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Tribune Sells New York Edition of Hoy

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Writer, Author Charlie LeDuff Quits N.Y. Times

Aldape Moves to L.A.; New Owner Plans No Changes



The Tribune Co., which has put itself up for sale, on Monday announced it is selling the New York edition of Hoy, its free Spanish-language daily newspaper, to ImpreMedia, LLC, the nation's leading Spanish-language newspaper and online news publisher.

John Paton, ImpreMedia chairman and CEO, told Journal-isms "we have no immediate plans to change anything" about Hoy, which he said he considered a complement to El Diario/La Prensa, the paid daily ImpreMedia owns in the city.

The company plans to "keep them separate and fiercely independent," he said. Decisions about changes in editors will be made "down the road," after the deal closes in about 45 days, Paton said.

Tribune is keeping the Hoy publications in Los Angeles and Chicago. Javier Aldape, Hoy's acting publisher, will serve as general manager and editor of the Los Angeles edition, and will oversee shared editorial content in both editions, Tribune said.

In addition, Aldape assumes the title of vice president, audience development of the L.A. Times and "will also work closely with Editor Jim O'Shea, and colleagues in other departments across the Times, in helping to identify other opportunities to grow audience and readership among the richly diverse communities in Los Angeles," the Times said in its own release. He will report directly to Times Publisher and CEO David Hiller.

The language is reminiscent of the "Latino Initiative" the paper undertook in 1998, in which several reporters and photographers were designated to look for Latino stories in specific areas. The late Frank del Olmo and then-editor Michael Parks told the staff, "it is time to stop thinking about Latinos as 'them' and to start thinking about Latinos as 'us.'" But some on the staff have said such efforts began to fade after Tribune bought the paper in 2000.

"As General Manager and Editor of Hoy, Javier will be responsible for the entire daily print and online operation, with copies distributed free in 92 ZIP codes with significant Spanish-speaking communities, and a cumulative readership of over 600,000 each week," the L.A. Times release continued. Aldape is a 2001 graduate of the Maynard Institute's management training program.



"Although Hoy New York made good progress over the last year, we did not see a path to profitability in this market," said Scott C. Smith, Tribune Publishing president, in the Tribune Co. news release. "Hoy is a better operational fit for ImpreMedia, a respected Spanish-language publisher that will carry on Hoy's commitment to informing and entertaining New York's widely diverse Hispanic community."

Hoy New York has an audited circulation of 56,207, ImpreMedia said. "We believe strongly in free newspapers," Paton told Journal-isms, saying they appeal to different audiences than the paid product and have become successful in European cities. In New York, Hoy is read by subway riders, he said. ImpreMedia initiated the talks to acquire Hoy, he said.

Hoy began under the old Times Mirror Co. and became a Tribune Co. property when the company was sold to Tribune in 2000. Last year it went to free circulation.

Hoy became the center of a circulation scandal in 2004 after prosecutors said managers reported double its actual circulation. Nine people pleaded guilty in the scandal, including Louis Sito, vice president for Hispanic media at Tribune Co.

Tribune Co. set aside $90 million to reimburse advertisers who were overcharged on the basis of inflated circulation figures at both Newsday and Hoy, costs that have resulted in layoffs at Newsday.

"Tribune has been examining its strategic options since last September when, under pressure because of a long-slumping stock price, it appointed a special board committee to review prospective offers for the company," the Associated Press reported last week. "The company says its board of directors intends to decide by the end of March on a plan to increase shareholder value."

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5 Journalists of Color Leave Newsday's Uncertainty

Five male journalists of color have left Newsday in the past two months, many of them citing cutbacks, diminished opportunities at the Long Island newspaper and uncertainty over the ownership of the Tribune Co. publication as reasons for bailing out.

The most recent is Errol Cockfield, Albany bureau chief and board member of the National Association of Black Journalists, whose departure was announced Monday. He is becoming press secretary for the Empire State Development Corp., the state's development authority, based in Manhattan.



"I just don't feel like I can keep doing the same journalism," Cockfield, 33, told Journal-isms. "There is a misguided notion that we can do more with less and that readers don't want the same depth. Celebrity shenanigans are taking precedence over multi-billion dollar taxpayer spending. The changing media landscape requires creativity, but some newsroom leaders are miscalculating the intellect of their subscribers."

The other departing journalists are:

  • Wil Cruz, 34, a reporter who was most most recently working on Newsday's Web initiative, who is now director of communications for New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Office of Immigrant Affairs.
  • Walter Middlebrook, a veteran journalist who was deputy features editor. He started at the Detroit News this month as director of recruitment and community affairs.
  • Ray Sánchez, 42, a 20-year veteran in the business who left for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, where he started at the end of December as Cuban correspondent.
  • Curtis Taylor, 42, a 20-year Newsday veteran who most recently was a health and science reporter. He has taken a job in Albany, N.Y., as director of communications for state Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith, D-Queens.

"Those you mentioned used to work for me, some I hired, and together they represent a critical mass of talent gone from Newsday, and in a few cases out of journalism altogether," said Les Payne, longtime Newsday manager and columnist who retired last year as associate editor. "Such departures are a sad commentary on these times of turmoil and uncertainty within the newspaper industry. Love of craft notwithstanding, leaky boats are not altogether reassuring vessels for folks with families in search of safe harbors," Payne told Journal-isms.

"Yes," Sánchez said in an oft-repeated sentiment, "African American and Latino men seem to be heading out the door in droves. But the reality is that there were so few to begin with, that anytime two or three of us depart, it's like a mass exodus."



Each had his own story.

"I left Newsday after nearly 15 years of work there because I was fortunate enough to land a job in Havana," Sánchez said via e-mail from Cuba. "It's an incredible time to be in Cuba. But, back in June, six months before leaving Newsday for the Sun-Sentinel, I switched from news to sports because of frustration over a shrinking news hole and cuts in the New York staff. I was writing a column about New York's subway and covering the transportation beat at the same time. This was after covering other beats at Newsday over the years, including a four-year stint as Latin America correspondent in Mexico City.

"Many Newsday reporters have grown frustrated with the direction of the paper: the emphasis on local news, the tighter stories, cuts in travel, etc. The few foreign news bureaus at the paper are closing. The Washington and national reporting jobs were shrinking. And new local beats on Long Island were being pushed on veteran reporters. Obviously this is something affecting all newspapers today, not just Newsday. That's why I made the switch to sports in June, and moved to the Sun-Sentinel in December. It was Havana or Hempstead."

Taylor, who like Cockfield is a past president of the New York Association of Black Journalists, had nothing but praise for the opportunities Newsday provided him. "I could have done anything," he said. "John was very good to me," referring to editor John Mancini.

"I would be interested to see how they replace these five," said Cruz, who joined the paper in 2002. He said he left because, "I just needed a change in my life and a little more stability."

Mancini did not respond to a request for comment, but reporter Monte Young, who has served as spokesman for the newsroom's black caucus, said the editor had "put out the word that he wants to recruit more minorities. He's done some things within the confines of his job," Young said of Mancini. "He has reached out." But the effect of adverse conditions is magnified where diversity is considered. "When white folks catch cold, black folks get pneumonia," Young said.

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Writer, Author Charlie LeDuff Quits N.Y. Times

Charlie LeDuff, a New York Times reporter who often writes, in the words of reviewer Todd Gitlin, "about folks who claw and hang on by their fingernails," has quit the newspaper, telling Journal-isms, "my time is better spent with my daughter."


Charlie LeDuff

LeDuff said he made an appointment to see Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and told him of his decision a couple of days ago, and that Sulzberger, whose vision LeDuff said he admires, said he was sorry to see LeDuff go.

"I can't write the things I want to say," LeDuff said, venting frustration with his editors. "I want to talk about race, I want to talk about class. I want to talk about the things we should be talking about," he said.

From August to November, LeDuff, 40, wrote an eight-part series, "American Album," whose topics included "a Latina from the rough side of Dallas" who "works the lobster shift at a Burger King," a Minuteman and an Alaska national guardsman believed to be the first Inuit, or Eskimo, killed because of the Iraq war.

Based in Los Angeles, LeDuff covered the 2005 trials of Robert Blake, the actor acquitted of charges that he murdered his wife; and Michael Jackson, the "king of pop" who had been accused of molesting a 13-year-old cancer patient.

In the Times' prize-winning 2000 series, "How Race is Lived in America," LeDuff wrote about a Tar Heel, N.C., hog slaughterhouse, where "The few whites on the payroll tend to be mechanics or supervisors. As for the Indians, a handful are supervisors; others tend to get clean menial jobs like warehouse work. With few exceptions, that leaves the blacks and Mexicans with the dirty jobs at the factory, one of the only places within a 50-mile radius in this muddy corner of North Carolina where a person might make more than $8 an hour."

LeDuff himself is one-eighth Native American (Ojibwa). The late "Gerald Boyd said I was the most diverse person he knows," LeDuff said of the only African American to become managing editor of the Times.

LeDuff acknowledged that the Times assigned reporter Dan Barry a new national column, "The Land," right after LeDuff had done the "American Album" series that might have qualified him for the job. And while Gitlin praised his new book about masculinity, "US Guys: The True and Twisted Mind of the American Man," in the Feb. 1 edition of the Times, the Sunday Times Book Review panned it. "In the end, we only learn a whole lot about the true and twisted mind of one American man. Who happens to believe he's Everyman," Allison Glock wrote of LeDuff.

"I'm disappointed in what the place is. It's time for me to go," LeDuff said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. I want to spend time with my family. I've got a brand new baby," who is three months old.

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"Is He Black Enough?" Becomes Obama Story Line

After Steve Kroft accompanied Sen. Barack Obama on a tour of the Chicago neighborhood where he worked with the needy, the "60 Minutes" correspondent said in a voiceover, "It was Obama's first real experience with urban politics and the problems of the inner city. Yet for some African Americans, he remains an outsider, an immigrant's son, not the descendant of slaves."

Then Kroft said to the Illinois Democrat, "There are African Americans who don't think that you're black enough, who don't think that you have had the required experience."

Obama replied, in a telecast shown on Sunday, the day after he formally declared for the presidential race: "The truth of the matter is, you know, when I'm walking down the south side of Chicago and visiting my barbershop and playing basketball in some of these neighborhoods, those aren't — those aren't questions I get asked."

"They think you're black," Kroft said.

"As far as they can tell, yeah. I also notice when I'm catching a cab, nobody — nobody's confused about that, either," Obama said.

Earlier in the segment, Kroft said of the candidate, "He was born in 1961 to a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, who were both students in Hawaii at a time when black-white marriages were illegal in half the states. His father left when he was 2 and eventually returned to Africa. And as a young boy, Obama spent four years living with his mother and her second husband in Indonesia before returning home to live with his maternal grandparents in Honolulu. As a black child in a white family, he struggled with his racial identity."

Kroft asked Obama: "How important is race in defining yourself?"

Replied Obama, "I am rooted in the African American community, but I'm not defined by it. I am comfortable in my racial identity, but that's not all I am."

"KROFT: I mean, your mother was white, your father was African.

"OBAMA: Right.

"KROFT: You were raised in a white household.

"OBAMA: Right.

"Yet at some point, you decided that you were black?

"OBAMA: Well, I'm not sure I decided it. I think, you know, if you — if you look African American in this society, you're treated as an African American. And when you're a child in particular, that is how you begin to identify yourself."

The "black enough?" story line became a theme over the weekend, having been articulated earlier by such contrarian black writers as Stanley Crouch and Debra J. Dickerson, and in 2004 by his Republican opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Alan Keyes.

It's a question that annoyed Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mary Mitchell, who wrote Sunday:

"Frankly, the most insulting question about race that has swirled around Obama's campaign is about his commitment to blacks.

"If working as an organizer in a place like Altgeld Gardens to empower residents to fight against environmental pollution and lead poisoning, moving on to the Illinois General Assembly and supporting legislation that targeted racial profiling and wrongful convictions, and pushing for the earned income credit wasn't enough to prove his commitment to African Americans, platitudes meant to assuage those voters won't be enough to win this race," she said.

The question also came up Sunday on NBC-TV's "Meet the Press." Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz said, "The only storm cloud on the media horizon has been something that's picked up speed in the last week or so. It was mentioned on 'NBC Nightly News' on Friday, and that is this notion of is he black enough to get support in the African American community, and if he isn't, is that because he's trying too hard to please white people? And so the novelty and the challenges of being a serious African American candidate for president, the press is just starting to grapple with that belief."

The conversation moved on, but PBS' Gwen Ifill said she couldn't let Kurtz's remark pass.

Addressing host Tim Russert, Ifill said, "I really have to respond to the comment that Howie made about the 'black enough' story. — You know, I guess I could paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen and say, 'I covered Jesse Jackson, I know Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama is no Jesse Jackson.' But what I mean when I say that is people seem to set up this really interesting test for Barack Obama of blackness, which I have found absent in any other dialogue involving people who clearly appear to and identify and work in the black community, and I — I'm not quite certain where it comes from."

Ifill noted that she is the child of West Indian immigrants and said, "I don't know if because I'm not . . . the daughter . . . of African Americans who were born in this country, that makes me less black. So I'm a little puzzled about this discussion. I don't know quite where it's coming from, other than maybe some folks who haven't been invited to the party."

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A Video Innovation for Black History Month

Each day throughout February, local elementary school children are being featured in videos on the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser Web site describing a different Alabamian who has stood out in black history.

"The children have spent time studying a person and developed a visual presentation for readers to watch. For example, Caylia S. Johnson, a fifth grader at Seth Johnson Elementary School, researched the African American inventor Andrew Jackson Beard. She discovers what contributions he made that took America and the world to the next level of machinery," the Gannett News Department explains.

Others include musicians Fred Wesley and Lionel Richie, educator Marva Collins and the NFL's Terrell Owens.

A similar online calendar last year featured area residents reflecting on accomplishments made by African Americans and those achievements have affected their lives.

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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