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Dreadlocks Don't Make the Cut

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Thursday, June 22, 2006

Black Enterprise Enforces Its Dress and Hair Code

A couple of months ago, Susan L. Taylor, editorial director of Essence magazine, the nation's leading magazine for black women, said she had backed out of a speaking engagement at Hampton University after learning that "braids, dreadlocks and other unusual hairstyles are not acceptable" for majors in a five-year master's of business administration program at the university.

"Perhaps the greatest challenge . . . students will face in the work world is remaining whole and true to themselves in environments that are often hostile to African-Americans. Staying connected to our community and culture is critical. Trying to transform themselves to fit into hardly welcoming environments has scarred countless numbers of Black people," Taylor said in a recommendation to university President William R. Harvey. Her sentiments later were seconded by Essence Editor Angela Burt-Murray, a Hampton alum.




Their arguments don't wash at Black Enterprise magazine, as Mashaun Simon, the student representative to the board of the National Association of Black Journalists, found out. Simon, who attends Georgia State University, was told to cut his dreadlocks if he wanted to keep his summer internship at Black Enterprise. He said he happily complied.

"I never wanted my hairstyle to become an issue like it has become," he told Journal-isms. "Black Enterprise is one of the most widely respected magazines in this country and my being here speaks to the talent I possess as a student journalist.

"I am thankful to be here and blessed to have been chosen out of the many who wanted to be here. And so, I am very comfortable with the choice I made in cutting my hair. I understand what my position on the board of directors for the National Association of Black Journalists has brought to this discussion; however, at the end of the day I have to think about what is best for me and my still infant journalism career and govern myself accordingly. I have made that decision and stand by it."

Earl G. Graves, founder of the publication, outlined his philosophy in a February 2000 "Publisher's Page" column. "Simply put, we must remove every reason – including things as superficial as our style of hair or dress – that an advertiser, an event sponsor, a subscriber, a job candidate and even a co-worker might have for not wanting to do business with us," Graves said.

"What's alarming about the desire to subordinate traditional dress codes to personal preferences is that too often those who want to make the most radical departures are those who are the most poorly positioned, in terms of career survival and advancement, to do so: young, inexperienced black professionals who are in the vulnerable early stages of their careers. It's the equivalent of an unproven third-year player trying to enjoy the privileges accorded a 10-time All-Star."

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Columbia J-School Project Proceeding Without Boyd

Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism received a $1.25 million grant to integrate real-world case studies into its curriculum, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Thursday. But the experiment will proceed without the man originally chosen to head it, Gerald M. Boyd, the former managing editor of the New York Times.

Boyd told Journal-isms today he is no longer involved with the project. "The cast of characters as we move forward with this remains to be determined," said Nicholas Lemann, dean of the journalism school.

Boyd's involvement with the project was announced in January 2004, six months after he and Executive Editor Howell Raines resigned from the Times in the wake of the Jayson Blair plagiarism scandal.

That November, Boyd signed a deal to work on his memoirs, and until Nov. 11, 2004, he wrote a column on media subjects for Universal Press Syndicate. He also did consultant work.

Boyd, the first and only African American managing editor at the Times, surfaces again in a new memoir by Gay Talese, "A Writer's Life." Talese describes writing a page-one story in 1990 about an interracial wedding in Selma, Ala., on the 25th anniversary of the famous Bloody Sunday march in that city, a benchmark of the civil rights movement.

Talese writes that he was told that Boyd, then metro editor, made a negative comment at an editors' meeting about running a picture of the couple taken by a staff photographer. An old wire photo from 1965 was used instead. Talese said he confronted Boyd about it later when both were on a journalism panel.

"It was boring," Boyd was said to have replied.

"Boring!" Talese said.

"To show an integrated couple on the front page wasn't news," Boyd was said to have explained. "The picture didn't represent anything new."

"In Selma?" Talese said he asked.

Asked to comment today, Boyd told Journal-isms, "The truth is, I haven't read his book."

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Baggy Pants + Botched Robberies = Great Story

Serena Ng of the Wall Street Journal says it was a story just waiting to be written:

"One sunny afternoon in January, Vicki Chandler, a 55-year-old underwriting associate at Cigna HealthCare in Chattanooga, Tenn., was walking to her car when a teenager in loose khaki pants approached her, pointed to her pocketbook and said, 'I need that.' As she recounts the incident, he snatched the purse and took off.

"But then he ran into trouble. As he ran, his loose trousers slipped down below his hips. As he reached down to hold them up, the teen was forced to throw the purse aside.

". . . It's a problem for perpetrators. Young men and teens wearing low-slung, baggy pants fairly regularly get tripped up in their getaways, a development that has given amused police officers and law-abiding citizens a welcome edge in the fight against crime."

Ng said the story, which ran in the Journal on Tuesday, originated when a policeman mentioned a similar incident to an editor. When she checked around the country, police officers told her such incidents "were so common they didn't think it was anything new," Ng said.

Still, the story took three months to do, sometimes because police couldn't recall the names of those involved and she had to file Freedom of Information Act requests to find out.

Once she got all the facts, "the stories were so colorful that they just told themselves."

Ng has been at the Journal just five months, covering a subject far afield from baggy pants: the bond market. She grew up in Singapore and came to the United States on a fellowship for Asian journalists offered by The Asian Wall Street Journal. She went to graduate school at New York University.

Readers told Ng the story gave them a great laugh. But some cautioned she shouldn't make it easier for the perpetrators to avoid getting caught.

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AAJA Seeks Ways to Avoid $57,000 Deficit

"AAJA local chapters that host national conventions will get only 10 percent of the profit beginning next year instead of the 25 percent they currently receive," Kanupriya Vashisht reported today in the AAJA Voice, student convention newspaper of the Asian American Journalists Association.

"AAJA's 11-member national governing board decided unanimously in March to adjust the profit-sharing ratio to help AAJA eliminate its projected national deficit of $57,000. But some local-chapter presidents say the new policy will take funds away from local activities and make it less likely that smaller chapters would bid for the convention."

The issue was being discussed today at a membership meeting as the association met in Hawaii.

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Kool & the Gang Didn't Fit on Cooke's Ladder

The death at age 57 of lead guitarist Claydes Charles Smith, co-founder of Kool & the Gang, the group that blended jazz, funk, R&B and pop in the 1970s and 1980s, brings back fond memories – and some not so fond.

Famed fabricator Janet Cooke caused the Washington Post to return its 1981 Pulitzer Prize after admitting she made up her story of an 8-year-old heroin addict. The career-climbing black journalist had deemed covering acts like Kool & the Gang beneath her.

As ex-boyfriend Mike Sager wrote in a 1996 GQ article, republished in his 2004 collection "Scary Monsters and Super Freaks":

"When Janet was assigned to cover a Kool and the Gang concert, she bugged her eyes like Pigmeat Markham and said, with the appropriate accent, only half-jokingly, 'Da wha and da who? Is dat be sum sorta new colored Mafia?'"

The disgraced Cooke has dropped out of sight.

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Journalists of Color Share in RTNDA Awards

Journalists of color were participants in winning pieces honored Wednesday by the Radio-Television News Directors Association, which announced the 2006 Edward R. Murrow Awards for excellence in electronic journalism.

They included:

CNN's Boston bureau chief Dan Lothian, who was responsible for the videography for CNN's "Candlepin Bowling"; Carl Quintanilla, correspondent, and Roxanne Garcia, producer, who worked on "On the Streets of New Orleans," the "NBC Nightly News" report on Hurricane Katrina.

Also, Quintanilla, Garcia, cameraman Tony Zumbado, Frieda Morris of the Mississippi bureau and producer Joo Lee for "Hurricane Katrina: New Orleans in Turmoil" on the "NBC Nightly News."

Also, correspondent Ron Allen and producer Yuka Tachibana for "London Terror Bombings" on the "NBC Nightly News"; producer Melissa Cornick for "Cruelty to Owners?" on ABC-TV's "20/20"; and Michael Fields, Southern bureau chief for National Public Radio, who edited "Day to Day's" six-month series "Katrina Odyssey."

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Sportswriter Diversity Linked to Story Perspectives

A day after his report detailed the gender and racial makeup of newspaper sports departments, its primary author gave an example of how greater diversity "can change the way stories are written about the athletes that we do cover."

Richard Lapchick, a political scientist, told sports columnist Kevin B. Blackistone of the Dallas Morning News of the "inquiries he gets from the media about what is perceived as a high incident of sexual assaults by basketball and football players, who happen to be predominantly black," Blackistone wrote.

"The calls I get from African-American reporters, and women, or columnists about the same incidents frequently go beyond the incident and ask about how extensive is this in America," he said. "White reporters . . . are not as attuned to it generally."

Blackistone said, "Yet, the interpretations in the media go a long way toward shaping the public's view of personalities and events. It is still true, I think, that the impressions of people of color in this country come more from how they are portrayed in sports and entertainment than on Wall Street, in a lab coat or as head of the State Department."

As reported yesterday, the "2006 Racial and Gender Report Card of the Associated Press Sports Editors" showed 94.7 percent of the sports editors, 86.7 percent of the assistant sports editors, 89.9 percent of our columnists, 87.4 percent of our reporters and 89.7 percent of our copy editors/designers are white, and those same positions are 95, 87, 93, 90 and 87 percent male.

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CCNY Students Protest Failure to Hire Professor

"City College students are fighting their school's refusal to permanently hire the professor they say turned the school's sagging journalism program around," Tanangachi Mfuni wrote Thursday in the New York Amsterdam News.

"For the past two years, Professor Curtis R. Simmons, an African American, has served as a substitute assistant professor in the college's Media and Communication Arts (MCA) department, where he headed the journalism program. As acting program director, Simmons reportedly tripled the number of journalism students at the Harlem public college and took the student newspaper from a bi-annual publication to a weekly paper.

"Hired as a temp, the experienced reporter and Columbia Journalism School graduate was confident he would be hired permanently until June 7, when he was informed somebody more qualified was selected to fill the tenured position. In this case, the job was offered to an academic with no experience working in a newsroom."

"With Simmonsâ?? departure and the only other African-American professor set to take a position at CUNYâ??s new Graduate School of Journalism, there will be no full-time African-American professors in the department."

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Collegians Still Read Papers, Want "Convergence"

"A new study (PDF) shows that college students are interested in reading the news and they are getting it from their campus newspapers: Seventy-seven percent of undergraduates surveyed said they read the print edition of their campus paper at least once each month and 57% read it online," Jennifer Saba reported Thursday in Editor & Publisher.

"Undergraduates also want to see more 'convergence:' Forty-eight percent want video/vodcasts and 45% want blogs on their online campus newspapers. 'Conversely, demand for podcasts was quite low; this statistic appears in to be in direct contrast to the amount of attention campus media professionals and student journalists have paid to podcasts,' the study said.

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Short Takes:

  • Independent journalist and writer Mario Vargas Llosa; Ginger Thompson, Mexico City bureau chief for the New York Times; José Hamilton Ribeiro, special reporter for TV Globo, Brazil; and Matt Moffett, South American correspondent for the Wall Street Journal, are winners of the 2006 Maria Moors Cabot Prize for Outstanding Reporting on Latin America, the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism announced on Thursday.
  • Matthew Scott, a 13-year veteran of Black Enterprise magazine, left the publication June 13 to plan a career as a personal-finance "content developer" and start a custom publishing business, he told Journal-isms today. Scott, a past president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, was personal finance editor at the magazine and said he saw room to provide quality editorial content to nonprofit organizations and associations.
  • "The fate of the Senate's video franchise/telecom reform bill grew cloudier Thursday as votes on a raft of amendments were put off until next week and Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) reportedly questioned whether he had the votes to block a filibuster on the floor," John Eggerton reported today in Broadcasting & Cable. A factor in the debate is the principle of "network neutrality," "which preserves a free and open Internet," according to the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, which endorses the concept.
  • A video of "It's Hard Out Here on the Rim," the closing number of this year's American Copy Editors Society conference, is available on the ACES Web site. It is a takeoff, of course, on the controversial Oscar-winning "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp" from the movie "Hustle & Flow." The lyrics begin, "You know it's hard out here on the rim/ When we tryin' to make all this copy fit/ You know my bus pass and coffee money's spent/And a whole lotta reporters writin' shit."
  • "Don Germaise, a reporter at Tampa ABC affiliate WFTS-Ch. 28, has been suspended for a month after an incident in which he agreed to be interviewed by a white separatist in order to secure his own interview with the man for a May 7 story on hate groups," the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times reported on Tuesday.
  • "Despite an attempt by one investor to block the deal," black-owned "Granite Broadcasting has secured regulatory approval of the sale of two stations the company desperately needs to complete by next Friday to avoid Chapter 11," bankruptcy proceedings, John M. Higgins reported today in Broadcasting & Cable.
  • "MSNBC examines the conflict in Darfur, Sudan and neighboring Chad in 'Darfur: Caught in the Crossfire,' this Sunday, June 25th at 6pm. NBC's Ann Curry traveled to the remote border of eastern Chad to report on the ethnic cleansing that is being called the first case of genocide in the 21st century," the network announced on Wednesday.
  • "South African Broadcasting Corporation chief executive Dali Mpofu on Thursday announced an official inquiry into whether certain commentators had been banned from the airwaves," Ferial Haffajee and Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya reported today in South Africa's Mall & Guardian. "The Sowetan revealed on Tuesday that four political commentators known for their robust criticism of President Thabo Mbeki had been put on a list of analysts that producers of the SABC's news programmes were discouraged from using."
  • "When the African Union (AU) meets for its annual summit in the Gambian capital Banjul next week, local journalists will urge the summit to press the Gambian government to allow a private investigation from abroad" into the killing of Deyda Hydara, who was shot dead in his car after leaving the offices of the Point newspaper in 2004, the U.N. Regional Integrated Networks reported on Thursday.

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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