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Will a New "Bob Maynard" Step Up?

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Wednesday, March 15, 2006

People of Color Not Considering Knight Papers

In 1983, Robert C. Maynard became the first African American to own a mainstream daily newspaper when the Gannett Co. sold him the Oakland (Calif.) Tribune. He and his wife, Nancy Maynard, relinquished it to the Alameda Newspaper Group in 1992, and to this day Maynard is the only African American to have owned a major mainstream daily.

On Monday, the McClatchy Co. announced it is selling 12 of the 32 newspapers it would buy from Knight Ridder:

The Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, the Philadelphia Daily News; the Akron (Ohio) Beacon Journal; Wilkes Barre (Pa.) Times Leader; Aberdeen (S.D.) American News; Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald; Ft. Wayne (Ind.) News- Sentinel; Contra Costa (Calif.) Times; Monterey County (Calif.) Herald; Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune and St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press.

But despite the hopes of Maynard's survivors, it does not look as though any person of color will try to buy any of them.

Finding a financier would be among the first steps. In 1983, newspaper analyst John Morton said in Newsweek of the Oakland Tribune sale to Maynard, "The deal is rare because it is a totally leveraged buy-out. Gannett is essentially financing the deal for him."

Nancy Maynard, who became the Tribune's co-publisher, told Journal-isms today, "There is enough money in the communities of color, where there wasn't" then. She said the first issue to be resolved would be whether McClatchy would sell the 12 papers to individuals rather than to another newspaper group or groups.

Then, "The question is whether there are investors willing to accept lower, fixed rates of return for individual properties in large, mature markets," she said.

Beyond that are philosophical questions.

"Fundamentally, white American institutions do their journalism differently," one former newspaper publisher of color said, adding that "in a way, it's a good thing" people of color are not vying for the papers. He noted that while daily newspaper circulation is declining, ethnic newspapers are booming.

"I'm unfamiliar with any of the Hispanic media companies that are actively looking for English-language publications," Thomas Oliver, executive director of the Washington-based National Association of Hispanic Publications, told Journal-isms. Those publishers would seek papers only in markets where significant numbers of Spanish-speaking readers could attracted to the paper, he said.

But Dori J. Maynard, president of the Maynard Institute and Robert Maynard's daughter, said one of the Institute's purposes has been "to train journalists so they can reach a point where they can seize these opportunities when they become available. We hope we're imbuing in our graduates and family that entrepreneurial spirit that is needed not only to buy a newspaper, but to lead the industry in this critical time."

That's one reason, she said, why she considers the end of Knight Ridder such a loss: With high-ranking editors of color, it had so many potential publishers.

A person who wanted to buy one of the 12 would have to link with someone with "really deep pockets, said Jeanne Fox-Alston, vice president/diversity of the Newspaper Association of America, the trade organization for newspaper publishers.

But among deep-pocketed African American media figures:

  • Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television, said Tuesday he "acquired a tiny Florida savings and loan and plans to move it to Washington to use as the springboard for a large consumer financial services company aimed at black customers," as Terence O'Hara reported today in the Washington Post. Before that, he bought a basketball team and announced plans to buy hotels.
  • Media mogul Oprah Winfrey, a billionaire, was asked on CNN's "Larry King Live" in 2003 about rumors that she planned to buy the Chicago Sun-Times. "Would you want to own a newspaper?" King asked. "No," she said, and went on to discuss her magazine.
  • Radio One, calling itself the nation's largest black-owned media chain, announced in 2004 it was combining with Tom Joyner's Reach Media and becoming poised for satellite radio, the Internet and television – but did not mention newspapers.

"If you think about doing this, you have to do it because you love the newspaper business," one African American publisher said privately. "Most our our folks have gone into broadcasting."

The Newspaper Guild, meanwhile, is proceeding with plans to make a bid for the 12 papers to be divested, the guild said in a statement Monday. "We are prepared to buy all of the papers McClatchy wants to sell," added Henry J. Holcomb, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter who heads the Philadelphia Guild local and the Knight Ridder Council of Unions, according to the Inquirer.

Also, "Two nascent groups, one led by Philadelphia public-relations executive Brian Tierney and another led by Texas investor and former publisher Chris Harte, said they were assembling investor groups to possibly bid on the Philadelphia papers," the Inquirer reported on Tuesday.

Not every person of color was indifferent to the idea of buying one of the papers. "My dad's English isn't that good, but he sees right through the issues," Jim Chinh Nguyen, 39-year-old publisher of VietUSA News in San Jose, told Journal-isms today.

"He said, wouldn't it be great if our community united with a Hispanic group, an African American group, Indians, and had a rainbow coalition" to buy the Mercury News? "We need a coalition to make it happen," said Nguyen, who was advertising manager of Viet Mercury, a Mercury News spinoff targeting Vietnamese. "The last thing we need is for it to be thought of as an Asian thing."

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Photographers Gather in New York for Parks Tribute

At least 300 photographers were among 2,000 people at funeral services in New York Tuesday for photographer, author and film director Gordon Parks.

"Gordon Parks often said the camera was his weapon in the fight against everything he hated about the world – racism, intolerance, poverty," began the story this morning by Manny Fernandez in the New York Times.

"Yesterday, a church in Morningside Heights overflowed with everything he seemed to love most about that world, and the camera this time was not a weapon, but a touching tribute.

"To one side of the pulpit at Riverside Church, just a few steps from the coffin, stood a cluster of photojournalists, many of them black, whom Mr. Parks had inspired with his uncompromising pictures of the black experience. Some of those images were reprinted in the programs that people in the pews held in their hands and stared at as if in prayer, as cameras clicked."

 

Photo credit: Brian Branch-Price

A restaurant get-together was organized by Jason Miccolo Johnson, displaying his new book, for which Parks wrote the foreword. Johnson also gathered photographers for Parks' 90th birthday.

On The Black World Today Web site, Herb Boyd began: "It took a veritable ensemble of talented artists to capture the multiple parts, the several selves that we came to know as Gordon Parks. When Parks moved on to yet another stage of creation March 7 at 93, he left a community of family, friends and lovers to mourn his passing.

"Many of them showed up on a chilly, blustery Tuesday at Riverside Church to speak of his genius, to invoke once again his incomparable gifts as Avery Brooks did in calling Parks' 'God's photographer.'

". . . Parks's persona was coaxed to life again and again after the funeral services at the Zip Code restaurant on the other side of Harlem, an event organized by photographer Jason Miccolo Johnson. 'Gordon was a leader and he led by example,' said photographer Chester Higgins, who helped coordinate the convention of artists. 'He was a lighthouse?he showed us the way.'"

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Dayton Paper Illustrated Power of Public Records

"Members of the African American Chamber of Commerce wanted as much information as possible about the Dayton Public Schools' $627 million building plan," began a story by Margo Rutledge Kissell last year in the Dayton Daily News.

"Months after voters passed a bond issue in 2002 to rebuild or remodel every school in the district, the chamber began holding meetings to show those businesses how they could 'get into the game,' said Eleanor Stocks, the chamber's president.

"But the chamber did more. It also used public records to educate its members about the lack of construction contracts that have gone to minority business owners. As part of that, the chamber helped them learn more about what a business needs to do to make itself more competitive in the bidding process."

The story was published during "Sunshine Week," described as "a national initiative to open a dialogue about the importance of open government and freedom of information. Spearheaded by the American Society of Newspaper Editors, with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the effort expands on the Sunshine Sunday concept begun in Florida in 2002 and since observed in several states."

This year's Sunshine Week started Sunday and ends Saturday, with media outlets encouraged to show readers and viewers how open government affects them. However, stories like that in Dayton, directly tied to people of color, seem to be fewer this year.

"Initially, we may not have been viewed as the friendliest to the school board, but it wasn't about them," Stocks, the African American Chamber of Commerce president, said in the Dayton story. "It was about the business opportunity that the community had sanctioned and we had supported and endorsed for the good of the children and the good of business exchange."

The story continued: "At the same time, the district had embarked on a six-month study to determine if there was evidence of discrimination against minority companies in Dayton.

"In December 2003, the study's findings were released: The district had awarded so few construction projects to minority companies that it could legally create a preference program.

"Minority-owned companies had won only three of 60 school district contracts awarded since 1999. By comparison, the city of Dayton awarded 61 of 427 contracts to minority firms during a comparable period.

"That pattern inferred discrimination, the study said, and the district's inclusion plan was adopted last year."

Black-Owned TV Broadcaster Running Out of Cash

Black-owned Granite Broadcasting Co. "has warned that it is running out of cash to service its enormous debt," John M. Higgins reported Tuesday in Broadcasting & Cable.

"Granite CFO Larry Wills alerted investors Tuesday that, without the sale or a big injection of capital, 'we will not generate enough liquidity from operations to make our interest payment in June.'

"While the company has a grace period, a missed interest payment threatens to throw the company into default on its bonds, which would allow investors to demand immediate repayment and ultimately force Granite into Chapter 11.

"The company will try to head off the crisis by restructuring its finances. Granite on Monday hired investment bank Houlihan Lokey Howard & Zukin, which specialzes in helping distressed companies restructure their debt and raise new equity."

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Clooney, "Crash," "Pimp" Still Draw Comments

"Is George Clooney crazy?" asked Newsday columnist Les Payne on Sunday. "How could anyone otherwise in touch with reality put Hollywood on a high moral horse for awarding Hattie McDaniel a supporting role Oscar for rolling her eyes as a Negro nursemaid in 'Gone with the Wind'?"

The March 5 Academy Awards continue to draw commentary:

Press Is "Either With Us or Against Us" in Ethiopia 

"Deep political divisions in Ethiopia have fueled the massive, months-long crackdown on the private press in that country, gutting the print media, promoting rampant self-censorship, and resulting in the imprisonment of more than a dozen journalists on charges that could bring the death penalty, the Committee to Protect Journalists found during a one-week visit to the country that ended on Monday," the group reported.

". . . 'The press is a reflection of politics,' said Amare Aregawi, editor of The Reporter, one of the very few private newspapers that have published without interruption during the crackdown. 'There's no tolerance. It's "you are either with us or against us" and that is reflected in the media.'

"The CPJ delegation included Africa Program Coordinator Julia Crawford; Charles Onyango Obbo of Kenya's Nation Media Group; and Charlayne Hunter-Gault, a Johannesburg based journalist and CPJ board member."

Short Takes

  • WXYZ-TV news anchor Frank Turner is asking people to pray for divine intervention to sway Channel 7 to allow him to host a religious radio show on Christian WEXL-AM, John Smyntek reported Monday in the Detroit Free Press. "Turner bills himself as 'America's First Evangelical Anchorman' on www.frankturner.org, a site devoted to his off-camera religious pursuits.
  • "O, the Oprah Magazine" received nominations for two National Magazine Awards announced today by the American Society of Magazine Editors.
  • "A group representing U.S. companies in the United Arab Emirates said it will invite The Oprah Winfrey Show to the Gulf to alter U.S. public opinion after that helped block a Dubai company's takeover of some operations at several U.S. ports," Andy Critchlow reported Sunday for Bloomberg News.
  • Roy S. Johnson, former assistant managing editor at Sports Illustrated, is appearing on CNBC's "Squawk Box" morning program to discuss March Madness, on the court and economically. Johnson is the network's sports business analyst and is continuing his weekly sports column for AOL Black Voices.
  • "Congratulations to MSNBC anchor Alison Stewart, who got engaged to MSNBC vice president Bill Wolff in Jamaica over the weekend after less than a year of discreet dating," gossip columnist Lloyd Grove wrote Tuesday in the New York Daily News.
  • "It's not often that a journalist gets to confront a candidate for public office with the classic entrapment question, 'When did you stop beating your wife?'" Errol Louis began his New York Daily News column Tuesday. "But in the case of Kevin Powell, a candidate for Congress in Brooklyn who describes himself as 'a recovering misogynist' with a history of physically abusing women, a variation on that question must be asked." Author, hip-hop chronicler and activist Powell once appeared on MTV's "The Real World."
  • BBC World Service has appointed Salah Negm, 50, a former BBC program editor, as news editor for its Arabic Television Service to be launched in 2007, the BBC announced Tuesday. Negm is general manager with the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation in Dubai.
  • "A group of 19 conservative groups on Monday reinstated a boycott of Ford Motor Co. cars and trucks because the automaker backed away from a pledge to stop advertising in publications aimed at gays and lesbians," David Shepardson reported Tuesday in the Detroit News.
  • "The Ugandan authorities have shut down a radio station that allegedly aired a talk show critical of the country's military and ruling party, media watchdog Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said on Wednesday," the Mall & Guardian reported today in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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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