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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sunni Khalid Fired as Manager in Public Radio Newsroom

McClatchy's Pruitt, Called Diversity-Friendly, to Lead AP

Princell Hair to Oversee News for NBC Sports Group

Trailblazing Sportswriter Lacy J. Banks Dies at 68

In Trayvon Martin Coverage, Explain "Racial Tensions"

USA Today Sports Staff Told to Reapply for Jobs

L.A. Times Layoffs Leave One Black Copy Editor

Karen Lincoln Michel Named Executive Editor in La.

Oprah's OWN Lays Off 30 Employees

FCC Makes Room for Wave of Community Radio Stations

Intern Coordinator Checked Facebook to Ensure Diversity

Investigative Project "Up and Running" in Haiti

Short Takes

Sunni Khalid Fired as Manager in Public Radio Newsroom

Sunni Khalid, a veteran journalist who was managing news editor at the Baltimore NPR affiliate WYPR-FM, was fired on Friday, Khalid and the station's president and general manager confirmed on Wednesday.

His dismissal followed incidents that called into question the implementation of news organizations' social-media policies and whether flipping the finger in a newsroom should be considered a firing offense. Given that Khalid is African American, there are also racial implications.

Sunni Khalid

Anthony Brandon, the WYPR president, said he could not discuss Khalid's dismissal because "it's a personnel matter." But he said the station would write a job description for Khalid's position and circulate it widely.

Khalid limited his public remarks to his pride in the record compiled by his staff and himself, adding, "I'm consulting with family and friends about my next move."

He was hired to run the station's news department nine years ago, shortly after Johns Hopkins University sold the station to a community group. "The first person I called was Sunni Khalid," said Marc Steiner, the founding executive vice president/broadcast.

Khalid, 53, who had reported on the Middle East, East Africa and Angola while at NPR and has returned to the region, was reportedly suspended this month for posting a comment on Facebook that a reader characterized to station management as inflammatory. It questioned U.S. policy toward Israel and was pegged to the March 3-6 conference in Washington of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which President Obama addressed.

Referring to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, known as "Bibi," Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President Obama, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and the International House of Pancakes, the Facebook posting read:

"I, for one, have had enough of this pandering before the Israeli regime from a succession of presidents, presidential candidates and the like. Mitt's just the latest to pay fealty. The war-mongering toward Iran has, once again, distracted t...he world from Israel's brutal military occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as well as its criminal suffocation of the Gaza Strip. And let us not forget the non-ambiguity of the Jewish state's arsenal of an estimated 100 nuclear bombs. I'm more afraid of Bibi and nuts like Avigdor Lieberman deciding policy than I am of a loudmouth like Ahmedinejad. Obama, to his credit, clearly delineated the clear difference between American national security interests and the very narrow Likudists interests over the weekend. That won't save us from Bibi trying to drag us into another regional conflagration, but at least he's on the record. Mitt should stop by to IHOP and get a primer on foreign policy."

WYPR is said to follow NPR guidelines on social media, which say, ". . . we do nothing that could undermine our credibility with the public, damage NPR’s standing as an impartial source of news, or otherwise jeopardize NPR’s reputation. In other words, we don’t behave any differently than we would in any public setting or on an NPR broadcast."

Whether Khalid's posting violated NPR guidelines became a matter of debate. The message does not seem different from many others discussing Israeli policy, and WYPR does not itself cover foreign affairs.

Nevertheless, Khalid posted this message on Friday: "I am permanently deleting my page on Monday, March 19, 2012. After that, if you want to contact me, do so by email at sunnikhalid (at) yahoo.com. I love you ALL."

Before the suspension was lifted, a Khalid nemesis from their days years ago at the Baltimore Sun, G. Jefferson Price, a former editor and foreign correspondent, visited WYPR studios for an interview.

Price could not be reached for comment Wednesday, but he wrote about the episode March 15 on his blog:

"A man flipped me the bird this week!

"He did it in a place where one might least expect it. This was not an expression of road rage on a busy roadway; it was at the studio of Baltimore’s local public radio station, WYPR where I was participating in a discussion of conditions in Uganda and the astounding impact of the viral video 'Kony 2012.' I was in the sealed interview booth. He was outside, on the other side of the large window looking into the booth. The gesture astonished me so much that I lost track of the first question posed to me by the host, Dan Rodricks."

That person was Khalid, though Price did not name him. Price went on to recall Khalid unfavorably from their Sun days, adding, among other comments, "He had an exclusively-held high opinion of himself but management was unimpressed."

Steiner, a staunch Khalid defender, recalled that Price and others urged the powers-that-be at WYPR not to hire Khalid nine years ago, a possible motivation for Khalid's gesture. "Sunni says what he has to say. He wasn't a diplomat. I don't think Jeff Price was used to a black man talking to him like that," Steiner said.

Moreover, "everybody who's worked in the business knows people give each other the finger all the time in the newsroom." Maybe it's worth a suspension. "But to fire him? This is a guy who built that newsroom," Steiner said.

Khalid, a former foreign correspondent for NPR and a Muslim, filed a lawsuit in 1997 against the network that sought more than $2 million in damages, accusing NPR and its then-foreign desk editor, Loren Jenkins, of racial and religious discrimination. It was settled out of court in 2003.

The lawsuit was cited by detractors as a reason WYPR shouldn't hire Khalid — he was called "litigious" — but also a reason why Steiner welcomed him.

"He was blacklisted, even though you can't prove it," Steiner said. "Sunni's really bright, a fearless reporter, a strong, sharp guy. Public radio in general is just a white male institution. They have no black reporters. This is a majority African American city. Sunni helped produce over 4,000 stories over nine years. He was the head of that news department, along with Mary Rose Madden," a producer. "He worked harder than any man I ever knew. He trained young people. He mentored so many young reporters."

Steiner left WYPR, where he also hosted a talk show, in 2005. Since May 2008, "The Marc Steiner Show" has aired on WEAA-FM, an NPR member station at Morgan State University. He says he is working on other projects.

"I think they were just looking for a way to get rid of him," Steiner said of WYPR and Khalid. "If I can, I'll hire him again."

Gary Pruitt  (Credit: José Luis Villegas/Sacramento Bee)

McClatchy's Pruitt, Called Diversity-Friendly, to Lead AP

Gary Pruitt, chairman, president and CEO of the McClatchy Co., was named president and CEO of the Associated Press on Wednesday, the AP announced. Under Pruitt, 54, McClatchy was viewed as a diversity-friendly company. He joins AP in July.

When McClatchy acquired Knight Ridder Co. in 2006, Orage Quarles III, president and publisher of McClatchy's News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., told Journal-isms, "I can't think of a company that's more committed to diversity than our company," Quarles said. He added that six of the company's then-12 publishers were women. "It starts at the top with the CEO," he said, speaking of Pruitt.

Under Tom Curley, whom Pruitt succeeds, AP retrenched on diversity, signified most vividly by the suspension last December of the news cooperative's 26-year-old internship program, which was ultimately restored last month. However, the day after AP restored the program, the company laid off Robert Naylor Jr., a diversity advocate within the AP who was director of career development/news and had been with AP for more than 24 years.

William Dean Singleton, outgoing chairman of the AP Board of Directors and chairman of MediaNews Group, said in a news release, "In Gary, we have chosen a seasoned and worthy successor to Tom Curley to continue AP’s transition to a digital news company. Gary has deep experience in the changing world of the news industry, an acute business sense and an overriding understanding of and commitment to AP's news mission. His background as a First Amendment lawyer is a hand-in-glove fit with AP's long leadership role in fighting for open government and freedom of information. And, he knows AP well."

Pruitt has served on the AP Board of Directors for nine years, including a period as vice chairman. AP describes itself as "the essential global news network" and "the largest and most trusted source of independent news and information."

McClatchy announced that its board of directors has named Patrick J. Talamantes, McClatchy's current vice president, finance and CFO, as Pruitt's successor. "Talamantes, 47, will assume the title of president and CEO and join the company's Board of Directors. Kevin S. McClatchy, a director of McClatchy since 1998 and a fifth-generation member of the founding McClatchy family, will become chairman of the Board."

Princell Hair to Oversee News for NBC Sports Group

"Princell Hair has been promoted to Senior Vice President, News and Talent, for the NBC Sports Group. Hair, who was previously Senior Vice President, News Operations, Comcast Sports Group, will begin his role immediately and will report to Sam Flood, Executive Producer, NBC Sports and NBC Sports Network," NBC announced on Thursday.

Princell Hair "In his new and expanded position, Hair, a veteran of more than two decades in the media industry, including the last 3½ years with Comcast, will oversee all talent recruitment, negotiation and development for the NBC Sports Group, including NBC Sports, NBC Sports Network, Golf Channel, and the 11 Comcast Regional Sports Networks, while also consulting with NBC Sports Digital. In addition, Hair will oversee the NBC Sports Group’s newsgathering operations and news strategy.

". . . Hair’s two decades of national and local programming experience also include senior news programming positions with Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. (TBS) and Viacom. Hair served as Senior Vice President of Turner Broadcasting’s Strategic Planning Group, Senior Vice President of Program and Talent Development for CNN Worldwide, and Executive Vice President and General Manager of CNN/U.S., where he was responsible for the network’s day-to-day news operations, encompassing all aspects of programming and production, including oversight of CNN.com’s U.S.-based operations.

"Prior to Turner, he was Vice President of News for the Viacom Television Stations Group, coordinating news coverage for 39 television stations across the U.S. " [Added March 22]

Trailblazing Sportswriter Lacy J. Banks Dies at 68

"Lacy J. Banks was an unconventional pioneer," Toni Ginnetti wrote Wednesday for the Chicago Sun-Times.

"He was a trailblazer as the first African-American sportswriter for the Sun-Times, a job that led him to cover seven world championships involving Chicago teams.Lacy J. Banks

"He was a Baptist preacher for nearly 60 years, too, a side of himself he could uniquely intertwine into his career as a journalist.

"And beginning in 2008 he became his own journalism subject, chronicling his health battles with prostate cancer, a brain tumor and heart disease in blogs he wrote for the Sun-Times.

"He won his first two battles, but the last would conquer him. Banks, 68, died Wednesday.

"Banks was the longest-serving sportswriter on the Sun-Times’ staff, joining the paper on Aug. 7, 1972, and remaining on staff until his death. For most of that time, he covered the Bulls and the NBA, ranking among the longest-tenured pro basketball writers in the country. His time on the beat spanned from the mid-1980s to last season, when he covered the Bulls into the NBA postseason."

News stories included a close-up of Trayvon Martin wearing a white hooded sweat

In Trayvon Martin Coverage, Explain "Racial Tensions"

"There are a lot of questions in the Trayvon Martin case that may take journalists days and weeks to help answer. But there are steps they can take immediately to make their reporting clearer and less biased," Mallary Jean Tenore wrote Wednesday for the Poynter Institute.

"Much of the coverage has featured coded language that leaves readers with confusion rather than clarity and impressions rather than facts. News organizations, for instance, have reported that the Department of Justice said its community relations service will meet with officials, civil rights leaders and authorities in Sanford, Fla., this week to 'calm racial tensions' nearly a month after the 17-year-old African American was shot.

"But I haven’t seen much detail about what this tension entails. The phrase 'racial tensions' does little to inform people unless we substantiate it with facts and evidence.

Tenore quoted Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education, and list "what journalists could report on to better explain what they mean by 'racial tensions'." Those items included the demographics of Sanford, Fla., where the shooting took place; how to identify the race of the assailant, George Zimmerman; whether to describe criminals as wearing hooded sweatshirts; and whether to show photographs of Martin wearing one.

USA Today Sports Staff Told to Reapply for Jobs

Employees in USA Today's Sports Department, which includes about 10 people of color, have had to reapply for their jobs as the department undergoes a reorganization.

Among the jobs listed on careerbuilder.com, of which USA Today's parent company, Gannett, owns a 53 percent interest, are managing editor, USA Today Sports Media Group; assistant managing editor, Sports Weekly; and assistant managing editor, sports verticals.

"Like many other businesses, we have a reorganization going on," USA Today spokeswoman Heidi Zimmerman told Journal-isms by email on Tuesday. "However, I can't comment on personnel issues."

Jim Hopkins, who publishes the independent Gannett Blog, reported March 5 that Tom Beusse, president of the new USA Today Sports Media Group, "announced a USAT sports department reorganization that put his own digital team firmly in charge. In doing so, he swept aside existing managers with decades of print experience at the paper, which marks its 30th anniversary this year. Critics pounced.

" 'When you start a staff meeting by telling us the next 10 minutes are more important than the past 30 years,' said Anonymous@1:43, 'it makes me think you’ll step over anyone to get ahead.' "

L.A. Times Layoffs Leave One Black Copy Editor

"The involuntary layoffs in the Los Angeles Times newsroom that began last night are rolling through the ranks today, falling hardest on the features floor downstairs from the main newsroom," Kevin Roderick reported Tuesday for LAObserved. "As many as 20 people may be out, sources there say.

"Included is half of the newsroom's African American copy editors. 'I'm saddened that with my departure the number of African American copy editors here goes down to one,' the departing staffer says in a farewell email."

Karen Lincoln Michel Named Executive Editor in La.

Karen Lincoln Michel, assistant managing editor of the Green Bay (Wis.) Press-Gazette and a past president of Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., and the Native American Journalists Association, has been named executive editor of the Lafayette (La.) Daily Advertiser, Richard Ryman reported Tuesday in the Press-Gazette.

Karen Lincoln Michel". . . Lincoln Michel, who joined the Press-Gazette in 2005 as its capital bureau chief in Madison and moved to Green Bay in 2008, also will oversee news operations at the Opelousas (La.) Daily World. All are owned by Gannett Co.

". . . Lincoln Michel began her daily newspaper career as a reporter at the La Crosse [Wis.] Tribune, where she covered a two-year controversy surrounding the Ho-Chunk Nation’s gaming enterprises — coverage for which she won the Wassaja Award, the highest honor given by the Native American Journalists Association.

"Lincoln Michel also worked at The Dallas Morning News, and from 1987 to 2005 was part owner of the twice-monthly News From Indian Country, published in northern Wisconsin.

"She has written extensively about Native American issues as a freelance reporter and was a columnist for The New York Times Syndicate’s former New America News Service."

Oprah's OWN Lays Off 30 Employees

"Ratings-challenged OWN has let go of 30 employees as part of a restructuring announced Monday," Lacey Rose reported for the Hollywood Reporter.

" 'It is difficult to make tough business decisions that affect people's lives, but the economics of a start-up cable network just don't work with the cost structure that was in place,' said OWN chief executive Oprah Winfrey, who was in the network’s mid-Wilshire offices Monday afternoon. 'As CEO, I have a responsibility to chart the course for long-term success for the network. To wholly achieve that long-term success, this was a necessary next step.' "

Meanwhile, Jon Lafayette reported Wednesday in Broadcasting & Cable, "OWN could saddle Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications with a $142.9 million loss this year, according to a report from SNL Kagan.

"Kagan analyst Derek Baine says OWN faces a number of problems. They include bad press that could make advertisers impatient and having to renew carriage deals with cable operators in 2012 and 2013 unless ratings move up quickly."

FCC Makes Room for Wave of Community Radio Stations

"In a victory for communities nationwide, today the Federal Communications Commission announced that the agency will open the airwaves for community radio," the Prometheus Radio Project said on Tuesday. "To make room for a new wave of local stations, the FCC will clear a backlog of over six thousand pending applications for FM translators, which are repeater stations that rebroadcast distant radio stations. The decision will allow for the first new urban community radio stations in decades.

"The announcement concludes the first hurdle in implementing the Local Community Radio Act, passed by Congress in 2010 after a decade-long grassroots campaign. The FCC is on track to accept applications for new Low Power FM (LPFM) stations nationwide as early as Fall 2012. Community groups are gearing up, including local groups, to apply for the licenses, which will be available only to locally-based non-profit organizations."

Intern Coordinator Checked Facebook to Ensure Diversity

"There I was, Facebook stalking again. But I wasn't chasing after an old boyfriend or trying to see if my niece was having too good a time in Italy. As the internship coordinator for Roll Call (now CQ Roll Call), a newspaper covering Congress on Capitol Hill, I was looking at the faces of candidates for internships," Debra Bruno wrote Wednesday for the Christian Science Monitor.

"One might ask: Why did I care about what a prospective intern would look like? The answer was that I was told that out of three interns hired each semester at Roll Call, one of them had to be from a racial minority: African-American, Hispanic, Asian, South Asian, Native American. And in some cases, what you can’t tell from a name you can see from a picture.

"Mike Mills, the paper's editorial director, denies that Roll Call had a policy to 'tip the scales in favor of any candidate solely to fulfill our diversity goals,' but I was given a clear directive otherwise, initiated when I was with Roll Call in 2009 and 2010. It was part of an overall push to improve diversity at the newspaper, which is owned by The Economist Group. The company felt, laudably, that an ethical work environment is one that offers opportunities to those who may not have had them in the past."

A CQ Roll Call publicist provided this quote from Mills to Betsy Rothstein of FishbowlDC: "Ms. Bruno is wrong. Our policy is to strive to bring in as many candidates from diverse backgrounds as possible, not to tip the scale in anyone’s favor. Her allegation does a disservice to the many employees who were hired during her tenure."

A Haitian woman and one of her six children stand in front of a shack where they

Investigative Project "Up and Running" in Haiti

"When I first started training Haitian journalists in investigative reporting skills in the summer of 2010, I wasn’t sure I could overcome the mountain of obstacles: a culture that didn’t include investigations; newsrooms that were so focused on daily events that verification was as rare as research; widespread lack of information, data and sources or worse, sources who divulged no information or data; and journalists themselves who weren’t even sure what I meant by investigations," Kathie Klarreich, a Knight International Journalism Fellow, wrote last week for the International Center for Journalists.

"But now — 20 months later — Haiti's Fund for Investigative Journalism is up and running. Seven investigations fielded by a group of 13 journalists are making waves, and headlines.

". . . One story notes that over 500 recipients of homes complete with environmentally friendly toilets replaced the commodes by digging pits and installing traditional flush toilets, thereby defeating the protective measures for the capital’s water supply. Why? Because the new home owners, who hadn’t been consulted, found the new toilets required too much 'maintenance.'

"Another story exposes the truth in the seaside town of Leogane, where some shelter recipients have already received temporary housing from other aid organizations and are turning a profit by renting them out, while other victims are still living in tents."

". . . A second round of investigations is slated for this spring."

Short Takes

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Comments

The Purge of Black Opinions in Media Oulets

The abrupt termination of Sunni Khalid is a negative development on many levels. Efforts to silence progressive and authentic perspectives which run counter to the prevailing mainstream views has always existed in our country with regard to racial themes and opinions expressed by Black leaders and activists.

To now observe such actions are now taking place when Black people dare to discuss foreign policy issues is troubling. We should never accept the posture which seeks to handcuff Black views on Whatever/Wherever in America and around the world.

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