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Kevin Merida Named Washington Post M.E.

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Maynard Grad Is First Black Journalist to Assume the Title

Post's First Black Reporter Says It "Damn Near Killed" Him

Super Bowl Drew Huge Audience, but Not a Record

As Candidate, Geraldo Would Have to Quit Fox

Misreading Guns and the Civil Rights Movement

Ballentine's Lawyers Say He May Win Hollow Victory

Spanish-Language Paper Sees Pols' "Canny Politicking"

Short Takes

Maynard Grad Is First Black Journalist to Assume the Title

Kevin Merida, national editor at the Washington Post, was named a managing editor at the newspaper Monday, the highest position a black journalist has achieved at the Post.

Marty Baron, the former Boston Globe editor who became Post executive editor in January, called a meeting in the middle of the newsroom and made the announcement in person, a Post staffer told Journal-isms. "The applause and cheers were off the charts. Really joyous moment," the staffer said. "Kevin appeared to be genuinely touched — and also a bit overwhelmed by the moment."

Kevin Merida

Merida, 56, is a 1979 graduate of the Maynard Institute's Summer Program for Minority Journalists and was named "Journalist of the Year" of the National Association of Black Journalists in 2000. He is also a "Journal-isms" reader.

He messaged, "To Journal-isms readers, I'd say:

"I am extremely honored to be managing editor of The Washington Post. I love our craft and its limitless possibilities. I still believe in what we do. We have a great news organization, with an incredibly dedicated and talented group of journalists. I hope to create more excitement in our newsroom, more energy, more joy."

Merida succeeds Liz Spayd, who left the newspaper on Thursday, and will share the title with John Temple, the former editor and publisher of the Rocky Mountain News who joined the newspaper as a managing editor last year.

Merida will be responsible for news and features coverage as well as the Universal News Desk.

The last black journalist to be considered for Post managing editor was Eugene Robinson in 2004, when a single person held the title. Robinson instead became a columnist and in 2009 won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Robinson, then assistant managing editor for the Style section, had been called the newsroom favorite, and then-executive editor Leonard Downie Jr.'s  failure to selected him prompted questions about the paper's commitment to diversity and a newsroom committee to examine the question.

Monday's announcement reads:

"The Washington Post today announces that Kevin Merida becomes managing editor for The Washington Post, responsible for news and features coverage as well as the Universal News Desk. His new role is effective immediately.

"Reporting to Merida will the editors of The Post’s National, Foreign, Metro, Business, Sports, Investigations, Outlook, Style, Arts, Travel, Food, Local Living and Weekend/Going Out Guide sections and The Washington Post Magazine. He joins managing editor John Temple, who in his role will now oversee digital operations and initiatives, all presentation units, the multiplatform desk, budgeting, and newsroom operations.

" 'Kevin is a journalist of remarkable accomplishment, with a record of strong leadership.

" 'During his 20 years at The Post, he has covered Congress and presidential campaigns, as well as stories that called upon his great strengths as a long-form feature writer. He has cultivated a talented staff on the National desk, and he has won the admiration and affection of his colleagues. I'm delighted to have him leading coverage across the entire newsroom,' said Marty Baron, Executive Editor for The Washington Post.

"Most recently, Merida was The Post’s national editor, leading the coverage of news events that have consumed the country’s attention: the BP oil spill, the killing of Osama bin Laden, the 2012 presidential campaign, the Ft. Hood, Aurora and Newtown shootings, the battle over health care, the debt ceiling and fiscal cliff fights, and more. During his tenure, Fact Checker was introduced, The Fix was expanded, and The Post started a new blog, She the People, to showcase the voices of women. The Post's national staff also enhanced its digital presence through live-blogging as well as The Grid, providing comprehensive coverage of live events.

"Merida was raised in the Washington, D.C., area and graduated from Boston University in 1979 with a degree in journalism. He is the co-author of the biography 'Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas,' and co-author of the bestselling 'Obama: The Historic Campaign in Photographs.' Merida is married to author and former Post columnist Donna Britt. They have three sons and live in Silver Spring, Md."

Merida was named assistant managing editor for national news in 2008 in one of the first appointments by then-executive editor Marcus Brauchli. Merida was then an associate editor.

Post's First Black Reporter Says It "Damn Near Killed" Him

Coincidentally, Simeon Booker, the first full-time black reporter at the Washington Post, was inducted last month into the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame (video).

Simeon BookerBooker is better known as a longtime correspondent for Jet magazine, but he includes his Post experience in his memoir, "Shocking the Conscience: A Reporter's Account of the Civil Rights Movement," to be published in May.

"Washington in 1951 was still a very Southern and very segregated city," Booker, now 94, writes in the book. "I couldn't eat lunch downtown, even in some federal agency cafeterias, including, ironically, the Interstate Commerce Commission, where I might be covering a story related to segregation.

"White taxi drivers didn't stop for me, and even the police treated me more like a suspect than a reporter when I covered a crime scene or a fire.

". . . The stories I covered spanned the gamut of urban and federal news. One of the first, on November 21, 1951, ran under the headline, 'Senate Group Issues Negro Status Report.' A Senate labor subcommittee had found that 'in almost every significant economic and social characteristic that can be measured' including life expectancy, employment, education, and income, Negroes were on the bottom of the pile. No more than a summary of the study, it was the kind of story I would have liked to pursue, to dig deeper, to explain how the system worked, how institutions affected people's lives, I suggested investigative pieces about race relations and other urban topics during my two years on the paper's staff, most were shunted aside.

" . . . I did my best to tough it out at the Post, although it was quite a comedown from the equality and cordial collegiality I had experienced in Cambridge as a Nieman Fellow, and I got to know only a few of the paper's reporters. I struggled so hard to succeed that friends thought I was dying; I looked so fatigued. Trying to cover news in a city where even pet cemeteries were segregated was overwhelming. I set a goal and decided to leave the Post if I ever got a banner headline. After two years at the paper, that day came. I don't even recall what the story was.

"Looking back, I give [publisher] Phil Graham credit. He hired me. The newspaper may or may not have been ready. They had no standards or policies regarding the integration of their ranks, such as the military had developed. If it was a social experiment, I think I passed the test — although it damn near killed me."

Booker took note of Merida's achievement Monday afternoon on Facebook. "Another milestone. Congratulations, Kevin," he wrote. "We're very happy for Kevin," Booker wrote in a message to Journal-isms. "Your excerpt from my book shows how far we've come."

Super Bowl Drew Huge Audience, but Not a Record

Baltimore Ravens 34, San Francisco 49ers 31.

It drew a huge audience, though last night’s Super Bowl did not break the record for most-watched program in television history," Louisa Ada Seltzer wrote Monday for Media Life Magazine.

"It was third-best.

"CBS’s broadcast of the game between the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers averaged 108.41 million total viewers, according to Nielsen, the third-largest audience in TV history.

"It finished behind only last year’s broadcast of the Super Bowl, which drew 111.3 million total viewers on NBC, and 2011’s broadcast, which drew 111 million viewers on Fox.

". . . But it was still an impressive showing considering neither the victorious Ravens nor the 49ers have a huge national following . . . ."

As Candidate, Geraldo Would Have to Quit Fox

"Geraldo Rivera's stated interest in running for a Senate seat in New Jersey has been derided as a joke and a publicity stunt. But his employers are taking it seriously," Brian Stelter wrote Monday for the New York Times.

Geraldo Rivera"He'd have to leave his weekend Fox News Channel show, 'Geraldo at Large,' as soon as he formally decided to run, a spokeswoman for the channel said.

". . . Mr. Rivera initially brought up his interest in running for the Senate seat on his talk radio show last Thursday. The one-year-old show is distributed by Cumulus. Asked whether Mr. Rivera would have to quit or suspend the show if he decided to run, a spokesman for the distributor said, 'Talk radio hosts talk about lots of things, and if at some point this is more than talk we'll address the issue appropriately then.'  . . ."

The White House released this official photo, taken at Camp David on President O

Misreading Guns and the Civil Rights Movement

"Rush Limbaugh thinks John Lewis should have been armed," Leonard Pitts Jr. wrote Saturday in his Miami Herald column.

" 'If a lot of African-Americans back in the '60s had guns and the legal right to use them for self-defense, you think they would have needed Selma?' he said recently on his radio show, referencing the 1965 voting rights campaign in which Lewis, now a congressman from Georgia, had his skull fractured by Alabama state troopers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge. 'If John Lewis had had a gun, would he have been beat upside the head on the bridge?'

"Right. Because a shootout between protesters and state troopers would have done so much more to secure the right to vote.

"Incredibly, that's not the stupidest thing anyone has said recently about the Civil Rights Movement.

"No, that distinction goes to one Larry Ward, who claimed in an appearance on CNN that Martin Luther King would have supported Ward’s call for a Gun Appreciation Day 'if he were alive today.' In other words, the premiere American pacifist of the 20th century would be singing the praises of guns, except that he was shot in the face with one 45 years ago.

"Thus do social conservatives continue to rewrite the inconvenient truths of African-American history, repurposing that tale of incandescent triumph and inconsolable woe to make it useful within the crabbed corners of their failed and discredited dogma. . . ."

Ballentine's Lawyers Say He May Win Hollow Victory

"Syndicated radio talk show host Warren Ballentine did not knowingly participate in a scheme to defraud mortgage lenders of $9.7 million and is innocent of all charges filed against him in connection with the scam, his attorneys said," George E. Curry reported in his column for the National Newspaper Publishers Association News Service.

Warren Ballentine

"In separate telephone interviews with the NNPA News Service, Harvard Law Professor Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. and Lewis Myers, Jr., a well-known attorney in Chicago, said they expect Ballentine to be fully vindicated.

" 'I have no doubt at all,' Ogletree said. 'This is not a close case — we will win. But it doesn't matter now because all that is in the press is, "Celebrity Lawyer involved in $10 Million Scam." '

"The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, based in Chicago, announced a week ago that Ballentine had been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly engaging in two mortgage fraud schemes, one from Dec. 2004 to Feb. 2005 and another one from Feb. 2005 to May 2006. . . ."

Spanish-Language Paper Sees Pols' "Canny Politicking"

"For those who were waiting for news on the comprehensive immigration reform front, Monday’s proposal by the Senate's so-called 'Gang of 8' (which includes both Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Robert Menendez) seemed a bipartisan first step," Al Día, a Spanish-language newspaper in Philadelphia, editorialized last week.

"Tuesday's proposal by President Obama shored up that first step without adding much more to it.

"It is a measure of how disastrous the discourse on immigration reform has become since the days of the Ted Kennedy-John McCain immigration reform bill of 2005 that both of the proposals seem such a step forward to so many of us.

"Both proposals have their problematic aspects.

"Obama extolled his deportation rate without so much as acknowledging that the [astronomical] number includes nearly as many ordinary heads of household as criminals.

"The senators proposed that a path to citizenship cannot be enacted until the border is deemed secure by an advisory committee comprised of selected governors, legislators, etc. Depending on who is selected (Arizona Governor Jan Brewer? House Immigration subcommittee members Lamar Smith and Steven King?) this advisory committee might block the institution of a path to citizenship for years.

"But the proposals we heard are canny politicking. . . .

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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The End Brings Opportunity

It is often said that America only uplifts Black folks to the top of the heap when there is the specter of complete chaos and meltdown. Blacks become mayors, generals, editors and even the President.

This narrative of course is caculating and even offensive in part because it assumes not the brilliance and genius of Black folks which creates the executive opportunity but the decadence of white folks and their empire's decay.

Therefore should we view the elevation of Black talent as an evolution of  personal and collective achievement or the end of white folks' empire and their last chance to save it by opening up the doors of the executive ranks?

Of course the other narrative is that Black genius has always existed and our navigation and application of our personal and collective genius created the outcome where whites had no choice but to select the best and the brightest which has always been present in Black America since the beginning of the end.

Mandela, Miles, Parks, Michael, Barrack, Shirley and now Kevin and many others including myself already know this answer.....

Kevin Merida

Thrilled to hear the news about Kevin Merida's appointment as Washington Post managing editor. He so deserves this job.  Congratualations to Kevin and to Marty for having the good sense to name him to the job. 

Arlene Morgan

Associate Dean, Columbia Journalism School

Black History Month Commemoration Of Our Children

We have send out an email message to the White House, Congress, elected officials, children and women organizations, clergy, social media, mainstream media, etc that shows that during Black History Month we are and will annually comemorate and acknowledge the innocent children who were killed by acts of violence in American history. In our message we point out only three tragic incidents of acts of violence against children. We also recognized the adults who were killed in these acts of violence in America. The three incidents that we point out in our email message are The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing of innocent children in 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting of innocent children and adults in 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. The Bath School Masscre in 1927 of innocent children and adults in Bath Township, Michigan, USA. The PeaceMakers Of America, a grassroots civic organization is working with people throughout the United States to reduce and eliminate acts of violence against children, women, elderly and people who are vulnerable to acts of violence. Together the American people can change our beloved country's violent culture to a peaceful culture. If you would like a copy of the message that we are sending out, then please send us your email address and we will send you our message. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to send you this message.

Ben Haith, PeaceMakers Of America, Anti-Violence/Anti-Crime Advocate/Activist, Proposal Developer, Wordologist,

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