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Washington Post Sold to Amazon Founder

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

After Stunning News, NABJ Seeks Meeting With New Owner

Latino Percentage of Newsroom Jobs at Lowest Since 2001

Scarbrough Named Exec Producer at Al Jazeera America

Fla. Lawmakers to Hold Hearings on "Stand Your Ground"

A Week When Anti-Asian Slurs Were Off the Charts

Photographer Documents Toll of Oil Industry on Indians

"Reliable Sources" Hosts All the Same Gender, Hue

C-SPAN to Feature March on Washington Programming

Short Takes

The news ticker outside of the Washington Post building announces the sale. (Cre

After Stunning News, NABJ Seeks Meeting With New Owner

The Washington Post Co. stunned its employees and the journalism industry with an announcement Monday that it is selling its newspaper publishing businesses, including the Post newspaper, to Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos.

The purchase price is $250 million, subject to normal working capital adjustments, payable at closing later this year, the announcement said. It emphasized that the sale is to Bezos as an individual, not to Amazon.

Kevin Merida

Bob Butler, who became president of the National Association of Black Journalists on Sunday, told Journal-isms that he would seek a meeting with Bezos, whose company is based in Seattle. "We do not know whether this will have any negative impact on our employees, especially our members," Butler said by telephone.

Some black journalists immediately asked about the fate of The Root, the African American-oriented website conceived by Post Co. Chairman and CEO Donald E. Graham and Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr.

The announcement said The Root would remain with the Washington Post Co., along with Slate magazine, Foreign Policy and other non-newspaper properties.

Although there has been cross-pollination between The Root and the Post newspaper — an African American-oriented page in the Post is called "The Root DC" — "It's going to be business as usual," Donna Byrd, publisher of The Root, told Journal-isms by telephone. "It will have no effect on the operation or editorial actions of The Root at all." The Root has about 15 employees and is operated as part of the Post Co.'s Slate Group.

In an interview with the Post's Paul Farhi, Graham said, "Every member of my family started out with the same emotion — shock — in even thinking about" selling the Post. "But when the idea of a transaction with Jeff Bezos came up, it altered my feelings.

"The Post could have survived under the company's ownership and been profitable for the foreseeable future. But we wanted to do more than survive. I'm not saying this guarantees success, but it gives us a much greater chance of success."

Farhi added, "Despite the end of the Graham family's control of the newspaper after 80 years, Graham and Bezos said management and operations of the newspaper would continue without disruption after the sale."

Farhi reported that Post publisher Katharine Weymouth — Graham's niece and the fourth generation of her family involved in the newspaper — "will remain as publisher and chief executive of the Bezos-owned Post; executive editor Martin Baron will continue in his job. No layoffs among the paper's 2,000 employees are contemplated as a result of the transaction, Bezos and Graham said.

"Bezos said he will maintain his home in Seattle and will delegate the paper's daily operations to its existing management. 'I have a fantastic day job that I love,' he said."

Kevin Merida, who became the Post's first African American managing editor this year, told Journal-isms by email, "I am optimistic because we have a great newsroom. I am sad, of course, because I so admire Don and the Graham family. They have built a world-class news organization, and deserve to take a bow. My faith, though, is in the journalists in our room. We are doing tremendous work with impact and soul, and that will continue without interruption. There is no reason to believe Jeff Bezos doesn't share this same desire. Rock the journalism."

The news stunned Post employees.

Some were reluctant to speak on the record, but their tweets, compiled by Dan Amira of New York magazine, told the story.

"Stunning," wrote Nia-Malika Henderson, national political reporter.

"Guess it may be time to dust off resume?" tweeted sportswriter Gene Wang. "*upgrades to Amazon Prime immediately* RT," he said in another tweet.

"HOLY SMOKES!" wrote Jonathan Capehart, editorial writer and columnist.

"If I'm lucky enough to write memoirs, you better believe this day will be an entire chapter," blogger Clinton Yates declared.

Doris Truong, a multiplatform editor at the Post who is acting president of Unity: Journalists for Diversity and past national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, said she had no comment.

In a statement late Monday from NABJ, Vanessa Williams, a national editor at the Post and a former NABJ president, said, "If the sale had to happen, it's good that we were sold to a tech person because that's the direction the business is going."

The NABJ statement said, "We regard as a positive for the Post that Bezos has a strong record at Amazon of reinvesting in the company's growth," and added, "We invite Bezos to work with NABJ in earnest to ensure that diversity is an imperative in the Post's growth strategy. . . ."

Former employees were concerned about their pensions. The New York Times Co. announced that it was selling the Boston Globe and its other New England media properties to John W. Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox. "Mr. Henry is buying the media group without partners through his acquisition company; under terms of the sale, he does not have to assume The Globe's pension liabilities," Christine Haughney reported Saturday for the Times.

However, Peter Kafka wrote for All Things D, "Unlike other media companies, the Post has an overfunded pension plan, not an underfunded one. But the Post will still be giving Bezos what amounts to $50 million to help pay off the costs of his new [employees'] pension liabilities. Bezos will be responsible for current Post [employees'] pensions, while the old company will be responsible for retired employees' pension."

In the most recent newsroom diversity survey of the American Society of News Editors, the Post reported 23.2 percent journalists of color: black, 11.8 percent; Asian American, 8.1 percent; Hispanic, 3.1 percent; and American Indian, 0.2 percent. 

Amazon's diversity record is something of a mystery.

Jeremy C. Owens reported March 18 for the San Jose Mercury News, "A CNN Money report finds that Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL) and other tech titans continue to stonewall questions on the diversity of their workforce, five years after the Mercury News kicked off a quest to find out the racial makeup of the workforce at the country's most important technology companies. 

"CNN Money, which began its own investigation in 2011, reported Monday that its attempts to obtain the data — which companies with more than 100 employees must provide to the federal government annually — from 20 prominent tech firms in the U.S. have hit the same roadblocks. Of the 20, only Intel (INTC), Dell and Ingram Micro voluntarily released the data.

"Ten companies were able to block the release of the data from the U.S. Department of Labor because they are not federal contractors: Facebook, LinkedIn, Netflix (NFLX), Twitter, Yelp, Zynga, Amazon, Groupon, Hulu and LivingSocial. . . ."

Latino Percentage of Newsroom Jobs at Lowest Since 2001

"As job losses have devastated U.S. daily newspapers, the disparity between the percentage of Hispanics in the newsroom and in the general population has widened," Percy Lujan wrote for Hispanic Link News Service.

"That can affect coverage of issues important to Latinos and others. — The annual census by the American Society of News Editors shows that Latinos represent an even 4 percent of newsroom employees on daily papers, while comprising 17 percent of the U.S. population.

"That's the lowest Hispanic participation rate since 2001, when they made up 3.9 percent. It peaked at 4.6 percent in 2009.

"In 2001, the nation's dailies had 2,098 Hispanics in newsroom jobs. By last year, the number had fallen to 1,512.

" 'Unfortunately, the focus on diversity has been another one of the casualties of the current industry upheaval,' says Rick Rodriguez, who became ASNE's first Latino president in 2005 while serving as the Sacramento Bee's executive editor. The office has a one-year term. . . ."

Scarbrough Named Exec Producer at Al Jazeera America

Neal Scarbrough

"Al Jazeera America, the new American news channel that will launch Aug. 20, today announced that Neal Scarbrough has been hired as its senior executive producer for sports programming and Jeff Green will serve as executive producer of sports programming," the network announced on Tuesday.

Scarbrough is the highest-ranking African American on the network's editorial side. On the business side,  David Harleston is general counsel and executive vice president for business and legal affairs.

"An award-winning journalist with two decades of newsroom experience in print, digital and television, Scarbrough comes to Al Jazeera America from Comcast, where he served as vice president of digital media for the Versus Sports Network (now NBC Sports Network) before transitioning to corporate communications," the release continued.

"Prior to Versus, Scarbrough ran the sports division at AOL and was senior news director and editor-in-chief at ESPN.com. He served on the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at The Denver Post that in 1999 was honored for its breaking news coverage of the Columbine High School massacre. He has also won an Online Journalism Award for General Excellence and been named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in Online Sports.

" 'Al Jazeera America will feature one-of-a-kind sports coverage that will be perfect for both news junkies and passionate sports fans,' said Scarbrough. 'The weekly show we're developing will delve into the top stories across sports and deliver new faces and places to American fans.' "

It continued, "Al Jazeera America will feature regular sports updates, interviews and features through the day. An in-depth weekly sports magazine show will begin by year's end and a second weekend sports show is planned for 2014."

Separately, Ayana Brickhouse has been named deputy news editor in Washington at the sister Al Jazeera English channel. She was associate producer/writer at CNN. [Added Aug. 6]

Fla. Lawmakers to Hold Hearings on "Stand Your Ground"

The family of Trayvon Martin, including mother Sybrina Martin and father Tracy M

"Florida lawmakers will hold hearings this fall on the state’s 'Stand Your Ground' self- defense law, which has become a lightning rod for criticism following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin," Tom Brown reported Monday for Reuters.

"The announcement on Friday by Will Weatherford, the speaker of Florida's House of Representatives, marked the biggest concession yet by the state's Republican leaders to protesters' demands for a top-to-bottom review of the law, which allows people in fear of serious injury to use deadly force to defend themselves rather than retreat.

"Since Zimmerman's acquittal on July 13, Martin's grieving parents, backed by African-American civic leaders, celebrities, students and political figures, including President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder, have all said the Stand Your Ground law needs to be re-examined. . . ."

The parents appeared Friday at the National Association of Black Journalists convention in Kissimmee, Fla. At a news conference, Martin and Fulton said they were taking no stance on a proposed boycott of Florida, WFTV-TV in Orlando reported.

"Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, said Friday that critics of Zimmerman's acquittal have the right to express themselves, but that she and the teen's father are neither supporting nor opposing the proposal," the station reported, incorporating material from the Associated Press.

A Week When Anti-Asian Slurs Were Off the Charts

"If you haven't noticed, in one week the anti-Asian/Asian American meter was off the charts and maxing out in the red, Emil Guillermo wrote on his blog Monday for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

"But it's likely that you, like everyone else, probably didn't even notice.

"Asian American cultural slights? Are you kidding? Who takes those seriously as civil rights violations?

"Maybe you should. Unfortunately, these are times when everyday racist fare tends to go unchecked, thereby becoming the acceptable 'norm.'

"Add to that, the news of Philadelphia [Eagles] player Riley Cooper saying the 'N' word in public, and you know any transgressions about Asian Americans will barely register a blip on society's racial radar.

"Yet, last week was practically high tide for anti-Asian sentiment in the media. Not since the Asiana Ho Lee Fuk episode have we seen so many offensive instances come at us at once. Let me count the ways: . . ."

A couple at the funeral of their miscarried child in Fort McKay in Alberta,   Ca

Photographer Documents Toll of Oil Industry on Indians

"Ian Willms has photographed the effects of oil extraction on First Nations land in Fort McKay and Fort Chipewyan, in northern Alberta, Canada," begins a July 30 photo essay on the Lens blog of the New York Times. "Mr. Willms, 28, based in Toronto, is a founding member of the Boreal Collective and spent several months over the last three years photographing his project 'As Long as the Sun Shines.' His interview with James Estrin has been edited and condensed.

"Q. How did this project start?

"A. When I graduated from school in 2008 I was hearing a lot about the oil sands in Canada. So I started doing research, and the more I learned, the more horrified I became.

"I read a CBC article about cancer rates in indigenous communities that immediately surrounded the oil sands, and I knew right then that was exactly what I had to do. I searched pretty thoroughly for anybody who had done a proper photo story on the community, and I couldn't find anything that was particularly in-depth."

Estrin also asked, "What is the effect of the oil sands on the environment?

"A. Well, they're finding a lot of animals with physical problems. They're finding fish with large, golf-ball-sized tumors. There was actually an industry-funded study a few years ago that found that the moose meat had 453 times the acceptable level of arsenic in it.

"These people who have hunted this land for a hundred years can read their environment like a book. They know when something's wrong. They open up an animal, they can see the health of that animal by how it looks. The industry and the government don't really take that knowledge seriously. . . ."

"Reliable Sources" Hosts All the Same Gender, Hue

Also overlooked Callie Crossley hosts the "Under the Radar" media show on Boston's WGBH-FM."Politico's Patrick Gavin yesterday tweeted that he'd be hosting the long-running CNN program 'Reliable Sources' this Sunday," Erik Wemple wrote Thursday on his Washington Post blog.

"He is among the crowd that is filling in following the departure of Howard Kurtz* for Fox News. Gavin's guest-hosting stint follows that of George Washington University big shot and former CNN correspondent Frank Sesno, which followed that of NPR reporter David Folkenflik, which followed that of CNN contributor John Avlon. All of them precede the New York Times's Brian Stelter.

"What could all of these light-complected males possibly have in common?

"The lack of diversity among the fill-in crew at 'Reliable Sources' makes sense on one level. Media/TV criticism has its share of guys, after all — from the Carrs and the Shaferses to the Byerses and the Folkenfliks to the Kurtzes and the Degganses. (Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Blog is a white male). But who says the next 'Reliable Sources' host needs to have spent years slinging blog posts and columns on paywalls, ethics, conflicts of interest and cable-news-anchor hirings?

"What, for instance, is keeping CNN from screen-testing a talent like Karen Tumulty, the veteran Washington Post political reporter? Doesn't she know something about the media? Ditto for Politico's Maggie Haberman, the sine qua non of Politico's excellent video coverage of the 2012 presidential election. While we're in Rosslyn, doesn't Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown present herself pretty well on television? Wanna stir things up? Then poach Kirsten Powers from Fox News — she'll shout down those who would excuse media bias.

"Joy-Ann Reid of MSNBC has been known to carry a discussion or two on various topics. And hey, what's wrong with Molly Ball of The Atlantic? Get a mic on that woman! The New York Times's Amy Chozick — didn't she do an okay job of covering the media? . . ."

C-SPAN to Feature March on Washington Programming

C-SPAN Monday announced more live programming commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, to be shown on C-SPAN3's American History TV.

On Sunday, Aug. 18, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston hosts a forum to be televised from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET.

"Congressman John Lewis — who was among those speaking at the Lincoln Memorial before the multitude gathered in 1963 — will deliver the keynote address.

"Joining a panel discussion moderated by Callie Crossley, a producer of the documentary series Eyes On the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, are . . .

  • "Clayborne Carson, editor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University.

  • "Harris Wofford, JFK's chairman of the Subcabinet Group on Civil Rights, 1960-62

  • "Peniel Joseph, Tufts University history professor and editor of The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era

  • "Elaine Jones, civil rights activist and NAACP Legal Defense Fund former president and director-counsel

"We'll see film clips from the March on Washington, and hear the recollections of former U.S. Information Agency photographer Rowland Scherman who captured some of the day's most iconic images. Afterwards, we'll open our phone lines.

"FOR MORE ON THE MARCH ON WASHINGTON & THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT:

"Join us August 25th at 1 pm ET on American History TV for more programming about the march and civil rights.

"We'll feature . . .

  • "A Hollywood roundtable filmed by the U.S. Information Agency on August 28, 1963 with march participants Sidney Poitier, Charlton Heston, Marlon Brando, and Harry Belafonte.

  • "A tour of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery photography exhibit One Life: Martin Luther King Jr.

  • "An encounter with a '1960 Civil Rights Activist' in a historic theater performance at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, where visitors are trained in non-violent sit-in tactics from a period manual. The backdrop of this performance is the Greensboro, N.C. Woolworth lunch counter — the site of a February 1960 sit-in by four African American college students that led, by the following July, to the desegregation of the Woolworth lunch counter. Preceding this program is an interview with Lonnie Bunch – director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture – who explains how the lunch counter was saved for history."

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 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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