In Shakeup, Princell Hair Named CNN's GM
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Princell Hair, a former television news director in Los Angeles and Baltimore who has overseen the news operations for Viacom's 39 television stations, was named CNN's general manager today. Teya Ryan was ousted from the post, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Hair, who became Viacom's corporate news director only two years ago, thus becomes one of the fastest-rising African Americans in the news media.
The moves were announced by Jim Walton, president of CNN news group, who oversees all of the CNN networks, AP reported, saying CNN "continues to grapple with the fallout of being the No. 2 cable news network behind Fox News Channel."
Hair became Viacom's corporate news director in 2001, recruited by the group's then-executive vice president for news Joel Cheatwood, and he later took over as KCBS-TV Los Angeles' news director, according to a biography on the Web site of his alma mater, Florida International University.
"Hair graduated from FIU's journalism program in 2000, finishing up some credits that had been pending when he attended the university in the late 1980s. He was named the School of Journalism and Mass Communication's Alumni of the Year for 2001 for his rapid rise to the upper echelons of journalism.
"Hair had worked at WSVN-TV [in Miami-Fort Lauderdale] when he was an undergraduate. He later went on to work at stations in Chicago and Baltimore. At WBAL-TV in Baltimore, he rose to the position of news director. It was from that position that he was promoted to corporate news director and then sent out to Los Angeles," the bio says.
Both Hair's and Cheatwood's careers were set back when, in 1997, the station hired Jerry Springer as a commentator on Chicago's WMAQ-Channel 5. The hiring by then-general manager Lyle Banks caused a national uproar, a drop in the ratings and the resignation of two anchors. Cheatwood was then WMAQ's vice president of news and Hair was news director.
"Hair rebounded at WBAL-TV Baltimore, and, after a few attempts, Cheatwood -- by then VP news for the CBS group -- brought him in as corporate news director," Broadcasting & Cable reported then.
"A review of staffing shows that 18.3 percent of all journalists at Gannett newspapers were minorities," the highest ever, Gannett News Executive George Benge has announced to newspapers in the nation's largest newspaper group. "The highest previous mark was 17.7 percent in February, 1977. Last year, the minority percentage was 17.1 percent.
"The data, which reflected staffing levels as of July 1, 2003, also showed:
- "At 1,011, the number of journalists of color in Gannett newspapers was the highest ever -- exceeding 1,000 for the first time. (Total professional newsroom staffing in the review period was 5,539.)
- "People of color made up 16.8 percent of newsroom managers. The total of 223 managers was the highest ever, although the highest percentage was 17 percent in 2000.
- "Minority hires were 29.5 percent, down slightly in percentage from last year's 32.1 percent -- but 38 more people of color were hired than a year ago.
- "The percentage of minority promotions in management was 28.2 percent, the highest since that figure first was tracked in 1995.
However, Benge noted that, "a significant gap remains between the Gannett minority staffing percentage of 18.3 percent and the national minority population of 31.1 percent."
In a separate report, Benge lists the 37 newsroom staffs that met or exceeded the percentage of minorities in the community's Metropolitan Statistical Area, the 26 newspapers with news-management staffs that met or exceeded the MSA benchmark, and the 52 newspapers that met or exceeded the benchmark for newsroom hiring during the past 12 months.
Gannett publishes 94 U.S. newspapers, including USA Today. The national newspaper is not included in the survey, however, because Gannett does not include it in its Newspaper Division, Benge told Journal-isms.
"Gannett newspapers exceeded the American Society of Newspaper Editors' 2003 national benchmarks for overall percentage of minority employment as well as for percentages of minority interns and managers. The benchmarks are set by ASNE to provide signposts for charting newsrooms' progress toward the goal of parity with the minority population (38.2 percent) expected in the United States in the year 2025," Benge reported.
"When a lighting grid blew out this summer at WHUT, the Washington-based public TV station managed to keep its main studio going by rigging up rented lights," Paul Fahri writes today in the Washington Post. "But then on Aug. 29, the station's aging transmitter malfunctioned. For most of the past two weeks, WHUT has been unable to relay its signal to local cable operators. Lights or not, it's become a station that's hard to see.
"The equipment needs to be replaced, but WHUT can't afford it. Howard University, which operates the station, is cutting its budget. 'The funds simply don't exist,' says Judi Moore Latta, interim general manager of the nation's only public TV station licensed to African Americans. 'We're at bare bones as it is.'" Fahri's story continues.
"While WHUT's technical difficulties may be extreme, its financial problems would sound uncomfortably familiar to many of the nation's 349 public TV stations. With pledge week donations lagging, corporate contributions flagging and state support drying up, public stations are growing increasingly threadbare. Layoffs are rampant, and cutbacks in local news, public affairs and cultural programming have become commonplace. More than one public TV manager describes the situation as a crisis."
Ed Gordon, the former BET anchor who was one of three black journalists questioning the Democratic presidential candidates last week at the Congressional Black Caucus Institute debate in Baltimore, explained the perspective these journalists bring yesterday on Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz's CNN show "Reliable Sources."
Kurtz, who had previously angered some black journalists when the Jayson Blair scandal broke by asking whether a "[white] middle-aged hack would have gotten away with" Blair's mistakes, marveled in an online column last week about the fresh air the African American journalists injected with their questions.
Kurtz asked Sunday whether the Baltimore debate was an example of "forcing the candidates -- maybe it's a good thing -- forcing the candidates to address the concerns of one group." Gordon replied, "don't you do that if you have a roomful of white males talking to white men in general? I mean, it is the same thing. . . . That is their world, and they think the world is that."
Gordon, now a contributing editor at Savoy magazine, also cautioned that "it's important for us to understand that the African-American community is not a monolith, and what's important to me at my age and my income status is not the same as a 22-year-old African-American, who may be unemployed and living on, you know, on assistance."
In an interesting juxtaposition, a Kurtz piece in today's newspaper names "the handful of big-shot newspaper reporters who help shape perceptions of who's up and who's down in the 2004 contest," listing Adam Nagourney of the New York Times, Ron Brownstein of the Los Angeles Times, Dan Balz of The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal's John Harwood, USA Today's Jill Lawrence, Time's Joe Klein, Newsweek's Howard Fineman, and Roger Simon of U.S. News.
None is a journalist of color.
The National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, concluding its annual convention in Hollywood, honored veteran Los Angeles Times film critic Kevin Thomas by having actress Shirley MacLaine present him with its Lifetime Achievement Award.
?NLGJA chose to give this lifetime honor to express our admiration for a man who has been an unsung champion of gay-related cinema,? said NLGJA President Steven Petrow.
Michelle Johnson, a longtime coordinator of student projects for the association, was recognized with a Distinguished Service Award.
Johnson, a former editor for the Boston Globe, has served as a student project volunteer at six NLGJA conventions. In that project, college students participate in an all-expenses-paid internship at the convention, where they provide daily coverage, producing a newsletter and Web site.
In other news from the convention, the student newspaper reports that Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich appeared via a video feed from Cleveland, saying that gay rights issues speak to ?some deeper questions about who we are as a nation.? Also, a panel discussed whether gay media were still needed when mainstream media were becoming more inclusive of gays and lesbians and many gay publications were moving away from hard news coverage and trying to appeal to a wider audience.
"Arnold Schwarzenegger gave one of the longest TV interviews of his campaign last week, a 40-minute talk that covered everything from his bodybuilding past to his views on immigration" -- to a Spanish-language station in Sacramento, the Los Angeles Times reports.
"Schwarzenegger's interview, his campaign aides say, is part of a new push in the Spanish-language media. It's an effort, however, that has met with some skepticism from journalists and media experts," the story continues.
"Some Republicans have long complained that Spanish-language TV focuses on Democrats more than on their party. TV executives respond that they are simply trying to present news of interest to their viewers, who include many immigrants."
"Telemundo, the second-largest U.S. Spanish-language television network, wants to buy more TV stations and may invest in radio and publishing to expand its reach in Hispanic media markets, a spokeswoman said," Bloomberg reports.
"The network, owned by General Electric's (GE) NBC television unit, currently has no stake in radio, magazines or newspapers. Spokeswoman Diana Sousa declined to comment specifically on analyst speculation that NBC may try to buy Coconut Grove-based Spanish Broadcasting System (SBSA), the second-largest U.S. Spanish-language radio broadcaster," the report continues.
Meanwhile, in the Columbia Journalism Review, Alison Gregor, described as " a journalist for nine years, focusing on Latin-American and Spanish themes," comments on the prospect of the nation's largest Spanish-language television broadcaster, Univision Communications, buying the nation's biggest Spanish-language radio network, Hispanic Broadcasting Corp.
He says "the most regrettable thing about the deal for some Hispanic viewers and listeners" is "that the words may be in Spanish, but authentic Hispanic voices may eventually be drowned out altogether by those of non-Hispanic owners."
"The owner of the 'Augusta Focus,' a Black weekly in Georgia, says a recent raid on his office by state and federal agencies was carried out to diminish his chances of obtaining $6 million each year for printing the county?s legal notices," writes George E. Curry on the Web site of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, which represents black newspaper publishers.
"The newspaper?s owner, former Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles W. Walker, has been the target of several investigations, none of which have found him guilty of any crimes. He is president and CEO of the Walker Group, which owns the 'Augusta Focus,' a construction firm and a temporary employment agency."
Ken Parish Perkins, fresh from a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University, is working on a documentary about his childhood home, Chicago's Robert Taylor housing projects, which are being demolished to make room for low- and middle-income residents. Perkins, a television writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, began the project during the fellowship.
"By the time I escaped to college, leaving behind every single one of my close friends and my entire support system, I was a mess," he wrote yesterday in the Star-Telegram. "Angry, afraid and anxious, it took me several semesters to get a handle on school and far longer to get over what I've come to know intimately as survivor's guilt.
"For years, I'd blame my condition on racism in a society that has no handle on this cancer. Now -- though I'm certain that institutional and subconscious racism remains -- I no longer view it as my most crippling enemy.
"That belongs to self-doubt. It has been my companion for as long as I can remember -- unwanted but serving as an insidious kind of comfort food. Self-doubt was there when I pulled out of city essay contests as a high schooler and when I waited until the last song to ask a girl to dance and when I walked into my college dorm room and saw a white man curled up on a bed reading and when I lined up against 800-meter runners and when I failed to challenge a sports editor at another newspaper who called me 'nigger.'
"Having constantly labored under the suspicion that the stereotypes about black people were true, I would inadvertently fulfill them, causing inward anxiety so disruptive that it impaired my intellectual performance, no matter the preparation. The trigger could be obvious, such as the white colleague who asked me at my first newspaper job whether I was 'filling the minority slot or are you a real journalist?' or being asked to identify ethnicity before taking a test.
"I could always rely on perceived weaknesses to rationalize my quitting or being quitted upon. But what always saved me was the old-school Southern mother who found a way to go to a job she despised and that would almost certainly leave her with the chronic arthritis she now confronts. As a result, I've never seen a job as too demeaning or a person as too complicated to figure out or a story, serious or silly, that can't be reported on with hard, dedicated work."
"Harry B. Henderson, a freelance writer who collaborated with painter and collage maker Romare Bearden to produce a comprehensive volume on African American artists that filled a void on the subject, died of heart failure Sept. 1 in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. He was 88," reports Elaine Woo in the Los Angeles Times.
"Henderson, a longtime journalist and editor, was best-known for 'A History of African American Artists,' a collection of more than 50 biographies published by Pantheon in 1993. He began work on the book with Bearden, the noted Harlem Renaissance artist, in 1966 and completed it after Bearden's death in 1988.
"Henderson, a native of Kittanning, Pa., wrote for such magazines as Colliers, Harper's, Reader's Digest, Argosy and Look during the 1940s and 1950s, covering a diverse range of assignments, from profiles of Frank Sinatra and Dizzy Gillespie to more serious pieces on the rise of Nazism and the racist politics of Mississippi Sen. Theodore Bilbo.
Bearden "conceived the idea for a history of black American artists in 1965 when he was preparing a talk on the subject for the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
"'Suddenly, faced with an audience, he realized how little was known, how skimpy were the notes he had,' Henderson told Associated Press in 1994. 'Black artists themselves did not know their own history.'
"Bearden decided to write a book and asked Henderson to be his partner. The two men worked together for the next 15 years, tracking down and interviewing many of the artists, some of whom were so used to obscurity that they wouldn't answer the door. Henderson 'would interview them over the transom or through the door,' said his son, Albert, of Milford, Conn., who survives him along with another son, Joseph, of New York City, and three grandchildren," Woo wrote.
Readers of the Washington Post Magazine got an advance look at Post Style writer Wil Haygood's upcoming biography of Sammy Davis Jr., "In Black and White: The Life of Sammy Davis Jr.," to be published next month by Alfred A. Knopf. An excerpt focused on the entertainer's famous hug of President Richard M. Nixon in 1972.
"Sammy Davis Jr.and Richard Nixon were drawn together by a mutual need for acceptance. In the end, neither got quite what he was hoping for," the blurb for the piece reads.
"Nixon's motives for courting [James] Brown and Davis went beyond rubbing elbows with celebrities. Blacks, almost universally, loathed the 37th president of the United States," Haygood wrote.
For his part, "the vaudevillian who had never attended school, who had felt, as a child, rejected by his mother, who needed so badly to be wanted and loved, couldn't resist.
"Davis loved sweeping into the White House, pulling open his Gucci briefcase, chatting up Bob Brown and the other black businessmen on the council [to which Davis was named]. Davis walked like his Rat Pack pal Frank Sinatra: both summoned by presidents. When the meetings adjourned, Davis would hobnob with James Brown. Hearty slaps and soul-brother handshakes -- the thumb slapping against the palm of the other hand, then the viselike grip. Ha-ha-ha. Nixon's soul brothers."
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