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"The Root" Editor Steps Down After 6 Weeks

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Commute an Issue for Former Vibe Editor Danyel Smith

Danyel Smith was to be based in both New York and Washington. (Credit: Carl Posey) After just six weeks on the job, Danyel Smith, the former editor of Vibe magazine, is stepping down as executive editor of theRoot.com, Publisher Donna Byrd announced late Thursday.

When the New York-based Smith took the Washington-based job, theRoot said that "Smith will be based in both Washington, D.C. and New York." On Thursday, Byrd said Smith "is leaving The Root because of issues related to her commute.

"We are sad to see her go, but have appreciated her energy and insight and are happy she was a part of The Root family," Byrd said in a note to the staff. "We are aggressively searching for her replacement and plan to fill the role in the next few weeks."

While Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr. is the online magazine's editor in chief, Smith was the day-to-day editorial leader, and only the second one for the Washington Post Co. product, which debuted in January 2008 as "a daily online magazine that provides thought-provoking commentary on today's news from a variety of black perspectives."

Smith, 44, succeeded Lynette Clemetson, the founding managing editor who left to accept a Knight-Wallace Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan. When Smith took the job on Sept. 8, the title was upgraded to executive editor.

In her short time there, the publication added elements of the hip-hop journalism that Smith practiced at Vibe. Jozen Cummings, former articles editor at Vibe, became a regular writer, for example.

The current issue features "The Root 100," "men and women who, with their actions, ideas and enthusiasms, are changing the world." Many are names unknown to those who consume only the mainstream media.

And while theRoot.com had specialized in opinion pieces, this columnist wrote a reported piece for the Smith-led site about Johnson Publishing Co.

Smith is married to Elliott Wilson, former editor of the hip-hop magazine XXL, who remained in New York. Earlier this year, he founded RapRadar, "a Web site he hopes will eventually be a Huffington Post-like destination for hip-hop music fans and, perhaps, a print magazine," as Dylan Stableford reported for Folio magazine.

Deputy editor Terence Samuel led the editorial team while the search to succeed Clemetson proceeded.

Smith became available once Vibe folded on June 1. The online publication had attracted a "tremendous" number of candidates for the job, Byrd said when Smith was selected, "not only African Americans, but a number of people who had experiences elsewhere, a testament to the brand and the quality" of the content.

The selection team members were primarily Byrd, Gates and Jacob Weisberg, editor in chief of the Slate Group, Byrd said. TheRoot has an editorial staff of six.

The Root was conceived by Post Co. Chairman Donald Graham and Gates, who is Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard and director there of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. It became a sister publication to the online magazine Slate. It gets 1.4 million unique visitors per month, Byrd said.

The Root, Smith told Richard P?©rez-Pe?±a of the New York Times, "just seems like the perfect place for me.'

Parents of Chicago TV Host Found Slain

October 21, 2009

Garrard McClendon, left, posted this photo of himself and his parents, Ruby and Milton McClendon, on his Chicago Now site. No motive for the killings has been established.

Son Has Spoken Out Against Epidemic of Violence

The parents of a host and commentator on the Chicago all-news channel CLTV were found shot to death in a forest preserve near Calumet City, Ill., on Monday, and their vehicle discovered abandoned on the well-traveled Dan Ryan Expressway Wednesday morning, according to news reports.

The son, Garrard McClendon, serves as host of "Garrard McClendon Live!" on Tribune-owned CLTV (Chicago Land TV), blogs on the Chicago Tribune Media Group's Chicago Now Web site and writes an occasional column for the Times of Northwest Indiana.

He has often spoken out against Chicago violence, but Hammond, Ind., Police Chief Brian Miller told Journal-isms it could not be determined whether the killing of Milton and Ruby McClendon of Hammond was in any way related to their son. The motive is unknown, he said.

CLTV moved operations to WGN-TV in August. WGN-TV features reporter Marcus Leshock wrote on the Chicago Now site, "Today I was on live on set at the end of our WGN News at 5 p.m. As soon as the cameras shut off, we knew something was wrong. Our team of producers was in the studio, waiting to deliver some awful news.

Parents and son at a family gathering. (Credit: Facebook)"My heart aches for Garrard, one of the most positive, encouraging forces in my world. I couldn't imagine this happening to anybody, but it happening to Garrard is unfathomable. I am at a loss for words at the moment . . . It struck me that almost everyday in this city, somebody is getting news like this. I feel sick. I feel angry. And I am so incredibly sad for my friend."

William Lee, Andrew L. Wang and Dennis Sullivan wrote Wednesday in the Chicago Tribune that the investigation of the slayings had shifted from the south suburban forest preserve where the parents were found to their Indiana home.

"An autopsy performed Tuesday determined that Milton McClendon died of a gunshot wound to the head and Ruby McClendon died of multiple gunshot wounds. Milton McClendon, who was identified through his heart pacemaker, was 78, and his wife was 76, records show," the story said.

"The husband and wife had been among Hammond's first African-American residents and were pillars of the community, said Jeff Morrow, whose sister is married to the couple's son Duane. 'They wanted to stay in this community. They took a lot of pride in living here and being from here.'"

Garrard McClendon is also a professor, author and diversity trainer. He wrote "Ax or Ask?: The African American Guide to Better English" to assist African Americans with pronunciation and a better understanding of English, according to a profile on his Web site.

"CLTV producer Gerry Riles said McClendon was at his parents' home late Tuesday evening with police investigators. Tuesday's episode of Garrard McClendon Live was canceled," B.J. Lutz reported for WMAQ-TV.

Megan Williams, who originally said she was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and tortured by whites in West Virginia, lies in Charleston Area Medical Center General Hospital with her mother, Carmen Williams, in September 2007. (Credit: Lingbing Hang/Charleston Gazette)

Bruised Black Woman Fails to Retract Torture Claim

A black woman whose 2007 claim that she was severely physically and sexually abused by whites in Charleston, W.Va., led to outraged cries that the news media were not devoting sufficient attention to her case is recanting her story, attorney Byron L. Potts, who represents the woman, told Journal-isms on Wednesday. But the woman failed to show up at a news conference where she was supposed to recant the claim.

"Seven people pleaded guilty for their part in abusing Megan Williams — but now Williams says that abuse never happened," Gary A. Harki wrote Wednesday in the Charleston Gazette, which first reported Potts' comments.

The wounds that were photographed at the time were nearly all self-inflicted, Potts said.

However, Williams "didn't speak at a press conference at her lawyer's office on Wednesday," Harki reported Wednesday night.

"Authorities don't believe Williams' new claims. They point to the physical evidence and the fact that all seven defendants pleaded guilty and confessed their roles in the incident," he wrote.

Williams, 22 and unemployed, lives now in Columbus, Ohio, where Potts practices.

"'She has decided she has been living this lie for approximately two years and she has decided to tell the truth,' Potts said. 'She fabricated the story and she did this in retaliation because she was having a relationship with one of them,' the Gazette story said.

In the Wednesday night story, the Gazette wrote, "Williams' most recent claims leave current Logan County Prosecutor John Bennett with a very difficult problem. He briefly represented one of the defendants in the case, though he wouldn't say which one.

"Bennett also said Megan Williams could be charged."

Earlier, former Logan County prosecutor Brian Abraham, who was in charge of the case, said no one ever went to jail because of Williams' statements.

"Instead, Abraham said Tuesday night, he decided early in the case not to rely on Williams' statements, but on the physical evidence and the statements of the co-defendants," the Gazette reported.

Williams "appeared to be beaten repeatedly, held against her will, burned with hot wax, stabbed in the leg, and forced to perform oral sex on at least two defendants."

One of the whites who was prosecuted, Alisha Burton, pleaded guilty to a hate-crime charge for stabbing Williams in the ankle while saying, "This is what we do to niggers around here."

The Rev. Al Sharpton called the incident a "national disgrace" that was "barbaric and racist," the New York Amsterdam News reported at the time.

"Not only will Sharpton ask his radio audience to donate money to Megan Williams for Christmas, he will also seek help for her with the counseling and therapy she's been receiving. He later presented her mother with one of his own personal checks of $1,000 as a Christmas gift," the Dec. 20, 2007, story said.

In addition to the accusations that the national news media were not sufficiently interested in the story, Williams' case prompted a discussion of hate-crime laws.

On National Public Radio's "Tell Me More," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, said that December, "I serve as a member of the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Crime, as well as a member of the Human Rights Caucus. We go around the world to address the question of enormous human abuses that we see in the continent and other places. It is interesting that we go around the world as Americans to denounce that kind of violence and hatefulness, and yet, we cannot find, if you will, the right kind of legal address of these issues right here in our country."

Jack Nelson Dies, Made His Name Covering Civil Rights

"Jack Nelson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, author and longtime Washington bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, whose hard-nosed coverage of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and the Watergate scandal in the 1970s helped establish the paper's national reputation, has died. He was 80," Elaine Woo reported Wednesday for the Los Angeles Times.

"Nelson died today at his home in Bethesda, Md., of pancreatic cancer.

"Nelson was recruited from the Atlanta Constitution in 1965 as part of publisher Otis Chandler’s effort to transform The Times into one of the country's foremost dailies. An aggressive reporter who had exposed abuses at Georgia's biggest mental institution, Nelson went on to break major stories on the civil rights movement for The Times, particularly in his coverage of the shooting of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo and the massacre of black students at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg."

Streeter Exits L.A. Times Sports Pages for Wider Role

Kurt StreeterA year ago, when sportswriter Lonnie White left the Los Angeles Times, he said, "When I began, the LA Times had only one African American sportswriter (Chris Baker) and when I leave 21 years later," there will be two (Kurt Streeter and Brad Turner).

Now he can reduce that again to one. As the Times continues to downsize, with staffers reportedly expecting 35 to 40 exits this week, columnist Streeter has been given an expanded role — but outside the Sports Department.

"Kurt Streeter, who has been columnizing for us for the last two-plus years, is returning to the Metro staff to concentrate on producing more long-form front-page stories like his recent Column One on Dodgers interpreter Kenji Nimura," sports editor Mike James wrote to staffers on Tuesday. "Kurt has always shown a talent for thoroughly researching a story and producing a strong narrative account; he'll now have the opportunity to do that regularly.

"Kurt will continue to write about sports in some of his front-page pieces but will be free to tackle a wide variety of stories. He also will occasional write commentaries for Sports when suitable issues arise."

"Yep, the sports department now has only one reporter of color — Brad Turner, who is one of two people covering the Lakers — and no editors of color," Streeter told Journal-isms. "After I decided to make this move I'm now the only African-American male on the city desk at the primary newspaper in America's second largest city."

White now writes for AOL Fanhouse.

RTDNA, NAB Say They're Weathering Financial Storm

New logo for RTDNAThe journalist organizations of color, the Online News Association, the Society of Professional Journalists and the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association struggled amid the economic climate this year, and the American Society of News Editors and the Magazine Publishers of American canceled their annual conventions entirely.

But two broadcast associations told Journal-isms they were pleased with how they're weathering the storm.

"So far, RTDNA (our new name) is holding its own financially," Stacey Woelfel, chairman of the Radio Television Digital News Association, told Journal-isms. "I think we are in better shape than a lot of the other journalism organizations out there. I credit that to a great deal of expense cutting we have done over the last few years in anticipation of dropping membership. Our convention was our smallest in a long time — about 550 people attended — but we were prepared for that. Our partnership in Las Vegas with NAB." the National Association of Broadcasters, "has allowed us to put on a convention that is very cost effective, so we did end up making some money there. I'm hopeful next year will tick up a bit for us."

Partly to reflect changes in technology, the organization changed its name on Oct. 13 from the Radio-Television News Directors Association.

For the NAB, a powerful lobbying organization for broadcast owners, Dennis Wharton, executive vice president, media relations, told Journal-isms, "Our NAB Show in Vegas had 84,000 attendees this year, down about 19% from the previous year. We were quite pleased with that turnout, given the fact that many conventions were down as much as 40% in attendance this year."

The 84,000 figure "includes everyone who attended, including spouses, exhibitors, regulators and reporters. Most attendees are not NAB members, since our convention branched out many years ago beyond 'just broadcasting' to encompass all elements of the content delivery business (satellite, cable, video post production, Internet)."

Merging Journalist of Color Groups Called Unrealistic

Rafael Olmeda, the immediate past president of Unity: Journalists of Color who stepped down from his leadership role last week, told Mallary Jean Tenore of the Poynter Institute that any suggestion that the journalist of color organizations should merge to save money is unrealistic.

Tenore quoted a member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists who made the suggestion.

"We cannot pretend that one overall organization is going to be able to satisfy the unique needs of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the National Association of Black Journalists, the Native American Journalists Association and the Asian American Journalists Association," Olmeda, a former NAHJ president, said. "It's very important that they stand on their own.

"Each group has its own identity and distinct needs that members of the other minority journalism groups might not fully understand. NAJA members, for instance, have expertise in tribal issues that give them added credibility when they speak out on controversial stories involving Native Americans. NAJA and the other three minority journalism groups, Olmeda said, should be able to act independently," Tenore wrote.

Sergeant in Chauncey Bailey Case to Return to Duty

"The Oakland police sergeant who led the investigation into the 2007 slaying of a newspaper editor has been cleared of internal charges that he compromised the probe to keep the leader of Your Black Muslim Bakery from being implicated, The Chronicle has learned," Jaxon Van Derbeken wrote Wednesday for the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Sgt. Derwin Longmire was told last week that acting Police Chief Howard Jordan had ordered that he be returned to duty. Longmire has been on paid leave for six months while the Police Department considered whether he should be fired for misconduct in investigating the killing of Oakland Post Editor Chauncey Bailey.

"Jordan and other police officials concluded that Longmire should serve a five-day suspension for minor problems with other homicide cases, but that the 23-year department veteran had done nothing wrong in the Bailey probe, sources close to the investigation said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision has not been made public.

"Longmire's attorney, Michael Rains, said details such as what Longmire will do when he goes back to work were still being worked out. He had been reassigned from the homicide unit to the patrol detail before being put on leave."

Teen Vogue Features Black, Pregnant Teen Model

November's Teen Vogue "When Jamie Lynn Spears revealed she was expecting a baby back in 2007, the question of whether a pregnant teen should have a starring role on a television show that targets a young audience was broached (Spears played the lead on Nickelodeon's 'Zoey 101'), Courtney Hazlet wrote last week in her "Scoop" column for MSNBC.

"Now the magazine world enters into a similar dialogue as Teen Vogue’s November issue, which pictures a pregnant, unmarried 19-year-old model on its cover, hits newsstands.' The model is the British-born Jourdan Dunn.

"There’s nothing about the cover that would indicate that Jourdan Dunn, who is the first black model to walk a Prada show since Naomi Campbell in the 1990s, is pregnant. She looks no different than Chanel Iman, who is also pictured, and the accompanying cover line says simply, 'T'een Supermodels Jourdan and Chanel on their rise to the top.'

"Not until you read the accompanying piece does the subject of Dunn’s pregnancy come into play. Toward the end of the interview, Dunn says her unplanned pregnancy was 'really hard,' and 'all I could think about was what my mom was going to say, my agency, my boyfriend.'

"A representative for Teen Vogue said that they didn’t know Dunn was pregnant until after the photo shoot, and production schedules, among other factors, led to the decision to keep the cover in place."

Short Takes

  • "For the first time since it was created fourteen years ago, Columbia University‚Äôs highly regarded dual-degree graduate program in environmental journalism will not be accepting applications for next academic year," Curtis Brainard wrote Tuesday for Columbia Journalism Review. "In a letter to faculty at the Graduate School of Journalism, the Department of Environmental Sciences, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the program directors cited falling employment in the field, the rising costs of education, and a lack of financial aid for students as the reasons for their decision."
  • >Shepard Fairey's poster"In court papers filed by The Associated Press, the news organization said Shepard Fairey concocted the story that he was mistaken about which photo he used to create the famous Obama HOPE poster and disputed his contention that he has not personally profited from the iconic red, white and blue image," the AP wrote on Tuesday. "Until recently, Fairey had claimed his image was based on a 2006 photo of then-Sen. Barack Obama, seated next to actor George Clooney. Fairey now says that he was in error and that he used a solo, close-up shot of Obama, as the AP had long alleged."
  • "A new National Newspaper Association survey found that 81 percent of respondents read a local weekly paper each week, 73 percent read 'most or all of it,' and those readers spend an average of 40 minutes with the paper," Joe Strupp reported Tuesday for MediaWeek. The organization of weekly newspapers wanted people to know that people are still reading ink on paper.
  • Although Al Jazeera English is shunned by most U.S. cable systems because of its perceived Arabic worldview, "AJE's worldwide reach continues to grow with international distribution recently passing 180 million households," Molly Conroy, a spokeswoman for the network in Washington, told Journal-isms. The network was created in 1996 with a $150 million grant from the emir of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
  • "Of all the consequences of shrinking newsrooms, one of the oddest is this: Fewer journalists are available to watch people die," Richard P?©rez-Pe?±a wrote Tuesday in the New York Times. "Newspapers sometimes use The A.P.‚Äôs reporting rather than their own ‚Äî or they do not cover the executions at all. What was once a statewide story has become of strictly local interest."
  • The New York University journalism graduate students who went to the Southwest to report on the Navajo Nation's uranium contamination and housing issues have posted their reports on the university's Pavement Pieces Web site.
  • Richard Prince discusses Monday's Journal-isms column with Keith Murphy on XM Satellite Radio's "The Urban Journal" (part 4).
  • "Writers for Newsweek and The New York Times (NYT) were among the 150 guests who enjoyed a free trip to Jamaica last weekend, courtesy of the consumer e-newsletter Thrillist and JetBlue (JBLU), among a host of other sponsors," Jeff Bercovici reported for dailyfinance.com. "After learning that one of its reporters, Kurt Soller, had gone on the junket, The Washington Post Co. (WPO)'s Newsweek quickly concluded that his weekend in Jamaica violated the magazine's ethics guidelines." The New York Times said it "will be discussing the situation further with Mr. Albo and his editors at The Times," referring to Times freelancer Mike Albo.
  • Yoani Sanchez"Yoani S?°nchez is a 34-year-old Cuban writer, editor and linguistics scholar who last week became the first blogger to win one of the Maria Moors Cabot Prizes given by Columbia University for journalism that advances inter-American understanding," Larry Rohter wrote in Sunday's New York Times. "Her two-year-old blog, filled with personal observations and sardonic social commentary from Havana, is called Generaci??n Y; it now gets more than 14 million page views a month, routinely inspires thousands of comments and can be read in an English version. But it circulates far more freely outside Cuba than within, where the Castro dictatorship regards it as counter-revolutionary."
  • "On October 19, 1986, the sun quite suddenly set at noon," Dan Agbese recalled Tuesday for the Committee to Protect Journalists. "In the brutal darkness, we lost Dele Giwa, just two short years after he and I, along with two other professional journalists, launched Nigeria‚Äôs first newsmagazine, Newswatch. "Dele was home on Talabi Street, Ikeja, Lagos, about to eat a meal with our London bureau chief Kayode Soyinka when his son, Billy, brought in a large brown envelope addressed to him and carrying what seemed to be the official government seal. Two men in a Peugeot had delivered the parcel to Dele‚Äôs home. As Dele attempted to open the parcel, which he believed had come from the office of the Nigerian president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, it blew up. It was a parcel bomb. Dele‚Äôs lower half was almost severed from his body. . . . We are soldiering on, in our own way, expanding the frontiers of press freedom even as we bear the burden of official intolerance and the fickleness of the Nigerian public."
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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 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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