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Keith Clinkscales Calls Failure Financial, Not Journalistic

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Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Clinkscales Calls Failure Financial, Not Journalistic

Keith Clinkscales, who resigned today as chairman and CEO of Vanguarde Media as it filed for protection from bankruptcy, said the failure of the company that published Savoy, Honey and Heart & Soul magazines was one of finances, not journalism or lack of reader support.

"The company was losing money. It was on a path to profitability," he told Journal-isms. "We had to raise some more money. It was a difficult treadmill in this post-dot-com" environment. "They were good products. We definitely made some progress journalistically and with advertising. But it's like an airplane; it needed fuel."

As for his own future, Clinkscales said, "I'm going to think," and help the more than 80 employees find jobs. He also said, "I'm going to take a look at maybe buying the magazines again," although he said "I've got a lot to go through" before he can consider that option seriously.

Herbert Lowe, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, said of Vanguarde's plans to liquidate its assets, "this is the biggest news concerning black journalists since the Jayson Blair saga. You've got a great number of people -- NABJ members -- black journalists who have lost their jobs and have to find out how they are going to get a paycheck, how and where they'll practice the craft."

In a statement, NABJ said it was troubled by the lack of diversity in magazines and announced that "to address these issues, NABJ is launching several initiatives, including meeting with magazine leaders and reaching out to black journalists in magazines, offering training and support. Also, the NABJ Media Institute plans to hold workshops on magazine journalism in 2004 in an effort to help more blacks not only enter the discipline, but also advance and gain influence in it."

As reported yesterday, Clinkscales told employees Vanguarde had decided to file for bankruptcy protection, liquidate the assets of the company and shut down the magazines: Savoy, circulation 325,000; Honey, 400,000; and Heart & Soul, 400,000.

A statement from Vanguarde's major stockholder, Provender Capital Group, LLC, led by CEO Frederick O. Terrell, said, "The company?s plan for growth required additional financing in 2003, however, the environment for raising capital for a young company remained difficult this year and the sources of capital limited. As such, it was the fiduciary duty of the company?s board to support a decision to file for bankruptcy protection."

"The financial partners had supported us to the fullest extent and there was just no more," Clinkscales said.

He said subscribers would be notified but that he didn't know whether there would be refunds offered.

NABJ's statement is at the end of today's posting.

Hal Walker, Pioneer at CBS News, Dies at 70

Award-winning journalist Hal Walker, the first African American correspondent for CBS News, died Tuesday at his Reston, Va., home, CBS announces. He was 70 and had been suffering from prostate cancer.

"Walker was one of the first black faces viewers saw on national television news in the 1960s. His career at CBS News spanned 12 years, and he went on to a 15-year career with ABC, retiring in 1995," according to an Associated Press report.

At CBS, Walker covered foreign and domestic stories from Washington, including the inaugurations of Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

"He distinguished himself reporting from Capitol Hill, on campus disorders at Cornell University, and for a 'One Year Later' segment on riot-torn areas of the nation's capital. He reported on two broadcasts of a seven-part 'Of Black America' series in the summer of 1968, right after joining" CBS.

"It was Walker's award-winning coverage of race relations while he worked at WTOP-TV (now WUSA), CBS' local Washington affiliate, that attracted network executives to him.

"Walker won a local Emmy and the Capital Press Club's 'Journalist of the Year' award for anchoring a one-hour WTOP Special Report, 'A Dialogue with Whitey,' about the Washington riots that followed the assassination of Martin Luther King in April 1968.

"The next month, Walker was hired by CBS News as a reporter in the Washington Bureau."

A CBS news release said that "CBS News Correspondent Dan Rather, who worked with Walker when both were assigned to the White House, described his colleague as an 'exceptionally alert reporter' who 'could do it all.' Rather says Walker rarely talked about race and merely 'wanted to be judged as a pro.'"

Democrats, Consumer Groups Blast Ownership Deal

"A last-minute deal between the White House and congressional Republicans over a new national television ownership cap has fractured an unusual bipartisan coalition of lawmakers who joined forces this year to oppose increased media consolidation," reports Edmund Sanders in the Los Angeles Times.

"The split has left leading Democrats and several consumer groups feeling betrayed. On Tuesday, they lambasted the compromise and vowed to step up their efforts to roll back a slate of media-ownership rules passed this summer by the Federal Communications Commission. The rules ? which have been temporarily blocked by a federal court in Philadelphia ? would permit increased mergers and consolidation of television stations," the story continues.

"In June, the FCC raised the national ownership cap, allowing a single broadcasting network to reach 45% of the nation's TV viewers, up from the previous 35%. Last week, House and Senate negotiators agreed to reinstate the 35% cap by inserting a provision into a one-year spending bill.

"But then, in the face of a threatened presidential veto, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) cut a deal Monday night with White House negotiators to set the cap at 39%. They also agreed to prevent the FCC from raising it as part of its biennial reviews."

Black Columnists Continue to Comment on Jackson

"In the shocking child molestation charges unfolding around Pop Superstar Michael Jackson, who's a little weird -- OK, he's a lot weird -- Michael's quirky and strange behavior has come not only to mean criminal, but sadly, he already is presumed guilty.

"That should come as no surprise.

"Like Jack Johnson -- the first Black heavyweight boxing champion, who evoked pure wrath from the establishment after he took the crown in 1908 and then swaggered all over the world, often with White women on his arm -- MJ's musical career has taken him where no one has ever gone before in a Black body."

"Like bookends on both coasts, two cases involving allegedly exploited children grip the nation. Each tests America's ability to distinguish "crazy" from common sense.

Michael Jackson "is being prosecuted and, in the media, persecuted because of our society's quite-proper impulse to protect children from exploitation. We don't give kids the choice to be exploited. They have to wait for that until they reach the age of consent, the age at which the state believes they are old enough to be held responsible for their own choices.

"Although [sniper suspect Lee Malvo] was 17 at the time of the murders, he is being prosecuted as an adult.

"If he is found guilty it is fair and just that he should spend the rest of his life in prison. But it would be committing yet another immoral act, in my view, to execute a kid like him before he has had an opportunity to appreciate the true horrors of his crimes. A life sentence would give adequate time.

"As for Michael Jackson, he may still beat the current charges. If so, he should strongly consider a change in his lifestyle, like growing up."

"I can?t be the only one who thinks it?s more than bizarre irony that when the police were raiding Michael Jackson?s Neverland Ranch, he was filming a video with R. Kelly, also accused of child molestation.

". . . If Jackson and Kelly are both innocent, that?s fine. Still they would both be wiser to find solace with other, more innocent-looking people. And if they are guilty, I hope they know that their pity party won?t be much of a hit behind bars, where prisoners reportedly have no tolerance for men that exploit children."

"The same vanity that has led Jackson to carve his face up beyond recognition, name two of his children after himself and deny those same children access to their mothers is the same vanity that permits him to indulge the fantasy that he is 'Peter Pan.' He is without regard for what is appropriate social behavior.

"In the end, it doesn't really matter to me whether Jackson is found guilty or not. Sure, I still may snap my fingers to his music from time to time, but his bizarre behavior and lack of contrition have led me to finally say goodbye."

On naming Michael Jackson's accuser (Tim Rutten column, Los Angeles Times)

Defender of Natives Now Says They Killed Reporter

"The U.S. citizen who financed the legal defense of two Huichol Indians charged with the 1998 murder of an American reporter said Tuesday morning that he now had evidence the men are guilty of the crime. The victim, Philip True, was the Mexico City bureau chief for the San Antonio (Texas) Express-News," writes Mark Fitzgerald in Editor & Publisher.

"The development -- nearly five years after True, 50, disappeared on a combined reporting trip and vacation to study Huichol culture -- represents the first clear breakthrough in the tangled murder case against Juan Chivarra and his brother-in-law Miguel Hernandez. The two were found with True's backpack, camera and notebook. They twice confessed to the murder and then retracted their accounts. They were convicted in May 2002 by a state tribunal that sentenced each to 13 years in prison -- convictions that were later overturned by a federal court, outraging international press associations. Chivarra and Hernandez have been free for the last two years while that ruling is appealed by prosecutors," Fitzgerald writes.

Freedom of Press Threatened Throughout Americas

"The Inter American Press Association concluded its 59th General Assembly with a blunt assessment of journalistic liberty in North and South America: "Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are violated, or at least threatened, throughout the hemisphere," Mark Fitzgerald reports in Editor & Publisher.

"Nearly everywhere it looked, including the United States, IAPA saw governments, sometimes subtly and sometimes severely, using the law to curtail press freedom and access to information. It saw journalists threatened, beaten and killed: Eight journalists were murdered in Latin America in just the six months since IAPA's mid-year meeting."

E&P excerpted IAPA's reports from Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Venezuela. The full texts are on the IAPA Web site.

NABJ Statement on Vanguarde Media Liquidation

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) regrets the news that Vanguarde Media, publisher of urban magazines Savoy, Honey and Heart and Soul has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, NABJ President Herbert Lowe said today.

"Approximately 70 full-time employees will lose their jobs, including many NABJ members who stepped out on faith to pursue their dreams," said Lowe, a criminal courts reporter at Newsday in Queens, N.Y. "This is not only a huge disappointment for them but for our community as well."

Vanguarde's bankruptcy filing was due to its inability to raise additional operating funds, according to Keith Clinkscales, the company's chairman and chief executive officer. Clinkscales and Fred Terrell, managing partner and chief executive officer of Provender Capital Group, LLC, Vanguarde's largest investor, informed the staff on November 25.

"With so few voices for and by African Americans, the closure of the Vanguarde publications is another tragic loss for the magazine industry and black journalists nationwide," said Bryan Monroe, NABJ vice president-print and assistant vice president for news at Knight Ridder. "Who will step up to replace Vanguarde and speak for and about us? We should be adding voices, not silencing the few out there already."

NABJ, a longtime advocate of black journalists and proponent of black entrepreneurship in media, is troubled by the lack of diversity in magazines. To address these issues, NABJ is launching several initiatives, including meeting with magazine leaders and reaching out to black journalists in magazines, offering training and support. Also, the NABJ Media Institute plans to hold workshops on magazine journalism in 2004 in an effort to help more blacks not only enter the discipline, but also advance and gain influence in it.

"Magazines are already woefully underrepresented by black journalists -- a fact that is suddenly reinforced by the loss of Vanguarde," Monroe said. "Let's all hope the industry works hard to find jobs for the scores of talented black journalists who now find themselves out of work. We'll be watching."

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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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