Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Diane Sawyer to Anchor ABC's "World News"

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Updated September 3

Diane Sawyer, second from left, with 'Good Morning America' colleagues, from left, Chris Cuomo, Robin Roberts and Sam Champion. 'Diane is one of the hardest-working people I know,' said Katie Couric, the 'CBS  Evening News' anchor who will be Sawyer's competitor.

Women's Media Groups Applaud Gain of a 2nd Seat

Diane Sawyer will succeed Charlie Gibson as anchor of ABC's "World News," meaning women will anchor two of the broadcast networks' three evening newscasts, ABC announced on Wednesday.

Gibson told colleagues Wednesday that he has decided to step down as anchor effective at the end of the year. "I have asked Diane Sawyer to serve as the next anchor of World News, and she will assume that position in January," ABC News President David Westin said.

"It is extraordinary," Carol Jenkins, president of the Women's Media Center, which advocates for women in the news media, told Journal-isms. "We've always asked for 51 percent of the jobs. As time goes by, we'll realize that women and people of color can handle these positions and can handle them with terrific expertise.

"We're having a party at the Women's Media Center immediately."

Maria Efantis Brennan, president of American Women in Radio & Television said, "Ms. Sawyer should not be thought of as a worthy woman to serve in this important and powerful post; she should be thought of as a worthy individual and journalist. It is we the viewers who are the beneficiaries of the years of experience and award-winning reporting she will bring to the evening newscast. We applaud ABC News for this exceptional choice."

However, Carole Simpson, who retired as a weekend anchor at ABC News, told Journal-isms on Thursday that it should have happened sooner.

"I am pleased that another woman is assuming the anchor chair on another network evening news program," she said.

"However, it comes at a time when the death knell for network television news has been sounded. Now that the programs may be in their death throes, it's fine for women to be at the helm. Where were the women when the network news anchors were among the most prestigious positions in broadcast journalism, even in American life? It reminds me of all the black mayors that were elected when the cities had lost their economic bases, and crime and poverty were rampant."

Westin told ABC colleagues in an e-mail, "Diane Sawyer is the right person to succeed Charlie and build on what he has accomplished. She has an outstanding and varied career in television journalism, beginning with her role as a State Department correspondent and continuing at 60 Minutes, Primetime Live, and Good Morning America.

"She has interviewed every President since President George H. W. Bush up to and including President Obama. She has handled an array of breaking news special events, including on 9/11 and, most recently, the presidential election.

"She has done distinguished documentaries on topics as varied as North Korea, the plight of women in Afghanistan and in prisons here at home, and poverty in Camden, New Jersey, and in Appalachia. We are fortunate to have a journalist of Diane's proven ability and passion to step into the important position of anchor for World News. She will continue with her documentaries in her new role."

Robin Roberts, Sawyer's co-anchor on "Good Morning America," is expected to remain in that role.

Though "NBC Nightly News" is the highest-rated of the evening news shows among all viewers, ABC's show tops those of NBC and CBS among African Americans and Hispanics, according to Nielsen ratings.

From Sept. 22 to Aug. 30, "World News" drew 1,127,000 African Americans to 1,003,000 for the "CBS Evening News" and 732,000 for "NBC Nightly News." For Hispanics, the figures were 350,000 for "World News," 290,000 for "NBC Nightly News" and 280,000 for "CBS Evening News."

In 2005, ABC named Elizabeth Vargas to co-anchor "World News Tonight" after the death of Peter Jennings. Vargas has a Puerto Rican father and was quickly claimed by the National Association of Hispanic Journalists as the first Latina to anchor the network evening news in the mainstream media. However, her co-anchor, Bob Woodruff, was soon olff the broadcast after being seriously wounded in Iraq, ratings dipped, and a pregnant Vargas stepped down the next year, saying she was doing so on her doctor's advice.

In September 2006, Katie Couric, formerly of NBC's "Today" show, became the first woman solo anchor of one of the broadcast networks' weekday evening news shows. She endured speculation about whether viewers would accept a woman in the role while her "CBS Evening News" remained in third place behind NBC and ABC.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, however, Couric won plaudits for her interview of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin after Palin fumbled on a question about what publications she read regularly.

"Basically, she remade her reputation as a result of the Palin interview," Andrew Tyndall, a consultant who studies the content of nightly newscasts, told the Associated Press at the time.

Speaking of Gibson and Sawyer, Couric said Wednesday, "Ever since my days as a desk assistant at ABC News, I've always admired Charlie's work. He's a talented reporter, a gifted communicator, and a wonderful person. I wish him all the best. Diane is one of the hardest-working people I know and this new assignment is the latest achievement in an already accomplished and illustrious career. And as I did, I'm sure she'll quickly find that she doesn't miss that early morning alarm clock."

Brian Williams, "NBC Nightly News" anchor, said, "Charlie Gibson is a tough guy to go up against every night. Diane Sawyer will be every bit as formidable - and I congratulate two great people, two great journalists and broadcasters. Along with Katie, they make it tough for us every day, just as it should be in an intense, competitive environment."

No African American has been a permanent anchor on one of the broadcast network's weekday evening news programs since the late Max Robinson co-anchored on ABC in the 1970s, although Bernard Shaw, now retired, filled that seat on cable's CNN.

Among Asian Americans, Connie Chung shared the anchor desk with Dan Rather on the "CBS Evening News" from 1993 to 1995, but Rather is said to have forced her out.

"This signifies that the age of dinosaur behavior in the news industry is over," Chung said, according to Johnnie L. Roberts of Newsweek. "The network-news flagship program has been the last vestige of the dark ages. The anchor has always been traditionally a male - a white male." [Updated Sept. 3]

ESPN to Feature Producers From Ice Cube to Spike Lee

Keith ClinkscalesESPN is assembling an array of filmmakers — including John Singleton, Morgan Freeman, Ice Cube, Spike Lee, Barry Levinson and Albert Maysles — to produce 30 documentaries in celebration of the Disney-owned sports network's 30th anniversary, according to ESPN executive Keith Clinkscales.

The documentaries, all slightly less than 90 minutes, begin airing on ESPN in October and continue through 2011, said Clinkscales, ESPN's senior vice president, content development and enterprises.

The Web site allhiphop.com reported that Ice Cube, hip-hop star turned Hollywood producer,  created a documentary about the NFL's Los Angeles Raiders, titled "Straight Outta L.A."

"The documentary will explore the origins of the Raiders from their time as an Oakland-based team, until 1982, when owner Al Davis won a court decision allowing the team to move to Los Angeles," Nolan Strong reported on Tuesday.

“The music, lyrics and images that I created with N.W.A as a solo artist and as an actor helped turn the Raiders into something more than a football team,” Ice Cube said in the story. “It’s been 21 years since we released Straight Outta Compton, but to this day, kids all over the world buy Raiders gear, imitate the 'Gangster Rap' style and try to connect with the South Central L.A. vibe that we brought to the masses.”

Filmmakers were invited "to give their passionate take on sports," Clinkscales told Journal-isms. He said ESPN received 150 pitches.

Actor Freeman plans a film on the 1995 World Cup rugby tournament in South Africa, credited with endearing President Nelson Mandela to white South Africans after being a hero primarily to blacks.

"To gasps of astonishment and delight from the overwhelmingly white, male crowd — who remembered the ANC's campaign against the mostly white South African squad — Mandela strode onto the field to wish the Springboks luck — wearing a green-and-yellow team jersey," the Associated Press wrote at the time, speaking of the African National Congress and the Springboks rugby team.

"In an instant, 63,000 voices were shouting, 'Nelson, Nelson' in the most overwhelming display of white solidarity for a black in the nation's history. Players said afterward that Mandela's gesture made the difference in the match."

Not all of the other producers have firmed up their subject matter, Clinckscales said, but included is Mike Tyson's 1996 knockout of Bruce Seldon in Las Vegas on the night that rapper Tupac Shakur was killed, and a 1980 match between Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes, which ended Ali's attempt to win a fourth world heavyweight boxing championship.

Wilkerson to Create Narrative J-Program at Boston U.

Isabel WilkersonIsabel Wilkerson, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994 for her feature writing at the New York Times, is heading to Boston University to begin a project that Communication College Dean Thomas Fiedler says "is going to be transformational for our journalism program."

"A lot of journalism programs are shifting emphasis toward the technology," said Fiedler, formerly executive editor at the Miami Herald, "with a multi-platform curriculum." While moving in such a direction has its merits, he said, "There's a danger in that. If everyone is going left, we want to — not so much go right," but make sure that students know that "the essence of good journalism is good storytelling, and the heart of good storytelling is good writing."

Thus, Wilkerson, who will initially hold the rank of visiting professor, will be charged with "creating an area of distinction" at the university "for. . . narrative long-form journalism."

Wilkerson was most recently the James M. Cox Jr. Professor of Journalism at Emory University in Atlanta. She has tracked the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to northern cities in the first half of the 20th century for "The Great Migration," to be published by Random House in the fall of 2010.

"As you probably know, I've spoken many times about narrative nonfiction at Poynter, at NABJ and at the Nieman Foundation, and taught at Princeton and Emory universities, while completing my book, so this is a natural progression for me," Wilkerson told Journal-isms. "I'm excited about the prospects of creating a narrative nonfiction program at a big university in the country's intellectual capital."

Wilkeron's presence will significantly increase the diversity of the BU journalism program. Fiedler said that two years ago the college had no African American faculty. Student enrollment is a mere 3¬? percent African American, he said. Last year, he hired Cheryl Ann Lambert, a public relations specialist, and this year has brought on veteran journalist Michelle Johnson from Emerson College and Wilkerson, all African Americans.

In hiring them, "we have elevated the status of our faculty," Fiedler said.

Slate Says Story About Rapper's Ph.D. Was Bogus

Roxanne Shant?© "It was the feel-good story of the summer," Ben Sheffner wrote Wednesday for Slate magazine. "According to the New York Daily News, Roxanne Shant?©, a 1980s female hip-hop pioneer famous for the 1984 underground hit 'Roxanne's Revenge,' had finally gotten her own revenge on Warner Music, the record label she accused of 'cheating with the contracts, stealing and telling lies,' to avoid paying her what she was owed.

"How? After valiantly fighting, reported Daily News freelancer Walter Dawkins, Shant?© had convinced Warner to honor a contractual agreement to 'fund her education for life.' Warner ended up paying more than $200,000, Dawkins reported, to finance Shant?©'s education, which Shant?© said included an undergraduate degree from Marymount Manhattan College and a Ph.D. in psychology from Cornell.

"And now, said the Daily News, 'Dr. Roxanne Shant?©' has 'launched an unconventional therapy practice focusing on urban African-Americans,' in which she 'incorporates hip-hop music into her sessions, encouraging her clients to unleash their inner MC and shout out exactly what's on their mind.'

"The story was endlessly blogged and tweeted, heralded as an example of a heroic triumph by a girl from the projects over her evil record label. . . .

"One problem: Virtually everything about the Daily News' heartwarming 'projects-to-Ph.D.' story appears to be false."

Dawkins, who formerly wrote for the Record in Hackensack, N.J., did not respond to a request for comment.

Jennifer Mauer, a spokeswoman for the Daily News, told Journal-isms it was the paper's understanding that the information had been checked, after first noting that Dawkins was a freelancer. "We're still researching it," she said. "We're still looking into it."

Ex-Rocky Employees Earning Less but Optimistic

Six months after the Rocky Mountain News published its final print edition, John Temple, the editor and publisher, undertook an unscientific follow-up on the 230 or so people who were on the Denver paper's editorial staff.

"I received 141 responses from about 200 eligible staff and 28 responses from 30 eligible managers," Temple wrote on Tuesday. Among his findings:

  • "45 (out of 141) staff members have found new full-time jobs. 11 (out of 28) managers have found new full-time jobs.
  • "15 staff members have new part-time jobs. 1 manager has a new part-time job.
  • "64 staff members are freelancing or started their own business. 9 managers are freelancing or started their own business.
  • "11 staff members are going to school. 1 manager is going to school.
  • "8 staff members are collecting unemployment. 4 managers are collecting unemployment.
  • "15 staff members reported doing 'other' things, such as traveling, taking care of grandchildren, taking time off. 3 managers reported doing other things."
"I'm surprised by how many people have found jobs in journalism," Temple concluded. "But clearly, the thing that sticks out most is that people are making less than they made at the Rocky. In many cases, I was told, a lot less. . . . That said, I must say I was impressed by how many people were looking ahead with optimism, building new businesses and lives."

Sun's David Steele to Write for AOL Fanhouse

David SteeleSports columnist David Steele, who was laid off from the Baltimore Sun in April while he was covering a Baltimore Orioles baseball game, has landed at AOL Fanhouse "as an enterprise/takeout/investigative writer and reporter. David will also be writing a ton of college basketball with Midnight Madness quickly approaching," Scott Ridge, executive editor at AOL Sports, told employees on Wednesday.

"He'll be working from Baltimore (ACC, Atlantic 10, MEAC, Patriot, Colonial and Big East country)."

Steele, 44, was among 61 newsroom employees, nearly a third, laid off in April. He said then he was thinking about writing more books, having enjoyed co-writing "Silent Gesture: The Autobiography of Tommie Smith" in 2007. It told the story one of the two victorious sprinters who raised a black-gloved fist at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Jury Awards $10 Million Over Dead Reporter's Story

A Florida jury hearing a libel suit against the St. Petersburg Times found against the newspaper's parent company and awarded Dr. Harold L. Kennedy, former chief of medicine at Bay Pines V.A. Medical Center, more than $10 million in damages, Jamal Thalji reported for the Times on Saturday.

The lawsuit was filed over three articles in December 2003 written by reporter Paul de la Garza, who died after a heart attack in 2006 at age 44.

"We are very disappointed by the verdict," said Times Executive Editor and Vice President Neil Brown in the story. "We believe our reporting and editing of these stories met the highest journalistic and ethical standards.

"The Times will appeal the jury's decision.''

"Though de la Garza died in 2006, the newspaper sought to use his reporting notes as evidence in its defense. But a judge excluded them from the trial," Thalji wrote.

NPR Ombudsman Faults Coverage of Kennedy Death

"There was no doubt that Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts had died if anyone listened to NPR in the days after his death late on Aug. 25 from brain cancer. Between Aug. 26 and 30, NPR ran 53 stories," Alicia Shepard, ombudsman for National Public Radio, wrote on Wednesday.

"Media saturation on the Kennedy story was not unique to NPR. A report released Tuesday by the Project on Excellence in Journalism noted that Kennedy's death was the No.1 story last week. 'Indeed, his passing generated more coverage than that of any other political or celebrity since the PEJ News Coverage Index began in January 2007,' said the report.

". . . Kennedy may have been a great legislator. He may have been a wonderful uncle, a terrific father, a faithful friend and rejoiced in his second marriage, but there were warts too. He got kicked out of Harvard for cheating. He was known in his younger years for womanizing and drinking too much. In 1991, he was carousing with his son, Patrick and nephew, William Kennedy Smith in Palm Beach. Later that night, a woman accused Smith of raping her. Smith was tried and later acquitted.

"Not everyone loved Teddy Kennedy. He was a complex man with a family history that defies belief when all the tragedies are strung together. To accurately portray any man or woman, it is just as important to fully include what is unpleasant or unflattering — especially since those events for Kennedy went a long way toward shaping who Teddy Kennedy was when he died."

Media Matters Calls Out CNN on Lou Dobbs Plans

"On September 15 and 16, Dobbs is scheduled to broadcast his radio show from Capitol Hill as a leading voice of the annual 'Hold Their Feet to the Fire' legislative advocacy conference and rally sponsored by the rabidly anti-immigrant organization Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)," according to the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America.

"Founded by a man with a history of espousing racist beliefs and who remains on its board, FAIR is labeled as a 'hate group' by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Dobbs' participation — and, through him, CNN's — will bestow mainstream legitimacy on the rally and on FAIR, something FAIR recognizes and is bragging about to its members.

"As Media Matters has highlighted repeatedly, Dobbs represents an ongoing threat to CNN's credibility as a serious news organization, in no small part because of his one-sided and error-prone coverage of immigration issues and his continued use of his CNN show to lend prominence to hatemongering groups like FAIR."

Short Takes

  • "Remember that video the Sun-Sentinel put up on its high-powered homepage for two days that purported to show Michael Jackson jumping out of a coroner's van after he was supposed to be dead?" Bob Norman asked Wednesday in the Broward-Palm Beach (Fla.) New Times. "Well, it was, of course, a hoax. But more than that, it was an experiment conducted by a German broadcast company to show how quickly misinformation can take hold on the internet. And the Sentinel, along with other newspapers in the Tribune Co. chain (Chicago Tribune and L.A. Times, we're looking at you), was one of the video's more mainstream purveyors."
  • "Forty percent of sports reporters admitted in a recent survey to gambling on sports, while 5% said they had bet on sports they had covered," Joe Strupp reported Wednesday in Editor & Publisher. "In addition, those who gamble on sports were more likely than their non-gambling colleagues to admit that gambling hurts objectivity in coverage, according to the study. The telephone survey, conducted by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State University, polled 285 reporters who cover sports for newspapers and their Web sites, according to a release."
  • "An Iraqi journalist imprisoned for hurling his shoes at former President George W. Bush will be released next month after his sentence was reduced for good behavior, his lawyer said Saturday," Kim Gamel reported for the Associated Press. "Muntadhar al-Zeidi's act of protest during Bush's last visit to Iraq as president turned the 30-year-old reporter into a folk hero across the Arab world. . . . The journalist has been in custody since the Dec. 14 outburst."
  • In Chicago, "commuters who traverse Michigan Avenue will see their routes disrupted next week as Oprah Winfrey shuts down part of the Magnificent Mile to tape the season opener of her chat show," Lorene Yue reported Tuesday for Craig's Chicago Business. "Fifteen bus routes will be diverted during the 53 hours that Ms. Winfrey shuts Michigan Avenue from Wacker Drive to Ohio Street. The traffic ban begins at 12:01 a.m. Monday and runs until 5 a.m. the following Wednesday. Pedestrian traffic will be allowed."
  • Vogue's August 1974 issue. "Except for the birth of my daughter, Anansa, my Vogue cover 35 years ago is the most thrilling thing that ever happened to me," supermodel Beverly Johnson says in the September issue of Vogue. "Google me and 'Beverly Johnson was the first African-American woman on the cover of Vogue' always describes me. I happened to be watching Jeopardy! a few years ago, and one of the questions was 'Who was the first African-American woman on the cover of Vogue?' One contestant answered, 'Cheryl Tiegs,' but never mind."
  • "Veteran TV reporter and anchor Barbara Ciara has been catching flak from Hampton Roads viewers, readers and some fellow journalists for an on-camera confrontation with a businessman outside of a courthouse," Wil LaVeist wrote Monday for the Norfolk (Va.) Virginian-Pilot. "The explosive video may have been temporarily good for ratings at her station NewsChannel 3, but the popular misperception that the news media are the bogeyman has become the story. Ciara was actually doing what I hope citizens believe journalists must do ‚Äî confront people in power and expose possible injustices."
  • CBS plans to celebrate the life and career of Walter Cronkite, the legendary anchorman who died at age 92 on July 17, at a special memorial service at 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 9 at Lincoln Center in New York. "The program includes tributes in words, images and music, including presentations by President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton" and others, CBS said. Members of the media and former colleagues or acquaintances of Walter Cronkite requesting tickets for the event should call 212-975-5959 or e-mail CronkiteMemorial (at) cbsnews.com. A limited number of seats are to be made available to the general public on a first-come, first-served basis via the Avery Fisher Hall Box Office, starting at 10 a.m. on Sept. 8, CBS said.
  • "For reporters covering state and local government, accessing relevant financial information has often been a cumbersome and time-consuming process," according to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. A new online service operated by the board "provides a centralized electronic repository for documents and data related to the bonds issued by municipalities ‚Äî information that includes financial data and material disclosures of interest to investors and the general public."
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists said Monday it would honor imprisoned Sri Lankan journalist J.S. Tissainayagam with a 2009 International Press Freedom Award. Tissainayagam was sentenced Monday to 20 years in prison "on specious charges of violating anti-terror laws."
  • "A Ugandan newspaper's critical caricature of President Yoweri Museveni led police to interrogate three journalists today on allegations of sedition, according to a defense attorney and local journalists," the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday.
  • In Nigeria, Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday it was "shocked to learn that journalist Abdoulaye Ti?©mogo, who was recently sentenced to three months in jail, was yesterday dragged from his hospital bed and transferred to another prison."¬† Ti?©mogo, publisher of the independent weekly Le Canard d?©cha?Æn?©, has a bad case of malaria, "and was removed from his bed against the advice of doctors in the major hospital in the capital, by members of the National Intervention and Security Force (FNIS, formerly the Republican Guard)."

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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