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Ed Gordon's "Vision" Thing

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Monday, September 25, 2006

Moving on from NPR, Host Wants Own Talk Show

Ed Gordon, dropped this month by National Public Radio as host of its "News & Notes" newsmagazine show, said today that he and NPR "didn't see the same vision" and that ideally, he would "love to have a talk show," and "do a special periodically with one-on-one interviews" of the kind he had become known for.

Gordon was promoting his television collaboration with Black Enterprise magazine, "Our World With Black Enterprise," a weekly half-hour show that Gordon hosts that debuts Saturday in syndication. Cable's TV One plans to air it at 6 p.m. on Sundays.

"I've never been one to have a 10-year plan," said Gordon, whose career took off as a news anchor on Black Entertainment Television, where he and BET both reached new audiences with an exclusive interview with O.J. Simpson that aired Jan. 25, 1996. He worked briefly at MSNBC and CBS-TV's "60 Minutes II" before inaugurating "News & Notes" in January 2005.

"In today's world, you kind of sense where things are shifting, and try to move in that direction," Gordon told Journal- isms.

"You just continue to climb the ladder. I've got some other things" under discussion. "The nature of the business now is that talent doesn't keep one job . . . the palette for us has fewer and fewer colors for it. As far as television, the window is getting smaller, in terms of African Americans.

"Right now, my focus is to make sure that 'Our World' is strong enough where the affiliates will move it" to prime viewing slots.

"Our World With Black Enterprise" replaces "America's Black Forum," a syndicated public affairs show created in 1977 that aired in the wee hours in many markets.

Although "Our World" is taped one or two weeks in advance, Gordon said the show would be timely. "You can't look at it as a daily news show, but you can be timely," he said. In the case of major news events, "we're going into the studio."

Gordon said the show's strengths would come in the approach it takes to news topics. The first shows will feature Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., a joint appearance by the Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and an interview asking African American women why they think the rate of HIV infections is rising among their demographic group. The approach will not be "clinical," he said.

Gordon was replaced on "News & Notes" Sept. 12 by substitute host Farai Chideya. He had criticized NPR for what he said was its failure to take responsibility for problems with the show, which had lost 17 percent of its original audience.

Asked what lessons he had taken from the experience, Gordon said, "That not everyone has the same vision." If he had to do it all over again, he said he probably would, but one doesn't get to relive one's life. "Everything's an opportunity. It was an opportunity," he told Journal-isms. "It was one of those opportunities where both sides didn't see the same vision.

"I've had a grand career if it ends tomorrow," Gordon said. "You take the highs with the lows."

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"Boondocks" Strip Apparently Ending After 6 Years

"Although Aaron McGruder has made no statement about retiring or resuming The Boondocks for print newspapers, Universal Press Syndicate is announcing that newspapers should not count on it coming back in the foreseeable future," the cartoonist's syndicate said in an announcement Monday.

"Numerous attempts by the syndicate to pin McGruder down on a date that the strip would be coming back were unsuccessful, says Lee Salem, president of Universal Press Syndicate."

The announcement provides an opening for strips by other young African American cartoonists, such as Darrin Bell and Cory Thomas, Alan Shearer, editorial director and general manager of the writers group, told Journal-ims on Tuesday. Bell's "Candorville" has about 50 clients, and Thomas' "Watch Your Head" has about 20, he said. Both strips were offered as substitutes for "The Boondocks" while it was on sabbatical. "We just need editors to stop the reruns [of "The Boondocks"] and give a new guy a chance," Shearer said.

Universal Press is introducing "Maintaining," a strip by a young biracial cartoonist, Nate Creekmore, in January, said spokeswoman Kathie Kerr.

But Kerr said, "There is no direct replacement for 'The Boondocks.' I think editors are going to put their editorial hats on and say, 'let's look at the merit of the strip no matter what it is,'" without regard to the ethnicity of the characters.

The Universal Press release on "The Boondocks" said, â??'It was obvious that Aaron would not be able to meet his original six-month target of returning The Boondocks to newspapers,' says Salem. 'His Sunday strips needed to be in by mid-September to meet newspapersâ?? deadlines of publishing The Boondocks by the end of October. We had to consider the newspapers currently running The Boondocks reruns and expecting its return. It was unfair to keep them guessing any longer.' Salem added that questions from editors looking for answers on The Boondocksâ?? return have been coming in daily for weeks," the statement continued.

In the Washington Post on Tuesday, Laura Sessions Stepp wrote, "Apparently, the mind behind young black radicals Huey and Riley Freeman has gone Hollywood, or at least has further hopes of doing so, and has decided he can't devote himself to the grind of a daily strip. His late-night animated show, 'The Boondocks,' on the Cartoon Network was recently renewed for another season, the first-season DVD is out, and a film is reportedly in the works.

"Perhaps for McGruder, whose broad and sometimes outrageous characterizations forced readers to confront racial stereotypes and caused cartoon editors to blanch, the future of the funny papers is in pixels rather than picas.

"The cartoonist, 31, did not respond to a request for comment yesterday. A message on his voicemail indicated he was taking some time to 'restore his creative juices.'

"The heavies at Universal are clearly not happy with the way McGruder handled the situation, although they worded their news release carefully."

McGruder did not respond to an inquiry from Journal-isms placed through his agent last week. "The Boondocks" began syndication with Universal Press Syndicate in April 1999 and quickly grew to have a client list of about 300 daily and Sunday and online, the syndicate said.

McGruder's big break came at the 1997 convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, where he met a Universal Press Syndicate editor, the Chicago Tribune wrote in 1999. He had been rejected by other syndicates that said they loved the strip but couldn't use it. In the dedication to a book-length collection of "Boondocks" strips, McGruder jointly thanked NABJ, Lonnae O'Neal Parker of the Washington Post, former NABJ executive director JoAnne Lyons Wooten, Garry Howard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel "and the Black media who helped spread the word."

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ESPN Dumps Whitlock, Saying He "Went Too Far"

"Good news for those of you complaining that I spend too much time taping ESPN television shows," Jason Whitlock wrote today in his Kansas City Star sports column.

"The World Wide Leader dumped me Monday afternoon because of critical comments I made about Mike Lupica and Scoop Jackson in a blog interview that ran on Friday. You can read the interview at

"Lupica, of course, is a sports columnist for the New York Daily News and a longtime panelist on ESPNâ??s 'The Sports Reporters.' Jackson is the infamous sports columnist who bragged in a recent column about telling black kids they had a better chance of being NBA players than sportswriters.

"James Cohen, an executive at the network, called me Monday and asked me whether the comments attributed to me in the interview were true. When I said 'yes,' he informed me that I could no longer appear on ESPN television shows and that my November appearances on 'Pardon the Interruption' would be canceled."

". . . You might read this and think that I think Iâ??ve been treated unfairly by ESPN. I donâ??t.

"This was inevitable. ESPN does not tolerate criticism. Sportswriters far more distinguished than yours truly â?? Tony Kornheiser, John Feinstein and T.J. Simers â?? have been banned/suspended for comments perceived to be detrimental to the World Wide Leader.

"Iâ??m sure my move from to AOL Sports was viewed as an act of disloyalty by some within the network."

ESPN had a different view of the situation. "There are numerous examples of allowing people to voice diverse critical opinions of our company, incluidng by Jason himself over the years," ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz told Journal-isms. "These were personal attacks that went too far."

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. . . Whitlock Is "the Fire-Starter" AOL Wanted

Jason Whitlock is "just the fire-starter" AOL Sports was looking for, Neal Scarbrough, who himself came from ESPN, told Journal-isms today.

Scarbrough, who was ESPN's vice president and news editor, spent time as the editor-in-chief of, and became editor-in-chief of AOL Sports in May, said, "I knew when I came we had to address [the] site's personality, attitude and relevance. One of the best and lasting ways to do that is to add quality voices that provoke and engage the audience. Jason does all of that. He brings the heat, but at the same time he is truly a contemplative agitator. He looks before he shoots and always hits the target.

"Jason is one of the nation's best columnists, no question. And now he's here," Scarbrough continued via e-mail. "We have a voice sports fans will come back to read. He's just the fire-starter we were looking to keep our audience involved and interactive. He will attract new readers to our site while sending a message to our current users that we have something important to say.

"We view what happened at ESPN as unfortunate. Why wouldn't we want our columnist on air with the Worldwide Leader in Sports. But Jason had agreed to join our stable long before any of this happened ... AOL Sports isn't where he landed after the ESPN mess ... He was on his way weeks ago ... and we're glad he's coming."

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Anti-Affirmative Action Group Challenges J-Program

An anti-affirmative action group today filed a federal lawsuit challenging a summer program for minority student journalists operated by Virginia Commonwealth University, the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund and the publisher of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch.

"The program is one of at least 20 for minority high-school students operated by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund in connection with colleges around the nation. For nearly 40 years, the fund has helped finance the programs with the intent of inspiring minority students to pursue careers in newspaper journalism," Peter Schmidt reported today in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

"The Center for Individual Rights, which has been a leader in the fight against affirmative action, alleges that the Virginia Commonwealth University Urban Journalism Workshop engages in illegal racial discrimination by excluding white students. It argues that the program's race-exclusive eligibility criteria violate the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law, as well as various federal civil-rights statutes, including Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits racial and ethnic discrimination by educational institutions that receive federal funds.

University spokeswoman Pamela Lepley, acknowledged that a copy (PDF) of the lawsuit is on the center's Web site, but said the university had not been served with the suit. "I can't comment on a suit that we haven't seen. This is a program we've been involved in for more than 20 years that has earned a lot of respect and that we feel has been successful," she told Journal- isms.

Richard Holden, executive director of the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, refused to comment on the lawsuit or to say whether the two-week Virginia Commonwealth program and others like it are race-exclusive, according to Schmidt's story. "The Dow Jones Newspaper Fund is supported through the contributions of Dow Jones & Company (publisher of The Wall Street Journal), the Dow Jones Foundation, and other newspaper publishers around the nation. Newspapers help pay for many of the other summer journalism programs supported by the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund, and in some cases provide the programs with instructors," he wrote.

One of those named in the suit is Bonnie Newman Davis, a co-director of the workshop who has worked with it on and off since 1985. She is a former board member of the National Association of Black Journalists.

As the Chronicle story noted, "The lawsuit the Center for Individual Rights expects to file today wouldn't mark the first time a college program for minority students has encountered opposition. Two other advocacy groups, the Center for Equal Opportunity and the American Civil Rights Institute, began challenging race-exclusive college programs in late 2002, but their avenue of attack has typically been to send colleges letters urging them to open the programs up to members of any race and threatening to file a discrimination complaint with the Education Department's Office for Civil Rights if the colleges fail to do so. Nearly all of the more than 100 colleges that the groups have contacted so far have complied with the demands."

As reported here two years ago, "The E.W. Scripps Co. and the Denver Rocky Mountain News changed the purpose of a program designed 'to help early-career Hispanic journalists develop the skills they need to succeed in daily newspaper careers' after getting a call from the general counsel of Linda Chavez's anti-affirmative action organization, Center for Equal Opportunity.

In 1997, the Boston Globe said it would admit whites into two tiny, but long-standing internship programs for people of color after a white applicant complained to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that he was told he was ineligible. The Globe also changed the names of the newsroom's one-year "Minority Development Program" and the business-side's "Minority Intern Program" to avoid an EEOC ruling, Globe spokesman Rick Gulla said then.

However, other programs have refused to buckle to conservative critics.

Last year, David Sherman, director of student services for the Department of Communication at the University of Washington told Journal-isms that his program actually increased the number of students of color despite passage of I-200, an anti-affirmative action initiative in the state, in 1998. "We're committed to having a diverse population and we sort of acted accordingly," he said. "It didn't affect us and we made sure that it didn't."

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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