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To Some, Parks Was First a Kansan

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Wednesday, March 8, 2006

Icon Is Accorded Hometown Hero Status

Gordon Parks might have been known internationally as a photographer, film director and artist, but in Kansas City, Mo., and Wichita, Kan., he was a hometown hero.

The Kansas City Star and the Wichita Eagle devoted substantial chunk of their front pages today to the Fort Scott, Kan., native who died Tuesday at age 93.

"He had a significant impact on Kansas. He's thought of as a local success story," Eagle Editor Sherry Chisenhall told Journal-isms. "Even though he was in New York, he's a Kansan and people here are very proud of him."

The Eagle devoted two-thirds of its front page to Parks, and noted that 12 pages of written tributes (now up to 17) had been collected on legacy.com. They will be grist for follow-up stories, she said.

The paper did not have an advance obituary prepared, but "we have a lot of staffers here who know all the right people" and were able to put together a presentation quickly, she said. News of Parks' death came at about 5:30 p.m.

Parks had been part of a controversy over whether his work would be placed in Wichita museum, which gave reporters plenty of opportunities to become familiar with him, Chisenhall said.

"Building monuments is definitely something that Wichita didn't do while Parks was alive," columnist Mark McCormick, a black journalist, wrote in today's paper. "His passing fills me not only with sadness, but also with regret.

"Regret that a majority of the Wichita City Council, in order to save a few dollars per square foot on the cost of a library, voted years ago not to build a museum within a library to house his art.

"Regret that Wichita State University didn't keep the collection he offered it. The art now is owned by the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.

"Regret that our community, including the Kansas African American Museum, didn't push harder for a fundraising campaign for a new building that was to feature his genius, his contributions and perhaps even his name."

The Kansas City Star also viewed Parks' death as a local story, Editor Mark Zieman said. He noted that only last month, Parks had been awarded the University of Kansas' annual William Allen White Foundation National Citation for journalistic merit. The same reporter who covered that story, Lisa Gutierrez, wrote Parks' obit. Coincidentally, Zieman sits on the board that voted Parks the citation. "We sort of claim him," Zieman said. Today's paper included a timeline, a poem and five photos.

Other papers that ran front-page stores on Parks included the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, the Los Angeles Times (PDF), the Washington Post (PDF), the Philadelphia Inquirer and the News Leader of Stanton, Va. In many places, according to a scan of the front pages on the Newseum Web site, his death was twinned with that of Dana Reeve, widow of paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve, and competed for space with new allegations of steroid use by San Francisco slugger Barry Bonds. In most cases, Bonds won. Some papers, such as the New York Times (PDF), ran one or more Parks-related photos on the front page, with the story inside.

The Herald Journal of Logan, Utah, twinned (PDF) the obits of Parks and Reeve under the headline, "Inspirational Figures Die."

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NABJ Executive Director Tangie Newborn Quits

Tangie Newborn, one of the longest-serving executive directors of the National Association of Black Journalists, resigned abruptly on Monday, NABJ President Bryan Monroe said today.

The national office of the organization, which serves its nearly 4,000 members from the University of Maryland campus in College Park, is to be run by the newly appointed deputy director, Timothy Bracey, who arrived only on March 1, until NABJ finds an interim executive director.

"NABJ is forming a search committee and will soon launch a nationwide search for its next executive director, Monroe said.

Meanwhile, the association expects to name an interim executive director within the next few weeks to manage the day-to-day operations, he said," according to an NABJ news release.

Newborn could not be reached for comment, but a source familiar with the situation said the board had become concerned about the management of the association. "This was clearly about alleged mismanagement. There is great concern about mismanagement and how deep it was," the source said. "Members need to pay close attention to what's going on with the national office."

Newborn joined the association in 2000 under similar circumstances as Bracey. Shortly after she started in October 2000 as associate director, then-Executive Director Antoinette Samuel resigned. Newborn was named interim executive director and then, in June 2001, executive director. She served under four NABJ presidents.

Bracey, 46, has a background in civil rights law compliance. "Some call it litigation avoidance," he told Journal-isms. He worked with the Equal Rights Center, formerly the Fair Housing Council of Greater Washington, as deputy director of compliance. While working with the Washington Lawyers Committee, the Grand Rapids, Mich., native said he helped monitor the Denny's Restaurant chain's adherence to the consent decree developed after six African American Secret Service officers were essentially denied service in Annapolis, Md., in 1993.

Bracey also served as a consultant for "Under Suspicion," a 1998 episode of ABC-TV's "20/20" testing whether white and black shoppers would be treated differently by store clerks. They were, with a black shopper shadowed and watched while she was in the dressing room of a well-known department store.

"I realize journalism is a very powerful tool in the world. I became curious about journalism," Bracey said. He added he became interested in the NABJ job after being "bored with the work I was doing. Consumer rights and civil rights have not been such a popular thing" under the Bush administration. He said he is "hoping to advocate on behalf of African American journalists" and has "always been an advocate of student development."

The qualities NABJ is looking for in a new executive director "start with leadership ability," Monroe said. The person must "not only be good at relationships, but good at fundraising, and knowing how to take the . . . largest and oldest organization of color into [the] next generation." Familiarity with journalism and communications are desirable but not mandatory, he said.

The salary for the new executive director will be negotiated and will be competitive, Monroe said.

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Target Market News Buys Black Issues Book Review

Black Issues Book Review, the largest magazine catering to African American book readers, has been sold to Target Market News, Inc., a Chicago-based market research company specializing in the African American market, the companies announced today.

The 50,000-circulation publication, published every two months, is a 7-year-old New York-based offshoot of Black Issues in Higher Education, now called Diverse, based in Fairfax, Va. The purchase price was not disclosed, and the current staff, headed by editor Angela Dodson, will continue, Ken Smikle, president of Target Market News, told Journal-isms.

"Both are considered the authorities in their respective fields," Smikle said. "I just have such high regard for the team of folks – at least half the staff are folks that I've known for years." He said the magazine would stay in New York – "it needs to be close to the publishing industry," but would open a Chicago office to serve both editorial and advertising needs.

Smikle said that William E. Cox, founding publisher of BIBR and president of Cox, Matthews & Associates, called Smikle asking if he knew of potential buyers. On Dec. 22, Cox, Mathews had sold its Community College Week, which published 26 times a year and had a circulation of 20,000, to Autumn Publishing, headed by a former employee.

Smikle said that he would be interested in the book review himself. In 2001, the firm was commissioned by the Book Industry Study Group to conduct research on black book purchases. The subsequent report, "The African-American Book Buyers Study," remains one of the few available studies on the African American book market, today's news release said.

"Research is a vital component to expanding opportunities for African-Americans in all aspects of book publishing," said Smikle in the release. "Through BIBR, Target Market News will be better positioned to provide the entire industry with insights on new trends and up-to-date research on African-American book readers."

[Added March 9: Cox told Journal-isms he wanted to sell the book review so he could concentrate on Diverse, which broadened its focus to include Hispanics, Asian Americans and Native Americans when it changed its name last summer. "I have a lot of faith and confidence" in Smikle, he said. "I did not want it to fade away." Diverse, Cox said, will concentrate on broadening its market base and "trying to find ways to tie higher education and corporate America."]

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Bay Area TV Pioneer Sam Chu Lin Dies at 67

"Irascible, abrasive, utterly professional and exhaustingly demanding, Sam Chu Lin would have been hard to duplicate. And now that he's gone – too soon – at age 67, that high challenge is nigh impossible," L.A. Chung wrote today in the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News.

"Chu Lin's broadcasts on CBS News out of New York [were] the network's first word of the fall of Saigon. His discovery of the creators of Superman living in destitution brought them late-won money. And his tireless reportage for decades on the civil liberties issues of Asian-Americans loomed large in their lives. He interviewed presidents and world leaders. He was a son of Mississippi done good.

"Sure, a lot of us have heard of Connie Chung, and seen the legions of female TV newscasters her popularity begat. But Chu Lin was one of the first Asian-Americans in television news, along with Mario Machado and Ken Kashiwahara."

"In the parlance of some, Chu Lin was also 'a pioneer,''" a word used by both Secretary of Transportation Norm Mineta and Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

". . . The Sunnyvale resident died suddenly Sunday in Burbank, where he worked as a television reporter – commuting, as he had for more than a decade, from the Bay Area. Locally, he hadn't been on TV since the mid-'80s on KRON-TV, but he was unforgettable."

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Reggie Stuart, Phil Currie Among NAMME Winners

"A newspaper publisher, a corporate recruiter, a newsroom executive, a senior correspondent, a columnist, and a digital guru are the winners of NAMME's Media Awards for 2006. The awards honor outstanding achievements by individuals who advocate diversity and inclusion in all facets of the media business," the National Association of Minority Media Executives announced this week.

"These trailblazers will be honored at the 12th annual awards banquet on Thursday, April 27 at the Westin Hotel in Seattle, Wash. The 'Celebration of Diversity' banquet is held in conjunction with the American Society of Newspaper Editors' annual convention."

Winners are:

  • Reginald Stuart, corporate recruiter, Knight Ridder, the Robert C. Maynard Legend award.
  • Phil Currie, senior vice president of news, Newspaper Division, Gannett Co. Inc., Lifetime Achievement.
  • Monica Lozano, publisher and CEO, La Opinión, Catalyst award, print
  • Juan Williams, senior correspondent, National Public Radio, and political contributor, Fox News, Catalyst award, broadcast
  • Nihal Mehta, founder and president, ipsh!, Catalyst award, new media
  • Dinah Eng, columnist and founder, Executive Leadership Program, Asian American Journalists Association, Lawrence Young Breakthrough award.

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Writers Debate "Crash" Win Over "Brokeback" . . .

"The crash you heard late Sunday night was not only Jack Nicholson announcing the best-picture Oscar winner. It was the sound of lots of closet doors slamming shut in a huff," critic Wesley Morris wrote Tuesday in the Boston Globe, under the headline, "Hollywood isn't being straight with gay community."

'''Brokeback Mountain,' the so-called gay cowboy movie, lost to 'Crash,' a drama about the shrieking, teary, hateful, and guilty people who refuse to stop running into each on the streets of Los Angeles."

Morris' piece was one of several on the award of the Best Picture Oscar to "Crash."

In the Los Angeles Times, James Bates put forward a different theory.

"Much of the morning-after punditry and blog logic has centered on whether members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had trouble giving 'Brokeback Mountain' a best picture nod because of its gay love theme. Another theory: Like a cinematic John Edwards, 'Brokeback' peaked too early and its Oscar buzz dissipated.

"In fact, the key to the success of 'Crash' was that the film itself – and the carefully orchestrated promotional campaign undertaken by its distributor, Lionsgate – appealed to the academy's largest voting bloc: actors. With 22% of the voting members, the acting contingent is nearly three times as big as the next-largest group, producers," Bates wrote.

In the San Francisco Chronicle Tuesday, Peter Hartlaub and Carolyne Zinko wrote: "There is one more possible theory, albeit one that's not getting much attention this week: After so many critics fell in love with 'Brokeback Mountain,' voters simply thought 'Crash' was a better film."

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. . . and Give Voice to Outrage Over "Pimp" Selection

The Academy Award to the rap song from "Hustle & Flow," "It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp," generated outrage from many African Americans, including some columnists, and a rumination from a white cultural writer on the consequences of the phrase's crossover into white society.

"What's so hard out here about pimping?" asked Stella Foster Tuesday in her "Stella's Column" in the Chicago Sun-Times. "Pimps are the laziest men on the planet. They seduce women who obviously have verrrrrry low self-esteem (and little money) into laying on their backs all day long turning tricks for their pimps' lazy behinds. And the pimps have the nerve to beat these women if they don't bring them all of their money."

"I'm a big Terrence Howard fan," Elmer Smith wrote in the Philadelphia Daily News. "But I did not want to see him win an Oscar for that role. I didn't want the song to win either. Call me a prude."

In the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, metro columnist Eugene Kane called the selection shocking, then turned his column in a different direction: "The most prevalent – and easiest – pimping over the years has been the so-called welfare reform plan W-2, exploiting poor women and children for big bucks since its inception," he wrote.

The Montreal Gazette editorialized: "There was one regulation offensive act, by the rappers known as Three 6 Mafia, doing their bit to establish the pimp as a popular role model for the regular guy. Apparently the quest to encourage young women to regard themselves as prostitutes is well enough under way."

But not all was negative. The Philadelphia Daily News used it as the punch line in an editorial about the Oscars. The New York Times reported on violinist "Itzhak Perlman, who drove through the press line on his motorized wheelchair and answered questions about 'It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp,' winner of best song. 'I like that one,' he said. 'It deserved to win.'"

It fell to Philip Kennicut, writing Tuesday in the Washington Post, to weigh what it meant now that the phrase has permeated white culture.

"The real meaning of the song, its reference to pimps, its role within a movie documenting the often pathetic efforts at stardom of a pimp who also makes music, isn't particularly relevant," Kennicut wrote. "When a piece of cultural stuff makes the transition into the mainstream, it often does so on terms entirely different from what it originally meant.

"In this case, it's because the song's most catchy line, 'It's hard out here for a pimp,' captures the peculiar quality of complaint without merit in American cultural life. We all complain, and complaint has so cluttered our rhetorical landscape that we mostly tune out the din of gripe – except, of course, for our own complaints, and the egregiously unmerited complaints of people we don't like."

He also said: "As news of the song's big win starting racing around the Internet, there was some confusion about the exact line. An Associated Press report began, 'The Oscar people showed they were ready to embrace a song called "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp."' But the line was, 'It's hard out here for a pimp.'

"Here, there. Inside, outside. The slip of the pen captures exactly how these things play out when appropriated across class and race lines. No one would ever say, and mean, 'It's hard out there for a pimp,' which would suggest actually sympathy for pimps, and for people out there, on the outside. But it's hard out here for a pimp, appropriated into white culture, becomes a way both to borrow the outsider's inherently cool status, while completely denying that any complaint from that place has value."

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At N.Y. Times Talk: 10 White Men as Presenters

What took place at meetings for New York Times employees today, at which publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. gave his annual "State of the Times" talk, was supposed to be confidential. But that didn't stop leaks.

"First, after he waxed poetic about diversity," the Gawker.com Web site reported, "An African-American woman stood up and asked why all of the 10 presenters were white men. Much applauding ensued. 'We're just talking about our jobs,' Pinch protested. 'Exactly!' she responded. More hooting and hollering." Journal-isms was told the woman was not African American, however.

Last week, the newspaper's management released to employees a report from the newspaper's Diversity Council on the paper's diversity problems, and management's response.

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Rumors Say New York's WLIB Will Drop Air America

"Air America Radio, the liberal radio network that is home to host Al Franken, is refusing to address reports that it will be dropped by its New York flagship station, WLIB," David Lombino reported Tuesday in the New York Sun.

"A spokeswoman, Jaime Horn, said she would not comment on the reports due to ongoing negotiations, but added,''We have no plans of leaving the New York City airwaves and plan to be on in New York for many years to come.

"''It is business as usual at Air America Radio. We will not, nor have we ever discussed, our confidential negotiations with third party companies, investors, or others in a public forum,' the spokeswoman said.

"The author of a Web log called the Radio Equalizer, Brian Maloney, reported this weekend that a group led by a former executive for Clear Channel, Randy Michaels, is taking control of WLIB and that the new owners are likely to dump Air America from the station in favor of other programming. Mr. Michaels, who brought the conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh to Clear Channel, did not respond to messages.

"WLIB is owned by Inner City Broadcasting Corporation, a large minority-owned radio broadcasting company with stations in major urban markets. Mr. Maloney, whose blog covers the radio industry, reported that litigation is likely between WLIB and Air America over the existing airtime lease."

In the New York Post, John Mainelli wrote Tuesday, "The leading contenders to take over the WLIB lease are former Clear Channel exec Randy Michaels, who syndicates competing lefty talker Ed Schultz, and the new Radio One black-focused talk network that includes Rev. Al Sharpton."

WLIB was criticized by Caribbean New Yorkers and others when it decided to drop the Caribbean format to lease time to Air America. WLIB had been the second station, after WOL in Washington, to have a black news-talk format. It carried that format from 1981 to about 2000, when the programming returned to Caribbean music. Inner City Broadcasting said the Caribbean format lost money.

WLIB executives did not respond to telephone calls today.

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Nominees Wanted for Best Social Justice Coverage

The Asian American Journalists Association is seeking candidates for its Dr. Suzanne Ahn Award for Civil Rights & Social Justice for Asian Americans.

"Any journalist – Asian or non-Asian, AAJA member or non-AAJA member – is eligible for the award. The selection committee reserves the right to present the award to a non-journalist if that person best exemplifies the intent of the award. In order to be eligible for the 2006 award, the work must have been published between January 1, 2005 and December 31, 2005 in newspapers, news services, web sites, magazines, books; or aired on radio or TV. Book entries and documentaries must also include a synopsis of the work, explaining how it specifically impacts social justice or civil rights in the Asian community.

The prize is up to $5,000 and an award plaque. All entries must be received by March 15. Application forms and more information are at: http://www.aaja.org/programs/awards/DrAhnAward.pdf (PDF).

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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