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Simmons Out at Akron Paper

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Editor Leaves With "Grave Concern" About Cuts

Debra Adams Simmons, the Akron Beacon Journal vice president and editor, will be leaving the company at the end of November, the Ohio paper announced on Wednesday.


Simmons' departure is "part of a restructuring of the Beacon Journal senior management team,'' publisher Edward R. Moss said in a memo sent by e-mail to employees Wednesday afternoon.

"I want to personally thank Debra for the strong leadership that she has brought to our company both within the newsroom and throughout the community," Moss said in the memo.

"Mizell Stewart III, in his role as Managing Editor, will assume day-to-day responsibilities for the newsroom, according to the memo," the Beacon Journal story said.

Simmons, a graduate of the Maynard Institute's Management Training Program, was named vice president and editor in July 2003, after arriving at the then-Knight Ridder paper as managing editor that February.

After Knight Ridder dissolved this year, the new owner, McClatchy Corp., sold the Beacon Journal in June to Black Press, a company based in Victoria, British Columbia, that bought the paper for $165 million.

She told Journal-isms she had to cut 40 full-time newsroom staffers in August. "I do have a grave concern about the impact of the staff reductions on the quality of the paper," she said. Her own dismissal, which follows that of publisher James Crutchfield, the vice president for human resources and the chief financial officer, were part of the cost-cutting, she said. "This is a huge transition for everyone involved.

"I think I did a sound job of serving the paper, the newsroom in particular, as well as the Akron community. I had a huge civic role, because this is John S. Knight's" tradition of civic service, she said. Charles Knight, founder of Knight Newspapers, bought the paper in 1903.

She said she was leaving "a number of passionate, excellent working journalists who can do great work in spite of the ownership and the leadership of the paper.

"I really advocated for the interests of the newsroom throughout this transition," she continued. " I believe I have a great working relationship with the new ownership of the paper. There is no ill will."

In January, Stewart, who lost his job as editor of the Tallahassee Democrat when Knight Ridder sold the paper to Gannett last year, was named managing editor of the Beacon Journal. It gave the paper black journalists as editor, managing editor and publisher.

Simmons came to the paper from the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., where she was deputy managing editor.

Her departure leaves Wanda Lloyd, executive editor of the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser, and Sherrie Marshall, executive editor of the Macon (Ga.) Telegraph, as African American women top editors of U.S. newspapers.

Simmons said she planned to remain in the Akron area for the short term. "I think there are wonderful possibilities" in and out of journalism, she said.

On Monday, Crutchfield was named a trustee of Team NEO, "a private-sector-led regional economic development organization." Three weeks earlier, he was named the inaugural Edith Kinney Gaylord Visiting Professor in Journalism Ethics at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication of Arizona State University.

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Ex-Atlanta Anchor to Get Treatment, Not Prison

"Former Atlanta television personality Warren Savage confessed to being a drug addict today and asked a judge to give him help, not prison time," Nancy Badertscher reported Tuesday on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Web site.



"'Mr. Savage understands he has a problem and wants help. He wants to be treated," said his attorney, Marc Cunat of Cumming.

"Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley of Forsyth County Superior Court ordered the former WSB-TV anchor to undergo at least 18 months of intensive drug treatment.

"Savage, 42, pleaded guilty today to possession of cocaine, which could have carried a sentence of up to 15 years in prison. Prosecutors dismissed a more serious charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute as part of the plea arrangement.

"The judge said he will not send Savage to prison as long as he completes a treatment program that, at least initially, requires Savage to go to counseling three days a week and court one day a week.

"Bagley told Savage he may have to fall back on his five years in the Marines to make it through the 'very rule-oriented' drug program.

"'Sometimes change is difficult. Sometimes change is painful,' the judge said. 'I know you can make it . . .'"

Savage worked at WSB for 10 years before abruptly leaving the station in September 2005, departing with an e-mail to staffers that read, "A rapper once said, 'before I sell out, I get the hell out.' Since I'm more a musician than a rapper, I prefer to take a cue from the late, great Miles Davis, 'If you don't feel it, don't play it.' Thus has become my sentiment here at WSB-TV."

At the time of his arrest, he was also facing a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge from August in neighboring Gwinnett County.

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Harold Reynolds Sues ESPN Over Dismissal

"Former ESPN baseball analyst Harold Reynolds sued the sports network for at least $5 million Tuesday, saying he was wrongly fired after a female intern complained about what he called a 'brief and innocuous' hug," Dave Collins reported from Hartford, Conn., for the Associated Press.



Harold Reynolds

"Reynolds, who played 12 seasons in baseball's major leagues, was fired July 24 after 11 years with Bristol-based ESPN. The lawsuit he filed in New Britain Superior Court alleges his firing was a breach of the six-year, $6 million contract he signed with the network in March.

"'I have tried everything possible to handle this situation quietly behind the scenes,' Reynolds said in a statement released Tuesday. 'After numerous conversations and multiple mediation discussions with ESPN executives it is clear that ESPN had no intention of solving this problem amicably.'

"Reynolds is seeking the money owed to him under the remainder of his contract, including interest and lost earnings. He is also asking the court for damages for lost future opportunities.

"ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said Tuesday that Reynolds' allegations are without merit and the network stands by its decision to terminate his contract.

"'We have no further comment now that litigation has begun,' Krulewitz said."

Reynolds has consistently maintained his innocence.

"As he truthfully has stated publicly, in July 2006 he gave a brief and innocuous hug to a female intern," his complaint says. "The intern, at the time, never expressed any discomfort, and in fact had dinner with Mr. Reynolds at a Boston Market restaurant that same evening after he had given her this brief hug. Mr. Reynolds has never seen her since then, and upon information and belief she made no complaint until approximately three weeks later."

A Web site sprung up supporting Reynolds, Newsday columnist Les Payne wrote on Sept. 3, "His hard-earned reputation and good name be damned. What ever happened to fairness?"

However, as the New York Post's Andrew Marchand reported when Reynolds was dismissed, "ESPN has been vigilant about sexual harassment because it reportedly has been a problem in Bristol for years. In 2000, the book 'ESPN: The Uncensored History,'" by Mike Freeman, "reported rampant cases of harassment of women. Most prominently mentioned was Mike Tirico, who was even suspended at one point."

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Three Anchors in Election-Night Baptism Tuesday

"Add another hotly contested race to the list for Tuesday's elections: Brian, Charlie or Katie?" Brooks Barnes wrote Wednesday in the Wall Street Journal.

"While NBC's Brian Williams, ABC's Charles Gibson and CBS's Katie Couric have all settled into their new roles as evening news anchors, Tuesday's midterm elections mark their inaugural efforts at presiding over prime-time election results. The stakes are high. Live coverage of national elections is a defining event for news organizations, and viewers, advertisers and cable and broadcast rivals will be watching closely to see how each handles the hot seat.

"Ratcheting up pressure are the special demands of this Election Day. Midterm elections are typically sedate affairs that are more important locally than nationally. But this year the results could lead to a seismic shift in political power. With control of both the House and Senate up for grabs, the television audience is expected to be particularly large, with the networks competing with Fox News Channel, CNN and MSNBC for viewers."

Journalists of color will be part of the coverage, at some networks more than others; and some groups hardly represented. Paul S. Mason, who as senior vice president at ABC News is the highest ranking African American at any of the broadcast network news divisions, is supervising political coverage, which includes election night.

Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, will be among the analysts, succeeding Tavis Smiley in that election-night role at ABC. "I have great respect for Tavis, but we are going with someone who has a deeper knowledge of national politics - Donna Brazile is doing analysis (paired with George Will). We just finished a conference call and Donna was reciting chapter and verse on various congressional races. She has a command of the details and the nuance that is rare," Mason told Journal-isms.

News releases from the networks on their coverage plans are compiled in a separate column.

On-air participants will include Maya Kulycky of ABC NewsOne, that network's affiliate news service, who will report throughout the day from Capitol Hill for ABC affiliates and clients; Bill Whitaker and Byron Pitts at CBS; Suzanne Malveaux, Joe Johns, Dan Lothian and Elaine Quijano at CNN, along with Brazile and former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla., as "political contributors"; Juan Williams as a political contributor on Fox News Channel; Lester Holt, Ron Allen, Rehema Ellis and Mike Viqueira on NBC. On MSNBC, the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson and CNBC's Carl Quintanilla will be part of the coverage. Michel Martin is to be in Boston for National Public Radio to cover the Massachusetts gubernatorial race and Smiley will discuss the election on his own show on PBS.

Al Ortiz is executive producer and director of special events for CBS News.

Among the Spanish-language networks, CNN en Espanol and Telemundo plan coverage. The African American-oriented TV One "is not really set up to offer newscasts, but plans to include information updates on screen on big news in the major races with African American candidates (like Maryland Senate, Pa. Governor, Mass. Governor, Ohio Governor) and send people to, where there will be information and links to significant races," spokeswoman Lynn McReynolds told Journal-isms via e-mail.

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Editor Says Naming Immigrant Gave Story Credibility

The editor of the Dallas Morning News says "important questions" have been raised about the paper's naming of a worker in the country illegally that also reported his location, but said, "Who would believe us if we wrote about a trailer park somewhere out there, quoting men and women with no names and no faces."

A story Sunday in the Morning News drew the attention of writer Marisa Trevino and her Latina Lista blog, which asked in a headline, "Did Newspaper Immigration Story Violate the Trust of Those Interviewed?"

She wrote, "It's one thing to tell someone's story; it's another to set them up for easy retaliation."

As reported Monday, the Raleigh (N.C.) News & Observer caused an uproar in 1998 with a similar story about a man who was then seized by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Morning News Editor Bob Mong told Journal-isms, "The blogger asks some important questions, all of which we considered before publication.

"Obviously, we are not writing a story in some vacuum. Our commitment to covering immigration issues is long-standing and nuanced; its antecedents come from our coverage of Mexico, the border and the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is preposterous to suggest the sources of this story were somehow unclear about our intent. We dealt with each and every one of them honestly.

"It's important at a time when immigration spurs visceral responses from so many in this country - on both sides of the issue - that we try to tell the story with insight and with the humanity of the undocumented immigrants and the residents of McKinney shining through.

"Who would believe us if we wrote about a trailer park somewhere out there, quoting men and women with no names and no faces," he said via e-mail.

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When the Departed Was a Killer and a Racist

In most media outlets, the rule about not speaking ill of the dead still holds. So when P.W. Botha, the apartheid-era ruler of South Africa died Tuesday at age 90, some kept up the appearance of detached "objectivity."

"P. W. Botha, Defender of Apartheid, Is Dead at 90," read the headline in the New York Times. "Apartheid-era SA president dies," said the BBC.

But not everyone took that tack. In the London tabloid the Mirror, it was, "RACIST BOTHA DEAD AT 90."

And on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" Tuesday, special Africa correspondent Charlyane Hunter-Gault spent little time searching for niceties.


"Charlayne, is there a legacy, and if so what might Botha be remember for having been the leader from 1978 to 1989 in South Africa?

"CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT: Well Robert, I don't think it's a proud legacy. I think P.W. Botha went to his death as a staunch advocate of racial segregation, of white supremacy. He'll be remembered as the architect of apartheid, but even more, he'll be remembered for refusing to apologize and to say that all of the crimes against humanity that were committed under his régime, he refused to apologize for them.

"SIEGEL: There was no deathbed conversion here for P.W. Botha.

"HUNTER-GAULT: No, I mean Botha went to his bed, I believe and I think there will be many who will believe, that he felt that he was right. Those who were so grounded in racial supremacy as were the defenders of apartheid believed that it came from God, that they were born to rule. And so even though their white supremacist government and belief was based on the Bible, they killed more than 20,000 blacks, imprisoned them, tortured them. And then when he was called, when everyone else was stepping forward in the search for truth and reconciliation in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he called it a circus.

"SIEGEL: It's a very different country now from the one that Botha was the leader of. Does his death mean anything to South Africans today?

"HUNTER-GAULT: Well I think his time passed a long time ago, because when he was actually removed from office and succeeded by F.W. de Klerk, who did in fact release Nelson Mandela as at one time they hoped the state president would do when he made that famous "crossing the Rubicon" speech.

"I was here and it was 1985 and we were all gathered around the radio thinking that he was going to announce the release of Nelson Mandela and banning of the African National Congress and he did no such thing. As you heard, he was fingering wagging. He was relentless in his defense of white supremacy and I think that what he stands for is a bulwark that was knocked down and so he will be remembered not for any of the good that he did although at times he did loosen some of the strictures of apartheid but never agreed to black majority rule.

"SIEGEL: That's NPR's Charlayne Hunter-Gault talking with us about the death of P.W. Botha, the former South African President. Charlayne, thank you very much.

"HUNTER-GAULT: You're welcome."

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Are Dark-Skinned People Better Off in the Sun?

Most of reporting on skin color involves its social and cultural aspects. But a new book, "Skin, A Natural History," by anthropologist Nina G. Jablonski, talks about the biological.

Jablonski appeared Friday on National Public Radio's "News & Notes".


Nina Jablonski

In a follow-up conversation with Journal-isms, Jablonski said there are deleterious health consequences when dark-skinned people move away from the tropics. They are at greater risk of a vitamin D deficiency, she said.

On "News & Notes," Jablonski told host Farai Chideya, "Skin color is probably one of the most fascinating aspects of the way people vary. And it hasn't been studied very much in recent years because it is or it has been such a socially charged topic. But the long and short of it is that skin pigmentation, the amount of skin pigmentation that we have, helps to determine the amount of ultraviolet radiation in sunlight that can penetrate into deep layers of our body. And so the more pigmentation you have, the less ultraviolet radiation can penetrate into your skin.

"And basically, darkly pigmented peoples evolved in equatorial environments. We started out as darkly pigmented people. Lighter pigment skin was actually called for because ultraviolet radiation, although it's mostly a very negative and deleterious influence on the body, does one positive thing, which is to help begin the process of making vitamin D in the skin.

"Now if you have too much dark pigment in your skin, you greatly slow the process of making vitamin D. And so over the course of thousands of years, as we moved into farther northerly and southerly climbs, we had to evolve more lightly pigmented skin so that our skin could continue to make vitamin D.

"It's an absolutely beautiful evolutionary story. Being able to tell the biological story of skin color helps people relax about understanding why they have the skin color they do. They can then deal with the health consequences of their skin color and then deal with the manifold social issues, which you alluded to earlier, that are so important and that are still with us."

Journal-isms messaged Jablonski, who is traveling, to ask whether that meant that dark-skinned people are deficient in vitamin D. No, she said, but they are at greater risk if they do not live in the tropics.

"Dark-skinned people do not have a natural vitamin D deficiency," she said. "At equatorial latitudes, UV levels in the sunlight are high. For dark-skinned people living at equatorial latitudes, high melanin concentrations in the skin protect the body from most of the dangerous effects of the UV, but allow small amounts of short wavelength UV to penetrate the skin. This small amount of . . . radiation is sufficient to initiate vitamin D production, provided that the people have a 'normal amount' of sun exposure. (Remember, our ancestors were active outdoor people and didn't have desk jobs or stay inside all the time.) As soon as people started living permanently outside of the Tropics, high melanin concentrations in the skin were so effective at reducing UV penetration in the skin that not enough vitamin D could be made in the course of normal activity. This was the evolutionary stimulus that promoted the evolution of more lightly pigmented skins outside of the tropics by natural selection.

"For dark-skinned people living outside of the tropics," she continued, "there is a potential problem with vitamin D deficiency. Because darkly pigmented people . . . require a longer time in the sun to manufacture vitamin D, those who live far away from the equator (where the UVB content of sunlight is very low) and/or spend a lot of time indoors are at great risk of vitamin D deficiency. Also at risk are dark-skinned people who wear a lot of protective or concealing garments when they are outdoors.

"Because many older people live inside all of the time, it has been estimated that over 70% of the populations of nursing homes and elder care facilities in the U.S. (regardless of skin color) are vitamin D deficient. Although most people think that the only serious vitamin D deficiency diseases affect the bones of growing children (rickets), other manifestations are more sinister. These include chronic bone thinning in adults, and compromised immune system function. The latter is now known to be responsible for increased frequencies of infectious diseases and certain cancers (breast, prostate, color, and ovarian) in people who are vitamin D deficient. The scientific literature on this is growing. Public health campaigns to mitigate vitamin D deficiencies now exist in many countries, including the U.K., Canada, and EU countries, where darkly pigmented people living at high latitudes are many, and where particular subpopulations (e.g., female Muslims) are at high risk due to cultural practices.

"As movements of humans have become ever faster and more extensive in recent centuries, more and more of us find ourselves living farther away from the solar environments of our ancestors. Although we always think of ourselves as incredibly clever animals who have completely outsmarted nature, we pay biological penalties for our hubris, and some of these are just beginning to be understood."

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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