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"Real Dark Cloud" Over Chicago Paper

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

2 Black Women in First Round of Sun-Times Layoffs

Just three days earlier, Avis Weathersbee, the highest ranking journalist of color in the Chicago Sun-Times newsroom, was expressing her concern about the effect of planned newsroom cutbacks on the reporters. "I was speaking out about how that would hurt diversity," she told Journal-isms.

"I didn't have a clue that it would include me until it happened."

Weathersbee, the tabloid's assistant managing editor, and editorial board member Michelle Stevens, both black journalists, were among five Sun-Times newsroom employees in the first round of layoffs Thursday as the parent Sun-Times Media Group attempts to slash $50 million in operating costs.

"These first cuts were hardly the deepest — five ousters, coupled with two resignations, from management and the paper's editorial board — merely a warm-up for lopping off more than 30 union positions in the coming weeks," Phil Rosenthal wrote Friday in the rival Chicago Tribune.

"Yet it was still an emotional jolt for an already lean newsroom stewing with anxiety over job security, the changes a reduced staff will require and the fate of the feisty paper itself."

"It's like a real dark cloud over the newsroom," one staffer told Journal-isms. "People are wondering about their own jobs or their colleagues."

On the editorial page, Stevens told Journal-isms the paper was careful to leave standing a black woman, a Hispanic woman, a white male and two white women.

Unlike Weathersbee, Stevens said she saw her layoff coming. When Cheryl L. Reed became editorial page editor last summer, replacing Stephen Huntley, three editorial writers under the Huntley regime found themselves without offices, Stevens said.

Her job as letters editor began to be divided up among the editorial page staff. A few days ago, the decision was made that, as a labor-saving move, many letters would no longer be verified for authenticity.

The Sun-Times, which claims to be one of the 10 largest U.S. daily newspapers, does not participate in the annual diversity census of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

But staffers say it still has a number of journalists of color, such as columnists Esther Cepeda and Mary Mitchell and award-winning photographer John White. Reporter and editor Maudlyne Ihejirika was running the city desk Friday night. However, the last hired in the newsroom — and thus the union members most susceptible to layoff — were said to be two black journalists, Leonard Fleming and Norman Parish. Fleming was just laid off a year ago in Philadelphia Inquirer cutbacks.

"They want to sell the paper, and I just don't think diversity has been a major priority of the paper anyway," Weathersbee said. "I look at it from the standpoint of the reader. The reader is cheated in a city as diverse as Chicago if you don't have people bringing all different thoughts based on their background and varied experiences.

"We have to be vigilant with all the cutbacks in the changing media environment that diversity doesn't become a casualty." And journalists need to be saying so. "You have to try and make your voice heard, and point it out," Weathersbee continued.

Stevens said she planned to "go on a little vacation next week," but hoped to find another editorial page or copy editing position. "I'm halfway thinking of going into law," she added. She is a founding member of the Association for Women Journalists and serves on the board of directors of the Illinois First Amendment Center.

Weathersbee said she'd love to stay in print journalism but would also be interested in television, though she would like to stay in the Chicago area.

She had just been promoted in July to assistant managing editor, with a focus on convergence projects, after being deputy features editor for 3 1/2 years.

"There's a future in journalism right now, but I don't know if we're clear on the best jobs to go after in that future," Weathersbee told Journal-isms. "We're just going to have to prepare for new kinds of jobs in journalism and be a little patient and see how things shake out in terms of what the full impact of digitalization will be."


      Mark Fitzgerald, Editor & Publisher: New 'Chicago Sun-Times' Buyout Plan Could Avoid Some Newsroom Layoffs

      Michael Miner blog, Chicago Reader: How Garry Steckles can hang around


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Pollster Adds Voice to Race Theory on N.H. Vote

Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, added his voice Thursday to those who think race might have been a factor in Sen. Barack Obama's poll-defying loss to Sen. Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's New Hampshire primary.

One "possible explanation cannot be ignored —the longstanding pattern of pre-election polls overstating support for black candidates among white voters, particularly white voters who are poor," Kohut wrote in a New York Times op-ed piece.

"In exploring this factor, it is useful to look closely at the nature of the constituencies for the two candidates in New Hampshire, which were divided along socio-economic lines.

". . . gender and age patterns tend not to be as confounding to pollsters as race, which to my mind was a key reason the polls got New Hampshire so wrong.

"Poorer, less well-educated white people refuse surveys more often than affluent, better-educated whites. Polls generally adjust their samples for this tendency. But here's the problem: these whites who do not respond to surveys tend to have more unfavorable views of blacks than respondents who do the interviews."

Meantime, a Chicago editor's column is making the rounds on the Internet, with varying interpretations. On, a celebrity gossip site that claims to be "the most visited black web site in the world," the column was billed thus: "CONSPIRACY?? NEW REPORTS SUGGEST THAT HILLARY MAY HAVE ACTUALLY LOST THE NEW HAMPSHIRE PRIMARY!!!!"

A Russian television station e-mailed the Chicago editor asking for an interview.

The references are to "Primary Concerns," a column by Robert C. Koehler, a copy editor for Tribune Media Services who also writes a weekly column distributed by his organization.

Koehler told Journal-isms that contrary to some inferences, he had not suggested "a conspiracy or Hillary rigging the election. The context I'm writing from is several years' worth of writing on issues of election security. This is one instance where there are some things that didn't match up," he said, saying pre-election polls and exit polls didn't square with the final result.

The New York Times Magazine also raised the election-security issue, he noted, as recently as a Jan. 6 article by writer Clive Thompson, "Can You Count On Voting Machines?"

Along the same lines, Democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, the Ohio congressman, sent a letter to the New Hampshire attorney general asking for a recount of Tuesday's vote because of "unexplained disparities between hand-counted ballots and machine-counted ballots," his campaign announced on Thursday.

Meanwhile, John Eggerton noted in his blog for Broadcasting & Cable that while Fox News Channel was the target of a Democratic candidate boycott last year, accused of carrying Republicans' water, "Hardly had Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton had a chance to recoup from a night that saw the actual voters snatch Obama's defeat from the jaws of a poll-driven, media-whipped-up victory, when both were appearing on 'Fox & Friends' Wednesday morning."


      Betty Bayé, Louisville Courier-Journal: Clinton vs. Obama: Must the gentleman step aside for the lady?

      Rosa Brooks, Los Angeles Times: Sex, race and Gen Y voters

      Dan Froomkin, Nieman Watchdog: Looking for a display — rather than just talk — of leadership

      Terry Glover, Wake Up Call: New Hampshire

      Paul J. Gough, Hollywood Reporter: Kucinich made last-minute debate plea

      Gwen Ifill, Jill Abramson and Linda Chavez on "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin, National Public Radio: Female Journalists on Clinton's Fighting Chance

      Courtland Milloy, Washington Post: Blacks Pondering Whites Voting for Obama

      Pearl Jr., blog: Will "They" Kill Barack Obama?

      Clarence Page, Chicago Tribune: Obama an escape from politics of race

      Leonard Pitts Jr., Miami Herald: We've come a very long way

      Eugene Robinson, Washington Post: Echoes Of Tom Bradley

      Gloria Steinem on "Tell Me More" with Michel Martin, National Public Radio: America Ready for a Female President?

      Sherrel Wheeler Stewart, 'Bradley Effect' Debated as Factor in Obama's Loss; Campaign Teams Head to Nevada, S.C.

      Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista blog: Will Nevada Be Where Latinos Finally Show Their Stuff?

      Marisa Treviño, Latina Lista blog: What Can be Learned from Richardson's Campaign?

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Correction Offers Lesson in Need for "Precision"

On Long Island, N.Y., Newsday reported, "the 17 suspected drug dealers caught peddling narcotics on tape in sting operations on Terrace Avenue and Bedell Street in Hempstead had two choices offered to them by Nassau District Attorney Kathleen Rice: Go straight— and go free— or go straight to jail."

Reporter Michael Frazier covered the meeting and Ana P. Gutierrez shot the photos.

The story ran Wednesday. The correction came Thursday.

"A photo yesterday showed suspected drug dealers sitting among Hempstead residents at a town-hall-style meeting. The caption did not make clear that some of those pictured were not suspected of crimes."

The lesson? "Precision. That's good advice," Newsday Editor John Mancini told Journal-isms. "Make sure that something can't be read in an unintended way." The caption "was imprecise."

In Denver, lack of precision by staffers selecting photographs caused a different problem at Fox-owned KDVR-TV, Tim Hoover reported in the Denver Post:

"A TV news report Thursday on the historic election of Colorado's first black Senate President was accompanied by a photo of Rep. Terrance Carroll, the only African-American man in the General Assembly besides the subject of the report: Sen. Peter Groff.

"Carroll, D-Denver, said he was shocked and dismayed to learn of the photo error, which occurred twice on Fox 31's 'Good Day Colorado' program before the station caught the mistake.

"'You just expect a media outlet to get it right,' Carroll said. 'I look nothing like Peter.'

"Linda Hunter, assistant news director for FOX 31, said she was still looking into how the error occurred. . . . She said the mistake was 'definitely' one that warranted a correction."

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Some Say Lynching Comment Taken Too Lightly

"Suspended Golf Channel anchor Kelly Tilghman may have been laughing during her light-hearted exchange with analyst Nick Faldo at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, but the public backlash and outcry about her comments about Tiger Woods hasn't been so jovial," a story credited to the Associated Press and Friday began.

"Tilghman and Faldo, a former PGA Tour player, were discussing young players who could challenge the world's No. 1 player toward the end of Friday's broadcast at Kapalua when Faldo suggested that 'to take Tiger on, maybe they should just gang up for a while.'

"'Lynch him in a back alley,' Tilghman replied.

"The comments became prevalent on news shows Wednesday, and immediately became a hot topic of debate on Web sites and blogs across the Internet. The Rev. Al Sharpton joined the fray by demanding she be fired immediately."

The exchange and Woods' reaction prompted comments among black journalists, with some saying the offense was not taken seriously enough.

"Why doesn't a professional communicator working for a national cable program realize that using the word 'lynch' in connection with an African-American might be a bad idea?" asked columnist Eugene Kane on his blog for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

"Didn't she ever learn about the civil rights movement?"

On the e-mail list of the National Association of Black Journalists, a member said "the asinine comments . . . were more hurtful to the masses of African-Americans than to Woods."

Another said, "I actually felt that Kelly Tilghman's comment was worse than what [Don] Imus said, just like I thought the worst part of Michael Richards' (Kramer) racist rant was when he said '50 years ago, you would've been strung up from a tree with a fork up your ass' (or something to that effect). That was far worse, to me, than his usage of the N-word. . . .Nigger — while I don't like it — is just a word. Lynching is a cruel action that took thousands of black lives. For her — and Kramer — to refer to that tragic period for blacks so casually is completely unacceptable. If I were to joke 'Well, that's one fireman you wish hadn't survived 9-11' on national TV, I don't think it would be taken so casually."

In the postings, Woods was, in essence, dismissed. "I wonder what Earl would say about his misguided son, who was groomed for greatness," one said. "Tiger Woods has lost his racial compass . . . he's simply become another Michael Jackson, a man who's melted into nothingness."

      Cary Clack, San Antonio Express-News: Poor word selection meant no ill will

      Roy S. Johnson blog: Kelly Tilghman: Case Closed

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In Court, an Ex-Journalist Leaves an Impression

Karen Howze, who left journalism in 1992 after being managing editor/systems and managing editor of the international edition of USA Today, presided at the arraignment of a headline-making case in the District of Columbia this week in her role as magistrate judge in the D.C. Superior Court's Family Court. The case involved a woman accused of killing her four children.

Keith L. Alexander of the Washington Post told members of the National Association of Black Journalists:

"Aside from Howze handling this gruesome case, it was actually most interesting watching her deal with the string of 30 or so defendants who had to appear before her prior to the mother murder case. Howze oversaw men and women (mostly black) arrested for drug dealing, robbery, prostitution, soliciting and drug use. Each time, Howze asked the defendant to articulate what they knew about what the charges against them.

"In other arraignments I've covered, most judges just ask, 'Do you understand the charges against you' and the defendant says 'yes.' Howze instead engaged the defendants to seek out how much they actually knew about their case and the charges they faced. Surprisingly many of the defendants were mistaken about their charges and what could happen to them."

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Short Takes

      "On the eve of the sixth anniversary of the arrival of the first detainees at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay in eastern Cuba, Reporters Without Borders today reiterated its call for the camp's closure and the release of Sami Al-Haj, a Sudanese cameraman with the pan-Arab TV station Al-Jazeera who has been held there without charge since June 2002," the organization said on Thursday.

      "A Port of Los Angeles police sergeant acted within policy when he nudged a Spanish television news reporter into a cargo container last summer, Port Police Chief Ronald J. Boyd said Thursday," Art Marroquin reported Friday in the Daily Breeze of Torrence, Calif. "Sgt. Kevin McCloskey will not be disciplined for pushing Azteca America reporter Alicia Unger into the 20-foot steel container following an Aug. 3 news conference held by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Boyd said."

      Charlise Lyles, who co-founded and serves as editor of Catalyst magazine, which focuses on Ohio urban school policy, is one of five midcareer journalists at Ohio State's John Glenn School of Public Affairs. She is studying best practices for reporting on urban educational policy. The Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism also received a John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant to fund four fellowships over the next two years in which reporters receive the latest in digital media training, classes and equipment.

      The late Larry Whiteside of the Boston Globe is scheduled to receive the inaugural Sam Lacy Legacy Award as "Baseball Writer of the Year" Saturday night at the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City. "To create the award, the museum collaborated with the sports task force of the National Association of Black Journalists," Kansas City Star columnist Steve Penn wrote, adding, "The award will jumpstart the museum's yearlong salute to the black press."

      "College football is stuck in a time warp, stubbornly hanging on to a segregated system that largely keeps minorities from landing the top coaching jobs," Paul Newberry wrote Jan. 4 for the Associated Press. "Oh sure, every school has at least one or two black coaches on its staff, but they are generally limited to anonymous position jobs such as running backs coach or secondary coach — spots that tend to have a large number of minority players. With another hiring season nearly complete, college football is left with just six black coaches among the 119 schools in the NCAA's top division — the same number as this season. Those sort of figures sound like something out of the Jim Crow era, not a year when a black man is making a serious bid to become president of the United States. "

      "Rebecca Gomez certainly has an impressive resume —business correspondent for the Associated Press, Lifetime Television and The Fox news Channel — but it's her personal story that's truly fascinating," Latina magazine writes. "I barely graduated high school. I was getting straight F's and I had to go to night school to graduate. I was on my own at 15, when my mother moved back to Mexico. I had no supervision and I could basically do whatever I wanted," Gomez says in the q-and-a. "My parents didn't have the money to send me to college. I had to work, take loans, get scholarships. People have a lot to say about affirmative action, but without that, I don't know what I would have done."

      "As newspaper readership stagnates in the US and Europe, India's newspapers are enjoying the kind of golden age the US saw at the end of the 19th century. These prospects are luring in international groups. Rupert Murdoch announced plans to launch The Wall Street Journal in India within a month of agreeing to acquire the paper," Richard Orange reported Monday for Britain's the Independent. Also on Monday, India's Economic Times reported, "The media sector is expected to be one of the major beneficiaries of the growing economy and increasing consumerism."

      The Media Foundation for West Africa's monitoring of attacks on freedom of speech and expression in West Africa shows a decline in the number of incidents of press freedom violations in the sub-region in 2007, the foundation reported on Friday.

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Feedback: TV Execs Should Have Zero Tolerance

Kelly Tilghman's comments were a sad reminder of racism in our otherwise integrated society. Suggesting that "Tiger be lynched in a back alley" was very damaging and added to a recent and growing list of racial insensitivity incidences. Don Imus, George Allen and Bill Bennett all come to mind collectively for their disturbing public remarks. There is a social and cultural imbalance here, since minority reporters, commentators and even public figures are not insulting white people this way, at all.

Like CBS with Imus, the Golf Channel took a "wait and see" position with Tilghman; gauging whether the story would reach the wires, TV and the Internet. Al Sharpton was right to protest the comments, but he quickly became an excuse to change the subject. Sympathizers of Tilghman hoped to find an excuse in a scapegoat, Sharpton. However, using the word "lynched" was a deadly reference specific to African-Americans. Kelly Tilghman knew that.

Sadly, there is a population of Americans who are ready to dismiss this episode, and that is part of the problem. By not recognizing and condemning a racially charged statement, we as a nation are opening the door for more incidents. Each one only further demonstrates that despite much progress, some people still see African-Americans in derogatory and inferior terms. Television executives can take the lead in this area by changing on-air contracts. Installing a zero tolerance for racial remarks would clearly help avoid further incidents.

Wamara Mwine Crisis Media Counselor?CMPR Communications?Baltimore?Jan. 11, 2008

Feedback: What Hope for the Rest of Us?

If a mainstream and integration friendly mega-personality like Tiger can be racially mauled, what hope exists for the rest of us? I am glad that the lid came off on this story and in the context of our political tide, I hope that it found its mark!!

Sas Mwine


Jan. 12, 2008

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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