Janet Clayton Leaving L.A. Times
Thursday, September 6, 2007
Paper Loses 6 Prominent Blacks Since Last Fall
Janet Clayton, who for nine years was editor of the Los Angeles Times editorial page and for the last three assistant managing editor for state and local news, is leaving the paper, she told colleagues on Thursday.
The loss of Clayton, one of the first black women to run a big-city daily's editorial page, means the paper will have lost five prominent black journalists since June 1: J.A. Adande, sports columnist who went to ESPN; Jason Reid, who is headed to the Washington
Post to cover the Washington Redskins; Gayle Pollard-Terry, a former editorial writer who covered real estate, Solomon Moore, a foreign correspondent who went to the New York Times, and Clayton. Dean Baquet, who was this year's National Association of Black Journalists' Journalist of the Year, was forced out as editor last fall.
"Jim and I are announcing today that I am leaving the Times soon," Clayton wrote to the staff," referring to Executive Editor James E. O'Shea. "I
know that this seems sudden, but I've been thinking about 'what next' for a while. It was important to Jim and to me that none of you get this news secondhand or half-baked; thus this note now to ensure that you hear this directly. It's hard to believe in the age of spin, but as Freud supposedly said, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar—sometimes things really are what they seem. I am leaving because after 30 years of serving the high calling of daily journalism, I yearn to try something new.
"I am both excited and nervous about not knowing exactly what comes next. I appreciate that both Jim and John have tried hard to change my mind," an apparent reference to O'Shea and Managing Editor for News John Arthur. "I'm just feeling deeply that it's time for me to explore the world beyond the Los Angeles Times, where I have spent my entire adult life. I have been privileged to work with scores of you over the
years, chasing stories, making sarcastic jokes, working elections all night, crafting editorials that we knew would irk a wayward politician, getting a juicy tip that leads to a blockbuster series. What a great ride!"
When she left the editorial pages in 2004, the Times wrote:
"Clayton, 48, began her career with The Times in 1977 in the Washington, D.C., bureau and was a reporter and deputy city-county bureau chief in Los Angeles before moving to the Op-Ed pages as an articles editor. She became an editorial writer and later was named assistant editorial page editor before her appointment as editor of the editorial pages in 1995," the story said.
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Clifton Brown, who has covered pro sports for the New York Times for 19 years, is leaving for the weekly Sporting News, Mike Nahrstedt, the publication's managing editor, told Journal-isms on Thursday.
Brown's departure will leave just one black sportswriter, columnist William Rhoden, at a paper that just a few years ago had at least six.
Times Sports Editor Tom Jolly said of the dwindling numbers, "obviously it's a huge concern" and added, "I should credit ESPN and Sports Illustrated for doing a great job with diversity." The two organizations, who have hired reporters from his department, "have an ability to pay a lot more than we do," Jolly told Journal-isms.
"It's becoming all the more difficult . . . the pool is becoming a little more shallow," Jolly said of recruiting journalists of color. Yet he added, "we are making every effort to increase the numbers" and said interested candidates could e-mail him at the Times.
At Sporting News, Brown will cover the NFL, writing the "NFL Insider" column for the magazine, reporting for the Web site, and "whatever we need" to get the job done, Nahrstedt, the managing editor, said.
Brown has covered golf, the NFL and the NBA for the Times since arriving there in 1988 from the Detroit Free Press, where he had worked since 1983. Before that, he was at the Boca Raton (Fla.) News.
"Sporting News presented me with a chance to write columns. I've wanted to do that for a long time," Brown told Journal-isms. "I didn't really think that opportunity was going to present itself at the Times."
Nahrstedt said Brown's application for the job "jumped out at me" after the St. Louis-based weekly advertised the job. What was it that leaped out? "Covering the NFL for the New York Times," he said. "He's a strong writer and reporter. We're looking for someone who can cover the NFL very thoroughly."
The Sporting News circulation exceeds 700,000, Nahrstedt said. Brown starts in two weeks and will continue to work from the New York area, he said.
Brown will be the second African American leaving the Times sports department. As reported a week ago, Sports Illustrated has hired golf writer Damon Hack to cover the NFL and golf. Terry McDonell, editor of the Sports Illustrated Group, went to the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Las Vegas last month to recruit after meeting with journalists of color on his staff. "Tiffany Black was especially strong in helping me meet people and get the most out of it," he told Journal-isms, speaking of the producer at sportsillustrated.com who is an NABJ member.
While the Times has made strides in hiring women in the sports department, Brown said, not long ago — he thought it was four years ago —it had seven sportswriters of color, all African American: Rhoden, Hack, Tim Smith, Thomas George, Mike Freeman, Chris Broussard and himself. However, Jolly said Smith and Hack were not there at the same time.
Smith is at the New York Daily News; Broussard at ESPN: The Magazine; George went to the Denver Post and then to the NFL Network as managing editor; and Freeman went to the Florida Times-Union and then CBS Sportsline.com after an aborted attempt to join the Indianapolis Star.
Another young black journalist, John Eligon, was in the Sports Department for two years as part of Times program for young journalists.
Jolly sat on the paper's Diversity Council that reviewed diversity at the paper and is a participant in the summer journalism program at Princeton University, which is designed to improve newsroom diversity. He said the other people of color in his department of about 60 were Asian Americans Jade-Snow Moy, the photo editor, Wayne Kamidoi, the art director, Bedel Saget, graphics editor and Carlos Ygartua, copy editor.
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