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Reporters Skeptical, Friends Upbeat on Princell Hair

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Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Reporters Skeptical, Friends Upbeat on Princell Hair

Television beat reporters greeted the appointment of Princell Hair as CNN's U.S. general manager with skepticism, linking him with the hiring of Jerry Springer as a news commentator while he was the No. 3 man at Chicago's WMAQ-TV and asking whether his local-news background was sufficient for the worldwide network.

"The announcement seemed odd to some media writers -- prompting something akin to a collective 'Hair who?' -- as Hair has no previous network or cable news experience," wrote David Folkenflik in the Baltimore Sun.

But two black journalists who worked with Hair, who becomes, at 36, among the top black news media executives, praised him to Journal-isms.

"I'm a Princell fan," though not a personal friend, said Warner Saunders, anchor at Chicago's WMAQ, the NBC owned- and operated station where Hair was news director for 16 months in 1997 and 1998. "I found him an exceptional journalist and a strong manager. He's smart, creative and loyal. This is what management looks for. He knows how to make friends in the right places, when to talk and when not to talk, he's a very thoughtful person. His rise is a template to a lot of us."

"He's a person who liked to put strong managers in place and let them do their jobs," said Ken Jobe, news director at WHBQ-TV in Memphis, who was news director at WWJ and WKBB in Detroit in 2001 and 2002 while Hair was vice president/news there. He describes himself as "a fan and a friend," and said that at CNN, where the imminent departure of anchor Leon Harris means the loss of its remaining black male anchor, "you can expect that Princell's hires will be diverse."

Much of the commentary by the overwhelmingly white corps of television writers focused on criticism of Hair's role at WMAQ. But even a Web site aimed at black journalists wrote incorrectly that he was general manager when WMAQ hired Springer.

It was general manager Lyle Banks and news vice president Joel Cheatwood who hired the tabloid talker. Hair was news director.

"'The only thing I can really say on that is that it was in the works long before I got there, and it was presented to me as a fait accompli," Hair said in the Chicago Tribune, noting that he signed a non-disclosure agreement when he left NBC. Asked whether he agreed with the decision to hire Springer, he said, "I can't really get into that because I'm legally bound not to get into it.'"

In fact, on May 8, 1997, Chicago Sun-Times television writer Robert Feder wrote that "Lyle Banks, president and general manager of the station, issued a memo to all staffers Tuesday restating what he called 'a longstanding NBC policy regarding unauthorized contacts with the press.'

"Other than three people -- Banks, Joel Cheatwood, vice president of news, and Jayme Nicholas, manager of press and publicity -- all employees "are prohibited from talking to any member of the press or any medium," Banks wrote. His order apparently extends even to Princell Hair, Channel 5's news director."

The other rap on Hair was his history in local news.

"Hair's most memorable decision involved a live car chase captured by a WBAL-TV cameraman hovering above Northwest Baltimore in a helicopter," wrote Folkenflik in the Baltimore Sun.

"The station devoted the end of a 5:30 p.m. newscast on a gusty afternoon in February 2001 to live footage of a car speeding away from police. The hyperbolically narrated tale stretched, still live, into the 6 p.m. program, and was recounted at length on WBAL's 11 p.m. news.

"It was Baltimore's first live news aerial footage of a car chase -- all for people who were merely suspected with the relatively commonplace Baltimore felony of stealing a car, and whose police pursuers quickly gave up the chase. 'The video makes the story -- I make no bones about that," Hair said at the time. 'I thought it was very compelling television. It was compelling to watch.'"

However, Jobe, in Memphis, told Journal-isms that when they worked together last year, "I don't think we were overly sensational."

Reported the New York Daily News: "CNN News Group President Jim Walton said he believes Hair's experience in highly competitive local news gives him the skills to handle the new approach.

'He can work with high-end talent, and he needs to do that here,' Walton said."

FCC's Powell Reported "Unbowed" by Rebukes

The Senate approved a resolution Tuesday to repeal all of the new regulations that would make it easier for the nation's largest media companies to grow bigger, the New York Times reports, but "the sponsors of the Senate resolution acknowledged that it still faced long political odds before becoming law in its current form, although they said they had better chances of repealing significant pieces of the new rules rather than the entire package.

"House leaders who oppose the resolution have refused to allow it to reach the floor of that chamber," Stephen Labaton reported.

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell is "unbowed by a string of rebukes from Congress, the courts and the public to his agency's ruling allowing media giants to get bigger."

"'In hindsight, maybe I would have done a little more of this, a little less of that,' Powell, a Republican, said last week in an interview in his corner office," Tim Dillon reported.

"But I don't believe what we did in the mainstream was incorrect," Powell was quoted as saying.

"Administration officials had spoken to several lawmakers before the vote in an unsuccessful effort to turn it around, Congressional officials said today. Administration officials expressed relief that the vote indicated the measure would not be able to withstand a presidential veto, which the White House has threatened," the Times report continued.

Journalists of Color Among Knight Ridder Winners

Journalists of color were among the winners in Knight Ridder's seventeenth annual James K. Batten Excellence Awards competition, designed to recognize and celebrate the successes of Knight Ridder people.

The winners are to be honored at a special dinner hosted by Chairman and CEO Tony Ridder on Oct. 20 in San Jose, Calif. The winners receive stock options and a total of $45,000 in prize money.

The jury awarded a Special Citation to journalists from throughout the company who made Knight Ridder?s war coverage what the organization called the most collaborative effort in company history.

Among these journalists were these of color:

Contra Costa Times: Bob Nishizaki. Detroit Free Press: Ruby Bailey, Eric Seals, Nancy Youssef. Fort Worth Star-Telegram: Khampha Bouaphan. Knight Ridder/Tribune: Harry Walker. Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader: Pablo Alcala. Macon (Ga.) Telegraph: Nick Oza; Miami Herald: Carl Juste, Juan Tamayo. Philadelphia Inquirer: Michael Perez. San Jose Mercury News: Maureen Fan. Knight Ridder Washington Bureau: Joyce Davis, Diego Ibargüen, Ken Moritsugu, Tony Pugh, Sudarsan Raghavan (Africa).

In addition, "Jeanne Newton, human resources director of the Belleville (Ill.) News-Democrat, won the Diversity award for her influence throughout the newspaper in making the workplace more reflective of the diverse community it serves.

"She played a key role in developing and presenting diversity training programs to the entire News-Democrat staff. She coached senior managers as they intensified their efforts, and designed and implemented a benchstrength program for more than 60 employees. She helped form a Diversity Committee that worked with departments throughout the newspaper, urging more minority-authored columns for the editorial page and more efforts to make the paper available in high-traffic areas where it would reach a more diverse audience," a news release said.

"The Journalism award was given to the self-directed newsroom team at The (Columbia, S.C.) State that produced a special series on civil rights, 'Long Road to Justice ? Civil Rights in South Carolina.' The group was led by features columnist Claudia Brinson, columnist John Monk, reporter Roddie Burris, Sunday editor/staff writer Carolyn Click and Executive Editor Mark Lett." Burris is African American.

"Pegged to a civil rights conference at The Citadel military academy, the stories took an unflinching look at history in context ? early and recent ? and then explored what may come next. It aimed to develop shared understanding and shared goals for addressing some of society?s most difficult issues."

Also, "Richard Koci Hernandez, photographer for the San Jose Mercury News, won the first-ever Photojournalism award for his compelling images and the invaluable ability to create rapport with his subjects that yields insightful photographs. In describing his work on a series about unemployment in Silicon Valley, his nominators wrote, 'He could take pictures of unemployed people, or pictures of people who happen to be unemployed. It?s a subtle distinction ? and subtlety is Richard?s strength.'"

In a non-journalism award, "Melvina Ponzio, home delivery manager for the San Jose Mercury News, won the Circulation award for the steps she took to improve communication and build strong relationships with a multicultural group of employees. Arriving just six months after a brief walkout by the newspaper?s predominantly Vietnamese carrier force, Ponzio set about identifying and addressing the issues most important to a good work environment. To assist contract negotiations, she used professional interpreters to ensure understanding. She hired two Vietnamese-speaking branch managers, one of whom is also fluent in Chinese, and another in Spanish," the news release said.

People of color on the 12-member judging panel were:

Jeanne Fox Alston, vice president/diversity, Newspaper Association of America; Ken Bunting, executive editor, Seattle Post-Intelligencer; Felix Gutierrez, visiting professor, USC Annenberg School of Journalism; Carl Morris, editor, The Morris Memo and former executive director, National Association of Minority Media Executives; and Orage Quarles, publisher, Raleigh News and Observer.

Miami Herald Runs Latino's Business-Page Cartoon

Charlos Gary's ''thing''-- a cartoon panel called "Working It Out," has made the leap from his bedroom sketch pad in Chicago to newspapers across the nation, the Miami Herald reports. The Herald is now running the panel every week in its Business Monday section.

"Last April, Gary's two-year-old home business received its biggest boost to date when Creators Syndicate -- which handles distribution for approximately 150 cartoonists and columnists, from George Gately, who draws Heathcliff, to TV personality Bill O'Reilly -- signed him to a 10-year contract.

"So far, 14 newspapers have picked up Working It Out. And the syndicate believes other subscribers are on the horizon."

Gary, 35, handed out media kits to editors at this summer's National Association of Hispanic Journalists convention in New York.

See the cartoons

Summer Conventions Boost J-Associations of Color

The summer conventions boosted membership figures at most of the journalism associations of color, according to the associations.


  • The National Association of Black Journalists, the largest of the groups, stood at 2,683 members in July, with many people renewing memberships for the Dallas convention, according to executive director Tangie Newborn. Of the total, 1,294 are full members; 465 are associates, including journalism professors and public relations people; and 925 are student members.


  • The National Association of Hispanic Journalists had 2,127 members as of June 30, after its June 26-28 convention in New York. The breakdown: 1,442 are regular members; 36 are academic members, who may vote but not hold office; 218 are associates, including public relations people and media-related professionals; 363 are student members, and 14 are lifetime members, said communications director Joseph Torres.


  • The Asian American Journalists Association reports a record 1,978 members as of Sept. 9. Antonio Salas, membership and chapter development manager, said that unlike the other groups, AAJA does not receive a boost from its convention, since memberships are by calendar year and 70 percent of members renew in the first quarter of the year. AAJA's membership stands at 1,204 full members; 641 student members; 113 associate members, including public relations people and former journalists; 13 retired members; five lifetime members and two corporate members.


  • The Native American Journalists Association has a little over 400 members, said executive director Ron Walters. It is still tallying the boost that came from its mid-June convention in Green Bay, Wis., he said.

Ifill's Faves: "Beckham," "Boomtown," James Brown

Gwen Ifill, moderator of PBS?s "Washington Week" and a senior correspondent for "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer," shares a few of her favorite everythings in an interview with Washingtonian magazine.

Among them: "A recent film that I left smiling was 'Bend It Like Beckham.' My favorite movies of all time would be 'The Manchurian Candidate' and 'Singin? in the Rain.' I do love musicals.

Television show: "I like 'Boomtown,' '24,' 'Frasier,' and 'The West Wing.'"

Music: "Anything I can dance to. I have a music collection that includes two of my favorites, Al Green and James Brown. It?s illegal to be sitting when James Brown is playing. I also like the Average White Band. All these groups had hits when I was dancing in my younger days. I don?t get to dance much anymore, but I have been known to dance in my chair at work."

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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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