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Film Critic Elvis Mitchell Doesn't Know What He'll Do Next

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Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Film Critic Mitchell Doesn't Know What He'll Do Next

Elvis Mitchell, explaining why he left his job as New York Times film critic, says "I don't have any plans" and does not even know whether he will continue being a film reviewer.

The New York Times announced Mitchell's departure as the nation's most visible African American film critic yesterday. His boss, cultural news editor Steven Erlanger, told Journal-isms that Mitchell did leave two weeks ago, as had been reported, but that Mitchell himself would have to say why. "I don't know everything he was thinking about it. We did not want him to go. I'm very sorry," Erlanger said.

News reports had said that Mitchell resigned after Erlanger appointed colleague A. O. Scott the lead film critic; the paper's three film critics had been equal. Mitchell confirmed to Journal-isms that the reports were correct. "I just said I have to leave. That wasn't the way I came in." He said he would not have asked Erlanger to undo the decision because "that would have caused as much difficulty. They made a decision" about the way they wanted to proceed, he said. He said there were no larger conclusions to be drawn; "this was a special case."

Mitchell said he did not know what he would do next. "Obviously, this is a big shift in my life," he said. He said he was not even sure he would continue to be a film critic, even for National Public Radio, where he has been reviewing films for "Weekend Edition Saturday" since the show's inception in 1985. He said he had been cutting back on those appearances already. Mitchell had been at the Times since December 1999, when he was 41.

Erlanger said Mitchell's job was open and that anyone interested should contact him at erlanger@nytimes.com

"I will happily look at everybody's work," he said.

The message to the staff from Executive Editor Bill Keller read:

"I'm sorry to inform you that Elvis Mitchell has decided to leave The Times. Despite what you may have read elsewhere, it is an amicable parting on both sides, a little wistful but not acrimonious. In the years since he joined The Times, Elvis has brought our readers (and shared with his colleagues) a profound knowledge of film, an original and exciting voice, and a great deal of fun. As one of the editors who hired Elvis, I will miss him a lot, and so will everyone who worked with him."

Cincinnati Residents Set TV Van on Fire

A television van was set on fire and another's windshield was cracked by a rock in racially tense Cincinnati Monday night after a police suspect shot himself. Angry neighbors reacted to rumors that the suspect had instead been shot by police, according to Cincinnati news media.

The van set afire belonged to WCPO-TV and the rock-damaged van to WXIX-TV, Tom McKee reported on WCPO-TV.

"Officers pulled over Antwand Yett, 19, of the Kings Run apartment complex, around 9 p.m. Monday," McKee reported.

"Immediately after being pulled over, police said Yett fatally shot himself; however, people in the community became angry, thinking instead that police had shot the man.

"The death prompted violence and unrest on the streets of Winton Terrace Monday night. Hundreds of angry people demonstrated in the street and at least four shots were fired at police on the scene.

The Cincinnati Enquirer quoted the Rev. Damon Lynch III, a founder of the Peace Down the Way Coalition, a group that started calling for an end to street violence in 2002, as saying that young black men told him Monday night "they feel the police are harassing them and they are killing each other and there is just no hope.''

3 in TV Copter Escape Serious Injury After Crash

"A reporter and two pilots aboard a news helicopter that spun out of control and crashed on a Brooklyn rooftop escaped without serious injuries, officials said," reports WNBC-TV in New York.

"The chopper had been covering a shooting in Brooklyn for WNBC-TV on Tuesday when it clipped a four-story building, broke apart and crash landed on the roof of a two-story dwelling.

"Reporter Andrew Torres and the two pilots were hospitalized in stable condition Tuesday night, WNBC spokeswoman Liz Fischer said. 'We have spoken to them, and they seem to be OK,' she said. No one on the ground was harmed."

"Luke Schiada, a senior investigator for the National Transportation Safety Board, said Wednesday that officials had not identified a cause, but were interested in the pilot's report.

Torres and the two pilots, Russ Mowry and Hassan Taan, are employees of Helinet Aviation Services of Van Nuys and Hayward, Calif., Fischer told Journal-isms. The station contracts with the company to provide helicopter coverage in a variety of news situations, she said. The three had been covering a police shooting.

Helinet released a terse statement and spokeswoman Abbie Ginsberg said the company would not go beyond it. The statement said: "Yesterday, May 4, 2004, three of our flight crew members were involved in a helicopter accident in Brooklyn, New York. All three -- reporter Andrew Torres and pilots Russ Mowry and Hassan Taan -- were hospitalized and are in stable condition. We are grateful that they are safe and our complete focus is on the health and well-being of our people and their families. It is our understanding that all three are expected to be released from the hospital in the near future. We will release further information as we obtain it and as it is confirmed reliable."

Kerry Gives One-on-One Interview to Univision

Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, accused of not reaching out enough to African Americans and Hispanics, was to have a one-on-one interview today with Univision news anchor Jorge Ramos.

"This first exclusive one-on-one nationally televised interview with a Spanish-language television network will air on Univision . . . May 5 at 6:30pm (5:30pm Central) and 11:30 pm (10:30pm Central)," a news release says.

"Among the topics to be discussed are Kerry's position on amnesty toward undocumented immigrants, the embargo on Cuba, the high dropout rate of Hispanic high school students, the war on Iraq and the U.S. economy." The interview was to air on "Noticiero Univision," which Univision calls "America's most-watched Spanish-language evening TV newscast."

Both President Bush and Kerry are vying for the Hispanic vote, with the Bush re-election effort rolling out a "Viva Bush" campaign targeting Latinos, as the Albuquerque Tribune reported.

Newsweek's Whitaker to Lead Magazine Editors

Mark Whitaker, editor of Newsweek, has been elected president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, the second African American to hold the job.

As Folio magazine has just noted, magazines trail television broadcasting, cable TV and newspapers in the diversity of their workforce.

Meanwhile, it was announced today that Newsweek won the 2004 National Magazine Award for General Excellence in the over-2,000,000 category for its issues dated March 10, March 31 and Nov. 3, 2003.

"Drawing on a strong and recognized team of writers, editors and photographers, Newsweek offered fact and context to help guide readers through the glut of unfolding news on the war in Iraq. In a challenging year, Newsweek proves once again that a weekly newsmagazine can be an essential guide in navigating our fast-changing world," the American Society of Magazine Editors said.

Whitaker has served on ASME board since 1999. Janet Chan, editor-in-chief of Parenting magazine, also continues on the panel.

As editor of the defunct Emerge magazine, George E. Curry in May 2000 became the organization's first African American president. The next month, Emerge folded, but Curry completed his term.

Jai Singh's CNETNews.Com Wins Magazine Award

CNET News.com and its founder and editor, Jai Singh, won a National Magazine Award today for general excellence online.

ᅵThe site which promises ᅵtech news first,ᅵ does more than deliver technology news fast. It covers technology with in-depth, high-quality journalism. With a strong voice, but without being a cheerleader, it exposes the problems and highlights the victories of this changing field. The siteᅵs use of multimedia, background reports and innovative presentation techniques helps both the tech savvy and the merely curious grasp various topics,ᅵ the American Society of Magazine Editors said in its award.

Singh is a member of the South Asian Journalists Association.

Magazine Publishers Name Diversity Director

The Magazine Publishers of America has created the position of director of diversity development and named Shaunice Hawkins, who is Prudential Securities Inc., corporate relationship manager of diversity and workforce effectiveness, to the job.

"This is an important new fulltime position for MPA," said Nina Link, president and CEO of the association, in a news release.

"The development of diversity initiatives in the publishing industry has been recognized as a key priority by the Boards of both MPA and American Society of Magazine Editors."

"Among her responsibilities, Ms. Hawkins will help college graduates of diverse backgrounds find careers in the magazine industry through ambassador and internship programs. She will also work in partnership with MPA's Professional Development Department and MPA's Human Resources Committee to retain a diverse workforce in the industry by developing training programs for all levels of magazine employees. Additionally, Ms. Hawkins will support MPA member companies with their diversity efforts by providing information, research and resources. She will be based in New York," the release says.

Reaction Strong to Pitts' Kelley-Blair Column

"About 1,500 e-mails flooded into Leonard Pitts Jr.'s inbox since his Monday column, about the different ways many media people have reacted to the Jack Kelley and Jayson Blair scandals," Dave Astor wrote in Editor & Publisher in a piece dated April 28.

"I get an average of 500 to 800 e-mails a column, so this is higher," the syndicated Miami Herald columnist told E&P. He said at least 70 percent of the 1,500 responses were positive, and added that nearly 100 of the e-mails came from journalists. One told Pitts she would be putting his column on her office door, Astor wrote.

Writer Disappointed by Janet Clayton Transfer

The Los Angeles Times' decision to hire former Slate editor Michael Kinsley as editorial and opinion editor and to move editorial page editor Janet Clayton to assistant managing editor for state and local news "is a disappointing development, not just because Kinsley doesn't even live in Los Angeles (he'll work part of each month out of Southern Cal, and part from Seattle), but because no one else in the industry seems worried about the removal of the only African American woman from the most important page on the most influential West Coast daily," writes Amy Alexander on africana.com.

"She is an African American woman, a former reporter and editor who clearly understood not only the uniquely Southern California outlook necessary for the job, but also was able to effectively grapple with national and international issues. As the paper's unsigned voice of authority, Clayton held a powerful position in Los Angeles, and in the national media landscape," writes Alexander, who often comments on media developments.

"The fact that she is African American and a woman gave quiet reassurance to those of us who make note of such things. Clayton, like all good editorial page editors, stayed in the background yet also seemed to be sensitive about the power of her position. She was also a living, breathing example that maybe, just maybe, qualified blacks could indeed rise to the top of the food chains at the nation's biggest and most influential news organizations."

Alexander, who moved from Boston to Minnesota with her husband, Joe Williams, who was named last June as assistant managing editor for local news at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, also notes that "the president of Minnesota Public Radio (one of the network's largest, and best-funded member stations) told listeners during a call-in show that MPR isn't willing to put [Tavis] Smiley on the air in the Twin Cities until his LA-based program goes through its current 'test phase.'

"When a caller responded that Smiley seems to be very popular in the markets where he is on the air, the MPR honcho responded (somewhat condescendingly, to my ears) that, 'We'll just have to wait and see how the Tavis Smiley Show performs.' He also added that MPR doesn't have a 'diversity problem' since listeners can't ever really be sure of the ethnicity of the voices they hear each day on the network! This was news to me, since I happen to know that, with the exception of local reporter and sometime news host Toni Randolph, there are no blacks or Latinos hosting programs on Minnesota Public Radio. So much for liberal radio broadcasting."

Andy Barnes Recalls Diversity Effort as He Retires

Andrew Barnes, chairman and chief executive of the St. Petersburg Times for the past 15 years, is stepping down. On May 15, his 65th birthday, he will turn his responsibilities over to Paul C. Tash, 49, the newspaper's editor and president, the paper notes in a front-page story today.

The article, by David Ballingrud, says that Barnes recalled that "at a recent meeting of about 20 new mid-level managers a half dozen were African-American and more than half were female," but that, "During Barnes' years of leadership, African-Americans and women challenged the Times' commitment to diversity and equal pay."

"Barnes himself remembers that when he came to the Times in 1973 department head meetings had a sameness to them," the story says. "'It's easy to forget how white, how male we were,'" Ballingrud quotes him as saying.

Ballingrud's story continues:

"In 1991, complaints by women in the newsroom prompted Barnes to institute a series of workplace improvements, including an analysis of pay scales and adjustment of some salaries.

"Three years later, African-Americans on the staff issued a stinging rebuke. The Times, a committee of African-American staffers said in 1994, had lost its way. It was no longer a beacon of hope for minorities trying to catch up in a society that had turned away.

"This could be addressed in part, they said, by putting Peggy Peterman on the Times board of directors.

"Peterman had just graduated from law school when she came to work for the Times in 1965, at the height of the civil rights movement. She spent three decades as a reporter, columnist and editorial writer.

"The Times' African-American Committee called her a 'mentor, inspiration and tower of strength for generations of black journalists at the Times.'

"But Barnes said no and stood his ground, saying board members should hold key supervisory positions within the company.

"'There is no question Peggy Peterman is a worthy, respected senior staff member,' he said in a letter to the committee. But 'to ask anyone (of whatever gender or color) who lacks substantial organizational responsibility and experience to function in a body of people who have it is to invite frustration and failure.' He did pledge to 'push for diversity of race and gender and age and circumstance in all the ways I know how.'

"The pressure did not let up, and in September 2002, Barnes promised to appoint a minority board member before he retired this year. He kept his promise in December of that year, appointing Karen Brown Dunlap, a veteran African-American journalist and educator, to the board.

"'I wanted someone chosen on the basis of talent, who happened to be black, not because he or she was black,' Barnes said recently. 'And I was willing to put up with all the trouble to do it.'

"Dunlap, president of the Poynter Institute, 'is not only an important piece of symbolism,' Barnes said recently. 'She is a very able woman; she'll do the job.'

"The company remains committed to diversity, he said, recalling that at a recent meeting of about 20 new mid-level managers a half dozen were African-American and more than half were female."

San Antonio Launches Bilingual Weekly for Latinos

The San Antonio Express-News today launched a paid weekly targeting Latino readers that is mostly in English.

"About 60% of the articles in the new weekly tabloid Conexiï¿œn, will be in English, with the rest in Spanish, said its general manager, Sergio Salinas," wrote Mark Fitzgerald in Editor & Publisher, also noting that San Antonio is the largest U.S. city with a majority Hispanic population.

"Rï¿œul A. Flores is the weekly's editor. Featured columnists include Carlos Guerra, Ed Tijerina, Kristina Ruiz-Healy and Claudia Zapata.

"The Express-News is introducing Conexiï¿œn just ahead of the debut of a Spanish-language daily called Rumbo, created by the new Meximerica publishing group. Meximerica plans to launch versions of Rumbo sometime next month in San Antonio, Austin and the Lower Rio Grande Valley border area around Brownsville and Harlingen," the article says.

Atlanta Journal-Constitution Buys Hispanic Paper

"The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is buying Georgia's largest Spanish-language newspaper, Mundo Hispanico," Matt Kempner reports in the Journal-Constitution.

"A weekly newspaper with circulation of 55,000, Mundo Hispanico is owned by Lino Dominguez, a native of Panama. Dominguez has lived in metro Atlanta for nearly 30 years.

"Dominguez said the Journal-Constitution approached him last year about buying his publication.

"Roger Kintzel, senior publisher of Cox Newspapers, said the Journal-Constitution contemplated launching its own Spanish-language publication, as other major newspapers have, but decided it would be faster and better to buy an established paper."

Ciara, Smith, Wilbekin to be Honored at Hampton U.

Hampton University alumni Barbara Ciara, anchor and managing editor of WTKR-TV in nearby Norfolk, Va.; Douglas Smith, a former tennis writer with USA Today; and Emil Wilbekin, former editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine, are to be inducted Saturday into the university's Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications 2003-2004 Hall of Fame.

Wilbekin, a 1989 graduate, is now editorial director and vice-president for brand development for Vibe's parent company, Vibe Ventures.

Smith, a 1964 graduate, is working on a biography of the late Robert Walter Johnson, a news release says, explaining that "Johnson, a physician, built a tennis court in the backyard of his Lynchburg, Va. home, where he trained and developed promising black juniors -- including Ashe and Althea Gibson -- in the 1940s and 1950s, a time when blacks were barred from playing in most USTA events and on all public courts in the South."

Ciara, who graduated from Hampton in 2000 after leaving school in Arizona in 1976 to take a television job, is vice president/broadcast of the National Association of Black Journalists.

TV One Doubles Audience, But Not Close to BET

In its first four months on the air, TV One, the media partnership that Radio One Inc. and Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable company, launched in January, is slowly making inroads, reports Andrea K. Walker in the Baltimore Sun.

"TV One has doubled its original audience to more than 4 million cable subscribers in more than a dozen major markets and is in negotiations to enter several more. Financially, it's on track to break even in five years.

"But TV One is still years away from presenting a serious challenge to its main competitor, Black Entertainment Television. That's the 75-million-subscriber channel that Robert L. Johnson sold to Viacom Inc. for $3 billion in 2001. That fortune enabled Johnson to buy the Charlotte Bobcats NBA team and invest in numerous other developments, including a proposed convention center hotel in Baltimore," Walker wrote.

The company is also exploring an Internet venture in the near future, Alfred C. Liggins III, Radio One chief executive officer, said in the story.

"We're going to make an Internet play," he said. "We haven't any Web strategy whatsoever. We feel comfortable we can go in that avenue now and at a bare minimum break even or make some money."

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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