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Ed Gordon Hoping BET Will Change Its Mind

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Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Ed Gordon Hoping BET Will Change Its Mind

With "BET Tonight With Ed Gordon" on Black Entertainment Television's chopping block effective at the end of the year, along with "Lead Story," and in the spring, "Teen Summit," Gordon says, "I hope they will see the error of their ways and realize that this is a valuable show and maybe it should stay," the way ABC News did earlier this year with "Nightline."

He also told Journal-isms: "I've come to no resolution about what my future is here at BET."

In March, ABC tried to lure away late-night host David Letterman, offering him the same time slot, which was occupied on ABC by "Nightline." That prompted a furor in the news media and Letterman turned down the offer.

"I am saddened by the show going away," Gordon said from the show's New York studios, "I'm not saying that because I hosted it, [but] for the staff that worked diligently. We were understaffed and underfunded. We were like the Little Engine That Could."

Gordon said he didn't understand exactly why his show was being canceled, although he speculated it was economics. "We have gotten tons of reaction. Most people have the same reaction I had -- I won't say shocked, but very surprised. We were getting A-level guests on par with every other talk show. We were getting people who had not done BET. If someone made Leno, 'Regis and Kathy Lee,' they would stop here. We met every expectation. I thought we were doing what we were supposed to be doing."

Gordon pointed to his interviews May 8 and 9 with R&B singer R. Kelly, discussing allegations that Kelly had videotaped his own sex acts with a minor, Spike Lee telling him in March that Lee wanted to direct the movie "Ali," starring Will Smith - but that Smith didn't want Lee attached to the project; and more substantive pieces, such as the Supreme Court deliberations on affirmative action. "You don't hear much of that anywhere else," Gordon said.

Gordon was the host of "Lead Story," the news panel show also being cancelled, when it debuted in 1991, and he had hosted "BET News." He was perhaps best known for his 1996 interview with O.J. Simpson, after which he left BET for three years as an anchor and correspondent at MSNBC. In 2000, he returned to BET to host "BET News With Ed Gordon," taking over "BET Tonight" after Tavis Smiley left the show.

Black America Web cartoon.

Carl Rowan's Scholarship Program Ending

Project Excellence, a scholarship program founded by Carl T. Rowan to help local black students attend college, is ceasing operations after 15 years because the economic downturn has made it harder to raise funds, the late columnist's son said, the Washington Post reports.

Since its 1987 inception, the program has awarded about $109.5 million in scholarships, including as much as $700,000 a year in cash grants, to more than 4,200 District of Columbia and suburban high school seniors. The organization will fulfill its financial obligations through 2005, but it will not award new scholarships after the current school year.

Rowan wrote in May 1987 that "children caught up in anger and frustration are embracing a new kind of racism that says a black youngster who excels at speaking and writing is 'using Whitey's language,'" and proposed that black journalists chip in to fund scholarships for the best high school achievers in writing and speaking. The program eventually was funded by foundations and others.

The scholarship program "had a terrific run and significantly accomplished the mission my father had for it," said Jeffrey Rowan, who became president of Project Excellence two years ago after his father's Sept. 23, 2000, death. "But we don't want it to limp along in some skeletal form. And we don't want to make commitments we're not sure we can meet."

Protesters Storm Chicago Defender Offices

A crowd of people angry about the Chicago Defender's coverage of a fatal police shooting over the weekend stormed the paper's South Side offices Tuesday and roughed up at least two newsroom employees, the Chicago Tribune reports.

No one was seriously injured, and Defender employees said there was no serious property damage, but one employee was punched in the eye as he tried to separate people engaged in a scuffle and a photographer's flash was damaged by protesters who did not want their pictures taken.

Police made no arrests.

The paper's publisher, Eugene Scott, said the protesters were angry that a story in Monday's Defender about the police shooting of Donnell Strickland, 24, did not mention that many people at the Hilliard Homes public housing complex contended Strickland was attempting to surrender when he was shot.

Scott said the Defender, historically the most influential black paper in America, often takes an advocacy position on African-American issues. He said that he was disappointed that the paper's coverage Monday did not include community criticism of the police reported by other media outlets.

AAJA President Panichkul Named M.E. in Salem, Ore.

Victor Panichkul, outgoing president of the Asian American Journalists Association, has been named to the No. 2 job in the Salem (Ore.) Statesman Journal newsroom after a national search that drew more than two dozen candidates, the newspaper reports. He started work Monday.

Panichkul, 38, leaves his position as assistant managing editor of design and graphics at the Baltimore Sun, the nation's 29th largest newspaper with a daily circulation of nearly 300,000.

While in Baltimore, Panichkul oversaw a redesign of the newspaper and introduced two new Sunday feature sections. He said his focus in Salem will include hands-on work with reporters, promoting mentoring programs and ensuring thorough news coverage for the newspaper's diverse readership.

Panichkul arrives as managing editor in Salem with his partner of 13 years, Charles Price, and their three dogs: Sam, Mikki and Inga.

Cleveland Scholarship to Honor Insulted Student

The Cleveland Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists is honoring Eric Russell, an African-American student in South Euclid, Ohio, hurt and angered after he was depicted in a yearbook caption last spring as "Blacky," who died unexpectedly Dec. 2 of apparent bacterial meningitis, the Cleveland Plan Dealer reports.

Russell spent the last months of his life trying to turn the demoralizing yearbook experience into something positive through Project Love, a program to foster unity, respect and understanding among students. Sandy Scott, Cleveland chapter president, told members that she wants to honor Russell with a scholarship, reports the Plain Dealer. Scott, an assignment editor at WKYC-TV, announced that the scholarship the black journalists' group gives to the top student in its annual urban journalism workshop will be named for Eric. Eric attended this year's workshop and planned to study journalism in college.

Tenn. State Adviser in Dispute Over Role at Student Paper

A Tennessee State University journalism adviser and her backers say a dispute about her proper role involves serious issues of free press, censorship and letting students learn from their mistakes, the Nashville Tennesseean reports.

Some officials at the historically black university say it's really just a matter of cleaning up the students' mistakes in time to avoid public embarrassment.

TSU's publications board was expected to vote on a motion to recommend removing Pamela Foster from her role as adviser to the student newspaper, The Meter, and the student yearbook, said Phyllis Qualls-Brooks, a TSU spokeswoman who serves on the board. However, no such motion was presented.

Tampa Bay Anchor Susan Casper Leaves Cable Station

Bay News 9 weekend anchor Susan Casper, the Tampa Bay area cable channel's only African American anchor and president of the Tampa Bay Association of Black Communicators, is leaving the Pinellas Park-based cable newschannel to pursue other opportunities, reports the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.

Casper has appeared on the Time Warner-owned newschannel since its inception five years ago. She told the newspaper in September that she turned down an offer to stay at Bay News 9 in hopes of securing an anchor job in a bigger market.

Nielsen Adds Two Hispanic Markets

Beginning with next year's February sweep, Nielsen Media Research will add two new markets -- Austin, Texas, and Tucson, Ariz. -- to its local market Hispanic service called Nielsen Hispanic Station Indes, reports Media Week. With the addition, Nielsen's Hispanic service will be available in 18 of its TV markets. The two markets will be measured in Feburary, May, July and November.

Austin is the No. 21 Hispanic TV market and Tucson is ranked 24th. "Hispanics continue to be an important and growing segment of the U.S.," said Doug Darfield, senior vice president of Nielsen's Hispanic services.

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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