Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Mike McQueen, Veteran Journalist, Dies at 52

Send by email
Saturday, October 24, 2009

AP Bureau Chief, a Cancer Victim, Had 3-Decade Career

Mike McQueenMike McQueen, Associated Press bureau chief in New Orleans and the only African American bureau chief at the news cooperative, died Sunday from complications of cancer and congestive heart failure, the AP reported. He was 52.

McQueen went on an indefinite leave of absence in May. "The reason: medical. In 2004, I survived an attack of myocarditis - a virus aimed at the heart - but it left me with congestive heart failure. I will spend my leave getting healthier," he said at the time.

"McQueen's journalism career spanned three decades, including two stints with the AP and work on two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper teams," the AP reported.

McQueen directed the AP's news coverage and staffs in Louisiana and Mississippi in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and during the Jena 6 case, in which black teenagers in Jena, La., claimed unequal treatment from law enforcement.

"I will always remember him as a strong and able man who helped us in the time of our greatest need," Executive Editor Stan Tiner of the Sun-Herald in Biloxi, Miss., said in the AP story.

McQueen also coped with personal tragedy. In 2006, his son, former Army Ranger Michael McQueen II, was killed in the suburban Washington apartment he shared with a fellow Ranger, Gary Smith. After a 17-month ordeal, Smith was found guilty of second-degree murder. He had claimed the younger McQueen had shot himself.

"Even in times of great tragedy, when he lost his son, he was still calling Jackson to see if we needed anything from The Associated Press," Ronnie Agnew, executive editor of the Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., told the AP.

McQueen started his journalism career in 1977 as a reporter for the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat after graduation from Florida State University. He joined the AP in 1980, working in Miami as a reporter and editor, and then in Tallahassee as correspondent. He joined the Miami Herald in 1984, according to an AP bio.

He later worked on the staffs of USA Today and Gannett News Service, and served as chair of the journalism and broadcasting sequence of Florida International University's School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He became managing editor at the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph in 2004 and returned to the AP in 2006.

The AP at one time had three black domestic bureau chiefs: Larry Campbell in Alaska, Robert Naylor in Albany, N.Y., and Denise Cabrera for the Baltimore area, but until Sunday had just one, McQueen. Kia Breaux is acting bureau chief in Kansas City.

Mike McQueen was managing editor at the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph from 2004 to 2006, when he returned to the Associated Press. (Credit; Macon Telegraph)"Mike was family. You have the family, and then you have the family within the family" at AP, Sonya Ross, a news editor in the Washington bureau, told Journal-isms. "He was a line mentor for many years. He took me to a NAMME mentor breakfast," she said, speaking of the National Association of Multicultural Media Executives. "He played a huge part in cultivating many, many journalists like myself."

Those journalists included students at Florida International, which serves a large number of Hispanics. In 2006, McQueen wrote this columnist about his experience there:

"When I was chairman, I had parents come to my office and curse me to my face because their child had to repeat a class. Many, many students broke down in tears in my office begging for a second chance. One night, about six dozen of them stormed into my office and demand[ed] that I extend the testing period or face a lawsuit," he said.

"My faculty also faced several instances of hostility, tears and some name-calling as students began to realize that we were dead-serious: When the faculty made a rule that we thought was in their best interests, there would no forgiveness and there would be no exceptions. It was very tough to watch young people crumble under the pressure of having to follow simple rules, but in the end, we think it made them very tough and nothing an editor could throw at them would faze them more than we already had done when they were undergraduates.

"As a result, at graduation, students cried out in joy when they received their degrees and parents came over and thanked the faculty for being so committed to their child's future."

McQueen's experience with his son's death gave him a new perspective on the criminal justice system. That the defense "stooped to paint this African American man as a depressed, suicidal soldier with no money, no friends and no connection to family is nothing short of a public lynching," he said when the trial ended, upset that police took the defense claims as seriously as they did.

The experience helped lead him to speak out in December 2007 after Sean Taylor, star safety for the Washington Redskins, was slain during an attempted burglary of his Miami area home. Some journalists raised what turned out to be irrelevant aspects of Taylor's troubled past in connection with the murder.

"We all share the blame because we've allowed a culture of good-enough truths to dominate our news reports and newscasts," McQueen wrote to the National Association of Black Journalists, of which he was Southeast regional director from 1986 to 1988.

"I was privileged to serve on the committee that crafted NABJ's first code of ethics, approved by the board on April 24, 2005. Our code addresses the Taylor situation:

"'NABJ members should treat all subjects of news coverage with respect and dignity, particularly victims of crime and tragedy and their families.'

"Did we, as news organizations, stop and ask ourselves: Are we applying a different standard in this young man's case because he is a minority and many people are predisposed to think that minorities, particularly African-American men, are generally the victims of homicides because of something they are doing or have done in the past? Before someone accuses me of playing the race card, ask the question in the converse: Are we not attuned to, or willing to ignore, the troubling aspects of a white news subject's background because it is not relevant? For example, I was surprised to read one sports commentator's observation: He essentially asked, why is Sean Taylor's background relevant when we in the sports journalism community do not write much about Brent Favre's background of being addicted to painkillers?

"For the record, I have no problem whatsoever publishing or broadcasting controversial - perhaps even painful information - about crime victims or other victims of tragedies. If it happened, it happened. Our job is to, on deadline, present our mass audience with the best available version of the truth.

"But this should be done, in high-profile cases, only after top editors and top producers have mulled the consequences of their potential action, have challenged their own prejudgments - if there are any - and have challenged their news gatherers. In some cases, once the decision is made to go with controversial, disturbing information, a note from the top news executive should accompany the information. That note essentially says: We are a responsible news organization; we act only after careful consideration; we have considered this case and think that we will best [meet] our mission of public service by disseminating, rather than [censoring,] certain troubling information.

"Did that happen in this case? If not, why not?"

McQueen was also a longtime member of the Society of Professional Journalists, serving on its South Florida chapter board of directors from 1997 to 1998, and of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

Funeral arrangements were planned for later this week at St. Ana Episcopal Church in New Orleans, said his wife, Glenda McQueen, the AP said.

"Other survivors include his son Otto of Thibodaux, La.; a younger brother, Christopher McQueen of Miami; and a sister, Nicole Brewton of Pembroke Pines, Fla."


Inquirer "Has Dragged Its Feet" on Smith

October 24, 2009

Vindicated Sports Columnist Still Not Reinstated

The Newspaper Guild says Stephen A. Smith has been eager to return to the Philadelphia Inquirer since an arbitrator ruled on Aug. 31 (Credit: ESPN). Although an arbitrator ruled nearly two months ago that Stephen A. Smith was fired improperly by the Philadelphia Inquirer, the news organization "has dragged its feet" in settling up with the sports commentator, according to the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia.

Arbitrator Richard R. Kasher ordered the two sides to negotiate how to appropriately compensate Smith, who in August 2007 was removed as a sports columnist and then fired when he did not return to work as a general-assignment reporter.

Kasher said testimony from Inquirer Editor William Marimow "persuaded him that Smith's . . . treatment was 'motivated, at least in part if not substantial part, because Mr. Marimow believed that Mr. Smith was being overpaid,'" according to an account of the ruling by Andy Zipser in the Guild Reporter, a national Newspaper Guild publication.

"Kasher gave the two sides 60 days in which to 'reach an appropriate remedy' or accept his final disposition in the matter," Zipser wrote.

"Now the two sides have two months in which to negotiate whether Smith will regain his coveted columnist's slot, how much he should be paid — and how much back pay he's due. And that latter sum could be quite a bundle."

Dan Gross, president of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia, Local 10, told Journal-isms on Friday, "Stephen A. Smith has been excited to return as a sports columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer since August 31 when an arbitrator ruled his termination was unjust. The Guild believes Mr. Smith should have promptly been reinstated but Inquirer management has dragged its feet and so far has refused to bring Mr. Smith back to work. There are ongoing discussions between the Guild, the company and the arbitrator and we are confident that Mr. Smith will soon bring his talents back to the Inquirer."

Michael Lorenca, the Inquirer's vice president for human resources, did not respond to a request for comment, nor did an assistant.

Smith also has a court suit pending against the Inquirer, filed on his behalf by the Stuart, Fla.-based Willie E. Gary law firm.

Editor's Departure From "the Root" Stuns Friends

Danyel SmithDanyel Smith's decision to resign as executive editor of after just six weeks caught colleagues and friends by surprise, they told Journal-isms.

Smith remained silent as skepticism greeted Publisher Donna Byrd's Thursday night announcement that Smith, based in New York, was leaving the Washington-based Web publication "because of issues related to her commute." However, the skeptics could offer no alternative explanation.

Smith, 44, the former editor of Vibe magazine, was said to have been sick earlier in the week. She did not respond to a message.

When the New York-based Smith took the Washington-based job, the company's announcement said that "Smith will be based in both Washington, D.C. and New York." On Thursday, Byrd said Smith "is leaving The Root because of issues related to her commute."

Lynette Clemetson, the founding managing editor of the Web site, told Journal-isms from Ann Arbor, Mich., where she is on a Knight-Wallace Fellowship at the University of Michigan: "I'm as surprised as anyone to hear of the change at the Root. I think everyone was excited at what Danyel would bring to the site, but I'm sure that everyone is working hard now to find the next executive editor and I will believe firmly that the chance to come in and put a creative stamp on the Root is one of the best opportunities in online journalism right now."

Terence Samuel, the deputy editor, said simply, "I was surprised. I did not see this coming."

In her note to the staff, Byrd said, "We are aggressively searching for her replacement and plan to fill the role in the next few weeks."

Jackson-Sharpton Mixup Points to Larger Issues

When MSNBC's Contessa Brewer introduced the Rev. Jesse Jackson this week as the Rev. Al Sharpton, MSNBC played it off as "an unfortunate writing error," as spokesman Jeremy Gaines told Journal-isms.

But to some members of the National Association of Black Journalists, the gaffe raised larger issues that MSNBC seems unwilling to address.

As the Associated Press reported, Brewer "made the slip-up Wednesday while introducing Jackson during a segment on homelessness.

"After the introduction, Jackson stared at the camera from a studio in Burbank, Calif., and said, 'I'm Rev. Jesse Jackson.'

"Brewer explained that her script read that she was to introduce 'the Rev. Al Sharpton.'

"She continued, 'We all know who you are, Rev. Jackson. I'm so sorry.'

Gaines did not respond when asked why the person who put together the script wrote "Sharpton" instead of "Jackson."

Unfortunately, the history of some in the media not knowing one black person from another is such that David Mills, a journalist-turned-screenwriter, keeps a running list of such gaffes on his blog, "Undercover Black Man."

"bad master control, direction in her ear and worse, bad script writing with no copy editing," wrote one journalist on the listserve of the National Association of Black Journalists.

"Which would lead to another obvious problem area," said another, "not enough of us in master control, scripting, copyediting, and all behind the scenes production in general — and booking schedulers with some backbone, imagination and the intellectual curiosity to expand the short list of African American spokespeople and experts."

"I'll say it again: cultural competence should not be optional. It's inexcusable that the folks behind the scenes can't tell the difference between Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton," said Dakarai I. Aarons, a staff writer for Education Week.

Eric Deggans, media critic for the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times, wrote on his blog, "There may be no better evidence how interchangeable cable TV news outlets see some black leaders."

"The problems extend far higher up than the level of guest bookers," Marc Watts, a former CNN correspondent who founded Signature Media Group, a Chicago-based talent management agency, said.

"The directive to change the mindset needs to start at the top. Regardless of whether it was a remote or even if the anchor hadn't established communication with the guest, it's a major mistake. It's the anchor's responsibility to catch mistakes such as this, making the control booth look good. Using peripheral vision allows one to view preview monitors. At some point before Jesse corrected her, she should have noticed that it wasn't Rev. Al, and she should have made the correction. Someone should lose their job over this. The only exception I would give for a misidentification would be a situation involving breaking news, which of course this is not.

"That control booth has a history of messups involving Black guests. You may recall, on February 4, 2002, MSNBC conducted an interview with Niger Innis and misidentified him as yes, Nig-er Innis. Whatever happened to that Chyron Operator? Maybe he was the TD in the booth yesterday."

Turner, Magnuson Win McGruder Diversity Awards

Winners: Karen Magnuson and Troy Turner"Troy Turner, editor of The Daily Times in Farmington, N.M., and Karen Magnuson, editor of the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y., have been named winners of the eighth annual Robert G. McGruder Awards for Diversity Leadership," the Freedom Forum announced on Thursday.

"The two will be honored as champions of newsroom diversity at the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) convention Oct. 30, 2009, in St. Louis.

"The awards are given by the Freedom Forum, which administers the program, in partnership with APME and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE). Each honoree receives $2,500 and a sculpture. Selections are made by a committee, which includes the previous year’s recipients and representatives of APME, ASNE and UNITY: Journalists of Color.

“'In their newsrooms, their communities and their profession, Troy Turner and Karen Magnuson have embraced similar qualities that distinguished Bob McGruder," a former executive editor of the Detroit Free Press and relentless diversity advocate who died in April 2002, said Jack Marsh, vice president of the Freedom Forum and Diversity Institute.

"Magnuson, who won in the over-75,000 circulation category, has been editor of the Democrat and Chronicle the past 10 years and was president of APME in 2006-2007. Magnuson made diversity a priority in both roles, the judges noted, promoting diversity in her newsroom and community and on a national level."

"In the under-75,000 circulation category, Turner was cited for combating racism and advancing cultural diversity in the remote Four Corners region served by The Daily Times. Despite its limited resources and size, the newsroom has been an effective, courageous and creative advocate for diversity through content and staffing, the judges said."

"Latino in America" Becomes Anti-Dobbs Rallying Cry

"Instead of being simply a draw for Hispanic viewers, CNN’s four-hour documentary, 'Latino in America,' turned into a political rallying cry for activist groups who are calling on the cable news channel to fire Lou Dobbs, a veteran anchor with well-known views on immigration," Brian Stelter reported Friday for the New York Times.

"An array of minorities held small protests in New York and other cities on Wednesday, the first night of CNN’s presentation. They are trying to highlight what they say are years of lies about immigration by Mr. Dobbs, who anchors the 7 p.m. hour on CNN.

"CNN, a unit of Time Warner, has not commented on the protests or covered them on its news programs. One of the activists featured in the documentary said she tried to raise what she called Mr. Dobbs’s 'hatred' on one of the channel’s news programs Wednesday, but her remarks were cut from the interview.

"The anti-Dobbs campaign has, however, drawn considerable attention in the Spanish-language press; the Thursday front page of the New York newspaper El Diario featured a red slash mark through Mr. Dobbs’s face and the word 'hipocresia,' Spanish for 'hypocrisy,' atop the illustration.

"The hypocrisy, critics say, lies in CNN’s decision to woo Hispanic viewers with a prime-time documentary while still giving Mr. Dobbs a nightly forum."

The documentary drew an average of about 900,000 viewers on Wednesday and Thursday, the Times reported.

The Los Angeles newspaper La Opini??n, editorialized on Wednesday, "The news channel has prided itself for years on being a source of information, but the inclusion of Dobbs in its programming calls this claim into question."


Media "Largely" Ignoring Possible N.C. Serial Killer

"Ten women have been found slain or have been declared missing in Rocky Mount, N.C., in recent years. But the rest of the country hasn't heard about a possible serial killer stalking the young women in this Southern town of 60,000," Krista Gesaman wrote Wednesday for Newsweek. "The latest victim, Elizabeth Jane Smallwood, was identified on Oct. 12. Why have the Rocky Mount homicides been largely ignored?

"'When you think about the famous missing-person cases over the last few years it's Chandra Levy, Natalee Holloway, and Laci Peterson,' notes Sam Sommers, associate professor of psychology at Tufts University. All these women had a few things in common — they were white, educated, and came from middle-class families. The victims in Rocky Mount — which residents describe as a 'typical Southern town,' and is about 40 percent white and more than 50 percent black — were different. They were all African-American, many were poor, and some had criminal histories including drug abuse and prostitution."

Newsweek, N.Y. Times Journalists Tell of Captivity

"For day after day, month after month, following his imprisonment in Iran on June 21, documentary filmmaker and NEWSWEEK correspondent Maziar Bahari did not see the face of his interrogator. Bahari, 42, was blindfolded or faced a wall as the accusations and questions — often it was hard to tell the difference — kept coming at him. And always the interrogator told him the same thing: 'No one on the outside cares about you. Everyone has forgotten you.' Nothing could have been further from the truth," Christopher Dickey wrote Thursday for Newsweek.

Meanwhile, Amanda Ernst noted Thursday on FishbowlNY, "The final piece of New York Times journalist David Rohde's Taliban kidnapping narrative was published today. It was the last piece we were waiting for — a description of his daring escape with Afghan journalist Tahir Luddin.

"Rohde's story would make an excellent adventure novel, but the reality of his captivity makes it too scary. In the last chapter of this five-part series, he recounts how he and Luddin used a rope to climb over the 15-foot wall surrounding a compound where they were being held in Pakistan, in the dead of night . . . "

Short Takes

  • Barbara Johnson with her teenage children, Brooks (Missy) and Edwyn. (Credit: Roy S. Johnson)Barbara Johnson, a corporate headhunter who was a producer throughout the 1990s at WABC-TV and from 2002 to 2004, news director at WNBC-TV, both in New York, suffered a stroke at her home, friends of Johnson and her husband, sports journalist Roy S. Johnson, told the National Association of Black Journalists. "She has no movement on the right side of her body and cannot speak. She continues to go through a variety of tests as doctors assess her condition and a treatment," Roland S. Martin said. He asked for prayers. [On Saturday morning, Johnson wrote on his Twitter account, "Barbara is off the respirator, and breathing well on her own! One step at a time." He also created a CaringBridge Web site about his wife, for which visitors must sign in.]
  • Gwen Ifill of PBS and columnists Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and Bob Herbert of the New York Times were among journalists at an off-the-record lunch with President Obama at the White House on Monday, according to a participant. Fox News' Gretchen Carlson and Bret Baier mentioned on the air that MSNBC's Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow were there, according to FishBowl DC, which added that "we now hear" that others included E.J. Dionne, Ron Brownstein, John Dickerson, Frank Rich, Jerry Seib, Maureen Dowd and Gloria Borger.
  • Citing the success of the Essence Music Festival, Advertising Age named Essence magazine the No. 6 publication on its A-List on Monday. "'It has the pulse of the community,' said Neil Golden, chief marketing officer of McDonald's, a major sponsor of the Essence Music Festival this year, alongside CoverGirl, Ford, Pantene, U.S. Army and Walmart. 'It's a proven, successful way to engage African-American consumers where they are most receptive,'" Larry Dobrow wrote.
  • "A black Ohio woman who recanted allegations of being tortured by a group of white people in West Virginia has mental issues and has more than once changed her version of what happened, her current caretaker said Thursday," Tom Breen and Matt Leingang reported for the Associated Press. The Rev. Al Sharpton "wants cops to investigate whether Megan Williams 'fabricated her story' and the convicted men sprung 'if they are being held under false information and she misled authorities,' the New York Daily News reported. On the blog "What About Our Daughters?" Gina McCauley said, "a review of the archives of this blog will reveal that Megan‚Äôs handlers have been planning this for months and they provided insights into their possible motivations."
  • "The FCC voted unanimously yesterday to move forward with the debate in an effort to formalize net neutrality guidelines. Senator John McCain followed up by introducing a bill that would prohibit the FCC from governing communications," Tony Bradley reported Friday for PC World.
  • "When Latina, a women‚Äôs service title geared toward young, bilingual women, scrapped Latina's November issue its typical cover model concept and debuted two poster-quality, Viva Mexico covers, it didn‚Äôt go unnoticed by us ‚Äî or new advertisers," Vanessa Voltolina wrote Thursday for Folio. "The two custom Mexico issue covers ‚Äî and the special issue editorial, of course ‚Äî were able to secure a 6 percent increase in additional issue revenue based on new advertisers Sephora, TBS (Lopez Tonight), Dos Equis and Goya, said a magazine spokesperson."
  • Russ Mitchell, news anchor on CBS-TV's "Early Show," will perform a stand-up comedy routine at Carolines on Broadway, in Manhattan, on Monday at 7 p.m., CBS announced. Viewers can see some of Mitchell's routine on "The Early Show" on Tuesday, the network said. The general public can obtain tickets at
  • Yul Kwon is second from left (Credit: CBS)"Finally, someone qualified to navigate the backstabbing intrigue of Washington: Yul Kwon, winner of 'Survivor: Cook Islands' in 2006, was appointed Wednesday as deputy chief of the FCC's Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau," Roxanne Roberts and Amy Argetsinger wrote for the Washington Post's "Reliable Source" column.
  • CBS News correspondents Byron Pitts, Harold Dow, Randall Pinkston, Bill [Whitaker] and anchor Russ Mitchell shared stories about how they overcame issues of race, and what being a journalist involves, Elizabeth M. Mack reported Thursday for the Tallahassee Democrat. At a talk at Florida A&M University, "Pinkston was moved to tears after seeing a segment done by Dow that depicted the connection of President Barrack Obama's rise to the presidency with the civil-rights movement in Mississippi led by Medgar Evers."
  • In connection with the Chris Rock film "Good Hair," Arienne Thompson, assistant editor in the Life section of USA Today, described her mother's reaction "when I was a sophomore in college" and "I decided to grow out my relaxer and see what my natural hair was all about." It accompanied a story by Maria Puente about the film. Meanwhile, Dawn Turner Trice wrote Monday in her Chicago Tribune column about 27-year-old Aaron Swanton, who is white and says his long dreadlocks don't define him.
  • Cedric Moon, treasurer for the Los Angeles chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association, has moved to the East Coast to work as a Washington correspondent for Russia Now/Russia Today, according to the Asian American Journalists Association.
  • Essie Chambers, senior vice president of programming for BET. has been appointed senior vice president of original programming for Centric, a 24-hour entertainment channel that succeeded BET-J.
  • "Broadcasting While Black: A History and Overview of Black-Identity Public Affairs TV," features in text and videos the story of such black public affairs programs as "Soul!" and "Say Brother." The site is dated February 2009.
  • "The majority of black journalists in the 70s unequivocally identified their journalism with the liberation struggle." Simphiwe Sesanti writes in South Africa's Cape Times newspaper. "Black journalists declared themselves 'black' first and 'journalist' second. They questioned reference to 'objectivity' by journalists who called freedom fighters 'terrorists'. Cape Times republished the piece, which examines the place of black journalists since that time, to commemorate the day ‚Äî Oct. 19, 1977 ‚Äî when the National Party banned black consciousness organizations and black-oriented newspapers.

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.

Send tips, comments and concerns to Richard Prince.

To be notified of new columns, contact and tell us who you are.

About Richard Prince

View previous columns.



Mike McQueen

Mike McQueen--one of the best. I was priviliged to know him.

Mike McQueen

This is the type of news many of us would rather not receive. Mike was not only pro's pro as a journalist, but one of the most genuinie human beings I have ever met.

Mike McQueen

What sad news. I always enjoyed meeting up with Mike at NABJ and other journalism-related events. I'm reminded as our ranks continue to thin, whether the reason is death, illness, layoffs or career shifts, that we must cherish one another more than we often do and enjoy whatever opportunities we are given to talk shop, reminisce, break bread and just laugh about all the dumb shit. Rest in peace Mike. My prayers to the family.

Mike McQueen

Mike was among my editors at The Miami Herald; the journalism department chair at Florida International University when I began there as an adjunct; a mentor and a friend. Most important, he helped shape my view of newsroom diversity, a topic that in part because of him became a passion. He leaves hundreds, if not thousands, of legacies in the young journalists (and not a few old ones) whom he guided.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.