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"Heart & Soul" Skips a Beat

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

and May 17, 2012

No April Issue Amid Drama Over Unpaid Writers

Go-Go's Chuck Brown Dies Too Late for Black Weeklies

NPR Chief Says No Plans to Cancel "Tell Me More"

N.Y. Times Finds Police Missteps in Trayvon Case

Carswell to Head Washington Post Diversity Efforts

Media Choose False "Balance" Over Calling Out GOP

Most Blacks Say Opinion Unchanged on Obama

Vogue Italia Produces All-Africa Issue

Short Takes



The first issue of Heart & Soul under its new owners. It has been owned by Reginald Ware, Rodale Press, BET,  Vanguarde Media, Edwin V. Avent, and now BCDT, which stands for Brown, Curry, Detry and Taylor.

No April Issue Amid Drama Over Unpaid Writers

Heart & Soul, a health-and-wellness magazine targeting women of color, has had a rough go since it was acquired in January by a group that includes veteran journalist George E. Curry.

One of its longtime writers says the staff has gone on strike to protest lack of payment. Clarence I. Brown, president and CEO of the acquiring group, acknowledged Wednesday that an issue was skipped but says that is partly because the magazine, still in transition, is making adjustments in its publication schedule. Clarence I. Brown

Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union, told Journal-isms that his group was "trying to work with the company" to get the writers paid.

One writer, Sheree Crute, whose field is health and science, said, "There are people who are individually owed five figures. This is a group of African Americans, primarily female. If a white publisher or owner did this, there would be outrage. This has been going on for months and months and months."

Brown told Journal-isms that Heart & Soul owed many of the writers — and some vendors — when his group purchased it in January from Edwin V. Avent. "We anticipated a certain amount of debt, and we started to see more stuff," Brown said. "A few little bills will throw any [plans] out of whack."

The company has paid some writers and arranged payment plans with others, he said.

Avent told Journal-isms in December, ". . . every writer, editor, designer and freelancer will be fully compensated when the deal is consummated."

Brown said then, ". . . we value the important work done previously for the magazine and we are committed to making full restitution to all contributors who have not been paid in 2011. However, we are unable to take any actions until we officially assume ownership."

When the new owners acquired the publication in January, they tried to broaden the focus of the health-and-wellness magazine targeting African Americans, naming former Latina magazine editor-in-chief Sandra Guzman its top editor in a bid to attract other ethnic groups.

The new team put out two issues, one that could be considered December-January, a second that might be February-March. There was none for April. "We're retooling, trying to change the cycle of the magazine," Brown said on Wednesday.

He also said he anticipated that the financial matters would be settled in 30 to 45 days. Everyone on the staff except one working in sales is a freelancer, Brown said — even the editors. Meanwhile, the publication is seeking partnerships with national African American organizations interested in health issues in effort to be "good citizens with the community."

Heart & Soul has survived multiple changes of ownership since it began in 1988. Brown was part of one phase, when he managed the Black Entertainment Television (BET) magazine group that included Heart & Soul, Emerge, YSB and BET Weekend.

Crute said she had been with the publication from the beginning. "I've seen all the difficulties. There's never been anything like this," she said.

WRC-TV anchor Jim Vance reminisces about go-go musician Chuck Brown, who died at age 75 on Wednesday. (Video)

Go-Go's Chuck Brown Dies Too Late for Black Weeklies

Chuck Brown, dubbed the godfather of go-go music, was arguably the musician most closely identified with District of Columbia natives since Duke Ellington. But his death on Wednesday at 75 won't be in the city's African American newspapers this week. Their publication deadlines had already passed, a reminder of how print-press technology, and that serving the black press in particular, has been surpassed by its more modern competitors.

"A lot of black newspapers' deadlines are Tuesday and Wednesday," Jake Oliver, publisher of the Afro-American Newspapers, told Journal-isms, even though the papers are distributed on Thursday or Friday. The deadlines were fixed originally so publication would be timed for supermarket sales, which are advertised midweek.

Brown died early Wednesday afternoon in Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore, where he had been hospitalized for pneumonia, hospital spokesman Gary Stephenson confirmed. The first news stories started appearing after 4 p.m.

But the Afro's editions for D.C. and suburban Prince George's County, Md., go to press at noon on Wednesday, and at 5 p.m. for Baltimore editions, Oliver said. For the tabloid Washington Informer, the city's other major black weekly, the deadline is "at least noon on Tuesday, for just about everything," publisher Denise Rolark Barnes said. Perhaps the Brown news could have been included if it were made public before 10 a.m. Wednesday, she said.

Neither publication owns its own presses, which would allow for later-breaking news. The Afro bought presses in the mid-1930s but sold them in 1984, Oliver said. They were expensive to maintain and were getting old, he said.

The Washington Post and the area's television stations jumped on the news of Brown's death with Internet photo galleries and other embellishments. By 5:15, the Post was announcing, "Great memories of Chuck Brown being shared with hashtags #Godfatherofgogo and #RIPChuckBrown." [In Thursday's print edition, the Brown story was prominently displayed on the front page above the fold, and took up the entire Style section front.]

WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate, quoted Mayor Vincent Gray. "Go-go is D.C.'s very own unique contribution to the world of pop music, and Chuck Brown was regarded as Go-go's creator and, arguably, its most legendary artist," he said. "Today is a very sad day for music lovers the world over, but especially in the District of Columbia. Without Chuck Brown, the world — and our city — will be a different place. What a loss."

Barnes said the Informer had posted a story on its website, planned a Thursday morning email blast and had notified viewers of its Facebook page. Next week's edition would catch up with tributes and commemorations. Oliver echoed Barnes. "We're jumping on it for the eblast," he said.

NPR Chief Says No Plans to Cancel "Tell Me More"

"We have no plans to cancel 'Tell Me More,' " Gary Knell, president and CEO of NPR, told Journal-isms on Thursday, referring to the multiculturally oriented show hosted by Michel Martin that just commemorated its fifth anniversary.

Michel Martin'

He urged all to wish Martin a happy birthday, which the journalist and show host celebrated Thursday.

Knell was reacting to a Washington Post story whose online version featured a large photo of Martin and the headline, "NPR sees sharp downturn in advertising revenue, leading to talk of cuts."

". . . Halfway through its fiscal year — and six months into Gary Knell's tenure as chief executive — Washington-based NPR has seen a sharp downturn in corporate 'underwriting,' or advertising revenue. The falloff has led to projections of an annual operating deficit and internal discussions about staff and program cuts," read the story by Paul Farhi.

The story noted that a 2008 financial crisis prompted NPR to drop two daily programs to save money, including " 'News and Notes,' a show designed to attract more African American listeners."

"This time, there have been internal discussions about dropping 'Tell Me More,' a daily program also aimed at African Americans and other minorities, according to people who are privy to the matter. They said nothing has been decided."

Despite statements to the contrary, Knell said, the Post "printed a rumor anyway."

Referring to Knell and "Tell Me More," Farhi told Journal-isms by telephone, "What I reported was there have been discussions about canceling it. It appears unlikely that they will. The subject specifically did not come up in our conversation because he made such a blanket statement about not cutting at all." [May 17]

N.Y. Times Finds Police Missteps in Trayvon Case

"The killing of Trayvon Martin here two and a half months ago has been cast as the latest test of race relations and equal justice in America. But it was also a test of a small city police department that does not even have a homicide unit and typically handles three or four murder cases a year," Serge F. Kovaleski wrote from Sanford, Fla., Wednesday for the New York Times.

"An examination of the Sanford Police Department's handling of the case shows a series of missteps — including sloppy work — and circumstances beyond its control that impeded the investigation and may make it harder to pursue a case that is already difficult enough.

". . . In interviews over several weeks, law enforcement authorities, witnesses and local elected officials identified problems with the initial investigation:

  • "On the night of the shooting, door-to-door canvassing was not exhaustive enough, said a law enforcement official familiar with the investigation. If officers had been more thorough, they might have determined that Mr. Martin, 17, was a guest — as opposed to an intruder — at a gated community called the Retreat at Twin Lakes. That would have been an important part of the subjective analysis that night by officers sizing up Mr. Zimmerman's story," Kovaleski wrote a reference to neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who was charged with second-degree murder. "Investigators found no witnesses who saw the fight start. Others saw parts of a struggle they could not clearly observe or hear. One witness, though, provided information to the police that corroborated Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the struggle, according to a law enforcement official. . . . "

Carswell to Head Washington Post Diversity Efforts

Shirley Carswell, deputy managing editor at the Washington Post, will head the newspaper's recruiting, hiring, diversity and training efforts, the editors announced on Tuesday in the wake of a buyout offer that is disproportionately claiming journalists of color.

Shirley Carswell

"This role has never mattered more," Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli and managing editors Liz Spayd and John Temple said in a staff memo. "We face a new and constantly shifting array of competitors, making it crucial that our people be top-tier by any measure. Every hire counts. The quality of our people determines the quality of our journalism. And that is essential to our success.

"Shirley will chair a group including the three of us, as well as Peter Perl, that will approve all newsroom hires." Perl is assistant managing editor for personnel. "She will work closely with department heads to ensure they are seeing, considering and selecting the best candidates for every job. We want a newsroom that reflects the diversity of our society and can excel in serving all of our audiences — local and national, print and digital. Shirley will liaise with the human-resources department and will sign off on all Newsroom hiring and salary decisions.

"In addition, Shirley will take on responsibility for training and development. In that capacity, she will continue her work with Peter, who remains in charge of ethics and standards and who has done an outstanding job laying the groundwork for newsroom training programs that Shirley will now guide. Shirley will also retain authority over Newsroom real estate, deciding who should sit where. She also will remain in charge of Newsroom IT and operations.

"As a result of this change in Shirley's mission, her duties as the newsroom's budget manager [will] shift to Newsroom Budget Director Raquel Edora. Those of you who have worked with Raquel know how very good she is at keeping our costs down in ways that don't impair our journalistic ambitions or our ability to adapt rapidly to change. She will work closely with Newsroom department heads and already has a strong partnership with the company's finance department, which is a crucial partner for us in this area. Raquel will report to John Temple."

Carswell, 51, grew up in Pittsburgh, earned her undergraduate journalism degree at Howard University, and worked in Richmond and Detroit before joining the Post in 1988 as a copy editor. She has also been treasurer of the Washington Association of Black Journalists.

Media Choose False "Balance" Over Calling Out GOP

"Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann are well-known in the Beltway. They work at big-time think tanks (Brookings and American Enterprise Institute), appear on television chat shows, and write books and op-eds that powerful people pay attention to," Peter Hart wrote Tuesday for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting.

"Lately, though, it seems they've become dangerous men.

"Mann and Ornstein recently wrote an [Outlook section essay] in the Washington Post (4/27/12) based on their new book. In it, they argued that whining about increased polarization or partisanship in politics obscures a central truth: This problem is not seen in equal measure on both sides. The headline summed it up: 'Let's Just Say It: The Republicans Are the Problem.'

"They wrote:

" 'The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.'

"And the piece pointed a finger at the media's false balance:

" 'We understand the values of mainstream journalists, including the effort to report both sides of a story. But a balanced treatment of an unbalanced phenomenon distorts reality. If the political dynamics of Washington are unlikely to change anytime soon, at least we should change the way that reality is portrayed to the public.'

"Our advice to the press: Don't seek professional safety through the even-handed, unfiltered presentation of opposing views. Which politician is telling the truth? Who is taking hostages, at what risks and to what ends?

"The article became quite an internet sensation — with something like 200,000 recommendations on Facebook. But as Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent (5/14/12) points out, one class of people seem uniquely uninterested in the argument: Sunday talkshow bookers. It turns out neither man has been invited on to the Sunday shows even once to discuss this thesis. "

Filipino boxer   Manny Pacquiao, left, with Timothy Bradley, whom he fights in June

Most Blacks Say Opinion Unchanged on Obama

"Roughly half of Americans (52%) say Barack Obama's expression of support for gay marriage did not affect their opinion of the president," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Monday. "A quarter (25%) say they feel less favorably toward Obama because of this while 19% feel more favorably.

". . . The opinions of whites largely reflect the population as a whole: 49% say Obama's expression of support for gay marriage did not alter their opinion of the president. Among those who say it did, somewhat more say it made their view of him less favorable than more (29% vs. 20%). Most African Americans, on the other hand, say the announcement did not alter their opinion of Obama. About two-thirds (68%) say this, while about as many say it made them view Obama more favorably (16%) as less favorably (13%)."

Meanwhile, Patrick Winn wrote for Global Post, "According to a slew of established American media outlets — including USA Today, L.A. Weekly and Daily Kos — boxing megastar and Philippine congressman Manny Pacquiao believes gay people should be executed.

"How do they know?

"Because that's what Pacquiao said in this interview, titled 'Pacquiao Rejects Obama's [new twist] on the Scriptures,' which is cited as appearing in the National Conservative Examiner. The L.A. Weekly has squeezed the most from this interview with giddy reports on Pacquiao's subsequent ban from an L.A. mall and a post titled 'Ten Gays Who Could Beat The Crap Out Of Manny Pacquiao.'

"But there are several reasons why journalists should reconsider echoing that this Nike-endorsed athlete wants all gays dead.

"Here's the best one: the 'National Conservative Examiner' doesn't exist. . . ."

South African singer Lira appears in the May issue of the Italian men's magazine L'Uo

Vogue Italia Produces All-Africa Issue

"Africa is in the news — but not just for the sad and familiar reasons of conflict and suffering. The continent is entering the fashion arena, with the quality of its handwork, artistic creativity and its potential for economic growth bringing Africa literally in vogue," Suzy Menkes wrote Monday for the New York Times.

"The key word for an overall résumé of changes in attitude and perception is 'rebranding.'

" 'They are not my own words — they come from Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan — but I do believe in the 'rebranding' of Africa," said Franca Sozzani, editor in chief of Vogue Italia, which has devoted this month's men's wear issue to the continent.

"The May Uomo Vogue is an all-Africa magazine with images of beauty and grace far removed from violence and poverty. And the magazine's cover features an unlikely figure: Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations.

"Inside the magazine, an interview with Mr. Ban contains an impassioned plea to move Africa away from bad news toward positive thinking.

" 'Africa does not need charity — Africa needs investment and partnership,' said Mr. Ban. 'Joining forces with civil society and private sector, including non-traditional players, like the fashion industry, has become indispensable. Sustainable development is my top priority.'

"Ms. Sozzani did an 'all black' issue for women’s Vogue in 2008, and she has subsequently promoted multiculture with a focus on black creativity and beauty on the magazine's Web site,"

Short Takes

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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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