Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

John Hope Franklin Gets Props, Indifference

Send by email
Thursday, March 26, 2009


Black columnists were among those who made sure historian John Hope Franklin's death was covered and his life appraised. Here, columnists in the Trotter Group meet in 2005 with Franklin, lower right, at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn. (Credit: Derrick Z. Jackson)

What a Difference Diversity, Geography Can Make

When Bob Ashley, editor of the Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun, spoke with Journal-isms on Wednesday evening, shortly after the death of African American historian John Hope Franklin became known, he had planned to make the story the off-lede of the next day's paper.

After all, he said, "John Hope has been a longtime resident here and a distinguished member of the faculty" at Duke, as well as "one of the greatest historians of his generation."

But then, Ashley said on Friday, "I spent most of an evening jog becoming more and more worried off-lede was underplaying. Called news editor from gym and bounced it off him - and we agreed it needed to be the lede, given his prominence and the fact he was a longtime member of this community."

In Washington, Style section writer Wil Haygood was polishing off what would become a front-page story about Franklin in the Washington Post.

"John Hope Franklin, one of the most prolific and well-respected chroniclers of America's torturous racial odyssey, died of congestive heart failure yesterday at the age of 94 in a Durham, N.C., hospital," it began.

"It was more than Franklin's voluminous writings that cemented his reputation among academics, politicians and civil rights figures as an inestimable historian. It was the reality that Franklin, himself a black man, had seen racial horrors up close and thus was able to give his academic work a stinging ballast."

Running the Post newsroom this week was Deputy Managing Editor Milton Coleman, like Haygood a black journalist.

Asked why Franklin's death warranted the front page, Coleman said, "For all the reasons that were in Wil's story. It's that simple."

[The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times joined the Post in putting Franklin's story out front. "Dr. Franklin was a key part of our community, spending many winters here," Jim Verhulst, Perspective editor, said. "Ray Arsenault, a University of South Florida history professor here in St. Petersburg, whose recent works on both the Freedom Riders and Marian Anderson have been well received, was Dr. Franklin's host each winter."]

But it wasn't that simple to others making news decisions that day.

The three broadcast networks all snubbed Franklin in their nightly newscasts, in much the same way as they did John H. Johnson, the founder of Ebony and Jet magazines, when he died in 2005.

Franklin's death led Thursday's Durham (N.C.) Herald-Sun.Asked about ABC's coverage, spokesman Jeffrey W. Schneider pointed to a few sentences on "Good Morning America" the next day and some mentions on the ABC Web sites, and said Franklin would be mentioned on the weekly "in memoriam" scroll Sunday on "This Week."

NBC and CBS could not even point to that much.

The New York Times, from which many papers around the country take their cues, placed the news among its front-page box listing highlights inside the paper, a decision ridiculed by author and former Washington Post Pentagon reporter Thomas Ricks, writing for Post-owned Foreign Policy magazine.

"The Times' negligence appalled my wife, who relied often on Franklin's work, especially 'From Slavery to Freedom,' when writing her own book on the biggest attempted slave escape in American history," he wrote on his blog.

"The lapse by the Times is significant especially because, in an age when newspapers often follow breaking news by many hours, their role has become to provide context, scope and meaning."

[The Times recovered with a hard-to-miss, insightful piece by Peter Applebome Sunday that dominated the Week in Review section.]

National Public Radio immediately went to its archives and broadcast interviews with Franklin, first on Wednesday's "All Things Considered," and continuing through Friday's "Morning Edition," which aired a "Story Corps" segment of Franklin being interviewed by his son, John W. Franklin.

The "Diane Rehm Show," which originates at Washington's WAMU-FM and airs on NPR, rebroadcast a Rehm interview with Franklin on Thursday night, and the host included Franklin's death in her "reporters' roundtable" on Friday wrapping up the week's events.

For the most part, however, it fell to black journalists, particularly columnists, and to journalists in states where Franklin had lived and worked - North Carolina, Oklahoma and Tennessee - to give Franklin his props. Not that there was a direct correlation. Some African American news managers were as negligent as many of their nonblack counterparts.

But not all.

An Associated Press story on Franklin made the Columbia (Mo.) Missourian, produced at the University of Missouri, for example.

"It's not typical for the Missourian to publish news about prominent African Americans," said Karen Mitchell, assistant professor at the School of Journalism. "This is partly because of the hyper-local coverage but also because, with primarily students as staffers, they often don't know the significance and relevance of many people outside their generation. Add to this the fact that the students are primarily white, they often don't recognize significance outside their own neighborhood. For example, when Johnnie Cochran died the paper published two paragraphs on his death.

"The week Franklin died was our spring break, which means most of our regular student staff was gone, leaving graduate students and faculty staff in the newsroom. I could be wrong, but my gut tells me that this staffing situation combined with the decreased number of local stories (because of the break) were factors in anything on Franklin being published.

"While Franklin's contribution were quite significant to America, under normal circumstance[s] even a significant black man's passing would be barely a blip on the radar at the Missourian. The appearance of his obituary is a sign of improvement."

Franklin's death initially missed some geographic editions of the International Herald Tribune, though its parent newspaper, the New York Times, had reported that many of the more than 3 million copies of Franklin's "From Slavery to Freedom" had been translated into Japanese, German, French, Chinese and other languages.

Joe Ritchie, a journalism professor at Florida A&M University who is working in Hong Kong, told Journal-isms, "It's too bad there aren't any permanent editing staffers in Paris or Hong Kong who are black (or Latino, for that matter). . . .  Folks at the paper try hard to get it right, but it's when somebody like Professor Franklin dies that you really think about why diversity is important at all levels of American journalism." [Updated March 29.]

Hoy, moving from daily to weekly, is due for a new design. (Credit: Hoy)

Tribune Co. Moves L.A. Hoy From Daily to Weekly

Hoy, the free, Spanish-language paper once seen as key to Tribune Co.'s efforts to expand Hispanic audience and penetration in Los Angeles, is moving from daily to weekly, the Los Angeles Times confirmed on Friday.

On Thursday, Kevin Roderick of the L.A. Observed Web site published a memo dated Wednesday from John T. O'Loughlin, executive vice president and chief marketing officer/targeted media and marketing of the Los Angeles Times Media Group. Its contents were confirmed by Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan.

The memo said, in part:

"Hoy will move from daily to weekly distribution, debuting with a crisp, new design and content plan.

"As part of this change, will join Hoy and reverse-publish content as branded entertainment pages in each week’s edition, as well as introduce new video content to the site in the process. We’ll also be adding local service guides for health, beauty, entertainment and immigration, to mention just a few.

"Saturday’s Fin De Semana weekend product will introduce zoning for the first time in its 500,000 copy home-delivery footprint, allowing us to better compete for local retail advertising. With these moves, we are smartly recognizing that these are the days most important to our readers and advertisers and, in publishing twice a week, we can produce Hoy more efficiently and continue offering it to readers free of charge.

Referring to the Los Angeles Times Media Group and Tribune-owned KTLA-TV, O'Laughlin said, "LATMG/KTLA reaches 52% of the LA Hispanic market every week (2.7 million adults 18+) and Hoy’s multimedia expansion brings a more diverse generational range, allowing our advertisers to now connect with the LA Hispanic population through multiple touch points."

Hoy originally published in three cities and billed itself as "the country's only national Spanish-language daily." The New York edition, sold to ImpreMedia, closed Dec. 30, but Hoy still publishes in Chicago.

K.C.'s Diuguid Regains Column but Loses V.P. Title

Lewis DiuguidThe Kansas City Web site Bottomline Communications reported this on Sunday:

"How bad are things at the Kansas City Star these days? So bad that the word from a variety of sources is that veteran Lewis Diuguid, who lost his long-time column in December after 21 years, will now give up his Vice President title and take a major pay cut.

"The options offered him are still better than those given to many other folks at Kansas City's largest paper during its most recent round of layoffs and cutbacks . . .

"Despite his change in status, Diuguid will be on the Star's Editorial Board helping to shape the newspaper's views on issues."

Diuguid told Journal-isms: "My first column runs on Monday, March 30. It will be good to be back in the lineup."

Huntsville Columnist David Person Takes Buyout

David PersonDavid Person, columnist for the Huntsville (Ala.) Times, told readers on Friday he was retiring and that they had read his last column for the paper.

More than 60 employees took buyouts at the Newhouse-owned publication, Pearson told Journal-isms, and he is among them.

"I'll still be doing my daily talk show on WEUP-AM ( and contributing columns to USA Today as a member of its board of contributors," he said.

Person used his last column to impress upon readers the value of print journalism.

"Not that we've been perfect during my lifetime. But surely the biggest, most important local and national stories — from Huntsville's jail construction fiasco to illegal wiretapping by the federal government — were broken and/or exhaustively reported on by print journalists," he wrote.

"It's easy to forget that in this age of illuminated, multicolored, video- and audio-enriched news Web sites. It's also easy to forget that once you've had your fill of the speculation about why Jen and John — that's Anniston and Mayer for the pop culture-challenged — broke up this time, the real news isn't about who's seeing whom but who's running your city, county, state and nation."

Boston Reporter Exits for Master's in Urban Planning

Boston Globe features reporter Vanessa Jones, among the 50 employees the Globe was hoping would take a buyout by last Friday, says she plans to pursue a master's degree in urban planning.

Jones came to the Globe in 1999 after working at the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, New York Daily News, Asbury Park (N.J.) Press and other papers. She told Journal-isms she had not decided which school to attend, but it would be out of the Boston area.

"The Globe needed 50 newsroom employees to take buyouts by last Friday but only 24 have signed up. Employees have a week to rescind after applying for the buyout and the final deadline is tomorrow," Jessica Heslam wrote Thursday in the rival Boston Herald.

She said she "has learned that layoffs could begin as soon as Monday and the mood over at Morrissey Boulevard is pretty grim. The buyout pays two weeks’ salary for each year of service."

John Drake, another newsroom employee of color said to be leaving, could not be reached for comment.

Detroit Free Press Honored for Stories on Kilpatrick

"Newspaper reporters in Detroit who uncovered a scandal that led to the mayor's downfall and a staff photographer for The Associated Press whose work was described as 'absolutely amazing' won top honors Friday in the 75th annual National Headliner Awards," Bruce Shipkowski reported for the Associated Press.

"Broadcasters in Texas and Ohio were also honored with grand awards, the highest prizes given as part of the national journalism contest, run by The Press Club of Atlantic City.

"The four grand awards come with $1,500 prizes.

"Judges cited the Detroit Free Press for the 'tough, courageous stand' it took in pursuing the story involving the now-resigned mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, and his affair with an aide.

"The newspaper — which also won first place for editorial writing — in January 2008 published the first excerpts of text messages between the two from the staffer's city-issued pager.

Among other awards, Byron Pitts won in the "Feature or human interest story" category for a CBS Radio News story, "Military Malpractice"; Ann Curry, Justin Balding and Antoine Sanfuentes were chosen in the "feature, sports or human interest story" category for "Out of Africa" on "Dateline NBC" and Jim Avila and Glenn Ruppel won for investigative reporting for an ABC News "20/20" report, "Off Duty Chicago Cops."

The Associated Press photograph that artist Shepard Fairey says he "referenced."  

Artist Says His Poster "Transformed" AP Photo

Shepard Fairey's posterArtist Shepard Fairey, in litigation with the Associated Press over the legality of his appropriation of an AP photograph to create his famous "Obama Hope" poster, says, "the argument has been made that the reference photo would have faded into obscurity if it were not for my poster which became so culturally pervasive.

"No disrespect was intended to photographer Mannie Garcia, but I did not think (and do not think) I needed permission to make an art piece using a reference photo," Fairey said Thursday in a piece on the Huffington Post.

"From the beginning, I openly acknowledged that my illustration of Obama was based on a reference photograph. But the photograph is just a starting point. The illustration transforms it aesthetically in its stylization and idealization, and the poster has an altogether different purpose than the photograph does."

Southern Magazine Devotes Issue to Black Writers

The Oxford American — “The Southern Magazine of Good Writing” — has produced a special issue devoted to the “Past, Present, and Future” of race in what it says "may be the first white-run, mainstream publication to be written by a vast majority — 88% — of writers of color.

"The history of the South, with the brutality of slavery and Jim Crow, and the hyper resistance to Civil Rights, looms large and can even be considered a magnification of the country’s racial conflicts and attitudes.

"As a Southern magazine addressing race, The Oxford American, even at the risk of being controversial, aimed to inspire intelligent and meaningful discussion on a complex and often painful subject.

"But in truth there is freedom and whether that truth can be found in commentary, fiction, personal history, art, or poetry, the contributors in this issue — ZZ Packer, Arthur Rickydoc Flowers, Juan Williams, Julian Bond, Sarah M. Broom, Jerald Walker, Randa Jarrar, Solon Timothy Woodward, Lolis Eric Elie, Rita Dove, and many, many others — all provide meaningful and honest insights."

The issue from Oxford American, based in Conway, Ark., is reminiscent of the New Yorker magazine's 1996 "Black in America" issue featuring black writers and cartoonists. It sells for $5.95.

Short Takes

  • The Berkeley, Calif.-based Center for Investigative Reporting is launching "a Web-video series highlighting investigative reporting ‚Äî as it happens ‚Äî by journalists around the world," the organization announced. "The series features interviews with journalists who share the stories behind their groundbreaking international investigations into human rights abuses, financial corruption, political malfeasance, environmental destruction and other abuses of power. . . . In the first episode, CIR's Mark Schapiro interviews Colombian journalists Hollman Morris and Juan Pablo Morris via web-cam about their program, Contrav??a. The brothers created a series on Colombian television that is unearthing the largely hidden history of the country‚Äôs long-running [guerrilla] wars."
  • "Colombian authorities announced the arrest Friday of 10 supposed members of the leftist guerilla group FARC who were allegedly plotting to assassinate the current president of the Inter American Press Association, El Tiempo newspaper President Enrique Santos Calderon and his brother, Juan Manuel Santos, the nation‚Äôs defense minister," Mark Fitzgerald reported in Editor & Publisher.
  • "In 2008, local television remained the most popular source of news in America. More than half of the U.S. public (52%) told the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press that they regularly watched local television news. But the number of people who watch local TV news has decreased over the last decade. Even more surprising, falling ratings and falling revenue befell the sector in an election year," the center reported.
  • "Fans of 'The Tom Joyner Morning Show!' are up in arms," Lewis Lazare wrote Thursday in the Chicago Sun-Times. "The Joyner show is now gone from Clear Channel Communication's WVAZ-FM (102.7), abruptly replaced Tuesday by 'The Steve Harvey Morning Show,' which had been a fixture on sister station WGCI-FM (107.5)." Lazare published a sampling of letters he'd received, including one from Veronica Jackson, who wrote, "Not to attack Harvey, but his listeners are anything but intelligent. Listening to the entire show is like scratching a chalkboard from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. Cutting us off from Tom Joyner is like taking away our coffee, sugar, fried chicken, chocolate, ice cream and sex."
  • "The final 'D.L. Hughley Breaks the News' was taped at CNN's New York studios this afternoon," Chris Ariens wrote Thursday for TV Newser. "And it appears CNN higher-ups forced an edit on producers. A TVNewser tipster tells us, 'a large section of a segment about marijuana legalization' was edited out of the final broadcast." A CNN spokeswoman confirmed for Journal-isms that the cut was made.
  • Michael M. Gonzalez, who covered the stock market for the Wall Street Journal before editing its opinion pages in Europe and Asia during 11 years at the newspaper, joined the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation Monday as vice president of communications, the foundation announced. Gonzalez is Cuban-American.
  • Layoffs at Austin‚Äôs ABC affiliate have left four employees jobless, including morning co-anchor Jason Hill, according to Gary Dinges, writing in the Austin American-Statesman.
  • In Chicago, "Kori Chambers, who was an anchor at Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV-TV before joining Chicago's Fox-owned WFLD-Ch. 32 last summer, has been named solo anchor of Channel 32's 5 a.m. weekday newscast, effective April 6," Phil Rosenthal reported Friday in the Chicago Tribune.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.