Punch "Saved the Summer Program"
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Without Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Sr., the retired chairman of the New York Times Co. who died Saturday at age 86, what would become the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education might have gone out of business in 1974.
Back then, recalled Earl Caldwell, one of the Institute's founders, the reporter training program for people of color was housed at Columbia University. Fred Friendly, the former CBS News president who was once Edward R. Murrow's closest colleague, created the program in 1968, days after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed, to hasten racial integration of the news media, as Alice Bonner explains elsewhere on this site.
A Columbia faculty member since 1966, Friendly integrated the program's top faculty in 1972 by recruiting veteran journalists Bob Maynard of the Washington Post and Caldwell of the Times as co-directors.
Caldwell, now writer-in-residence at Hampton University, recalled Monday that Friendly told program directors in 1974 that the Summer Program for Minority Journalists had run out of money.
But Friendly promised to keep the program going if its leaders could raise what was needed.
"I had high visibility," Caldwell recalled by telephone. "I decided to go to Punch Sulzberger at the New York Times. I laid it out to him. We had only a month at the most. Sulzberger said, 'I'd like to help you, but the New York Times couldn't underwrite this.' "
So he took out a piece of paper and said, " 'What you need is something to take to foundations.' He said, 'I'll give you this amount, and you can say the New York Times supports you.' " Then he said he would contact executives at Time, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal and tell them that Caldwell was coming to see them. There were six people, "all big names," Caldwell recalled, and "it worked just as he said. They greeted me with open arms and couldn't wait to tell me they were going to give us something." The necessary funds were raised. Friendly was astonished.
Sulzberger "actually saved the summer program. He never got any credit for it. No one ever knew about it," Caldwell said.
"We raised that money so fast that we shocked Columbia University."
Columbia wasn't prepared.
The university officials said they had moved on, assuming the money wouldn't be coming. Caldwell says he suspects that the students at Columbia Journalism School resented a summer program that found jobs for its graduates while the regular students spent a longer time there but received only a degree.
The program moved to the University of California at Berkeley as the Summer Program for Minority Journalists, and eventually became the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. The contacts that Sulzberger introduced to Caldwell continued to send money. [Caldwell prepared a written account of this anecdote for Journal-isms, below.]
True, Sulzberger "guided The New York Times and its parent company through a long, sometimes turbulent period of expansion and change on a scale not seen since the newspaper's founding in 1851," as Clyde Haberman wrote in the Times' 7,741-word obituary.
But journalists of color who interacted with "Punch," as he was known, found that Sulzberger also "had a sensitivity to the racial issues that I feel that a lot of others didn't have," in Caldwell's words.
In his posthumously published 2010 memoir, "My Times in Black and White: Race and Power at the New York Times," Gerald M. Boyd, the Times' first African American managing editor, called Sulzberger "a genuinely decent man who had several African Americans on his senior management team and one among the company's board of directors."
In a visit to San Francisco, where Caldwell was later assigned, Sulzberger found Caldwell working in a smaller office than the other correspondents in the bureau and ordered that he be given comparable space — even though Caldwell actually worked in the larger offices most of the time.
When Caldwell became the subject of a historic court case in which government investigators wanted him to reveal his sources, Sulzberger "backed caldwell all the way to the supreme court," James C. Goodale, the Times' lawyer at the time, told Journal-isms by email on Monday. "He put all the resources of the paper behind him." Caldwell agreed with that assessment.
Arthur Gelb, a former Times managing editor, wrote in his 2003 memoir "City Room":
"Punch Sulzberger . . . never stopped putting pressure on every department of The Times to employ 'more nonwhites.' On April 8, 1968, he called a meeting of all company department heads. 'The plain fact of the matter,' he told us, 'is that we have [been neither] as successful nor as active as we should have been in meeting even our minimum requirements . . . we have made too many excuses to ourselves for not doing enough. We now have to put excuses aside, even where there is a touch of validity to them, and work out a meaningful, effective plan of action. Each department head will be held responsible for the future record of his department and will be asked to come up with a practical timetable for his department's program.'
"And a year later, Punch offered specific guides to meet the goal of enabling 'people who have been held back by prejudice and poverty to earn and enjoy a decent life': develop our internal training programs and initiate new ones to assure equal opportunity and advancement; make sure when employees are hired they receive whatever help is needed to make the grade and that help be continued so that advancement to the top managerial and executive levels is open to all on an absolutely equal basis. 'I want to ask all of you to accept a share of the responsibility,' Punch said, 'for making The Times the leader in providing equal opportunity for all."
Still, the paper was the subject of a lawsuit by its black and brown employees, and later by women. They all reached settlements.
Boyd wrote in his memoir, ". . . The message from the top was to diversify, but without a plan, diversity remained a concept rather than an executable strategy. And editors had their pet justifications for blocking hiring and promotions; when challenged they often responded with the paper's typical arrogance: 'We need to do what's best for the paper,' they would argue, as if hiring or promoting a person of color could not possibly be what was best for the paper."
Paul Delaney, former senior editor at the New York Times:
"He was not a good journalist at the beginning, but he grew into a great publisher. He headed the paper at the start of its most turbulent period. For blacks, that included the efforts to integrate the operation, the newsroom, in particular, the company's heart and soul. Punch was known to allow editors and managers to run their departments. That meant the all-whites in charge could continue in their old ways, hiring and promoting those who mirrored themselves. I always thought he let Executive Editor Abe Rosenthal bully him, especially regarding minority hiring and promotion. Abe moved with deliberately slow speed.
"A minority lawsuit filed in 1971 was settled nine years later. Punch allowed his lawyers to fight the suit to eventual agreement. I always thought he was embarrassed by it, that it sullied the Times' reputation, and he was right. Afterwards, I was on a committee he appointed with the purpose of implementing the agreement. (It called for hiring, promotions, training, and assigning blacks to all major beats.) I was pleased that Punch told us to continue enforcing the agreement after the expiration date. But, again, he didn't put muscle behind it and let his managers remain in charge & change was as slow as ever. Well, not really, things began to move faster than they had, and I credit him and his son, Arthur Jr.
"Regarding another matter, I was in the Washington bureau when Punch announced to us at a party that he'd hired William Safire as columnist. Along with most others in the office (I was the sole black reporter for years), I was furious and we all let him know. My fury extended beyond the fact that Safire was conservative, but that there were no black editors on the paper and that Safire represented the real truth that it would be a long time before the paper really changed. At that time, Safire was an example that the paper would open up even for conservatives, but not nonwhites."
C. Gerald Fraser, former Times reporter and cultural columnist:
"I have always had conflicts with uniformed authorities and this includes New York Times's security guards who, among other things, especially in the late 1960s, always demanded to see my Times ID. Of course, I resisted. I had worked at The Times for quite some time when, one morning the publisher, Arthur 'Punch' Sulzberger, and I had entered the building, more or less together. He approached the security guards first, took out his Times ID, and held it in his open palm for the guards to see. I imagined then that he was trying to tell me, coming in behind him, 'It's no big deal, Gerald, even I, the publisher . . .' I laughed to myself.
"Sulzberger was everything they say about his being low-keyed and a gentleman. He greeted all level of employees by name. He had so much power in New York and I never saw or heard of him using it inappropriately.
"Charles Brown, the longtime newsroom receptionist, told me today that soon after Punch took over the publisher's job, he made life better for the Times's black porters. Previously, they ate their lunch in the men's room and they also changed clothes there after finishing their shifts. Punch had a recreation room and showers installed.
"Two anti-discrimination class action suits occurred during Sulzberger's reign. His obituary, which I have read only online, referred in passing to the women's class action anti-discrimination suit, but never mentioned the minorities's suit. . . . During 'our' suit, I never heard Sulzberger's name mentioned in connection with any of the negotiations."
Reginald Stuart, McClatchy Co. corporate recruiter, former Times reporter:
"Punch had class and a real appreciation for the important role serious newspapers play in society.
"He stuck by serious journalism in the face of all kinds of darts and arrows, even when the paper's fortunes were at a low point in the mid-1970's. When the paper was taken to court over its affirmative action practices with respect to women and people of color, he maintained his respect once the battles ended. He was a tough business executive with a real appreciation for news. I think publishing a great paper was foremost in his mind. He knew if he did, the profits would follow. For years they did."
Roger Wilkins, former editorial writer at the Times and Washington Post:
"Arthur Ochs Sulzberger was a real gentleman with a powerful determination to preserve and improve the enormous gem that he inherited. You could call him 'Punch' — a childhood family nickname, I believe, but when you brought him a tough issue, he could become a very steely gentleman who was determined to preserve and enhance that gem.
"I recall that when he first hired a black member for the Editorial Board (me), he invited me to his office and spend almost an hour with me alone and then brought in some of his favorite Times journalists to let them know that he intended for this move to be successful. It was gentlemanly and it was clear.....he expected this to work and the people he had brought in to meet me were to make sure that this would work out.
"As time wore on, I realized I had a very smart boss who was clear in his mind about what good journalism was and the quality expected in his paper every morning. He understood life in America. And as I worked, I realized that he had made sure that everybody needed to know that this step in integrating this part of his family inheritance was going to work. He was a good man — fair and determined that the great institution that had been handed would grow and maintain the high values of that institution.
"Punch was a very good man devoted to his work and to the people who he had brought in to help him achieve that goal.
"In all, he was one SWELL boss and a very good guy."
- Associated Press: Media leaders, others react to death of Sulzberger
- Andrew Beaujon, Poynter Institute: Clyde Haberman on his Sulzberger obit: 'It is never simple to write about the boss'
- Max Frankel, New York Times: Punch Sulzberger and His Times
- Arthur Gelb, New York Times: A Newsroom and a Beloved Publisher
- Clyde Haberman, New York Times: Arthur O. Sulzberger, Publisher Who Transformed The Times for New Era, Dies at 86
- Michael Petrelis blog: Punch Sulzberger's Queer Jokes & Banning 'Gay' From NYT (Oct. 2)
- Andrew Rosenthal, New York Times: Mr. Sulzberger, Publisher and Projectionist
A proposal for a televised, black-oriented presidential candidates forum next week that would be co-sponsored by MSNBC, American Urban Radio Networks, the NAACP, the National Newspaper Publishers Association, Lincoln University and the Grio has been scuttled after the Obama campaign said President Obama would not be available. The Mitt Romney campaign also turned down the offer.
However, Jerry Lopes, president of program operations & affiliations for American Urban Radio Networks, told Journal-isms by telephone on Monday that he has another proposal. Lopes said he has offered the Obama and Romney campaigns 15 minutes each to say whatever they want to the black community. The presentations would be included in an hourlong special that would be offered to black radio stations around the country. A panel of journalists would analyze the remarks as part of the hour.
A similar program aired during the 2004 contest between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., the Democratic challenger. The journalists were DeWayne Wickham of USA Today, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks and Juan Williams, then of Fox News and NPR.
Some commentators have complained that the Spanish-language network Univision's forums with the presidential candidates last month were a success, but that there has been no counterpart on issues of particular concern to African Americans.
After journalists of color were shut out of the upcoming debate questioning of the presidential and vice presidential candidates, Michael D. McCurry, co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates and press secretary to President Bill Clinton from 1995 to 1998, accepted a suggestion from Hugo Balta, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, that the commission receive questions from the journalists of color and the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association for presentation to the moderators.
The associations of Hispanic, Asian American and Native American journalists submitted their questions, Balta said on Sept. 13, while NLGJA deferred to the journalists of color.
Over the weekend, the National Association of Black Journalists submitted 15 questions on domestic policy directly to Jim Lehrer of PBS, who is moderating the first debate Wednesday in Denver, according to Sonya Ross, who chairs NABJ's political task force.
Ross said the questions concerned unemployment and the economy, particularly black joblessness; the Affordable Health Care Act; education; crime and law enforcement, specifically the stop-and-frisk laws; and the nation's changing demographics.
Ross said NABJ would be following up with moderators for the subsequent debates.
"All questions submitted to the CPD have been forwarded to the moderators," Nancy Henrietta of the Commission on Presidential Debates told Journal-isms by email on Monday.
- Wayne Bennett, the Field Negro: Voter fraud from the right. And is Virginia for racists??
- Charles M. Blow, New York Times: 40 Days of Night
- Commission on Presidential Debates: Moderator Announces Topics for the First Presidential Debate (Sept. 19)
- Ted Diadiun, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: Pre-endorsement close encounters
- Steve Friess, Politico: Social media have big debate plans
- Erika Fry, Columbia Journalism Review: The Oklahoman distributes a hit piece on Obama
- Maurice Garland, loop21.com: A List Of Issues The Black Church Should Really Be Worried About
- Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: Romney? Obama? National Asian American Survey reveals the community's evolving political mindset
- Derrick Z. Jackson, Boston Globe: Denver presidential debate needs question on guns
- Nick Jimenez, Caller-Times, Corpus Christi, Texas: Democracy is hard work but it's rewarding and important
- Annette John-Hall, Philadelphia Inquirer: Romney would undercut lifeline to college students
- Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Black Republicans slam Obama. Who are these folks, anyway?
- Eugene Kane, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Mom's failing health makes politics seem personal
- Colbert I. King, Washington Post: Racism could sway the election
- Jerry Large, Seattle Times: Asian-American voters a force in November election
- David Leonhardt, New York Times: Obamanomics: A Counterhistory
- Brentin Mock, ColorLines: Pennsylvania Argues Voters Are 'Frustrated,' Not 'Disenfranchised'
- Phillip Morris, Plain Dealer, Cleveland: America needs a full-time president — the 2012 election cannot be over soon enough
- Bruce Murphy, Urban Milwaukee: Journal Sentinel Swallows GOP Propaganda
- Ruben Navarrette Jr., Washington Post News Media Services: Obama's fantasy world on immigration
- Tony Norman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Gullible liberals are the most galling kind
- Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Racist bumper stickers don't stop dreams of moving forward
- Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: Poverty as character defect
- Raul A. Reyes, NBCLatino: Analysis: At first Presidential debate, Obama and Romney have some explaining to do
- Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: A voting issue that isn't
- Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Republicans deluded by 'skewed' polls
- Bob Ray Sanders, Star-Telegram, Fort Worth, Texas: Chicago black preacher's epistle on gay marriage is a must-read
- Barry Saunders, News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C.: Affordable health care transcends politics
- Wendi C. Thomas, Commercial Appeal, Memphis: Voter ID laws reflect Republican contempt for the poor
- DeWayne Wickham, USA Today: Romney video offends even white businessmen
With another affirmative action case before the Supreme Court, journalists are again facing the temptation to use the pejorative term "racial preferences" in lieu of "affirmative action." Some have already succumbed.
"Next week, the Court will get to affirmative action in a case involving the University of Texas, as the justices consider a suit brought by a white woman who had her admission application rejected; race can be one of the factors in that decision," Jamie Dupree, radio news director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group, wrote in the Austin (Texas) American-Statesman, published in the city at the center of the dispute.
" 'Most people think the Texas plan may be gone,' said Russell Wheeler, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C."
That the terms are not synonymous is evident by examining who chooses to use which term.
The Project on Fair Representation, which represents Abigail Fisher, the plaintiff in the Texas case, repeatedly hammers at "racial preferences."
A Feb. 21 news release from the group begins, "Today, the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari in Abigail Noel Fisher v. University of Texas, a case challenging the constitutionality of UT's reintroduction of racial preferences in the undergraduate admissions process in 2004."
However, Gary J. Susswein, director of media relations for the university, told Journal-isms Monday, "We generally refer to 'the use of race as a factor in admissions.' " Same holds true for the U.S. government brief [PDF].
An Aug. 6 news release from the university says, "The plaintiff in the case claims that she was denied undergraduate admission to the university in 2008 because she is white. But the facts show otherwise. In its brief, the university argues that its admissions system, which considers an applicant's race along with many other factors in an individualized, holistic review, is a constitutional practice that promotes the educational benefits of diversity at the university."
The National Association of Black Journalists weighed in on the terminology in 1995. "Since polls have shown that the public supports affirmative action, but opposes 'preferential treatment,' using the terms interchangeably, under the guise of objective reporting, unfairly characterizes affirmative action," the NABJ report said.
". . . Race-based remedies are intended to counter 'preferences.' "
- Emil Guillermo blog, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund: The First Presidential Debate, Asian Americans, and Affirmative Action
- Legal documents on Fisher v. University of Texas
- Mary Sanchez, Kansas City Star: Quashing race-based college admissions will not serve justice
- Video statement from Bill Powers, University of Texas president
"The only thing equal is the job title. Even though there are stories of editors like Anna Wintour and Janice Min pocketing seven-figure salaries, Folio magazine's annual compensation survey found that on average, male editors-in-chief made about $15,000 more than their female counterparts last year," Alexander Abad-Santos reported Wednesday for the Atlantic.
"Men with the titles of editor-in-chief or editorial director received an average of $100,800 compared to women with the same titles who received $85,100. The survey included 513 editors.
"The pay gap was bigger at the next position on the masthead, with male executive editors getting paid an average of $84,200 while women with the title were paid an average $65,700. That continued down to next highest position with male managing editors making $5,000 more than female ones. . . . "
"Reaching out from across the country and across the decades, former and current Times-Picayune staffers packed into The Howlin' Wolf on Saturday night to celebrate the daily paper that was," Maya Rodriguez reported Sunday for WWL-TV in New Orleans.
" 'It is very gratifying to see the bond between the people who work at this paper because we love working here,' said former Times-Picayune reporter Matt Scallan. 'It was a great place to work.'
"Scallan speaks in the past tense because after 22 years as a reporter there, he lost his job. The paper is moving to increase its online presence and decrease its printed publication to three days a week.
" 'This is very tough on a lot of people,' he said. . . ."
- Andrew Beaujon, Poynter Institute: Nola Media Group announces digital initiative one week before Times-Picayune reduces print days (Sept. 25)
- Dawn Kent, Birmingham (Ala.) News: Many Birmingham News staffers depart as paper ceases daily publication, moves to 3 days a week
- Bruce Nolan, Friends of the Times-Picayune Facebook page (via Romenesko): A Times-Picayune veteran's farewell
- Dave Thier, New York Times: For New Orleans, a Daily Tha's No Longer Daily
(Photo Credit: BET)
BET launched "Don't Sleep" Monday night, its news/talk show vehicle for longtime CNN newsman T.J. Holmes. "We are promoting this show on-air, in-market — we have a Don't Sleep Tour bus that has been to nearly 20 cities including the RNC, DNC and CBC!" spokeswoman Jeanine D. Liburd told Journal-isms by email Monday, referring to the Republican and Democratic national conventions and the recent Congressional Black Caucus legislative conference in Washington.
The Times Square promotion, shown above, "started last week and continues throughout this week. It's a major billboard on 45th street and Broadway AND from 10-11p we have a billboard video roadblock across several screens. It's a BIG deal!!"
Holmes tweeted on Saturday, "Just drove through Times Square and saw myself on the big screen. Gotta call my mom and tell her I finally made it. #ArkansastoNY" Watch online.
- "The National Press Photographer's Association (NPPA) along with 13 other media organizations sent a letter to the New York Police Department (NYPD) Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly today requesting another meeting to discuss recent police incidents involving journalists in New York City," the association said Monday. "Joining in the letter were: The New York Times, The New York Daily News, the Associated Press, Thomson Reuters, Dow Jones, the New York Press Club, the New York Newspaper Publishers Association, the New York Press Photographers Association, the American Society of Media Photographers, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the Committee to Protect Journalists."
- The National Association of Black Journalists announced its selection Monday of six journalists for induction into NABJ's Hall of Fame in a ceremony to be held at the Newseum in Washington on Jan. 17 during Inauguration Week. They are: Betty Winston Bayé, longtime columnist, the Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky.; Simeon Booker, first black reporter at the Washington Post and Washington bureau chief, Jet magazine; the late Alice Dunnigan, first black woman credentialed to cover the White House, the State Department and Congress; Sue Simmons, longtime anchorwoman, WNBC-TV, New York; the late Wendell Smith, legendary sportswriter who helped desegregate baseball; and Cynthia Tucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning former columnist with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
- "Nine months into the year, one media trend seems clear: titles may come and go, but magazines made from paper-and-ink are sticking around," Matthew Flamm reported Monday for Crain's New York Business. "Publishers launched 155 magazines in the first three quarters of 2012 , among them Fairchild Publications' men's fashion quarterly M and northeast Mississippi's new lifestyle title Mud & Magnolias."
- "A bright girl, missing an eye, which was gouged out when she refused to service a client in a brothel which she had been sold to in Cambodia," Eric Deggans wrote Monday in his Tampa Bay (Fla.) Times blog. "Another energetic woman, describing a life working to aid rape victims in Sierra Leone, only to come home to an abusive husband who beat her and promised one night to walk on her grave. . . . These are the stories crowding just the first hour of Half the Sky, the amazing PBS documentary built from the book of the same name, written by married New York Times staffers Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn."
- "September 22, 2012 marked the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1862," the Washington Informer said in an editorial Thursday. "It was not the decree that ended slavery in the U.S., but its effect, as an executive order, provided that all enslaved people in the 10 states in rebellion against the U.S. were to be freed. . . . So, why is it that the anniversary of this momentous occasion was so easily overlooked?"
- "OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network said Monday that it has inked an exclusive multiyear deal with Tyler Perry for new television series and projects," Philiana Ng reported Monday for the Hollywood Reporter. "The pact brings two scripted series to OWN, the first for the network, to launch in mid-2013. Perry will executive produce, write and direct both shows."
- Sonari Glinton, an NPR National Desk reporter based in Detroit, recalled in an essay for NPR's "This American Life" how a Catholic nun taught his school on Chicago's South Side about the color of Jesus.
- "Alex Kellogg will join USA TODAY Monday as a member of the personal finance team," Susan Weiss, USA Today executive editor, told staffers on Monday. "He will cover banking, with an emphasis on consumer banking. Alex previously covered race and diversity issues at NPR."
- Photographer Dale Omori is leaving the Plain Dealer in Cleveland to become a producer with the Adcom Group, also in Cleveland. He "has been a consummate visual storyteller at The PD for 23 years," David Kordalski, assistant managing editor/visuals, told staffers on Wednesday.
- A special media court found Parisa Hafezi, Tehran bureau chief of the Thomson Reuters news agency, guilty Sunday of "spreading lies" against the Islamic system for a video story that briefly included a posted description of women training as martial arts killers, the Associated Press reported.
- "Remember Al Jazeera, the network that was supposed to be an Arab CNN, offering a counterweight to Western cable news?" Chris V. Nicholson, Matthew Campbell, Tariq Panja and Caroline Richenberg asked Thursday for Bloomberg Businessweek. "That plan appears to have been scaled back as the Qatari government-controlled network makes deep cuts in its English-language news-gathering operations and shifts its focus to sports. The gas-rich emirate's English news channel has cut or relocated at least 200 staffers as it tightens its budget and centralizes editorial control in Qatar's capital of Doha, current and former employees say."
- "Al-Jazeera's editorial independence has been called into question after its director of news stepped in to ensure a speech made by Qatar's emir to the UN led its English channel's coverage of the debate on Syrian intervention," Dan Sabbagh reported Sunday for Britain's Guardian newspaper.
- "On September 11, a Cambodian journalist named Hang Serei Odom was found dead in an abandoned vehicle," David Biello reported Saturday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "Missing since September 9, the reporter with the local Vorakchun Khmer Daily newspaper had suffered several axe blows to the head. Why? In his most recent story, Odom had implicated the son of a military commander in northern Ratanakiri Province in the smuggling of illegal timber in military vehicles. For the crime of reporting on rampant illegal logging in Cambodia, Odom suffered the same fate as the trees."
by Earl Caldwell
Over the last few days since word came of the death of Arthur Sulzberger, a lot of stories have been told about his life and his time as publisher of the New York Times newspaper. Here's a story not told. It has to do with what Punch Sulzberger did to save the Summer Program for Minority Journalists.
This was 1974 and by then, SPMJ was a stunning success. The program was the brainchild of Fred Friendly, the legendary builder of CBS News on television. The idea was simple. (1) Comb the country to find bright young people who wanted to become reporters but couldn't because they were not white. (2) Bring these people to Columbia University during the summer and in 10 weeks of intensive training get them prepared for street level reporting. (3) Match those who completed the program with newspapers who were looking to hire minorities but were lamenting that they "couldn’t find anybody qualified."
Friendly had been motivated by the report of a commission President Johnson appointed to investigate the causes of the civil disorders, known as the riots that swept black communities in cities across the country during the mid 1960s. The commission targeted the news media with a lot of the blame. Media were accused of not reporting on conditions, complaints and growing rage in black areas. But the report offered that the media couldn’t have done the job had it wanted because the newsrooms were overwhelmingly white and male and thus, only delivered a story of America through the eyes of white men only.
Friendly was compelled to act. "During the war, the Air Force trained pilots in 90 days," he roared. "We can train reporters in three months." He was at the Ford Foundation then and secured a grant to do the job. He took the resources to Columbia and by 1969; he had his idea, the Summer Program for Minority Journalists, up and running.
By 1972, Friendly wanted black reporters to lead the program and he summoned the late Bob Maynard and myself to Columbia and installed us as co-directors of SPMJ. The program grew. We kept finding bright young people, and after pushing them through the heat of New York during the summer, they were ready to do the jobs by fall and then went off to the newspapers where they had been hired and launched their careers. Then, in 1974, without warning, there was no more money. The grant ended and there was no renewal.
The group Maynard and I had put together to run the program was known as the Institute for Journalism Education. We confronted officials at Columbia and after some prodding, the school agreed that if we raised the money, then SPJ could continue. But we were warned, "there isn't much time." We had little more than a month and no prospects. As it happened, I was nominated to lead the emergency drive to raise the money. I had no plan and no experience at raising money. But I did have an idea. I was a reporter at the New York Times. I went to see my boss, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger.
We met in his office in the building on West 43rd Street in Manhattan. I outlined the problem. He told me that he was sure that it was a worthy program that we had but he made it clear that the New York Times would not be able to underwrite the grant that was needed to continue. As he talked, I could see what I took to be the hint of a smile on his face and as I watched he grabbed a pen and began making some notes on a piece of paper.
He looked up to say, "I've got an idea" and he slid the piece of paper across his desk. On the paper he had written a list of big news organizations and at the top was the New York Times. Alongside the name of the company, he had written a name. He then leaned across his desk, pointed to the paper and announced, "Now here's the way you're going to get the money." Then he detailed the plan that was right there, in the front of mind.
"The New York Times will give you some money," he said. "It doesn't matter how much. What we give you says that we support your program. You have our name and that will help you. Then he came to the other names — Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine and maybe three or four others. I'm going to call these people and I'm going to tell them to see you and each one of them, they will give you some support. And when you go out to foundations, looking for a big grant, they say to you, 'who is supporting this program?' You will have all of these people and this will help you."
In a few days I began to make the rounds and just as Punch had promised, everywhere that I went, the support was there. And just as he had said, when we sought a larger grant, we were asked about our supporters and we had the list Arthur Sulzberger had put together. It was genius. In two weeks we had the money to continue the program. Only problem was, Columbia said that it was too late. "Not enough time for this summer," we were told. "Maybe next year." We would not wait. We had the money. We were invited to the University of California at Berkeley and we accepted and whole new chapter in the history of the Summer Program was written and it was because of what Punch Sulzberger did when we were in a pinch.
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 BugMeNot.com 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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- Books to Ring In the New Year
- In-Your-Face Holiday Reads
- Fishbowl Interview With the Fresh Prince of D.C. (Oct. 26, 2012)
- NABJ to Honor Columnist Richard Prince With Ida B. Wells Award (Oct. 11, 2012)
- So What Do You Do, Richard Prince, Columnist for the Maynard Institute? (Richard Horgan, FishbowlLA Aug. 22, 2012)
- Who Am I? What's Race Got to Do With It?: Journalists Explore Identity
- Catching Up With Books for the Fall
- Richard Prince Helps Journalists Set High Bar (Jackie Jones, BlackAmericaWeb.com, 2011)
- 10 Ways to Turn Pages This Summer
- 7 for Serious Spring Reading
- 7 Candidates for the Journalist's Library
- 9 That Add Heft to the Bookshelf
- Five Minutes With Richard Prince (Newspaper Association of America, 2005)
- 'Journal-isms' That Engage and Inform Diverse Audiences (Q&A with Mallary Jean Tenore, Poynter Institute, 2008)
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Work We <3 | FDP
Instead of spending all our time calling out journalism that doesn't work, we want to find work we like. We'd like to encourage our readers to submit links to content that is moving or challenging and that goes beyond the standard narrative either at the level of form or content. In other words, we want to see journalism that works.
We're particularly interested in work at the nexus of the following categories:
- Please include a comment explaining why the content you're sharing works.
- Comments can be as short or long as desired.