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Chicago Defender Editor Pink-Slipped

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Rocky Road for Paper Since Its Rescue in 2003

Story on Execution of Boy, 14, Drives Hits to the Grio 

Media Keep Asking, "Herman, Are You for Real?"

ASNE Partners With Mizzou to Conduct Diversity Survey

Natalie Morales to Contribute to New NBC Newsmagazine

Swedish Journalists Tried as Terror Suspects in Ethiopia

Short Takes

Lou Ransom, executive editor of the Chicago Defender since 2007, said Wednesday he had been terminated. (Credit: Chicago Weekly)

Rocky Road for Paper Since Its Rescue in 2003

The president of the historic Chicago Defender fired Executive Editor Lou Ransom on Wednesday amid rumors that Ransom's termination was just the tip of the iceberg.

Michael House, the president, told Journal-isms by telephone late Wednesday that "I have not put out personnel changes," saying that meant there had been "no personnel changes."

However, Ransom told Journal-isms by email about half an hour later, "He presented me with a letter of termination today, at 2 p.m. CST." Ransom did not elaborate.

Real Times Inc., bought the Chicago Defender, the Michigan Chronicle, the New Pittsburgh Courier, the Memphis Tri-State Defender and the Michigan Front Page in 2003 and has struggled to make the Defender financially successful.

In 2005, the Defender, then one of just two black-oriented dailies in the nation, reduced its frequency from five issues a week to four.

Roland S. Martin, a television, radio and print commentator, edited the newspaper from 2004 to 2007, and was credited with breathing new life into the publication. The Defender announced partnerships with television stations and created special sections. "People now respect the Defender. They don't call it the Chicago Offender" any longer, Martin said then. But Martin cited "available resources to implement the vision that I have had since I arrived," in announcing his departure in December 2006.

In January 2005, veteran journalist Pearl Stewart resigned as managing editor, saying, "I was ready for challenges, but not that many."

Ransom, managing editor of the New Pittsburgh Courier and a veteran journalist who had worked in both the black and mainstream press, arrived in 2007.

He told Journal-isms then, "There are 1.2 million black people in Greater Chicago. There are that many stories. I want us to reconnect with the people of Chicago and be their black paper."

Asked how he could cover the area with only one full-time reporter, he said, "We'll get more money. I think some of the resources that were there were not used very well. Some people were in the wrong positions. They were not asked to do their best stuff."

In 2009, the paper moved its office from the Loop to Bronzeville, closer to its readers. But the Chicago Weekly wrote then, "the Chicago Defender seems to have become detached from its original audience, causing its readers to forget that the newspaper is still publishing at all. In fact, Ransom shared that recently a prominent political figure (whose name he declined to share) could not reach the Chicago Defender’s offices directly by phone, and instead needed the assistance of 411 to call."

Robert S. Abbott published the Defender's first issue on May 5, 1905. The paper is credited with triggering the Great Migration of blacks from the rural South to the industrial North after World War II. But the 1997 death of longtime publisher John H. Sengstacke "ushered in a period of family squabbling, estate-tax indebtedness, and caretaker ownership that repeatedly frustrated would-be buyers," Mark Fitzgerald wrote in 2003 in Editor & Publisher.

That year, a group of African American businessmen, under the banner of Real Times, bought the Chicago Defender and  what are now its sister papers.

Rhonda Jones-Gillespie, the Defender's news editor, could not be reached for comment. It could not be determined whether she and others had been pink-slipped along with Ransom.

George Junius Stinney Jr. (Credit:

Story on Execution of Boy, 14, Drives Hits to the Grio

NBC News' topped the Washington Post Co.'s in unique visitors in September, according to the comScore, Inc. research company, a comScore spokeswoman said on Wednesday. TheGrio credited its reporting on the case of a 14-year-old executed in 1944.

Although neither theRoot nor the Grio ranks at the top of news sites targeting African Americans, the two have maintained a rivalry in aspiring to reach readers seeking news and opinion more serious than the omnipresent celebrity news and gossip. (Full disclosure: Journal-isms appears on

"For September, theGrio has now shot ahead of The Root — thanks in part to some incredible original reporting over the past few weeks," NBC News spokeswoman Meghan Pianta told Journal-isms by email. "An example of this was how theGrio led NBC News’ network coverage of the George Stinney case — a story that started on theGrio and led to a report on Nightly News (Nightly mentions the story originally came from theGrio, see here)."

On Sept. 27, theGrio reported that, "On June 16th, 1944, the United States executed a 14 year old boy. His name was George Junius Stinney Jr.

"There is good reason to believe Stinney’s confession was coerced, and that his execution was just another injustice blacks suffered in Southern courtrooms in the first half of the 1900s." The site then ran follow-up stories.

Here are the September figures for selected websites targeting African Americans:, 3,233,000, up 51 percent from September 2010; BET Networks, 2,401,000, up 41 percent;, 1,660,000, down 6 percent;, 1,528,000, up 182 percent;, 939,000, up 77 percent;, 906,000, up 75 percent; Essence, 817,000, down 13 percent;, 795,000, down 53 percent; NewsOne, 753,000, up 50 percent;, 545,000, up 279 percent;, 385,000, up 66 percent;, 365,000, down 29 percent; BlackVoices, 298,000, down 88 percent.

Mario Ruiz, spokesman for Huffington Post, which owns HuffPost BlackVoices, said his comScore figures were different. "Of course, BlackVoices is now HuffPost BlackVoices. HuffPost BlackVoices is reaching 3MM UVs per comScore (September 2011) — an increase of 17% Y/Y." In layman's language, that's 3 million unique visitors, an increase of 17 percent year to year. [On Thursday, comScore spokeswoman Stephanie  Flosi confirmed the Huffington Post figures.]

Pianta said the surge in numbers for is not as dramatic as it appears: "The jump is due to the fact that there was a glitch in tags in July and August, so ComScore did not report our full traffic in July and August until the issue was fully resolved by September," she said by email.

Herman Cain, left, found his "9-9-9" plan attacked at Tuesday's GOP debate by former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, center, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, among others on the seven-candidate stage. (Credit: CNN)

Media Keep Asking, "Herman, Are You for Real?"

"Herman Cain, are you running for president? Or are you just busing around the country, dropping into debates and Sunday talk shows to say you are, for vanity? Or so you can sell books (that you buy yourself) and land a show on Fox News?" Erika Fry wrote Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review.

"This is a stupid, silly and pointless question. The man is running. But that hasn’t stopped the media — forced to confront the 'pizza magnate’s' (has this been fact-checked? did Godfather’s really make a magnate?) unexpected frontrunner status — from speculating about his motivations: Herman, are you for real?

"Or from writing story after story on the candidate, based on such speculation and laced with skepticism: he’s your frontrunner but …

"He’s spent only 33 days in Iowa this year (less only than Santorum, Bachmann, and Gingrich).

"The media frames this as a problem. . . ."

At Tuesday night's debate, Republican presidential contenders attacked Cain's economic plan as a tax increase waiting to happen, "moving swiftly in a fiery campaign debate to blunt the former businessman's unlikely rise in the race for the party's nomination," Kasie Hunt wrote for the Associated Press.

According to Lindsay Rubino of Broadcasting & Cable, "CNN's Las Vegas Republican debate, moderated by Anderson Cooper, delivered 5.5 million total viewers and 1.7 million in its key 25-54 demo on Tuesday night.

"The debate, which began at 8 p.m., ranked second only to Fox News Channel's Sept. 22 debate, which averaged 6.1 million total viewers."

ASNE Partners With Mizzou to Conduct Diversity Survey

"The next survey measuring diversity within U.S. newsrooms, a major initiative of the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) for 33 years, will be conducted by the Center for Advanced Social Research (CASR), an affiliate of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism," ASNE announced on Tuesday.

"The Newsroom Employment Census is a tool ASNE uses to measure the success of its goal of having the percentage of minorities working in newsrooms nationwide equal to the percentage of minorities in the nation’s population by 2025. Since the inception of the census in 1978, ASNE has conducted the survey in-house; next year, that responsibility will shift to CASR, with ASNE overseeing the project and reporting the results."

ASNE announced in August it was eliminating four full-time positions: information technology manager, marketing manager, accounting manager and an administrative assistant. The organization no longer has a full-time diversity director.

Bobbi Bowman, who directed ASNE's diversity programs for 10 years, and supervised the survey, stepped down in 2009.

Natalie Morales to Contribute to New NBC Newsmagazine

Natalie Morales"NBC News today announced that Natalie Morales, the news anchor of 'TODAY' and co-host of the third hour, has signed on as a correspondent on 'Rock Center with Brian Williams.' Morales joins anchor and managing editor, Brian Williams and his all-star cast of correspondents Harry Smith, Kate Snow, Ted Koppel, Meredith Vieira, Richard Engel, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry," the network said.

"The announcement was made today by Steve Capus, President of NBC News.

". . . In addition to her new role as a correspondent on 'Rock Center with Brian Williams,' Morales will continue as the news anchor of 'TODAY' and co-host of the third hour, a position she’s held since March 2006. Prior to 'TODAY,' Morales was a national correspondent for 'NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams' and 'Dateline;' she was also an anchor at MSNBC from 2002-2006 where she covered major world events including the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."

No black journalists have been announced as part of the program.

Swedish Journalists Tried as Terror Suspects in Ethiopia

"Two Swedish journalists who have been imprisoned in Ethiopia for almost four months will face terrorism charges in Addis Ababa tomorrow," Lauren Kirchner wrote Wednesday for the Columbia Journalism Review. "Freelance photojournalist Johan Persson and reporter Martin Schibbye were arrested on July 1 when they crossed the border from Somalia into Ethiopia’s Ogaden region to report on human rights violations, as Reporters Without Borders reported at the time.

"The Swedish press later revealed that Persson and Schibbye were specifically reporting on potential human rights violations committed by Lundin Petroleum, a Swedish-owned energy company with natural-gas operations in Ogaden.

"Last month, the Ethiopian government charged the pair with terrorist activity, abetting known terrorists, and illegally entering the country. The terrorism charges stem from the fact that Persson and Schibbye crossed the Somalia-Ethiopia border with the help of Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels, a guerilla group Ethiopian law categorizes as terrorists."

Tom Rhodes, East Africa consultant for the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in Nairobi, Kenya, wrote Monday, "If you pass by Kronoberg Prison in Sweden's capital, Stockholm, you will see journalists chained to its gates. They have committed no crime. For over a week, journalists have taken turns locking themselves up in front of the prison to raise awareness of the imprisonment of three colleagues held in the Horn of Africa."

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 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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Media Keep Asking, "Herman, Are You for Real?"


Herman Cain has bigger political fish to fry. He's got to address how he "misspoke" to Wolf Blitzer earlier Tuesday afternoon on authorizing transfers (i.e., negotiated demands) w/ "...Al-Qaeda or some other terrorist groups..." for 1 American soldier.  Cain's response that he "...could make that call..." was re-introduced later that night by Anderson Cooper after the GOP Debate.  And, he back-pedaled.  That's, now, his deal-breaker. Not 9-9-9.

Sterns contempt for Black Assets

David Sterns sits on the top of Black currency that dominates the sport of basketball on the planet of course instead of valuing this treasure he insults players as a matter of privilege and arrogance. Only in America where a man who cannot bounce a ball gets to be the master of the best players in the world and is an ungrateful prick.

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