act of hit-and-run is wrong.'

"She said hit-and-run is 'not only a crime, it's a heinous and cowardly act.'"

"Baderinwa was standing on a water-covered street covering flooding conditions in Hackensack, N.J., when she was mowed down by a driver who was never caught.

". . . Before the accident, Baderinwa co-anchored the 5 p.m. newscast and reported for other shows. She couldn't say when she would report again.

"'Right now,' she said, 'I'm just focusing on being back at the anchor desk.'

"Earlier this week, Baderinwa said on-air she would do whatever she could to get tougher hit-and-run laws passed."

Beverly Kees' Successor Reflects on Her Role

Beverly Kees, the champion of newsroom diversity who was struck and killed by a truck Dec. 10, "was a pioneer in many ways," her successor as editor of North Dakota's Grand Forks Herald, Mike Jacobs, wrote yesterday.

"Most obviously, she was the first woman to serve as top editor of a Knight-Ridder newspaper, though that seems inconceivable today.

"She championed sectioning of the newspaper, including daily feature sections devoted to recurring topics. . . . . [and] when I was city editor, she insisted on a monthlong schedule of suggested stories. Although we editors resented this, it forced us to think ahead, to foresee what would be news in the future. This seems counterintuitive, I know, but the exercise taught me that much of the news can be anticipated."

West African Journalist Killed Leaving Office

Deyda Hydara, correspondent for Reporters sans Frontières in Gambia in West Africa, was shot three times in the head as he left his office in the capital, Banjul.

"Hydara, aged 58, was the managing editor and co-owner of the private weekly 'The Point', and had been the local correspondent for Agence France-Presse (AFP) since 1974." the Paris-based press-freedom group reported.

"Fluent in French, he was also one of RSF's longest-serving correspondents in Africa, putting his experience and authority at the service of press freedom since 1994. His dedication and professionalism had been of great help to his fellow journalists in The Gambia for years. He was married and the father of four children."

"He was shot by one or several persons as he left his office shortly after midnight on the night of 16 to 17 December. Two of his newspaper's employees were injured in the shooting. Police said they were investigating the attack."

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists likewise expressed its shock and sadness.

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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