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Washington Post Sees a Black Opportunity

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Editor Cites Mobile Phones, Web Site, Staffing

Tiger Woods Return to Be Broadcast in 3-D

Mikki Taylor Leaving Essence After 30 Years

Broadband Plan Praised as Narrowing Digital Divide

Charles Moore, Civil Rights Photographer, Dies at 79

Survey Finds 65% of Blacks, Latinos Embrace Census

Ex-Houston Reporter Says She Won't Settle With Chronicle

MSNBC Distances Itself From Tour?© Comments

Short Takes

Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli, left, and White House reporter Michael Fletcher, behind him, were among those smiling when Barack Obama visited the Washington Post as president-elect in January 2009.  Brauchli says 'We're not there yet' on diversity at the Post. (Credit: Bill O'Leary/Washington Post)

Editor Cites Mobile Phones, Web Site, Staffing

The redesign of the Washington Post five months ago - in which a decades-old policy against running photos of columnists was reversed - had an unforeseen consequence, according to Executive Editor Marcus Brauchli: It made the paper's diversity deficiencies clear.

"If you look at the faces of the bloggers and columnists, it's unfortunately obvious that we don't represent the community as well as we could," Brauchli told Journal-isms. "And the more your newsroom looks like the community it's serving, the more likely you're likely to have strong leadership in your community."

Brauchli, 48, was named the Post's executive editor in July 2008, telling Journal-isms then that that diversity of all kinds should be a core value in a news organization and that there was no contradiction between seeking diversity and struggling with tough times.

Nearly two years later, Brauchli has in place a diverse leadership team - no doubt one of the most diverse at an American newspaper. But he says of his diversity efforts, "We're not there yet." He adds that there are parts of the city that get little coverage, and he speaks specifically of the size of his African American staff.

That's important for a number of reasons. One is, as Brauchli says, because "diversity is good business." In his vision, African Americans can provide additional readers for the Post as it seeks to reach users of mobile phones - a technology that blacks have been quick to adopt. In addition, other Web sites serving the same community as the Post - he declines to name them publicly - skew "old white male," Brauchli said. "I say that's an opportunity."

In the 2009 diversity census of the American Society of News Editors (PDF), the Post reported 25.5 percent journalists of color, including 7.6 percent Asian American; 13.6 percent black; 3.9 percent Hispanic and 0.4 percent Native American.

The top levels of the Post newsroom include Brauchli, a white man; Managing Editor Liz Spayd, a white woman; Managing Editor Raju Narisetti, of South Asian ancestry; Senior Editor Milton Coleman, who is Raju Narisetti, left, and Liz SpaydAfrican American; Deputy Managing Editor Shirley Carswell, African American; Universal News Desk Editor Sandra Sugawara, Asian American; National Editor Kevin Merida; African American; Local Editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, whose roots are in Spain; and Michel DuCille, an African American who is director of photography, multimedia and video.

In the top ranks and a rung down, there is gender and racial diversity as well as diversity of sexual orientation, he said. But Brauchli said that because decisions are "organic," it's not so easy to attribute specific actions to the diversity of leadership. For example, the Post recently ran a controversial front-page photo of two men kissing as the District of Columbia began accepting license applications for same-sex marriages. But he said, "There was broad consensus that the photo represented reality, was newsworthy and deserved the play it got."

Still, having someone with the sensitivities of Carswell over budget matters is consequential. "Shirley takes care that we're all mindful that salaries aren't skewed' in a way that disadvantages any group, Brauchli said.

He also said he relies on many journalists of color for counsel. Vanessa Williams, a Universal News Desk editor and onetime president of the National Association of Black Journalists, is in regular communication. She can be depended upon to protect him "against my blind spots." He teases playfully that one can "blame Kevin" for slowness in hiring journalists of color, a reference to Merida, and he praises Sugarawa for ensuring a diverse Universal News Desk, the hub of the newspaper and Web operations.

Nearly all of the section editors changed as the Post underwent its changes of leadership. Spayd told Politico in October that, "Having worked here for about 20 years, I have never seen so much change to this newsroom in one year's time." 

"We're changing the engine of a car when it's on the highway," Brauchli told Politico's Michael Calderone. "And we're changing the tires. And while we're at it, we're modifying the trim so it looks better, too."

The rationale for the rule about not featuring columnists' photos was that it was the words of the writer, not his or her image, that was important. But Brauchli maintains that "in this new era, readers want that pictorial identification."

It's not difficult to find Post journalists of color who don't need those visual images to conclude that more diversity is needed at the mid- and lower levels, particularly after the newsroom shrinkage resulting from the buyouts. Brauchli agrees: "The challenge is to create a diverse workforce several layers down."

The good news is that even after those buyouts, the Post is still hiring.

"I don't think anyone wouldn't know my basic view is you have to start by considering diversity," he said of the hiring process. "I want people to be really rigorous. You have to cast a wide net."

Tiger Woods Return to Be Broadcast in 3-D

"Considering the fact that his wife beat him up with a golf club for infidelity and his mistresses spent the better part of last week discussing his junk on the Howard Stern Show, Tiger Woods' upcoming return to the Masters was bound to be a media circus of epic proportions," Matthew Fleischer wrote Wednesday for MediaBistro.

"But it looks [like] any lingering chance of the broadcast world handling Tiger's return with the slightest bit of decorum has gone out the window — cable provider Comcast will be offering this year's Masters broadcast in 3-D, all but assuring the event will be the biggest freakshow the mainstream sports world has ever seen.

"Variety has the story."

Mikki Taylor Leaving Essence After 30 Years

Mikki Taylor"Essence is losing its longtime beauty and cover director Mikki Taylor, who is retiring after 30 years at the magazine (she celebrated the milestone last month)," Nick Alexrod reported on Wednesday for Women's Wear Daily. "Taylor will continue to contribute to Essence as editor at large, but her primary focus will be on growing Mikki Taylor Enterprises and her businesses, which include Satin Doll Productions, an image consulting company, and MT Communications, a strategic communications and branding firm.

" 'In the realm of beauty, Mikki Taylor's impact cannot be understated - not only in influencing the mind-set of African-American women, but in educating the beauty industry with key insights on how to best serve them,' said Essence Communications president Michelle Ebanks.

"Taylor's other notable achievements include authoring a book, 'Self-Seduction: Your Ultimate Plan to Inner and Outer Beauty,' and serving as a guest instructor at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, as part of the school's Arts Workshop in 2007. Former Real Simple executive editor Corynne Corbett will be stepping in to temporarily oversee Essence's beauty department until a successor is found."

Under the headline, "Trouble at Essence?" a writer at saw more afoot than a mere retirement.

Broadband Plan Praised as Narrowing Digital Divide

"Initial reaction Monday to the FCC's long-awaited national broadband plan was positive, particularly from public interest groups," Juliana Gruenwald reported for National Journal. "The FCC detailed the document Monday and released the executive summary of the plan, which outlines six long-term broadband goals, including superfast connectivity to 100 million households and transforming the United States into a world leader in mobile broadband use and innovation."

David Honig, president and executive director of the Minority Media Telecommunications Council, said in a statement that the FCC “hit all of the top priorities: closing the racial and economic digital divide, extending broadband service to the unserved and underserved, achieving universal adoption and literate use, and securing the full participation of minority business enterprises (MBEs) in the new digital economy."

"While saying his group 'strongly' supports the FCC's goals, Free Press Executive Director Josh Silver warned that 'to put the market to work for American consumers, the FCC will need to foster competition to drive down prices and drive up speeds. This will require confronting the market power of the cable and telephone giants that control the broadband market,'" the National Journal story said.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is arrested in 1958 after a protest in Montgomery, Ala.

Charles Moore, Civil Rights Photographer, Dies at 79

"Charles Moore, a photojournalist who both chronicled and helped alter the course of history through extraordinary photographs that reflected the brutal reality of the civil rights movement in the South, has died. He was 79," Valerie J. Nelson reported Wednesday in the Los Angeles Times.

"Moore died Thursday of natural causes at a nursing home in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., said his daughter Michelle Moore Peel.

Charles Moore visited Montgomery Advertiser in 2005 (Credit: Mickey Welsh/Montgomery Advertiser)"From 1958 to 1965, he trained his lens on the unfolding drama of civil rights as a news photographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser and Life magazine.

"His shockingly graphic images — of police dogs attacking protesters or marchers being assaulted by powerful water hoses — helped propel what had been a regional dispute onto the national stage.

"As his photographs created national outrage, they quickened the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, according to John Kaplan, a University of Florida journalism professor who wrote his master's thesis on Moore.

" 'He had the courage to stand up in the face of danger and let Americans know what was really happening, through his work,' Kaplan told The Times. 'That is why he is an unsung hero.'

"As Moore followed the struggle, he was known for his fearlessness and uncanny knack for capturing the most distressing images possible.

" 'To people who were really bigoted, I was the worst enemy, a Southern boy working for Life,' Moore told USA Today in 1991.

" 'I knew the South. . . . I also knew how to talk back to racists.'"


Police dogs attack a demonstrator during an anti-segregation protest in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. (Photos by Charles Moore, courtesy Black Star)

Survey Finds 65% of Blacks, Latinos Embrace Census

As forms for the 2010 U.S. Census arrive in households across the nation this week, a new Pew Research Center survey finds nearly universal awareness of the census, with 94% of Americans saying they have heard of the census and 79% having heard something recently about it," the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reported Tuesday.

"Among demographic groups, women are more likely than men to see benefits both to themselves and to their communities, and more African Americans than whites or Hispanics perceive likely benefits from the census.

". . . In addition, while Hispanics lagged far behind white non-Hispanics and black non-Hispanics in their commitment to take part in the census, that gap has narrowed since January. Currently, 65% of Hispanics say they will definitely participate, up from 47% in January. That compares with 73% of whites (up from 61%) and 67% of blacks (up slightly from 57%)."

Black Entertainment Television plans a half-hour special on Sunday on "the severe under-count of African Americans by the United States Census," according to a BET announcement. "Hosted by Def Jam recording artist, Nas and narrated by BET News correspondent Jeff Johnson, BE COUNTED: BLACK AMERICA AND THE 2010 CENSUS highlights the everyday lives of African Americans and their journey to increase participation in the 2010 Census."

The program, originally scheduled for 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific times, is now to air at noon. Jason Samuels is executive producer.


Ex-Houston Reporter Says She Won't Settle With Paper

Cynthia Coleman Franklin, a former Houston Chronicle reporter who sued the newspaper on discrimination charges, has reached a settlement with the newspaper and last month received $10,000, according to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. But Frankln told Journal-isms she did not receive the money "and will not accept it."

Serving as her own attorney, Franklin said in her court filing that she was "for nearly two decades. . . . a highly decorated academician" when she took part in the Freedom Forum Diversity Institute in Nashville, a diversity initiative designed to reach potential journalists who wanted to switch careers. She is African American and taught school in Houston.

A requirement of the program was that the student first secure newspaper employment, Franklin said, and she did so in 2004, in the Chronicle's neighborhood news department. However, as the sole caregiver for her son, Franklin said she told the newspaper that she could not work weekends. The Chronicle agreed, Franklin said, but "from the very beginning, Howard Decker (white male) and Greg Mays (white male) made it clear they did not like my work schedule." Franklin alleged that she was denied raises, her story ideas were turned down, and that after she complained, "was named in the Chronicle's reduction in force."

Her bylines ran in the paper from 2005 to 2007.

In 2008, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said it could not find any basis for Franklin's complaint.

Carl Guida, a lawyer for the Hearst Corp., which owns the Chronicle, said the paper denied all accusations and that the case was dismissed "with prejudice."

Frankln said she is still unemployed and has taken the case as far as she can. "I refused to accept the $10,000," she said, because she filed the case on behalf of single employed women. "There's a greater issue -- other women," she said.  Technically, the court said, the case is still open, awaiting closure.

The Chronicle is now bereft of black male reporters on its Metro desk, according to staffers. Shannon Buggs, another African American, said goodbye Monday to readers of her personal finance column, ending nearly 11 years at the paper.

MSNBC Distances Itself From Tour?© Twitter Comments

After a dustup in the blogosphere and calls to the network, MSNBC has distanced itself from comments made by contributor Tour?© in his Twitter account.

"Tour?© is a part-time contributor to the network and his comments were not appropriate and do not represent the views of Msnbc. He has apologized for his statements and we have accepted his apology," MSNBC spokeswoman Alana Russo said, according to the Web site What About Our Daughters.

"Tour?© ‚Äî journalist and talking head for BET, MSNBC, and everything in between‚Äîwent on a breathtakingly bizarre Twitter rant about mixed race relationships and the secret antebellum awesomeness of white masters having sex with black slaves," the Gawker Web site reported, displaying some of the Twitter feeds.

"Many, many, many of our great grandmothers were raped in slavery. But surely a few of em were loved and surely some . . .

"Some were cunning and brilliant enough to use their bodies to gain liberation thus fooling massa," the tweets said.

But were they from Tour?© or "Toure's Cousin?"

A message on the TouresCousin Twitter page says, "My bad, y'all. I am the one responsible for whatever my cuz Toure said that you found offensive!"


Short Takes

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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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