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Sportswriter Leaves the Building

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Thursday, July 13, 2006

Detroit's Perry Farrell Exits Quietly, if Angrily

Just over a year after the Detroit Free Press endured its Mitch Albom affair, an 18-year sportswriter left the paper today after an incident in which "I should have paraphrased instead of quoting."

Albom, a star columnist at the Free Press and an author, was administered unspecified "discipline" after a very public airing of an ethical breach in which he wrote about a basketball game that had not yet occurred.

The outcome in the case of Perry Farrell, however, was starkly different. Farrell left quietly, if angrily, with no announcement and a terse statement from Editor Paul Anger when Journal-isms asked about him.

"If it's a personnel issue, we don't discuss," Anger said through a secretary. She declined even to confirm that Farrell had left the paper.

Farrell told Journal-isms, "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.

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 asserted.

"We don't have enough minority representation in high-ranking positions in our newspapers," Farrell, 48, added. "If I was a white guy with this experience level, I'd be a columnist for a major paper."

The Free Press has a black journalist, Caesar Andrews, in the no. 2 news position as executive editor, but Farrell said he did not believe he had jurisdiction over the sports section. John X. Miller, another black journalist, is public editor.

Last month, the Associated Press Sports Editors issued a report in which primary author Richard Lapchick said, "When 94.7 percent of the sports editors, 86.7 percent of the assistant sports editors, 89.9 percent of our columnists, 87.4 percent of our reporters and 89.7 percent of our copy editors/designers are white, and those same positions are 95, 87, 93, 90 and 87 percent male, we clearly do not have a group that reflects America's workforce."

Darren Nichols, a reporter for the Detroit News who is president of the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, told Journal-isms he had wanted to be a sportswriter early in his career, and Farrell "was somebody I could always look to who was somewhat of a mentor to me. I remember being a cub reporter wanting to be someone like him. I've followed his career from the time he arrived at the Free Press.

"He's covered the Pistons for 15-16 years, and certainly this is just unfortunate. From NABJ's perspective, we're always concerned when incidents like this" affect "people with his standing in the business."

Gregory Lee, chairman of the NABJ Sports Task Force, told Journal-isms, "I have not heard of all the facts surrounding the situation with Perry. However, I can say this, I hope there are no double standards at this paper. The precedent has been set on publication offenses at that paper. If there is a double standard, then this is just as troubling as the recent APSE study on diversity in the nation's sports departments. The task force will be monitoring this situation, but there should be no rush to judgment on either side."

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Station's General Manager Quits to Join Mayor's Race

The general manager of a Shreveport, La., television station quit his job to run for mayor, and is using his record at the station as part of his platform.


Ed Bradley

The jump into politics by Ed Bradley, who was general manager of KSLA-TV, is so rare that a spokeswoman for the Radio-Television News Directors Association could think of no other general manager who had taken such a step.

Under the section of his platform labeled "experienced business leader," Bradley's Web site says:

"It was at KSLA where Bradley quickly established himself as a business and community pioneer. A member of Raycom, a media company in 42 markets nationally, KSLA has consistently ranked in the top 10 stations of Raycom. Bradley's commitment to diversity was immediately felt in the city. He hired and promoted African-Americans to executive positions as well as major on-air personalities, forcing competing stations [to] follow his lead.

"Under Bradley's direction KSLA has become a model for diversity and equal opportunity within the local broadcast community -- promoting an African-American female as news director and hiring the area's first female sportscaster. He has ensured diversity at KSLA by hiring all minorities to represent every aspect of the station's operations."

While many station managers are unknown to the public, Bradley took a different tack through his community activities, Sherry Shephard, metro editor for the Shreveport Times, told Journal-isms.

Her newspaper called him a front-runner, because he was one of the first of about six to announce, she said. Though he did that in February, candidacies are not official until the secretary of state registers them Aug. 9-11.

Shephard said Bradley has said very little in public, apparently waiting until then.

Executives at KSLA could not be reached, but George Sirven, general manager of rival KTBS-TV, said Bradley was "a nice guy" and that "we treat him just like any other candidate. We'll give him as much publicity and as much leeway as anyone else would."

[Added July 17: KSLA General Manager James Smith said today, "our news director has talked to people in the newsroom and said we'll handle all the candidates all the same." Most members of the public know Bradley is no longer with the station, he said.]

Race has already played a role in the campaign.

"Demographically speaking, the foundation is in place that could also give Shreveport its first black mayor," Michelle Mahfoufi wrote in the Shreveport Times on May 21.

"Two of the five announced mayoral candidates, former KSLA General Manager Ed Bradley and state Rep. Cedric Glover, are black. Shreveport's population is 51 percent black. And the number of black registered voters continues to climb while the number of white registered voters drops. As of last week, only 1,970 votes separated the two races."

On May 3, KTBS reported that, "A flyer distributed in mostly black sections of town says it's from the so-called 'Rent-A-Negro Center.'

"It lists first names of prominent African-Americans who've shown up in support of white candidates Jerry Jones and Arlena Acree at their campaign events."

Bradley will likely not be the only media candidate for the mayor's office. The Times reported last month that former KTBS anchor Liz Swaine, now working as an executive assistant to the mayor, plans to announce her intentions on July 25.

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Black Viewers Sticking With Revamped "Nightline"

ABC-TV's "Nightline," revamped after the departure of anchor Ted Koppel, correspondent Michel Martin and others, continues to beat the first half-hours of the "Tonight Show" and "Late Show With David Letterman" among African American viewers, according to the latest Nielsen ratings.

The ratings for the second quarter of the year, March 27 to June 25, showed "Nightline" with a rating of 2.57, or 920,000 African American viewers, compared with 1.96, or 700,000, for Leno on NBC and 1.81, or 640,000 black viewers for Letterman on CBS, according to figures provided by ABC spokeswoman Alison Bridgman.

The figures mean that blacks continue to watch "Nightline" in greater proportions than the overall population.

Overall, "Six months after Koppel left, and after his trio of anchor replacements received harsh initial reviews, 'Nightline' is pulling very close to CBS's 'Late Show with David Letterman' in the very demographics that ABC was so hot to attract four years ago," Toni Fitzgerald reported Thursday in Media Life Magazine.

"Certainly 'Nightline' has a long way to go before it can consistently match 'Letterman,' and it's still well behind in total viewers. But clearly 'Nightline's' new format is appealing to younger people who before wouldn't have given the show a second look," Fitzgerald wrote.

The revamped program launched in November with longtime "Nightline" correspondents John Donvan and Chris Bury; Lisa Ling, a correspondent for the National Geographic Channel and "Oprah" and a former co-host of ABC's "The View;" black journalist Vicki Mabrey, who had worked on CBS' "60 Minutes II," and Martin Bashir, whose parents are from Pakistan and considers himself a person of color, an ABC spokesman said at the time.

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Abuses by U.S. Military Prompt Columnists' Outrage

"Reporters should demand that the two men most responsible for acts of torture by U.S. forces explain themselves, writes Colin Powell's former chief of staff – who says a paper trail clearly links the practice of prisoner abuse to the upper reaches of the Pentagon and Vice President Cheney's office," reads the blurb on a piece by Larry Wilkerson posted Tuesday on the Nieman Watchdog Web site. It is one of several commentaries this week related to the war in Iraq:

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Inmates' Dispute Over Univision Prompts Lockdown

"An outburst among inmates over a decision to pull the plug on steamy Spanish-language soaps and talk shows resulted in a lockdown at Logan's Cache County Jail," Ben Winslow reported Thursday in Utah's Deseret Morning News.

"After getting numerous complaints about the raunchy shows and inmates hogging the television, jail commanders decided Tuesday to pull the Spanish-language TV channel Univision from the cable line-up pumped into the jail's 15 common area TVs.

"'It was dividing the inmates,' said Cache County Sheriff's Lt. Brian Locke. 'Some wanted to watch it, some didn't want to watch it and it just got worse and worse and it all came back to that channel.'"

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AAJA Leader Relates to Hawaii-Style Diversity

"As national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, I was in Honolulu to preside over our annual conference," columnist Esther Wu of the Dallas Morning News wrote Thursday.

"The convention co-chairs had chosen Hawaii, as a place where diversity works, to be the location for this year's meeting, which drew close to 1,000 students, working journalists and media managers from throughout the United States and Asia. But I don't think I truly appreciated what 'diversity that works' means until I got there.

"The first thing I do when visiting a new city is to read a newspaper or watch the local news. This has become my routine. But it sure didn't seem routine in Honolulu last month. Almost every news anchor I saw on television was of Asian descent. When I picked up the Honolulu Advertiser or the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, a majority of the newspaper bylines had Asian-sounding names, like Gordon Pang, Lee Cataluna and June Wantanabe.

"Later, as I walked around my hotel, I noticed that a majority of the folks looked Asian – from the doorman to the concierge. So did most everyone at the restaurant where I ate, and at the store where I purchased my souvenirs. I saw very few non-Asian faces."

Meanwhile, the Gannett Co. picked for its diversity page a story in the Honolulu Advertiser by Catherine E. Toth and Zenaida Serrano marking a significant anniversary for the state's Filipinos, "Filipinos in Hawai'i: The next 100 years."

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CNN Launching "Landmark" Series on Africa

"CNN is to launch Eye on Africa, a new series described as a 'landmark moment' in the TV network's history," Michael Stuart reported Thursday in London's Guardian newspaper.

"The week-long season aims to redirect the media's focus on the continent to highlight 'emerging trends and the positive impact they are having on growth and development'.

"Programmes in the series will be presented by some of CNN's most experienced journalists and feature guests such as Kofi Annan and Africa's first female president, Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

"Correspondents will report from across Africa, covering issues which affect the entire continent.

"The week's programming begins on Sunday, July 16, with CNN connects in Soweto, a round-table discussion about modern South Africa and the state of the nation since the end of apartheid."

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Short Takes

  • Don Lemon, a Chicago-based anchor and veteran NBC journalist, will join CNN as a news anchor based in Atlanta, CNN announced on Thursday. "Here's a true-blue journalist who left the comforts of a Chicago news studio with his own camera in hand, flew to Africa and came back with a stunning series about the AIDS epidemic there. That showed he has CNN DNA," Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S, said in a statement. FYI, Lemon keeps a blog.
  • "Robert L. Johnson, the cable pioneer who founded Black Entertainment Television 25 years ago and sold it for $3 billion in 2000, yesterday said he is forming a film studio with independent producers Harvey and Bob Weinstein," Terence O'Hara reported today in the Washington Post.
  • "The Chicago Tribune, challenged by weaker-than-expected first-half financial results, plans to eliminate around 120 positions from the newspaper's workforce of about 3,000, Publisher and Chief Executive David Hiller said Thursday," Phil Rosenthal reported in the Tribune. "No decision has been made on exactly how many jobs each department and operation will lose, Hiller said."
  • "In order to manage costs in a soft radio ad market and adjust to an increasingly competitive media landscape, CBS Radio pink-slipped 115 of its more than 8,500 employees across its radio station group," Katy Bachman reported Wednesday in Mediaweek. "The cuts, representing less than 2 percent of its workforce, affected positions at all levels, from receptionists to general managers to back-room and financial administrators."
  • Newspapers "have made a huge effort to recruit and retain minority journalists. But few are being recruited to help in overseeing the overall vision and direction of newspapers," Khary McGhee wrote Thursday on his blog in the Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer. "That's a problem as more and more communities become more ethnic. Fayetteville is about 50-50 in regards its white population and minority populations. And yet there's just one minority editor here at the paper." McGhee was commenting on former ABC News anchor Carole Simpson's observations Wednesday in Journal-isms.
  • Although the Los Angeles Times switched from "Bombay" to "Mumbai," as reported on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service still uses "Bombay." "Since most of our clients use AP Style, we moved the LATimes material on the lat-wp wire to match AP (bombay) – and then put that it is also known as mumbai somewhere in the story," Denise Bennett of the news service told Journal-isms via e-mail.
  • "ABC is reporting that for the week of July 3, talk show The View had its best-ever ranking in women 18-49, its key demo," John Eggerton wrote Thursday in Broadcasting & Cable. "What it classily does not hammer on is that that is the first full week of a Star Jones Reynolds-less show."
  • Dorothy R. Leavell, publisher of the Chicago and Gary (Ind.) Crusader newspapers, was elected chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association Foundation board of directors during the organization's June 21-25 convention in Detroit, the organization reported.
  • The real star of this week's New York convention of the South Asian Journalists Association will be Sree Sreenivasan, "who's been organizing this networking fest for a decade. Arguably America's leading authority on Web journalism, he's helped direct thousands of young men and women toward jobs and freelance assignments," Pranay Gupte wrote July 13 in the New York Sun.
  • "Fran Charles, a familiar face to viewers of WNBC/Ch. 4, has landed a gig on the NFL Network as an anchor," Richard Huff reported Wednesday in the New York Daily News.
  • "Long before she became part of a trans-Atlantic celebrity love story, before her face was in the British papers, WCBS Channel 2 anchor Dana Tyler dreamed of becoming a nun," began a profile of Tyler by Rebecca Dana for the July 17 edition of the New York Observer. However, "she politely declined to answer questions about the 55-year-old pop star Phil Collins and the spring romance that has extended her fame beyond the local-news broadcast radius."
  • In Kansas City, wrote columnist Lewis W. Diuguid of the Kansas City Star on Wednesday, "The Boulevard Brewing Co. beer billboard uses the racist rhyme 'Eenie, Meenie, Minie, Moe . . .' Each word is positioned with a period over one of four foam-filled glasses of Boulevard's popular Wheat, Pale Ale, Bully Porter and Dry Stout beer."
  • Moira Stuart, Britain's first black female broadcaster, was to receive an honorary degree today at Edinburgh University, the BBC reported. Stuart's maternal grandparents, both from the Caribbean, met while studying medicine at the school.
  • "The Committee to Protect Journalists deplores the two-year prison sentence handed today to Bijie Ribao newspaper reporter Li Yuanlong for articles he wrote for overseas Web sites," the organization said on Thursday. "Li was convicted of 'inciting subversion of state authority' in a court in southern China's Guizhou province, according to international news reports."
  • "The freedom of the press is one of the pillars of any democratic country, and the assassinations of journalists, the attempts at press intimidation, are the worst things which can happen in a country," the United Nations' William Swing told Congolese media professionals on Thursday, according to the U.N. Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

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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