Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Newsday Drops Les Payne

Send by email
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Year to Find More Journalists of Color Out of Jobs

Les Payne (Credit:
Julia Cheng)Newsday, which had lauded Les Payne as one "whose groundbreaking work as a reporter, editor and leader influenced the breadth, scope and reach of Newsday journalism as much as any figure in our paper's 65-year history" when he retired as associate editor in 2006, quietly dropped Payne's column this week, one he had been writing for the Long Island, N.Y., newspaper since 1980.

Payne, fourth president of the National Association of Black Journalists, had for much of his Newsday tenure been the paper's top-ranking black journalist, and as a columnist, had been nominated by the paper for a Pulitzer Prize. He won one in 1974 as a reporter as a key member of "The Heroin Trail" team.

The paper's only public notice that Payne's column was ending was a tag line at the end of Monday's offering. It said, "This is Les Payne's last weekly column; he will continue writing at ',' as he completes his biography of Malcolm X."

"Our industry is in a state of significant change and we made a decision not to carry a number of columns in the new year. Les' leadership, voice and Pulitzer Prize winning journalism afford him an indelible place in Newsday's living history." Newsday spokeswoman Deidra Parrish Williams told Journal-isms on Wednesday.

Payne wrote this to Journal-isms:

"Newsday has indeed taken this severance step to improve its op-ed page as it continues to cut down on space and staff. As a contract player, I trust my departure forestalled an even deeper staff cut at the paper.

"Since starting the weekly, syndicated column in 1980, I sustained it over the years while running Newsday's national, foreign, health & science operations, and reviving its city paper as New York editor. After stepping away from my heavy Newsday editing duties two years ago, I've found more time to reflect and write the Payne column fitted for these changing times. It has been fun. I hit the streets and byways this year, sizing up the final days of Cuba under the Castro Brothers (thanks to DeWayne Wickham); and covering the domestic season of economic chicanery and the endless political campaign that finally ended.

"Along the way, we at NABJ roped in then-Sen. Barack Obama in Chicago this summer, and I managed to take the political pulse from as far west as Seattle and south to North Carolina, New Orleans and Atlanta.

"It has been a historic political year and I feel privileged to have chronicled my view of it for Newsday. My column generated a high volume of e-mail traffic - one recent two-month stretch, for example, averaged some 350 separate responses a week. I refrain from confirming H.L. Mencken's observation that, "most people who write letters to newspapers are fools; intelligent people write in sometimes, but not often."

"I received a steady stream of quite intelligent letters from readers, some quite instructive. The computer has raised the level of discourse from the earlier days of crayon on postcards. Interactivity allows readers to attack the writer's character, as well as grade his test papers."

Meanwhile, Katti Gray, who began writing a features column in 1999 and continued as a freelancer since taking a 2005 buyout, also saw her column cancelled. "This past Monday was the last of the columns, which began as a weekly installment but earlier this year became bi-weekly," she told Journal-isms. "That leaves Joye Brown as the only black columnist in the print edition of the paper, I believe. I've been asked to consider doing other freelance work for Newsday, and welcome the prospect of that."

Carrie Mason-Draffen writes "Help Wanted," an advice column for employees.

. . . Sports Columnist Shaun Powell Opts for Buyout

Shaun PowellNewsday sports columnist Shaun Powell, faced with a choice of taking a buyout or another position at the paper, decided to take a buyout and left the paper on Sunday, Powell told Journal-isms.

"I really didn't even give a thought to staying, regardless if they were going to keep me as columnist (which was the plan, as I understand, just at a lower salary)," Powell told Journal-isms.

"The newspaper is in turmoil, and they don't want to pay six figures anymore to its best people, so it was the right time for someone like me to leave. They only took action against me because of my salary, not because of my performance; please let your audience know that. I was voted the best columnist (not sports columnist; columnist period) at the paper for five years running by the editors and constantly won awards and had a loyal readership.

"But I didn't want to stay and then get a tap on the shoulder a few months from now . . . and not have the buyout." Powell is 47 but says he "doesn't look a day over 30."

Newsday, formerly owned by Times Mirror Co. and then the Tribune Co., reached agreement in May to be acquired by Cablevision Systems Corp. "in a $650-million deal that would create a regional news and advertising giant with a powerful grip on Long Island," the paper reported at the time.

In early December, Newsday announced plans to cut 100 jobs - or 5 percent of its work force - and raise newsstand prices.

"I put in my 15 years in the NYC market," Powell said. "Time was ripe for change. Also, I'm not from NYC, neither is my wife. If I had family here or roots here, I would've stayed at Newsday, no question.

"But as I look outside and see a fresh layer of snow, I can see a warmer locale in my future, where family is nearby, and know I made the right decision.

"Until I land the next gig, I'll continue making my regular appearances on 'Rome Is Burning,'" the ESPN talk show, "continue working on a novel and try to freelance as much as possible.

"Oh, and I'll be at all of my daughter's basketball games and track meets!

"Tell all the industry big shots that if they need a hard working, award-winning writer who takes the job seriously but not himself, to give a brotha a ring!"

. . . "One Man Band" Alphonso Van Marsh Leaves CNN

Alphonso Van MarshAlphonso Van Marsh, a pioneer in the "one-man-band" approach to newsgathering best known for snaring the first photos of the 2003 capture of hunted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, has left CNN, where he was based in the London bureau, he told Journal-isms on Wednesday. He said he is now in Egypt, where he was once a freelance producer.

Van Marsh, a 2001 graduate of the Maynard Institute's Cross Media Journalism Program at the University of Southern California, was embedded with U.S. troops in Tikrit, Iraq, when he deduced that "something very big has indeed happened" and sent back the first videophone images from the scene of Hussein's capture. He served as his own cameraman.

He has also been a video correspondent for CNN in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Istanbul, Turkey, and was interim bureau chief at CNN in Nairobi, Kenya, according to his profile on the LinkedIn social network.

"I submitted my notice to CNN in December that my last day would be 17 December," Van Marsh told Journal-isms by e-mail. "I've already relocated to Egypt and am very excited about my next adventure." He did not elaborate on the adventure.

In a farewell note to colleagues, he wrote, "As a CNN Washington intern in 1993, I had a conversation with CNN's then [principal] anchor, Mr. Bernie Shaw. Sharing his career experiences, he mentioned he became a network correspondent in his early 30s. Inspired, I decided that very day to set the same goal.

"The path was not easy. But largely thanks [to] an Iraqi dictator found in a hole in the ground, I achieved it.

"Now it is time I realize some other goals: I am leaving CNN.

"In my 15 years associated with the Company I've grown a lot, seen a lot and learned a whole lot more. I'd crash the server if I named and thanked all the past and present CNN management who let me pursue the opportunities I've earned here. I'm just as appreciative to so many of you who pulled me aside in the halls, in the field, in the war zone, or otherwise got in touch to remind me I could clear - or kick through - any hurdle. For all of this, I am grateful."

. . . Chlo?© A. Hilliard Laid Off at Village Voice

Chole A. HilliardChlo?© A. Hilliard, who came to the Village Voice on a minority fellowship and was hired as a staff writer after her fellowship ended, was one of three Voice employees laid off on Tuesday. The others were Nat Hentoff, the prominent columnist who has worked for the paper since 1958 and Lynn Yaeger, a fashion writer who has worked for the paper for about 30 years, Stephanie Clifford reported Tuesday in the New York Times.

"I've become accustomed to there being bad news throughout my two years there," Hilliard told Journal-isms. "I saw a lot of changes." The staff shrunk, she said, but she learned a lot and "I can start my year off expecting great change."

Hilliard, who has written for such publications as the Source, King, Vibe and Vibe Vixen, said the Voice represented the origins of hip-hop journalism and that she felt she was continuing a tradition established by such writers as Thulani Davis, Adama Ince, J. Michael Cooper and Greg Tate.

Among her contributions were "Girls to Men," subtitled, "Young lesbians in Brooklyn find that a thug's life gets them more women"; a piece about African American home schooling, and one on Remy Ma, a rapper who was convicted of assaulting a girlfriend she accused of stealing money.

Voice staff writer Tim Robbins estimated that the Voice has laid off half its staff since it was sold in 2005 to New Times Media, Clifford reported.

AsianWeek to Lay Off Staff, End Print Publication

Current AsianWeekAsianWeek, the San Francisco-based weekly tabloid that says it is the largest Pan-Asian newspaper in the nation, is ceasing publication of its 58,000-circulation print edition on Friday and laying off its staff of about 10 people, Ted Fang, editor and publisher, told Journal-isms.

It will remain online, Fang said, and in January will reassess how big it will be online and what the online content will be. It will also continue community initiatives, such as its current campaign against Hepatitis B, and in May, the Asian Street Celebration, sponsored by the Asian Week Foundation. Fang said that draws 920,000 people, the largest gathering of Asian Americans in the nation.

AsianWeek, launched in 1979, is owned by the Fang family, one of San Francisco's most well-known. The family bought the old San Francisco Examiner in 2000, converting it to a tabloid before it went out of business in 2004.

AsianWeek gained national notoriety in 2007 when it published an op-ed piece, "Why I Hate Blacks" by Kenneth Eng, for which it apologized.

In its note to readers, to be published in Friday's editions, Fang and his brother, president James Fang, say:

"The economy and the news business have experienced their own changes. There are fewer major newspapers, fewer newspaper readers and fewer newspaper advertisers than ever before. A faltering economy has accelerated the decline. Meanwhile, Asian Pacific Americans have led the way in the digital revolution migrating away from print media and into receiving their news and information electronically.

"To reflect these changing times, AsianWeek will cease regular newspaper publication immediately. We will continue to publish on-line and in special newspaper editions. Electronic versions of AsianWeek articles will be available free via email. We will also be more active than ever in the community, helping Asian Pacific America to grow, evolve and reach its full potential. We appreciate the support the community has given us over the last three decades and look forward to giving back to the community for many decades to come."

. . . Hoy New York Also Going Web-Only

"Here's another newspaper that's giving up on newsprint and going all-digital: Hoy New York, a free Spanish-language daily, published its last print edition today," Peter Kafka wrote Tuesday on his Media Memo.

"The move will cost 16 employees their jobs, says John Paton, CEO of Impremedia, the publisher that owns Hoy and several other Spanish-language titles, including El Diario La Prensa in New York and La Opini??n in Los Angeles.

"Hoy joins a handful of other pubs that are cutting back on print or ditching it altogether - most recently, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News announced they would limit home delivery of the print edition to three days a week - but I wouldn't go overboard reading too much into this one. That's because the free distribution strategy that Hoy employed has been an experiment from the get-go.

"That said, New York still boasts two free print dailies: Metro, published by Sweden-based Metro International SA, and AM New York, published by the troubled Tribune Co. (TXA) . . . Both target the elusive and wily young, affluent, nonnewspaper-reading demo."

ImpreMedia purchased Hoy New York from Tribune Co. in 2007.

The 31,000-circulation paper was published Monday through Friday. The editor, Javier Casta?±o, said falling advertising revenue and the poor economy contributed to the demise of Hoy, which had been in circulation for a decade, the Associated Press said.

Internet Surpasses Newspapers as Source of News

"The internet, which emerged this year as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as a main source for national and international news," according to the Pew Research Center for People and the Press.

"Currently, 40% say they get most of their news about national and international issues from the internet, up from just 24% in September 2007. For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the internet for news than cite newspapers (35%). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70%.

"For young people, however, the internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59%) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68% vs. 34%)."

BET, TV One Plan Extensive Inauguration Coverage

"BET and TV One, the television networks aimed primarily at a black audience, haven't paid much attention to presidential inaugurations before. This time will be different," David Bauder reported Friday for the Associated Press.

"This time, BET will cover the swearing-in and parade from four locations, including ground and rooftop sites on Pennsylvania Avenue. Anchoring the coverage will be Hill Harper of CBS' 'CSI: NY,' former CBS 'The Early Show' host Rene Syler and Jeff Johnson, who hosts a weekly BET news program.

"The networks will take a particular interest in speaking to people who have traveled to Washington to witness the event. On election night, their ratings peaked shortly after the general news networks declared [Barack] Obama the winner — when black viewers turned to the stations to soak it in with the people on the air.

"'They talked about the emotion of it,' said Johnathan Rodgers, TV One's president. 'Everyone talked about their own relatives and how they grew up. Almost everyone could not believe that it happened in our lifetime.'

"TV One plans to follow the inauguration for 21 straight hours, from 6 a.m. EST on Jan. 20 to 3 a.m. EST the next day. Radio talk-show host Joe Madison and Art Fennell of CN8, the Comcast Network, will be the hosts. It's already a big week for TV One: Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday the weekend before marks the fifth anniversary of the network's launch."

Mark Griffith Service Planned for Jan. 10

A memorial service for Mark R. Griffith, the producer at CBS News who was active in the National Association of Black Journalists, is scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 10, the New York Association of Black Journalists announced on Wednesday.

It will be held at 1 p.m. at St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University, 116th Street and Broadway, New York, president Gary Anthony Ramsay said.

He said there would be an informal gathering about 7 p.m. at a place to be determined.

"Please mail your letters ASAP with your thoughts to Mark's family, on personal or work letterhead, in a flat unfolded envelope to:

"The family of Mark R. Griffith

"c/o NYABJ

"2214 Frederick Douglass Blvd #234

"Harlem, NY 10026

"We will place all those letters in a protective sheets and put them in a binder to be given to his family on that day."

Griffith, 48, died on Dec. 18 of heart disease.


Happy New Year! 

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.



BlackOut in Media Operations...Where is the light????

The carnage in the media industry for Black journalists has been staggering . I have for years been exposed to the lack of impact of Black reporters, editors, pundits in the media industry. Our nation has been harmed by the lack of diversity in the media industry.The impact and power of the media has persuasive implications especially for non-whites and the have-nots. I was never impressed with the body of work by Black professionals in this industry not as a result of their skills, talents or professional competence but because they worked for employers who often had contempt for Black issues and concerns. I still have reservations about the decision makers in the media industry whenever they define diversity . I am now in a state of fear given the historical intersection of our nation with its first Black president and a global economic meltdown. The world needs more Black media influences and coverage not less. I have zero faith in the depth and objectivity of the status quo in this area ... The power of the written word is lethal when all cannot write them...

Yes I fear the loss of black

Yes I fear the loss of black voices in the larger media but this might be an opportunity for the black community to launch a new era of the black press in the tradition of the Chicago Defender, etc. But this time it would be online and on television via BET and TV One.

Welcome to the new era.

Welcome to the new era. Welcome to the Blacks' era. I think this year, more blacks will continue to conquer key positions in different industries. The media industry has yet to produce an influential black media personailty. If Jordan and Obama did it, then there's no reason anybody can't do it.

Yes I fear the loss of black

Yes I fear the loss of black voices in the larger media but this might be an opportunity for the black community to launch a new era of the black press in the tradition of the Chicago Defender, etc. But this time it would be online and on television via BET and TV One.

Overall, full-time

Overall, full-time journalists of color working for traditional news media have increased slightly during the past decade. Still, the percentage of full-time journalists of color working for traditional news media remains well below the overall percentage of people of color in the U.S. population (30.9 percent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census). A more relevant comparison may be with the percentage of college degree holders who are people of color (24 percent, according to the 2000 U.S. Census), considering that a four-year bachelor's degree is now the minimum educational requirement for U.S. journalists. Asians are the most likely to hold college degrees (43.9 percent), followed by blacks (16.5 percent) and Hispanics (10.6 percent). No census figures are reported for Native Americans or Pacific Islanders separately.

Post new comment

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