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Plain Dealer Loses One-Third of Its Newsroom

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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Departure List Said to Include 8 Staffers of Color

Vanessa K. Bush Moves Up to Essence Editor-in-Chief

Why Don't More People of Color Own Television Stations?

Oprah's OWN Turns Corner Toward Profitability

Rachel Swarns to Write Metro Column in N.Y. Times

Home of Nation's First Spanish TV Station to Be Demolished

Pain Said to Underlie Indian Silence on Trayvon

Why Are Ethnic Media Invisible to Journalism Heavyweights?

Lowe Gains Additional Journalism Post at Marquette

Writer Presents His Book on "The Butler" to a Packed House

Plain Dealer   Editor Debra Adams Simmons addresses the newsroom on Thursday. Terr

Departure List Said to Include 8 Staffers of Color

More than one-third of the editorial staffers at the venerable Plain Dealer of Cleveland lost their jobs on Wednesday, Anna Clark reported in Columbia Journalism Review. One published listing of the casualties showed eight to be of color — including veteran columnist Margaret Bernstein.

Margaret Bernstein

According to "the partial list of the first 42 layoffs at the Plain Dealer sent by a source," published on the Grumpy Abe website, the affected newsroom staffers of color include Bernstein; Sandi Boyd, clerk; Stan Donaldson, reporter; Felesia Jackson, graphic artist; Adrian Johnson, layout editor; Deborah Miller, copy editor; Racquel Robinson, letters editor; and Tonya Sams, reporter.

"Of the dozens departing, most were volunteers (albeit under duress), with only a handful forcibly laid off. Medical reporter Harlan Spector, president of the Newspaper Guild chapter representing many Plain Dealer employees, was among the voluntary layoffs," Clark wrote.

Bernstein had been a Plain Dealer columnist for 24 years, according to her LinkedIn profile. The Ohio Society of Professional Journalists Awards named her and Donaldson first-place winners in 2012 and 2011 for Best Minority Issues Reporting for their articles on 11 women victims of a serial killer and their children.

Bernstein confirmed to Journal-isms that she left voluntarily. "Why did I volunteer? I've been here nearly 24 years, I'm ready for a change," she said by email. "I have a book that I've been working on for 11 years about an inspiring local hero, Yvonne Pointer. This is my chance to complete it. I've got some opportunities on the horizon to do some contract work related to topics that I'm deeply passionate about: mentoring, literacy, engaging parents. So I've made my peace with leaving journalism."

Clark's story continued, "The cuts, part of owner Advance Publications' shift to a 'digital-first' strategy, gutted the newspaper of about 50 experienced journalists. The paper will also implement previously-announced plans to cut home delivery to three days a week starting August 5, while amping up its affiliated website,

"By Wednesday afternoon, that site prominently featured a story answering reader questions about delivery changes on the front page… but no story on the layoffs. No comprehensive list was made available to the public, or even among staffers, who were left to buzz among themselves by phone and social media to hear who got the 'good' call. When I tried to look up the archival work of some of the reporters laid off, I found that it was no longer possible to search by their names: I repeatedly got a page that reads 'Unable to locate author.'

"The layoffs had been pending for months, so that by the time Plain Dealer journalists were asked to stay home Wednesday morning to await the call that would let them know whether they still had a job, one of the dominating moods was relief — at least now, they know. As one reporter told me, the waiting has been 'slow torture.' "

Bernstein also won the Community Service Award in 2008 from the National Association of Black Journalists, which coincidentally opened its annual convention Wednesday in Kissimmee, Fla. Executive Director Maurice Foster said 1,937 people were registered as of Tuesday, a figure that includes exhibitors. NABJ attracted 2,586 registrants last year in New Orleans. The association had 2,986 members as of June, Foster said.

Vanessa K. Bush Moves Up to Essence Editor-in-Chief

Vanessa K. Bush

Vanessa K. Bush, named acting managing editor of Essence magazine after the February dismissal of Constance C.R. White as top editor, won the top job on Wednesday.

"As Editor-in-Chief, Bush will serve as the brand's editorial leader and oversee the magazine's content and vision," an announcement said. "Most recently, Bush has served as Acting Editor-in-Chief since February of 2013, responsible for leading the editorial team.

"Bush recently introduced ESSENCE's #HeIsNotASuspect social media campaign aimed at reducing racial profiling of young African-American men. She has spearheaded numerous editorial franchises including 'Guns Down', ESSENCE's multi-part series addressing gun violence in our communities and 'Where Smart Starts', a year-long initiative around education. During her tenure, ESSENCE launched a new Twitter program, #ESSENCEDebates, and introduced the innovative Beauty Matchmaker tool. In addition, under her leadership, the 2013 ESSENCE Festival's ESSENCE Empowerment Experience daytime programming enjoyed record-breaking attendance; bringing ESSENCE content to life around the pillars of family, health, relationships, beauty, careers, personal empowerment, activism, and more.

"She first joined ESSENCE more than a decade ago as Beauty and Fashion Features Editor, where she directed all style and beauty sections. In 2003, Bush was named Lifestyle Editor, responsible for coverage including food, home, parenting and lifestyle. Additionally, Bush was a member of the editorial features team, writing and editing numerous impactful stories — such as Thin Line Between Love and Hate on teen dating violence and Fat Chances chronicling childhood obesity. In 2005, she was named Executive Editor, managing the editorial team to implement the brand's creative vision, as well as overseeing staffing, systems, operations and the magazine’s operating budget. . . ."

White told Journal-isms in March that her departure was the result of repeated clashes with Martha Nelson, the editor-in-chief of Time Inc. who White says sought to limit the way black women were portrayed.

Nelson named Bush editor-in-chief, according to the Essence announcement.

Alexis Garrett Stodghill, who interviewed Bush for the Grio, wrote Wednesday, "In her new role, Bush intends to address the fact that many black women, while more optimistic about their lives than ever according to various reports, are still dissatisfied with their representation in media.

" 'It just isn't doing a very good job of portraying our true selves, the complete picture of who we are,' she told theGrio. 'I still see Essence as that place that helps illuminate, inspire, educate, empower, and elevate black women. There's still a clear need for that. Our new direction is all about the promise and the joy of our lives, and celebrating that, continuing with our tradition of bringing awareness to the issues in our community as well as our tradition of journalistic excellence. We want to be a part of those critical conversations that are happening right now.' "

Separately, Melissa Kramer is joining Essence as its fashion director, Chris O'Shea reported for FishbowlNY. "Kramer most recently served as creative director for Uptown, where she worked on fashion spreads for celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Iman and Lenny Kravitz."

Bush is scheduled to appear on a panel at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Kissimmee, Fla., on Saturday. The panel is "As the Page Turns, Swipes & Zooms: The Future of Magazines," which takes place from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. in room Sarasota 1-2 at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center.

Panelists discuss the "wealth gap" at the Minority Media and Telecommunications

Why Don't More People of Color Own Television Stations?

Commentator and entrepreneur Armstrong Williams, who said Monday that he plans to buy WMMP-TV in Charleston, S.C., from Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., said Tuesday that other television companies should be asked why they are similarly not helping other entrepreneurs of color to purchase stations.

Providing the entrepreneurs with cable networks is one thing, as Comcast has in fulfilling a commitment made in 2011, when it purchased NBC, but physical television stations are tangible assets, Williams said.

African American television station ownership dropped from 12 stations in 2009 to 10 in 2011, or less than 1 percent of the nation's 1,348 full-power television stations, the Federal Communications Commission said in November.

Sinclair agreed in February to sell Williams' firm two other stations, although he is not a part of Sinclair. Williams said Sinclair has guaranteed his $50 million loan, "and thank God for that. It shows you the progress that we've made." The lesson, he said, is "you've got to develop meaningful relationships," as he has over 13 years with Sinclair.

"You will see us celebrate diversity in our business in talent and in management," Williams pledged.

David Honig, who leads the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, pointed to the FCC when asked why more people of color don't own television stations.

"Television stations use publicly owned spectrum, which is in limited supply," Honig said in an email. "Consequently the FCC must act as a gatekeeper to decide who gets to hold broadcast licenses and get them renewed. Since 1973, advancing minority ownership has been a significant factor in broadcast licensing.

"Between 1978 and 1995, the FCC had reasonably strong minority ownership policies. However, those policies are gone now, and the FCC hasn't replaced them with new initiatives. For the past several years, the FCC has ignored over 70 proposals, offered by over 50 national organizations, to restore minority media and telecom ownership opportunity.

"Formerly there was a pipeline minorities could use to gravitate from management to ownership. The pipeline was fueled by the FCC strictly enforcing its equal employment opportunity rules in an industry with a long and continuing history of racial and gender privilege. Unfortunately, FCC EEO enforcement all but ended in 2001 and has not returned. Civil rights organizations' proposals to reform EEO enforcement have been pending at the FCC for twelve years without action.

"In the 1990s, the FCC's media ownership rules were relaxed, allowing combinations of two television stations in the same market. More recently, through 'shared services agreements' and other ruses, one company can essentially control three TV stations in the same market. Although there are exceptions, most of these arrangements have been anticompetitive and have diminished diversity. A new entrant doesn't stand a chance securing financing to compete against such a combination.

"Dozens of highly skilled minority and women broadcasters and entrepreneurs are capable of owning and operating television stations. But without access to capital, access to spectrum and access to opportunity, they are walled out of the world’s most influential industry.

"The FCC has failed miserably to cure this. Minority exclusion in an industry whose backbone is public property is unconscionable and fixing that should be the FCC’s top priority."

Oprah's OWN Turns Corner Toward Profitability

"After several grueling years, Oprah Winfrey's cable channel OWN has turned the corner toward profitability, her business partners at Discovery Communications said on Tuesday, six months ahead of its previously stated goal," Brian Stelter reported for the New York Times.

"In the second quarter, OWN was cash-flow positive for the first time, said David M. Zaslav, Discovery’s chief executive. He credited investments in programming, including two new shows from Tyler Perry, and increases in subscriber fees from cable and satellite providers.

"OWN, which is a joint venture between Ms. Winfrey and Discovery, is now 'starting to pay down the investment Discovery has made in the venture,' Mr. Zaslav said in his company’s annual earnings conference call. . . ."

Rachel Swarns to Write Metro Column in N.Y. Times

Rachel L. Swans

Rachel L. Swarns, a correspondent for the New York Times since 1995 and author of "American Tapestry: The Story of the Black, White, and Multiracial Ancestors of Michelle Obama," has been chosen to write a New York-based weekly column for Times, Metro Editor Wendell Jamieson announced to the staff Wednesday. Swarns would be the Times' only African American Metro columnist.

Swarns, "a writer of great sensitivity and power, will be joining Metro to write a weekly column exploring work and the myriad ways it touches us," Jamieson wrote. "But just as Mike Wilson's Crime Scene column is not so much about crime as it is about people, so too will Rachel’s canvas be broad: it will be about life, seen through the prism of the work we do, or want to do, or need to do, or wish we were doing."

Swarns, a native New Yorker, "joined The Times from The Miami Herald in 1995, first covering the Bronx. She became Johannesburg bureau chief in 1999. She has been in Washington since 2003, reporting on immigration, the presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008 and Michelle Obama's first year in the White House. She has also explored the rich terrain of family life, writing about adoption, marriage and parenting," Jamieson continued.

Swarns' husband, Henri Cauvin, is joining the Times as an assistant Metro editor in September. Cauvin left the Washington Post on July 24 as development and transportation editor.

Home of Nation's First Spanish TV Station to Be Demolished

The original home of San Antonio's KWEX-TV, the first full-time Spanish-language television station and first UHF channel in the United States, is to be torn down to make way for an apartment complex, Elaine Ayala reported Monday for the San Antonio Express-News.

"The San Antonio Conservation Society and the Texas Historical Commission have opposed the plan; they want to see the 1950s-era building restored and incorporated into the new development," Ayala wrote.

"The city's Office of Historic Preservation has supported the apartment project, with the condition that the site's history be recognized. Developers must return to the Historic and Design Review Commission to seek final approval."

The station, now KWEX Univision San Antonio, broadcast its inaugural newscast from new headquarters Monday.

"The inaugural newscast turned into a reunion for some of the station's pioneers, including Emilio Nicolas, who owned and operated KWEX; Martha Tijerina, the station's first anchor and talk-show host; Maria Elena Torralva Alonso, who hosted a live educational program at the station in the 1970s before becoming the first Mexican-American woman to work at a San Antonio English-language station; and longtime weatherman Andrés Ricardo Morin," Ayala reported.

Pain Said to Underlie Indian Silence on Trayvon

Gyasi Ross

"Like Trayvon [Martin] and countless other young black men, our young Native men are literally dying, likewise falling victim to the presumption that brown men are always criminals, always doing something wrong. White supremacy," Gyasi Ross, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe and an activist, attorney and author, wrote Tuesday for the Indian Country Today Media Network.

"A few names come to mind — John T. Williams, Jack Keewatinawin, Daniel Tiger, Christopher Capps, Clinton Croff, AJ Longsoldier, the list goes on and on — their major crime was being Native. That's why they are dead. Like Trayvon — he's dead because he was black."

Ross was responding to the same question posed by this columnist at last month's National Native Media Conference. Why the relative silence among Native Americans about the fatal shooting of the unarmed black Florida teenager by a night watchman who was acquitted of all charges?

"To our non-Native allies: there are a couple of legitimate reasons why there has been no critical mass of responses from the Native community— the 'why should we' reason," Ross wrote.

"1) First, Native people have very little reason to have any amount of faith in the judicial system. From constantly seeing non-Natives acquitted for killing Native people (see the above names and multiply that by 1000), to the very foundational law of this Nation (read Johnson v. M'Intosh or Cherokee Nation v. Georgia or In the Courts of The [Conquerors] by Walter Echohawk to begin to understand the profound lack of faith that Native people have and should have in US courts), we are used to getting screwed by the courts of the conquerors.

"So why be outraged? In fact, it would be stranger for a Native person to expect a GOOD outcome from these courts. Unlike Black folks, Native people do not have a Brown v. Board of Education to hang our hopes on. These courts have been bad to us since day 1.

"2) The other 'why should we' is that there was no larger response from the Black community, the Hispanic community, the progressive community when that long litany of names, above, were killed by law enforcement for being Indian. So there is a sense of 'Why should we contribute to this larger group of concerned citizens of color that doesn't care about us?' Non-Native allies, you should help champion this message — it will help create this larger sense of community.

"Not saying that this mindset is 'right,' but it's certainly understandable.

"3) I suppose a third 'why should we' reason is that, for the most part, Native people simply do not have the capacity to deal with someone else's heartache. We have our own. Lots of it. If an entire block of houses[is] burning, everybody should absolutely help one another escape the fiery inferno. At the same time one could be excused for trying to make sure that his own family escaped the flames first.

"All of our blocks are burning. It's not that we don't care — it's that Native people, like others, have to save ourselves first.

"But we are not isolated. It does not benefit us to simply put our collective heads in the sand and pretend that the Trayvon Tragedy or any of these larger pop culture movements do not affect us. They do. The Native media has to connect the dots and start working with other communities of color to stop our people from getting killed. That means stop pretending that these are isolated incidents and not things that we have to worry about."

Why Are Ethnic Media Invisible to Journalism Heavyweights?

"Karl Rove gets it. So do major advertisers, broadcast networks, and their digital offspring," Sarah Bartlett wrote for the Nieman Journalism Lab. "To be a viable political or commercial force in America's future, you must be able to understand and connect with an audience that is heavily made up of African Americans, Hispanics, and Asian Americans.

"No surprise there, right?

"Then why is there a paucity of research, education and funding aimed at producing excellent journalists and sustainable news outlets to serve that important and expanding audience? Why is ethnic media still relatively invisible to media analysts, foundations and journalism schools, and what are the costs to us if this trend continues?

"New York City is, admittedly, an extreme example of media diversity: Three million residents — 37 percent of the population — are foreign-born, and less than a quarter of those residents report speaking only English at home. Not surprisingly, there's a vibrant ecosystem of ethnic media to serve a population that speaks more than 170 languages. But a version of New York's mishmash exists in suburbs and small towns across America. Multicultural media are everywhere.

"So it's puzzling that we still hear (including from my esteemed colleague Jeff Jarvis) about the declining fortunes of New York's 'three daily newspapers' when there are 18 dailies serving the city, nine of which are published in languages other than English. . . . "

Bartlett is director of the Urban Reporting Program at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and a board member of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media.

In Washington, the Newseum is planning an exhibit on ethnic media next year.

Lowe Gains Additional Journalism Post at Marquette

"Journalism professional in residence Herbert Lowe will take on the added role of director of journalism for social change at the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University, Dr. Lori Bergen, dean of the college, announced today," a university news release reported Tuesday.

"A journalism faculty member at Marquette since January 2010, Lowe will help extend the university's efforts to support and promote solutions journalism, which advocates describe as reporting that investigates responses to and provides valuable insights about social issues, Bergen said. . . . "

Lowe was president of the National Association of Black Journalists from 2003 to 2005.

Sheila Johnson, executive producer of "Lee Daniels' The Butler," speaks at   Pol

Writer Presents His Book on "The Butler" to a Packed House

One Hollywood studio wanted Bishop T.D. Jakes to confirm everything in the script. Steven Spielberg was interested in the tale of the black White House butler who served eight presidents from Harry Truman to Ronald Reagan, but he wanted to tell it through the eyes of the presidents, not the butler.

Sheila Johnson, the co-founder of Black Entertainment Television, made those revelations to a packed house Tuesday as she explained how she managed to raise enough money to begin filming the movie version of a 2008 story by Washington Post reporter Wil Haygood.

Haygood was there to discuss the book version of his story, published this week, as Johnson, the executive producer; Charles Allen, the only son of the main character, Eugene Allen; and Rear Adm. Stephen Rochon, first black chief White House usher, who worked in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama White Houses, elaborated.

Last October, Lisa Frazier Page wrote in the Post of the efforts of Laura Ziskin, who with director Lee Daniels raised $20 million toward producing the film independent of the major studios that passed on it. But Ziskin succumbed to breast cancer in June 2011.

Johnson picked up the torch. "To raise funds, Ziskin decided to target wealthy African Americans for financing. That brought her to Sheila Johnson, who as vice chairman of Monument Sports Entertainment is a managing partner of the Washington Mystics and the only African American woman to have ownership in three professional sports teams, including her interests with the Washington Wizards and Capitals," Page wrote.

" 'I was mesmerized by the story,' said Johnson, also chief executive of Salamander Hotels and Resorts. 'I read the script and was just blown away.' "

The movie — now titled "Lee Daniels' The Butler" after the Motion Picture Association of America noted that a 1916 silent film short was named "The Butler" — opens Aug. 16 and is being previewed Saturday at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Kissimmee, Fla.

Politics and Prose, the Washington bookstore where 300 people came to hear Haygood Tuesday, plans to post a video of the event on its website , former owner Barbara Meade told Journal-isms.

Responding to a question about the servile nature of the main character's occupation, Haygood paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous line, "If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well." Haygood added, "He was a master butler."

"It's almost biblical," Haygood said at another point. "The last shall be first. The movie is about the butler — not one of the presidents."

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Cross-Postings from the Root

hal bleavy

If you control the airwaves, then you control the message.


Hi Richard,

I admire and greatly appreciate your unflappable awareness and dedication to this issue.

Actually, there is a huge potential for sustainable development for the few Black owners of TV channels. But unfortunately, I do not think they see it right now, since their understanding of growth is still premised on assumptions which limit their own horizon.

From my perspective this horizon seems to be limitless due to the simple fact of the socio-historical conditions Blacks are still embedded in.

One of the most untractable puzzle in our world, past and present, is that any barriers that negatively and systematically affect a specific group, surprisingly enough turn out to open up to the very same group opportunities as collateral effects, so to speak. And these pop up on their own, as it were, without this group doing anything at all! This is really a mystery!

Now, be cautious: these opportunities may lay in wait without ever being noticed.

How do these opportunities happen to be noticed in the first place? You may ask. Hence, a second mystery: they reveal themselves to the eye of who knows that there are out there less fortunate fellows —- but that doesn't necessary mean the guy sitting at the next corner, though — whose lives might be uplifted through an action, yet somehow related to one's own calling.

A clue might be given by the following analogy: imagine having to climb a high mountain. What would you have to do to ensure a continous upward move as you know that there is no straight path before you. And yet, each move you make is nonetheless aimed at bringing you forward.

I hope this help even though I'm aware that over all a bold new understanding of what being Black in this WORLD really means even to guys who are on the business side.


How many people own TV stations period?

QuietThoughtsII Don't know but 99% of them are white.


This must irk you tremendously.....LOL!


The truth is, if you look at the FCC over the last 10 years they have sided against all consumers and favored the existing power players at pretty much every turn. With millions, maybe even a billions of dollars in play, guess which side they are picking here.


The viewers?


Viewers, Internet users, independent ISPs, cell / smart phone users, ham radio operators, etc.

crazy d

Gimme Gimme Gimme ....

QuietThoughtsII Gee, I thought they used the word BUY repeatedly. Did you manage to miss it?

LogicalLeopard I

Hate to say it, this really a big deal? Ther'es only slightly more than a thousand full power stations anyway. Maybe black investors chose to spend their money in other places. Are television stations particularly lucrative anyway? Seems to me, if you want to make money, there are probably better ways to do it. And if its an issue of getting your message out, there are better ways to do it as well.

I'd like to have a television station, showing classic black television shows. Reading Rainbow and Fat Albert in the morning for the kids, Whats Happening, Good Times, The Bill Cosby Show, the Cosby Show, 227, all sorts of nice family entertainment. The only problem is, I'd go under because everyone would be watching "Love and the Real Ex-Basketball Wives of Hip Hop Atlanta." So I'm just better off getting Netflix or something. AmericanMade likes this.


In a given geography local stations still get the majority of play, even if delivered by cable / satellite. If nothing else, local news is a HUGE issue. Think local politics if nothing else.


. . I loved Fat Albert. . . . .Its funny as a white kid I never saw the politics of race. . . .. .Fat Albert's friends were black and that's just the way it was. . . . .I did not question it. . . .I did not criticize it. . . .It just was what it was. . . It was on, and I watched it.

I do wonder how the black community would view Fat Albert today. . .. . Some would call it stereotypical. . Maybe even racist. . . . . .But it would definitely not be as racist as early Popeye cartoons. .. . . I guess that shows the progression between the early 60's and late 70's. . . .Whereas today I think people are hyper sensitive on all sides.

Although if you view this old cartoon about black people portrayed as frogs, you will notice at 7:28 the black frog shooting up. . . . .Yep. . a black man portrayed as a frog shooting heroin for kids to watch. . . .. 1937 era

"mgm cartoon swing wedding (1937)" .. . you tube

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