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Sam Yette Dies, Wrote of "Black Survival"

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Newsweek's 1st Black D.C. Writer Fired After "The Choice"

Newsweek's 1st Black D.C. Writer Fired After "The Choice"

Samuel F. YetteSamuel F. Yette, a reporter, teacher, author and photojournalist whose publication of the 1971 book "The Choice: The Issue of Black Survival in America" coincided with his dismissal as the first black Washington correspondent for Newsweek magazine, died Friday at an assisted living facility in Laurel, Md.

He was 81 and had Alzheimer's disease, a son, Michael Yette, told Journal-isms.

"My dad would like to be known for teaching," Michael Yette said. "He was a natural teacher, and he wanted to spread knowledge and wisdom to particularly his people to help them advance the lives of his people, and journalism was his tool of preference in doing that."

However, Yette's controversial Vietnam-era book "The Choice" put him in headlines. It came to be used as a textbook on 50 college campuses, including DePaul University, the University of Chicago and the University of Nebraska, he said, as well as at traditionally black schools such as Howard University.

"The book dealt with things they did not want people to know about at the time," Yette told the Tennessee Tribune, which he joined as a columnist, in 1996. "There were those well-placed in our government who were determined to have a final solution for the race issue in this country — not unlike Hitler's 'Final Solution' for Jews 50 years earlier in Germany. I wrote this and documented it. It caused the Nixon White House to say to Newsweek in effect, 'Don't come back until you are rid of him.' "

Yette charged that he had become "unacceptable on the scene" as a correspondent for Newsweek as a result of the book, and filed suit. He was represented by Clifford L. Alexander, former chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission who went on to become secretary of the Army, consultant and board member at Fortune 500 companies and interim chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet.

"I don't mean to be pejorative or vindictive when I say this," Yette said at a 1972 news conference, "but had I been a nigger instead of Black, a spy instead of a reporter, a tool instead of a man, I could have stayed at Newsweek indefinitely," Jet magazine reported.

Michael Yette said that his dad won the wrongful termination case in a lower court but that Newsweek won on appeal. Osborn Elliott, editor-in-chief of Newsweek, said then, "The decision to dismiss Mr. Yette was made on purely professional grounds."

Michael Yette said his dad anticipated that Newsweek would fire him over "The Choice," which was inspired in large part by what Yette had seen from his reporting on Capitol Hill. So he lined up a position with the then-new School of Communications at Howard University and taught journalism there from 1972 to 1986.

When black scholars commemorated "The Choice's" 13th reprinting in 1991, Ronald A. Taylor wrote in the Washington Times that Yette asserted that the book "best documents the genocidal conclusion" held by many about the effect of government policies on blacks.

Yette was born in Harriman, Tenn., in 1929, according to a biographical piece in 1996 in the Tennessee Tribune. He attended Morristown College in that state, earned a bachelor's degree at Tennessee State University, and went on to secure a master's at Indiana University.

"Yette founded Tennessee State University's The Meter — a publication that for more than 60 years has gone on to train, educate and provide practical journalism experience to thousands of TSU graduates who've darkened the doors of its office," alumnus Marshall A. Latimore, who now works at the school, wrote to Journal-isms.

"Yette's legacy is still very strong at Tennessee State. A number of former Meterites have even begun trending topics mentioning their times as staffers, editors and managers working for the publication. Some of the hashtags include #RIPSamuelFYette, #themeter, #metermemories and #MeterAlumni."

When the Tribune piece was written, Yette was a Washington correspondent and columnist for the Richmond Free Press, the Philadelphia Tribune, the Tennessee Tribune, the Miami Times — all part of the black press — and the World African Network, an Internet publication.

"Yette points to his assignment with Gordon Parks for Life magazine as the beginning of his understanding of the power of photography," the Tribune continued. " 'As reporter, researcher, pack-horse, camera-loader, Kian scout, front-man and chauffeur for Gordon, I began to appreciate the importance of photography as a powerful — and sometimes indispensable — tool in modern storytelling. On train rides, he would suck up magazines or newspapers and have me select the best and worst pictures, and tell why. I learned also of the responsibility the journalist assumes for the welfare of those he exposes in his process.' "

Yette worked with Parks in Alabama in 1956 for a series in Life about segregation in the South. They soon became close friends. Yette was an adviser in Jesse Jackson's 1984 presidential campaign and his official photographer in the 1988 campaign, Michael Yette said.

The HistoryMakers added, "As their first black reporter, he covered City Hall for the Dayton Journal Herald in 1962. Yette became the Peace Corps's press liaison for Sargent Shriver's visit to Africa in 1963 and was made the executive secretary of the Peace Corps . . . in 1964. He was then appointed special assistant for civil rights to the director of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, a position he held until 1967."

Coincidentally, services were held Saturday for Shriver, who died Tuesday at age 95.

In 2005, Yette returned to his native Tennessee to become a writer in residence at Knoxville College. But he took ill there, and his sons, Michael and Frederick Yette, brought him home to Maryland in 2008, the two told Journal-isms.

"He was a warm intelligent man who loved his family greatly," Alexander, asked for his thoughts on Yette, told Journal-isms.

Services are scheduled Friday at Zion Baptist Church, 4850 Blagden Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. Viewing is at 10 a.m., with services at 11:30.

Daily News Names Black Managing Editor

January 21, 2011

"Rob" Moore Promoted a Day After Funeral for David Hardy

. . . At Service, Caldwell Praises Hardy as Profile in Courage

NABJ President Out as Anchor-Reporter in Jackson

Olbermann Leaves MSNBC, Providing Diversity Opportunity

Fox News' Credibility on the Decline; PBS Top-Rated

HuffPo's Black Project Hiring 8 Staffers Before July

Lydia Lively, Producer at NBC News, Dies at 64

Mexican Journalist Begins Bid for Asylum in U.S.

Poll Finds Whites More Influenced by Media on Obama

Ed Gordon Show to Examine Police Killing of College Athlete

Short Takes

"Rob" Moore Promoted a Day After Funeral for David Hardy

Robert "Rob" Moore, deputy managing editor at the New Robert MooreYork Daily News, has been named the paper's first African American managing editor in a promotion made possible when Kirsten Danis left for the Wall Street Journal.

Moore, 40, will be managing editor for news. "Long term, my goal is to run the whole thing," he told Journal-isms.

Moore joined the paper in 2004 and has been a staff writer, assignment editor and deputy managing editor.

He has attended conventions of the National Association of Black Journalists and is credited with attracting black reporters to the newspaper.

"Robert Moore helped me get me get my foot in the door at the Daily News by recruiting me as a reporter, Jennifer H. Cunningham told Journal-isms. "He gave me the opportunity, but made it clear that the rest would be up to me. He has been an advocate and role model for young reporters."

Reporter Michael Feeney said Moore recruited him at the Unity convention in Chicago in 2008.

"He's largely responsible for bringing me to the paper," Feeney told Journal-isms. "He strongly values diversity in the newsroom, and that's an important priority to have in leadership. . . . He's the perfect example of hard work paying off. He's diligently worked his way up the ladder at the News. I hope to follow in his footsteps."

"Rob changed all of our careers by helping to bring us into one of the best papers in the country," said a third recruit, Simone Weichselbaum, who met Moore at the 2007 NABJ conference.

"Trust me. That doesn't mean Rob plays favorites. He is a TOUGH editor. No nonsense. In a sense, it is like working for an army general. He expects nothing but the best at all times. His love of the Daily News is contagious and we all became proud members of New York's hometown paper under his watch.

"To quote him — 'If you fail that means I fail. I don't fail. So if you fail — I will personally fire you.' It is an exciting time at the paper. It's a blessing to be part of it."

Ironically, Moore's ascension comes a day after funeral services for David W. Hardy, leader of the successful racial discrimination lawsuit filed by four black journalists at the Daily News in the late 1980s. Hardy and three others charged that they were paid less, given worse assignments and promoted less frequently than white colleagues because of race discrimination.

The News ran a five-paragraph obituary of Hardy on Page 26 Wednesday that did not mention the lawsuit.

The rival New York Post reported a week ago that News owner Mort Zuckerman "is apparently unhappy with advertisers' response to the new four-color paper, and the word inside is that more editorial cutbacks will follow."

News spokeswoman Jennifer Mauer told Journal-isms Friday that the News does not discuss "personnel matters" but that the News was adding pages dedicated to its bureaus.

. . . at Service, Caldwell Praises Hardy as Profile in Courage

Earl Caldwell, a co-founder of the Maynard Institute and a former Daily News columnist, delivered a tribute to David W. Hardy at Thursday's service, held at Rose of Sharon Community Church in Plainfield, N.J.

Caldwell said he spoke extemporaneously, but summarized his remarks for Journal-isms. This is an edited version:

David W. Hardy

"David Hardy was a hero. His life and what he did to battle the racism and discrimination in the newsroom stand as a profile in courage. They (the Tribune Corp.) saw themselves as elephants and they — Hardy and the group of blacks at the Daily News who fought them — as ants, and believed they could crush them. But they did not know David Hardy. He was not an ant; he was lion, he knew how to fight, and when the battle was over, he and those with him were the victors."

"I told of how David came to News in 1967, hired as a sportswriter . . . only to be stunned by the editor (Mike O'Neill) telling him that the Sports Department had decided that it 'was not ready for a black' and that they would not accept Hardy. So O'Neill switched Dave to the news staff. That was the way it started for him at the newspaper. That was his introduction to the kind of racism that existed then in the newsroom at the nation's largest newspaper, and how that became the foundation for the epic battle that he would lead.

"I spoke of how he could have chosen another path. He could have decided to go along to get along. But he instead chose the tougher route: To mobilize his colleagues and to lead the fight against the wrong he saw.

"But when you do what David did, you pay a price. It tears you up inside. You cannot sleep. You don't eat right. It drains you, but somehow, David found the strength, the courage, the wisdom to take the blows and to fight on. And what he did and what he accomplished truly was a profile in courage. In saying goodbye, we recognize that he was for us, our hero."

NABJ President Out as Anchor-Reporter in Jackson

Kathy Y. Times, president of the National Association of Black Kathy Y. TimesJournalists, is "in transition" after being replaced at WDBD-TV, the Fox affiliate in Jackson, Miss., the broadcast journalist told Journal-isms on Friday.

[News director Stan Sanders said Saturday that while he would not discuss personnel issues, "ratings for the 9 p.m. newscast have been declining for the past several ratings books." He reiterated the station's commitment to diversity and named its African American anchors.]

Times was an investigative reporter and co-anchor of "Fox 40 News at 9" and was NABJ's vice president-broadcast from 2007 to 2009. She said she plans to remain president of the nation's largest organization of journalists of color.

"I'm still very much a working journalist," she said. "I say that unequivocally."

The Jackson station introduced a new high-definition local morning talk show and a new 9 p.m. news team, TVNewsCheck reported on Monday.

"The station also introduced the addition of anchor Trei Johnson and Chief Meteorologist Dave Roberts to the Fox40News at 9 team."

Johnson, who arrived from Central Florida News 13, a 24-hour local news channel covering the Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne corridor, replaced Times, whose left the station a week ago. The 6 p.m., 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. newscasts have the same anchors, Sanders said. 

"I was working without a contract," Times told Journal-isms.

Times represents just one change among NABJ officers and personnel.

Keith Reed, who represents the Midwest on the NABJ board, told colleagues on Friday that the magazine he edited, Cataylst Ohio, folded at the end of the year.

He wrote about it on his blog in a post called, "Learning big lessons from losing a big job."

"The thing to remember, if you've lost your gig like I have, is that that opportunity is coming. The only question is whether you'll be ready to recognize it when it does," Reed wrote.

The association's parliamentarian, Tonju Francois, had been guest booker/Miami producer for CNN en Español for 11 years when it announced a reorganization last fall. She is now guest producer for "CNN Newsroom," based in Atlanta.

At the NABJ staff level, Ryan Williams, managing director and a recipient of the NABJ President's Award, said he is leaving the organization after its Hall of Fame gala on Thursday.

"I'm developing a consultant group with several business partners based in the DC area that will focus on areas like organization design, investment analysis, program and event management and design, and strategic planning for mission driven organizations," he told Journal-isms via e-mail.

In 2006, Esther Wu, then president of the Asian American Journalists Association and a columnist for the Dallas Morning News, was among those taking a buyout. She continued her column under an arrangement with the News, and AAJA permitted her to remain as president until the end of her term. [Updated Jan.22]

Olbermann Leaves MSNBC, Providing Diversity Opportunity

"Keith Olbermann is leaving MSNBC, the 'Countdown' host announced on his show Friday night," rival CNN reported.

Keith Olbermann"The liberal commentator told viewers he had been informed 'this was going to be the last edition' of his show, but offered no further details.

"NBC/Universal confirmed the news in a statement Friday night.

" 'MSNBC and Keith Olbermann have ended their contract. The last broadcast of "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" will be this evening. MSNBC thanks Keith for his integral role in MSNBC's success and we wish him well in his future endeavors.' "

The departure of Olbermann provides another opportunity for cable television to diversify its on-air journalists.

In June, two days after CNN hired disgraced former New York governor Eliot Spitzer to co-host a new prime-time program, "Parker Spitzer," the National Association of Black Journalists blasted the cable news networks for their failure to place African American hosts in such prime-time slots.

The CNN announcement prompted a story by Rachel Sklar in the online magazine the Daily Beast, "The Unbearable Whiteness of Cable."

"CNN just announced two new hosts for the 8 p.m. prime time hour recently vacated by Campbell Brown: Eliot Spitzer and Kathleen Parker," Sklar began.

"Last week, MSNBC announced that the new host for its 10 p.m. prime time show would be network staple Lawrence O'Donnell. What do these three people have in common (and thankfully for O'Donnell and Parker, it's not being caught with your socks down with a prostitute)? Pretty obvious: They're white.

"They're white like Chris Matthews is white, like Bill O'Reilly is white and Keith Olbermann is white, like Wolf Blitzer is white and Megyn Kelly is white and John King is white and Ed Schultz, Greta Van Susteren, Jake Tapper, Joe Scarborough, Bob Schieffer, David Gregory, Chris Wallace, Rachel Maddow, and Dylan Ratigan are white, not unlike the lion's share of their guests."

Meanwhile, former anchor Rick Sanchez, who left CNN after his complaints about the lack of anchors of color on the cable shows were quickly overshadowed by remarks about Jews in the same interview, was in Toledo, Ohio, on Tuesday.

"At one point, Sanchez told of his encounters with racism, detailing how after his CNN broadcast he would look at his Twitter account and find himself being called 'amnesty boy' and even more pejorative terms," Alan Abrams reported for the Cleveland Jewish News.

"Sanchez was talking about reporting on an immigration story and said, 'I would be very controversial and the next day I would get e-mails, thousands of them, calling me a Spic, calling me an amnesty boy, I could go on and on about the things they called me and said about me,' " Abrams told Journal-isms.

Lydia Lively, Producer at NBC News, Dies at 64

Lydia Lively, a retired producer at NBC News in Washington, died Jan. 15 after complications from surgery at the University of Maryland hospital in Baltimore, friends and relatives said. Lydia LivelyShe was 64.

Lively wrote her own obituary, her friend Roy McKay told Journal-isms. "I did the best I could with what I had. I was grateful for every gift and every kindness," she wrote. Lively listed her relatives and said, "I had a hell of a grand life. Thanks. This is all anybody needs to know about me."

Betsy Fischer, executive producer of "Meet the Press," remembered more. Recalling Lively's interaction with the late Tim Russert, Fischer told Journal-isms via e-mail:

"She worked on Weekend Nightly News and so I always remember her in the newsroom after the show and she wasn't shy about telling Tim and I about what she thought about a particular guest and how they answered questions. I think she especially liked the way Tim would hold various politicians accountable — that kind of journalism was important to her. Tim also liked to get a sense from her after the show as to what she thought was newsworthy in an interview .. . he'd say, 'Lydia, what's going to make Nightly tonight?' "

Another former colleague, Rich Dubroff, wrote to, "For a number of years before her retirement, she was the Washington supervisor of the weekend editions of 'NBC Nightly News.' She also worked at WRC and WJZ, where she was a colleague of Oprah Winfrey. Lydia was a most unusual and outspoken woman, and I worked with her for several years at the Washington bureau."

A memorial service is scheduled Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Kahler Hall, 5440 Old Tucker Row, Columbia, Md. 21044.

Mexican Journalist Begins Bid for Asylum in U.S.

Emilio Gutierrez Soto (Credit: Sarah Wilson/Mother Jones) "A Mexican journalist who fled what he said was persecution by the Mexican army began his bid for asylum at a federal immigration court in this border city on Friday," Alejandro Martinez-Cabrera of Reuters reported from El Paso.

"Emilio Gutierrez Soto's case was adjourned before witnesses could be called and will resume on February 4, according to the office of his attorney, Carlos Spector."

"Emilio Gutierrez Soto and his son showed up at a border checkpoint in New Mexico and declared their intent to seek asylum. Gutierrez said he received near daily death threats after writing a series of stories accusing the Mexican military of abusing civilians," Will Weissert reported for the Associated Press earlier Friday.

"Since crossing the border 2½ years ago, Gutierrez's wait for an asylum hearing included seven months at a federal detention center in El Paso, separated from his son. His court date comes four months after another Mexican journalist, Jorge Luis Aguirre, claimed similar threats and had his U.S. asylum request granted — making him the first reporter to receive asylum since Mexico's bloody drug war erupted and cartels began targeting the media to silence coverage."

The El Paso Times reported in December that a benefit was planned for three Mexican journalists seeking asylum in the United States because they feared persecution in Mexico: Gutierrez, Ricardo Chavez Aldana and Alejandro Hernandez Pacheco.

Poll Finds Whites More Influenced by Media on Obama

"Twenty-four months after President Obama was sworn in as Americans' first African-American president, 1,006 people of all races responding to an online survey by The Root are at times sharply divided on his achievements, and particularly on the racial climate in the country," Joel Dreyfuss wrote Wednesday for

In one finding, "The media apparently had a stronger impact on how whites see President Obama, compared with blacks. Sixty-five percent of whites said that their perception of him is influenced by the media, compared with 40 percent of blacks. Fifty-six percent of blacks claimed that the media had not influenced their perceptions 'at all,' versus 36 percent of whites who claimed the same immunity."

In another, "While just 15 percent of whites believe that hate crimes, police brutality and injustice against African Americans have increased since Obama took office, 40 percent of blacks say such crimes have increased."

Ed Gordon Show to Examine Police Killing of College Athlete

BET's "Weekly With Ed Gordon," a vehicle featuring the return of Gordon to the network this season, is devoting its half-hour Sunday to the case of Danroy Henry Jr., the Pace University football player who was shot and killed by police outside a bar in New York state in October.

Henry's parents have filed notice that they plan to file a $120 million lawsuit against the New York town of Mount Pleasant and village of Pleasantville, saying they were negligent and lacked proper training before they fatally shot Henry behind the wheel of his car, the Boston Globe reported Jan. 12.

" 'Homecoming: The Killing of DJ Henry' presents exclusive interviews with Henry’s parents and the childhood friend who witnessed and survived the shooting who now seek the truth behind his killing and the latest flashpoint in police-community relations surrounding the shooting," an announcement says. "The half-hour special tells the emotional, dramatic story of the DJ Henry case from the first-hand accounts of his parents, Danroy and Angela Henry, key [eyewitness] and shooting survivor Brandon Cox and his parents and Harvard Law Professor and attorney, Charles Ogletree, who represents the Cox family, all of whom have agreed to tell their story to BET."

The program airs at 11:30 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times.

Short Takes

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Reeling and Remembering

I read "The Choice" sophomore year in college and "practiced" for genocide that summer by walking all over New York City, up and down 15 flights of stairs in the Salvation Army residence I occupied in The Village in the summer of 1972, and by memorizing passages that proved that black people were under attack.  Imagine my delight, 20 years later, when I was able to bring a group of UC Berkeley students to DC and to get Sam Yette to come talk to them.  He was, of course, amazing, and we got into this intensely loving argument about feminism and abortion.  I say intensely loving because we so clearly disagreed, and yet my students commented later that there was no acrimony, just sincere regard, respect and discord!  It is hard to fathom that our giant is no longer with us.  I will always cherish his memory, and I still read "The Choice" from time to time.

Sad passing

Sad news indeed. I met Sam Yette at the funeral of Gordon Parks. Fell into great conversation about Parks and wound up giving him a lift to the airport. We traded emails and talked on the phone for some years. Wonderful man. He will be missed.

Lydia Lively and Sam Yette

Richard, we spoke this past Friday evening about the obit for my dear friend Lydia Lively and now your latest posting is a twofer for me with the passing of Sam Yette. I was recruited by Dean Tony Brown in 1972 to change my major and join the startup HU School of Communications. Professor Yette was my Journalism instructor and a favored one with his rigorous teaching method and great sense of humor. Two good people "done gone".

Samuel Yette

Sam Yette, another great intellect and prolific standard of excellence has passed at the age of 81. Outstanding journalist, scholar, author, teacher, mentor and civil rights icon, Sam meant so much to me and scores of others whose lives he touched. The last time I was with Sam was during the 90th birthday celebration of Gordon Parks in New York City, 11/30/02, organized by photographer, Jason Miccolo Johnson. Sam was among hundreds of other stellar African American achievers from around the world who convened to pay their respects to Gordon. Now, we will mourn the passing and celebrate the great life and achievements of our dear friend and beacon of joy and brilliance, Samuel Yette. May you rest in peace.

Professor Yette

He pushed harder than any other instructor, yielding results that amazed us — his students — but never him.

He was an incredible man — kind, humble, intelligent and passionate — and he left an indelible impression on scores of journalists who became forces in the industry.

His landmark book, "The Choice," was spot-on, and rings as true today as it did 40 years ago.

I, and many fellow alums from Howard's "School of C," really loved Professor Yette. May he rest in peace.

Mr. Yette

Mr. Yette, as we knew him at Howard in the 1970’s, was a remarkable journalism professor. I can vividly recall his insights examining his experience with Gordon Parks at LIFE magazine, the role of Black journalists and the impact of THE CHOICE. He had strict rules ranging from spelling to tardiness. Just like his former employer at EBONY, John Johnson, Mr. Yette would lock the door exactly at class time. Latecomers would be admonished. I experienced the lock out from both Mr. Yette and Johnson Publishing. When I was a staff writer for EBONY MAN in the 1980’s, I was docked for one-hour pay after arriving at 9:10 (or later) a few times. Mr. Yette also taught me how to conduct a news interview. During a meeting in his office, he pointed at the air conditioner. There was a plastic circle on the square machine. He said, “How does that circle relate to the whole air conditioner?”  It was a technique that I have used for decades as a news/talk radio producer, radio talk show host, print journalist and even as a public relations executive. Even today, I can still hear Mr. Yette’s advice in the back of my head

Professor Yette's passing

Simply put, Professor Yette loved his students (he would use that word, love, at his retirement dinner in the early '80s when describing his motivation in teaching his students he had over the years). His was not a soft love, an easy love that would let you slide. No, his love showed in the excellence he demanded of us; in the rigor with which he prepared us (Some of you may remember we were required to memorize the first 10 amendments of the Constitution and analyze and discuss their importance). ;It showed in his detailed preparation, and in the Socratic teaching style that could give a first semester sophomore a headache for a month (that being me back in 1977 at Howard University). He never let us slide. Or if you did try to merely slide by, you would probably fail his course. When I think of all the teachers I've had in high school, undergrad and graduate school, he's the one who tops the list, standing head and shoulders above the rest. He was brilliant. Stern, yes, but also kind. He tried to give the students the knowledge to challenge what needed to be challenged; and the skill to ferret out what needed to be exposed. I mourn his passing.  

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