Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

LeBron "Changes Everything" for Cleveland

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Friday, July 11, 2014

"I Can't Recall Any Other Story Comparable," Editor Says

John Seigenthaler Dies at 86, Legendary Advocate on Race

Director Links "Border Children" Influx to U.S. Policy

Conservatives Fill Void in Dwindling Statehouse Coverage

Fellowship Gives Columnist an Idea on Gun Violence

Va. Paper Supports Decision to Remove Confederate Flag

NABJ Members to Vote on New Constitution

Star-Ledger to Move Out of Newark

FCC Seeks Comments on Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

Short Takes

"I Can't Recall Any Other Story Comparable," Editor Says

LeBron James' decision to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, announced Friday, "changes everything" in the Cleveland area, Thomas Fladung, managing editor of the Plain Dealer, told Journal-isms by telephone.

"I'm 54. I can't recall any other story comparable to this. If you grew up in the area . . . This is not some athlete coming home on a retirement tour. He's 29!"

The Plain Dealer's website,, was filled with stories about James as soon as the NBA player's announcement was made.

Fladung said the Plain Dealer was prepared for James' decision regardless of which way it went. "We had stories queued up," he said. The news outlet's three sports columnists prepared alternate versions of their columns, with the appropriate one posted as soon as the decision was announced. As of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, players could officially sign free agent contracts. 

A photo gallery was ready. A photographer was at James' home in Bath Township, Ohio, all morning.

"We're trying to hit all the angles. We're trying to reach his old teammates, the folks he grew up with, his old crowd," the editor said.

"I can only assume this will increase online readership in a way unlike anything we've ever experienced," Fladung said. "The website has been experiencing strong daily readership."

Broadcasters were equally excited. "WKYC has been live since the announcement broke this afternoon, and — with the exception of NBC Nightly News — will stay live until 8 p.m.," Michael Malone reported for Broadcasting & Cable. " 'We're going as hard as we can," says Brooke Spectorsky. 'There are 20 reporters who've not had a break since they came to work today.'

"Spectorsky says WEWS was live for 60-90 minutes after the announcement, WOIO went for three hours, and WWJ stayed in regular programming. features the all-LeBron home page, leading with a giant photo of James and the words 'I'm Coming Home' from Sports Illustrated. The site features a story from sibling USA Today about the tight secrecy surrounding SI's huge scoop. WJW too features 'I'm Coming Home' on the homepage, referring to James' move as 'Decision 2.0.' . . ."

As Stefan Bondy and Christian Red reported for the Daily News in New York, "With a heartfelt and thoughtful letter he penned himself in Sports Illustrated, LeBron James announced his intentions to sign with the Cavaliers, ending the 'Big Three' Era in South Beach and completing a stunning circle back to his home state.

"The greatest basketball player on the planet, who only four years ago ditched the Cavaliers with 'The Decision,' said his re-route back to Ohio was about unfinished business, about 'a calling' to make an impact beyond basketball.

" 'I have a responsibility to lead, in more ways than one, and I take that very seriously,' the Akron native said in the article, as told to SI's Lee Jenkins," a writer for the website. " 'My presence can make a difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I'm from.'

"James, 29, invoked some deep personal feelings about growing up in Northeast Ohio, going so far as to say he feels like 'I'm their son.'

" 'Before anyone ever cared where I would play basketball, I was a kid from Northeast Ohio,' James wrote. 'It's where I walked. It's where I ran. It's where I cried. It's where I bled. It holds a special place in my heart. People there have seen me grow up. I sometimes feel like I'm their son.

" 'Their passion can be overwhelming. But it drives me. I want to give them hope when I can. I want to inspire them when I can. My relationship with Northeast Ohio is bigger than basketball. I didn't realize that four years ago. I do now.'

"The news, this time broken by SI as opposed to ESPN, which aired the much-ridiculed 'Decision' four years ago when James chose to leave Cleveland for Miami, hit Heat owner Micky Arison hard. . . ."

The Plain Dealer plans a special section, and Fladung expects that it will be Saturday, rather than Sunday, though no decision had been made Friday afternoon.

James left it to others to explain why Sports Illustrated was chosen over another outlet, but said:

" 'I'm doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted,' he wrote. 

Michael Sebastian reported for Friday how Sports Illustrated landed the exclusive.

"Sports Illustrated is poised to be the biggest traffic event in the history of the magazine, according to its top editors," Sebastian wrote.

"So how did Sports Illustrated get the big scoop?

" 'It all goes to Lee Jenkins,'" said Sports Illustrated Managing Editor Chris Stone. 'He made this happen.'

"Several months ago, Mr. Jenkins mentioned to his editors that he wanted to pursue a big story about the next phase of Mr. James' career. 'We told him to go for it,' said Mr. Stone. But the magazine didn't 'place big money' on it actually coming to fruition, he acknowledged.

"Then last Saturday, Mr. Jenkins, who was flying to Cleveland on Friday afternoon when Ad Age spoke with Mr. Stone and Sports Illustrated Editor-in-Chief Paul Fichtenbaum, emailed his editors saying the story was a possibility. Out of caution, he didn't mention Mr. James' name in the email.

" 'The first thing we asked is whether there were any conditions attached,' Mr. Stone said. 'There were none.'

"On Wednesday, Mr. Jenkins traveled to Las Vegas. He met with Mr. James on Thursday night before writing the essay with him. Mr. Jenkins emailed the essay to his editors around mid-morning on Friday. 'Everyone reading it was learning the news for the first time," Mr. Stone said.' . . ."

Newspaper sports coverage in South Florida was led by two journalists of color, Jorge Rojas, sports editor of the Miami Herald, and Gregory H. Lee Jr., executive sports editor at the South Florida SunSentinel.

John Seigenthaler Dies at 86, Legendary Advocate on Race

"John Seigenthaler, a legendary Tennessee journalist, intimate confidante to two near-presidents and fierce advocate for racial equality, died Friday," the Tennessean reported from Nashville on Friday.

"He was 86.

"Mr. Seigenthaler passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by family.

" 'We celebrate his life — his devotion to social justice, his advocacy of human rights, and his enduring loyalty to friends and family,' said his son, John Michael Seigenthaler. 'He was proud of his hometown, Nashville, and grateful for the opportunity to share his energy and passion with this community.'

"As a reporter for The Tennessean, Mr. Seigenthaler once saved a suicidal man's life on a bridge over the Cumberland River — a bridge eventually named after him. As the newspaper's longtime editor, he led coverage of the civil rights movement when most Southern newspapers, including the rival Nashville Banner, ignored the growing resistance to racial segregation in the South.

"Mr. Seigenthaler also exposed corruption in the Teamsters union, grave deficiencies in the state's mental health system and illicit activities of the Ku Klux Klan in Tennessee. And he inspired several generations of journalists to greatness. . . ."

The obituary added, "Seigenthaler championed racial equality, both as a journalist and in his job in the Kennedy administration.

"The Tennessean and its staff became crusaders for civil rights early on. A Texas liberal named Silliman Evans bought the newspaper out of receivership in the 1930s. His views formed the political core that would remain there until John Seigenthaler's retirement.

"With a newsroom full of cocky young egos spoiling for a good story, secure finances and family owners willing to take chances, it became one of the only Southern newspapers to aggressively cover the fight to end segregation. That was not always popular with hometown readers, particularly the old Southern guard. . . ."

Seigenthaler was USA Today's founding editorial page editor, director of the First Amendment Center, which bears his name at Vanderbilt University, and a past president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. In 1991, he was given the President's Award by the National Association of Black Journalists for recruiting and employing journalists of color at USA Today and at the Tennessean.

Dwight Lewis, a black journalist who retired from the Tennessean in 2011 after 40 years, leaving as editorial page editor, called Seigenthaler "the best that journalism has ever produced" and "a modern-day hero."

Not only was Seigenthaler a good reporter himself, Lewis told Journal-isms by telephone, but he supervised some of the nation's best reporters, such as David Halberstam and Tom Wicker, later known for their work at the New York Times.

Reginald Stuart, one of those reporters, told Journal-isms by email, "He taught a generation of us to be reporters who are thoughtful, inquisitive, persistent, ethical, compassionate, respectful.

"He was an inspiration and role model for whom I've had the highest of respect since the first day we met. That inspiration will live on." Stuart got his first job fresh out of college at 19 when Seigenthaler hired him as the Tennessean's first black full-time general assignment reporter.

The Tennessean tackled stories other Southern newspapers would not. Lewis recalled Seigenthaler asking him to look at the Tennessee prison system, making note of the salaries staffers were paid, and commemorating the 1989 unveiling of a civil rights memorial in Montgomery, Ala., with a series leading up to the event that included stories on civil rights heroes. Then Seigenthaler flew to the event himself. "What other editor would do that?" Lewis asked.

In 1987, Seigenthaler asked DeWayne Wickham, then president of the National Association of Black Journalists, now many Tennessean staffers were NABJ members, Lewis recalled. As Wickham replied, Seigenthaler answered, "They all should be," and said, "I will pay their dues right now." "And I got the check," Wickham confirmed.

On a personal level, when Lewis and reporter Susan Thomas published their 1983 history of athletics at Tennessee State University, "A Will to Win," and a publisher demanded the balance of the printing costs, Seigenthaler called a director of a local bank and secured an instant loan of $15,000. Lewis also recalled visits by Seigenthaler to him and his wife in the hospital during their illnesses.

At a 2005 ceremony announcing the Robert F. Kennedy awards, which honor journalism that addresses human rights and social justice issues, Seigenthaler, who co-chaired the Book Award Committee, told Journal-isms, "The complexion of newsrooms has changed, but not nearly enough. Too many publishers and editors and news directors don't pay enough attention. It is encouraging that newsrooms are addressing these issues" of disadvantage, he said, adding, "and hopefully newsrooms will change with them."

Joy Reid interviews Eduardo Lopez, co-director of "Harvest of Empire," Thursday on MSNBC's "The Reid Report." (video)

Director Links "Border Children" Influx to U.S. Policy

The current influx of children from Central America arriving illegally in U.S. border states "is a consequence of our country's history of intervention in Latin America," according to Eduardo Lopez, a co-director of the 2012 documentary, "Harvest of Empire."

Lopez appeared Thursday with Joy Reid on MSNBC's "The Reid Report." "Harvest of Empire" is an adaptation of the book by the same name by Juan Gonzalez, columnist for the Daily News in New York, which examined the history of U.S.-Latin American relations through the prism of immigration.

When Reid asked what had changed since President Ronald Reagan favored citizenship for immigrants who had entered the country illegally, Lopez said, "the level of bigotry has increased tremendously since Reagan."

Most child would-be immigrants are arriving from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, fleeing crime resulting from U.S. actions that destabilized those nations, Lopez said.

In a review of the film last year in the Washington Post, Stephanie Merry wrote:

"In Guatemala, for example, the American government orchestrated the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz’s regime. The president planned to more evenly distribute the nation's land, which would in turn hurt American companies that owned large swaths of the country. Whether from fear of communism or financial interests, the United States made the decision to intervene. And the result of that coup was a civil war that lasted more than three decades and included a genocide against the country's Mayans. According to the film, less than two percent of political asylum requests were granted from Guatemala during that period.

"This raises a very important moral question, and one that rarely enters the immigration debate: If America is responsible for destabilizing a country, what is our role when the country's citizens suffer as a result?

"Unfortunately, the quandary gets only murkier when the film considers so many other countries with similar stories — torture in El Salvador, terrorists in Nicaragua, a cruel despot leading the Dominican Republic, starvation in Mexico — all with at least a few fingerprints of the U.S. government. And that's before considering Cuba and the American support of Fulgencio Batista, whose horrifying reign led to a swing of the pendulum in the form of Fidel Castro.

"Could there be a correlation to the fact that these nations send the most immigrants to the United States of all the Latin American countries? . . ."

Conservatives Fill Void in Dwindling Statehouse Coverage

"It's no secret that, with the decline in newspapers and other traditional 'legacy' media, the number of statehouse reporters — those assigned to cover news in legislatures, governor's offices and state agencies — has drastically declined," Chris Kromm reported Thursday for Facing South, a publication of the Institute for Southern Studies.

"A new report from Pew Research breaks down the numbers: Since 2003, the number of full-time reporters covering state politics for daily newspapers has declined 35 percent. Of the 1,592 statehouse reporters, under half (741) are sent to cover state politics full-time. . . .''

Kromm also wrote, "Ideological groups have also stepped up to fill the void in state politics coverage. But Pew found these are dominated by conservative-leaning organizations; 'about half' of the ideological websites with statehouse reporters (14 out of 33) are owned by the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, which run the sites. . . ."

Fellowship Gives Columnist an Idea on Gun Violence

Tammerlin Drummond, a columnist for the Oakland Tribune, returned from a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University with an idea for curbing gun violence, the topic of her studies.

"Before I left, I wrote about my frustration and exhaustion after five years of reporting on Oakland's never-ending street shooting epidemic," Drummond told readers on June 30. "I was sick of counting bodies. I wanted to be part of the search for solutions. That meant trying to gain a deeper understanding of what was driving the shooting in poor, mostly African-American neighborhoods and trying to find programs and strategies that had been effective in reducing shootings in other cities. . . ."

On Sunday, Drummond wrote about a program she witnessed during her fellowship. "A Boston nonprofit called Citizens for Safety began targeting women as a way to reduce gun homicides in inner city neighborhoods.

" 'Ladies Involved in Putting a Stop To Inner-City Killings,' or 'LIPSTICK,' is a group of women, many of whom have lost loved ones to gun violence. They go out into the communities where street shootings are the worst and give workshops — at nail salons, community centers, battered women's shelters, and churches. They break down how straw purchasing works.

"The idea is to educate women about the dangers of buying or hiding guns for men in their lives. They could go to prison and lose their children. They are contributing to the bloodshed. 'Some of them don't know that what they are doing is a crime,' says Kim Odom, a pastor and LIPSTICK organizer. Her 13-year-old son Steven was shot and killed in 2007 a block from their home as he walked back from playing basketball. . . ."

Protesting law students at Washington and Lee University, known as The Committee

Va. Paper Supports Decision to Remove Confederate Flag

"The president of Washington and Lee University on Tuesday said in a mass email to faculty and students that the battle flags of the Confederacy will be removed from Lee Chapel and that the university will continue to study its historical involvement with slavery," Luanne Rife reported for the Roanoke (Va.) Times.

The newspaper, which had not previously editorialized on the issue, according to Editorial Page Editor Dwayne Yancey, weighed in on Thursday. Journal-isms has found that at newspapers faced with taking a position on tributes to the Confederacy, "live and let live" appears to prevail.

The Times editorialized that a [Robert E.] Lee Chapel devoid of the Confederate battle flags might be a good place to have the discussion sought by protesting black law students.

"On Tuesday, university president Kenneth Ruscio responded by saying the flags in the chapel will come down, the undergraduate faculty will vote on whether to cancel classes for King Day, and outside groups will no longer be allowed to 'march' on campus (though they will be allowed to use the chapel for lectures)," the editorial said.

"The matter of the university once owning slaves, he says, is being studied, with an eye toward 'telling the university’s history accurately.' Instead of the Confederate battle flags, which are reproductions, the university expects to display original flags of the era, on loan on a rotating basis from the American Civil War Museum in Richmond. Those will be in the chapel museum, not the chapel itself. And, the president made it clear that Lee's accomplishments at what was then Washington College will continue to be honored, for the role he played in reinvigorating and reshaping the institution during his time as the school's president.

"Let's unpack these issues carefully, as one might handle explosives. 'Telling the university’s history accurately' seems an easy one. Who can be against accuracy? As for King Day, Ruscio said he was personally against cancelling classes, for fear that the holiday would become just another three-day weekend. That's a valid concern, but surely there's a way to recognize the holiday in other ways besides holding classes. There’s one obvious topic the campus might want to discuss on King Day, in particular: How much can or should one generation apologize for the ones who went before it?

"Likewise, the ban on groups 'marching' on campus seems not only reasonable, but an innately conservative expression of private property rights. If groups want to march on Lee-Jackson Day, or any other day, they can exercise their constitutional rights in the public streets of Lexington.

"Finally, that brings us to the matter of the flags. The Confederate flag, one of the most divisive symbols in the country. Just what that flag symbolizes has changed for some people, but not others. Does it represent the heritage of a South that simply likes to rock out to Lynyrd Skynyrd and Hank Williams Jr., or does it represent part of the country that once enthusiastically practiced slavery? Does it represent the heritage of a South that simply likes sweet tea and pork barbecue, or does it represent a part of the country that once used lynch mobs to keep fellow citizens 'in their place'? If a symbol isn’t universally understood, how much of a symbol can it really be?

"A Lee Chapel devoid of Confederate battle flags might be a good place to have that discussion."

NABJ Members to Vote on New Constitution

Members of the National Association of Black Journalists begin voting online Monday on proposed changes to the association's constitution that adjust membership categories, allow the president to serve more than one term and create a new position of vice president-digital.

"The proposals are not perfect," Herbert Lowe, who co-chaired a constitutional commission, wrote on the NABJDigitalBlog on Thursday.

"They surely will not please everyone. But the commission kept at the forefront of its deliberations that for every member who votes no, two other members must vote yes for the changes to take effect. Hence my mandate as a co-chair: Only put forward that which would be supported by seven out of 10 members. The webinars and surveys helped with this immensely. . . ."

A Twitter chat is scheduled for 8 to 9 p.m. Eastern time on Monday at #NABJ14.

Star-Ledger to Move Out of Newark

"For the first time in nearly two centuries, Newark — the largest city in the eighth largest state in America — will not be home to a daily newspaper," Bob Braun, a journalist at the Star-Ledger in Newark, N.J., for 44 years, wrote on his website on Thursday.

"After Sept. 8, The Star-Ledger will move its operations to Woodbridge and Edison, leaving the city newspaperless for the first time since the Daily Advertiser opened in the city in 1832. That's a big story but government-controlled media in New Jersey won't allow a discussion of it. NJTV News — your public broadcast station — chickened out.

"The implications for the city and the state are worth some comment, but, by and large, the escape of The Star-Ledger to the suburbs has gone unnoticed. That's why it seemed such a good idea for NJTV News, or whatever the allegedly public television station is called now, scheduled a show next week on the implications of the move. . . ."

Braun worked at the newspaper from 1964 to 2008, specializing in education.

FCC Seeks Comments on Comcast-Time Warner Cable Deal

"The Federal Communications Commission has released its schedule for the public and the media industry to weigh in on Comcast's proposed purchase of Time Warner Cable and its complex deal to trade some cable systems with Charter Communications," Joe Flint reported Thursday for the Los Angeles Times.

"Comments and petitions seeking to block Comcast's deals are due on Aug. 25. Comcast will then have until Sept. 23rd to respond to those comments. Subsequent replies to Comcast's response are due on Oct. 8. . . "

Flint also wrote, "Many media watchdog groups and consumer activists have already voiced their intent to strongly oppose Comcast's deals. Earlier this week, satellite broadcaster Dish Network told the FCC that it should block Comcast from buying Time Warner Cable because the acquisition would give the cable giant too much power in the video and broadband marketplace. Netflix has also expressed concern about Comcast's plans. . . ."

The National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters said in a statement June 25, "NABOB is very interested in the review process, and we will have a number of questions to ask [PDF].

"For example, when Comcast announced the Time Warner deal, Comcast announced that it would need to [spin off] cable television systems serving approximately 3 million subscribers, valued at $17 billion. Because cable television systems can be sold in distinct metropolitan units, NABOB recognized immediately that this was an ideal opportunity for Comcast to [spin off] some of these cable television systems in several smaller transactions, which would provide African American entrepreneurs opportunities to purchase one or more of these cable television systems.

"In March, NABOB contacted Comcast and asked that they consider spinning off some cable television systems in smaller transactions. Unfortunately, Comcast did not respond to NABOB's request, and instead, announced that it will [spin off] all of the systems in a complicated deal with Charter Communications. . . .

"Another issue that NABOB will monitor with respect to the Comcast-Time Warner transaction is the extent to which Comcast commits to carry channels, such as TV One, on Comcast's basic tiers, so that consumers will not have to subscribe to high priced tiers to receive programing serving the African American community. . . ."

Short Takes

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John Seigenthaler

Betty Baye, former columnist, Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.:

John Seighenthaler, in my opinion, represented the best of "old" journalism and the best of "old" Gannett that was wholly committed to diversity and investing in the professional development of reporters and editors. I never worked directly for John, but whenever we ran into each other at NABJ, journalism workshops, the Gannett Foundation or the First Amendment Center in Nashville, he always asked how I was doing and what I was doing. I appreciated his encouragement, wisdom and his commitment to civil rights. Though John leaves a great legacy as a journalist and humanitarian, I will miss my friend's presence on the planet.

John Seigenthaler

From the Rev. Dr. Barbara A. Reynolds:

For nearly 15 years, I worked on the editorial page of USA TODAY, and about 10 years directly under the tutelage of John Seigenthaler.

I started when USA TODAY was just beginning, confined to only one floor in Rosslyn, Va. I was on the editorial board, interviewed the major thought leaders, politicians, artists, and activists, wrote a weekly column and helped shape the ideology of the paper. Working with Seigenthaler was and remains a life-changing experience. He enriched my life, helping to foster in me an undying allegiance to the three legs of the First Amendment:freedom of speech, protest and freedom of religion.

He pushed me to be an authentic thought leader, even if those expressions meant trouble for me--and they often have. He showed me in every way that being a black Christian woman was not a deficit but an asset. He once told me "since you talk about being religious and a Christian, why don't you act like one? " His challenges helped me to write and speak more boldly. He was bold, courageous and speaking very honestly I had not met many white men in journalism who I could truly say, "He didn't have a racist bone in his body." I needed to meet him, so I could rid my own self of some of my racist biases.

I am a much better person because our paths crossed. I grieve for him, along with his family.


Book Coach, Washington Post Blogger, and Chaplain of Black Women For Political Change

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