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Vibe to Relaunch Under New Owners

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Publication to Be Sibling of "Soul Train," Uptown

"Vibe, the hip-hop magazine that folded six weeks ago under a pile of debt, is being resurrected with a new spin - as a Web-focused publication with a greater emphasis on Vibe's roots," as Russell Adams reported Tuesday for the Vibe's June issue.Wall Street Journal.

"A group led by the private equity firm InterMedia Partners and its luxury magazine publisher, Uptown Media, has reached an agreement to acquire Vibe and its Web site. The new owners say they plan to re-launch Vibe.com in the next couple of weeks.

"They intend to bring out the print edition only at the end of the year and then publish it quarterly rather than monthly, possibly increasing the frequency after 2010. They declined to disclose the transaction's financial terms.

"The acquisition allows InterMedia to capture more of the African-American market for advertisers, said David Koff, a senior partner at the firm, founded by Leo Hindery. In addition to Uptown, Intermedia owns 'Soul Train,' the long-running music and dance television program, which Intermedia plans to relaunch in the fall. Mr. Koff said the Vibe deal fills a youth gap for the new owners."

Koff, who said the firm gave the story first to the Journal, referred questions to a public relations representative, who said it was too early to say who would be on the editorial team. However, she said Brett Wright, chief creative officer, Uptown Media Group, would also be creative director of Vibe. Vibe's last editor was Danyel Smith.

When Vibe, the best-known and most mainstream of the magazines aimed at the hip-hop generation, announced on June 30 that it was folding immediately after 16 years, Vibe founder Quincy Jones told Adrienne Samuels Gibbs of Ebony magazine, "I'm trying to buy my magazine back now. They just messed my magazine all up, but I'm gonna get it back. You better believe it, I'm'a take it online because print and all that stuff is over,' Gibbs wrote.

However, Jones is not involved in the new venture, Koff's publicist said. "Mr. Jones is traveling at the moment and I am unable to reach him," Arnold Robinson, a spokesman for Jones, said.

Adams' story continued, "Vibe's new owners said they think the brand has been 'underexploited' in recent years and that there are opportunities to showcase it on television and through product licensing. In its prime, Vibe brought journalistic heft to 'urban' music and culture, securing a prime spot on newsstands for black entertainers while chronicling their broadening appeal.

"Uptown executives say the re-launch is a return to Vibe's original ambitions after a recent stretch in which it narrowed its focus to hip-hop music. The magazine and Web site will cover a wider spectrum of musical genres and entertainers, including athletes, said Brett Wright, Uptown's co-founder and chief creative officer.

"Vibe and Vibe.com will be sold to advertisers as part of a package with similarly themed publications. Uptown publishes an eponymous magazine targeting affluent African-Americans. Blackrock Digital, a Web sales and marketing company that has partnered with Uptown and InterMedia in the acquisition, sells ad space for Web properties of media outlets like Spin magazine and BallerStatus, an urban lifestyle publication."

"The new enterprise faces serious challenges. The drop-off in consumer spending has squeezed advertising budgets and tipped many magazines into unprofitability. Even when the economy recovers, it is unclear how much of the lost advertising will return to print as readers and marketers continue to drift online. The new owners hope their digital emphasis will help offset that risk.

"Ad pages at Vibe fell nearly 40% in the first half of this year, compared to a 28% decline for the industry, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Another hip-hop magazine, The Source, emerged from bankruptcy under new ownership last year. Earlier this year Alpha Media Group closed the print edition of the music magazine Blender.

"Vibe's new owners said they will hire between 16 and 20 new employees, who will focus on both the digital and print properties. The owners will distribute about 300,000 copies per print issue, mostly on the newsstand. Previously Vibe had a guaranteed circulation of 600,000." 

Don Cornwell, Station Group Founder, Steps Down

W. Don Cornwell, whose Granite Broadcasting Co. was one of the few black-owned television companies in an overwhelmingly white industry, is stepping down as the firm's CEO, his station group announced on Tuesday, TV NewsCheck reported

"After 21 years, I will be taking a step back from the day-to-day operations of Granite," said Cornwell in a prepared statement, according to TV NewsCheck.

"Since Stuart Beck and I founded the company in 1988 with the purchase of stations in Duluth and Peoria, Granite has developed from an entrepreneurial idea into a diverse station group which operates and provides services to 23 channels in 11 markets, reaching more than 6 percent of U.S. television households," said Cornwell, 61.

Despite Granite's distinction as black-owned mainstream television broadcaster, it was relatively little known in black media circles, and it was faulted for bad management decisions. "After some missteps, the publicly traded Granite fell into bankruptcy in December 2006," TV NewsCheck said.

It emerged in June 2007 "as a private company in the control of Silver Point Capital, which had been one of the principal creditors," the story continued, at which point Granite ceased to be black-owned.

"Despite the company's past troubles, Silver Point retained Cornwell as chairman and CEO."  

Sandy Novotny, a company spokeswoman, told Journal-isms that Cornwell would remain to "see the transition through."

In 2001, Granite was No. 11 on the Black Enterprise Industrial/Service 100, with $182.3 million in gross revenues in 1999.

African Americans comprise 13 percent of the U.S. population but own only 18 stations, or 1.3 percent, according to a 2006 report from the advocacy group Free Press.

A Hint of Chicago Politics at NABJ?

August 10, 2009

Winner's Supporter Wanted Opponent Disqualified

Kathy Times, the newly elected president of the National Association of Black Journalists, might have secured the job without opposition had one of her supporters prevailed.

Angelo B. Henderson campaigned for entrepreneurship in his quest to become president of the National Association of Black Journalists. Despite a challenge, he remained on the ballot.The supporter, a lawyer and associate member of the organization, formally challenged the qualifications of Times and her opponent, Angelo B. Henderson.

NABJ rejected the supporter's request.

Eliminating election opponents is not new in the political world. In 1996, Barack Obama famously won his first election to the Illinois State Senate after successfully challenging the petitions of three of his Democratic opponents.

However, such a move appears to be unprecedented for a presidential election in NABJ, the nation's largest and oldest association of journalists of color, founded in 1975.

"There was a challenge," Elections Committee Co-Chair Melanie Burney, an editorial writer at the Philadelphia Inquirer, acknowledged on Monday. "The Elections Committee reviewed the challenge, consulted the executive director and NABJ's lawyer, and as a result of that . . . upheld the certification of every candidate. The same certification process was used for every candidate." She did not use Henderson's name.

The events took place in late April and early May, out of the spotlight. No announcement was made of the challenge. The association's magazine, the NABJ Journal, has relinquished its watchdog role within the association, and the NABJ Monitor, the student publication that covers the NABJ convention, missed a nameless reference to the challenge by Elections Committee Co-Chair Herbert Lowe at an NABJ board meeting on Tuesday.

Times, an anchor and investigative reporter at WDBD-TV in Jackson, Miss., told Journal-isms Monday night that "the election is over and the board is moving forward." She referred questions to the Elections Committee, including the identity of the supporter who filed the challenge. Times defeated Henderson, 325 to 248, in balloting that concluded on Friday.

Henderson, a Radio One talk-show host in Detroit whose background includes a Pulitzer Prize for his work at the Wall Street Journal and work for Real Times, a chain that owns black newspapers, said the Elections Committee asked him to submit employment verification and answer questions about his typical day. He also serves as an associate pastor, and he had to prove that he spent more than 51 percent of his time as a journalist.

The Elections Committee was satisfied that Henderson, already a full member of NABJ, qualified. It was after that decision that the challenge from the Times supporter came.

In January, the committee had asked the board of directors to re-examine its criteria for membership as turmoil in the news industry swept away jobs and forced many journalists to reinvent themselves in the workplace. New recommendations were released at last week's convention, but they apparently still do not exactly match Henderson's situation.

They would add "online/emerging media" to the list of platforms where journalists may work, add a new membership category to be called "online/emerging media," and provide that "NABJ members who’ve exhausted their six month extension" after losing their jobs be allowed to "retain their status as a full member for year as long as they pay the full member rate," wrote board member Charles Robinson III, who chaired the commission on membership.

"I'm not traditional," Henderson told Journal-isms. "As we move forward, we have to look at people who work in a variety of jobs."

"Maybe," he said of the rejection of the challenge to his candidacy, "it will be easier for the next person who doesn't work for one company."

Times said she agreed with a re-examination. Having served on both the elections and membership committees, she said, looking at membership criteria "is definitely going to be a priority for me."

(c) 2009 Universal Press Syndicate. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

"Dick Cheney" Orders a Hit on Michael Vick

"Today is the day that Dick Cheney advises the NFL to kill Michael Vick — the start of a satiric fictional storyline that, like a blindside sack or shooting accident, you just won't see coming. At least not in The Washington Post," Michael Cavna wrote Monday on the Washington Post Web site.

"That's because The Post, both in print and online, chose not to run this week's original 'Tank McNamara' strips. Instead, Post readers will see syndicate-sanctioned 'Tank' reruns.

"Post Managing Editor Raju Narisetti says the decision was a no-brainer: The original strips were deemed 'inappropriate.' The Post sacked the week's strips, in which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seeks advice on how to handle the reinstatement of former quarterback/convict Vick, who ran a pit-bull ring that resulted in canine deaths; the storyline attempts to satirize issues such as perceptions of racism by the NFL front office and owners."

Meanwhile, CBS announced that "60 Minutes" will air Vick's first interview since he admitted two years ago to running a dogfighting ring — a crime that landed him in federal prison for 18 months and got him suspended from the NFL. The interview, conducted Monday in Virginia, is to be broadcast Sunday.

The ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback "was conditionally reinstated by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on July 27th, a week after he was released from federal custody. If a team is interested in him, Vick could be playing again in a regular league game by the sixth week of the NFL season," CBS explained.

"The segment will also include interviews with Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the U.S., the country’s largest organization dedicated to the protection of animals. Tony Dungy, the former NFL coach who will be a special advisor to Vick, will also be interviewed."

Top Court to Decide on Release of Prisoner Photos

"The United States Supreme Court will hear the U.S. government’s appeal on a lower court ruling requiring the release of photos showing the abuse of prisoners held in overseas facilities," Eli Clifton wrote Monday for Inter-Press Service.

"The government is appealing a 2008 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit which ruled that the government must release the photos to comply with an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.

The Obama administration initially agreed to release the photos — and decided not to appeal the court's decision — but reversed position on May 28 when the government asked the appeals court to recall its order for the photos release, since an appeal was to be filed in the Supreme Court, the story said.

Sotomayor Approval Could Boost Cameras in Court

"The Radio-Television News Directors Association said Wednesday that Judge Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation by the Senate for the Supreme Court was an encouraging sign for cameras in that venue," John Eggerton reported for Broadcasting & Cable.

"RTNDA, which has been pushing to get cameras into the high court for years, was buoyed by Sotomayor's response to questioning from camera fan Herb Kohl about her views on televising the court.

"'I have had positive experiences with cameras when I have been asked to join experiments using cameras in the courtroom,' she said.

"While she did not commit to supporting them, RTNDA pointed out, she said she would be a 'new voice in the discussion,' which RTNDA points out is an improvement over the justice she is replacing, David Souter, who was firmly opposed.

L.A. Reporter Bonds With Victim of Drive-By

Molly Hennessy-Fiske"I looked into the woman's face. Her large brown eyes widened with fear. She winced in pain. Blood spurted from her thighs," Molly Hennessy-Fiske wrote on Monday for the Los Angeles Times.

"I dropped my purse and knelt beside her on the asphalt.

"Reporters are trained to remain detached, to observe and record without interfering. But the circumstances that Saturday afternoon compelled me to reach out and help this stranger, the victim of a drive-by shooting in South Los Angeles.

"From that chance encounter, a bond would grow between us — fleeting but powerful. Later, I would learn about her life, that she was a working single mother who had just moved to the high desert to escape gang violence. But at that moment, all I could think about was how to stop the bleeding.

"Someone had ripped up a white T-shirt and tied the strips of cloth around her legs, below her shorts, as tourniquets. I put my hands on the bloodstained rags and pressed. She cringed but did not complain.

"I had taken a first aid course before going to Baghdad on assignment in 2006. I hadn't needed to use the training in Iraq. I never imagined I would need it in Los Angeles."

L.A. Times Publishes Oral Histories From Hiroshima

Mushroom cloud rises over Hiroshima, Japan, after the world's first atomic bomb attack at 8:16 a.m. on Aug. 6, 1945. The cloud rose to more than 60,000 feet in about 10 minutes. (Credit: National Archives)"Early on the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, pilot Paul Tibbets and his crew took off from the Pacific island of Tinian in a B-29 bomber named the Enola Gay," the Los Angeles Times wrote on Sunday. "Hours later, they dropped Little Boy, the first atomic bomb used in warfare, on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on Aug. 9, the U.S. dropped a second nuclear bomb on Nagasaki.

"Today, the world is still struggling with how to control the weapons unleashed 64 years ago. Nine countries are known or are widely believed to have nuclear weapons capability, with Iran working to develop it. On this anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, we are publishing firsthand testimony from the nuclear era's first victims.

"The following oral histories, gathered in 1995 as part of a project for the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation and translated by Mitsuru Ohba of Hiroshima City University, have been condensed and edited for clarity. Other witness reports of the bombing can be found at http://www.inicom.com/hibakusha/index.html . . ."

U.S. Journalists Free, but What About S. Koreans?

"As the news spread about the release of two U.S. journalists from a North Korean prison, the biggest question for some Korean ethnic media is: How about the South Koreans the North has been holding as hostages for years?" Anthony Advincula and Eunji Jang wrote last week for New America Media.

"The pardon . . . of Current TV reporters Euna Lee and Lisa Ling during the visit of former U.S. President Bill Clinton could just be a reflection of how North Korea is willing to make peace agreements with the United States — but not with South Korea.

"'It is very difficult to free our own South Korean hostages because North Korea intentionally treats our government differently. We are not America,' said Jong Hoon Kim, editor of Korea Daily in Atlanta, Ga.

"The result, Kim said, is that hundreds of South Korean hostages languish in North Korean prisons. These hostages — the most recent of whom include two fishermen — have been taken in small groups over time and stand little chance of release."

Credit: Fernmitchell.com

Obviously, Young Girl Had Never Seen Naomi Sims

"I've written this column to pay tribute to what, for some, may be a little known black history fact. But I've written because I am reminded once more of the time that a white teacher at one of Jefferson County's alternative schools pulled me to the side and asked me to share a special word with one of her students," Betty Winston Bay?© wrote Thursday in the Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal.

"The girl was smart and had good potential, but even the white teacher realized that the young black girl was being held back by low self-esteem, largely because of her very dark skin.

"When I took that precious child to the side, she looked at me with the saddest eye and said that she'd never seen a dark-skinned woman that she thought was beautiful or had done anything great. I wanted to cry. That young girl obviously had never seen Naomi Sims. I write this for her, and for the children that perhaps she has had by now."

Sims, arguably the first black supermodel, died Aug. 1 of breast cancer at age 61.

Short Takes

  • International journalism organizations, such as the International Federation of Journalists, have condemned the conviction of six Gambian journalists to two-year jail sentence and $20,000 fine each for having criticised President Yahya Jammeh of the West African nation. "This is one of the darkest days in the history of African journalism," said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. Reporters Without Borders said, ‚ÄúThese disgraceful sentences seem like a provocation at time when the US secretary of state is touring Africa to promote good governance. We urge Hillary Clinton to modify her itinerary and make a stopover in Banjul,‚Äù the Gambian capital.
  • Jason Samuels Jason Samuels, broadcast news producer and New York University journalism professor, and Karen Saunders, a veteran of more than more than 20 years as a writer, director and producer, are joining BET News, the network announced on Monday. Saunders will be senior producer of the network‚Äôs new series, "BET News In-Depth," and Samuels will be senior series producer of "Heart of the City." Both have resumes that include time at ABC News. In an e-mail to Journal-isms, Samuels said, "we will be producing one hour, prime time docs, one per month beginning in sept , each focusing on a serious issue impacting the black community. heavy duty reporting. no fluff."
  • "The company that owns the photo agency Gamma sought protection from creditors on July 28 after a loss of ‚Ǩ3 million, or $4.2 million, in the first half of the year as sales fell by nearly a third," David Jolly reported Sunday for the New York Times. "With Sygma, Sipa and, earlier, Magnum, it was one of the independent agencies that helped make Paris a world capital for photojournalism, attracting some of the best photographers the field has produced."
  • "Advance Publications' Newhouse Newspapers, one of the only major newspaper chains to avoid non-union layoffs throughout the recent upheavals suffered by its industry, is planning to remove its long-standing 'no-layoffs' pledge," Joe Strupp reported Wednesday for Editor & Publisher. Publishers at the chain's 20 daily newspapers broke the news to staffers that day.
  • Rosalynne Whitaker-Heck was named interim dean of Hampton University's school of journalism and communications late last month. "She replaces Tony Brown, who retired in May after five years as dean. Whitaker-Heck has been the school's assistant dean for academic affairs since 2007," the Daily Press of Newport News, Va., reported. "The 450-student journalism school opened in 2002 as the result of a $10 million partnership between the Scripps Howard Foundation and HU. Whitaker-Heck was named interim director when the school first opened."
  • "Latino-centric cable and online network Si TV has raised $8.75 million in funding, according to an SEC filing, with plans to raise nearly $6 million more, according to paidcontent.org. "The network raised roughly $60 million in funding from big backers like EchoStar, Time Warner, Columbia Capital and Rho Ventures back when it launched in 2004; we‚Äôre trying to confirm who the investors are for this new round."
  • George de LamaGeorge de Lama, who as managing editor for news at the Chicago Tribune was one of the highest-ranking Latinos in mainstream daily newspapers, was due to start last week as external relations adviser of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington. He left the Tribune last year. De Lama will head the Bank‚Äôs strategic communications, congressional relations and cultural affairs office, the bank said.
  • "Several sources close to the show claim 'Imus In The Morning' is close to a deal which would move the show to the Fox Business Network," Rick Ellis of allyourtv.com wrote last week. "According to these sources, RFD-TV is looking to drop the show due to financial problems at the network. Fox Business Network has reportedly shown strong interest in the show, and it could make the move as early as September 1."
  • The Washington Post‚Äôs National Weekly Edition will cease publication at the end of the year, a victim of the bad economy and declining circulation, Post ombudsman Andy Alexander wrote on Monday. National Weekly Edition editor Sharon Scott, a black journalist, confirmed that the tabloid, started more than a quarter century ago, will be shuttered. Circulation, which she said peaked at about 150,000 a decade ago, is now about 20,000.

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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