Chicago Defender Editor Pink-Slipped
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Lou Ransom, executive editor of the Chicago Defender since 2007, said Wednesday he had been terminated. (Credit: Chicago Weekly)
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.
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: http://prisonphotography.wordpress.com)
NBC News' theGrio.com topped the Washington Post Co.'s theRoot.com 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 theRoot.com).
"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:
MediaTakeOut.com, 3,233,000, up 51 percent from September 2010; BET Networks, 2,401,000, up 41 percent; Bossip.com, 1,660,000, down 6 percent; theGrio.com, 1,528,000, up 182 percent; HelloBeautiful.com, 939,000, up 77 percent; theRoot.com, 906,000, up 75 percent; Essence, 817,000, down 13 percent; BlackPlanet.com, 795,000, down 53 percent; NewsOne, 753,000, up 50 percent; MadamNoire.com, 545,000, up 279 percent; EURWeb.com, 385,000, up 66 percent; ConcreteLoop.com, 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 theGrio.com 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)
"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."
- Chris Ariens, TVNewser: Should the Debates Go Moderator-less?
- Wayne Bennett, Field Negro blog: Please stay in Vegas!
- Andrea Morabito, Broadcasting & Cable: Why We'll Never See a Lincoln-Douglas Debate on TV
- Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Cain's racial offense
- Pew Research Center for the People & the Press: Top One-Word Reaction to Cain Is a Number: 9-9-9
- Tonyaa Weathersbee, BlackAmericaWeb.com: Cain's in Bed with the Kochs
"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.
"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.
"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."
- "Select pieces of the historic couture clothing collection from Ebony Fashion Fair, assembled over 50 years by the late Eunice W. Johnson (Mrs. John H.) from the world’s largest traveling fashion show, are currently being auctioned online (www.lesliehindman.com) at a preview tag sale through this Friday. Then on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m., a 'live' auction will be held at Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, 1338 W. Lake St., in Chicago," Theresa Fambro Hooks reported Wednesday in the Chicago Defender.
- Pablo Manriquez, writing for HuffPost's LatinoVoices, listed "7 Young Latinos In Online Media To Watch In 2012": Adriana Maestas, co-founder and editor of Daily Grito; Fernando Diaz, managing editor of Hoy Chicago; Kety Esquivel, vice president for digital influence for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide; Maria Abad, associate at Qorvis; Marie D. De Jesus, photographer at the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.; Nathan Olivares-Giles, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times; and Steve Alfaro, director at Voto Latino.
- "At the end of last night’s 'Real Sports' HBO episode, host Bryant Gumbel shared a characterization of NBA commissioner David Stern that he knew would make some people 'cringe.' He suggested that Stern’s actions and words during a recent media tour are typical of a 'commissioner who has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys,' ” Richard Horgan wrote Wednesday for FishbowlLA.
- In the criminal justice system, "The political toxicity of the 'soft on crime' label . . . has created nearly unremitting upward pressure in the harshness of measures including three strikes laws, mandatory minimums, and longer sentences," Dan Froomkin, deputy editor of the Nieman Watchdog Project, wrote Wednesday. "But the result has been an era of mass incarceration, with disastrous effects on some communities — and at enormous cost to the taxpayer. . . . The Nieman Watchdog Project asked the Institute for Policy Integrity what questions reporters should be asking policymakers about criminal justice decisions going forward."
- Univision Communications Inc., on Wednesday named Raul Peimbert senior West Coast correspondent for network and affiliate news and León Krauze as co-anchor of KMEX Univision 34 in Los Angeles, effective in December.
- Colleagues at TV stations across the Spartanburg, S.C., area tried out their softball skills Saturday to raise money to help one of their own, Jimmy Moore, a veteran news photographer for Media General's WSPA-TV. Moore suffered significant spinal cord injury resulting in nerve damage and a loss of feeling in the lower half of his body in a bizarre on-the-job accident in August. The game raised more than $2,000, Laura Sanders reported Saturday for WSPA-TV. Moore's wife, Jamie, wrote, "His recovery will be a slow one. Jimmy has been moved to the Shepherd Center in Atlanta where he is undergoing intense therapy."
- "Raymond Mesa, who has been an anchor at KWHY-22 in Los Angeles for the past 9 years, is moving into management," Veronica Villafañe wrote Tuesday for her Media Moves site. "The Meruelo Group, which bought the station earlier this year, has named Raymond News Director, effective Monday, Oct. 10."
- "After a 20-year career with EFE, most recently as U.S. Hispanic Managing Editor, Emilio Sánchez has taken a leave of absence from the news agency to launch his own company," Veronica Villafañe reported Friday for Media Moves. "VOXXI is a multimedia platform 'that will provide quality insight and opinion on news relevant to the multicultural and bilingual Hispanic market,' covering 'politics, immigration, entertainment and much more with a different perspective and touch.' ”
- Fox News Channel commentator Juan Williams, author of "Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate," a book about his firing as a contract news analyst at NPR, and Hank Williams Jr., who was let go by ESPN after he compared President Obama with Adolf Hitler, might claim their free speech rights were violated, but "Neither case embodies a freedom-of-speech issue," Ted Diadiun, public editor of the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, wrote on Sunday. "Both men were and are free to say whatever they wish. And both networks were free to decide whether they wanted to have people who said such things on their payrolls. Freedom of speech is not limitless."
- Frank Sotomayor, a senior fellow at the Institute for Justice and Journalism, a co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and an editor at the Los Angeles Times for 35 years, is to be inducted Friday into the Multicultural Hall of Fame at Stanford University.
- "Despite repeated death knells for the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, the networks have just completed a TV season where all three grew their audiences for the first time since 2001-02, when terrorists struck and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began. The growth is continuing for the first few weeks of this season," David Bauder wrote for the Associated Press.
- "The new study we just completed, 'Getting Local,' offers a detailed look at some of the country’s leading online local nonprofit news ventures, providing data on how they are generating revenue, engaging users and cultivating donors," Mayur Patel and Michele McLellan wrote Tuesday for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. ". . . In the emerging landscape of non-profit news, good journalism is not enough. Even with generous foundation support, high-quality reporting alone will not create an organization that can sustain its ability to produce news in the public interest."
- "Famed Latino author and poet and native New Yorker Piri Thomas died Monday from pneumonia at the age of 83 in his home in California," the New York cable station NY1 reported. "He was born in Harlem to a Puerto Rican mother and Cuban father. Thomas began his career with the best-selling book 'Down These Mean Streets.' "
- "The Committee to Protect Journalists condemns Monday's arson attack against a Liberian radio station and threats made against another radio station's journalists in response to their coverage of Liberia's presidential elections," the committee said Monday.
- "The International Press Institute (IPI) is highly concerned at the continued deterioration of press freedom in Chile," the institute said on Tuesday. "As major student-led protests continue across the country, the frequency of attacks on journalists has risen sharply and the government has drafted a new law that would unacceptably limit both freedom of expression and the ability of reporters to work freely."
- "Venezuelan regulators fined a TV channel more than $2 million on Tuesday for its coverage of a deadly prison riot that became a political headache for President Hugo Chavez," Fabiola Sanchez reported Tuesday for the Associated Press. "The hefty fine against Globovision sharply raises the stakes in an intermittent conflict between the government and the country's only remaining channel that takes a staunch anti-Chavez stance."
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