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Leon Harris, Last Black Male Anchor, Leaves CNN

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Thursday, September 4, 2003

Leon Harris, Last Black Male Anchor, Leaves CNN

Leon Harris, who has worked at CNN more than 20 years, is leaving to anchor the evening newscast at WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., meaning CNN will have no African American male as a weekday anchor apparently for the first time since CNN launched in 1980 with Bernard Shaw. That longtime anchor left the network in February 2001.

The news broke just as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that "two former CNN employees have filed lawsuits against the company, alleging 'a pattern and practice of unlawful race, sex and age discrimination.'

"Bonnie Anderson, formerly a vice president of the company who worked as a recruiter of on-air talent, alleges in her lawsuit that she was fired because she refused to participate in the discrimination," the newspaper said.

"She alleges that each of CNN's networks -- CNN International, Headline News, CNN U.S. and CNN en Espanol -- is looking for a particular ethnic mix. CNN International wants foreign-born journalists, while Headline News has mostly white on-air personalities and routinely relegates minorities to secondary anchor roles, according to the suit," reported the Journal-Constitution.

Harris, who got his start behind the scenes but has been in front of the camera for years, most recently anchored CNN's midmorning slot, the Journal-Constitution said.

"I hit my 20th anniversary in July, and it became increasingly clear that there wasn't much else for me to do at CNN," the paper quoted Harris as saying.

WJLA announced that Harris would co-anchor the station's 5, 6 and 11 p.m. news broadcasts. It said he would join the station toward the end of October and would appear on-air with current co-anchors Maureen Bunyan and Kathleen Matthews.

On the TV Barn Web site on Feb. 3, independent television producer Tom Jacobs reviewed the on-air anchors and personalities who appeared on the three 24-hour cable channels, Monday-Friday, 6 a.m.-midnight.

He found that CNN had only three of color: Harris, Arthel Neville and Connie Chung. Neville and Chung have since left. CNN replied to TV Barn that it also employed Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Carol Lin, Renay San Migueal, Orelon Sidney and Fredricka Whitfield, but Jacobs noted that "these are not regularly scheduled anchor/hosts who work Monday through Friday."

N.Y. News Offers "Regret" Over Gruesome Photo

The New York Daily News has issued a statement regretting "any anguish caused" by its publication of a gruesome photo of a black murder victim "lying on the street with blood oozing from his head," as the rival New York Post described the image.

"Why do I have to see my son lying in a pool of blood?" Carlita Bartholomew, the mother of the 21-year-old West Indian Day Parade murder victim, Anthony Bartholomew, asked in the Post.

The News statement said:

"A large number of Daily News readers contacted the paper yesterday to complain about the photograph of the shooting victim at the West Indian-American Day Carnival Parade on Labor Day. Some callers especially felt that the graphic nature of the picture was disrespectful to the parents and other relatives of the victim, Anthony Bartholomew, 20.

"The editors published the picture along with a recent family photo of him because of the newsworthiness of the crime.

"Still, the use of the photo was in no way intended to offend readers or show disrespect to the victim's family and loved ones. The News regrets any anguish caused by the publication of the picture."

The News has a troubled racial history, and has no African Americans as photo editors or in the city editor or deputy metropolitan editor positions. Sports Editor Leon Carter is the highest ranking African American in the newsroom.

Fallout from Court's Delay of FCC Rules

"Wednesday's federal court ruling temporarily blocking the Federal Communications Commission's media ownership rules could further postpone the agency's long-delayed decision on Univision Communications Inc.'s $2.3-billion acquisition of Dallas-based Hispanic Broadcasting Corp., according to people familiar with the situation," reports Jube Shiver Jr. in the Los Angeles Times.

In addition, the Senate Appropriations Committee Thursday voted to bar the FCC from enforcing, for a year, its new rule allowing television broadcast networks to acquire more local stations, Reuters reported.

And Juan Gonzalez, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, hailed the decision as "a victory for American journalism and for the American people.

"NAHJ has been saying since February that the FCC should not have adopted these far-reaching ownership rules changes without sufficient public hearings or research into their implications," Gonzalez said in a statement.

"More importantly," Gonzalez said, "the court's decision allows the American people more time to familiarize themselves with these proposed rules and to debate more fully what ownership restrictions are in the best interests of the entire nation, not just the media owners."

Ed Bradley, "60 Minutes" Win News Emmys

Correspondent Ed Bradley and the producers and correspondents of CBS-TV's "60 Minutes" were presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 24th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards Wednesday night.

Bradley also was correspondent for the "60 Minutes II" show "The Church on Trial," which won for "outstanding coverage of a continuing news story in a news magazine," and for "A New Lease on Life," which aired on "60 Minutes" and was chosen for "outstanding coverage of a feature news story in a news magazine."

Annie Wong and Sarah Colt were co-producers of "The Secret Life of the Brain" on PBS, which won for "outstanding science, technology and nature programming."

Monica Morales of WFXT-TV in Dedham, Mass., reported the "outstanding regional news story - spot news," "Marine M*A*S*H Unit."

The "60 Minutes" awardees were Don Hewitt, executive producer of the pioneering news magazine, executive editor Phil Scheffler and past and present "60 Minutes" correspondents Mike Wallace, Harry Reasoner (posthumously), Bradley, Morley Safer, Dan Rather, Andy Rooney, Lesley Stahl, Steve Kroft, Bob Simon, Christiane Amanpour, Diane Sawyer and Meredith Vieira.

List of winners.

Rice Won't Stop With "Werewolves" Analogy

In trying to boost support for U.S. policy in Iraq, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice told the National Association of Black Journalists convention that "'SS officers -- called 'werewolves' -- attacked coalition forces and engaged in sabotage, much like today's Baathist Fedayeen remnants."

But as noted here on Aug. 20, veteran columnist David Rossie, associate editor of New York's Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, said Rice was wrong about the "werewolves," sometimes spelled "werwolves."

Apparently, Rice isn't a reader of Journal-isms or Rossie, because she continued to use the analogy in an Aug. 25 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in San Antonio, Texas. This time, she was called on it by Daniel Benjamin in Slate magazine, as Al Kamen noted today in the Washington Post.

"The Rice-Rumsfeld depiction of the Allied occupation of Germany is a farrago of fiction and a few meager facts," wrote Benjamin, referring to Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.

"Werwolf tales have been a favorite of schlock novels, but the reality bore no resemblance to Iraq today," continued Benjamin, who was identified as a Germany correspondent for Time and the Wall Street Journal from 1990 to 1994 and member of the National Security Council staff from 1994 to 1999.

Jayson Blair Blames Junk Food . . .

"Jayson Blair, the discredited reporter who sparked a plagiarism scandal at The New York Times that caused its top editors to resign, has finally explained himself, blaming his missteps on eccentricity and junk food," says Reuters.

"Writing in a light, almost flippant tone for Jane magazine, aimed at young women, Blair offers a half dozen reasons why he left 'in a ball of flames.'

"Blair writes that he 'kissed ass,' 'flaunted the rules,' 'avoided professional help' and 'had something to prove . . . as a black person in a mainly white newsroom.'

"Saying he 'didn't hide my crazy side,' Blair writes in Jane that it might have been 'going too far' when he showed up one day wearing a huge fur coat with a Persian head wrap and Kermit the Frog on his head.

"'Apparently, my eating habits also helped sabotage my career,' Blair says," Reuters reports.

Soldier's Dad Doesn't Think Much of Lynch Deal

Meanwhile, "the father of a Texas soldier killed in an ambush in Iraq that former prisoner of war Jessica Lynch survived said that Lynch's million-dollar book deal will taint the memory of the soldiers killed in the ambush," reports ClickOnDetroit, the Web site of Detroit's WDIV-TV.

"'Pretty severe, isn't it?' Randy Kiehl, the father of Army Spc. James Kiehl, said Wednesday from his home in Comfort, Texas. 'That she makes money off the death of my son and of the deaths of so many others.'

"James Kiehl was among seven members of the 507th Maintenance Company stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, killed in the ambush on March 23 near An Nasiriyah. Lynch survived the attack and was taken prisoner of war. She was later rescued from a hospital and became a national hero."

Rick Bragg, the New York Times reporter who resigned shortly after Jayson Blair over uncredited use of stringers, is writing the Lynch book.

Sylvester Monroe Working on "Tavis Smiley Show"

Sylvester Monroe, longtime Time magazine correspondent who took a buyout in 2001 from California's San Jose Mercury News, where he was assistant managing editor national/foreign and business, has become acting supervising senior editor on National Public Radio's "The Tavis Smiley Show."

"It's not a done deal yet," Monroe cautioned Journal-isms from Los Angeles, where the show originates. "I'm here as a temporary employee." In that role, he is responsible for editing the scripts for the "A" segments -- the first ones -- of the show.

Monroe's goodbye party at the newspaper came three days before Sept. 11, 2001, after which he went back and edited copy for a week. He then flew off to Brazil for most of 2002 to work on a book. Later, Smiley called him. "People don't understand that this is not meant to be a traditional NPR show," he said of some listeners who don't quite get it. "It's meant to broaden the audience in ways it hasn't been broadened before. It's meant to bring a different kind of listener, a bit more pop culture, to NPR; to take that intellectual look from an African American perspective. There are some people who have not warmed up to that."

Ellee Pai Hong Moving from Hartford to Chicago

Ellee Pai Hong, morning news anchor at WFSB-TV, the CBS affiliate in Hartford, Conn., is headed for Chicago's WMAQ-TV, the NBC-owned station, in the same role, reports Robert Feder in the Chicago Sun-Times.

"Pai Hong, who was born in Seoul, South Korea, has a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She worked at WAND-TV in Decatur and WIFR-TV in Rockford before joining the Hartford station in 2001," Feder wrote.

Mike Frisby Starts Own PR Firm

When we last left former Wall Street Journal White House reporter Michael Frisby, in June, he had become president of the Walker Marchant Group, a minority-owned public relations company launched two years ago by former Clinton press aide Ann Walker Marchant.

Now he's started his own firm, Frisby and Associates, he tells Journal-isms, so that he can "continue assisting my corporate clients while helping to elect Wesley Clark as the next president of the United States."

Turns out that Frisby is the communications director for the Draft Clark 2004 campaign, which is assisting the retired Army general and ex-NATO supreme commander, who is a Democrat. The Associated Press reports that "says it has received more than $1 million in pledges through its online exaltation of Clark and expects to increase that to $5 million by the end of the month."

Frisby says he couldn't do the politics at his former firm. He is based in Fulton, Md., and can be reached at (301) 617-9561 or at

Las Vegas' Rikki Cheese Returns to Anchor Post

"Ron Futrell has chronicled the golden age of Las Vegas sports during his 20 years at KTNV-TV, Channel 13. Rikki Cheese has been anchoring Las Vegas news for almost as long," reports the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

"Starting Monday, from 5-7 a.m., they are teaming up on the morning news at KTNV with weatherman Bob Jeswald to bring a more personality-driven show to the morning and noon news slots.

"Cheese was part of KVBC-TV, Channel 3's ratings powerhouse as a main evening anchor until her falling-out at the station in 2000. After a three-year hiatus from broadcast journalism, she returned in March when she joined KTNV as a general assignment reporter," the story said.

Ready for "a Tidal Wave of Diversity?"

George Benge, who heads diversity efforts for the Gannett Co. and writes a column that often touches on Native issues, attended all four journalist of color conventions this summer and reports that "a tidal wave of diversity -- and change -- is sweeping the nation, acquiring momentum and velocity as it surges forward, leaving a transformed America in its wake.

"Thousands of journalists of color from coast to coast are surfing the crest of this huge wave, working hard to prepare themselves for long, successful careers as reporters, editors, senior managers, columnists, broadcasters, online publishers, new-media entrepreneurs, teachers, trainers, recruiters and all the other roles in today's rapidly mutating news-and-information matrix," Benge writes in his most recent column.

"The credibility scandal that engulfed former New York Times plagiarist and serial fabricator Jayson Blair will have no lasting impact on the careers and aspirations of journalists of color. Fortunately, the same also can be said of professional diversity cynics such as William McGowan, the author of a sophistry-laden, diversity-bashing book that generated a slight buzz at last year's conventions."

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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