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Sun-Times Cuts Last 2 of Color on Edit Board

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Editor Says New Staff Trims "as Bad as You Say It Is"

Teresa Puente The two journalists of color on the Chicago Sun-Times editorial board were laid off on Wednesday because of "the advertising collapse in newspapers," Sun-Times Editor in Chief Michael Cooke told Journal-isms.

Deborah Douglas, a former deputy features editor, and Teresa Puente, who wrote extensively on urban affairs and immigration, were laid off effective immediately, Cooke said.

"I feel terrible," Cooke said. "It's as bad as you say it is," hearing the alarm in a questioner's voice. The layoffs will be ongoing, and Cooke said he could not tell how many will be affected. The developments were unexpected, and are taking place in an "unbelievable time," he said.


Deborah Douglas The departure of Douglas and Puente follows that of auto columnist Dan Jedlicka, who had been at the paper since 1968, Robert Feder, who is taking a buyout after 28 years as television columnist, and Jay Mariotti, one of two lead sports columnists at the paper, who walked out on a contract that was supposed to keep him at the paper until May 2011.

 Feder told readers on Sept. 23, "Thanks to a deal worked out between the Sun-Times and the union representing newsroom employees, those of us who've been here 25 years or more were offered the option to step down with a full year's pay and benefits.

"The more I thought about it, the more I came to see it as a great opportunity. After devoting all of my energy to covering the same beat for 28 years, I'll be able to take a break, step back and think about what else I want to do."

"They told us all along that the pain was going to be shared," Misha Davenport, a Newspaper Guild representative at the paper, told Journal-isms.

As editorial board members, Douglas and Puente were outside Guild jurisdiction.

The Chicago Reader wrote on Aug. 27, after Mariotti resigned after 17 years:

"Bad times have been followed by worse times at the Sun-Times, and Cooke had to meet Tuesday afternoon with leaders of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, giving them the bad news that the paper needed to cut salaries to the tune of three columnists, a reporter, a photographer, and five editorial assistants. Going by guild scale, the combined yearly salaries of those positions comes to about $580,000."

The story quoted a staff memo from Cooke:

"The Sun-Times continues to manage through the unprecedented newspaper economic downturn. While our circulation, in context, continues to be acceptable, advertising revenues are awful. So again we are left with no choice but to cut our costs to try to match the reduced income.

"Today, we met with newsroom union representatives and presented a package of proposed staff cuts.  The number has been reduced through recent attrition. We'll be talking -- and negotiating -- over the next few days and I expect the picture to be clearer by the end of next week.

"To state the obvious: this is awful. We are all anxious. However: 

"*We have cash which we can use to operate.

"*We will be in much better shape, even good shape, when the slump ends.

"I take my hat off to our newsroom. Every day, in tough circumstances and with diminished resources, we continue to publish a terrific newspaper with the kind of journalism that keeps people reading us."

"Meanwhile, the next few weeks are going to be hard as we say goodbye to valued colleagues and good friends."

Douglas' bio says, "She helped launch the Red Streak young adult newspaper and was the paper's editor in chief. She has written culturally relevant columns for the Sun-Times, including a defense of Don Imus and Clarence Thomas, the breakdown of social norms, child murder and women's health.

"Douglas is a 2006 NABJ/Kaiser Family Foundation fellow: She traveled to Tanzania to study malaria, sub-Saharan Africa's most pressing health issue. A Northwestern University graduate, Douglas is Chicago born, and reared in the Midwest and the South, giving her a soft Southern sensibility with an urban edge. She is also one of the Fearless Voices of"

Puente "joined the editorial board in October 2007. She also is on the journalism faculty at Columbia College Chicago, and previously taught in Guadalajara, Mexico. A native of Chicago, Puente formerly worked for the Chicago Tribune as well as news media in California and Washington, D.C. Puente has written extensively on urban affairs and immigration, and she is a recipient of the Studs Terkel Award given by the Community Media Workshop," according to her bio.  She is also a past board member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

The paper went through another wrenching round of layoffs in January. 

McCain Improves but Obama Wins Debate, Polls Say

Polls gave the debate to Sen. Barack Obama, left. (Credit: C-Span)Sen. John McCain won points Wednesday night for turning in his strongest performance of the three presidential debates, but Sen. Barack Obama was judged the winner in CBS and CNN polls and in the view of many pundits.

Another winner in the two men's final debate seemed to be moderator Bob Schieffer of CBS News, who steered a format that allowed the two men more time to exchange comments and who encouraged the two to mix it up.

The debate produced a would-be Everyman to claim his 15 minutes of fame, Joe Wurzelbacher of Holland, Ohio, referred to as "Joe the Plumber" by the two candidates.

[The Toledo Blade reported on its Web site Thursday, "Joe the Plumber" isn't a plumber - at least not a licensed one, or a registered one. A check of state and local licensing agencies in Ohio and Michigan shows no plumbing licenses under Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher's name, or even misspellings of his name."]

When the debate ended, he told CBS News anchor Katie Couric that he had come to the candidates' attention when "Obama came to my neighborhood and my son and I were outside tossing the football.

"You know, I've always wanted to ask one of these guys a question and
really corner them and get them to answer a question of -- for once instead of
tap dancing around it," he said. "And unfortunately I asked the question but I still got a tap dance. . . . almost as good as Sammy Davis Jr."

"Joe the Plumber" had nice things to say about McCain, who used him as an example of someone who would be affected negatively by Obama's tax proposals. By the time the debate was over, he told Couric that three live TV trucks were outside his house.

Politically, however, Joe turned out not to be Everyman.

"In the first presidential debate, second presidential debate and vice presidential debate, more uncommitted voters said the Democratic candidate was the victor," CBS said.

"And tonight's results have, by a wide margin, made it a clean sweep. Here are the final results of the survey of 638 uncommitted voters:

"Fifty-three percent of the uncommitted voters surveyed identified Democratic nominee Barack Obama as the winner of tonight's debate. Twenty-two percent said Republican rival John McCain won. Twenty-five percent saw the debate as a draw."

CNN said it interviewed by telephone 620 adult Americans who had watched. Asked who did the best job, the results were: Obama, 58 percent; McCain, 31 percent.

However, CNN noted, "the audience for this debate appears to be just a little bit more Democratic than the U.S. population as a whole. The sample of debate-watchers in this poll were 40% Democratic and 30% Republican. Our best estimate of the number of Democrats in the voting age population as a whole indicates that the sample is about 3-5 points more Democratic than the population as a whole, but also about 2-3 points more Republican than the population as a whole."

Asked their opinion of Obama, the senator from Illinois' "favorable" rating rose from 63 percent before the debate to 66 percent afterward. "Unfavorable" dropped from 35 percent to 33 percent.

McCain's favorable rating dropped from 51 percent to 49 percent, and the unfavorable from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Asked who spent the most time attacking his opponent, the results were McCain, 80 percent and Obama, 7 percent.

More likable? Obama, 70 percent; McCain, 22 percent.

More said McCain "seemed like a typical politician" (54-35 percent).

Obama "more clearly expressed his views" (66 to 25); "seemed like the stronger leader" (56-39); would better handle the economy (59-35); would better handle the financial crisis (56-35); would better handle health care (62-31); better handle taxes (56-41).

Asked about Obama's connection to William Ayers, the former member of the Vietnam War-era radical group the Weather Underground, 23 percent said it mattered a great deal, 14 percent said somewhat, 11 percent said not much, and 51 percent said not at all.

Among the pundits, McCain fared better than with the voters surveyed, but many said McCain needed the "game-changer" he did not get.

Time magazine's Mark Halperin gave the debate to McCain, and so did the online Drudge Report, which said 270,183 viewers chose McCain as the winner, 72 percent to 27 percent for Obama.

McCain, wrote Halperin, "during the first half of the debate, showed off the best of himself -- dedicated, sincere, patriotic, cheery, earnest, commanding -- all without seeming old or anxious. Even scored some points in the 'change' category, against the candidate who has owned the theme.

"Clear, upbeat, and totally on message. To his detriment, became more aggressive and distracted during the second half, and perhaps lost a chance for the truly dramatic event he needs to change the game. Still, if a majority of persuadable voters watched the debate, they saw why McCain's advisers have faith in him and still believe he can win this race."

On MSNBC, former congressman Harold Ford, D-Tenn., praised Obama's unflappability, saying it made McCain appear "defensive and even erratic. "McCain seemed like Bob Dole in 2000," strategist David Gergen said on CNN, saying he looked at times like he could barely contain his anger.

McCain's demeanor "wouldn't matter if it didn't fit the story line," Dana Dash, another CNN commentator, said.

On Fox News, Fred Barnes, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard, said, "Barack Obama didn't have to do much in this debate, except not make a mistake, and he didn't seem to make one. He made it look easy.

"McCain needed to really tee up his campaign for the last couple of weeks, with a coherent theme. He didn't do that."

Ken Rudin, political editor of National Public Radio, said, "race is no longer the guiding issue a lot of people thought it would be."

CNN also asked, "Would you like to see more debates?" The answer was a resounding no, 67 percent to 32 percent. [Updated Oct. 16] 

Video this week from Jay Smooth spoofs McCain attack ad.

Obama Sees Racial Dynamic in Calling Him "Elitist"

Responding to a question from CBS' Katie Couric about whether he is "elitist," Sen. Barack Obama Wednesday said the notion that an African American would not go to Harvard if he wanted to remain "authentic" was "a perverse message in terms of what we want to send to our kids."

The interview with Obama aired on the "CBS Evening News" hours before his Hofstra University matchup with Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate.

For her "presidential questions" series, Couric asked, "You and your opponent have both been criticized as elitists. Given the way you live today, why isn't that a valid criticism?"

Obama recounted his modest upbringing and recalled that until 2004, when his autobiography began to sell, "we were living in a two, three bedroom condo that was already getting too small."

Couric said, "I think it's the Ivy League education . . . that somehow going to Harvard Law School and being the head of the Law Review and for Michelle, going to Princeton and Harvard Law School, it puts you in this rarified air."

The Democratic presidential nominee replied, "Well, you know, I think that's an interesting point. And Michelle talks about this quite a bit because -- and sometimes this is something that in the African American community has been a problem. As Michelle puts it, we've done everything that you said you wanted your kids to do. Right? We worked hard. We focused on school. We reached for you know, what we were told was the best education possible.

"To then suggest that makes us elitist or that we're no longer part of the community which again, has not only been part of the public dialogue but Michelle and I and a lot of other African Americans have had to struggle with. The notion is if you're authentic, you know, you wouldn't go to a place like Harvard. I think that's a perverse incentive. A perverse message in terms of what we want to send to our kids."

What Will Blacks Do if Obama Wins? If He Loses?

Lynette ClemetsonLynette Clemetson, managing editor of, was the subject of a question-and-answer session with C-Span's Brian Lamb on Sunday. After a discussion of Clemetson's childhood in Pittsburgh, her time in Asia and with Newsweek and the New York Times, Lamb asked about Barack Obama:

"What happens in your opinion in the black community if he wins? What's the reaction? What things happen beginning Nov. 5?

"I think you know Nov. 5 you just see a lot of people walking around stunned and in shock," Clemetson replied.

LAMB: "Why?"

CLEMETSON: ". . . Think about this campaign, and think about the suspension of disbelief that people have had to apply to get themselves down this road . . . if you really look at the trajectory, black Americans were some of the slowest to come to believe that this could actually happen because they know too much about the history that we . . . have come from to actually allow themselves to believe it. . . .

"And so," Clemetson continued, "it's an extraordinarily emotional experience politically, personally, historically. . . . if he wins, there's going to be this whole rich conversation happening around -- we ran a story on the site called 'When the Man Is One of Us.' . . . If there is a President Barack Obama, he is not going to magically be able to heal all of the things that ail black America in particular. And so how do you combat the system? How do you talk about the man, the government, the oppressive nature of the system when it is led by a black man?

". . . People are not expecting a magic bullet. I think what they're expecting is a much more nuanced, long-running trajectory of change. And so when I hear people talk about it, a lot of what I hear people respond to is, my goodness, their daughters and their sons being able to see Malia and Sasha in the White House and being able to see Michelle in the White House. . . .

"And of course, you know there's the symbol of Barack Obama himself and what that will mean if you're a teacher and you're working in schools where you've got intractable achievement gaps and low expectations and these problems have seemed so insurmountable, and you actually have something that people look at and see real concrete promise. I mean those are the things that people are expecting more than there will be no more poverty.

"I do think one thing that is concrete that I've heard expressed quite a lot that people are expecting immediately . . .  there's been a lot of expectation that he will really heal the position of America in the world."

Lamb asked, "What's going to be the reaction if he loses?"

Clemetson said, "there will be more sadness than raw anger, but I do think, and this is a conversation that I've had more and more in the past couple of weeks, that again, just like the expectation for change if he wins is a more nuanced, unfolding, long-term process, that the loss if he loses is also seen as something that is an erosion that we'll see played out over several years.

"So, if you take the opposite side of that coin, that you are suddenly able to reach school children with a real role model that allows them to see promise, if the message then that people take away is, 'See? You can have all of this experience and all of these credentials and all of this support and in the end, still not cross over,' then the weight of having to have that discussion with people and what people might take away from that is a very heavy loss that we might see played out in really unfortunate ways."

Marketing y Medios to Be Integrated Into Other Sites

"Continuing a tradition of dumping Hispanic media and marketing coverage down the toilet around Hispanic Heritage Month, Nielsen Media has decided to throw the towel on Marketing & Medios, the online/Special Report hybrid it created upon folding the magazine I founded in July 2004," Laura Martinez, founder of Marketing y Medios, a newsletter on Hispanic media and marketing, wrote on Tuesday.

But the owners, Nielsen Business Media, say it isn't so.

"We are actually expanding our online Hispanic marketing coverage so that it is more consistent, and we are creating a new Hispanic Marketing content channel on," Marisa Grimes, director of corporate communications, told Journal-isms.

"With that change, the current Marketing y Medios weekly email newsletter will become a monthly and will be renamed Brandweek's Hispanic Marketing Report. Also, the MyM website will be integrated into our existing Adweek Media websites (,,

"This aligns with our comprehensive strategy to provide coverage of Hispanic marketing efforts targeted to the broader marketplace. Hispanic marketing is a crucial component of a comprehensive marketing plan, and is no longer viewed as 'niche.' Therefore, we elevated our coverage so that Hispanic Marketing appears in the same format and context as Adweek, Brandweek and Mediaweek's regular coverage of other strategic marketing objectives such as Green Marketing, Promotional Marketing, etc.

"Brandweek's print coverage of marketing efforts targeted to the Hispanic marketplace will also continue as a part of a series Adweek Media Special Reports, which we established a year ago."

Honey Magazine to Be Relaunched Online

Honey, a female hip-hop magazine that had been refashioned as "a fashion and entertainment magazine aimed at stylish urban women" before it went on hiatus in 2003, will be revived online, its owners said on Wednesday.

Honey was owned by the now-defunct Vanguarde Media, which published Savoy magazine. Honey was bought at auction in May 2004 by Sahara Media, headed by Philmore Anderson, a former record company executive.

"The news comes as part of an announcement that Sahara closed more than $10 million in stock offerings," Jason Fell reported for Folio magazine. "With the closing of these private placements, Sahara Media is now prepared to launch our multimedia platform with the sole purpose of targeting the needs and interests of today's urban female community," Anderson said in a statement, Fell reported.

"Sahara says it will build its audience by using a newly-acquired list of four million African-American and Latino urban men and women. According to a spokesperson, the relaunch is 'imminent,' but no date has been set."

Anderson told Journal-isms he had not chosen an editor.

NAHJ's Rafael Olmeda Elected Unity President

Rafael OlmedaRafael Olmeda, immediate past president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, was elected president of Unity: Journalists of Color, Inc., at the coalition's board meeting last month, Unity announced on Wednesday.

Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists, was elected vice president, Michaela Saunders of the Native American Journalists Association was chosen secretary and Jeanne Mariani-Belding, president of the Asian American Journalists Association, was elected treasurer. Their two-year terms begin on Jan. 1.

Olmeda told Journal-isms that among the items the Unity board will discuss will be the coalition's future. At the summer Unity convention, Will Sutton and Juan Gonzalez, two journalists who helped create Unity in the 1980s, proposed that the coalition meet every two years instead of every four, among other ideas.  

CNN, Comedy Central Try Black Comic News Shows

"CNN is diving into the increasingly crowded arena of news-driven comedy, tapping comedian D.L. Hughley to host a show that will offer a skewering take on news and events," William Triplett reported Tuesday for Variety.

"The show, set to air on Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET beginning Oct. 25, will feature Hughley and guests riffing on politics, entertainment, sports and pop culture.

Meanwhile, Comedy Central introduced "Chocolate News" on Wednesday night. "In the same vein as prime time heavyweights The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Chocolate News will attempt to mock news of the day with a wry, liberal bent," as Cord Jefferson of the Web site Stereohyped said.

Jefferson was not hopeful. Apart from host David Alan Grier, "Chocolate City's main problem is quite obvious: it's not funny," he said.

 In the Boston Herald, Mark A. Perigard had a different take. "With all the bleeps, a few of the jokes cannot even be deciphered. That's a shame because there's genuinely funny satire here," he wrote.

Unanimous at Summit: More Minority Voices Needed

"At a panel at the Time Warner Summit this afternoon, Michael Eric Dyson, Amy Holmes, Charles Blow, and Smokey Fontaine discussed race, the media, and politics--and the way the three have intersected during the 2008 presidential campaign," Megan Garber wrote Tuesday for the Columbia Journalism Review Web site.

"In a conversation that featured lively dissension among the panelists -- about where, exactly, is the line between pride and prejudice when it comes to African-Americans voting for Obama because of his race; about the extent to which William Ayers is Obama's Willie Horton; about the media treatment of Jeremiah Wright -- there was one issue that the participants agreed on: the need for more minority voices on TV and in the newsroom.

"Dyson pointed to the most recent round of Sunday shows, and to the fact that they generally assembled a group of privileged white pundits to talk about issues facing people of all races and economic situations. . . ."


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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