"Just Fired. Dumped"
Monday, September 22, 2008
Writer Lays Out Anger at Dismissal by Ebony-Jet
What's it feel like to leave your job as a newspaper columnist for a new job in Chicago with the leading African American magazine company, only to be fired after six months because the boss says he went to a conference and decided he wanted to go in a different direction?
"After more than fifteen years of successfully navigating my journalism career through white-owned media companies, a brother — a fellow black man — was firing me, throwing me in a well," Wil LaVeist writes in a new self-published book, "Fired Up: How to Win When You Lose Your Job."
"Not only that, but he was a top leader of an organization that advocated to keep journalists like me employed. As I watched him mouth words, thoughts raged in my head. I wandered off to back in the day on the streets of Brooklyn, N.Y., to a time I would have dealt with a punk move like this by using my fists, a blade, or a gun," wrote LaVeist, a graduate of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education who had moved his family of five from Newport News, Va., to Chicago to work for Johnson Publishing Co.
"'Leap over the desk and wear him out!' I heard the corporate thug in me say.
"But then, through my anger, pierced the clear, firm, still voice.
"'You are a professional and a family man, a Christian, a new creature.'
"I came back to myself.'"
LaVeist, 43, worked under CEO Linda Johnson Rice and Editorial Director Bryan Monroe, who was also president of the National Association of Black Journalists, during his brief career as Johnson Publishing Co.'s director of Web development. His description of his time there serves only as an introduction to his larger point, which takes up the bulk of the book. But it is chilling nonetheless.
"The book is not about dwelling on any particular company. That's why the company isn't named," LaVeist told Journal-isms. "That's not important. It's about how to cope and climb back after you've been knocked down.
"I share the facts of my personal story only so that readers can know where I'm coming from. I give readers an intimate behind the scenes look at what really goes on with a person who has been blindsided so that others who are going through job loss can be helped. The lessons I share apply to dealing with any type of major loss. Ultimately, the bad things that happen to you are oftentimes what point you to your true destiny. It's all in whether you decide to embrace the bad or be its victim."
LaVeist is back in the Hampton Roads area as editor in chief of MIX magazine, a publication of the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot. MIX is described as "a multicultural publication covering the personalities, issues, trends and happenings among the Hampton Roads area's minority communities - African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and Native Americans."
While with the publishers of Ebony and Jet magazines in 2006, LaVeist writes, he was fired not once but twice. The first time with:
"No prior warning.
"No performance review process.
The second time followed a reinstatement by the CEO, who "had convinced me to join her company," which she described as a "family business" that treated its employees fairly.
"With diamonds glistening from her light brown earlobes, she focused her eyes on me and said that things could've been done differently, but that her mind was made up," LaVeist wrote in the book. "However, she felt I still had a role with the company if I wanted it. I would have to take a substantial pay cut, though. It cost me about $35,000 annually. Thinking of my wife and children, and imagining her discussions with my supervisor and the company's attorney, I accepted it."
In employment law, LaVeist writes, the concept of "constructive dismissal" is used to induce an employee to quit on his or her own to forgo a potential severance payment, and possibly unemployment benefits, and to weaken an employee's leverage for a lawsuit. Stephen A. Smith, the sports columnist who was demoted at the Philadelphia Inquirer and then quit, has hired an attorney who specializes in the "constructive dismissal" concept.
"However, a couple of months later after adjusting to my new role," LaVeist continues, "I was abruptly terminated again. This time my new supervisor, who was brought in to replace me, did the deed."
The Johnson company announced in December 2006 that Eric Easter, formerly of Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, would direct the company's New Media efforts as chief of digital strategy.
Johnson Publishing Co., supplied with a copy of LaVeist's remarks, did not comment.
In February 2007, Monroe let go Aldore Collier, who wrote for Jet and Ebony for 26 years and covered Los Angeles for the previous 25. Collier, 51, told Journal-isms. "I don't know what his reasoning is. I've had minimal contact with Bryan." Monroe said then, "We wish him well, but I cannot talk further because it is a personnel matter."
This past February, Vandell Cobb, who had been at the company for 30 years, taking photographs for everything from fashion spreads to news events, was cut¬†as well. Sounding stunned by the turn of events, he told Journal-isms then he did not want to comment.
A number of others have been brought in by Monroe, who joined¬†the company after being an executive at the Knight Ridder Co., which went out of business. They include Director of Photography Dudley M. Brooks, who was assistant managing editor/photography at the Baltimore Sun, and Harriette Cole, author, columnist and life coach, as creative director for Ebony.
"Of course not all terminations are unfair or financially devastating," LaVeist, a founding member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists,¬†writes in his first chapter. "In fact, many are just the opposite and are simply necessary, nothing personal and just business. However, I want you to imagine the types of changes people are put through particularly when they're let go without warning. And perhaps an employer who is considering terminating employees will realize that he or she doesn't have to be brutal about it. The same result can be accomplished humanely."
More material on LaVeist and his book is available on his Web site.
Black Journalists Key to Emmy-Winning Projects
The Detroit Free Press won¬†two national News and Documentary¬†Emmy Awards Monday night for work that appeared in print and on freep.com, and black journalists were key to both. The Free Press was honored¬†for "40 Years of 'Respect'" and "Pit Bulls: Companions or Killers?"
Kelley L. Carter, who started last week as a staff writer for USA Today, was the reporter on "40 Years of 'Respect,'" a look at the song as popularized in 1967 by Aretha Franklin. Sharon Wilmore, assistant managing editor/features, was the editor.
Rashaun Rucker was staff photographer on the pit bull project.
"Respect" won in the category "New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Arts, Lifestyle & Culture," and competed against PBS' "Frontline," the New York Times magazine, washingtonpost.com, Current TV and npr.org.
The video places the song, first written and recorded by Otis Redding, in the context of the church and the frustrations of women and African Americans.
The pit bull project won in "New Approaches to News & Documentary Programming: Regional News Coverage," competing against Getty Images Multimedia and Mercurynews.com.
"We want to do more like both of these projects," said Nancy Andrews, managing editor of digital media. "This is the future of the Detroit Free Press. We're carrying our great journalism tradition into new media forms where you have not traditionally seen us," the Free Press reported.
Nancy Maynard Service Planned for Next Week
Services for Nancy Hicks Maynard, the co-founder of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education who died on Sunday, are planned for New York next week, her daughter, Dori J. Maynard, said on Monday.
Details are still being worked out. Meanwhile, Maynard's contributions were celebrated in comments on the Maynard Web site and in obituaries around the country.
"I was one of the beneficiaries," Lisa Chung said on the Web site of the Asian American Journalists Association, "going through the Summer Program for Minority Journalists, as did Steve Chin, Evelyn Hsu, and many others. That, combined with the editing and management programs, helped contribute mightily to diversifying news rooms at all levels, and groomed leaders."
"Every time I approach a story that requires extra digging or that involves an urgent sense of justice, community or humanity, I can feel the Maynards looking over my shoulder. And I try to deserve their smiles," Kevin Fagan, a San Francisco Chronicle reporter, wrote in a message on this site.
"While I join countless numbers in the pain of loss at the moment,"¬†veteran journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault, who worked with Maynard at the New York Times, wrote in another message, "I am sure when we have wiped away our tears, the image that will console and propel us always will be of Nancy smiling and shaking her finger in our faces, motivating us to the greatness she aspired to in herself and her family -- blood and extended."
- Dennis Hevisi, New York Times: Nancy Hicks Maynard Dies at 61; A Groundbreaking Black Journalist [Sept. 23]
- Joe Holley, Washington Post: Nancy Maynard, 61; Newspaper Owner Pressed for Diversity
- Sean Maher, Oakland Tribune: Nancy Maynard, trailblazer and former Oakland Tribune owner, dies at 61
- Meredith May, San Francisco Chronicle: Journalist Nancy Hicks Maynard dies¬†¬†
- Richard Prince with Michel Martin on "Tell Me More," National Public Radio: Renowned Pioneer In Journalism Dead at 61 [Sept. 23]
- Jon Thurber, Los Angeles Times: Nancy Hicks Maynard, 61, dies; journalist co-founded institute to train minorities
Ad from John McCain campaign was denounced as inaccurate and indulging in race-baiting.
Critics Attack AP's Ron Fournier Over Race StoryThe poll commissioned by the Associated Press that shows "Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close," in the words of AP Washington Bureau Chief Ron Fournier, is being discredited in some quarters because Fournier wrote the story about it.
Fournier has been accused of leaning toward Sen. John McCain. "Shortly, we will begin contacting" board members of the Associated Press Managing Editors Association "first, by email and snail mail only (later, to any that do not respond, we will reach out in more direct ways) -- to inform them of the reasons why they should very much want to take immediate action to remove Ron Fournier as AP Washington bureau chief," Al Giordano wrote on his Web site, in words that circulated¬†in e-mails and on other Web sites on Monday.
The poll was actually conducted by Stanford University's Institute for Research in the Social Sciences, not by Fournier. But¬†Kenneth Cooper, a freelance journalist and former national editor of the Boston Globe, told colleagues in the National Association of Black Journalists, "I am less concerned with the identity of the writer than the nature of his words. His racial diction is understated and, I might add, typically so in the mainstream press. The words 'racism' or 'racist' do not appear in the article. 'Prejudice' in one form or another, appears a few times.
"Start with the headline (okay, probably not the writer's wording): 'racial views'? How about 'racist views'? That is what we're talking about. Then the lede begins, 'Deep-seated racial misgivings . . .' Misgivings? How about, 'Deep-seated racist attitudes' or 'Deep-seated racial prejudice'?"
For Tuesday morning papers, AP plans "a look at the presidential contest and the issue of race in a battleground state, Ohio," according to an advisory issued late last week.
Meanwhile, thedailyvoice.com asked,¬†"Is the new McCain ad racist?" for tying Obama to the discredited former Fannie Mae Chairman Franklin Raines. Both men are African American.
"The McCain campaign is clearly exaggerating wildly in attempting to depict Franklin Raines as a close adviser to Obama on 'housing and mortgage policy,' Michael Dobbs wrote¬†in the Washington Post, noting that the McCain campaign had tenuously cited a Washington Post Style section story as justification for the Obama-Raines link.
"If we are to believe Raines, he did have a couple of telephone conversations with someone in the Obama campaign. But that hardly makes him an adviser to the candidate himself -- and certainly not in the way depicted in the McCain video release."
Also, Mike Allen reported for politico.com that, "Steve Schmidt, a McCain campaign senior adviser, declared on a conference call with reporters Monday that The New York Times 'is not a journalistic organization,'" but instead is "a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day impugns the McCain campaign, attacks Senator McCain, attacks Governor [Sarah Palin]. It excuse[s] Senator Obama . . ."Times Executive Editor Bill Keller replied, according to Politico, "The New York Times is committed to covering the candidates fully, fairly and aggressively. It's our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisors. Candidates and their campaign operatives are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny, but it's what our readers expect and deserve."
- David Bauder, Associated Press:¬†Ifill hits jackpot in moderating VP debate
- Tom Breen, Associated Press: W.Va. grapples with reputation for racism
- Wayne Dawkins, politicsincolor.com: The Color Purple, Virginia style¬†
- Della de Lafuente, Marketing y Medios: Hispanic Media Mounts Voter Registration Push
- Lewis W. Diuguid, Kansas City Star:¬†Unwed mothers often face disparities due to race
- Lauren Drablier, Nieman Watchdog: International media are critical of McCain
- Ed Gordon discusses Associated Press race story on CBS "Early Show."
- Sam Fulwood III, theRoot.com: Why Obama Can't Get Mad
- Hollywood Reporter blog:¬†Murdoch: Obama's economic policies are 'naive'
- Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: On climate, who will lead by example?
- Frank James, "The Swamp" blog, Chicago Tribune: Obama distorts McCain SS stance
- Patrick Healy, New York Times: Pact on Debates Will Let McCain and Obama Spar
- Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times:¬†The Push to ‚ÄòOtherize‚Äô Obama
- Julianne Malveaux, National Newspaper Publishers Association:¬† Poverty: Beyond Breaking News
- Jonathan Martin, politico.com:¬†The NYT doesn't cover the other guys except for when they do
- Les Payne, Newsday: GOP duo Palin-McCain hardly puts America first
- Ben Smith and Avi Zenilman, politico,com:¬†The race discussion Obama didn't want
- Deron Snyder, Fort Myers (Fla.) News-Press: Would-be voters could be victims of election fraud
- Brent Staples, New York Times: Barack Obama, John McCain and the Language of Race
- Goldie Taylor, ebonyjet.com: Thanks, But No Thanks
Politico to Expand, Editor Says He Hopes for Diversity
Politico, the relatively new political newspaper and Web site, "announced a post-election expansion Monday to comprehensively cover the 44th president of the United States, with reporters and editors transitioning from the 2008 election to an intense focus on the politics and policies of the incoming administration," Michael Calderone wrote¬†Monday on the¬†site.
"In addition, Politico next year will increase publication of its newspaper to four days when Congress is in session, increase circulation and expand its staff to more than 100 employees. The organization currently has a staff of 85."
Editor-in-chief John F. Harris told Journal-isms he hoped the new hires would improve the diversity of the publication's staff, "since diversity is important to me, and to our organization.
"We lost one of our most talented minority reporters, Helena Andrews, who is going off to write a book," he said.
"In recent months, we have picked up several talented minorities, in both our newsroom and on the business side of our operation.
"I welcome strong applicants across the board, including minority journalists, if they are interested in politics and the kind of journalism we are producing at Politico."
Andrews, who wrote lifestyle stories, was the only journalist of color on the staff when Politico debuted in January 2007. Harris declined to name the other talented journalists of color he had hired.
"I don't know who on our staff would wish to be listed. If people wish to self-identify, that's their choice. But there are no journalists here because they are minorities, only because they are first-rate journalists," he said.
"I am comfortable letting minority journalists who read your site know that we would be delighted to hear from them."
From left, John McCain and Barack Obama at the beach, New York magazine, June 30,¬†is a finalist for "Best Leisure Interest"; the New Yorker, March 17,¬† is in the running for "Best News Cover"; and the New York Times Magazine, June 1,¬†is up for "Best Coverline."
Magazine Editors Release Nominations for Best Cover
The American Society of Magazine Editors just released its nominations for the year's best cover and a New Yorker one made it in the category of "Best Concept Cover." It's not, however, the Obama and Michelle cover that drew so much controversy¬†this year, Noah Davis wrote¬†for MediaBistro's FishBowl DC.
Winners are to be announced on Oct. 6, during the American Magazine Conference in San Francisco.
Newspapers Debate Insertion of DVD on Islam
"Dozens of local newspapers in 'swing' election states -- from Altoona to Las Vegas (and my own Charlotte Observer) -- have been paid to distribute a film designed to spread fear about our national security. The explanations by the publishers don't convince me," reads the teaser for an Editor & Publisher piece¬†by contributor William E. Jackson Jr. that ran Sept. 13.
Over the weekend, ombudsmen and newspaper executives wrote that readers had weighed in on their decisions on whether to insert the¬†DVD, "Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West."
Publisher Elizabeth Brenner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel called¬†circulating it "acceptable free speech."
"We reject very little; the broader the debate, the more opportunities for everyone to be heard," said¬†Mike Lloyd at the Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press.
"Were this truly an issue of the freedom of information, I would have argued to publish. But this was a paid advertisement presenting one side of an inflammatory issue," said John Robinson of the Greensboro (N.C.) News & Record.
At the Raleigh News & Observer, "Jim McClure, vice president for display advertising, said he recognized that the DVD would be controversial and consulted with other executives before accepting it. But he concluded that the paper should not deny advertisers the opportunity to reach the N&O audience because their message is unpopular or offensive to some. "The ultimate question is, at what point do you draw the line and start censoring things based on comfort level?" he said, according to public editor Ted Vaden.
- Tim Townsend, St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Post-Dispatch refuses to distribute DVD offensive to American Muslims
- During the Democratic and Republican conventions, white viewers flocked to their TVs for Sen. John McCain's speech before the GOP (32.2 million vs. 27 million for Sen. Barack Obama). But among African Americans, the reverse was true: 7.5 million African Americans watched Obama's speech, while just 3.1 million tuned in for McCain's speech, according to a Nielsen Co. analysis of the viewing audience.
- At the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune, Editorial Page Editor "Robin Washington will leave the editorial page to become news director, helping supervise the news and sports reporting teams and the photo and copy editing teams," The News Tribune reported on Friday. ¬†The paper cut eight newsroom employees, including the managing editor.
- "Univision and the Kaiser Family Foundation have partnered to launch a series of 12 public service TV and radio ads via a Spanish-language media campaign featuring HIV-positive Latinos and their [loved] ones," Della de Lafuente reported¬†for Marketing y Medios.
- It's official: journalist Roland S. Martin is joining radio's syndicated "Tom Joyner Morning Show" as a senior news analyst whose daily contribution will air mornings at 7:20 EST, the show announced on Monday. His last day at Chicago's WVON-AM, where he hosted "The Roland S. Martin Show" weekdays from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., is Oct. 3.
- The Online Journalism Review has been relaunched and will publish twice a week, on Wednesdays and on Fridays, Geneva Overholser, the new director of the Annenberg School of Journalism at the University of Southern California, wrote¬†last week. She proposed four main areas of discussion for the site: reporting and writing in a conversational environment; investigative reporting in the Internet era; entrepreneurial journalism; and "guerrilla-marketing" the news.
- "The BBC has launched a new recruitment drive to increase diversity in its newsrooms across the UK," Laura Oliver wrote¬†Monday for the journalism.co.uk Web site. "Working journalists from different social and ethnic backgrounds, and with disabilities will be targeted by the initiative, which aims to create a 'talent pool' of potential recruits for the corporation. Under the scheme, members of this pool would be put forward to compete against direct applicants when positions arise for broadcast journalists in the BBC's Wales, Yorkshire and East Midlands newsrooms."
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. 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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