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Essence Helps Time Inc. on Diversity

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Top Editor at Media Giant Expects Cross-Pollination

Time Inc.'s purchase of Essence magazine will help the media giant in its diversity efforts, giving Essence staffers the opportunity to move to other Time Inc. magazines and vice versa, Time Inc. editor-in-chief Norman Pearlstine told Journal-isms.

"When a company the size of Time acquires a single title, most people tend to focus on the implications for that title," he said. But, "I would say that from the day I first heard that we were taking a minority interest" -- when Time Inc. purchased 49 percent of Essence Communications in 2000 -- "the chance to work with Ed Lewis and Susan Taylor was very much what excited me."

Lewis is co-founder of the magazine and Taylor a longtime editor. "There's a reason she's in the Magazine [Editors'] Hall of Fame," Pearlstine said. "The niche that Essence has carved out is pretty impressive."

He continued: "I do think that the Essence staff has a concentration of really talented journalists who hopefully will not only put out a great magazine but who will think about the things we're doing. We have some folks here who would like to work at Essence, and we hope those people [at Essence] might think, 'Here is a way to expand my career horizons.' We can create opportunities and they don't feel completely pigeonholed."

Pearlstine was expanding upon remarks made last week before the Magazine Publishers Association of America. Time Inc., a division of Time Warner, announced Jan. 4 that it had signed a non-binding agreement to acquire the remaining 51 percent of Essence Communications, ending Essence's status as a black-owned company.

Time Inc. has 10,200 employees, and about 20 or 21 percent are African American, Asian American, Hispanic or Native American, said Peter Vincent, vice president of human resources. The figure is about 18 percent among editorial employees, he said.

"I think we have a very long way to go with all of our titles in terms of creating titles that reflect the diverse nature of our society," Pearlstine, a onetime Wall Street Journal reporter, said in the telephone interview. "If the content of your magazines is reflective of the diversity of society, you will get a more diverse readership and [diversity among the] journalists who want to be part of that organization."

Pearlstine compared the role of Essence within Time Inc. with that of People en Espanol, which the company calls the largest-selling Spanish-language magazine in America. That publication was launched on a test basis in 1997, a result of the March 31, 1995, killing of the Tejano singer Selena in Corpus Christi, Texas, by the former head of her fan club.

Most Time Inc. employees didn't know who Selena was, much less the extent of her following, but Latino employees suggested she be put on the cover of the Southwest and Texas editions of People. The issue "sold spectacularly," Pearlstine said. More important, however, was the role of Latino employees in expanding Time Inc.'s horizons.

Time Inc. helps support four employee "affinity groups," created in 1998: Black Employees at Time (BEAT), a Hispanic group known as HOLA, the Asian American Association (A3) and Out@Time Inc., comprising gays and lesbians.

But unlike newspapers, where small and medium-sized papers have been able to create a diverse pool from which the larger papers can draw, "the small and medium magazines are far more underrepresented than even the large ones," Pearlstine said.

Time includes success in finding and promoting a diverse work force as "an important part of our bonus system." Anyone interested in working at a Time publication should contact Vincent or the individual publication, Pearlstine said.

Among the company's titles are Time, Sports Illustrated, People, Fortune, Parenting and Real Simple.

Norm: I'm Not Going (New York Post)

The Essence Buyout (blackenterprise.com)

Was Vegas Weatherman Racist or Simply Inept?

News of the firing of a Las Vegas weekend weatherman for saying "Martin Luther Coon" on the air was picked up internationally on Monday, but listening to the tape of the broadcast makes it difficult to tell whether KTNV-TV's Rob Blair had racist intentions or simply was inept.

On his happy-talk early-morning newscast, Blair made a reference to "Martin Luther Coon-KING Jr. Day," quickly correcting himself.

In one of the resulting apologies, also done in happy talk, he said he was apologizing because, "apparently I accidentally said Martin Luther Kong Jr."

Blair was unavailable for comment. However, his agent, Sue McInerney of the Napoli Management Group, told Journal-isms Tuesday that she was told that Blair was speaking fast and put "King" together with "Junior" so it came out as the beginning of a composite word, "Kunior."

Nonetheless, "the phones started ringing," and the events were set in motion that culminated in Blair's firing.

There is also this unresolved question: The weathercast was taped. Why wasn't it retaped before airing?

"There were six to seven pairs of ears that should've heard what happened, and no one said anything, no one stopped and said, 'Maybe we ought to redo that one,'" a source at the station, who asked to remain anonymous, said in a story today by Juliet V. Casey of the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"We are in the process of working back through everything," Jim Thomas, vice president of marketing and programming for the Journal Broadcast Group, which owns the Las Vegas station, told Journal-isms Tuesday. However, he said, the station group would not disclose any actions resulting from the investigation because they would be considered personnel matters.

Another story by Casey on Tuesday explored the racial dimension of the incident:

"Las Vegas civil rights leaders Monday condemned the on-air racial slur that KTNV-TV, Channel 13, weather forecaster Rob Blair made during his Saturday morning forecast, but they praised the TV station's management for its swift action in firing him," it began.

"Blair's friends defended him, saying he is not racist and did not deserve to be fired."

NABJ Astounded by Racist On-Air Comment About Dr. King; Seeks More Media Sensitivity in Las Vegas (news release)

Freed Wilbert Rideau Gets Death Threats

"Confessed killer and civil rights figure Wilbert Rideau received what his legal team described as two credible threats on his life Monday and was in seclusion, limiting his contact with people outside a close circle of supporters," Scott Gold and Lianne Hart reported Tuesday from Baton Rouge, La., in the Los Angeles Times.

"'I am in an undisclosed location,' Rideau said in a telephone interview Monday night. 'And I would appreciate you keeping it that way'," they wrote of the prison journalist.

"Ron Ware, a Lake Charles, La., attorney and a member of Rideau's defense team, said that Rideau's website had received at least a dozen vitriolic e-mails written in response to his release from prison over the weekend," the story continued.

New Savoy to Reappear with Feb. Issue

"Just eight months after closing on the acquisition of Savoy magazine, Chicago publisher Hermene Hartman is about to debut the re-born publication with the hopes of picking up where the title left off two years ago," Target Market News reported today.

"The new Savoy will retain quite a bit of what readers had come to identify with, not the least of which was a unique editorial formula that focused on African-American interests in an upscale environment. 'There's not another magazine on the market to serve affluent African-Americans in a sophisticated, savvy way,' said Hartman. 'That is what Savoy had defined for itself, and we will follow that niche.'

"Savoy's February debut cover features Barack and Michelle Obama captured by [renowned] photographer Victor Skrebneski. The 116-page issue carries 14 articles, features and columns. The magazine will still be published 10 times a year, with combined issues for June/July and December/January."

[Added Jan. 24: "'The problem with the old Savoy was that depending on which issue you picked up, you got a different magazine each time,' said new editor Monroe Anderson. 'There were no anchors. We're going to have the same columnists each month.' Those columnists include economist Julianne Malveaux, and author and motivational speaker Terrie Williams.

"'I thought it was a bit too New York-centric,' said Anderson. 'I want it to be a national publication. I want it to be more black America. Because we had to get it done quickly, I had to rely on Chicago writers more than others at the moment.' Among the contributors in the February issue are author Chris Benson, veteran journalist Vern Smith and historian Jeffrey Stewart. Future issues will have writings from former contributors like previous editor Selwyn Seyfu Hinds."]

Chicago Defender Revenue, Circulation Rise

"During the last five months of 2004, the Chicago Defender's revenue jumped 47.5% and its circulation increased 11% over the same period in 2003, the black-oriented paper's executive editor, Roland S. Martin, said Monday at a lecture sponsored by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University," Mark Fitzgerald reported Monday in Editor & Publisher.

Martin, who took editorial control of the Defender in July, "also said the paper would be rolling out two new niche products in February and March, and a new book section in the main paper. In recent weeks, he noted, the Defender has introduced a business section that has already expanded to eight pages in its Friday weekend editions. The five-day-a-week tabloid has also introduced new sections devoted to autos and homes," Fitzgerald wrote.

Ketchum Changes Policies After Williams Flap

The Ketchum public relations agency, which arranged for the Education Department to pay commentator Armstrong Williams's firm $240,000 to promote the No Child Left Behind Act, is installing new ethical procedures in light of the scandal that resulted.

"Last week, Armstrong Williams was identified as a paid advocate for the Department of Education (DoE), and criticized for not disclosing the payment in on-air commentary and columns," Keith O'Brien reported today in PR Week.

"Ketchum, under contract with the DoE, arranged for the payment. Ketchum has repeatedly said that Williams should have disclosed the payment, but that the agency was not required to do so. The firm also said Williams was not contractually obligated to disclose his payment.

". . . Ketchum said it was installing new steps to supplement its current standards, including instituting a new policy for signing and authorizing contracts with spokespeople, creat[ing] a number for staff to call if they have any questions, and developing a new process by which the firm deal[s] with subcontracts."

Meanwhile, Christopher Lee and Jeffrey H. Birnbaum reported Tuesday in the Washington Post that, "Public relations firms that are paid millions of dollars a year by the federal government to promote programs and policies are worried the money might dry up because of the Armstrong Williams flap."

"A deluge of government business in recent years has helped make Washington a growing market for public relations firms. To protect that market, PR executives are voicing their objections to that kind of deal, in which the commentator was paid to tout Bush administration education policy in television and radio appearances."

The Ketchum statement reads in part, according to PR Week:

"We are developing a new process by which we deal with subcontracts. In short, all subcontractors will be expected to abide by the agency's ethical standards.

"Over the past ten days we have worked with external legal counsel to investigate the facts associated with our contract with the Department and the Graham Williams Group.

"While our review of the situation is still underway, we wanted to let you know where it stands at the moment and reiterate that we would never encourage this type of behavior. We certainly are not pleased by this turn of events and are committed to working with the government and our industry in addressing this situation."

Public Relations Industry Debates Payments to Commentator (New York Times)

Trotter Group members' commentary

"Unforgivable Blackness" Scores in Ratings

The audience for "Unforgivable Blackness", the two-part Ken Burns documentary on the racist times of Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion, was 88 percent larger than the PBS prime-time average so far this season, a PBS spokeswoman told Journal-isms.

The figure applies to the 54 markets where overnight ratings are taken. The estimated national audience was 4.6 million people on Monday night and 4 million on Tuesday, Kim Tavares said.

However, the numbers are not yet as big as two prior Burns shows on PBS, "Horatio's Drive" from 2003, a two-hour account of a 1903 cross-country drive by motorcar that drew 5.7 million; and "Jazz," the story of the musical form, which averaged 5.3 million viewers in 2001.

But, Tavares said, "The estimates . . . may in fact turn out to be as large as these actual Nielsen figures, which take into account the additional viewers who watched the stations' within-week repeats."

At Washington's WETA-TV, which co-produced the program, "the show scored a 4.4. -- 250% higher than our average rating," spokesman Dewey Blanton said.

"In addition, WETA extended the reach of the broadcast by sending teacher's guides to every high school in the country, some 15,000 teacher guides in all," he told Journal-isms.

Greg Mitchell, editor of Editor & Publisher, wrote Tuesday that, "It's widely known that filmmaker Ken Burns . . . is now spearheading a drive to secure a presidential pardon" for the boxer's conviction under the Mann Act, which prohibited transporting women across state lines for any "immoral purpose." "What's less known is what sparked his protest: racist editorials in leading newspapers, including The New York Times and Los Angeles Times," Mitchell wrote.

"Burns told the New York Times, in an article today, that the decision to seek the pardon 'was born out of anger, from listening to the accumulated bile of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, spouting racial language about Johnson,' back when he competing for the heavyweight crown back in the early 1900s.

". . . Last Friday, the Los Angeles Times, in a kind of apology, ran an editorial quoting from one of its 1910 broadsides, and endorsed Burns' call for a pardon. It said that the newspaper's views 'shamefully' did not rise above 'the sentiments of the day.'"

Apparently, the Dallas Morning News wasn't as attentive as others. The cover of its Sunday TV Week magazine rendered the program title as "Intolerable Blackness," for which the paper ran a correction in the Sunday A section.

And Speaking of Corrections

Monday's column included this parenthetical sentence from a Washington Post story on Tavis Smiley's differences with National Public Radio:

"(NPR spent $138,000 last year on ads in Essence and Black Entertainment magazine)," a declaration credited to NPR vice president David Umansky.

Alert reader Wayne Metz, weekend news editor at the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C., wondered what "Black Entertainment" magazine was. NPR spokesman Chad Campbell told Journal-isms today that his boss remembers saying "Black Enterprise."

Joe Vazquez Moves to S.F. From Philly

"Former NBC-10 reporter/anchor Joe Vazquez has been hired by San Francisco's KPIX, owned and operated by CBS," Dan Gross reported today in the Philadelphia Daily News.

"He starts Feb. 7 as a weekday general-assignment reporter, says a KPIX spokeswoman.

"Vazquez, 39, was fired by NBC-10 in October after allegedly making inappropriate remarks about a rape victim in front of an intern, who told management.

"He'd been working there since March 2002."

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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