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Roy S. Johnson to Edit Men's Fitness

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Previous Leader to Pursue "Humanitarian Issues"

Roy S. Johnson, the veteran sports journalist who was named editor-at-large at Men's Fitness magazine just three weeks ago, was given the top editor's job on Monday.

 

 

"Neal Boulton is officially out of his job at Men's Fitness. In a move that's not quite a shock to the business, Mr. Boulton is leaving the American Media magazine, where he was editor in chief since November 2004, 'to write a book and pursue his humanitarian issues, such as obesity,' the company said," Nat Ives reported Monday in a gossipy item on AdAge.com.

"Mr. Boulton became the subject of tabloid gossip when the New York Post's Page Six recently claimed he had been 'spotted around town' with Jann Wenner, whose Us Weekly and Men's Journal compete with American Media's Star and Men's Fitness. Mr. Wenner denied to the paper that anything was going on," Ives wrote.

"Mr. Boulton has also reportedly been out of the office for medical reasons for some time. American Media tapped Mr. Johnson three weeks ago to handle editor-in-chief duties on an interim basis. Now Mr. Johnson has the job for real."

American Media, Inc., describes itself as "the leading publisher of celebrity journalism and health and fitness magazines in the U.S. These include Star, Shape, Men's Fitness, Fit Pregnancy, Natural Health, and The National Enquirer. In addition to print properties, AMI owns Distribution Services, Inc., the country's #1 in-store magazine merchandising company."

Johnson, 51, left Sports Illustrated as assistant managing editor in December 2005 after editing the old Savoy magazine.

He said in a news release, "I'm thrilled to join Men's Fitness at a time when fitness is shaping the future of the country more than ever. The magazine's vision to help men achieve peak performance in all aspects of their lives is one that truly resonates with me."

The magazine has a circulation of 700,000 and said its chief demographic is "young men who are just learning more and more about their bodies," people in their late 20s and early 30s, he told Journal-isms.

On April 25, Johnson said of the editor-at-large job, "In that capacity I will write features and provide editorial insight and direction to Editor-in-Chief Neal Boulton. I will also work with American Media CEO David Pecker and his management team on broader strategic multi-platform initiatives and new project development."

"I began consulting with American Media a month ago, specifically on developing a strategy for the creation of television and digital properties with their fitness brands (Men's Fitness, Shape, Muscle & Fitness, Flex Hers Muscle & Fitness, Fit Pregnancy and Natural Health)," Johnson told Journal-isms. "I also began working with MF Editor-in-Chief Neal Boulton on upcoming cover stories and it was decided that with my extensive sports background I could bring much to that specific brand editorially. Working with AMI CEO David Pecker, I will continue to focus on new platforms for the company's extensive fitness brands while contributing to Men's Fitness. It's an exciting opportunity to work with a great company led by a dynamic and creative management team with a vision and a passion for new ideas."

Johnson has written a column for AOL Black Voices and a sports blog, "Pass the Word," among other activities, since he left Sports Illustrated.

A piece by Lizzy Ratner last year in the New York Observer, "Vanilla Ceiling: Magazines Still Shades Of White," quoted Pamela Newkirk, a professor at New York Universityâ??s Department of Journalism and author of "Within the Veil: Black Journalists, White Media."

"The magazine industry is probably the least diverse of any of the media. Theyâ??ve taken a real pass," Newkirk said. "As I say that, I can just hear all the people trying to shake the trees to tell you they have all this diversity â?? and then start mentioning people in the mailroom. But no, Iâ??ve been in too many of these places, and I know firsthand that they are just not diverse."

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Fired Sportswriter Wins Case Against Detroit Paper

An arbitrator has ruled in favor of sportswriter Perry Farrell, who was dismissed from the Detroit Free Press last year after an incident in which, he said, "I should have paraphrased instead of quoting."

 

 

Farrell should have been disciplined, but not fired, arbitrator Anne T. Patton said in a ruling dated Friday. He was ordered reinstated with full back pay except for 90 days, when Patton said a suspension was justified, according to Lou Mleczko, president of the Newspaper Guild of Detroit, which took Farrell's case to arbitration after grievance machinery failed.

"The allegation of gross misconduct was not proven by the paper," the arbitrator said.

She compared Farrell's case with others at the paper, though the story in question was never published. "Other employees were not discharged, although one was charged with the more egregious, deliberate and intentional offense of plagiarism. The fact that other employees had no prior offenses on their record does not justify the difference between the three-day suspension they received and the discharge Farrell received."

Patton did not specify which other employees she was talking about, and Mleczko said he knew only that the one charged with plagiarism was not a Guild member.

The Farrell incident came just over a year after the paper rode out an uproar involving star columnist Mitch Albom, who described activity at a game that had not yet taken place.

The Free Press, then owned by Knight Ridder, took unspecified disciplinary action against Albom and four other staffers, each of whom had some role in putting his 2005 column into the paper "and each of whom had the responsibility to fix errors before publication," the Free Press said then in a letter to readers.

The arbitrator's decision came "10 months to the day" of his firing, Farrell told Journal-isms. It was "one of the worst experiences of my life." The Gannett paper "thought they had me out the door," but "God's protected me through this situation."

Farrell, 49, and a father of three, said "because of the Lord, I have not missed a car note or a house note" and that "I've done some things to start a new career in the financial services field." Although he plans to return to the paper, "I've learned to keep the door open just in case."

He was bitter toward some of his colleagues who worked with him for 17 or 18 years, and "never gave me a phone call. A lot of people turned their back on me," he said.

Kristi Bowden, vice president for human resources for the Detroit Media Partnership, which operates the Free Press and the Detroit News under a joint operating agreement, said she would have no comment. "We're not in a position to discuss a personnel/legal issue," she told Journal-isms.

The Free Press' attorney, John Jaske, said he was away from the area and had not seen the decision.

In the incident in which "they tried to build a case against me," Farrell said he had taken some quotes from a Web site from two sources whom he had spoken with and whose comments he had on tape. "I should have paraphrased instead of quoted" the Web comments, he said. "It's hardly something" that should have had such an effect on an 18-year career, Farrell told Journal- isms last year.

The sportswriter said he saw other forces at work. "I was put in a situation at the Free Press where it was obvious they didn't want me around. In their struggle to get breaking news in the paper, they didn't want someone of my experience to do that."

Farrell said he had three beats in nine months, going from covering the NBA's Detroit Pistons to reporting on colleges and then on high school sports in western Wayne County, Mich. He said, "If I was a white guy with this experience level, I'd be a columnist for a major paper."

Mleczko said the experience demonstrated the importance of unions. "Most journalists work at papers where there is no union," he said. "They don't have to give you a reason for letting you go. Where there is a union, we have contract language" saying one can be fired only for just and sufficient cause. "We challenged it on that basis."

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If the Suits Had Won, Oprah Might Be "Suzie"

Oprah Winfrey could have been known as "Suzie," if news executives had their way early in her career.

Winfrey spoke at the Howard University commencement on Saturday, receiving an honorary degree. Developing the themes, "find your calling," and "my integrity is not for sale, and neither is yours," the talk-show entrepreneur recalled her eight years as a television reporter in Baltimore, where she began working at WJZ-TV in 1976.

 

 

"I knew in those years in Baltimore that I was unhappy being a newswoman, but the voice of my father said, 'Don't give up that job; you'll never make $25,000 in one year, and so I tried to live in the space . . .

"The television executives said I was too big; I was too engaged; I was too black; I was too emotional. I was too much for the news. They put me on a talk show just to run out my contract, and that is the beginning of my story," Winfrey told the cheering graduates.

The media mogul said she was told in the beginning of her career, "you need to change your name. We think Suzie is a good name," because it sounds friendly and is easy to remember, she said. "People can relate to 'Suzie.'" Winfrey said she told them, "I think I'll keep my name, whether people will remember it or not. It is my name."

There were similar doubters when she began "The Oprah Winfrey Show," she said. But Winfrey said she told colleagues then, "I'll take the high road. We will chart our own course. We will stand for what we believe, and 21 years later, we're still the number one show.

"Don't be a slave to any form of selling out," she said.

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Nearly 7 in 8 Sunday Talk-Show Guests Are White

"Not only are the Sunday morning talk shows on the broadcast networks dominated by conservative opinion and commentary, the four programs — NBC's 'Meet the Press,' ABC's 'This Week,' CBS' 'Face the Nation,' and Fox Broadcasting Co.'s 'Fox News Sunday'— feature guest lists that are overwhelmingly white and overwhelmingly male," the group Media Matters reiterated on Monday.

"And the top-rated Sunday show — 'Meet the Press' — shows the least diversity of all. The NBC program is the most male and nearly the most white ('Face the Nation' beats it out by 1 percentage point), and it has the highest proportion of white males to all other guests.

"A breakdown of the guests who appeared on the Sunday shows in 2005 and 2006 shows . . . the divide is even starker when it comes to race/ethnicity: On average, there were nearly seven white guests for every guest of any other race/ethnicity. On 'Meet the Press' and 'Face the Nation,' there were nearly nine white guests for every guest of another race/ethnicity.

"African-Americans are badly underrepresented on the Sunday shows, but Latinos fare even worse. In 2004, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Hispanics made up 14 percent of the American population; given recent rates of growth, the number is undoubtedly higher now. Yet only 1 percent of the guests on the Sunday shows in the past two years were Latino.

"In August 2005, the National Urban League Policy Institute released a study of the Sunday morning talk shows that produced similar results."

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Buffalo Paper Honored for Writing About Poor People

 

 

Although the news media and political campaigns stand accused of ignoring the poor as they chase soccer moms and affluent voters, an investigative series in the Buffalo News "that exposed how poor people are victimized by a web of unethical — and often illegal— costs for products and services has been awarded the 2006 Distinguished Community Service prize by the New York Newspaper Publishers Association," the newspaper reported last week.

"The four-part series, 'The High Cost of Being Poor,' was written by Financial Reporter Jonathan Epstein and Urban Affairs Editor [and columnist] Rod Watson. It sparked immediate calls for reform, some of which were quickly turned into legislative and executive action."

Managing Editor Jerry Goldberg told Journal-isms the idea for the series began in a brainstorming session with a delegation from the Committee for Concerned Journalists. Epstein said he had thought about doing a story about check-cashing operations, and the idea was expanded into other means of commerce that cost poor people more, such as predatory loans and chains that sell merchandise on a rent-to-own basis.

"I've been in the business 37 years, and I don't ever recall seeing results this quickly," Goldberg said. In two days, the State Assembly was calling for hearings.

 

 

"State lawmakers in January introduced legislation to curtail the abuses," Editor Margaret M. Sullivan wrote to the publishers association judges. "On the federal level, New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer responded to our series by saying the rent-to-own industry uses 'deceitful' lease agreements to 'grossly overcharge' the most vulnerable people. He introduced federal legislation 'to rein in this renegade industry' that victimizes the working poor.

"The Buffalo Common Council passed, and Mayor Byron W. Brown signed, a law to prevent businesses from charging excessive fees when cashing checks. Also, Council Majority Leader Dominic J. Bonifacio Jr. vowed to push to expand the new regulation to include rent-to-own stores, pawnshops and other businesses that cash checks.

"The Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency adopted an anti-predatory-lending policy specifying the maximum interest rate and terms acceptable on loans for homes built with city subsidies. Loans that do not pass muster will not be eligible for thousands of dollars in city support for builders. In addition, the Erie County District Attorney has launched an investigation to determine whether stores cited in the series violated tax laws."

Buffalo is one of the poorest cities in the country, Goldberg said, with 26 percent living below the poverty line. And while poor people are not the target of advertisers or many circulation directors, he said, the series "clearly had an impact on people in the community, whether they buy the paper or not."

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Reminders of Mother's Day's Roots in Protest

In the Detroit Free Press last week, readers got a Mother's Day history lesson from columnist Desiree Cooper.

"If you're getting flowers and gifts on Mother's Day, that's wonderful," she began. "But I'd like to remind you that Mother's Day didn't start out as a day for mothers to rest upon their laurels. It started out as a women's peace movement.

"Poet and abolitionist Julia Ward Howe wrote "The Battle Hymn of the Republic," which became the marching song for the Union Army during the Civil War.

"When the Franco-Prussian war erupted in 1870, for her, it was one war too many; she decided to become a one-woman army of peace. She issued a Mother's Day Proclamation that year to urge all mothers to fight for peace.

"In 1858, Anna Reeves Jarvis, a rural West Virginia minister's wife, started Mothers' Day Work Clubs to teach women how to stop the spread of deadly disease.

"During the Civil War, the Mothers' Day Work Clubs transformed into small regiments attending to the health of Union and rebel soldiers.

"Following the war, Jarvis also called for a Mother's Day for peace.

"In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially designated Mother's Day as a day to publicly revere mothers. That's a long way from the holiday's activist roots.

"If you're a mom, maybe you could spend a minute this Sunday asking what you can do to foster peace."

Cooper followed up two days later by noting that 2,000 efforts were planned in all 50 states and in 65 countries, in which people would silently stand for peace on Mother's Day.

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BET's "Thumbs Down" Prompts "Barbershop" Talk

The decision by the National Association of Black Journalists to bestow its annual "Thumbs Down" award to Black Entertainment Television prompted conversation on the debut of the "Barbershop" segment of Michel Martin's new "Tell Me More" show Friday on National Public Radio.

Ruben Navarrette of the San Diego Union-Tribune said, "I've been aware of this for sometime, both as it relates to the black community — we're talking about BET — but also in the Latino community you have Univision, the same exact criticism of Univision. It's in Spanish. It has a lot of T&A, a lot of scantily clad women running around, no education programming. They actually got a fine. They got [a] very serious fine recently. I think over $10 million in fines because they had no educational programming. And it's about making money.

"I think there's a tendency to sort of market this stuff one way as an educational empowerment device. But then, when the black community pipes up and says we don't feel empowered by this, well, then, you know, 'be quiet, it's just [a] business model. We're just making money.'

"I will say this, though. I think that the problem with both the Univision and BET models is we almost expect too much from them because there's only one, you see. We want that network to be everything. If there were five or 10 different black networks out there, you could have one that just did policy and one that did politics and one that did education."

Dr. Lester Spence, political science professor at Johns Hopkins University, said he "actually snuck into the NABJ conference in 1992, I think, when it was in Detroit. . . NABJ is straight up a day late and dollar short. So they start giving this specific award in 2004 when they changed the criterion. So they had, like, at least 2004, 2005, 2006, three other opportunities to give BET what they so richly deserve. I don't — I really don't understand why they did it this year."

In the Chicago Defender, television critic Ken Parish Perkins said Friday that BET had offended the "Black Intelligentsia" but that "NABJ is no longer the powerful organization it once was — there was a time when it spoke and the industry straightened up to fly right. Now its tough talk falls and falls, as if dropped into an endless well."

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Short Takes

  • CNN viewers are heavily skewed Democratic, those of Fox News heavily Republican, and MSNBC's are most heavily skewed Independent among cable networks, according to Scarborough Research, a media and market research firm. Democrats were 78 percent more likely than the average consumer to watch Black Entertainment Television, the greatest percentage for a cable channel.
  • "On the heels of Don Imus, GQ editor Jim Nelson is drawing fire over his letter to readers in the May issue, where he uses the phrase 'Asian whores' twice," according to Monday's Page Six column in the New York Post. "In discussing the hit DVD 'The Secret,' which preaches the power of positive thinking, Nelson's letter coaxes, 'visualize what you want (an Alfa Romeo? Leather pants? An Asian whore?), think positively, and "the universe will . . . make it happen for you."' Janice Lee, deputy executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association, told Page Six, 'It is appalling that an editor would find it acceptable to use such racist and sexist language. That GQ is considered a "men's magazine" is not an excuse.'"
  • "CBS confirmed 'The Dog House with JV and Elvis' show was canned permanently after an on-air prank call three weeks ago ordered 'slimp flied lice' from a Chinese restaurant. The show's on-air hosts, Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay, were suspended as CBS decided their future," Adam Nichols reported in the New York Daily News.
  • Kenneth Eng, author of the infamous "Why I Hate Blacks" column in February in AsianWeek, "was arrested yesterday in Queens so he would

 

 

  • be behind bars during NYU's graduation today, law enforcement sources said," according to Alison Gendar, writing Thursday in the New York Daily News. "Eng, 23, was arrested yesterday near his Fresh Meadows home and charged with menacing. He had threatened to kill a neighbor and had gone onto her property with a hammer, NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said yesterday." Eng told the Village Voice, "I was planning on going to NYU and going on a rampage. The only thing that stopped me was that I couldn't afford a gun."
  • Jeffrey Kelley of the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch profiled his editor, Glenn Proctor, on Saturday as the recipient of the National Association of Black Journalists' Legacy Award, "which the group said he deserves after spending much of his career helping others get journalism jobs. The award's description says it is given to 'a pioneer black [journalist] of extraordinary accomplishment who has broken barriers and blazed trails.'" Proctor is a board member of the Maynard Institute for Journalism Education.
  • "Jack Marsh, executive director of the Al Neuharth Media Center and Freedom Forum vice president for diversity programs, is the 2007 recipient of the John R. Williams Award," the Sioux City (S.D.) Journal reported. "The Native American Recruitment & Retention Committee presents the award each year to an individual, staff or program in recognition of significant contributions to American Indian students" at the University of South Dakota.
  • The indictment last week of James Bonard Fowler, a former Alabama state trooper accused of killing a black civil rights activist 42 years ago, has prompted Mother Jones magazine to restore to its home page a January profile of Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. "Mitchell had no direct ties to that arrest but his work as a whole inspired the entire 'cold case' investigations of civil rights murders from the 1960s, the piece's author, Joe Treen, said.

 

  • "Lester Holt has often said his favorite kind of TV anchor is someone you'd want to sit down and have a beer with. So there was Holt walking through a hotel lobby not long ago when three guys recognized him. Hey, they said, you're that TV anchor. Come over here and have a beer with us," David Hinckley wrote Sunday in the New York Daily News. "'How could I not?' he says. 'What kind of guy would I be if I didn't? Turned out they were software salesmen, about my age, all dads. We talked about the things people our age talk about. I enjoyed it. That's the kind of approachability I want.'"
  • The much-hyped, megamillion-dollar boxing match May 5 between champion Oscar De La Hoya and undefeated challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr. prompted Sacramento Bee sportswriter Paul Gutierrez to write, "In essence, Mayweather boxed his style — he shucked and jived and danced and threw counterpunches with aplomb." Bee public editor Armando Acuna said several black readers complained. "The phrase 'shucked and jived' is a racial slur, some said. It is slang and traces its roots to American slaves being deceitful, evasive and falsely sincere," Acuna wrote Monday, "I think their objections are valid."

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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